Freedom Sells

Everyone likes movies. Since its inception at the turn of the 20th Century, film has evolved as one of the most prolific sources of social, political and spiritual commentary in history. As some have said, Hollywood is what Homer was to the ancients. Movies tell stories. Movies strive to move us. They can even rewrite history in the mind’s of a society. Needless to say, movies and TV shows are a crucial part of modern culture.

As dozens of high-budget Hollywood blockbuster hopefuls make their way to the screen every year, the reaction from the political sphere is largely the same: Hollywood is a liberal’s world. From the causes and candidates that actors and actresses support to the “socially progressive” message that many films portray, this is a rare case of bipartisan agreement.

However, when one analyzes the plot structure, character development, and themes of some of film’s most popular and most recent works, there seems to be an intriguing trend of conservative ideals that permeates them all. Allow me to explain.

One of the most basic principles of modern liberalism is big government is best. Nationalized healthcare, increased welfare state, increased regulation, etc. Conservatism then, obviously, opposes many of these views. So you would think an industry that is overwhelmingly stereotyped as liberal would tend to portray this kind of ideology in its products. However, in many cases this is just the opposite.

For example, take the popular genre of post-modern dystopian societies (aka Hunger Games, Divergent, Blade Runner, and the like). The vast majority of the time, the antagonist of these movies is blatantly identified as the government. It’s up to one strong-willed, unassuming underdog to courageously lead a revolt against the oppressive rulers who stand diametrically opposed to freedom and individual progress. Interesting.

Look at Gladiator, Braveheart, The Matrix, Star Wars, some of the most iconic movies of all time all share this common theme. Of course, the most inspiring movies use this David vs. Goliath tactic as a way to make an interesting plot line, but the cultural subtext here cannot be ignored. Where are the movies about the successes of an increased welfare state? Instead we have The Pursuit of Happyness. Where are the dramatic success stories of government security agencies? Instead we have the Bourne series. Where are the long-term success stories of those who tossed the rule book out the window, abandoned classic values and morals, and have a life of complete happiness and satisfaction to show for it? Instead we have Wolf of Wall Street.

No, Hollywood knows what makes a good story. It’s one that inspires us to succeed, to be entrepreneurial, to stand out, to think critically, to contribute, to work hard, to be free. It’s these kinds of stories that have made America the best country in the world. But these ideas aren’t just reserved for Americans. They resonate within everyone. Freedom makes sense. Freedom transcends. Freedom sells.

Do you have a story that exemplifies what it means to be free? Find and contact your state think tank here and share!

“Show Me” The Money: Missouri’s Century-Long Battle For Reform

Last week, the Missouri legislature cut something that had only seen growth in over a century. Don’t worry, the Irish Tenors are still showing. Rather, the state House and Senate overruled Governor Jay Nixon’s  veto of income-tax breaks for Missourians. The most notable of these cuts is a .5 percent incremental decrease for the top marginal bracket and a 25 percent tax income-tax exemption for small businesses.

The Show Me State joins its neighbors in Oklahoma, Kansas and Indiana (among others) in what the Wall Street Journal calls “The Heartland Tax Rebellion” as states boasting income-tax reform plans that have showed seemingly positive results at both  the individual and state levels. Of course, these types of policies cross at the intersection of conservative and liberal ideologies, which has led to significant backfire from the Democratic Nixon and his legislative minorities.

The argument is predictable and even older than Missouri’s last tax cut. Nixon and his cohorts say the policy will take away from funding for other public services, namely education. On the other hand, Republicans advocate for their policy by saying that it puts more money in the pockets of individuals, thereby stimulating economic growth and job opportunities making Missouri more competitive with the other Heartland Rebels. Both sides look to other states with similar statutes to make their point, with Democrats showing the seemingly detrimental effects of Nevada and Florida’s policies and Republicans using Kansas and North Dakota’s as touchstones. However, both sides’ examples only demonstrate a facet of what comprises a state’s economic situation.

