The Maine Heritage Policy Center Limited government, free enterprise and personal freedom for all Mainers 2016-10-20T20:20:06Z WordPress Krysta West <![CDATA[The 7 Fatal Flaws of Question 2]]> 2016-10-20T20:20:06Z 2016-10-20T20:20:06Z Joe Horvath <![CDATA[Maine’s Unfunded Pension Liabilities: The “Best” of a Bad Bunch]]> 2016-10-20T15:03:39Z 2016-10-20T15:03:39Z Continue Reading →]]> In the world of public pension funding and governance, good news is hard to come by. Maine’s levels of unfunded pension liabilities are no exception.

However, according to a report recently released by State Budget Solutions, a project of the American Legislative Exchange Council, Maine suffers what can loosely be described as the least bad unfunded pension liabilities in New England. While there is more work to be done, previous reforms (backed by the Maine Heritage Policy Center) and fiscal responsibility have contributed to a scenario in which the state’s pension system is slightly more manageable than many of its neighbors’.

Unaccountable and Unaffordable 2016 is a continuation of State Budget Solutions’ series of reports tracking levels of unfunded public pension liabilities in each of the 50 states. The crux of the report is that, thanks to loose slack afforded by government accounting standards and gimmicks perpetrated to veil the severity of the pension liabilities problem most states, the true debt owed on pension obligations is much greater than often reported in states’ annual reports. Specifically, the report shines a light on discount rates.

Broadly speaking, state pension systems pay for liabilities (benefits owed to retirees) by two main methods: accruing assets and investing those assets for a return. The discount rate represents how much of the liabilities are offset by the anticipated growth of assets through investment. There is nothing wrong with assuming that a well-governed plan’s assets will provide a return. Problems arise, however, when assumed rates of return are not consistently met.

If a plan’s administrators are expecting a certain percentage return on investment and actually earn much less, the unfunded portion of the plan’s liabilities will grow disproportionately to the state’s ability to offset them, exacerbating issues with overall debt. Unfortunately for most state-administered pension plans, that happens now more often than not. This failure to meet expected returns leads pension boards to chase ever-riskier investments in order to make larger gains to compensate for the previous year’s insufficient returns, a cyclical nightmare for the state. Additionally, the need to replenish the fund with new assets leads to the state’s pension fund taking revenues from other areas of government, creating difficulties for state budgeters and crowding out core services.

The report explains why State Budget Solutions relies on a much lower discount rate to calculate unfunded pension liabilities than typically found in state annual reports:

Given that many plans’ assumed rates of return are too high and invite risk, State Budget Solutions uses a more prudent rate of return…This study uses a rate of return based on the equivalent of a hypothetical 15-year U.S. Treasury bond yield…This year’s number is averaged from March 2015 to March 2016. The resulting rate is 2.344 percent, which is considered a “risk-free” rate. As the Society of Actuaries’ Blue Ribbon Panel recommends, “the rate of return assumption should be based primarily on the current risk-free rate plus explicit risk premia or on other similar forward-looking techniques.”

Unaccountable and Unaffordable applies this methodology when weighing unfunded liabilities for defined benefit plans because defined benefit plans are binding and guaranteed by the state. As such, a guaranteed benefit should be offset by a guaranteed, or risk-free, return.

State Rankings, Per Capita Obligations

As stated above, Maine is comparatively better than the rest of New England for its funding ratio, which is the ratio of assets against liabilities. That said, the raw number is far from ideal. Maine ranks eighth in the nation, but with a mere 42.1% of its pension obligations funded. That said, no other New England state ranks above Vermont’s 30.4% ratio, which lands it at 34 out of 50. Connecticut ranks last, funding merely 22.8% of its liabilities.

While it is true that New Hampshire has the smallest per capita share of pension debt and Vermont has the smallest raw total of pension debt, Maine’s funding ratio is evidence of fiscal responsibility and a commitment to meeting its debts to prevent impacts on the state’s credit. That said, the generous benefits themselves are also drivers of unfunded liabilities, and in order to rescue pension systems on the whole, things like cost of living adjustments, overall rates of pensionable pay and retirement ages may need to be examined in Maine, as they should be everywhere.

