Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tea time....

Back in 2003 I made this observation about the obstacles Orville and Wilbur Wright would have faced if they tried to invent the airplane in today's world:

As we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight this year, I think we can all be thankful that one of Indiana’s favorite sons, Mr. Wilbur Wright, lived in the era that he did. Can you imagine the hurdles that he and brother Orville would have to face today if they decided to invent the airplane?

It would take years for the EPA to complete it’s study on the effects of powered flight on the migratory habits of Monarch butterflies and Canadian Geese, and it’s a safe bet the Department of Homeland Security and the DEA would have some questions concerning the intended uses of such a machine.

Building an airplane in a shop that had only been approved for work on bicycles would surely throw OSHA inspectors into a tizzy, and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission would no doubt take a dim view of the fact that the boys built the plane while Catherine stayed home.

And, if by some miracle the Wrights did manage to receive FAA approval to launch a flying machine constructed of wood and cloth, we can rest assured they would still be circling and holding while the commissioners and their neighbors debated on whether a landing strip violated proper land use and zoning requirements.

Timing is everything.

Timing appears to be a factor again. A plan by a Cedar Rapids group to protest a proposed tax increase by dumping tea into the river has been thwarted by a government regulation that, believe it or not, prevents tea from being dumped into a river.

Luckily, the regulation wasn't in effect in Boston in 1773.

Perhaps just as luckily, in 1773 Samuel Adams still had a pair.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rock and roll....

Summit Taylor was the janitor, groundskeeper, and sometimes recess monitor at my alma mater, Millville Grade School. He lived just across the fence on the other side of the big pile of leavings where he dumped the ashes from the coal furnace in the basement of the school building. One day at recess, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont decided to pick up a clinker out of that pile and see if he could throw it over Summit’s garage.

Although Stinky didn’t have enough arm to get the clinker over the roof, he did have enough power to get it to one of the windows on the building. Needless to say, Summit was not impressed with the feat. Neither was Principal Baker, and the entire 3rd and 4th grades were forced to stay in for the next two recesses because of Stinky’s transgression.

I didn’t have any concrete ideas on what constituted justice back then, but I was pretty sure the entire classroom didn’t deserve to be punished because of Stinky’s bad judgment. But, being in the 3rd grade and scared to death of a trip to Mr. Baker’s office, I suffered in silence with the rest of my roommates, and wondered what misery Stinky would visit on us in the future.

As I grew older, and started questioning the accepted social order, I often wondered what would have happened if all of the students who had done nothing wrong, would have simply stood up and walked out when the recess bell rang. Probably the teacher would have told the principal, and probably the principal would have lined us all up for a paddling. But I still think we would have been right, and the teacher and principle would have been wrong.

Later on in school, while studying Greek mythology, we learned the story of Sisyphus. It seems Sisyphus had displeased a couple of the Greek gods, and was sentenced to the task of rolling a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down the mountain just before he reached the top. So Sisyphus would walk back down the mountain and start again. Forever.

I always wondered why Sisyphus didn’t just step aside, let the rock roll down the mountain, and go on about his business. Probably wouldn’t have made as good of a story, I guess. But as I remember it was an awfully big rock. And it was an awfully tall mountain.

We’re getting ready to add a few trillion dollars to our federal debt. That debt already stands at over $10 trillion, or about $33,000.00 of debt for every man, woman and child in the United States. But that’s just the debt the government likes to report. According to David Walker, past chairman of the Government Accountability Office, the unfunded liabilities of numerous government programs push the actual federal debt past $50 trillion, putting each citizens debt at over $160,000.00.

Of course, that is assuming that we all share the debt equally. We know that isn’t the case, of course. This year, of the 115 million Americans that file income tax returns, about 46 million won’t pay any income tax at all. That leaves over $724,000.00 of debt for each of the people that do pay. Maybe a little less as long as the other 46 million continue to at least kick in for the Social Security debt. And the debt we don’t get paid rolls over to our grandchildren. At least the ones that will be working and paying taxes.

Which gets me to wondering, could we really blame future generations if they decide they aren’t going to pick up the bill for our ridiculously exorbitant spending policies? After all, they haven’t done anything wrong, and we are handing them an awfully large rock. And an awfully tall mountain.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Better late than never...

