By Ellie Cook
SALT LAKE CITY- The subject of religion influencing politics is a major discussion in Utah particularly concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ( LDS) influence in legislation regarding legalizing medical cannabis. The LDS (Mormon) church, last year, made a statement regarding legalizing medical marijuana saying “We urge a cautious approach to legislatures”. Some Utah voters question if religious views should even be involved on the floor, and if the church should be allowed such influence (verbally); especially when it comes to the well-being of the citizens of the state.
According to the most recent census numbers, sixty percent of Utah citizens are Mormon as are 80 percent of Utah legislators. Medical marijuana (MM) supporters are concerned that LDS legislators are making their decisions based on personal religious views. While the LDS church has made their views regarding the use of cannabis very clear, 75% of Utah voters; still favor medical cannabis and are pushing to have the vote to legalize it on the 2018 ballot. Some argue that the Utah house should be pushing legalization more because the Utah public is expressing interest, and it should be the public choice rather than the senates with possible influence from the church.
“I strongly dispute the narrative regarding poll numbers,” Rep. Brad Daw (R) said when asked about public opinion regarding legalizing medical cannabis. He discussed how under polls he conducted [not scientific] the question asked was “what level of cannabis legalization do you support” and more people, many of those who are LDS, are in favor of carefully supervised legalization rather than a full allowance of medical cannabis,. This past February, the house passed Daw’s bill (197) that requires the state to grow medical marijuana, and allow chronically ill patients to “try it. They also completely legalized cannabinoid with 10% THC for over the counter sales. “This can benefit the people who need it, and for those who need higher THC, the bill will allow research patients under careful supervision to be allowed access”
When asked if the Church had influenced decisions made by legislatures, Daw responded by saying “Removing religious opinions from politics would be hard to do…. the people on the board are elected by Utahan’s and their belief is their belief” stating that politicians would not be elected into office if the public had an issue with their decisions and personal beliefs. While the church is not opposed to limited and monitored medical use, they do make statements that the church would prefer that there be no use of cannabis; thus possibly affecting the opinion of those in Utah Senate. Daw explained, that we don’t want to “stifle the voice of public opinion” and the LDS church has the right to freedom of speech and to represent voters just as any other organization or citizen.
Voter Ann Cook, a non-Mormon who has lived in the state for more than 45 years, sees the idea of religion and its influence on the state differently. “The LDS church really does have control, if they just came out in favor of this, the bills would pass,” she said regarding the issue. Cook is in favor of citizens of Utah voting on this rather than the legislature, believing that the church’s opinion would primarily be removed if done in this manner. “ I myself suffer from chronic arthritic pain and had to retire because of it. I’m limited in what I can do and I deserve the right to legally try out cannabis to alleviate my pain.” Cook also added that she could make the effort to get products in states which have legalized them, but she does not feel comfortable obtaining such until they are legalized here in Utah.
“We regard cannabis medicine as a medical, scientific, and sociological matter,” According to TRUCE (Together For Responsible Use and Cannabis Education) reps said in regard to the influence the church has had on Utah’s position on legalization. “Our LDS TRUCE members are generally of the opinion that medical cannabis use is not a doctrinal issue, and LDS patients in medically legal states are considered members in full good standing… as are members anywhere taking prescribed opioid medications.” TRUCE has been pushing for the decision to be put on the 2018 ballot, rather than putting it the hands of the legislature. This is in belief that voters will support full access to medical marijuana, and will keep religious affiliations away from the decision. TRUCE advocates that the church does not need to be “speaking with representatives” as it grants too much power of the state to the church. They are not advocating for recreational use, and that they simply wish that patients with chronic illnesses have the option to use cannabis to assist with their treatments.
The issue regarding church and state in Utah is easily a debatable subject. While some believe the LDS church has too much influence or control over Utah politics, others see the affiliation only as freedom of speech. With terminally ill patients begging to allow for the public to vote on the subject the legislature is moving slowly towards the idea, and many are concerned if the LDS church’s views regarding cannabis, could be conflicting with progression towards legalizing it for medical purposes.
Story by Marquis Newman
On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Floyd Norris, the chief financial correspondent for The New York Times, discussed that concessions, such as another stimulus and extending low interest rates on mortgages, need to be done to help the U.S. economy. These concessions could help get the U.S. economy out of flux.