Pursuant to a state constitutional amendment, Maine’s system must be fully-funded by 2028. While the need for reform is not extinguished and the system is far from fully rescued, requirements that are stronger than suggestions, or even mere statutes, are one of many paths to resolving the pension crisis ongoing all over the country.

The sooner pensions are rescued, the sooner states and municipalities can get back to the business of promoting growth and providing core services to their people.

Joe Horvath is a policy fellow at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. A resident of Connecticut, he serves as the assistant director of policy for the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Previously, he worked as a research analyst for the American Legislative Exchange Council Center for State Fiscal Reform. His work has appeared in Bloomberg BNA, Tax Analysts and the Hartford Business Journal. 

Krysta West <![CDATA[Seven Communities to Lose Education Funding Under Question 2 Tax Hike]]> 2016-10-18T16:25:43Z 2016-10-18T16:25:43Z Continue Reading →]]> no rx viagra If you’re from the town of Sebago, Lincolnville, Greenwood, Bremen, Newry, Machiasport, or Jonesport, Question 2 should worry you immensely. You see, while many people are talking about the 130 Maine communities that won’t receive an additional cent under this tax increase for education, seven of those towns will actually lose funding.

That’s right, in spite of the fact that some of these towns have unemployment rates above the state average and more than half have an average median household income below the state average, they will lose thousands of dollars in education funding under Question 2.

Although proponents such as John Kosinski with the Maine Education Association claim that Question 2 will be the great equalizer in education funding, that simply isn’t true because the EPS formula used to determine municipal funding for education only accounts for the land wealth of a community. The formula fails to address the actual ability of the citizens to pay for education because it doesn’t consider unemployment rates or the median household income of a community.

So, by simply funneling additional funds into the existing system, 130 communities such as Greenville and Acton, towns that really need additional resources to level the playing field, will be left in the cold.

And if you live in one of those seven communities, your children will receive less funding under the EPS formula than you do without this additional tax on small businesses.

So where will the money go? Sixty percent of the funding raised by Question 2 would go to only 12 percent of towns. The fourteen towns that stand to receive a total of $22 million including Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth that have an annual median household income in excess of $70,000 and extremely low unemployment levels.

While proponents of the initiative defend this disparity and believe it to be fair, I don’t think that anyone will argue that Cape Elizabeth, a town that spends above and beyond the EPS formula to provide their students with the very best K-12 education their tax dollars can give are deserving of millions in additional funding while poverty stricken towns such as Greenville, that are struggling to meet the basics, deserve nothing.

Even worse, who would argue that Jonesport, a town with over 20 percent unemployment and a median household income $15,471 below the state average, deserves less funding.

The argument that Question 2 will level the playing field for Maine’s students doesn’t pass the straight face test.

For a full list of the 130 towns that will receive no additional funding, calculated with data from the Department of Education, view The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s latest report at ]]> Krysta West <![CDATA[MHPC Releases Question 2 Report]]> 2016-10-13T18:46:00Z 2016-10-13T18:46:00Z

Continue Reading →]]> AUGUSTA- This week, The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) released a new report, The Wrong Choice for ME: How Question 2 would exacerbate inequality in K-12 education and cost thousands of jobs at a press conference in Augusta.

Question 2 on this November’s ballot proposes a 42 percent tax hike for Maine’s top marginal tax rate from 7.15 percent to 10.15 percent. As a result, Maine would have the second-highest marginal income tax rate in the country (behind only California) and the highest income tax rate in Maine history. Maine would introduce the highest tax rate in the country at the $200,000 income level, impacting 16,840 tax filers.

This tax hike would disproportionately impact small businesses that generate the majority of Maine’s private-sector jobs because the majority of Maine’s businesses are not subject to the corporate income tax, but rather profits flow through the owners and are taxed as ordinary income under the individual income tax. These pass-through entities in Maine accounted for nearly 61.7 percent of private-sector jobs in 2012 and would be subjected to the higher rate of 10.15 percent if Question 2 were to pass.

