Saturday, October 31, 2009

End Property Taxes, Save a Tree...

I subscribe to 3 newspapers. 2 daily and 1 weekly. I know it's not the most environmentally friendly way keeping abreast of things, but I still enjoy leafing through the pages more than surfing the web, and besides, I can't make paper hats for the grand kids out of a computer, and you sure can't roll up a computer to swat a fly.

Apparently the availability of news on the internet is having a negative effect on the printed version of newspapers. A variation on the old "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free" theory, I suppose.

I have noticed the papers getting thinner over the years, mostly due to less advertisements it seems, although occasionally a flurry of activity or ads will thicken things back up for a day or two.

On Friday, the Courier-Times seemed a little heftier than usual when I pulled it out of the box. The Courier-Times is the daily paper that comes out of New Castle, which is the seat of Henry County. Upon opening the paper, I found that its extra weight was due in part to 6 full pages of property tax sale listings. Henry County claims 46,947 residents. It just listed about 1000 properties going to auction for non-payment of property taxes.

A couple of weeks ago This Story told how some businesses in New Castle had seen their property taxes increase over 500% in the last 4 years, the result of changes in the way property is assessed.

That's the problem with the push to put the 1%, 2%, or 3% cap on property taxes. The cap will be on the assessed value of the property, and as farmers and business owners are starting to find out, the method of figuring assessed value is subject to some very arbitrary changes and opinions from the state. Don't be surprised if over the next few years, "replacement cost" works its way into the formula for assessing the value of homes.

As hard as they might try, there is no way politicians can make property taxes fair. No one should lose their home, farm or business to the tax man simply because the government raises their taxes on that property. We can do a lot better with a sales tax and user fees that distribute the cost of funding legitimate and necessary government to all citizens.

And by keeping a closer eye on what is legitimate and necessary.

I'm reminded of that every time I pick up a newspaper that is thicker than it needs to be.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what's a word worth?...

There's something to said for brevity. The Ten Commandments contain 297 words. The Bill of Rights contains 463 words. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address contains 266 words.

A federal directive written to regulate the price of cabbage contains 26,911 words.

Sometimes governments verbosity is just annoying. Sometimes it's expensive.

The House version of the national health care bill contains 1990 pages, and 400,000 words. With a 10 year cost of $894 billion, that figures out to about $2.24 million per word.

Who ever said that talk was cheap?


Saturday, October 24, 2009


I've never played any golf, except for some Putt-Putt when the kids were younger, and once on the side of a mountain down in Tennessee somewhere.

I never tried the real game because it seemed like it took up a lot of time, and because people seem to get obsessed with it, and also because it always seemed kind of expensive for a working man.

Apparently, the expensive part just got a little less expensive.

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, golfers are now eligible for free golf carts, thanks to the President's stimulus plan. The plan offers a federal tax credit of up to $5500.00 towards the purchase of an electric vehicle.

Some enterprising linksters have discovered that they can couple the federal tax credits with state tax credits, slap a rearview mirror and an extra seatbelt on a golf cart, and drive it away for nothing. And since there is no limit on how many can be bought, it could be a good time to do some Christmas shopping for the wife and kids, also.

Probably the worst part of the whole deal is that it doesn't really suprise any of us.

We've come to expect it.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fun with numbers..

The national debt is fast approaching $12 trillion dollars. Of course, that is what's already on the books. Estimates for the governments unfunded liabilities are upwards of 60 or 70 trillion. I think most people have an understanding of a million, and even a billion, but a trillion tends to get out of our grasp. I heard an explanation once that in terms of time, one million seconds equals 11 days, while a billion seconds equals 32 years, but a trillion seconds equals 317 centuries.

Like I said, a trillion can be hard to get your head around.

It just figures that interest on a trillion dollars would be a lot of money, too. So would the interest on 12 trillion dollars. If you want to understand how much, consider that 40% of all of the individual income tax paid in the United States goes just to pay the interest on that debt. Another way to look at it, all of the individual income taxes paid by all of the people west of the Mississippi River go just to pay the interest on the national debt.

