Why Do We Need A Free Press and Why Don’t We Have One?
By Robert Hale
It’s often said, “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Our founding fathers certainly believed this to be true and enshrined the freedom to speak and write without hindrance in the first amendment of our constitution.
Responsible citizenship in a democracy requires an informed electorate. For more than two centuries this responsibility fell heavily on our print media – the press. Today the press includes the broadcast and the internet media.
Those who attempt to manipulate the electorate scheme to do so through misinformation or to see there is a lack of information made available.
Nowhere is this more evident than with North Dakota’s mainstream media. It’s little wonder its suffering dwindling subscriptions as the public gains a greater sense they are being misinformed and/or left uninformed.
On November 2nd 2010 John Hoeven garnered 76.08% of the vote and was elected to the U.S. Senate. Hoeven served ten years as North Dakota’s governor. We’re told he’s the most popular governor in the country.
For ten years not a single newspaper or broadcast journalist has written anything challenging the governor’s tenure, accomplishments or lack thereof. Hoeven has either been given a free ride by the mainstream media or has been an exceptional governor.
Hoeven’s landslide election to the U.S. Senate could lead an observer to conclude his 10 year administration resulted in unity, efficient government, economic growth, an increased standard of living and vibrancy to North Dakota.
Unfortunately none of these things occurred during Hoeven’s decade long reign. What has occurred is the opposite. The government has grown exponentially while the population remains stagnant; there has been very little private economic growth not related to the demand for energy; working North Dakotan’s standard of living has dropped and the state’s population mix has put us on a road to significant problems in the very near future.
How could this possibly be true? Isn’t North Dakota one of the few states without a budget deficit? Doesn’t North Dakota have the lowest unemployment in the nation? Don’t we have the highest number of high school graduates entering college? Don’t we spend more per capita on higher education than any other state? Isn’t North Dakota’s governor the most popular in the nation? All these things, on the surface, are true.
It’s also true that since 2000 we’ve seen no increase in population yet sales taxes are up 87%; individual income taxes are up 65%; corporate income taxes are up 165%. Tax growth has resulted in a 93% increase in general fund revenue. Unfortunately, family income has risen only 71%. In short, government is living large – taxpayers are doing with less. Government growth has come at the expense of the family budget and a reduced standard of living for the average North Dakota taxpayer.
TREASURE ISLAND - COINS AND PRECIOUS METALS
North Dakota’s unemployment rate remains low. This isn’t the result of a vibrant economy. It’s for the exact opposite reason. It’s because North Dakota’s working age population, particularly its college graduates, are fleeing the state. The earning difference between North Dakota’s high school and college graduates is one of the smallest in the nation.
North Dakota’s dependency population (those between 0-24 and 65+) is 50.65% highest in the nation and growing. In short, there are fewer and fewer working age people in our state and a rapidly growing dependent population. This is caused by misguided programs, misguided spending, and special interest raids on our public treasury.
We spend more per capita on higher education than any state in the nation. We also spend more per capita on non-resident students than any state in the nation. In fact, North Dakota citizens are taxed hundreds of millions each biennium to subsidize non-resident students. The vast majority these students leave immediately after graduation, so do increasing majority of our own children. They leave because North Dakota offers no job opportunities. This situation isn’t necessary. However, it is being caused almost exclusively by the actions and refusal to act by our elected officials. In another article I’ll provide specific examples of how and why this is the case.
Isn’t it true our Governor is the most popular governor in the nation? Well, there’s an old saying that pretty much sums this up also – “Ignorance is bliss”. And what does that have to do with the governor’s popularity, you ask?
North Dakota’s mainstream media has completely refused to report on what the Hoeven administration has and has not been doing over the past decade. Instead of a competitive, vibrant, unbiased and forward looking leadership North Dakota has closed minded, biased, protectionist and anti-competitive leadership.
Minot and the oft referred to “Minot Mafia” exemplify how this has come about. It’s browbeating, intimidating and pressuring of anyone challenging its privileged status is the way “business is done in North Dakota”. These self proclaimed rulers don’t hesitate to shamelessly pressure the media to black out questions or criticism of what they do and don’t do. Together the media and an arrogant political class work diligently to ensure the public knows only what it wishes known.