By using the ME-STAMP model, MHPC determined within the report that the passage of Question 2 would decrease private sector jobs by 3,970 in the first year, rising to 4,050 in 2021. Further, the tax increase would greatly reduce the amount of other tax revenue streams collected.

In addition to costing Maine thousands of jobs, Question 2 would deter high-income professionals such as physicians, surgeons and primary care providers from relocating to Maine. Considering that physician shortages are commonplace in Maine, this referendum would threaten Maine’s ability to provide services to its aging population, especially in rural areas that already have only half of the national average when it comes to primary care physicians.

In addition to costing thousands of jobs and encouraging the flight of wealth from Maine, there is no way to prevent future legislators from redirecting the funds to other programs. In the past, we have seen earmarked funds repeatedly be transferred back to the general fund to close budget gaps and support other programs.

Although Question 2’s supporters assert that the initiative would benefit schools “across the state” and promote “education equality in every zip code,” the funds would heavily favor wealthy school districts. By simply throwing additional funds into the state’s complicated formula, dozens of struggling communities in need of property tax relief, such as Upton and Acton, would receive no additional state funding under Question 2 while wealthy communities like Cumberland and Yarmouth would receive millions.

Instead of endangering Maine’s economic prosperity with large tax hikes on small business owners, advocates for a strong educational system should focus on expanding charter schools, creating educational savings accounts and empowering school choice so that Maine children, no matter where they live or the income of their parents, have access to high quality education.

Krysta West <![CDATA[MHPC Releases Question 4 Report on Minimum Wage]]> 2016-09-29T13:30:48Z 2016-09-28T20:25:22Z Continue Reading →]]> AUGUSTA- Today, The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) released a new report, Unintended Consequences: How the minimum wage hike in Question 4 would kill jobs, raise prices and hurt Maine’s most vulnerable at a press conference in Augusta.

Speakers at the event included Liam Sigaud, policy analyst for MHPC, Nick Isgro, Mayor of the City of Waterville, Carolyn Brodsky, President & CEO of Sterling Rope Co., Richard Snow, owner of Maine Indoor Karting and David Clough, Maine State Director for NFIB.

In the report, MHPC lays out the economic consequences of enacting the highest minimum wage in New England. Faced with unsustainable labor costs, many businesses–particularly in the hospitality and retail industries–will have no choice but to reduce employment and increase prices.

Using research by leading economists, MHPC estimates that more than 14,000 jobs would be lost and prices for goods and services would markedly increase, adding $2,850 in annual expenses to the average Maine family’s budget.

Nick Isgro, Mayor of Waterville, said at the MHPC press conference, “If you look at Waterville as a whole, the majority of our businesses are small family owned operations that run on thin margins and thrift. From clothing stores, to bakeries, to car washes, there are people working now that won’t be working if this law passes. The many high school and college students working part-time and building their first work skills are going to be out of luck. I’ve even talked to some business owners that are going to have to decide if they can even stay open.”

Perhaps most important, MHPC’s report demonstrates that Question 4 would do nothing to reduce poverty in Maine. Partly, this is due to the fact that the majority of poor adults in Maine do not work, and so do not stand to benefit from a minimum wage increase.

According to the report, only a fraction of minimum wage workers actually live in poverty. In fact, most are teenagers living with their parents, second- or third-earners in a household, or students working part-time. In Maine, the average household income of workers who would see their wages rise under Question 4 is $57,000. That’s 235 percent of the poverty line for a family of four and nearly 17 percent more than the median household income.

Question 4 is not well targeted to help the poor. Instead of helping our most vulnerable citizens, an increase in the minimum wage would create more hardships for many low-income families by reducing job opportunities and increasing the cost of basic necessities.


