Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We're from the government, and we're here to help...

I was raised in a house with Mom, Dad, and 7 brothers and sisters. That meant 140 dirty socks a week, more or less. More if we got the chance to go to town on Saturday night, less if my little brothers wore the same socks for two days, or simply traded amongst themselves. Regardless of the final tally, it was an awful pile of socks when we brought them in from the clothesline, and there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth as we each tried to sort our own socks from the basket.

Somewhere along the line, somebody came up with the idea of safety pinning the pairs of socks together. That way, if you found one of your socks, you found a pair. Of course, by the same token, if you lost one, you lost two, but I never had much use for one sock anyways.

The system worked so well that I still use it today, but occasionally even a flawless plan can be spoiled. As a teenager, I accompanied my Explorer Scout troop to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. After spending 10 days in the mountains, and upon returning to the base camp, we turned our dirty laundry over to the leaders, who in turn piled it in with the rest of the troop’s laundry, and ran it through some giant washing machines. I had taken the pains to pin my socks together in pairs, and then pinned the pairs together, creating a giant, smelly ball that I would be able to quickly retrieve once the dryer was finished.

The plan fell apart when one of the leaders walked up and gave me a hand full of safety pins, explaining that I had forgotten to unpin my socks, but luckily he was able to get them apart before they were placed in the washer. I spent a goodly portion of the next morning attempting to gather too me that which was mine. To this day I’m convinced that no account Stinky Wilmont has three of my blue stripe tube socks and at least one black argyle. I’m also sure that leader thought he was helping out, but it sure didn’t end up that way.

Most of our elected officials seem to suffer under the same delusion. I’m sure a lot of them really believe the rules and laws they create are going to make things better. Then, when one set of rules make a mess of things, they believe they can make some new rules to straighten out the mess the old rules caused. In reality, most of our elected officials are just like you and me, with no more insight on governing than the next person. Winning an election doesn’t make them any smarter; it just gives them more power.

We’re about to go through another session of tax shuffling. Freezing property tax rates while increasing assessments, and raising sales and income taxes. We’ll see a shift of certain services from the local level to the state level, while others will shift the other direction. Officials will argue among themselves about which plan is better and cheaper for the taxpayers, and each will claim some magic insight into knowing how to best spend your money when they get it.

But we’ve all been through it before. Big government costs a lot of money. No matter what our legislators believe or want us to believe, the new plan will cost more than the old plan. It might come from a different tax, or from a different pocket, but it’s still coming from the taxpayers.

We can’t make our politicians any smarter. But we can elect people that will work to limit government to its essential services, and end its ability to tax us without limit. By doing so, we can limit the things they spend our money on, so some of those not so smart decisions don’t break us.

Well excuuuuuse me!!!!....

There are several towns in Indiana that won't be holding elections next Tuesday, and a few right here in Wayne County. That's what happens when there aren't any contested races for elected positions. I would think people would be upset that they don't have a chance to decide on who gets to spend their money. Maybe some of them would be, but apparently not all of them.

In Hagerstown, Gayle Bond, a Libertarian, is challenging three incumbent Town Board members for one of the at-large positions that are up for election this year. Since the other town positions that are up this year are unopposed, the one position on the Town Board is only position where voters get to make a choice.

The other day Gayle told me a couple of people had called him on the carpet because he running for the office and forcing Hagerstown to hold an election.

There are some issues concerning management and spending in Hagerstown that need to be addressed, and not all citizens in the town believe that all of the incumbents are up to the task of addressing those issues satisfactorily. They believe Gayle can.

So after Tuesday, a lot of people will be hoping it wasn't Gayle that forced them to have an election. They're hoping it will turn out to be one of the incumbents

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Door number three...

A German philosopher, whose name I cannot remember, pronounce or spell, once said something along the lines that truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed, then violently opposed, and finally it becomes self evident. I don't know how true that is, and I don't suppose there are clearly defined lines between the phases. I imagine some truths will be ridiculed, violently opposed and accepted by different people at the same time.

I think there's a lot of truth in the libertarian philosophy, and a lot of us are trying to interject some of that truth into our government by means of the Libertarian Party. We've certainly endured our share of ridicule, and some people become almost livid in their creative dissertations against the LP.

But we've also picked up some support, and we've won a few elections. The Fraternal Order of Police in Indianapolis has endorsed a couple of our candidates in past years and this year, and today I received this from the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel:

"The council has never had a Libertarian, and putting one there would make the body more interesting. A Libertarian would always raise points not usually made by either Republicans or Democrats.

