Sunday, February 19, 2006

Beware the IACT of March...and February...and

Mankind has been issued many admonitions through the years. Centuries ago philosophers and soothsayers warned us to “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, and to “Beware the Ides of March”. Those who chose to ignore these warnings did so at their own peril, and with most unpleasant results.

George Washington gave us some excellent advice shortly after our nation was founded when he cautioned to “beware of entangling alliances”. We chose to ignore old George on that one, and now we have troops and money entangled all over the world.

150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau made a very astute observation when he told us to “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” A lot of people don’t put much stock in that warning. I consider it a way of life.

When I was growing up, my Dad warned me not to run in the haymow, don’t let the bull get between you and the fence, and don’t stand behind a cow on fresh pasture. He was right, of course, although many times I wished I had just taken him at his word and avoided the actual object lesson.

Now, I don’t claim to have the political savvy of Washington, or the natural insights of Thoreau or my Dad, but I have come to a realization in the last month or so, and I would like to pass it along. Beware of organizations that have no goal other than to expand government and increase taxes.

Since this session of the Indiana Legislature has convened, (and since I hope, voters willing, to be a part of that legislature after November), I have been following the progress, or lack thereof, of the 440 bills that were introduced this year. As the count thins down to the bills that actually have a chance of being enacted, it is interesting to note how some of the players are reacting to those bills.

IACT, the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, released its Legislative Summary, which outlines the organization’s stance on the various bills being considered. The report leaves no question as to the priorities of IACT. House Bill 1010, which is one of the legislature’s attempts to restore the property rights that were stripped away from private citizens by the Supreme Court and it’s eminent domain ruling last June, has been targeted for defeat by IACT.

House Bill 1399, which IACT helped author, contained no less than four new taxes that municipalities would have been at liberty to enact. Although that bill died in committee, the organization is working to have the most offensive portions of the bill amended into House Bill 1001. While 1001 in its current form does contain provisions for limiting property tax increases, IACT is working feverishly to have those provisions removed.

A careful study of the summary, which is available on-line at the IACT web-site, reveals that they are opposed to any legislation that strengthens and protects private property rights or weakens the local municipality’s ability to seize that property. It also finds them in favor of as many new and varied taxes as the legislature can dream up, while only paying lip service to the goal of property tax reduction.

Some libertarians around the state believe that IACT is simply evil. I don’t know about that, but I do know I can’t find one instance where they support the individual over the state. That makes me wonder if we shouldn’t beware of anything IACT supports.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Chicken Little was at least partially right

Smoking bans of some degree certainly seem to be the rage all over Indiana. Delaware County is currently considering a pretty restrictive ban of it's own. When the Muncie Star-Press claimed in its February 12th editorial, “The sky won’t fall when smoking stops”, the paper was correct. If the Delaware County commissioners pass a county wide workplace smoking ban, the sky won’t fall, the world won’t come to an end, and for the most part, most of our lives will continue without requiring too much adjustment. For those of us who don’t smoke or own a business, it won’t require any adjustment at all.

The sky didn’t fall when it became a law that motorists must wear seat belts when driving their cars, and it won’t fall when they pass a law that we have to wear them when we are driving a truck. The sky doesn’t fall when you pull up to one of those seat-belt checkpoints, and it probably wouldn’t fall if the police were to inquire about your destination and purpose for going there.

It probably wouldn't fall if a law was passed that required newspapers to obtain approval of stories that were critical of public officials before they were printed.

Like so many other things we have come to accept as long as it promotes for the “general welfare and greater good”, the sky didn’t fall when the Supreme Court ruled that the government could seize your property for any reason it deemed necessary. Of course, whether or not the sky fell on that one might depend upon whether or not it was your property that was being seized.

The sky didn’t fall when the government started taking 1% of our income and property to redistribute as it saw fit, and it didn’t fall when that amount was increased to 10%, or 20%, or 30% or even when it reached its current level of nearly 50%. It may not fall if our ‘contributions’ climb even higher, as long as we are convinced our resources are being used to promote the “general welfare and greater good”.

This smoking ban, like all smoking bans, is not the end of the world. But, if the Star-Press is correct in its assertion that restaurants that have self-imposed bans in place are seeing an increase in business and profits, a government enforced ban is unnecessary. And if other businesses find more profit in increased productivity and lower health care costs, we will see voluntary smoking bans in these businesses as well. That’s the way business works.

