Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There oughta be a law...

I don't know if it's human nature to avoid things that annoy us. Some people seem to seek those things out.

But the Brighton, Michigan, City Council decided to make it easier to avoid being annoyed by adopting a ban on being annoying in public.

The new ordinance makes it illegal “to insult, accost, molest or otherwise annoy, either by word of mouth, sign, or motion, any person in any public place.” It also forbids people “to engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose.”

Some towns and states, perhaps heeding the warning that "crack kills", are considering adopting legislation making it illegal to wear your trousers to low. I can only assume, and hope, that the legislation is aimed at the current fashion fad among some of our younger citizens, and not our plumber friends, who have already been the butt of to many jokes on the subject.

I don't know why people feel the need for so many laws. Like the chicken and the egg, I'm not sure if government has grown larger because we depend on it so much, or if we depend on it so much because it has grown so large. I know most people can't name three things that the government doesn't tax or regulate, and still Congress seems to spend a lot of time making new laws. They don't seem to spend a lot of time repealing laws we already have.

There are things our neighbors might do that annoy us, and there are things our neighbors might do that we find repulsive. But for the sake of living in a free society, if something doesn't break your leg, or pick your pocket, or violate somebody's rights, do we really need another law?

Although I could just about go along with that pants thing.

And then there's this loud-mouthed guy that comes into the coffee shop once in a while...


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Give 'em an inch, and they'll take 36,420 square miles...

You may remember that when Indianapolis was seeking financing for the Lucas Oil Stadium, they found it necessary to expand their tax base to include the counties that surround Marion County. They called them the donut counties.

Apparently now they want a bigger donut.

The Indianapolis Capitol Improvement Board, that manages Lucas Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse, reports that they are losing $43 million in their ventures.

There is legislation moving through the statehouse that will force all Hoosier taxpayers to pick up that tab.

As usual, I suspect we will see some of our legislators, acting indignant and claiming that already over-burdened taxpayers in Richmond, Terre Haute, Jeffersonville and Gary shouldn't be forced to bailout Indy's failing sports complexes.

And then, also as usual, I suspect they'll go ahead and stick us with the bill.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Yours, mine, and theirs....

It's been a few years since I bought a truck, and my old Chevy is getting some miles on her. I thought this might be a good time to find a deal on a new one. My wife didn't think it was that good of a time, so we compromised and decided not to get one.

I'm probably better off, anyway. It takes a lot of time and worry trying to find the right options for the right price, and right now I don't have the time to shop. Maybe we can work out a better compromise later.

Congress, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have those worries. They just spent a little over $1.4 trillion in a little under a month. The stimulus package alone cost every American family $10,520.00. (That is, of course, if every American family picks up their share of the bill.) The ease with which Congress spends that money may have something to do with an old adage I heard awhile back.

It goes something like this:

If a person spends their own money on themselves, they are careful about how much they spend, and what they spend it on.

If a person spends their own money on someone else, they are careful about how much they spend, but not so careful about what they spend it on.

If a person spends someone else's money on themselves, they are careful about what they spend it on, but not so careful about how much they spend.

But, if a person spends someone else's money on someone else, they really don't care how much they spend, or what they spend it on.

When you look at the amount of money a member of Congress spends, and some of the things they spend it on, it doesn't take long to figure out which category they're in.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

On the road again...

I've never been much of a traveler. I can usually find about everything I need within 10 or 12 miles of Hagerstown, and as I've mentioned before, I don't much care for driving on interstates around cities where the posted speed limit is merely a suggested minimum.

Still, occasions tend to pop up where leaving home becomes necessary. A while back, my wife Susan received the honor of being asked to officiate at the wedding of some friends of ours. The wedding was held at the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina last weekend, so we packed our bags and loaded the car.

In order to alleviate some of my traveling anxieties, Susan borrowed a portable Global Positioning System from one of our sons. It's a little black box that plugs into the hole in the dashboard where the cigarette lighter used to be, and tells you when you should turn, how fast your driving, and how far you are from the turn you just missed.

Since I now was going to have two voices in the car telling me where to go, and since I felt the need to identify which voice I was answering, we named the GPS "Maggie", short for it's brand name, punched in our destination and embarked on our adventure.

I knew that State Road 1 was closed in Milton, so I didn't give it much thought when Maggie directed me down US Route 27. Apparently though, Maggie wasn't as smart as she thought she was, given that 27 was also closed. It was one of several instances on the trip when she muttered something unintelligible under her electronic breath, announced that she was recalculating our route, and then instructed me to turn either right or left at my next opportunity. Occasionally things got in such a mess there was nothing to do but make a U-turn and start over.

On the news that evening the report came in that President Obama had announced that the federal deficit in 2010 would most likely be twice as large as he had predicted, and that in 10 years the official federal debt could be $23 trillion.
He didn't seem to be anymore concerned about it than George Bush was when he oversaw the doubling of the federal debt while he was in office.