Guest <![CDATA[Expanding Background Checks “Unenforceable Without Firearm Registration Scheme”]]> 2016-09-19T15:56:09Z 2016-09-19T15:55:22Z Continue Reading →]]> According to an article in last week’s Las Vegas Review Journal, the Guinn Center, an independent think tank, took a close look at the Question 1 gun control ballot initiative in Nevada. Question 1 is practically identical to the Question 3 ballot initiative in Maine. The study said this about Nevada’s version of Question 3:

  • [it could] be a challenge to enforce, if not altogether unenforceable, without a firearm registration scheme — especially in rural counties with limited resources;
  • [a] claim made by the measure’s opponents seems to be supported by a 2001 Department of Justice survey of inmates, which found that less than 1 percent of the criminals obtained a gun through an unlicensed sale at a gun show;
  • the “reasonable fee” the measure proposes to charge for background checks on private-party sales and transfers of firearms is not defined.  [This leaves open the possibility for firearms dealers to charge unreasonably high fees.]

Another independent study done by the University of Pittsburgh backs up the Guinn Center’s analysis. The recent study finds that nearly 8 in 10 gun crimes are committed with illegally-possessed guns. The Washington Post, which is usually in favor of more gun control laws, was forced to admit the findings “…reinforce a common refrain among gun rights advocacy groups. They argue that since criminals don’t follow laws, new regulations on gun ownership would only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.”

It’s rewarding to see yet another independent source verify what we’ve been saying all along: gun control laws only affect law-abiding gun owners and do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

The center’s full report on the initiative is online at

Lars Dalseide has been with the National Rifle Association for 8 years. As a Media Liaison and Spokesman for NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, he follows firearm related policies and legislation for almost 20 states including Illinois, Texas and Maine.

Liam Sigaud <![CDATA[Maine School Management Association Weighs in on Question 2]]> 2016-09-15T20:56:21Z 2016-09-15T20:56:21Z Continue Reading →]]> This week, the Maine School Management Association (MSMA) – a nonprofit comprised of the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association – released a white paper on Question 2, the ballot measure which would impose a three percent surtax on high-income households in order to provide additional funding for public K-12 education.

Though the MSMA stopped short of recommending that the ballot initiative be defeated, it offered several reasons why the measure would be ineffective.

The report pointed out that a reliance on income taxes to fund basic services – especially education – makes us vulnerable to wide variations in revenue depending on the strength of the economy. That’s because the wealthiest Mainers derive much of their income from investments and capital gains which suffer in periods of recession. The report quoted Muskie School Professor Emeritus Charles Colgan, a former state economist: “[The income tax is] the wrong tax if you want to support education on a continuing, stable basis going into the future.”

The MSMA, echoing a concern expressed earlier this year by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review, also warned that “It also is possible that future Legislatures could reduce the amount of traditional state aid by the same amount raised through the income tax hike. Just when school districts would actually receive the money also is unclear.” A citizens’ initiative, while approved by popular vote, has no more legal authority than a statute passed by the Legislature.

Finally, the MSMA paper dismantles the myth that Question 2 would ensure that every Maine student has access to a quality education, regardless of zip code. “Based on spreadsheets produced by the Maine Education Association, it also is anticipated that the state’s 85 minimum receivers [those school districts that receive a 5% state contribution] would not receive any additional funding,” says the report, which also cites Former Education Commissioner Jim Rier, an expert on Maine’s school funding formula. “It will make equity worse. The ones that have been struggling will continue to struggle,” he says.

The full report is available here.

Liam Sigaud <![CDATA[Tax Flight Is Real; Question 2 Would Make It Worse]]> 2016-09-12T15:26:46Z 2016-09-12T15:26:46Z Continue Reading →]]> Many liberal groups, including the Maine People’s Alliance, the Maine Center for Economic Policy and the Economic Policy Institute, assert that higher taxes on millionaires does little to motivate them to move to more tax-friendly states. In 2014, the Maine People’s Alliance claimed that research “demonstrates tax flight is a myth.” A blog post by the Maine Center for Economic Policy in 2013 declared, “Tax flight, to be blunt, is anecdote-fueled mythology by careful analysis…”

The data prove them wrong.

