Thursday, April 29, 2010

Read all about it...

I guess it's not uncommon for our legislators to pass bills without reading them. The State Representative from my district, Tom Saunders, has admitted that before. More than once.

Up in Washington,Nancy Pelosi said that she wanted to go ahead and pass the health insurance bill so that we could find out what was in it. Well, somebody's finally getting around to reading it, and we're starting to find out. Chris Edwards over out CATO@Liberty reports that the Internal Revenue Service is getting a big boost from the bill.

For years, businesses have been required to report the money they pay to subcontractors to the IRS. It's reported on a 1099 form. I guess the IRS didn't trust the subcontractors to report it on their own. It involves a lot of time and paperwork.

A clause in the new health insurance bill requires businesses to file a 1099 on any company that they spend over $600.00 with. I'm thinking basically it will pretty much catch every business and every supplier. I haven't heard any estimates on how many trees will have to be killed to meet this new mandate. And I haven't heard how many billions of dollars it will cost businesses, and ultimately, how many billions of dollars it will cost consumers.

And I haven't heard estimates on how much it will generate in additional taxes.

I guess we can read about it when they figure it out.

I'm just not sure they will.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm not buying that...

I saw a commercial on television the other day claiming that General Motors had re-paid the taxpayer funded loans the government had given them a while back. I thought at the time there has to be a catch.

Today I found out there is. Apparently GM paid back the TARP loans with more TARP loans.

GM's Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky admitted that's what they did, but apparently feels that's better than what a lot of people expected.

I'd have to say it's pretty much what I expected.

So the taxpayers are still holding the note.

And paying for the TV commercial.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

All things being equal...

An axiom is a statement that is accepted as true without proof. I imagine we have all accepted an axiom of some kind in our lives. It doesn't necessarily mean that the statement is true, it just means that we accept it as true.

There's something called Euclid's axiom which theorizes that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. That sounds reasonable. Of course, it's also possible that people might think things are equal when they really aren't.

About 140 years ago, some states in the southern half of our country decided they didn't want to be a part of our country anymore. There were a lot of reasons for their decision. The worst reason, and probably the one that overshadows all other reasons, was their desire to preserve government sanctioned slavery. Of course, slavery in any form is abhorrent. I've never understood why the founders of a nation that was founded and based on freedom would allow one individual to lay claim to the fruits of another individuals labor or life. They say it was a necessary compromise at the time. I never accepted that as the truth. Some things should never be compromised.

One of the things the founders did get right was placing limits on the federal government, and leaving decisions on matters not specifically granted to the federal government, to individuals and the states. Sadly, some of the people who wanted to separate from the rest of the nation claimed that legalized slavery was a matter of states rights. But in reality, nobody has the right to lay claim to another persons life or labor, and by extension, no government, federal or state, has the right to sanction slavery.

For years we have seen an increasing expansion of federal power. The latest expansion involving health care has brought about a groundswell of opposition, and a renewed interest in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which helps to define the limits of the federal government.

Unfortunately, the renewed interest in the Tenth Amendment has also encouraged some people to put forth the axiom that since some people who supported states rights were racists and supported slavery, and since the Tenth Amendment protects states rights, then anyone who supports the Tenth Amendment and states rights must be a racist.

Most of the people I know who are opposed to the increasing power of the federal government realize this isn't so. Most of those people are opposed to increasing the power of the federal government because they value freedom.

And that's the truth.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Don't force it...

One of the basic tenets of Libertarian thought involves the non-initiation of force.

Over the years, I've had a lot of people tell me that while they agree with most libertarian ideas, they just don't believe they will work in the real world.
I disagree. They do work, for all of us, everyday, and as long as I can remember.

I like to tell a story (and I've told it a lot) that happened 50 some odd years ago, when my Mother brought a couple boxes of cereal home from the Becker Brothers grocery store in New Castle. I can’t for the life of me remember what type or brand of cereal it was, but I vividly remember the prize that was in each box. It was an authentic Rin Tin Tin ballpoint pen, shaped like a genuine repeating rifle that was used by Rinty’s cavalry troop and Corporal Carson. My older brother and I nearly foundered on that cereal trying to eat our way to those ink pens, and our diligence finally paid off. In a matter of days, we were each the proud owner of one of the pens.

My brother put his pen in his desk, but I was anxious to show my good fortune off to my pals at Millville Grade School. And, as was often the case so many times in those days, my brother still had his ink pen, while mine was missing, either out on the playground, or behind one of the registers in Mrs. Dilling’s room, or under one of the seats on Howard Tucker’s bus, or in that no account Stinky Wilmont’s lunch bucket.

Regardless of where it the pen was, it was a devastating loss, one from which I thought I might not recover. Through my grief, however, I was able to devise a plan that would alleviate my sorrow. I surmised that if my brother gave me his pen, which he hardly ever used anyway, then he could have the pen out of the next box of cereal. He, of course, would have none of that plan, so I decided to plead my case to Mom and Dad, and all of my younger siblings. Promises of future favors gained the support of a couple of the younger ones, but I hit a brick wall with my parents.