Turning to the left's version of big government doesn't seem to be anymore affordable than turning to the rights's version of big government. Maybe it's time we turned back to following Constitution's version of limited government.

Right, Maggie?



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A time for every purpose....

I spent a goodly portion of last Monday sitting with a roomfull of past candidates in front of the Indiana State Election Commission. I had been summoned to appear before the commission because a friend of mine had placed an ad in the New Castle paper during the last campaign, asking for voters to elect me to the District 54 seat.

The incumbent, Tom Saunders, who filed the complaint, apparently felt that my friend hadn't received proper permission from the government to place the ad, and that I hadn't, in a timely fashion at least, told on him for placing said ad. The complaints were rightfully and promptly dismissed, but that will be the subject of a later story.

Outside of the inconvenience of missing a days work, there was another aspect of the proceedings that I found troubling, though not surprising.

After the hearing was called to order, the chairman of the commission announced that they would hear the cases of elected senators and representatives first, so that those people could make it to the legislative session as quickly as possible.

I thought it took a lot of arrogance to assume that these public officials' time was somehow more valuable than the other peoples' in the room.

Maybe the commission felt that the protection from arrest the legislators enjoy while the legislature is in session also extends to include protection from sitting through hearings that you really don't want to attend.

But for the life of me I can't figure out what they have to do that is more important than letting working people go back to work.

After all, they've already decided on the official state pie.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So what...

I couldn't help but chuckle over the feigned indignation of so many on capitol hill concerning the $165 million in bonuses AIG handed out to some its employees after it had received billions of government bail-out dollars.

It did make a good show, and it certainly plays into the hand of the average taxpayer, most of whom are genuinely indignant.

But here's the thing. The politicians don't really care. They are going to continue to hand out billions of taxpayer dollars to their favorite businesses. It's for sure AIG doesn't care. They know they are going to continue to recieve the hand-outs no matter how they run their business.

On second thought, the way taxpayers keep electing the same people and parties to office, maybe they really don't care either.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stick 'em up...

I don't think there's much doubt that Bernie Madoff is a crook. He swindled a lot of people out of a lot of money by convincing them he was investing it wisely, when actually he was running a Ponzi scheme where he took money from investors and paid off earlier investors, all the time depending on the hope that he would never run out of new and willing investors, and hoping that no one ever really looked behind the curtain to closely.

In a more violent version of theft, George Chestnut took a gun into a bank and demanded money. One crook used fraud, and one crook used force, and rightfully the government stepped in to try and put a stop to it.

That's what government should do. Protect its citizens from force and fraud, and when it doesn't manage to do that, it should provide a mechanism for retribution by the victims of force and fraud. It sure shouldn't be in the business of initiating force or fraud. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

For the last 70 years, our government has operated the largest Ponzi scheme ever. Social Security depends on current workers to fund retirees benefits. What started as a $60.00 per year required maximum contribution to the fund has increased to today's maximum of $12,468.00.

And several years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that you have no legal claim to the money you have invested in Social Security. The amount of benefits you receive will be decided by Congress (which by the way, decided not to participate), and can be delayed, reduced or redirected at their whim.

There's a lot of talk about increasing contributions again, and delaying, reducing, and redirecting payments from Social Security, especially with the fund dwindling as it pays out more than it takes in.

And in a few years, if a majority of voters look behind the curtain, and decide they can no longer afford to contribute to the mostly imaginary fund, like in all Ponzi schemes, the last in will be left holding the bag.

Of course, the prudent thing to do would be for taxpayers to withdraw from the current system and save for their retirement in various ways that allow them to actually own their savings.

Unfortunately, unless you're one of a very select few, trying to do so will put you on the receiving end as our government switches from fraud to force.

And you're probably not going to like it.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

1,2,3 GO!!...

The push is on by a lot of folks to convince the Indiana Legislature to pass the Constitutional caps on property taxes, one of the steps necessary to allow the caps to go before the voters in 2010, and possibly become permanent. The proposed caps would limit property taxes to 1% of the assessed valuation of owner occupied homes, 2% of that value on rental properties, and 3% of that value on business properties.

A lot of folks think it's a good idea, and I suppose some limitation on taxes is better than no limitation on taxes. But.... some neighbors over in Henry County have received their new property assessment values. One farmer reports that the assessed value of all of his properties has increased over the last assessment. Another farmer reports that a grain bin he built for $3500.00 several years ago is now assessed at $14,000.00.

It's not to much of a stretch to imagine that even with the caps in place, the assessed values of homes, rentals and businesses will be increased to meet the growing appetite of government, supplementing the new and increased state and local taxes that were implemented to replace the supposedly lower property taxes.

Property taxes allow the government to seize your home.

The government couldn't make them fair even if it tried.

Or even if it wanted to.

It's past time we eliminated them.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boo, and this time we mean it....