In the midst of a presidential election, Republicans and Democrats are debating and arguing about the economy, whose fault it is that the U.S. economy is bad and what can be done to fix the economy. Norris has many valid points on the subject and joked that maybe President Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor should read one or two of his columns.
Many Republicans believe that a stimulus does not work. “There are a lot of references to Obama’s failed stimulus plan,” said Norris. He joked that the national government not trying another round of stimulus is similar to a student who studies for a test, but does poorly and says “Well there is obviously no point in studying.” Norris said the government should try another stimulus and maybe it could be a short term alternative, until politicians can figure out a long term solution.
Extending the benefits of low interest rates on mortgages is something that Norris said he believes will benefit the economy and will help people who really need the low interest rates.
“Many people can’t refinance,” according to Norris, who argued that letting somebody re-borrow money at a lower interest rate does not increase the credit risk, but might actually let people pay the debts they owe when they wouldn’t have been able to before.
“Credit gets you places,” said Laurie Carlson, a student at the University of Utah who attended the event. If decreasing the requirements to get a lower interest rate on a mortgage doesn’t increase risk and helps out the homeowner’s credit, then banks should look to initiate this.
There are many people to blame for America’s financial crisis.
“We used to take for granted that the government should try to improve the economy and that there were things it could do,” said Norris. The Great Depression, which the recent recession has often been compared to, is used as the model for how to get out of a depression. Economists learned a great deal about how to get out of a recession during that time, but according to Norris, “I think the fact that we never reached a consensus on that [how the Great Depression started], is what went wrong recently.”
Many of the guests who attended the talk believed that Norris’s ideas were excellent and wondered why some of them haven’t already been implemented.
“I wish he could make a bigger difference” said Lauron Bailey, a guest of the event. Another student who was at the event, Sean Gustafson said “He got me to think….this was definitely something that could spark.”
The event ended with Norris answering questions from curious attendees and giving advice to struggling homeowners and job seekers. As some of Norris’s views gain popularity around the financial community, maybe eyes at the nation’s capital will begin to take notice of some of the ideas that Norris has.
Story by: Laurie Carlson
“People who claim to be the most patriotic tend to hate the country or government at least, because of taxes,” said Floyd Norris, chief financial correspondent of the New York Times.
Rachel Thomas, a student journalist at the University of Utah, commented on what Norris said.
“The people who hate the government the most are the people who are putting time and loyalty into the government. Any time the government lets those loyal people down, they are obviously going to be the people who are the most hurt,” she said.
Another student journalist at the University of Utah, Marquis Newman also had something to say about Norris’s remarks.
“I think no matter who is in power, people hate the government and that’s because the government is so slow and problems take months or years to get fixed. People definitely can be patriotic but criticize the government at the same time. Maybe if the government leaders were more sympathetic to the voters over their power, then we would be happier citizens over being patriotic. I think then our government would be a lot better.
Norris went on to say the American people might respond better if they have joint sacrifice. Americans need to have a love for this country and a want for helping America which will have to come through a great sacrifice.
“Everyone will need to sacrifice, being proud to pay taxes, it proves I am successful and I wouldn’t mind paying more to help us get out of this mess,” Norris said.
“People definitely can be patriotic but criticize the government at the same time,” said Marquis Newman.
“American people also need to have an attitude of pride and ideology. Being a U.S. citizen you should be proud to be in the U.S. We have a great country and a democracy, which makes our country great. Plus we have politics that are of the people and for the people. The political side is slow moving but we should be proud to be Americans who have a free country,” said Norris.
The same ideology that created the Great Depression is upsetting efforts to pull out of the current recession. “Why should college students be concerned about the economy?” Question asked by a University of Utah student journalist, Sean Gustafson, to Floyd Norris commenting on the recession.
Floyd Norris commented back by saying, “The obvious answer which all the seniors would know is that some point you are going to be out in the real world looking for jobs.”
This process would be a whole lot easier if people were hiring.
“I think people sometimes assume that we are a well operated economy and if we assume that won’t always help us.” Some people don’t have to worry about the economy if they have somehow found a job that could be their career now, and the vast majority of Americans are working now.
The United States never fought a war without raising taxes to pay for it. It seems as if this can be done for free. If the government keeps raising taxes more people are going to have to somehow try to find jobs in this recession. That problem can bring more people to hate the government. As Floyd Norris mentioned earlier, “You should be proud to pay taxes because it proves you are a successful American.”