It seems that three Republicans from the Indiana Senate have proposed a resolution requesting that the federal government begin honoring the Constitution, and specifically the Tenth Amendment. To me, it would have seemed a little more sincere if they would have proposed the resolution a couple of years ago, but as they say, better late than never.

I've read that 8 states have proposed similar such things, but unfortunately, the way the major parties view the Constitution, I'm afraid such proposals are a lot like peeing your pants while wearing a dark suit. It gives you a warm feeling, but nobody really notices.

Maybe someday, though.

Here's SCR 37, proposed by Greg Walker, Dennis Kruse and Marlin Stutzman:

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION urging the honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled, and the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives of each State's legislature of the United States of America to cease and desist, effective immediately, any and all mandates that are beyond the scope of their constitutionally delegated power.

Whereas , The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States specifically provides that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people ”;

Whereas , The Tenth Amendment defines the total scope of federal power as being those powers specifically granted to it by the Constitution of the United States and no more;

Whereas , Federalism is the constitutional division of powers between the national and state governments and is widely regarded as one of America 's most valuable contributions to political science;

Whereas , James Madison, “the father of the Constitution, ” said, “The powers delegated to the federal
government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, [such] as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people ”;

Whereas , Thomas Jefferson emphasized that the states are not “subordinate ” to the national government, but rather the two are “coordinate departments of one simple and integral whole. The one is the domestic, the other the foreign branch of the same government ”;

Whereas , Alexander Hamilton expressed his hope that “the people will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the state governments. ” He believed that “this balance between the national and state governments forms a double security to the people. If one [government] encroaches on their rights, they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by [the] certain rivalship which will ever subsist between them ”;

Whereas , The scope of power defined by the Tenth Amendment means that the federal government was created by the states specifically to be limited in its powers relative to those of the various states;

Whereas , Today, in 2009, the states are demonstrably treated as agents of the federal government;

Whereas , Many federal mandates are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;

Whereas , The United States Supreme Court has ruled in New York v. United States , 112 S. Ct. 2408 (1992), that Congress may not simply commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the states; and

Whereas , A number of proposals from previous administrations and some now being considered by the present administration and from Congress may further violate the Constitution of the United States; Therefore,

Be it resolved by the Senate of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, the House of Representatives concurring:

SECTION 1: That the State of Indiana hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.

SECTION 2: That this Resolution serve as a Notice and Demand to the federal government to maintain the balance of powers where the Constitution of the United States established it and to cease and desist, effective immediately, any and all mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.

SECTION 3: That the Secretary of the Senate immediately transmit copies of this Resolution to the Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of each state's legislature of the United States of America, and each member of Congress from the State of Indiana.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bizarro Economics....

In a Bizzaro world, people do the opposite of what they normally do or should do. Sometimes I have to wonder if we aren't venturing further into such a world.

The news is full of stories about workers that are taking pay cuts in order to protect their jobs. Not an easy thing to do, but hard times require hard decisions to be made, and hopefully those decisions will help companies weather the current recession and survive to offer better paying jobs in better times.

I also saw the other day that people who are drawing unemployment benefits will receive a $25.00 a week raise. As much as sympathize with people who have lost their job, I can't understand why they should receive a raise while someone who is working is taking a pay cut.

The raise will increase the maximum unemployment check to $415.00 a week. That means a person working 40 hours on a job that pays $10.25 per hour will take home less money than some people take home from not working. I'm sure most people don't want to be drawing unemployment. I'm also sure they shouldn't be forced to choose unemployment benefits over wages because they can't afford the pay cut.

But that is pretty much the way our government operates. We have a tax system that punishes success and rewards failure. 85% of the revenue from income taxes comes from 25% of the taxpayers. 68% of the revenue comes from 10% of the taxpayers. A lot of that revenue ends up as "refunds" to millions of people that didn't pay any income tax to begin with.

We have a government that punishes good decisions and rewards bad decisions. We are embarking on a multi-trillion dollar federal bailout program where people who bought and paid for homes that they could afford will shoulder the mortgages of people who bought homes that they couldn't afford.People who are working for businesses that made good decisions will be forced to bail-out companies that made bad decisions.

It's not that I have anything against helping someone up when they're down and out, but neither do I think we should punish them when they manage to get back up.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One bite at a time...

