Saturday, June 26, 2010

For thee, but not for me...

It's not to difficult for people to get upset about government hand-outs. David Jungerman of Raytown, Missouri put up a big sign calling people that want hand-outs, parasites.

Of course, Mr. Jungerman didn't consider the MILLION DOLLARS he had received in the form of farm subsidies to be a hand-out.

I wrote a story about this sort of thing a couple of years ago. Things haven't improved a whole lot since then, so I thought i'd say it again:

Several years ago, there was a rather animated woman who attended our church regularly. On one particular Sunday, she was caught up in the spirit when the preacher began lambasting the evils of strong drink, promiscuity and adultery. However, when he scolded the use of snuff, she let him know in no uncertain terms that he had crossed the line of preaching, and he was now simply meddling.

In the Libertarian crusade for smaller government, we run into that same line of thinking quite often. I think it’s safe to say that most people are justifiably upset when the government gives McDonalds, (a company that earns $40 billion a year), $1.6 million taxpayer dollars to help them advertise overseas. People also take offense when giant corporations like IBM receive billions, or when Ernest and Julio Gallo pull down a cool $5 million.

When we get a little closer to home, however, people get a little more selective in their disapproval. A friend of mine used to be adamant in his condemnation of able-bodied people who drew welfare payments. He was also quite defensive if someone brought up the fact that he received more subsidies than any other farmer in Wayne County. Likewise, a lot of people who are opposed to farm subsides have no objections when public monies are used to bribe a business to locate in their community. Unless, of course, those monies are given as grants and subsidies to a company that produces ethanol, in which case all bets are off.

Truth be told, most of us probably have a few government programs that we would like to keep around, and several that we would like to see abolished. And most of those programs, like them or not, require tax dollars to operate. Usually a lot of tax dollars.

A long time ago, voters decided to give the government the power to seize money from one group or individual, and give it to another group or individual, in order to fund these programs. The problem is, when you give one group of legislators the power to take your neighbors money and give it to you, you also give them the power to take your money and give it to somebody else. You lose the power to choose. As a result, the American taxpayer on average now spends 47% of his or her income supporting those programs, or paying the increased cost the programs create through over-regulation and red-tape.

Here in Indiana, we’re experiencing a property-tax meltdown. In search of a solution, elected and prospective legislators are scrambling to come up with different ways to raise enough money to fund everyone’s pet programs in the state, while their federal counterparts do the same. But maybe that’s not the solution we need to be looking for. Maybe the best solution lies in limiting the role of government, and in turn limiting the number of programs it can create.

For starters, let’s get the federal government back to what it was intended to do. Simply put, protect us from force and fraud, foreign and domestic. Otherwise, stay out of our personal lives. Stay out of my home, stay out of my school, and as long as I’m not defrauding anybody, stay out of my business. I’m sure there will be a lot of discussions and arguments about what constitutes force and fraud, and what we should do to protect against them, but surely we can agree that giving money to Ronald McDonald doesn’t qualify. At the least, it’s a place to start.

Next stop, state and local government. I have to believe we can come up with a better way to fund the constitutionally mandated duties we have given to our governing bodies other than property taxes, which deny the right to really own property, or income taxes that serve to punish hard work and success. Along with lessening the questionable duties that government has assumed, we need to start transferring the funding of those duties to sales taxes and user fees, capped at reasonable limits, which would more evenly distribute the load, and give people at least a modicum of control over the amount of taxes they pay.

It won’t happen over night, and it won’t happen without resistance. It will take a change in attitude, an attitude that personal freedom and personal responsibility are more important than government control. And it will take eternal vigilance, because there will always be citizens and bureaucrats that believe they have a prior claim to your money and property.

But when enough people decide they are no longer capable of supporting every program that our legislators are capable of dreaming up, and vote accordingly, at least we will have a fighting chance.

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