On Oct. 26,2011 this event took place at the University of Utah, Marriott library.
Story by Makaylee Pettit
Floyd Norris, New York Times’ chief financial correspondent said that the government is following 1920s secretary of state Andrew Mellon’s philosophy. Because of this the government is backing away from the economy’s problems instead of trying to fix them.
Norris said during the Great Depression in 1929, Mellon’s advice was, “The government should keep its hands off and let things work out by themselves.” The solution was to, “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers and liquidate real-estate.” He thought this would make people work harder and live a more moral life.
In Mellon’s eyes it was a persons own fault if they were wiped out by the depression, explained Norris as he spoke at the University of Utah in October about what’s wrong with the economy.
University of Utah student Stephen Blomquist said he agreed with Mellon’s advice. He said, “I think that capitalism and the free market is what made America what it is today, and that the government should not get involved and just allow the market to play out.”
Presidential candidate Herman Cain has similar views. He recently said, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich blame yourself.” Norris said, “That attitude that it is the fault of the poor that they are poor has never gone away completely, even through poverty programs and the creation of the unemployment service.”
Utah Valley University student Krista Shipp does not agree with Cain’s statement. She said, “[The government] can’t blame anyone but themselves. So I think it’s their fault.” She feels they should be responsible for cleaning up the mess.
Norris said that while many still have the belief that if the government can get their own spending under control it will restore confidence in the rest of the nation, the Mellon view has caused the willingness of the government to pull away from trying to deal with problems. We used to take for granted that the government should try and improve the economy.
Norris said, “There are signs that at least some governments are backing away from the Mellon philosophy, and the idea of letting things work themselves out.” But on the contrary, “We really don’t have a lot of faith in government right now. That lack of faith may have been earned.”
According to Norris only 10 percent of people in the United States that think the government can always be trusted, or at least trusted most of the time. When asked about her trust in the government, University of Utah student Laurie Carlson said, “I trust our government, not a ton I don’t think, but I do trust them.”
Norris said, “Part of the problem is the government is focusing on what they thought they learned from the Great Depression. His theory is, “Knowing what they did wrong is not the same thing as knowing what would have happened if they had tried something else.” He, like Shipp, said the government needs to find a solution, but there is a stumbling block with only 10 percent of the nation trusting them.
Story by Max Lennardt
According to a trio of media panelists, the media is the watchdog of the Government. But in today’s economic times the decline of newspapers and layoff of news reporters makes it tough for the media to be the government watchdog. Susan Tolchin, professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University; John Daley, reporter for Deseret News/KSL; and Matt Canham, Salt Lake Tribune Washington correspondent gave the message to students on who watches the government and the media. “It is a relationship with tension in some times. We are the watch dog of the politics by asking tough questions, we confront them,” said Canham.
John Daley added: “There is a constant rise in government money, but there are less reporters than 10 years ago. But is more money always better, is it always legal, or is there maybe corruption involved? It will be hard to find out because there a fewer watchdogs than ever before.“
Tolchin said, she is really excited how it will turn out and she personally hopes for a better government. Also she stated, “that it is an interesting time to be in business.“
But who watches the media? How can the people trust what the media tells the readers about the government?
“Nobody checks facts, reporters make mistakes everyday. There are no check factors. It worries me. Blogs and Wikipedia have so many mistakes,” said Tolchin.
Because of the Internet it is easier to upload or post things. Everybody is a journalist today. People own cameras or have camera phones. According to the panelists, a journalist must be more careful than ever before.
“As a reporter you are a figure today. It is important that you check what you write because readers point out when you do something stupid, and they have ways to do that. It is so easy for people to find out your email address, “said Canham.
Because of the technology, more engagement of people is good and bad. But all three agree that there is no direct or official fact checker of the media. The only ones who can point things or mistakes out are the people.
“It is your responsibility. Once something is posted it is gospel and will be repeated by others. If it is not right, we need the help to point it out”, said Canham.
The audience judged the feedback on this topic positive. Katie Andrus, a communication student at the University of Utah liked how they highlighted the role of journalism: “It was interesting to hear who the media is the watchdog over the government and how important is that the readers check facts on the stories.“
“They did a really good job of giving insight about how it is important as a journalist to report the right information to the readers”, said Kylee Mecham, a mass communication student.
More information about the event can be found at the Hinckley Institute of Politics webpage: http://www.hinckley.utah.edu.