Shopping for Obamacare; hiking the minimum wage; dissing school mascots

Susan Greene: Hello Coloradans. Happy High Noon. Today, facing off against news columnist Mike Littwin are Krista Kafer — cohost of Kelley and Co. on 710 KNUS (1-4 daily), Denver Post columnist, and dog lover — and libertarian/lawyer/Facebook junkie Elliot Fladen. Welcome to you both. Thanks for joining our quickly-written battle about the news of the week. Let the shoot-out begin…

Ted Cruz just announced for president, the first major candidate out of the gate. And the headlines instantly followed. We now know this: that he stopped listening to rock and roll music after 9/11 and — drumroll — he conceded he would buy Obamacare for his family’s health plan. What’s next for Cruz and the pack of candidates that inevitably will follow?

Mike Littwin: I’m all over the rock ‘n’ roll story. First of all, Ted Cruz was around 30 years old on 9/11 and he said he listened to classic rock. Do we really want a president that unhip? But here’s the great part: He listens to classic rock and he says he started to listen to patriotic country music because he was disappointed in the rock-world’s reaction to 9/11. Should we do the math? Classic rock music, by definition, stopped in the ’70s. Did he think Sympathy for the Devil was pro-Osama?

Elliot Fladen: I think the entire “Cruz signed up for Obamacare” argument is silly and stupid. There is a phrase, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Obamacare is the law of the land. Just because you comply with the law or go along with a government program does not mean that you agree with it. Beyond which, there is a legitimate argument that Cruz may have believed he was required to sign up. Whether this requirement actually exists or not is besides the point. Instead, the point is that the law is so confusing that Cruz could have been honestly mistaken.

Littwin: Of course it’s a gotcha moment. But that’s the beauty of going first. You get to be the first target. But there is a legitimate point here. The part about congressmen and their staffs and how they do or don’t sign onto Obamacare was all a bogus Republican invention meant to embarrass Democrats. And now Cruz, the brilliant Harvard Law grad, has gone and embarrassed himself by not even understanding how the law works.

Krista Kafer: Cruz is the best at articulating conservative principles but does not have much to show for legislative successes. He’s like Candidate Obama was in 2008. As for Obamacare, the headline should read “Scandal: Candidate for President Follows Law.” Even worse, “Cruz to Abolish the IRS, but Will Pay Taxes.” As to leaving rock and roll, he’s missing out…

After Columbine (I’m an alum), I stopped watching violent movies. I don’t blame movies for the evil, just didn’t feel right. I understand why Cruz’s tastes may have changed. Still, there’s an issue of prudence — knowing what to say, when. I don’t know that it was a good idea to mention it to the press. He puts himself out of the mainstream and hands the other side some laugh line material.

Littwin: Cruz is very much like candidate Obama. He’s young, inexperienced, Harvard Law School star, utterly ambitious. Where he’s not like Obama is everywhere else. I think the Republicans’ best bet against Hillary is someone young and fresh and new. Cruz is someone young and different and angrier than John McCain. Here’s a bet: Americans don’t elect angry presidents (Nixon, of course, being the exception).

Fladen: If the issue is embarrassment, I think not understanding how Obamacare (a huge law) works is much less embarrassing than not realizing that there aren’t 57 states.

I think Cruz may have an authenticity problem.

Littwin: Please, Elliot? Fifty-seven states. God, I haven’t heard that one in years. Here’s a pro-tip: When someone speaks for hours nearly every day, that person occasionally slips. I’m going to guess he knows how many states there are, how many electoral votes each one has, how many of those votes he needed in each state.

Fladen: Let’s be blunt. Cruz is a much stronger candidate than Hillary. So, if the map were neutral, Cruz would win. The map isn’t neutral, though, so it doesn’t matter.

Littwin: The big question for me is who announces next — I’m thinking Hillary, but maybe one of the Republicans will sneak in — and how a 12-16 person field (many of them quite legitimate) is going to work itself out.

Kafer: On idealogy, he’s the un-Obama. Cruz loves the Constitution, rule of law, federalism, and limited government. He elevates the standard on how other candidates can talk about these things. I’m glad he’s on the stage for that reason. Ulimately though, Republicans need a frontrunner that can unify the party. Not sure that Cruz can do that.

Fladen: Mike, just as Obama slipped on something as basic as the number of states in this country, Cruz could easily have slipped on something much more complicated — i.e., whether Obamacare required him to sign up.

