Monday, December 31, 2007

Weighing in ....

It’s New Years Resolution time again, and good intentions will be thicker than presidential candidates in Iowa for the next few days. My resolution will be to take off a few pounds. I figure sooner or later, if I make it often enough, I’ll surely drop at least a couple of pounds.

When I graduated from high school, I weighed in at about 140 pounds. Now, nearly 40 years later the bathroom scales are spinning towards 200 and screaming for mercy, and the waist and inseam measurements on my pants have traded places since my school days.

I’m not sure when I gained all the weight. I guess like so many things in my life, it crept in an ounce or two at a time, gradually, so as not to alarm me. I compensated by letting my belt out a notch and wearing it a little lower, and convincing myself that I was simply maturing as part of the natural process. Still, if someone would have asked me 40 years ago if I would like to pack around an extra 60 pounds all day, I’m pretty sure I would have told them no.

Over the last several years we’ve been experiencing the same creep from our government. While we were busy raising our families and buying groceries, it has continued to grow. Sometimes it grows by ½ of a percent in the form of an economic development income tax, or 1 percent as a sales tax increase. Sometimes it grows a little faster, like with a property tax increase, and we will throw a fit for just a little while, and the government will tax somebody else for a little while to placate some of the property owners, but it will continue to grow.

When I graduated from high school the national debt stood at $389 billion. That amount won’t pay the interest on the debt as it stands today. It didn’t get that way overnight, but every year since I graduated the federal government has spent more than it has confiscated. Sooner or later that’s bound to catch up with you.

The bureaucracy is growing in other ways as well. This summer, a friend of mine was informed that he would have to get permission from his neighbors before he could add a room onto the back of his house. Down the road a piece, a grandson was ticketed for carrying a bow and arrows on his grandfather’s farm. In the next four years, the light bulbs that you are likely using to read this article will be illegal, and will need to be replaced with bulbs that can cost 6 times as much.

Someone asked me once if I could name three things that the government didn’t tax or regulate. It was a tough question then, and it’s getting tougher every year. It’s going to get a lot tougher if we don’t start paying attention.

It didn’t take any effort for me to put on this extra weight, but it will take a lot of effort to get it off. The same is true of the government. Thomas Jefferson said that it is the natural tendency for government to grow and for liberty to yield. It won’t take any effort at all on our part for government and taxes to grow. It will take a lot of effort on our part to reduce our government back to its intended size and purpose. And it will take a lot of effort to keep it that way.

That’s how it works when you battle natural tendencies.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Oh, the absolute horror!!!!....

I received a call last night from a very polite young lady representing the Republican National Committee. She spent a couple of minutes explaining to me how bad things would be if Hillary Clinton was elected president, and then asked if I would send the RNC a hundred dollars.

When she paused long enough for me to offer a response, I told her that I was a Libertarian, and I asked her how much better things would be if John McCain or Rudy Giuliani were elected president. I also told her that I needed my hundred dollars to buy some new light bulbs, (which supposedly use less energy and cost more money), when my old light bulbs become illegal because of the new energy bill that George Bush signed.

She wasn't as polite when she hung up as she was when she called.

I know that she was just doing a job she was paid to do, but I'm still amazed when people become so passionate about the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Walter Williams nailed it when he said;

"Liberals believe government should take people's earnings to give to poor people. Conservatives disagree. They think government should confiscate people's earnings and give them to farmers and insolvent banks. The compelling issue to both conservatives and liberals is not whether it is legitimate for government to confiscate one's property to give to another, the debate is over the disposition of the pillage."

That rings true at every level of government, and the light bulb manufacturers, having captured the support of both groups, are going to be laughing all the way to the bank.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What was the question again?....

Once again we find that if they can get you to ask the wrong question, it doesn't matter what the answer is. The Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform has people arguing and debating over whether assessors should be elected or appointed. The correct answer is neither.

The elimination of the current property tax system would also eliminate the cost of and need for assessors, and several feasible plans for eliminating property taxes have been proposed. Unfortunately, Governor Daniels and the current crop of legislators have decided that these alternate plans won't provide adequate revenue to support the government in the fashion to which it has become accustomed.

So we end up with a bunch of bureaucrats trying to convince us that a tax which could cause you to lose your home, because your property taxes went up, because its value went up, because your neighbor sold his house for more than he paid for it, could ever be simple or fair.

We need to make sure we are asking the right questions, and we need to put some people in office that will give the right answers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More or less....

I have cartoon clipping over my desk that depicts three office doors in a hallway. The first door leads to the "Federal Department of Making Government Smaller", the second door leads to the "Federal Department of Making Government Smaller, Regulations Division" while the third door leads to the "Federal Department of Making Government Smaller, Regulations Oversight Committee".

The Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform just released its recommendations on streamlining local government. True to form, it took 47 pages to make 27 suggestions. It took 15 pages before the first suggestion was made.

Its not that I'm opposed to streamlining government, as long as that streamlining includes downsizing and eliminating the non-governmental functions that government has taken on over the years, but I'm a little skeptical when a bunch of bureaucrats get together to help us out and save us money.