One of the reasons we have so much debt is because the government spends more than it takes in. Every year. This year the deficit will be 1.4 trillion dollars.

There is that "trillion" word again.

I read a good explanation the other day about how much 1.4 trillion dollars really is. It's enough that the 45 million school children in this country, in grades 1 through 12, could all attend the private Sidwell Friends School, where President Obama's daughters attend, at a cost of $30,000.00 per year.

The government says it will hold the deficit to 1.4 trillion dollars in 2010, also.

But I'm not counting on it.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oh yeah, that's a lot better....

The state legislators property tax solution may be starting to take affect. You may recall the push for a Constitutional amendment to cap property taxes at 1% of the assessed value for residential properties, 2% for agricultural properties, and 3% for business properties.

A lot of Democrats worried that it would limit the government's ability to collect enough money to fund everything they wanted to fund. A lot of Republicans claimed it was the only way to protect property owners. A lot of people, (Libertarians mostly, I think) worried that if the caps took effect, and even if the sales tax was raised 16%, the assessed value could change enough to negate any savings the property owners might temporarily receive.

Sure enough, the New Castle Courier-Times is reporting on the plight of business owners that have seen their taxes double, triple, or worse under the new plan. A Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant located on State Road 3 has seen it's taxes increase from $5751.26 in 2005 to $31,453.61 this year. Another restaurant closed when it's taxes went from $3000.00 to nearly $17,000.00.

Of course, the new plan hasn't been fully implemented as of yet. But before the public votes to put the plan in the state Constitution, homeowners might want to take a look at what is happening to business owners and farmers, and remember that the same thing could happen to them.

Libertarians know that property taxes can be eliminated like this. Or this. Or this. They can be replaced sales taxes and user fees, kept in check by limiting government spending to legitimate government functions.

Last year would have been a good time to start.

So will next year.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Give and take, or take and take...

One of the points that was discussed at our monthly Libertarian meet-up the other night was the subject of compromise. Libertarians often get a bum rap on the subject.

I think most Libertarians that I know aren't diametrically opposed to compromise, although most would share a concern as to where the current system of political compromise has brought us.

Suppose one of the parties in power decides to push for a 20% increase in your taxes, while the other party favors a 10% increase, or maybe even a 0% increase. Any compromise between the two results in an increase. Or the compromise might result in a small reduction in some people's property taxes and a 16% increase in everybody's sales tax. Either way, you lose. How many compromises did it take to achieve the tax burden we have today? How many more compromises will it take to double that burden?

When Congress finishes hammering out some type of compromise on President Obama's health care bill, we are going to see more involvement by the government in health care. Maybe not as much as the Democrats wanted, and maybe a little more than the Republicans wanted, but definitely more.

That's how it works when both compromisers are compromising in the same direction.

It would help to have some people in office pulling for a compromise to actually reduce taxes and the size of government, not just slow the growth of both. Then maybe we could compromise on whether we were going to reduce taxes and government by 20% or 10%.

And then the next year we could compromise on the same thing again.

Now that's a compromise.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Define "definition"...

Definitions are rarely set in stone. In the last few years we've seen a lot people adjust the definition of what socialism is, what sex is, and even what is is. I suppose circumstances have brought about changes in definitions since the begining of time.

I read a comment the other day that a Libertarian is a liberal that understands economics. I can accept that definition, because I know a lot of Libertarians who fit that desription.

Of course, there are a lot of Libertarians, like myself, who are more correctly desribed as tolerant conservatives.

There's a chance that this blog will bring about some other definitions of what a Libertarian is, some of which Libertarians might or might not agree with.

Regardless, if you are a liberal who believes that a $12 trillion debt and a $1.4 trillion deficit matters, or if you are a conservative who doesn't feel the need to have the government dictate and validate your moral convictions, and you don't feel the Republican or Democratic Parties are representing your beliefs, you might want to check out the Libertarian Party.

The Libertarian Party of Wayne County will hold a Meet-Up on Tuesday, October 13th, from 6:30 P.M until 8:00 P.M., at the Hacienda El Camino Real, located at 4712 National Road East, Richmond.

