Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is it getting warm in here, or is it just me?...

I’m sure we’ve all heard the old theory that if you put a frog in a pan of hot water, it will immediately jump out, but if you place a frog in a pan of warm water, and turn up the heat slowly, the frog will stay in the pan, no matter how hot it gets.

I can’t testify for sure if that is true. I do remember one time in my younger days when my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and I decided to give the theory a test. One afternoon, over at Stinky’s house, we filled his mother’s stewing pot about half-way with warm water, and put it on the kitchen stove.

The plan was that Stinky would put his pet frog, Harold, in the pot, and I would start turning the knob slowly upward until either Harold or Stinky couldn’t stand it any more.

Unfortunately, as was the fate of many of our adventures, it didn’t turn out exactly as we had planned. As soon as Harold hit the water, he made a mad leap out of the pan, across the kitchen cabinets and behind the refrigerator. In our efforts to catch him, we knocked the pot of water over on the stove, and spent the next several minutes trying to outrun Mrs. Wilmont and that extra thick Redelman’s Hardware Store yardstick that she kept around for just such occasions.

Thus ended our scientific experiment. We never saw or heard from Harold again.

And we never figured out if the water was to hot right from the beginning, or if Harold just figured it was going to get to hot, and decided to make good his escape before that happened. We seldom spoke of Harold after that day.

Government has a way of turning up the heat slowly whenever it institutes a new program, and the American people seem to be pretty accepting of such things, as long as things increase slowly enough. When the income tax was first initiated in 1862, it took 3% of most Americans( in the north) income, except for the very poor or the very rich. It was eliminated 1872, shortly after the war was paid off.

When it was re-adopted in 1913, (most politicians consider permanently) it again started as a small percentage of income on a portion of the population. That percentage has slowly grown and fluctuated over the years, reaching as high as 94% on some incomes at the end of the Second World War, before settling at our current levels of nothing to 35%, depending on your income. Of course, a myriad of other taxes, such as sales and property tax, have also increased slowly and gradually so that must of us spend about half of what we make to support government services and programs.

Social Security worked out about the same way. It started out in 1936 claiming 1% from the employee and employer on the first $3000.00 of income. The plan was to slowly increase the maximum “donation” to 3% by each party. Had that remained true, even adjusting for inflation, the most you would pay today would be $700.00 per year. The government turned it up to $12,500. Slowly. Some of us even remember when the maximum Medicare deduction was $43.00 per year. The combined unfunded liability of both programs is now around $60 trillion.
There is a growing opposition to the health care plan that is being proposed in Washington right now. Maybe because a lot of people realize it is too expensive right now. Maybe because a lot of people realize it is going to be even more expensive in the future.

Thomas Jefferson warned that it is the natural tendency of government to grow. It’s also the natural tendency of government to turn up the heat.

I think even Harold knew that.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Beep, Beep....

When I made my first trip to Washington last year, I noticed and commented on the number of drivers back there who use their car horns as a means to get stalled traffic moving. I never really saw it work, but apparently a lot of people in Washington believe it will.

This morning I read that over in Richmond, the police are issuing $50.00 tickets to drivers for honking their horns. I'm guessing they were violating some city ordinance.

At any rate, our projected federal deficit has been bumped up to $1.58 trillion for next year. I'm pretty sure we cut that in half if Washington would adopt one of those horn laws.

Or maybe not.

Just a thought.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's not like we couldn't see it coming...

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." - Frederic Bastiat

Bastiat saw it coming over 150 years ago.

There are a lot of people justifying the push for a national health care system by claiming health care is a right. I suppose in one respect it is. Certainly every person has the right to seek health care, and we would hard-pressed to justify a reason to forcibly prevent a person from receiving it.

Every person also has the right to own property, but they don't have the right to forcibly take it from another person. It's the same with health care. You don't have the right to force someone else to pay for yours.

As Bastiat predicted, we have created a tax system that uses force, or the threat of force, to take the property of one person and give it to another person, and we pretend that taking another persons property is morally acceptable as long as a majority of our elected officials think it will be used for a good cause.

Rights exist for individuals, and they would exist even if the government didn't define them. It doesn't create a conflict to claim that health care is a right, but it does when we claim that free health care is a right. If the government doesn't provide free health care, do you have the right to forcibly take it from someone else? I would maintain no one has that right.

An argument could certainly be made that we have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate among us. I would agree that we do.

But we don't need a government that tries to legislate morals, anymore than we need a government that tries to redefine rights.

Or authorizes plunder.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

1 in a million...or two...

I buy a couple of lottery tickets every week. I know it's a long shot, but somewhere in the back of my mind there's a belief that I might beat the odds and hit the jackpot. Mostly though, I know it's probably not going to happen. But I keep buying those tickets. Just in case.

I don't know if that's irrational or just far-fetched. Or maybe a little of both.

I know of a few people who believe the Reds might bounce back and take the World Series. At least they say there's a chance.

Last Monday, 13 of the 14 Republicans on the Indianapolis City Council voted to increase the hotel tax in Indy to 10% in order to raise more money for the Capitol Improvement Board, so the Colts will have somewhere to play football, and so the Pacers will have somewhere to play basketball.

A lot of people vote for Republicans because they think it will bring less government and lower taxes.

I guess anything's possible.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Who's the monkee now?...

I saw where Monkee singer Mickey Dolenz's wife was convicted of housing fraud, involving the misappropriation of taxpayer money. That's a good thing, I think, although I just hate it for Mickey.

The other day I was talking with a friend who sells cabinets and counter tops for a local supplier. He was figuring on the kitchens for some government housing going in over in Dayton. In order to make sure the entire $37 million grant was used up,and to make sure they don't get left out in the future, the architects on the job had specified ,CORIAN counter tops, a high end material that a whole lot of working people can't afford.