A couple of years ago they decided to streamline the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. To cut expenses, a lot of local license branches were closed. I haven't been able to find one person that saw a reduction in the cost of their plates because of the streamlining, (although I did save a couple of bucks because my truck got older).

They've made some far reaching suggestions, and naturally, the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform is calling for the creation of a new office to oversee their recommended reforms. That's probably the first part of the plan that will be adopted. And since they're creating a new office anyway, how about adding a division to that office to track just how much money the taxpayers will actually save. Not just how much will be taken by a different agency or office, but how much they will actually save.

It shouldn't take a very big office.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

MOM!!!, he's looking at me!!!!!

One of my favorite pastimes in my younger days was devising new ways to irritate my little sisters. At one point, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and I discovered that simply peering at one of them over the back of a school bus seat was enough to set them off. We, of course, were delighted, until one Sunday morning when we were taking the family station wagon to church. I summoned my best staring technique, and proceeded to look at two of my sisters at the same time. I fully expected a swat from the front seat when they screamed in unison, “Mom!!!!!...he’s looking at us!!!!” Instead, our Mother calmly replied, “Well, just ignore him.”

I was crushed that our diabolical plan to drive my sisters stark raving mad could be so easily neutralized, and I worried what effect ‘just ignoring me’ would have on my other methods of aggravation. It turned out to be an effective deterrent against most of our audio and visual taunts, and Stinky and I eventually reverted to catching crawdads as an alternate form of entertainment.

That little piece of advice worked out pretty well for my sisters then, and it has served me quite well since. I also think it would come in handy out at the statehouse right about now. The ACLU is involved in another lawsuit seeking a court order to prevent anybody from opening a legislative session with a prayer. Now, I understand that there are people, both religious and secular, who are opposed to intermixing government and religion. And if anybody attempts to force an unwilling person to pray, we should all join with the ACLU and ask the courts to stop it. But it seems we have become dependent on the courts and the government to shield us from everything that might offend us, and we’re talking about something here that doesn’t require a court order or government intervention of any kind. If a person doesn’t want to participate or listen to a prayer, simply use the time to organize your own thoughts, or get a cup of coffee, or reflect on some lesson you learned from your mother early in life.

I’m not sure when we developed such thin skin. High schools and colleges have changed the names of their team mascots for fear they might offend certain groups of people, usually Native Americans. (Fortunately for my Alma Mater, the animal kingdom is not so touchy about these things.) And if my old buddy Stinky was still in school today, I just imagine he would be subjected to some sort of counseling to help him deal with the possible trauma of having such a nickname.

Americans aren’t the only people that could stand a little toughening up. Recently a teacher in Sudan was sentenced to 15 days in jail for allowing her students to name a teddy bear after a religious leader. And in Australia, Santa has been instructed not to say “Ho, Ho, Ho!”, on the chance that certain professional ladies might take offense.

Now, just so you know, the holiday season is approaching, and if I meet you on the street, I might wish you a Merry Christmas. If that offends you, feel free to ignore me. If it really offends you, and you feel the necessity to chastise me for making such a comment, or if you feel the need to make some unsavory gesture in my direction, that’s alright too. I’ll probably just ignore it.

And just in case I don’t see you in the next couple of weeks, Merry Christmas.

Ho, Ho, Ho.

Good idea, bad law...again...

I stopped smoking in our house when our first child was born, and quit altogether shortly thereafter. I know smoking is expensive, and I strongly suspect that it isn't healthy.

Smoking also leaves an odor on objects that most non-smokers find objectionable. That's one of the reasons my wife doesn't allow smoking in her furniture store or upholstery shop. For her part, its simply a good business decision.

It looks like Richmond is going to start considering placing a smoking ban on privately owned property. I'm sure there will be a lot of arguing from both sides of the debate, and if things go the way they have been going around the rest of the country, private property owners will lose some more control over their property.

We also saw an attempt recently to fund a children's health program with tobacco taxes. My question would be, if tax revenues fall off significantly because of a smoking ban, should the government have the ability to force private property owners to allow smoking on their property?

I've asked that question before, and the answer always seems to be that the government has the duty to protect us from smoke. But a lot of people that answer that way also feel the government has an obligation to pay for people's healthcare. But that doesn't answer the question.

It's difficult to keep discussions about smoking bans on point. Those discussions normally turn to the health aspects of smoking. This ban, like so many others, is really about private property rights. Every time we allow the government to violate those rights, we give the government a little more power, and we give up a little more freedom.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Usually always...

The other day I asked my salesman from the lumber yard when I could expect delivery of an item I had ordered. He replied that the company furnishing the item usually always delivered on Tuesdays. I'm guessing "usually always" means about the same as a "firm maybe".

This morning I heard an ad on the radio from a cable TV company offering 2000 "free" programs a month for only $40.00. My cell phone company claims that I'm receiving several "free" minutes of usage per month, although I suspect that if I quit paying my monthly bill, the "free" minutes would dry up pretty quickly.

Outside of the advice I've received from my parents and a few friends, I've always been a little suspicious of anything that was supposedly free. P.J. O'Roarke once said, "If you think healthcare is expensive now, just wait until its free." I'm sure he is correct.

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually always is.