For example, this writer recently wrote an article for the Dakota Beacon showing how this is done in Minot. The article detailed how a group of Minot bullies manipulate the local press to keep the public in the dark about a dishonest, self-dealing and perjuring sheriff candidate. The Minot Daily News stated it believed would not be interested in knowing about the history and actions of the individual in question (The information in question surfaced during the discovery process of a nuisance suit regarding the dangerous operation of a police training range). The candidate won the election. Minot’s little “mafia” now wields influence, not only over the city mayor, the city chief of police, much – if not all- the city council but now the county sheriff as well.
How did the “Minot Mafia” react to the Dakota Beacon article? It moved, through the Minot city attorney, seeking a GAG ORDER prohibiting this writer from discussing, writing about, or making public comments about the claims, defenses and evidence in the case.
The case is a matter of public record. It is a civil, not a criminal case. It is unlikely the court will impose a gag order. What should disturb everyone is that what is happening in Minot illustrates how the media across North Dakota is intimidated or controlled by thugs. It is manipulation of the media that threatens the very foundation of democracy and a free society.
So what? This gets us back to why North Dakota, with such incredible economic potential is floundering and moving backward. North Dakota is being run by an arrogant and powerful political elite. Private industry, private initiative and vibrant economic competition isn’t welcome, doesn’t exist and when it tries to establish itself it’s punished.
Jack Hoeven and son John are the fathers of North Dakota’s socialistic public/private economic partnership schemes. In 1990 they began this insane and self destructive charade. They call it economic development and its flag ship was Minot’s Magic Fund. Twenty years later we have a state with fewer private businesses, fewer working age citizens and the largest population adjusted dependent citizenry in America.
Over the last ten years North Dakota has increased the state take of our earnings; decreased the % of working age population and as a result has kept the state population stagnant and increased state spending on welfare almost 110%.
When Hoeven became governor per capita spending on welfare was $1,917 today its $3,535. When Hoeven became governor our K-12 population was 111,708 in 2009 it was 93,405. In 2000 the average per student K-12 expenditure was $2,422.83 it is now $4,333.68.
An NDSU study found fewer than 25% of our high school graduates are prepared to enter college upon graduation! More troubling is North Dakota ranks #1 in dropout rate of freshmen in the nation. Instead of dealing with these serious problems Hoeven has almost doubled higher education spending – almost all the additional spending subsidizes non-resident students whose parents have never contributed a dime in support our universities.
North Dakota citizens are suffering from the consequence of a grossly negligent mainstream media. This, combined with a thuggish group of special interests has deprived North Dakota the future its citizens deserve. The media has intentionally refused to report on how the executive and legislature branches spend our money; inhibited competitive free market business and industry and have squandered billions over the last decade on substandard education for our children.
North Dakota’s mainstream media is a major part of why our state is falling behind; why citizens are in the dark about corruption, abuse, scandal, special interest power and what amounts to essentially criminal misuse of taxpayer dollars.
Our founding fathers knew a free people and a meaningful democracy require an informed citizenry. To this end they established a constitutionally guaranteed free and independent press. When a vibrant free press is lacking everyone – except self interested, manipulating thugs – suffers.
It’s time to shine the light, to see the truth, to know who is abusing us through special interest legislation and stealing from us through abuse of the public treasury. Once the public is aware, if it chooses to allow such abuse - well, that’s democracy – the right to discard it.
However, if we’re going to discard it let’s be sure we know exactly what it is we are doing.
I believe it was Benjamin Franklin, when asked after the ratification of the Constitution what type of government we had answered, “Madam, you have a republic, if you can keep it.”
Robert L. Hale is an attorney licensed to practice law in Washington State and North Dakota. He is the founder and president of the Northwest Legal Foundation a 501C3 public interest law firm. He is also the CEO of Spectrum Care, LLC. Spectrum Care builds and operates retirement/assisted living communities in the upper Midwest. He lives with his wife of 35 years in Minot, ND.