A Meet-Up is an informal gathering where interested individuals can offer and discuss opinions on issues facing our nation today, and how libertarian solutions can be applied to those issues.

It is open to all. Please join us, and bring your thoughts, solutions and questions, along with $6 to $10 for some excellent Mexican cusine from the Hacienda's menu.

For more information, contact Rex Bell at or (765) 969-0086


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Big wheels and little wheels....

I don't know what it is that makes other people want so much control over our lives, including where and when we might be allowed to ride bicyles.

A couple of years ago I posted this clip of a sign that prohibits bicycles on Main Street in Hagerstown.

Now comes this story about a school board in New York that won't let students ride their bikes to school.

The town manager of Hagerstown at the time said that even though the sign said no bicycles were allowed on the streets of the business district, that's not really what it means.

The school board in New York says that it doesn't really have the right to stop anybody from riding a bicycle to school, even though it's policy reads, "The riding of bicycles by elementary pupils to and from school is prohibited".

I wish more people in government would admit that they are making silly laws that can't or shouldn't be enforced.

I don't think the police have arrested any of the people that brazenly continue to ride their bikes on Main Street in Hagerstown, and apparently people that want to ride their bikes to school in New York are going to continue to do so. A little civil disobedience once in a while is a good thing, I think.

I haven't owned or rode a bicycle for 40 years, but if I had one, and since it's downhill to Hagerstown from my house, I'd probably ride it right down Main Street.

The rebel in me, I guess.


Friday, October 02, 2009

The path less taken...

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”…..Woody Allen

There have been times in my life when I knew just how Woody felt when he made that statement. In my days back at Millville Grade School, my old pal Stinky Wilmont often proposed to set the agenda for recess. I remember one time when he offered a choice between rigging a bucket of water over the door to Principal Baker’s office, or wiring a dead opossum that we found to the muffler of Mrs. Lawall’s Ford Falcon. I figured either choice was going to end badly, so I opted out, and spent the rest of the recess helping the Bartram sisters get across the monkey bars.

I get the same feeling when I hear ideas for the current health care debate coming out of Washington. There is an overwhelming opinion in this country that the only solutions to the health care crisis we are facing will come from the government.

One of those solutions involves huge government agencies that seize and re-distribute tax dollars to doctors and hospitals, heavily regulates the health care and insurance industries, and provides special tax incentives for certain insurance plans but not others. The Democrats plan is even more expensive and intrusive.

A lot of people have forgotten, or never knew, of a time before Medicare and Medicaid, when the private sector paid directly for 75% of the nations health care expenditures, close to the amount the government pays now. Individuals paid about half of that amount directly out of their pockets. (Of course, all health care expenditures come out of individual’s pockets, just not as directly as they used to.) Health care was affordable for most Americans ( the doctor’s bill when I was born was $50.00) and increases in health care pretty well kept pace with our increases in income. Since the government became involved, the increases have surpassed income by 400% or more.

Most people agree that something needs to be done, but not everybody agrees that the government needs to do it. There are plans being offered, although not many by Congress, that would go a long way towards fairly reducing the cost of health care and health insurance for all Americans.

Most of those proposals include a move away from employer-provided health insurance. Health insurance should benefit individuals instead of groups. Employment-based insurance hides the true cost of health care, which encourages people to over-use, and become overly dependent on insurance to pay for simple, everyday procedures, which automatically drives up costs. We need to let individuals control their health care dollars again, and choose from a wider variety of plans and providers. That would also serve to prevent you from losing your insurance if you happen to lose your job.

Under our current system, insurance benefits provided by employers are not considered taxable income, while an individual purchasing such insurance must do so with after tax dollars. This favors employer-provided insurance, a system we should be moving away from, instead of towards. We should also make Health Savings Accounts totally tax free, and expand their use to include all things health care related.

Competition is always one of the most effective ways in controlling costs.
People should be able to purchase health insurance across state lines, to provide more competition in that portion of the industry, and nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, and other non-physician practitioners should have far greater ability to treat patients that choose to use their services.

These are just a few suggestions. There are a lot of ways to truly reduce the cost of health care. Most of those ways require individuals to take initiative and responsibility.

None of them require more government.