So we recommend that voters give council a Libertarian - Robert Enders, who is seeking the 6th District seat.

If elected, his top priority would be to provide long-term property tax relief by controlling local spending. He would return to a respect for property rights by arguing against eminent domain and such things as the smoking ban. He would also concentrate on crime prevention. He said he would try to erase the unfair perception that the south side of Fort Wayne is more dangerous than the north side."

Most newspapers endorse major party candidates, and especially incumbents that share the paper's political views.

I don't know how much this endorsement will help Robert in his race, but I'm sure glad to see it. It's a lot better than being ridiculed and violently opposed.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Government's 'compromise'... take or take more...

Thomas Jefferson warned us that "the natural tendency of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield". It sure seems like he's right a lot. Maybe part of the problem is because government doesn't really understand how to compromise.

This article calls for a compromise between the Republicans and Democrats in Congress in order to pass the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The 'compromise' involves deciding how much more the taxpayers are going to have to come up with to fund the program, once they discover that the new cigarette taxes won't cover the cost. It might cost us $5 billion more, or $30 billion more, or $80 billion more, depending on which 'compromise' plan they decide on.

Hoosier politicians are going to spend the next few years working on some kind of 'compromise' on how to extract money from the public, juggling property taxes, income taxes and sales taxes. Whatever plan they decide on, we know the final outcome is going to result in higher overall taxes and more government. When was the last time a 'compromise' between the two parties resulted in an actual reduction, instead of just a reduction in growth?

True compromise requires some mutual give and take. Government compromise consists of all the give coming from the taxpayers, and all of the take coming from the politicians.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Smoke 'em if you got 'em...

The Heritage Foundation crunched the numbers on the cost of the proposed State Childrens Healthcare Insurance Program (SCHIP). The proponents of the plan are telling us that the new taxes on cigarettes will pay for the program, but even with the 156% increase in federal taxes, it will take 22 million new smokers to cover the cost of the program. For now.

I also see Ball State is planning on banning smoking completely, and I've read that the Richmond Common Council is leaning the same way.

Maybe they better consider making smoking mandatory. For the children,of course.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Charitable extortion?...

My wife has a small furniture and home accessories store, and a re-upholstery shop. I run a small construction company. As small business owners, we receive a lot of requests for donations from groups both in and out of the community. A couple of weeks ago the furniture store alone received 17 such requests.

We don't mind people asking for help, and we try to do what we can, but there are also limits. Like most people, we have to set our priorities. Cancer and heart disease research usually wins out over skateboard parks and cheer leading camps. It's not that we're opposed to skateboard parks and cheer leading camps, but with our limited funds, they don't necessarily come under the heading of worthy charities.

Sometimes other factors effect our decisions. Like when the high school boy pulled up in his Corvette and asked for a donation for his traveling baseball team. Sometimes we give to a cause just because it is important to us, or because someone asks and we know it is important to them. Sometimes through our church, sometimes through an organization, and sometimes through an individual.

That's how it should work. It's not charity if someone threatens you and forcibly takes your money, and it's not any better if they have the government do the threatening and taking for them.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Seems like everything needs a disclaimer these days. I saw a towel dispenser in a public restroom the other day that warned ( with a graphic picture) not to place your head through the loop in the towel and sit down on the floor or you might be injured or killed. Apparently that has been a problem at some time.

My disclaimer on this next observation is that I was raised on a farm, my wife was raised on a farm, and we still have several family members on each side of the house that are involved in farming. I also have a lot of friends that are farmers, and I appreciate the work they do to keep us fed.

There are a lot of signs popping up in yards in the area that state "Got Breakfast? Thank a Farmer". They have a picture of a couple of slices of bacon and a fried egg under the caption. Chances are a lot of us will be washing down that bacon, which very likely came from a corporate owned CAFO, and the eggs, which likely came from a 100,000 hen laying house, with a glass of milk that came from a mega dairy staffed by people that are here, either legally or illegally, from Mexico.

I know that somebody still has to feed the cows and pigs and chickens, but it's a different world than when I was a kid, when Dad and almost every farmer in the county had cows, pigs and a few chickens on the farm. I'm not saying things are better or worse, but we need to be honest with ourselves about how things work.