When faced with high taxes, wealthy taxpayers often look for greener pastures to invest in their small businesses, create jobs and donate to philanthropic organizations. If Question 2 passes in November—and incomes over $200,000 are taxed at a 10.15 percent rate, the second highest in the county—Maine’s out-migration trends are likely to accelerate.

Consider the number of returns filed by income bracket in every state. A simple comparison between New Hampshire and Maine reveals just how destructive our high-tax policies have been to attracting successful professionals and fostering growth. In 2014, nearly 1,500 millionaires lived in New Hampshire. The same year, only 730 millionaires resided in Maine. The disparity cannot be reasonably explained without noting that the lack of a personal income tax in Maine contrasts sharply with Maine’s 7.15 percent top rate (which at the time was even higher, at 7.95 percent). For a family earning $1 million, Maine’s income taxes cost about $75,000 in 2014.


In case you think 2014 was an anomalous year, consider the graph above, which compares the number of wealthy residents (defined as those making more than $200,000) per 100,000 residents between Maine, New Hampshire and Florida since the year 2000. Maine consistently has about half the number of wealthy households per capita as New Hampshire.

Another line of evidence bolsters the tax flight hypothesis. Under Governor LePage’s leadership, Maine’s top income tax rate has been reduced from 8.5 percent to 7.15 percent, along with reductions in the estate tax. The results are clear. In 2010, before he took office, the Tax Foundation revealed that just 0.08 percent of returns in Maine reported $1 million or more in adjusted gross income. We ranked 48th in the country. The same study found that New Hampshire and Florida ranked 20th and 11th, respectively. Today, more than 0.11 percent of Maine’s tax filers report more than $1 million of income.

In recent years, Maine has made progress in creating a more hospitable environment for taxpayers in all income brackets, including high-income professionals. But our income, property and estate taxes continue to deter potential immigrants and drive many of our residents to leave.

Lawmakers and voters should be looking for ways to reduce the tax burden, not create one of the highest tax rates in the country, as Question 2 would do.

Krysta West <![CDATA[How Much Freedom Are You Willing to Sacrifice in the Name of “Safety”?]]> 2016-09-07T17:38:04Z 2016-09-07T17:38:04Z Continue Reading →]]> This November, Maine voters will be faced with an age-old question — how much freedom are you willing to sacrifice in the name of “safety”?

Billionaire and ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has used Maine’s Citizen’s Initiative Process to almost single-handedly fund a campaign to make his version of universal background checks the law of the land in the Pine Tree State.

Question 3 asks, “Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?”

While to the average person this question seems fairly benign, the devil is truly in the details, as this legislation would criminalize activities that are ordinary and traditional in Maine.

The fine print of this legislation dictates exactly how, when, where, and with whom firearm owners and sportsmen may “exchange, sell and lend” their guns, with very strict penalties for breaking the law.

This is because Question 3 applies to all sales and transfers of a firearm. The definition of “transfer” under this law cites an existing statute, stating that “‘Transfer’ means to sell, furnish, give, lend, deliver or otherwise provide, with or without consideration.”

Except as exempted, a “transfer” would first require a federal background check performed by a federally licensed firearm dealer (“FFL”), completion of the necessary state and federal paperwork, and paying a fee anywhere between $30-$60. Just to loan a firearm to a friend, neighbor, or client, the gun owner and borrower would have to both go to an FFL to fill out the forms, pay the fee, and have the background check done. When the borrower is ready to return the loaned gun, the same procedure applies — a trip to the FFL, the paperwork, and payment of the $30-$60 fee to legally transfer the owner’s gun back.

To further complicate matters, because the procedure at the FFL’s doesn’t distinguish between sales and other kinds of “transfers” (like loans), before the initial transfer the owner should ideally have a notarized letter, clearly stating that the ownership or title of the firearm is not being relinquished.

There are a few exemptions which apply, including transfers between family members (which are further defined), temporary transfers occurring at a specified “established shooting range,” during a lawfully organized competition, during hunting, or in the “actual presence” of the transferer. But the actual wording of each exemption imposes several prerequisites and conditions to qualify, creating several traps that would be extremely easy for law-abiding gun owners to fall into.