Edward Coleman, a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council, has decided to leave the Republican Party and join the Libertarian Party. Good for you Edward, and welcome aboard.

Mr. Coleman gave his some of his reasons for his actions in this press release:

"This is not a decision I take lightly, nor did I come to it without deep reflection. I have found that the direction of the Republican Party has changed, and it is not the same party I joined many years ago. Nor do I believe its current leaders truly represent the ideals that the party markets and advertises to voters.

Both of the old two parties have forgotten their ties to the common man, and instead focus on power and control as elitists. I am a common man, I campaigned for the common people, and I still represent the common people; the voters and taxpayers.
I have come to find that my politics are actually more aligned with the Libertarian Party than any other; a party that still allows free thought, a party where dissent is not necessarily a dirty word.

Both of the old parties endeavor to silence dissent. During the Council’s previous period of Democrat control, the majority’s powers were used to silence Republicans. Now, under Republican control, the Council majority abuses their power to weaken Democrat influence. Over the past year I have been criticized for votes I made in response to the concerns I heard from my constituents. As a leader I have spoken out again the secretive and expensive affairs of the Capital Improvement Board; but the two old parties want obedient followers, not leaders."

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Coleman yet. I don't know the extent of his conversion. I don't know if it was the result of an epiphany, or a gradual realization, like mine, that the two party system is actually closer to a one party system than most voters will admit.

I'm pretty sure he has a tough road ahead, at least for now being the only Libertarian on the Council. As much as Republicans and Democrats pretend to dislike each other, apparently they dislike someone rocking their boat even more. They go to great lengths with their election and campaign finance laws to make sure their incumbents are protected from outside challenges.

You might consider a lone Libertarian among all those Republicans and Democrats to be much like the orphan boy at a picnic. But hopefully he's bringing something to the gathering that his old party has abandoned. A sense of direction, and the fiscal sanity that has been lost on both parties for years.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Well I'll be doggone....

About every time I think I've got my blood pressure under control, something like THIS comes along.

Taxpayers in California just spent $13 million on a foot bridge, $196,000.00 of which was for statues, including statues of dogs doing dog stuff. All different kinds of dog stuff. Like the kind of dog stuff you step in. And the kind of stuff dogs do before they have puppies.

Considering the fact that California is facing bankruptcy, you might think they could do without statues of dogs doing dog stuff. But the "artist" that created the statues doesn't think anything is wrong, and apparently the politicians in California don't think anything is wrong.

I suppose it's only fitting. The ridiculous spending bills that continue to come out of Washington have me convinced the whole country is going to the dogs.

It's enough to make you bang your head against a fire hydrant.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who knows where the time goes...

My father has always had a theory on determining how long ago something happened. He maintains that if you aren't sure, and that if you would guess how many years ago an event took place, and then double your guess, the second figure would be closer than the first figure. As is usually the case, it turns out Dad is usually right.

Last Monday, I heard that it had been 45 years since the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. I've been out of high school 39 years, I've been in business for 35 years, and I've been married for 33 years. My children are past or approaching 30.

It all happened a lot quicker than I realized. I never would have guessed.

This morning, I heard that Abraham Lincoln was born 200 years ago tomorrow.

Funny, but it doesn't seem like it could be over 150.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Thanks for the advice, but No Thanks...

The world has always been full of bad advice.

In March 1990, Republican Clayton Williams, Jr. was running against Democrat Ann Richards for Texas governor. Williams compared the Texas weather to rape, saying "if it’s inevitable, then relax and enjoy it." I'm happy to report that Williams lost that election.

For some unknown reason, Bobby Knight felt compelled to offer the same advice while talking to a reporter. Considering Bobby's aversion to relaxing and enjoying anything, I'm not sure he believed his own advice, and in view of the aftermath I'm pretty sure he wishes he had never given it. Especially to a reporter.

The other day, a reader responded to a post I made over at the Palladium-Item saying,"You CAN'T get the government out of the way, just as in the military you serve under the leadership you have - you don't argue, you simply do."

I figure that comes under the heading of "bad advice" also.

There is quite a push in Congress right now to tack a few trillion dollars onto our national debt. Along with that debt comes the promise of more and higher taxes to pay it back. A lot of people are advising that we should put politics aside and work together to assure that this happens.

