Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wiped out...

Although a lot of younger people might find it hard to believe, it wasn’t very many years ago that indoor plumbing was a luxury not every family enjoyed. When I was born, my family lived in a farmhouse that had running water inside, but the bathroom facilities were located about fifty feet from the back porch, down a well-worn path in a little building affectionately known as the outhouse. Not having any electricity for light, heat, or ventilation, it was utilitarian structure, and most people didn’t tarry there any longer than necessary, especially in the dead of winter or the heat of summer.

  Even with its drawbacks, it usually fulfilled the gastrointestinal needs of both family and visitors to our home. It also happened that this particular outhouse had another drawback, that being a questionably reliable door latch. One breezy summer day, while we were sitting and visiting on the back porch, one of Mom’s friends decided she needed to visit the privy.

  Between the breeze and the faulty latch, the stage was set for a most unfortunate occurrence, when the door blew open and exposed (so to speak) the surprised lady with her dress up and her pants down, to the just as surprised crowd gathered on the porch. Her dilemma, of course, was whether it was more important to finish the job at hand, including the paperwork, or stand up and make an effort to close the door in hopes of maintaining a little bit of dignity. Mom made us all go into the house immediately, so I never really knew which course of action she chose. I certainly never had the nerve to ask.

  I imagine we have all found ourselves in situations occasionally when we just didn’t have enough hands, time, or money to do everything that needed to be done. Those are the times we have to decide what is the most important to us, but I’m not convinced we always make the right decisions. I am convinced that the more limited we are with time or money, or both, the more important it is for us to make the right decisions.

  Our representatives in the federal government spent a lot of time in the last few months arguing about whether or not there should be a few more restrictions placed on people when they decide to purchase a gun. The people who think there shouldn’t be more restrictions won the argument for now, but the people who think there should be more restrictions have vowed to keep on arguing. They’re also arguing about whether gay people should be allowed to get married, whether or not people who sell items on the internet should pay sales tax, and they’ve even managed to work in a couple of conversations about which country does or doesn’t need to be invaded next.

 Now, I understand that our representatives are supposed to argue, but here’s the thing. The federal government is $16 trillion in debt, and it’s adding another $1.2 trillion each year. It is approaching $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and it’s printing $80 billion in new fiat money every month.

  Regardless of how you feel about gun restrictions, gay marriage, the internet or Syria, the reality is, first of all, we have to get a handle on the federal government’s debt and spending. It’s by far the most urgent problem we face.

  And we need to do it pretty soon, before it wipes us out.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

And the winner is...

  I don't remember getting a lot of blue ribbons when I was in 4-H. I guess we didn't have what you would call "show cows", or good enough dirt to grow prize winning vegetables, and it was hard to get that wood working project sanded enough when you didn't start making it until the night before the fair. It was alright, though, because I knew the kids that worked harder would get the better ribbons. That's just the way things worked.

  I also knew that when we did our chores, we received our allowance, and if we sat in the car and didn't complain, we could have a candy bar when we got to Saffer's General Store, or at least we could get out of the car and go in and look at the candy when we got to Saffer's General Store.

  I was walking into Gary's hardware store the other day and I noticed this poster:
  Apparently, some of us can get a free cell phone and free monthly service. I thought maybe it was a prize for working hard or something.
  Apparently not.
  In order to qualify for a free cell phone and free monthly service, you have to prove that you are already receiving some other form of assistance from the government. If you don't receive any assistance, you don't qualify for a phone.
  We used to reward hard work and punish failure.
  I wonder what went wrong.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The road we're on....

   There is currently a highway funding bill moving through the Indiana Senate that will penalize counties that haven’t adopted a local wheel tax. My home county, Wayne, stands to miss out on getting a little over half a million dollars a year from the state, which would be used to supplement its three and a half million dollar road budget. It makes you think about where the money really comes from, and where it really goes.
   I’d guess that there are about 68,000 people in Wayne County. I'm guessing that about 41,300 of them drive. I'm also guessing that each driver probably averages using about 15 gallons of gasoline a week. Like I said, I'm just guessing.

   If those guesses are anyways close to being right, that means Wayne County drivers buy about 32,214,000 gallons of gasoline each year. We pay 56 cents in road use taxes for every gallon we buy. That totals up to about $18,039,840.00 per year from Wayne County drivers. That doesn't include the 28 cents in sales tax we're also paying on every gallon. It doesn’t include the diesel fuel that brings in 74 cents per gallon, either.

   The state and federal government gets the lion’s share of our road use taxes, and before they send a small portion of it back to the counties, they spend a big portion of it on a lot of projects that don't involve roads.

   I guess I believe that before any branch of government starts demanding more road use taxes from us, all levels of government need to spend the money they have already taken from us for its intended purpose, roads.

   I guess the government doesn’t believe that.

Monday, April 01, 2013

What's in a name?...

    When I was student at Millville Grade School, it seemed like just about everybody there had a nickname. I wasn’t always sure why.  It wasn’t that the nicknames were always shorter, or easier to spell or pronounce than the person’s given name. Sometimes I didn’t know what the names represented, like Ginky or Crowbar. Sometimes they were simpler, more descriptive, and easier to relate to the individual, like Tubby, Slim, Stretch, or my old buddy Stinky Wilmont.

  Even if you had never met the person, if you heard someone talking about Tubby, you probably got the idea that he was on the heavy side, just like you would probably get the idea that Slim wasn’t. You could probably also guess that Stretch was one of the taller students, and the name Stinky offered more than one possibility, probably none all that pleasant.

  WhiIe I don’t suppose there is anything inherently wrong with nicknames, I think sometimes the more descriptive ones tend to narrow our view of that person, or persons. Years ago, and hopefully to a lesser extent today, certain nationalities and ethnicities were grouped together and associated, good or bad, with certain traits or behaviors. Some groups were imagined to be hard-working or lazy, some prone to drunkenness or crime, and some frugal or spend thrifty. In reality, any group of people is actually a group of individuals, and regardless of which group they belong to, most individuals are usually “just folks”.  

  I saw a chart the other day that listed various types of conservatives, and then described their opinions on various issues of the day in one or two words. Probably a lot of my liberal leaning friends would get a chuckle from it. I don’t imagine most of my conservative leaning friends would find the humor.

  No doubt it’s easier to dismiss thoughts we find disagreeable by attributing them to a group of people, and then dismissing the entire group. If you read the editorial page, you have probably noticed a barrage of letters lately claiming that people in favor of charter schools are out to ruin public schools, along with another barrage of letters claiming people who oppose charter schools support mediocrity in education. Like many of you, I know people who support charter schools to various degrees, and I don’t think hardly any of them want to destroy public schools. I also know people who oppose charter schools to various degrees, and hardly any of them support mediocrity.

  I’ve heard and read a lot of single word descriptions for people who support gun rights, just as I’ve heard a lot of single word descriptions for people who support more controls over gun rights. The same thing happens when people describe proponents of a more limited federal government, and it happens again when those proponents of a more limited government describe proponents of a less limited government.

  Of course we would all like to believe that people we share opinions with are more complex and learned than the people we disagree with. It makes it easier to justify a “one size fits all” government and the “one size fits all” laws that accompany it.

  But in the end, even if we don’t want to admit it, we probably agree quite a bit with the same people we disagree with quite a bit. Enough so that we should be willing to give the folks we disagree with almost as much consideration as the folks we agree with. After all, they’re just folks.

  It’s not all that complicated, but it’s not all that simple, either.