Everybody has a story about some government agency spending more than they need to in order to insure that they get even more money the next time it is handed out.

I don't know if that qualifies as fraud, but it should.


Oh, the humanity!!...

I don't remember when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba. I was only seven years old at the time, and I guess I just wasn't paying attention. As I understand it, before Castro, Cuba had rich people and poor people. Castro's solution was for the government to take control of everything in the country so everybody would be poor.

Apparently it worked out quite well, except that he had a hard time convincing everybody to stay on the island. The ones that did stay have learned to survive on rationed goods, and they also learned not to complain.

The latest shortage is about to roll in.

Rationing toilet paper?!

This is clearly another example of what Libertarians have been saying all along.

Somethings are just to important to leave up to the government.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Now, that would be quite a time...

Chances are you've seen this video of John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, making fun of the suggestion that legislators should actually read proposed bills before they vote on them. It's not anything new.

Last year I questioned my State Representative, Tom Saunders, about a particularly stupid bill that had just been passed. He told me he didn't remember hearing anything about it. We had the same discussion a couple of years earlier when a bill was passed that required special permission to buy more than two gallons of paint thinner at a time.

At first he denied voting for such a bill, and when I told him it passed 82-0, he explained again that he simply didn't have time to read all of the bills that they voted on.

I guess that's the way it's going to be, but I did read an excellent suggestion over at Tom Knapp's website the other day.

Let's get a couple of fun-loving congressional staffers to slip some additional language into the bills before they are voted on. Maybe somewhere on page 568 of the Federal Health care Bill we could insert the line, "Any congressperson voting for this ridiculous piece of legislation will immediately forfeit his or her office and salary".

In the best case scenario, we could clean out a lot of problems in the capitol.

At the very least, it might cause them to start reading the bills before they voted on them, and that's bound to cut down on the number of bills that could be passed.

I think that's a good thing.

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Tip me over...

Right after high school, I worked at a little factory in Hagerstown that made centrifugal clutches for mini-bikes and go-carts, trying to make enough money so I could get through my first year of college. I didn’t make it on either count. Although I didn’t much care for the tedious work, I did meet some interesting people who also worked there.

One was a young man who had just completed a tour of duty in Viet Nam. He wasn’t much older than me in some ways. In some ways he was a lot older. He had a lot of stories. Some were funny, and some were scary. I asked him once if he ever got scared enough to run when the Viet Cong were shooting at him. He said he didn’t, but then he added that he had already decided that if he was ever in a fire fight, and the lieutenant gave the order to “affix bayonets”, he was heading for the back of the line, and beyond, as fast as he could go.

We all have our tipping points. Apparently his was an affixed bayonet.

When I was a kid, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont had a billy goat that we would tie to a little wagon so that he could pull us around the chicken yard. For some reason he got tired of the game sooner than we did, and he would run through the fence or under the lilac bush until we fell out of the wagon, and then he would jump and carry on until the wagon came loose. Different tipping points, I guess. Maybe that’s why it kept getting harder and harder to tie that goat to the wagon.

Moms and Dads usually have different tipping points. Most children figure out where that point is early on, although the point is subject to change depending upon the circumstances, and the most successful children figure that out, also. Grandparents, of course, often seem to lose the tipping point gene, at least in relationship to their grandchildren. I think that probably helps to shorten the tipping point of the parents.

Tipping points are affected by a lot of factors. Sometimes it depends on who is doing the tipping. A lot of Republicans who didn’t have a problem when President Bush was bailing out private businesses, have rediscovered their conservative streak now that President Obama is in charge of the handouts. And for some reason, Second Amendment restrictions seem to be easier to accept when a supposed Second Amendment advocate endorses them.

President Obama’s trillion dollar plan for a national health care program naturally met with opposition from the GOP members of Congress, but even some from his own party objected to the ultimate cost. Sometimes reality can be a contributing factor to reaching a tipping point.

Although I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of it yet, I figure that sooner or later the increased cost of running the government and its ever increasing programs will push voters to their tipping point. Especially the ones that are pulling the wagon. And especially as more and more people get in the wagon to ride.

Sooner or later that’s bound to get your goat.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

That's peanuts....

I hadn't been to a professional baseball game for 15 years. The last player strike left a sour taste, and I had pretty well adjusted my schedule to where professional baseball didn't affect my life. Then I received an invitation from my daughter and son-in-law to attend a Reds game this week with them, two of our granddaughters, and his parents.

So I decided I had probably made my point with the MLB, and either they had learned their lesson, or they were never going to learn their lesson, and I wasn't about to let them mess up a chance to spend the day with Hannah and Rebekah, regardless.

I did notice a few things have changed since the last time I was there. I didn't recognize any of the players. All of them were younger than me. Most of them were younger than my kids. They tore down Riverfront Stadium and put up the Great American Ballpark.

I met my wife Susan at a Reds game in 1974. I've still got the ticket stub from that game. It was for a blue seat in Riverfront, and it cost $4.00.

This week I paid $4.50 for a bag of peanuts. If I had decided to drink a cup of beer it would have cost me $7.50. It cost $10.00 to park the car before we walked to our $42.00 seats.

While walking into the stadium I think I recognized one of the panhandlers. I'm pretty sure it was the same guy that was working the same spot the last time I went to a game down there. While the other panhandlers were holding signs asking for food, this particular man had a sign that read, "Why lie? I just want a beer."

I hope he doesn't plan on buying it in the stadium.

And I hope he doesn't want any peanuts to go with it.