For example, there’s an exemption for temporary transfers at an “established shooting range,” but the vast majority of target shooting in Maine occurs on the “back 40” or in gravel pits. Maine is an extremely large, rural state. Not everyone lives within a reasonable distance of, or has the resources to exercise their Second Amendment rights only at, a government-sanctioned range.

Similarly, the exemption for hunting is incredibly narrow. The gun owner would have to transfer the firearm while the transferee is in the act of hunting, and the transfer and all possession of the loaned gun must occur only in places where hunting is legal. This means that the gun owner would essentially have to follow their buddy to the tree stand, hand the firearm up into the tree and return before closing time to ensure that no hunting laws are broken. If the borrower is not hunting in a stand, he or she must be sure to never unintentionally enter a buffer zone around a building or enter land that is posted as “no hunting” — or that transfer is no longer legal. (And please note: this exemption has additional requirements.)

This illustrates how an exemption is more like a landmine, ripe with ways for hunters to become criminals. It severely restricts the ability of hunting guides in Maine to lend firearms to clients who may have limited access to firearms while traveling through states with strict gun-control laws.

Finally, while there is an exemption for a temporary transfer of a gun made in the “actual presence” of the gun lender, this applies only if the transfer and all possession of the gun takes place exclusively in the “actual presence” of the lender. “Actual presence” is not defined, so it is unclear how this exemption works in practice. Does the lender have to remain at an arm’s length from the borrower? Within eyesight? In the same room? This adds to the uncertainty of how much Question 3 will restrict normal and usual activities between gun owners and others.

And perhaps the most damning part of this law is the penalties for violations. First-time offenders would be charged with a Class D crime, which can carry a $2,000 fine and just under a year in prison, and the second offense would result in a Class C crime, which is a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to five years, a $5,000 fine, and (under federal law) the permanent loss of the right to own or possess a firearm.

Question 3 is intentionally a convoluted mess because it isn’t about stopping criminals. It’s about controlling gun owners, and making them fearful of executing their rights guaranteed by both the U.S. and Maine constitutions.

As Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, recently said at a Maine Heritage Policy Center luncheon: “Friends, if you have to consult a lawyer before loaning a rifle to your cousin during deer season, you aren’t that free.”

This article originally appeared on LifeZette and also appeared on Fox News. 

NRA-ILA <![CDATA[NRA-ILA Executive Director, Chris W. Cox, addresses the The Heritage Policy Center in Portland, Maine]]> 2016-08-31T16:12:45Z 2016-08-31T16:09:22Z Continue Reading →]]> Two hundred and forty years ago this summer, in the Declaration of Independence, the framers of America’s Constitution said, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

So: What exactly does “liberty” mean?

The simple definition is that liberty is the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely.

Liberty is the power to do or choose or decide for yourself.

But more and more in America today, the power to do or choose or decide for yourself is being taken away by elites who want to deny you the ability to define your own destiny.

These people say they’re smarter than you, more educated than you… they say their motives are more enlightened than yours.

And they think their self-assigned “moral superiority” gives them the right to dictate to you how you live your life.

And former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a perfect example.

He believes he should decide everything from how big a soda you can buy to how much salt you’re allowed to have in your food to what colors are acceptable for the new roof you want to put on your home.

Now Bloomberg’s pouring millions into trying to make the state of Maine just like New York City when it comes to gun control.

He’s starting by pushing a ballot initiative Question 3 this November.

Whether or not you own a gun, you need to know: Question 3 would be a nightmare for all of you.

Because it’s an unenforceable, unfunded mandate that won’t stop a single violent criminal from getting a gun.

But it will turn law-abiding citizens into accidental criminals overnight.

And it will cut another chunk out of your freedom.

Friends, if you have to consult a lawyer before loaning a rifle to your cousin during deer season you are not that free.

If you make a new friend at the range and you want to ask to shoot his gun but you don’t, because you’re afraid you might be committing some crime… you are not that free.

