Friday, December 31, 2010

Promises and Resolutions...

I ran into my old buddy Stinky Wilmont the other day, and in the course of our conversation, the subject of New Year's resolutions came up. I asked Stinky if he was going to make any, and he replied that in 2011, he was going to resolve to gain 20 pounds and acquire a few more credit cards.

When I pointed out that those resolutions ran afoul of conventional resolutions, Stinky said that he realized they did, but that he had never had much luck with plans that involved losing weight or trimming his budget. He said he thought he would feel better about himself if he could keep whatever resolutions he made it, and since gaining weight and spending money kind of came naturally for him anyway, it just seemed like the logical way to go.

I started to explain to him that those resolutions probably weren't in his best long term interest, but Stinky didn't tend to think that far ahead. Besides, resolutions are kind of like promises to yourself by yourself, so Stinky's resolutions probably weren't any of my business, anyway.

But there is a difference between resolutions and promises. For years, politicians have been getting elected by making promises to the voters. A lot of those promises were about money. Sometimes they promised money they didn't really have yet. Sometimes they had the money and spent it on something they had promised to somebody else. Sometimes they never had the money at all. Most of the time they were promising somebody else's money anyway.

That's what happened down in Prichard, Alabama. A while back, Prichard told about 150 city retirees that the city didn't have enough money to pay them the pensions they were promised. They can still find the people that made the promises, but apparently they're having trouble finding the people that will keep them.

Prichard, Alabama is just one of many entities across the country that has made promises it cannot keep. Public employee pensions have promised $3.2 trillion that they don't have. Social Security and Medicare are in the same shape, but on a larger scale, and every day, another 10,000 citizens will turn 65, and get in line for their share of the promises the government made, and hope there are still enough people around willing to keep those promises somebody else made for them.

Over the next few years, we are going to hear a lot of stories about pension plans from all levels of government that have run out of money. Most of the problems will be the result of the government making promises to other people for other people.

We could solve a lot of those problems if we could just take on some personal responsibility, and start making and keeping our own promises.

Maybe that would be a good New Year's resolution for all of us.
Right, Stinky?.....Stinky?..........Stinky?

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Well, I'll swear....

On January 1st, 2011, you will have the opportunity to witness an event that has only happened once before in recorded history.

You may remember that on January 1st, 2007, in Hagerstown, an elected Libertarian Judge swore in two more newly elected Libertarians. It had never happened before, and it has never happened again. Until now.

This Saturday, January 1st, at 1:00 P.M., twice elected Libertarian Judge of the Hagerstown Court, Susan Bell, will swear in newly elected Libertarian Clay Township Advisory Board member Cheryl Heacox, and newly re-elected Libertarian Liberty Township Advisory Board member Steve Coffman.

If you would like to join us in witnessing and celebrating this historic event (again), come on over to the Hagerstown City Building, 49 East College Street.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

How's the view from there?...

I've penned more than one article about the unsustainability of government pension programs. Recently we heard that Prichard, Alabama had become the first city in the United States to default on its pension plan for retired city workers.

A lot of people preferred to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that this would never happen. But it did happen, and it's going to happen again.

We have the option of taking the hard stand and weaning people away from unkeepable promises and unmanageable programs, of fully funding and protecting peoples' retirement accounts, or better yet, allowing people to handle their own retirement.

Or we can keep doing what we've been doing.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Four of our five grand children were part of a Christmas program last weekend. (The fifth, Jackson, was still under contractual obligations with another nativity scene.)

During this particular program, the 5 month old that was playing the part of baby Jesus in the manger began to cry, even though that wasn't in the script. Our little shepherd, Dawson, moved up to the manger and patted the baby's head trying to console him. That wasn't in the script either.

I know the best part of Christmas was planned, but some of the best moments aren't.

I hope you all have a Blessed and Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Give and take....

I read this story the other day about a couple that willed $6 million to some local charities in Wayne County. The general concensus around the area seemed to be "Wow!".

It reminded me of a question that John Fund of the Wall Street Journal posed a while back:

"Imagine you won the lottery or otherwise came into a large sum of money, and you wanted to help the poor. You could give $100,000 to a private charity of your choice. Or you could write your check to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Which would you choose -- and why?"

So far, everybody I've discussed it with has opted for the private charity route.

If I had been in the Kluters' shoes, I would have chosen different charities. But it was their choice to make, as it should have been.

And I'm sure it will last longer than the two minutes it would take the government to take and spend it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Show me your papers...

I haven't done a lot of traveling in my life. Outside of an occaisonal convention or meeting in some distant state, I stay pretty close to Indiana, and I work pretty close to Hagerstown. Susan and I did manage to take a short cruise for our 30th wedding anniversary a few years back, and we're planning on another one for our 35th anniversary next year.

The first one wasn't too big of a big deal. We got on a plane and flew to Florida, and then we got on a boat and floated around the ocean for a few days. Then we got on a plane and flew back home.

The next time, they say I have to have a passport. It kind of looks like my drivers license, so I thought maybe that would work. But they said it wouldn't, so I gave them some money and they sent me some more papers. I'm not sure if I need it to get on the boat or off of the boat. Maybe both. And we're supposed to have some more papers to show them at the airport if we decide to fly to the boat again. I'm still up in the air about that one.