No, the sky won’t fall if Delaware County passes this smoking ban. And it won’t fall if they pass another seat-belt law, and it won’t fall if they adopt another income tax, or another sales tax, or another food and beverage tax.

It’s not going to fall all at once, but it is going to sag just a little more.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

It's even worse than it appears!

During our last visit, I mentioned how Hannah and Audry were mildly concerned with their $140,000.00 share of the federal debt. This morning I read an article from the AARP Bulletin,(of course it's not my copy...I borrowed it from some old guy)in which the Office of the United States Comptroller stated the amount owed by each man, woman and child in the United States has increased to $156,000.00. And, if Kenn Gividen's calculations are correct, the girls will owe $1 million by the time they graduate from college if the nation's current spending spree continues.
Bear in mind that this debt is based on every person in the United States. If you factor in the number of tax consumers that are not, and will not be shouldering their "fair share" (cough,cough), it puts even more debt on each tax producer.
Of course, the AARP's solution is to raise taxes on the tax producers. I don't suppose there is any chance we might try to rein in some of this spending.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Audry's here!

This beautiful young lady is our newest granddaughter, Audry Elizabeth. Everybody is fine, but she made her mother go through 32 hours of labor before she decided to join us. Her doctor didn't know why she took so long to be born, but I suspect it was because she knew that as soon as she was born, her share of the federal debt would be $140,000.00.

Here Audry suggests to her cousin Hannah that they might be able to convince Grandma and Grandpa to help them with a lemonade stand next summer so they could get started paying on that enormous bill that the federal government just handed them. Hannah doesn't like to discuss business or politics on a full tummy or an empty diaper.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mind your own business

I build homes for a living. Not very fast and not very many, but it’s what I do. And I know that if I don’t build homes that people want to buy, and at a price they are willing to pay, I won’t be building homes anymore.

My wife Susan owns a furniture store. She knows that she has to offer furniture that people want to buy, and at a price they are willing to pay, or else she won’t be in the furniture business very long. She can’t force someone to shop at her store, anymore than I can force someone to buy one of my homes. That’s just the way the free-market system works. That’s the way it has always worked. We knew that going in. It’s a system that rewards good decisions and forces you to deal with your bad decisions. All in all, it’s a pretty good system, certainly the most fair for all participants.

But sometimes something comes along throws a wrench in that system. A good example here in Wayne County is the Economic Development Income Tax and the Economic Development Commission. The EDC, working with various elected officials in the county, uses of your tax dollars to support certain businesses over others. It might be in the form of tax abatements on equipment or property, or it might involve providing the business with land and buildings at a bargain price, or it might involve providing the business with taxpayer subsidized loans at bargain rates.

I don’t care if someone wants to sell chocolate covered olives, or underwear made out of soybeans, or rats. If there is a market for their product, they will do just fine without our forced support. If there isn’t a market for their product, well, that probably means they’ve made a bad decision, and that free-market thing kicks in.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Government never furthered any enterprise but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.” (Yeah, I had to look that word up, too. It means ‘eager willingness’.) Wayne County has made a good start in getting out of businesses way by sending Mr. Holbrook on his way. They need to follow-up on this good start by disbanding the EDC and repealing the Economic Development Income Tax.

That tax money, when left with it’s rightful owners, could be spent in Wayne County by those rightful owners on products and services of their own choosing, instead of providing artificial support for a company that couldn’t exist on it’s own merit, and will quite possibly leave when their abatement runs out, anyway.

In conversations with officials around the county, I’ve had commissioners, council members, and even EDC members tell me that they agree that it is wrong to give tax money to private businesses, but since other cities and counties are doing so, Wayne County has no choice but to do the same. I used that same argument in my younger days when I tried to convince Mom that my curfew should be extended. I figured when she learned that Stinky Wilmont could stay out until 11:00, surely it would be alright for me to stay out later. She didn’t buy that argument then, and we shouldn’t be buying it now.

Creating a friendlier business climate through lower property taxes for all businesses and individuals, along with less restrictive zoning requirements and regulations, would go a long way in supporting existing and attracting new businesses. The kinds of businesses that have made a commitment by investing their own capitol in themselves.

That’s all the help a viable business and it’s willing investors really need.