A little over a year ago I made this observation about how the government likes to threaten the elimination of essential services when faced with revenue shortfalls, sort of a backdoor way of telling us to shut-up and pay our taxes.

Well, it's not just a threat. The Anderson School Corporation has opted to keep their incredibly expensive to operate Wigwam open, and balance the budget by closing four schools and reportedly eliminating 38 teaching positions. Now, maybe in the face of declining enrollment, they had too many teachers and too many schools. But if it's really about saving money like the school board claims, and if education is really the top priority, I think they're trimming the wrong tree.

It's a lot like a city closing a fire station and partially closing a police station while keeping a golf course open. Different funds, same taxpayers. Not to say that there isn't room for some streamlining in our police and fire protection.

But I'm not sure that's where we want to start.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Roll out the presses...

There certainly are a lot of large numbers being tossed around these days. I remember as a kid being impressed with the thought of Jed Clampitt having a few million dollars. Nowadays his fortune wouldn't operate the government more than a few seconds.

I wrote an article a while back about how hard it is fathom how much a trillion of anything actually is. Like a trillion seconds is 317 centuries. Like a trillion seconds ago it was 29691 B.C.

I don't even want to think about the supposed 5 quadrillion tons that the earth's atmosphere supposedly weighs.

I ran across an article over at Strike-the-Root the other day that examined the governments ability to print enough money to cover the $3.9 trillion in new spending commitments it is making. Each sheet of $100.00 bills contains 32 separate bills. If they print one sheet per second, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year(366 on leap years),it will take about 10 years to print that amount.

I imagine they can fire up some more presses to speed the process along. And they can always hire some more press operators.

I guess those might be some of the jobs this stimulus package is supposed to create.

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Friday, March 06, 2009


I wrote about the return of the buzzards to Hagerstown last March. They normally make it back on or about the 12th.

This year, they came in on the 5th. I think most people would agree that times are tougher now than they were a year ago at this time.

But when I saw the buzzards circling the downtown area, and coupled with their early arrival, I have to wonder if they know something we don't know.

Or maybe they're just running out of patience.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Have you seen the bigger piggies?...

Ever have a song that you just can't get out of your head? I haven't been able to shake this one since the new stimulus package was passed.

I have a friend that says it's only pork when someone else gets it, and I suppose that is how a lot of taxpayers look at things, but the package has $308 billion set aside discretionary spending. Out of all that, surely there's something that everybody could agree was pork. $200M has been allocated to “design and furnish” the Department of Homeland Security headquarters. So far everybody I've talked to thinks that's pork. Of course, I haven't talked to the designer or furnisher yet.

It seems a lot of Republicans were up in arms about the spending, but apparently not about about the spending that put them on the receiving end.

This is from Donny Ferguson at National Libertarian Headquarters, at www.LP.org :

Taxpayers for Common Sense released a database Monday of the 8,570 earmarks, totaling $7.7 billion, in the FY09 omnibus spending bill.

Remember all that talk last week about Republicans "learning the error of their ways" and promising to embrace fiscal responsibility? Well, it seems six of the ten biggest recepients of earmarks just happen to be Republicans.

Perhaps a Republican will insert an earmark using taxpayer money to build a "Museum of Empty Promises." They could enshrine "we'll cut spending if you just put us back in power" next to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton's "she meant nothing, it'll never happen again."

Byrd (D-WV) $122,804,900
Shelby (R-AL) $114,484,250
Bond (R-MO) $85,691,491
Feinstein (D-CA) $76,899,425
Cochran (R-MS) $75,908,475
Murkowski (R-AK) $74,000,750
Harkin (D-IA) $66,860,000
Inhofe (R-OK) $53,133,500
McConnell (R-KY) $51,186,000
Inouye (D-HI) $46,380,205

Unfortunately, I don't think it suprised anyone.

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"Our game, our rules"....

Our two-party system is pretty protective of itself. Ballot access laws and election commission requirements contribute to the 96% re-election rate that incumbent elected officials enjoy. Occasionally, a third party tries to throw a wrench into the works.

A couple of weeks ago, Ed Coleman, a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council, resigned from the Republican Party and joined the Libertarian Party, citing the GOP's continued failure in maintaining any sort of fiscal discipline.

This last Monday, Council President Bob Cockrum, Republican Majority Leader Lincoln Plowman, and Democratic Minority Leader Joanne Sanders met in executive session and removed Coleman from all Council Committees. Coleman had been appointed to the Rules and Public Policy Committee, and the Economic Developement Committee at the begining of the year.

Apparently a person who is qualified to serve on one of these committees when they toe party lines, suddenly becomes unqualified when they challenge the status quo.

It's hard to argue that Coleman doesn't have a legitimate beef with the GOP's spending record. It's also hard to argue that the Indianapolis City-County Council is doing anything other than trying to discourage dissent against a firmly entrenched two-party system.

It's also hard to argue that the taxpayers will see any benefit from its action.