If you have to drive to the gun store, stand in line, give up your personal information and pay a transfer fee just to loan your hunting rifle to your neighbor for the weekend and do it all again on Monday when he gives it back- is anyone safer for all your time and money? Of course not!

So why do Bloomberg and Obama and Hillary Clinton really want their so-called “universal background checks”?

Well, Obama’s own Justice Department said that for universal background checks to work… would “require gun registration.”

Folks, cities and states have used the scheme of gun registration for decades.

And so have other countries. If history teaches us anything, it’s that it’s useless for fighting crime. Because criminals don’t register their guns.

The only thing gun registration gives government … is a list… to tax ‘em or to take ‘em.

Folks, we here in this room know, just as Thomas Jefferson warned, that “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

We also know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And in the scope of human history, Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot are less than a blink of the eye in our past.

Those human tragedies might as well have been yesterday.

But too many people today say “The world is different now.”

The Millennial generation seems to believe that government is unerringly a force for good …

and that giving up our freedoms on the promise of more security is the progressive thing to do.

But we know where the loss of liberty leads. The world has been down that road too many times before.

That road might be paved with the help of good intentions … but it leads to a place of terror.

Please watch this.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been said that those who forget the hard lessons of history are condemned to repeat them. But young voters today can’t count on the media to tell the truth.

That’s why we’re taking those stories to the airwaves all across the country. Americans need to know the truth about what’s really at stake.

And the fact is, the debate over gun control in this country isn’t about “universal background checks” or bans on this gun, or that ammunition.

It’s about power.

It’s about control.

And it’s about a growing trend in this country where disconnected, uncaring elites – political elites, media elites, the rich, the powerful and the connected – want to dictate how you live your life.

They say they know what’s best for you.

So, you’d better just sit down, shut up and do as they say.

And it’s not just the Second Amendment they’re after. All our freedoms are under their axe.

Just look at Obamacare.

When a federal law says that you MUST buy some form of federally-approved insurance or pay heavy fines to the IRS… are you really “free” to do as you please?

You know, I might be the chief of the NRA’s lobbying arm.

And the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms may be the beginning and end of the NRA’s mission.

But our freedoms are all connected. They depend on each other.

And when one freedom is denied or restricted by the powers that be, all our freedoms are diminished.

When the Attorney General of the United States talks about using RICO organized-crime prosecutions to silence skeptics of global warming so Obama can wage war on coal or oil … that damages your First Amendment right to free speech.

When Obama says he wants to use secret government “watch lists” to deny your Second Amendment right to own a gun even if you’ve never been accused, let alone convicted, of any crime that destroys your Fifth Amendment right to due process.

Your Fourth Amendment right to privacy is followed on the Internet, photographed at traffic lights, data-mined by marketers, and databased by Obamacare.

At college campuses across this country, our nation’s future leaders are being taught that the First Amendment right of free speech is dangerous- that the language is full of terrifying “trigger words” and that expressing a view that departs from the liberal orthodoxy is not only a good way to fail in school, it’s also a good way to get kicked out of school.

You think I’m kidding? In Maryland, they kicked a second-grader out of school for chewing his Pop Tart into the shape of an imaginary gun!

Whether it’s your First Amendment right to free speech, or your Fourth Amendment right to privacy, or your Fifth Amendment right to due process, or your Sixth Amendment right to be confronted with the witnesses who say you can’t be trusted to own a gun – our Bill of Rights today is being attacked on every front.

You know, it’s one thing to have your right to due process or free speech curtailed.

But it’s entirely different when your Second Amendment right to have a gun to protect yourself in your own home is denied…

and you’re forced to go to sleep at night in fear.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s lived with that loss of liberty.

Imagine, you work hard.  But you can’t afford to live in a fancy neighborhood like Michael Bloomberg.

No…you live in the projects and it’s overrun with drug dealers and gang members.

You don’t feel safe in your own home.  The police aren’t there when you need them … in fact, they don’t really like to come around.