Therein lies the issue with these types of ideological bouts. No two states are the same. The whole reason the backbone of our government rests in the power of states is because they are dynamic. People reside in a certain state for a myriad of reasons: jobs, family, climate, tax incentives, etc. With something as complex as tax reform, and cuts in particular, each state must take into account its own demographic and customize the solution to the lives of their citizens. While studies indicate states with lower income-tax levels show better performance over time in employment, population, and state production, Missouri Republicans must be careful to not merely copy and paste methods that have worked in Kansas and Oklahoma. Rather, careful measurement and calculation is necessary in order to tailor this policy in a way that is mutually beneficial for individual prosperity and state growth.
For more information on Missouri’s journey towards comprehensive tax reform, check out this video from the Show-Me Institute

ObamaNet: Your Friendly Neighborhood Provider

After meeting their alleged goal of 7 million Obamacare enrollees, major progressive players like Susan Crawford have decided that nationalizing healthcare isn’t a big enough challenge. Now that the current administration has mastered the ability to have a functioning website, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, such as creating a public option for the internet.

Susan Crawford (image from Twitter)

Susan Crawford (image from Twitter)

In an interview with the upstart online news source Vox, Crawford (former Special Assistant to President Obama on Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy) gives her argument for why a public option is needed for internet access. In a nutshell, Crawford poses the idea that America is behind the times in providing inexpensive and fast access to the Web to its citizens, citing statistics like Sweden’s blazing fast internet speeds at fractional prices compared to the US (the validity of which Tom Worstall calls into question in his article).

She goes on to explain that the private market has and will continue to provide substandard service in order to drive up profits, which will not serve the public good. Crawford claims quality service is only provided at high prices to the urban elite, leaving many Americans with the only choice of default service from their “local monopoly.”

So naturally, the only alternative is for a government takeover.

Excuse me, a “public option” rather. But what is the difference really? While Crawford claims that this service should be treated as a utility like electricity, the idea of subjecting internet service to utility regulation is far from historical comparison. According to, the US ranks in the top ten of quality broadband service worldwide, trailing densely populated countries like South Korea and Japan which do not deal with the extent of American rural living.

One valid concern about access to Internet is that monopolistic tendencies may keep competitive providers from allowing access for all. But rather than replace private enterprise that may show signs of monopolistic tendencies with a government monopoly, we should hold companies accountable to the standards that have been devised for exactly these types of situations. Inserting a public “option” into the marketplace will only skew prices and competition and – most importantly – stifle free-market innovation. We can do better.

The War (For) Poverty

Photo from

Photo from

Looking back over the last five years under liberal rule, Americans have come to understand a very simple truth at both the state and national level: liberal leadership is an oxymoron. From the Governor’s mansion to the White House, the shortcomings of the liberal agenda have become a spectacle for the nation to witness; but the problem runs deeper than just the people in charge.

For example, New Yorkers have become all too familiar with this concept. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has virtually waged his own war for poverty by targeting and shutting down charter schools for underprivileged students. No matter that these schools have astonishingly higher test scores in almost every category compared to their public school counterparts. Rather than finding ways to capitalize on the tremendous work of these schools to educate students, de Blasio has blocked efforts with no clear alternative. But here’s the catch: this same platform was what got him 73 percent of the vote in his mayoral election.  How is this possible?

Similarly, the President has seen his approval rating drop to the low 40s as the “deadline” for healthcare enrollment approaches next week. He claimed the American people could keep their own insurance if they liked, but apparently that was just a nice thought. He said you could keep your doctor too, which has also been rescinded. Apparently this is what happens when you have to pass a bill to see what is in it. The administration has chosen to adopt executive orders and partisan strong arming as its standard operating procedures. However, as with de Blasio, this same agenda is what won the President both elections.

The answer for why voters experience such a disconnect with their lefty representatives is the vicious cycle perpetuated by the core beliefs of liberalism. Their most basic maxim is the more government the better. The only way to expand government power is to have elected officials create legislation to do so. And the only way to ensure those officials are elected is to make voters dependent on that legislation.

As a result, the stereotypes of liberals being the party of social justice and equality and conservatives as the enemy of the poor are ideologically reversed. In reality, liberals have no voter base if their constituency weans themselves off their government programs. In contrast, conservatives believe in the ownership of wealth, fighting for policy that creates opportunity for individuals rather than creating a state of dependency (i.e. welfare).