They informed me that the pen belonged to my brother, and no matter how much I wanted it, he was under no obligation to surrender it too me. If I could convince him to give it to me, or trade for something I owned, or if we could agree on a selling price that I could afford, then I had a shot at getting the pen. Otherwise, I was out of luck.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was one of my first lessons in libertarianism. Most of us learn that lesson early in life. No matter how bad you want something, you don’t have the right to just take it. Not even if you want it really bad. And not even if someone else has taken something from you. Most people accept that as a fact in their personal lives.

We may not agree with our neighbor's religious or political views, and we might spend a lot of time arguing about them, but the vast majority of us don't resort to force in order to change our neighbors mind.

And if a store or restaurant doesn't meet our needs, we generally just take our business elsewhere.

If we find another person offensive, outside of the occasional punch in the face, we normally just avoid that person.

Every year, Americans voluntarily contribute $250 to $300 billion to charities of their choice. And while you might try to persuade your neighbor to contribute to a charity you deem worthy, most of us wouldn't consider forcing our neighbor to contribute.

We seem to take a different attitude, however, when the government gets involved. People seem to believe if they want a park, or a hiking trail bad enough, it’s alright to authorize the government to take money from a person and build one. They’ve somehow developed the attitude that if they want a business to locate in their county or state, it’s alright for the government to take somebody’s money and give it to a business. People who wouldn’t even consider taking something from their neighbors don’t seem to raise too much opposition when the county takes the neighbors house and auctions it off in a tax sale.

When government gets involved...if we disagree with another person's lifestyle, we are apt to ask the government to outlaw that lifestyle. We ask the government to initiate force on our behalf, that we wouldn't consider initiating on our own. That's how government works.

George Washington said that " Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master."

George was right.

I've had many people tell me that they agree with libertarian ideas, but that they just won't work in the real world.
I disagree with that assessment. We interact without the initiation of force every day.

And that, is the essential Libertarian idea.

You may not agree with me on that, but I trust you won't walk up and hit me if you don't.

And I trust most of you not to take my ink pen.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Compared to what?..

I made the Honor Roll a few times back at Millville Grade School. More times than my old buddy Stinky Wilmont. I can't remember a single time that he made it. On the other hand, I'm hard-pressed to remember a time that Bernice Hawkins didn't make the honor roll. So I felt pretty good when I compared my academic prowess to that of Stinky. But I felt pretty dumb if I compared myself to Bernice.

In later years, whenever someone would ask Stinky "How's your wife?", he would always reply "Compared to who?". Bernice would probably have said "whom".

I guess that's an example of things being relative. I always thought we were poor when I was a kid, and by a lot of standards I'm still poor today. Looking back, I guess we were a lot better off than a lot of people in the world, and looking around, I guess we still are today. Relatively speaking, of course.

Seems like a lot of things are that way. We had some really nice days in March. A lot nicer than most of the days we had in February, but not nearly as nice as most of the days we are going to have in June. And there are some pretty nice homes in our neighborhood. Not nearly as fancy as the homes in Beverly Hills, I suppose, but a heck of a lot nicer than the ones we've seen in Haiti over the last few weeks. Once again, every thing's relative.

Americans have always held a fierce pride about being a free nation. And as a nation and a people, we've done a lot of fighting over the years to make sure we stayed that way. Sometimes with guns, sometimes with words, sometimes with armies, and sometimes with individuals.

And I think most Americans still consider themselves to be relatively free. Certainly the information the government is gathering from the current census isn't nearly as intrusive as the information some countries gather from their citizens. Unless you were one of those 2 million people that had to answer (under penalty of law) the long census form. And even then it wasn't as much as what some governments ask.

And unlike a lot of countries, here in America we are free to own property, provided, of course, that we pay our property taxes to the government every year. Otherwise, somebody else will be free to own it, and pay the taxes on it.

Here before too long, and at least for awhile, we will be free to choose which company we want to buy our health insurance from, even though we won't be free to choose what type of policy to buy, and even though we won't be free to choose not to buy it at all.

And we certainly don't have to show our papers to the police just because they ask to see them. Of course you do have to show them your driver's license if they catch you driving or riding without your seat belt. And if Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham get their way, you'll have to show and verify your biometric Social Security card before you can get a job. Or get on an airplane. But that's all. Probably.

Back in 2004, Libertarian Presidential Candidate hopeful Gary Nolan came to Hagerstown and asked his audience if they could name 3 things that our government doesn't tax or regulate. Nobody could. I've had 6 years to think about it and I still can't.

Just like I used to take comfort in the fact that I was getting better grades than Stinky was getting, it's easy to become complacent as a nation, and rationalize that even though we lose a little more freedom each time Congress convenes, we are still more free than a lot of people in the world. And it would be hard to argue that we aren't.

But my goal at Millville Grade School should have been to get the best grades possible, regardless of what kind of grades Stinky got.

And our goal as Americans should be to remain free, regardless of what other countries decide to do. And maybe get back up to 4 or 5 things that government doesn't tax or regulate.

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