Littwin: Oh, and I forgot to welcome Krista to the show. She’s practiced at this stuff, doing talk radio daily — a job that would kill me inside of two weeks.

Kafer: It has killed me. I am actually a zombie.

Fladen: iZombie

Fladen: I think Cruz is a bit of an opportunist. Look at some of the crap he has said on immigration.

Littwin: If repealing Obamacare is your No. 1 issue, you should know how it works. That’s a pretty easy concept for any candidate to grasp.

Fladen: Come on, Mike. They didn’t even know how the law works when they passed it (“we have to pass the law to know what is in it”). Why have a different test to repeal it?

Greene: Excuse me, all. I interrupt this regularly scheduled installment of High Noon to welcome Republican-lawyer-mom Jessica Peck to the discussion. As some of you know, Jess was facing some tough medical issues recently and made the wise and brave decision to have her leg amputated. Everyone and their mother — even folks who can’t stand her political views — was worried. I’m super happy to say you’re back on your feet, JP. Welcome. It’s great to have you with us.

Fladen: Holy crap! Hi Jessica!

Jessica Peck: Thanks. Let’s break a leg. But hopefully the only one I have left.

Littwin: Welcome back, Jess!!!!! She has not only shown incredible courage in facing amputation — she’s already got a new leg — Jessica has done the impossible: She has me reading Facebook to see the latest on her.

Kafer: On who’s next to announce… Probably Hillary. Democrats are sighing. Hillary is to the Democrats what Romney was to the Republicans last election — the disappointing best of a limited bench. The worst outcome – Hillary vs Jeb. The 1990s have called and want their candidates back.

Fladen: I like Jeb. He is the one person in the GOP who stands up to the nativists. Not sure how much else I agree with him on, but on that he gets a gold star.

Peck: United we stand!

Littwin: The problem with Hillary vs. Jeb is that we live, God help us, in exciting times, and iterations of Bush and Clinton would make for possibly the most boring race since at least Bush v. Gore, which, you’ll remember, no one cared about until it hit triple overtime.

Kafer: Jeb isn’t electable. Conservatives who embrace rule of law will stay home. The name Bush will incite Bush Hatred Syndrome (BHS) on the left. And who will start up with the Nazi-Bush comparisons? Clinton will win.

Peck: Re Hillary: maybe those pant suits of hers will make a return to the next Paris Fashion Week.

Greene: Let’s move on. Democrats are proposing a significant and long-awaited raise in Colorado’s minimum wage — part of a national effort to put the “living” back in the phrase “making a living.” The business lobby is out in full force (understatement) against the measure. Most regular human beings are for it. How do you all see this playing out?

Fladen: If I am for a $52.80 an hour minimum wage does that make me a “regular human being” or an “irregular one”?


Littwin: Elliot, it makes you a 13 percenter.

Peck: That sounds awesome. Mike, will you hire me? I’d love to be guaranteed to make a living wage. Given that I worked just about every day (weekends too) while recovering from amputation surgery to keep my family afloat, I have a suggestion for people who don’t like what the market will pay them: start your own business. Yes, I just went there. I’m going to take my leg off and toss it at the first person who suggests that I should be forced to pay them a certain amount or provide them certain benefits.

And for the truly disabled or intellectually incompetent, they deserve our support as a society in every way. I believe in a safety net but not one that destroys the livelihood of small business owners.

Kafer: Hopefully it will die in the State Senate. Higher minimum wage kills starter jobs. I worked as a maid, server, pizza driver, and retail clerk in my teens and early 20s. The jobs gave me prepared me for higher paying work. Those demanding higher wages should seek higher paying jobs. That’s how it works. Build your skills, work hard, and move up.

Littwin: Getting back to minimum wage — sorry Susan, I think I stepped on your question — they’re fighting over this at the legislature. Every time it comes up, I have to laugh. I can laugh because, like everyone on this panel, I don’t make minimum wage. But the funny things is the employers always coming out against this because it will be bad for the workers. They’ll have to lay off workers. They’ll have to raise prices on their lousy burgers. They’ll have to close restaurants. If raising the minimum wage is so bad for workers, why are they almost universally in favor of it? Do we think they’re not smart enough to understand how their paychecks work?

So, you guys are saying no minimum wage? How about child labor laws?

Peck: Much of the marketplace pays shockingly high rates. I can’t find a babysitter for under $15 an hour or a CNA for under $25 an hour. That’s a living wage. I know because at times I had to live on that.