For disclaimer number two, let me say that I like to see viable businesses start-up or expand in the area. I'm not too crazy about when those businesses are given confiscated taxpayer dollars, but that is a subject for a later discussion. This company that is coming to Wayne County promises to bring 1000 jobs. I wish this new company the best of luck, but don't try to justify the nearly $4 million you received from the taxpayers by inflating the number of employees you actually expect to hire.

My old pal Stinky Wilmont used to say, "Don't pee in my ear and tell me that it's raining."

I think that's a reasonable request.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Finding our way...

Being raised on a farm with a few dairy cows, extended family vacations were out of the question. The cows had to be milked before we left, and milked when we got home, so the best we could hope for was the occasional day trip. Sometimes, looking out the back window of the old station wagon at an unfamiliar road, one of the kids would ask where we were, and how long it would be before we arrived at our destination. Dad’s standard reply was, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time”.

His answer was purely for entertainment purposes. He has to this day an uncanny sense of direction in both travels and life, so I’ve never had to worry about the final outcome of his decisions. I cannot, however, say that I have the same confidence in our government. The people at the wheel seem to be reluctant in accepting that we have made some wrong turns over the years, and they are equally reluctant to make the necessary changes.

Over the past several years, our federal government has been printing, borrowing and spending money at an alarming rate. And while the feds, using some creative book keeping, claim a debt of around $9 trillion, the U.S. Comptroller General at the Government Accountability Office puts the actual debt at $59.1 trillion. That amounts to over $516,000.00 of debt for every household in the United States.

A lot of politicians would have you believe that the answer is to simply ignore the debt, or raise taxes to cover the debt. But we can’t simply ignore this debt, and raising enough taxes to pay the debt would cost every household over $30,000.00 a year for the next 75 years. Hardly a move in the right direction, do you think?

85% of this debt is the result of entitlement programs. Federal retirement plans, Social Security and Medicare, all seemingly affordable programs when they began, now threaten to consume the income of both current and future generations. Taxpayers face the possibility of supporting many retirees longer than they were employees. Social Security, when enacted, enjoyed the luxury of 16 workers putting in for each person that was drawing out. We are fast approaching a ratio of only 2 contributors for each benefactor. Medicare was adopted with the promise that if workers would contribute 25 cents per week, they would never have to pay a medical bill after retirement. We haven’t just made a wrong turn, we’re completely off of the road.

Here in Indiana, our legislators decided a while back to satisfy their insatiable hunger for our money with an ever increasing property tax. When the tax bills became so big that homeowners could no longer pay them, one county placed armed guards in the assessors’ office for protection against irate taxpayers. Wouldn’t you think our lawmakers might suspect that a change of course might be in order? Well, some of them did, and suggested that we could add some more taxes elsewhere in order to lower property taxes, at least for awhile. But that hardly constitutes a change in direction. It’s more of a “close your eyes, step on the gas, and hope no one is watching” solution.

I don’t have the sense of direction that my Father has, but I do know that if we are going to get this nation and state back on the right track, we are going to have to return to the values personal responsibility that made this country great in the first place. We have to stop expecting the federal, state and local government to supply our every need from cradle to grave. Stop asking them to entertain you and your children, stop asking them to fund your retirement, and tell the politicians if they want to make a donation to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, they should make it from their own pocket. That would be a move in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Means and ends...

Our church is currently going through a major renovation. We do what we can to help out with the money that Uncle Sam, Uncle Mitch and Uncle Myron allow us to keep and spend as we see fit. I think a lot of people will get some benefit from the new addition. Probably a lot of people won't.

It was a small church when my wife and children started attending several years ago, and it had grown quite a bit by the time I started attending regularly. I'm glad the congregation decided to put forth the time and money it takes to complete a project this size. I probably wouldn't feel the same way if they had forced the members or the community to provide the funding.

A lot of people in Wayne County are excited this week because a company is locating its new facility in one of the county's industrial parks. Even Mitch Daniels is coming over to join in the festivities. The Wayne County Economic Development Commission, along with the Indiana EDC and other officials gave the company around $4 million worth of land, grants and tax credits.

Now, I'm always happy when a new business brings new jobs to the area. And I think it's an excellent idea for a group like the EDC to serve as a go between for prospective businesses and willing investors.

It's important to a lot of people too have growing businesses in the community. It's also important to a lot of people too have growing churches in the community.

It's also important that we aren't forced to fund either.