Like I said, most of the time we work pretty close to Hagerstown, although occasionally we do venture into neighboring counties. We hadn't worked in Randolph county for a while, but we started a job up there this week. In the snow:

The last time we worked in Randolph county things were pretty simple. The customer hired us, we did the job, and came back home. This time they told us we had to go up to Winchester and give the county $50.00 for a Certificate of Registration. Well, here it is:

It's awful official looking, but I'm not sure what it amounts to, other than that Randolph county wanted $50.00 from us. Susan won't let me tack it up on the living room wall, and I don't have any more room in my office, so I'm not sure anybody's going to appreciate how official it looks, or know that we're duly registered anyway. But we are, just in case anyone asks. I guess eventually it will end up in one of the boxes I keep of a lot of other papers the government told me I needed. I never really knew what most of them amounted to, either.

Thomas Jefferson said that there is a natural tendency for government to grow and for liberty to yield.

And the bigger it gets, the more paper it takes.

I'm afraid one of these days it will wipe us out.

Warmer thoughts...

Due to a series of unfortunate events, and probably some poor planning on my part, we started framing a project in mid-December this year. A combination of thinner blood and colder than usual temperatures have made it a little tougher for this old man to enjoy the winter so far, and I don't expect things to get much better when it officially arrives next week.

I have some friends that actually look forward to winter and the change of seasons, and while I have learned to live with it, I can't really say I look forward to it.

This is the view of the grand kids tree house in our back yard this morning:

This is the view of the grand kids tree house in our back yard last summer:

I think I much prefer it when the tree house is full of grand kids and green leaves.

And the sooner it fills up with them again, the better.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sorry Virginia....

I absolutely love watching my grandchildren interact with Santa Claus. From their first Christmas, they all started out not wanting to have much to do with him, but by last Christmas, they were comfortable enough to sit on his lap and place their orders, except for Dawson, who even this year prefers to shout his requests from a safe distance. I wonder how long it will be before once again they decide they don't want much to do with Santa.

Many years ago, on one particular Christmas, I remember receiving a CO2 Gas Powered Crossman BB and Pellet Rifle. It had a wooden butt and fore stock, and a canvas sling, and was, I believed at the time, the most powerful weapon mankind had ever created. I couldn't believe my good fortune when I opened it on Christmas morning.

When I circled it and wrote my name next to it in the Sears-Roebuck catalog, it was just something to dream about. I was long past the age of believing in Santa Claus, and I knew it was too expensive for Mom and Dad to buy for me, being that there were 7 other brothers and sisters figuring in on the equation.

Still, even though I knew Santa and his Elves didn't magically make it appear, I was awful happy to have it, and I didn't give much thought to what it took for my parents to get it for me, or whether I'd even done anything to deserve it. All things considered, I probably appreciate more now than I did even then.

I don't know when I came to the conclusion that Santa wasn't real, but I've come to realize that apparently a lot of people in this country, in addition to my grandkids, still believe that he exists.

That might be because our government has been playing Santa Claus for a number of years. It's been giving away a lot of money to a lot of people. And as long as a lot of people were handing a lot of money over to the government, things went along pretty well. The problem started when it began handing out more than it took in. So far it's handed out about $14 trillion more than it's taken in.

I read an article the other day about a 55 year-old government employee who is retiring after Christmas this year. A shot at a 40 year-long retirement is a pretty nice gift by most standards. Unfortunately, many of the funds that were set up to pay for some of those long term retirements have been left severely underfunded because of our governments tendency to give away gifts it really couldn't afford to give away. Indiana's Public Employee Retirement Fund alone is short by about $10 billion. Publicly funded retirement accounts across the nation are estimated to be short by about $4 trillion.

The government would have us believe that if we wish real hard somebody will replace the missing money in those accounts. And somebody probably will. But it won't be Santa Claus. Every time the government gives away another gift, or borrows and spends another dollar, it hands the bill to the taxpayers.

It doesn't really matter if our grandchildren continue to believe in Santa Claus for a while longer, but since a whole lot of baby boomers are ready to get in line, it would behoove both the gift givers and the gift receivers to take a reality check.

And the sooner, the better.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Growing Concern...

It sounds simple enough. Senate Bill 510 is called the "Food Safety Modernization Act". I think somebody decided we needed a new law because of some bad eggs that made the rounds this year. People that like a whole lot of government claim that it will protect us from bad eggs. People that don't like quite as much government point out that it will give the the government more power to regulate roadside vegetable stands and farmer markets.

In true government form, the Senate passed it the other day, before discovering that it should have originated in the House of Representatives. So now the House has to pass it, and send it back to the Senate to pass it again. And then, according to some people anyway, the states will have to agree to enforce it.

It's a shaky law that's getting off to a shaky start. But we know from experience it will probably somehow survive, and sometime in the future we'll start to notice the bills effects.

A few years ago, Harry Browne wrote some thing he called "The 7 principles of government".

Here's principle #4:

"4. Every government program will be more expensive and more expansive than anything you had in mind when you proposed it. It will be applied in all sorts of ways you never dreamed of."

Regardless of how or when the Food Safety Modernization Act is adopted, and regardless of its good intentions, and regardless of its effect roadside vegetable stands and farmer markets, we know it's not going to turn out like anything the "limited government" crowd would want, or even imagine.