Fladen: Well, whether it is bad for workers depends on where the market wage is for unskilled labor. If the market wage is significantly above the minimum wage, it isn’t going to have much impact. But if that is the case, there really isn’t much purpose for the law anyway.

Peck: Child labor laws? Awesome. When do you want to pick up my kids for work?

Fladen: Mike, you can have the minimum wage. Just make it $52.80 an hour.

Littwin: Let me get clear on this. Does anyone think there should be no minimum wage?

Fladen: I was thinking of loaning Dagny out to work at a make-up stand to pass out coupons once. She would have had fun.

When you say “should,” what are you trying to accomplish? Is your goal to better the recipients of the wage? Is it to prove a point? Is it to hurt business?

Without knowing your goal, I can’t really say what the “should” answer would be.

Kafer: No Black/White fallacies in debate. Naughty Mike. Common-sense health and safety laws are important. Telling adults what they can charge for their labor or what businesses can pay for labor does not help either party. Businesses should compete for workers and workers should compete for positions. They do that not by demanding government run interference, but by increasing their skills, knowledge, and work ethic.

Works for that conservative bastion, Switzerland.

Littwin: I see no one wants to answer the no-minimum-wage law because, of course, you’ll have to agree we should have one. Once you agree to that, all that’s left is to set the price. The price we have now is absurdly low. And, Jess, while I’m proud of you for starting your own business, if everyone started his/her own business, who would they hire?

Peck: Obamacare doesn’t provide people like me free transportation. Thus, I had to learn to drive left footed.

The government doesn’t subsidize my housing for people like me while I am too sick to work. Thus, I moved to a smaller house.

My doctors don’t shred the bills I don’t pay, they send me to collections.

Fortunately, Obamacare makes it easier to sue over medical billing practices. So maybe it’s not so bad.

Littwin: OOOh, Krista, I heard you say work ethic. I’m guessing the people out there cleaning toilets are working much harder than columnists and talk show hosts.

Fladen: Again, I’m happy to answer it if you tell me what your goal is.

Kafer: I’ve cleaned toilets for a living. It’s actually satisfying work to make things go from dirty to clean. I took a lot of pride in it as do other maids and custodians. I wanted to make more money so I cleaned houses and did took classes to earn my degree. BTW, good house cleaners charge more than minimum wage.

Peck: It’s so hard to find good help these days. I say this because it REALLY gets old when I hire people who show up late…or steal from me…or underperform…or who insist on getting benefits I don’t even get myself.

Littwin: My goal is that everyone who works hard for a living should receive a living wage. It’s pretty simple. I’m open to what that number should be — I’m not an economist. I don’t want to hurt businesses. Why should I?

Littwin: The workers are out to get Jess! Now I see. It’s because of those lazy people who take the early bus. Now I understand. Let’s not pay them at all.

Kafer: Minimum wage laws hurt workers more than businesses. It’s painful to have to close a business but entrepreneurs take their ideas and investment elsewhere. Workers lose the opportunity to take that first step on the economic ladder.

Fladen: So to be clear, your goal is only to help those that work and not those who don’t? If that is the case, why not set a minimum wage at $52.80 an hour?

Littwin: I never said I don’t want to help people who don’t have a job or can’t find one. It’s a different argument. No one is asking for $2,000 a week. $2,000 a month might be nice for a lot of hard-working people, though.

Peck: I think I should get paid right now. I’ll send over a retainer agreement. I bill in quarter-hour increments. Good?

Fladen: So your goal is a hybrid of compensation for those who work but also opportunity for those who don’t to find a job? What happens if the two conflict? Which matters more to you, Mike?

Littwin: Here’s a look at the CBO report on raising the minimum wage. While some would lose jobs in short term, the report says a raise in minimum wage would overwhelmingly help workers.

You’d have to show me the conflict before I could answer that question. I believe in fair wages. I believe in opportunity. Not sure why I’d have to choose.

Greene: Krista, I gotta say that was, rhetorically, magical. Not because I agree with you. I don’t. But because I’m pretty sure Mike has never cleaned a toilet in his life. See him veering away from the toilet talk? Well done. I want you back on the show as a regular.

Peck: Krista for president.

P.S. maybe she can through an executive order raise the wages of our honorable state legislators. Kind of ironic that they all work 60-70 hours a week and only make $35k.