Because of this fundamental difference, liberals have no choice but to lambast and ridicule comments like those made by Paul Ryan about poverty’s roots in culture rather than allegedly oppressive conservative policy.

For if those left of center conceded that issues like poverty are rooted more deeply than dollars and cents, they put themselves in jeopardy of losing the vast majority of their voter base in exchange for more opportunity for those who need it most. God forbid.

If you would like to find out what innovative ideas are coming out of the states to address issues like these, check out for a list of state think tanks.

Pay No Attention to the (Old) Man Behind The Curtain

Image from

Image from

During the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama and his minions revolutionized the campaign landscape with their methods targeted at young voters. Millennials were bombarded with messages around every corner. From memorable memes to hip hashtags, the strategy of the left made the right’s look older than, well, John McCain. They even roped in some of the year’s hottest celebrities to promote catchy slogans like “Vote or Die,” because who wouldn’t want to take serious political advice like that from the well-informed likes of Paris Hilton?

Paris Hilton

Needless to say, the effort paid off, with young voters making a significant contribution to Obama’s landslide margins. However, in the years since that groundbreaking election, the administration’s image of your friend’s cool parents who have iPads and watch Breaking Bad is finally showing its true wrinkles, due in large part to the very competitive advantage that got it into the White House in the first place: technology.

The most obvious example is health care. If liberals really had an administration of hipsters, the one thing they should be able to pull off is a website, while smoking a pipe and wearing kitschy prescription-less glasses, of course. But alas, the very person in charge of the project, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has had zero answers for the ongoing bugs that have plagued the process. Not to mention Nancy Pelosi’s interview on the Daily Show, where she blatantly said she didn’t know why the government couldn’t just contract out the website’s construction. Interesting thought for a liberal news show to suggest the government use the market for help with policy implementation. Imagine that.

Moreover, America has also learned that one man has the power to bring national security to its knees with a few clicks of a mouse. Just Google Edward Snowden for more details. Examples like these reveal the true nature of big government and a disappointing reality for its former millennial supporters.

The generation that bought into the Hope and Change movement is seeing a gap between what the free market has done to improve their daily lives and the jungle of government bureaucracy. When consumers get the latest smart phone, tablet, or laptop, they expect things to work as they should. You open the box, press the button, and go. If a product line malfunctions, the company would be destined for bankruptcy. Thanks to the magic of competition in the free market, we as consumers are simply used to things working like they should.

As the liberal agenda unravels at its seams, Gen Yers are becoming increasingly disillusioned to the mixed messages of big government. No matter how many college basketball brackets or Lil Wayne references the President makes, they are matched by the Vice President’s comments of not being a “technology geek” and manufactured smile. Thanks to the past five years, we have seen the consequences of gross government overreach and the unveiling of remarkably sub-standard products.

So how can government usher itself into the twenty-first century? Come out from behind the curtain, and let those who have set the standard of excellence in this country do what they do best.

Fueling Peace and Security in Ukraine

 As the world’s attention shifts from Sochi to Kiev and Crimea, inevitable discussions of what the U.S.’s involvement overseas should be is in full swing. While the President’s sanctions may send a message, they are seem to be nothing more than face-saving, powerless threats. We’re slapping the wrist of the bully for not playing by the rules when he has no intention of following the rules in the first place.

So then, what is our nation’s appropriate response? After ten years in the Middle East, another war over a little piece of land that most American’s could not locate on a map would not be a popular solution. This may be a rare instance of bipartisan agreement. On the other end of spectrum, perhaps it is time we mind our own business. What’s a conflict on the other side of the world over EU and Russian allegiance have to do with us? We have our own problems to worry about, right?

Unfortunately, Ukraine is a key piece to the puzzle in Putin’s dream of reuniting the old Soviet Republic. The good news is that a possible solution to America’s involvement may not be so binary, but may come in the form of liquid natural gas (LNG).

According to an article from, exporting the U.S.’s quickly expanding capacity for LNG overseas to the Western-European market would have both financial and geopolitical benefits. The article asserts that over half of Ukraine’s natural gas and 30% of Europe’s is provided by Russia. Since Russia’s main source of revenue is oil and gas, inserting our own supply at cheaper prices would have a crippling effect on Russia’s grip in these areas.

