Utah Freedom Conference; aka the No-Fact Conservative Speech Bubble

Posted By on September 15, 2012

Earlier today, the Sutherland Institute and the John Birch Society jointly sponsored the grossly misnamed “Freedom Conference.” Unfortunately, it seems facts were checked at the door – in favor of yet another echo chamber for Utah Republicans to spin their empty rhetoric.

Attorney General candidate John Swallow (whom PRIDEinUtah has been told is under FBI investigation for fraud) and Congressman Rob Bishop (who famously uttered to the Salt Lake Tribune in 2002 that “the only difference between blacks and guns is that blacks have legs”) recited the Republican talking point that the only way Utah can fund our schools is if we declare war on the Federal Government and demand that they surrender public land so that it can be sold off. This claim has been discredited multiple times by constitutional attorneys, and even the conservative legislature’s own attorney who drafted the bill, John Fellows, publicly stated that the push is unconstitutional.

In addition to the proposed take-over of the United States by Utah being unconstitutional, the GOP’s claim that Utah cannot possible fund neighborhood schools without selling off our wilderness to British Petroleum is laughable.

Until the early 1990’s, when the Republican Party had just finished its takeover of the Utah Legislature, Utah was 12th in the nation on school funding and fully competitive and comparable to schools anywhere else in the country. Because things were so good and our schools were doing so well, the new conservatives on Utah’s Capitol Hill sold Utah on the idea that it was ok to borrow a little money from the General Education Fund, and siphon the money off to other areas more important to their agenda such as further tax breaks and incentives for oil and mining companies.

That trend has continued for the last 20 years, until we have now found ourselves at dead-last nationwide on funding, a graduation rate that has fallen 8.9% in the past ten years, and an overall ranking of “C – ” for quality of education. Facts that Congressman Bishop and Attorney General candidate John Swallow seem insistent on ignoring.

Congressional candidate Chris Stewart, who has been using his campaign as a platform to promote his books where he describes himself as a “miracle” for the country, spoke but didn’t seem to have anything to add to the conversation, resigning his remarks to catchphrases like “we’re too important to fail.”

But perhaps the most flabbergasting of the speakers was Mia Love, who’s running for Congress in Utah’s new 4th congressional district. Following up Bishop and Swallow’s untrue claims about public lands and education funding, Mia promised to “restore the America that we know and love.” We have to ask what she could possibly mean by such a statement.

Perhaps she means the days where every American had the possibility of attending college, thanks to student aid programs from a government that recognized investing in a more educated populace leads to a stronger economy? No, that can’t be it – she’s proposed eliminating all student aid programs like pell grants, loans and work study (even though 3/4 of Utah college students rely on them, and she herself used the same programs to put herself through college).

Perhaps Mia means the good old days where the country adopted a “we’re all in this together” attitude and worked to help every American build themselves up and achieve the American Dream? Well, no it’s not that either – she’s proposed massive cuts to low-income assistance that benefits single mothers, the elderly, and the disabled.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome of the so-called “Freedom Conference.” After all, it was sponsored by the Sutherland Institute, who’s president Paul Mero once stated that it was ridiculous to claim that “love” is what makes a family – and the John Birch Society that accuses American Presidents (both Democrats and Republicans) of being communists and is often linked to racist conspiracy claims.

About The Author

Eric Ethington
Eric Ethington has been specializing in political messaging, communications strategy, and public relations for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. Eric’s writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Public Eye magazine. He’s worked as a reporter, radio host, activist and electoral campaign strategist. Follow him on Twitter @EricEthington

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