Greene: Let’s jump to school mascots — the story that keeps rearing its ugly (and furry) head. The issue is before the legislature this week. Rep. Rhonda Fields walked out of a committee hearing in which her Democratic colleague, Rep. Joe Salazar, was projecting a slideshow of racial slurs to make the point about how offensive some of these mascot names can be. Salazar was told to turn the thing off. This is 2015, even in Lamar. Who besides the Lamar Savages thinks it’s a good idea to keep wearing the moniker “savage” proudly? Why don’t schools and communities just ixnay their hater mascots?

Peck: The DU Pioneer was about as horrible as it could get. That white/male/sexist/racist symbol of female oppression. ecause a pioneer, of course, has blood on his hands.

Fladen: As long-suffering Cleveland Indians fan, I wonder if Chief Wahoo’s curse will be lifted if the Indians release him from his mascot prison.

But I think the best clip on this question is as follows:

Kafer: Thanks Susan!

Good for Rhonda Fields. Why use the offensive to demonstrate what is offensive? It’s becoming more and more commonplace for politicians, the press and the public to try and draw attention to injustice by screeming a little louder and with more rancor than the next guy. A better way: talk to people at the community level and persuade through reason and appeals to their humanity. It takes more time but has a better result.

Littwin: Krista, that’s very idealistic of you. We just get a report that cops in Ferguson are not only profiling, but they’re making money for the town by multi-ticketing townspeople. I’m not sure that reasoned argument and appeals to humanity would have changed any of that. I’m not sure that legislating is the best way, but Lamar Savages is clearly beyond the, uh, pale. If it were me, I just wouldn’t participate in games against a school that sanctions that. But the NCAA did set up sanctions, and now we have the Stanford Cardinal (once Stanford Indians) whose mascot is — I love this — a tree.

Kafer: Animal and tree mascots rarely complain. Long vanished peoples, Trojans, Vikings, Goth, Aztecs, don’t yell from the grave.

Greene: After weeks of mostly male High Noon, the women are loud and clear today. Nice.

We’re running out of time. So, quickly, I’d be remiss not to let the comparatively demure Elliot F. chew on his favorite topic du jour — The Colorado Springs Gazette’s series on pot regulation. Have at it, Elliot…

Littwin: Jess, are you all over that?

Peck: The whole thing is silly. I’m surprised they didn’t hire Dan Caplis. It is sad to see people fight a battle that they’ve already lost. Pot isn’t a miracle drug, but it is legal. Maybe we should start talking about something more controversial, like whether kale could survive on restaurant menus through the end of 2015.


Fladen: Yes, on the “Clear the Haze” series in the Gazette, John Schroyer just put this up. Holy crap (again):

UPDATE: Steever is mum no longer. He spoke to The Columbia Journalism Review….

Posted by John Schroyer on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kafer: I gotta go do radio. Thanks for the fun hour!

Greene: Right. Lunch hour’s over. Time to wrap up. Thanks for joining us for the first time, Krista. Thanks, Elliot, as always. And you, Jess, thanks for popping in. We’ve missed you. We’re thrilled you’re doing so well. And I think I can speak for us all when I say we’re proud of you.

As is our tradition, we like to leave you each High Noon with a song to help get you over the hump that is hump day. Usually we pick a toe tapper. To honor the spring snow, today’s pick would have been a bit slower, and sadder — “Sometimes it Snows in April” by the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince. It’s a beauty. Problem is, it’s not available online other than this not-the-best live performance: Prince, it seems, tightly controls his label. So, on deadline and all, we’re switching fast to a toe tapper. This rap classic. a Colo Indy favorite, is irresistible:

See you next Wednesday.


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litwin hnMike Littwin has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. A rapier wit.


fladen hnElliot Fladen is a former Department of Justice trial attorney and a 2005 graduate of Stanford Law School. He specializes in commercial litigation, government transparency, and construction litigation. Besides testifying on major state ethics legislation before the Colorado State House, stories regarding his work have appeared in the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Colorado Independent, the Colorado Observer, and the Colorado Statesman. He is also an occasional guest columnist and/or contributor to the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Colorado Independent.


krista kaferKrista Kafer is an education-reform specialist for the Colorado free-market think tank Independence Institute. She did time in the nation’s capital working as a staffer on Capitol Hill and at the Heritage Foundation. She is the author of “School Choice 2003” and she has appeared at all kinds of media outlets.


sgreeneSusan Greene is moderator today. She is a longtime Colorado journalist, a former Denver Post columnist and the editor of the Colorado Independent.