If this is such a great idea, why then isn’t it already being done? Nothing more than some good,  old-fashioned government red tape.

Here’s just a swath of some of these regulations as mentioned by RealClearMarkets:

First, getting a project approved to sell to one of the government’s 20 (yes, only 20) approved countries can take years. And since 2011, a whopping 6 projects have been approved. But that is only if you get past the initial step of drilling, which is no small task. Between 2006 and 2011, approved drilling permits decreased by almost 8,000, and the number of days to acquire a permit has doubled. As a result, this disincentive has caused permits applications to decrease by 50% from 2007-2012.

Not only are these regulations hindering our ability to tap into our natural resources for domestic consumption, but also hamstringing our ability to leverage our energy production abroad. Deregulating our LNG markets could provide a creative, safe, and effective solution to the conflict in Ukraine by taking the power out of the hands of the oppressive few and enabling those vying for freedom and democracy in their country to flourish.

Energy fuels our economy, and economic strength and energy independence allow us to be a force for peace and security in the world.

Minimum Wage, Maximum Consequences

Good news teenagers, you may be earning a few more dollars on the hour if you’re planning on working for minimum wage at your next summer job. Unfortunately, here’s the bad news: good luck finding one.

According to USA Today, over 30 states are set to consider legislation on minimum wage increases with 22 bills having already been introduced in 15 states. While the chances for a federal increase are slim, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota look to be the most likely candidates to raise the wage. Illinois workers may (or may not) be the most fortunate of the bunch, as they have seen their bottom line raised from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $8.25 which now has the potential to be re-raised to $10.10. While those like the President and Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke claim that this increase will improve the lives of impoverished families and decrease youth employment, states like Illinois prove just the opposite.

As the Illinois State Policy Institute observes, the Land of Lincoln boasts the fourth-highest minimum wage in the nation along with the country’s fourth-worst unemployment rate. Obviously then, there seems to be more to the equation.

History has taught us that money alone does not solve the issue of poverty, i.e. LBJ’s War on Poverty in the mid 60s. The same is true in the case of minimum wage. Think about it for a second. Sure, unskilled and young employees may get some extra cash, but the ripple effect is much larger. Employers must produce this extra cash by cutting expenses from somewhere else, or finding a way to increase revenues without the benefit of netting more profits due to payroll increases. The simplest way to avoid these extra costs is to not hire people. As a result, an increase may only benefit those who are earning minimum wage currently and avoid being let go by their employer, as well as those whose received above the previous minimum wage and receive a proportional raise. The latter poses yet another financial obstacle for employers, cause the ripple effect to spread even farther.

So you may be asking yourself, “Is raising the minimum wage ever ok?” According to his analysis in the Wall Street Journal,  economist Joseph Sabia says there is never a “good” time, but especially not in the midst of economic instability. Of course, wages should roughly adjust to inflation, but the reality is that these increases have real consequences and have the potential to do more harm than good. With small business already strapped for cash in a slowly recovering economy, forcing employers to increase payrolls could be retroactive for both employers as well as job hunters. Watch this video by the Foundation for Economic Freedom for a real-world explanation.

If you would like to find out more about the minimum wage discussion, use the Directory tool on to find what your state’s think tank has to say about it.

Post-SOTU Hunger Pangs

Image from Politico

Image from Politico

If you watched the State of the Union address last Tuesday evening, you probably had an experience that can be compared to eating a nice, big bowl of lettuce leaves for dinner. It sounds good at the time, and you may have even enjoyed the meal, only to lay in bed starving a few hours later wondering how you got to this point. Finally, over the roaring grumbles in your stomach, you realize one very important detail. You didn’t actually eat anything. Perhaps this sensation was no more poignant than after the President’s discussion of the new healthcare roll out.

