Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Put me in, Coach....

Many years ago, when I was attending Millville Grade School in rural Henry County, physical education classes hadn’t even been imagined. What we did have was morning and afternoon recess. After the teachers finished their smoke break in the Teachers Lounge/Furnace Room, they would join the students on the playground and organize a softball game.

The team captains were nearly always the same, a couple of athletically gifted and overly developed 6th graders, and they nearly always made the same choices when filling their team’s roster. And, when the teams’ starting line-ups and the suitable subs were chosen, the same few students were usually standing along the baselines, ashamedly looking at the ground and kicking in the dirt, and feigning disinterest.

Invariably, two of the sideline standers were myself and my old pal, Stinky Wilmont. Now admittedly, I wasn’t the most prolific player in Millville. Even with a couple layers of cardboard in the heels of my Red Ball Jets, I was barely 4 foot tall, and not much of a threat at the plate or on the bases. But I was hard to pitch to, and unless the umpire was a buddy of the pitcher, I could almost always make it to first base on a walk.

Stinky was a lot bigger, and he could hit, throw and catch with the best of them, but he was incorrigible to say the least, and sadly lacking in social skills, even by Millville Grade School standards. Still, we thought that given the chance, we had something to contribute to the game. But neither team seemed to have a place for us.

I’ve had the same feeling of being left out for the last couple of weeks. You see, I’m one of those people who believe government should be small and fiscally conservative. Kind of like the Republican Party used to believe. But in the last two weeks I listened to Governor Daniel’s State of the State Address, where he called for more government intervention in education, and more government intervention in healthcare. He also called for more taxes at the local level, but didn’t offer a single cut at the state level. Outside of a couple of privatization issues, he sure sounded a lot like a Democrat.

Then I listened to another Republican, President George Bush, give his State of the Union Address. And I heard another Republican call for more government intervention in education, and more government intervention in healthcare. It was the same Republican that called for increased spending no less than eight times during his speech, spending that will add a couple of trillion dollars to our national debt before he leaves office. It seems that now the Democrats are the ones calling for a balanced budget, but their solution rests on increasing taxes, not in the more libertarian solution of cutting spending.

To listen to people talk, there are a lot of taxpayers around that are feeling as neglected as Stinky and me. Maybe it’s time for all of the smaller government advocates out there to get off of the sidelines, join a team that really represents their beliefs, (like the Libertarian Party, perhaps), and get in the game.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Let me rephrase that....

The writer of this letter in the Indianapolis Star has the same annoying habit that many advocates of government controlled healthcare have. He uses the terms "lack of health insurance" and "lack of healthcare" interchangebly. One of the candidates for state representative in my area did this quite often in the last campaign. He would note that 850,000 Hoosiers were without health insurance, and in the same speech claim that 850,000 Hoosiers were without healthcare.

It's not the same thing. I am basically without health insurance, save a major medical policy with a ridiculously high deductible. It's affordable, even for a 55 year old, and we keep it to prevent us from losing our home and savings in the event of a catastrophic illness.

I'm not, however, without healthcare. I see a doctor when necessary, and pay as I go. It's still a lot cheaper than the $1500.00 a month some of my friends pay for their policies. Admittedly, I don't go to the doctor everytime I sneeze, and I also believe that most people could cut down on their trips to the doctor if those trips weren't paid for by someone else.

The late, great libertarian, Harry Browne, had an excellent analogy on the subject. He pointed out that when we buy car insurance, we don't expect the insurance company to provide gas, oil, tires and maintenance for our car. But we have come to expect our health insurance company buy our medicine, provide us with eyeglasses, and even staple up part of our stomach if we don't feel like putting forth the effort to diet.

No doubt, healthcare is expensive, but we can do a lot better of controlling those costs with a little self-discipline of our own, instead of waiting for the government to create or expand another costly and invasive program.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

You say tomato...

Every once in awhile I get a reality check on how people view things differently. The other morning at coffee someone mentioned Ted Nugent. One of the senior citizens at the table asked who that was.

