At least once during the 2019 legislative session, State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone) — who is also the House Minority Caucus Chair — delivered a questionable history lesson during a floor speech in the House of Representatives. In 2019, Saine talked about how Christopher Columbus really wasn’t such a bad guy. On Thursday, Saine delivered another history lesson that was so incredibly bizarre that we felt it was our duty to share this knowledge with Colorado Pols readers.
Saine took to the floor today in opposition to HB20-1420, “Adjust Expenditures for State Education Fund” (otherwise known as “The Tax Fairness Act”). In order to provide more funding for public education in Colorado, which was among the many cuts made to balance the state budget amid a $3.3 billion shortfall, HB20-1420 would revoke tax breaks from the 2017 Trump Tax Cut for Rich People; restrict certain cuts included in the federal coronavirus stimulus bill (the CARES Act); and reduce some state tax credits for certain industries. Supporters of the bill say it could raise about $278 million for public schools in Colorado.
Saine doesn’t like this bill, so she stepped into the well on the House floor and delivered a whopper of a rambling speech that included references to “Atlas Shrugged,” Adam Smith, Henry Ford, Rep. Richard Holtorf, and the process of making a pencil. Here’s one of our favorite lines:
Atlas shrugs, and we are left to make our own pencils.
Despite Saine’s objections, HB20-1420 was later approved by the House of Representatives.
You can watch Saine’s speech here. We also transcribed her entire diatribe, which is available in full after the jump…
Here’s Rep. Lori Saine’s speech on the House floor on Thursday in opposition to HB20-1420. All highlights are from Colorado Pols.
Members, yesterday I talked about a book that used to be required in high school. I don’t see it required anymore but it was called “Atlas Shrugged.” And in this story, if I were to encapsulate it, it’s a story of government run amok. Taxing everything, getting involved in every aspect of production, until finally Atlas shrugged and the earth toppled down. So, that’s pretty much the gist of the book. And of course, Atlas in the story is the human potential embodied in capitalism and what it can do.
I also see that economics don’t tend to be required in high school or college anymore, and the reason I’m bringing this up…is simply this: The bill to me encapsulates that story. It encapsulates the story of government saying, ‘You know what? We have all these regulations. I know we have this business personal property tax, which is, to me, government run amok.’ [Pols Note: We’re doing the best we can to punctuate this accurately] I mean, you’re literally paying taxes on things that are completely depreciated like a fax machine that a business doesn’t even use anymore.
But on top of this comes this bill, 1420. On top of this, and on top of everything that has gone on in the last three months with COVID-19, and the Governor shutting down businesses, closing doors, putting certain restrictions on restaurants — by the way, if you’ve ever managed a restaurant or owned one, the number of tabletops depends whether you are going to be successful or not. And the amount of people at those tabletops depends…[pause] you’re depending on the number of people who can attend and sitting at those tabletops to be successful or not [sic].
There are a lot of things that have been hampering business from getting up and running. Some of the things, government has done right. We just passed a bill, just before this one, that did that. It gave businesses a little bit of breathing room. And there are some things that have happened in the federal government to ensure that we get back up and running after COVID-19. But this bill does the opposite of that. And it’s telling the people that are still struggling, that saw the light at the end of the tunnel, that, no, here’s one more barrier to getting up and running.
And I’ll remind everyone that most people work for a small business. A small business that has less than 50 employees. It’s not big businesses — it’s the small businesses that put money in the pockets of government. Government itself does not produce anything. In fact, it seems like to me, the number one job of government — as I look over my eight years here — is to destroy the value of money.
I would like to give you a classic take on what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t also read Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand,” which should also be required reading, there’s a story about something as simple and lowly as a pencil [Pols Note: Adam Smith first discussed his idea of the “invisible hand” of capitalism in the book “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” Smith did not publish anything with “Invisible Hand” in its title]. We tend to look down on the pencil, but it’s really a modern marvel — of capitalism, of human ingenuity, creativity, and the division of labor.
And I know we’ve had some talks about the division of labor today, because I saw Representative Holtorf coming down. He represents a segment of the society that allows all of this to happen. Allows lawyers to specialize in lawyers, doctors to specialize in doctors. And for most of us, to do something different other than farming. If farmers weren’t as productive as they were, we’d be going back to an agrarian society and cities would not exist. Because we’d all have to be growing our own food to survive. Because farmers are so good at doing what they do, despite all of the challenges they face, you and I are able to sit here today and specialize in different things. And amazing things.
So let me tell you the story about the pencil. I’m going to make a claim that may seem outrageous: There is not a single human being on the earth that knows how to make a pencil. Now how can I say that? Because what I mean is, there is not a single human being on the face of the earth that knows how to make a pencil from scratch. There isn’t a single human being who knows the best kind of tree to make a pencil; how to make a saw to chop it down; how to build a railroad to take a log to the mill; knows how to cut the wood into perfectly symmetrical strips; knows how to make the yellow paint from various chemicals; knows how to manufacture erasers with just the right texture; knows how to do all of these things and still keep the price of a pencil down to two cents. The writing implement of choice for children all across America — all over the world.
There are literally millions of people invested in making pencils and all successfully, without a government department of pencils to coordinate them. This is the miracle [sic] the invisible hand of capitalism. If government tried to make pencils, they’d be several dollars apiece. If you could get one [pauses and smiles for laughs, which don’t come]. If you could get one. Not only would they be several dollars apiece, try getting one if the government was to make it. And after your previous pencil fell apart [pauses again for laughs; someone off-screen throws her a bone and chuckles].
I also want to make another claim, and I can pass out this article later because it’s just so good. The other claim is, the invisible hand is a uniquely Christian concept. No other culture has developed an economy based on this concept. The Bible says the Body of Christ is composed of various members; not all are the head, some are the arms, some are the fingers and toes, but each plays a part. There is no such thing as complete self-sufficiency.
But imagine, for a moment, [that] this bill passes. Atlas shrugs, and we are left to make our own pencils. Imagine a self-sufficient economy where everyone only consumes what they themselves grow, or uses themselves to make.
I want to imagine Representative Holtorf, and Pelton, and Catlin, and Wilson, and some of you folks in rural areas — Valdez — if you have milk it’s because you milked your own cow. If you have bread it’s because you grew your own wheat. If you plowed your field it’s because you forged a plow in your garage on your own anvil during your summer break or in the interim. Could you live like this and still do your job as a legislator? Could you be completely self-sufficient? No, because we all depend on the division of labor. We can only do one or a very few things for a living and depend on others for most of what we eat, use, and enjoy. And I’d say that falls heavily not only on our ranchers and farmers who are in this room but also small business.
Henry Ford developed this concept where one person could do one thing in excellence. And then the next person does the next thing in excellence. Our lives are enabling this American ingenuity and the division of labor. But this bill stifles that. It puts one more burden on one or more of these parts to make the things that we use and enjoy. And with that, I’m going to urge a NO vote on the bill.
But this lesson in economics needs to reverberate beyond this chamber. We need to put economics back into our schools and our high schools, in our college programs. Because if we had basic economics, I very much doubt that people would be championing this bill. Your constituents would be championing this bill [sic]. Because without business you do not have public education. If we scare businesses away from this state, we will have less money for public education.
If we have economics in education, folks, we would find a way to enable American business and ingenuity and we would have more money for education. But this bill doesn’t do that. It’s going to kill public education. In a very short time. Because as fast as ingenuity grows a product, it’s going to be as fast as ingenuity to figure out this is not the business environment to be in. Thank you.