Using his signature smooth rhetoric, the President (obviously) stuck to the positives. He cited statistics like the three million people who got coverage under their parents’ plan, or the nine million under “private” insurance or Medicaid. He put a personal touch to these numbers by telling the story of Amanda Shelley, who had a pre-existing condition, got insured, had to have emergency surgery soon thereafter, and was spared high costs. However, he conveniently failed to mention the 700,000 people in Florida and California who lost their coverage, or the circus show surrounding online registration, or the story of Emilie Lamb who suffers from lupus. Her premiums jumped $300 due to Obamacare, and she now works two jobs just to afford medication. Like Amanda, Emilie was also in attendance for the President’s address.

What do these statistical and personal contradictions mean? On the surface, they do nothing more than prolong the political merry-go-round of Washington in-fighting and stretch the already gaping chasm between parties. However, the larger picture shows that regardless of the issue, government interference always results in the picking of winners and losers. Just as in the case of most federal subsidies and “incentives,” government involvement in these areas puts the power in the hands of the removed few, rather than the people who are directly affected. The problem then expands from merely the shortcomings of a liberal health care agenda to a larger issue of government hubris, perhaps the only issue that is truly bipartisan.

So if you found yourself laying in bed unsatisfied by the political lettuce cloaked in your favorite dressing of choice on Tuesday, the reason is that there was nothing to consume. It’s time for the next course.

School Choice Week Is Now In Session

Times have changed. Gone are the days of the government’s monopoly on education.

As society adjusts to the incredible advances in technology and communication, our educational system has evolved with the changing landscape of culture. Despite government policies designed to corral these efforts, i.e. Common Core, states like Oklahoma are taking action to inform the public about their citizens’ options for education as well as their firm resolution to improve the quality of education for students.

Citizens from all over the country are bringing attention to the actions that states are taking to promote educational opportunity for all during  National School Choice Week, taking place Jan. 26 – Feb. 1, 2014.

Senior Vice President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) backs the initiative in the below video explaining that a good public education system means simply providing the public with the best education possible, however that end may be achieved.

There is no doubt that the public school system in America falls gravely short of worldwide averages. In the same way that most Americans could agree that our healthcare system was in dire need of reform around the 2008 election, education improvements are of paramount importance. However, just as federal reform measures have become the laughing stock of the healthcare industry, the public cannot rely on government alone to fix the issues in education.

As a result, organizations like the OCPA are partnering with OK Governor Mary Fallin to get the word out about the many options parents and students have for quality education. And that’s what National School Choice Week is all about. From public school to virtual school, our current system offers many alternatives that people may not be aware of or never thought could be viable options.

One-size fits all solutions from Washington aren’t working, but the good news is that some state can choose to opt-out of national programs and set up systems of opportunity and choice .

Stay informed about all of next week’s activities and get involved by signing up at

33% of Union Households Would Opt Out


Are you for workers’ rights, but against union bosses and bullies?

Then grab some comeback cake, raise your Twinkie, and celebrate National Employee Freedom week! You may be asking, “What do Twinkies have to do with labor relations?”

Right-to-work laws in some states, which give employees the ability to opt out of compulsory union membership, could be crucial for the Hostess company’s comeback. The company went bankrupt last year, leaving many Americans nostalgic for the classic sugary snack cakes, after a standoff with its unionized workers. Thankfully, Twinkies are set to hit shelves again by July 15th thanks largely to non-union workers, bakeries located primarily in right-to-work states and their more efficient operating structure.

However, in many states, unions have used their political power to restrict a workers’ rights to opt out of membership. As a result of the union’s compulsory stranglehold on labor relations in both the public and private sectors, employees end up receiving harmful unintended consequences. In these states, employees  out on opportunities in jobs with many companies, like Hostess, when they decide to locate facilities outside of their borders. Additionally, union workers have no choice but to deduct a portion of their paycheck to support union policies that they may not agree with or are even antithetical to their political views.

Today ends a week of celebrating and bringing to light the ways employees across the nation can empower themselves to choose whether union membership is right for them.

When asked, “If it were possible to opt out of membership in a labor union without losing your job or any other penalty would you do it?” A national survey by the National Employee found that around 33% of union households would opt out of membership.

If you’re in that 33% percent with a union that isn’t serving you, acting against your own political interest, or you have a better way of spending your dues, visit and find the ways you, as a worker, can take back your right to choose.