I replied that he was a Second Amendment advocate, while at the very same time another at the table replied that he was a gun nut.

I guess it depends on who telling the story.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm..

When I was growing up, I lived on a small farm in Henry County. We were mostly a dairy farm, and we milked about 40 cows (although it seemed like 400 on cold winter mornings and hot summer evenings). We also had a few pigs, and a few chickens to keep us in bacon and eggs, and occasionally we sent a few hogs to the stockyard, and we always had extra eggs for the neighbors and relatives that didn't have chickens of their own.

We were typical of the small farms in the area. If you drove down the road in any direction, just about every farm had some kind of livestock. If you headed south towards Millville, Oakley Paul raised beef cattle, Jiggs Coffman had cattle and pigs, along with a few sheep and a couple of ducks. John Ball had some pigs, but nobody knew how many because they just ran loose in the woods.

Driving north took you past Marvin Luellen's feeder pigs and Herman Rodeffer's jerseys. I think it would be safe to say that every farm had some kind of animals.

Today, I can drive the 30 some miles between New Castle and Richmond on State Road 38, and outside of a couple of places with a few llamas, I can only find one farm that has any animals at all. It's a dairy, and it probably milks more cows than all of the farmers in my old neighborhood combined.

I guess it would qualify as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO. There's a lot of opposition to them in Indiana, and our local state representatives want to place more restrictions on them, and our state senator is even calling for a three year moratorium on any new operations.

I tend to agree with Wayne County farmer Joe Meyer in this article that ran in the Palladium-Item recently. We have seen how excessive regulation, along with excessive taxation, has driven manufacturing to other countries. And as Mr. Meyer points out, there are a lot of countries that are more than willing to sell us our dinner. And I'm not opposed to importing a meal or two, but wouldn't you hate to have someone else holding all the cards?

I don't believe 1000 hogs or cows on 1 farm will create any more manure than 100 hogs or cows on ten farms, but the possibility does seem to have upset an awful lot of people. But I do believe farmers have the right to farm, and we all need to eat, and I think we can without solve things without more state regulations or moratoriums. Maybe by using some of these ideas that we proposed last fall.

I know we all have to accept change, but it was economically feasible, I wouldn't mind if farming was like it was when I was a kid, as long as I didn't have to milk those cows.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

And that's the way I like it....

Hagerstown could best be described as a small town, and for the most part I lead a fairly uneventful life. I can pull out of my driveway (I always stop and look both ways, but usually I wouldn't have to),and be at the coffee shop within three minutes. And I can make it back home just as quickly if the coffee starts to have its effects on my system.

I compare that scenario to my eldest son's situation out in Fishers, where one of the most important attributes a house can have is stoplight at the end of your street so that you can pull into traffic without risking too many lives.

I also compare it to a recent trip I took to San Antonio for my nephew's wedding. I'm not sure why a couple million people decided they needed to go somewhere on the same road I needed to be on that day, or why they felt like they needed to drive 80 MPH to get there, or how much sooner they were going to arrive at wherever they were going by riding the bumper of the car in front of them.

I was awfully happy to get back to Hagerstown, and I've been trying to think of some advantage to to living in a fast growing metropolis. Certainly the property taxes aren't lower, the schools aren't any better, the crime rate isn't lower, and the cost of living certainly isn't any more affordable.

And if I get the notion that I need a little more excitement in my life than the local coffee shop and hardware store can afford, I'm less than an hour away from several cities that can scratch that itch.

So I plan on spending my remaining days in my small town, and I'll be happy when a small business decides to locate here, and I'll begrudgingly accept it if a larger business decides to locate here. I certainly don't intend to stand in the way of anybody's ambition. But I won't jump on the wagon with the people that want to forcibly take part of my income and use it to bribe businesses to come to Hagerstown.

Now, I think I'll drive down for a cup of coffee. Then I'll drive back home.

Boring, huh?