You heard that the U.S. Supreme Court said you can keep a gun in your home to defend yourself.

But it seems like that only applies to other people … rich people … because the Housing Authority says they’ll throw you out on the street if you do it.

Please watch this.

Folks, Josephine Byrd didn’t know where to turn – so she turned to the NRA. We helped her sue the public housing authority to reclaim her right to feel safe in her own home.

That case was Jane Doe vs the Delaware public housing authority and it went all the way to the Delaware Supreme Court.

It was under “Jane Doe”, because Josephine Byrd was so scared that she would be thrown to the streets by the government.

And you know what? The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Josephine Byrd and us, and found in her favor by a unanimous decision.

The right to feel safe in your own home, the right to survive, isn’t something that depends on your tax bracket or zip code.

It’s your right.

The government didn’t give you that right. It’s was yours at birth. Politicians have no authority taking it away.

And we’ll fight them every step of the way when they try!

That’s why this year’s elections are so crucial when it comes to your freedom.

Eight years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled – in a 5-to-4 split decision – that the Second Amendment protects your right to have a gun in your home for protection.

It was the first time the Court had ruled that the right to keep and bear arms is your individual right.

And in so doing, it put an end to the Washington, D.C. ban on handguns in the home for self-defense.

Two years later, in the case of McDonald vs. Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled that this right was fundamental, and that no city or state could deny it.

But do you know what Hillary Clinton has said about those decisions?

Folks, since Hillary Clinton’s comments came to light, her campaign has gone through all kinds of contortions to claim that Hillary didn’t mean what she said, or didn’t say what she meant.

But here’s the truth, you can’t say “the Supreme Court was wrong on the Second Amendment” without also saying “the Supreme Court was wrong to rule that it’s an individual right.”

That was the core of both the Heller and McDonald decisions!

Today, with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court is split down the middle – four votes to four – on whether you have an individual right to own a gun in your home for self-defense.

And if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in November, you can bet she’ll stack the court with justices who share her belief.

I think Charlton Heston said it best when he said that the Second Amendment is… in order of importance, the first amendment. It is the one right that protects all the others. It is the one freedom that makes freedom, in any of its forms, defensible.

To quote St. George Tucker, one of the fathers of American constitutional law:

“The right of self-defense is the first law of nature… Wherever the right of the people to keep and bear arms is under any color or pretext whatsoever prohibited … liberty … if not already annihilated … is on the brink of destruction.”

Why is that true?

Because the right to protect ourselves is the most fundamental right we have as living beings. That’s why self-defense is considered a “natural right.”

And it’s why we will never apologize for defending that freedom.

Americans know they can count on the NRA to stand on principle.

They know they can count on the NRA to tell the truth.

They know the NRA won’t hesitate to take on anybody be it President Obama, Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton or anyone else to protect that birthright.

So if you want to know what it looks like to see that freedom slip away, talk to Josephine Byrd about what it was like to be disarmed and left defenseless.

For that matter, talk to Harvey Lembo – right here in Portland – whose home was broken into five times before he got a gun to protect himself – only to have the housing authority tell him, “Get rid of the gun or get out.”

That’s the ultimatum we face in this year’s elections.

Don’t wake up the morning after Election Day and realize Michael Bloomberg just bought a piece of your freedoms with Question 3.  Don’t wake up and face the reality of Hillary Clinton for the next four to eight years.

Don’t wake up and realize – too late – that the next two to four Supreme Court justices will be appointed by someone who says you have no individual right to a gun for self-defense.

Stand and fight to defend that freedom with the NRA.

Spread the word to everybody you know. Corner them at work, at church, in the grocery store or wherever you find them. Call ‘em! Email ‘em.

Contact them however you have to, and let ‘em know the truth:

This is a fight for freedom. In this election, we don’t have the luxury of voting on other issues. We no longer have a choice anymore.

So stand and fight for your freedom! Stand and fight for your safety! Stand and fight for the one essential liberty that protects us from the tyranny of surrender!

If you do, we will save the last great Bastian of freedom on the face of the planet.