I'm not sure why they believe that a government that regulated and spent us into this mess will be able to regulate and spend us out of it, but that seems to be their advice. But it's advice I'm not taking. And even if it seems inevitable, I'm not going to relax. And I'm certainly not going to enjoy it.

Thomas Jefferson had some good advice on what government should be:

"A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."

That's advice worth taking.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

On the brighter side...

Our government is renowned for the unintended consequences it so often brings upon us. Those smelly Chinese Lady Bugs that crawl into your home each fall were brought to the United States by the Department of Agriculture to eat aphids off of soybeans. Who knew they wouldn't care for our aphids?

FDR's Soil Conservation Service planted hundreds of acres of Kudzu, an aggressive and invasive vining plant, to control erosion,(and make work for the unemployed), in the south during the 1930's. The last estimate I saw was that the plant had taken over about 7 million acres.

Congress's Community Reinvestment Act was a well-intentioned plan to make sure that people who couldn't afford a home were still able to purchase a home. Unfortunately, it was one of the tripping stones for the housing market crisis, which was one of the tripping stones for the mess we find ourselves in today.

Not that all unintended consequences are bad.

Like those of President Obama's Cabinet nomination process.

It's been a windfall for the Internal Revenue Service.

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If I had my druthers...

Barack Obama wants to make sure that any company that receives bailout money from us taxpayers doesn't pay it's executives more than $500,000.00 per year. That's a good start, but I can't help but believe that if we put the limit at $5000.00, maybe those executives would work a little harder to find another way to make their company viable, and maybe not be so anxious to get into our tax pockets.

And while we're at it, could we limit the salaries of taxpayer subsidized professional sports teams, at least until their multi-million dollar stadiums are paid for?

Of course, if I had my druthers, we'd quit forcing the taxpayers to support private businesses, we'd let them succeed or fail of their own merits, and they could decide on their own how much to pay themselves.

That's, like I said, if I had my druthers.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Great Expectations

The California Second District Court of Appeal has upheld the decision to award James Stevens $2.4 million because of some sexual harassment that occurred at his work place. Apparently Mr. Stevens was offended by it, and didn’t feel like he should be subjected to such treatment on the job. I’m sure a lot of people would feel that way.

I think he was expecting a little more money, though. The initial award from the jury was $18.4 million.

On the other hand, Linda, down at the coffee shop, says if it wasn’t for the sexual harassment, she wouldn’t even bother to show up for work. I suppose we all have different expectations in our lives.

Back at Millville Grade School, my old pal Stinky Wilmont was tickled if he managed to get a C on his report card. In gym. I felt the same way if I managed to pull off a B, but that snooty Bernice Hawkins expected to get A’s in everything.

When I order a cheeseburger, I’d like for the lettuce to be at least some shade of green, and I hope that the bun isn’t. Other than that, I’m not too picky. I do know a person that almost always sends her meal back to the kitchen for a redo at least once when the waitress brings it out. Again, different expectations.

The outcome of our last election was influenced greatly by peoples’ expectations of what their government should do for them. Some people expect a lot. Others, not so much.

Being a Libertarian, I’m one of those that doesn’t expect a lot. Libertarians think government should exist to protect its citizens from force and fraud. We’d like our road use taxes spent on roads, and the taxes we pay for education spent on education. And if you’re not bothering somebody else, we think the government ought to leave you alone. As I said, we don’t expect a lot.

Unfortunately, at least for the limited government crowd, people who don’t expect much have been in the minority for the last several elections. At one time, people were pretty much expected to take care of their own retirement. Then, at some point, people started expecting the government to take care of part of their retirement. We’ve now reached the point where a whole lot of people expect the government to take care of all of their retirement.

People used to expect banks to make loans to people that could afford to pay them back. Now they expect banks to make loans to people that can’t afford to pay them back, and then they expect the government to bail-out the bank and the borrower when the deal falls through.

Not to long ago, people expected businesses to provide a product or service for consumers, and expected them to succeed or fail based on their ability to figure out which product or service the consumers wanted, and how to provide that product or service at a profit. Now they expect the government to spend trillions of dollars on businesses that couldn’t figure out either.

The problem is, expecting government to pay for our every wish costs a lot of money. The national debt doubled in the last eight years, and it’s on course to more than double again in the next eight years. We’re handing a multi-trillion dollar debt down to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I’m just not sure they’re expecting it.

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