Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Column for Sept. 24, 2009

The whole country is still abuzz over the proposed health care reform bill before Congress. The gigantic bill that has not been read by most of the Congress and is being pushed heavily, including by our own Congressman, Bob Etheridge, is seeing various proposed amendments and proposals come forth. Just recently, it was proposed that insurance coverage be procured by every individual in the nation or face a $3800 fine by the government.

I had a sad but interesting conversation with someone I had not seen in over twenty-five years. He thought it was horrible that in a civilized nation such as ours, we do not consider health care to be a basic human right. He further went on to deride health insurance companies for rapacious profits. For those who do not know what rapacious means, the adjective is defined as "taking by force; plundering; greedy; ravenous".

I simply said that I do not see in the Constitution where the federal government is allowed to provide a health care system. I was informed that he was not an originalist, which is a euphemism for being one who is either too intellectually lazy or non-caring to believe that words mean things and that we have a supreme law to follow. Rather, he believes that we can bend the Constitution to mean whatever we want or ignore it completely.

I found his term rapacious interesting, since the definition surely fits the federal government better than it does the free market system. We have the "War on Poverty" that transfers trillions of dollars from taxpayers to leaches. Social Security is broke after almost 75 years. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went broke and cost us taxpayers billions in bail-outs later. Medicaid and Medicare are broke. The Post Office is perpetually broke. The so-called "stimulus" spending gave us all time high debt and spending to no real avail. The so-called "Cash for Clunkers" program went broke in just a few weeks, burning through $3 billion. Now people want to trust the same government bureaucratic system to handle one of the largest sections of our economy?

While my old acquaintance is a self-proclaimed non-originalist, I am one to go to the original documents and opinions of the ones who wrote the Constitution. James Madison, arguably the most influential man in the writing of the document, wrote in The Federalist Papers # 45 the following. "We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New, in another shape that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form?" Basically he asks "does the government serves the people or do the people serve the government?" If you believe that the people serve the government, then you believe we should all line up, turn over our hard earned money to them, and allow those all wise, all knowing masters to redistribute our wealth as they see fit.

Madison further wrote in that same letter, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined…[to] be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected." I do not see health care as one of the few and defined powers in the Constitution. Madison wrote much of the document. Who are we to argue with him?

I will quote myself from my own short, well-received Twitter commentary. "Nobody should feel entitled to my money to pay for their health care nor empowered to tell me what sort of health care to provide myself."

If you robbed me at gunpoint to get money to pay for your insurance coverage, you would go to jail. If you and millions of others get the government to do it on your behalf, it is considered legal and yet is no more ethical.

This old acquaintance, that is admittedly a heathen, even tried to cite Jesus' admonition to do unto others and to care for the poor to support his desire for a public health care system. I would simply cite the 8th Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal."

Just because there is a majority consensus to forcibly, rapaciously steal from the majority and give it to the minority does not make the theft ethical or even Constitutional. You can apply the principle of that last sentence to many government actions at all levels. A right is not a right if the government has to steal from other people to provide it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Column for Sept. 17, 2009

Most government programs and spending problems are caused by so called "good ideas". My cry for years has been that not every good idea, nice idea, feel good idea, or desired outcome has to be pursued by government or warrants the expenditure of tax dollars. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than at the federal government level. However, this happens at the state, county, and even municipal levels as well.

I am somewhat of a "news hound", though I do not read every article, listen to every detail in every news cast, or go into endless detail on some issues. Sometimes I stop and read with great interest. I just read two local stories with great interest. Both are so called good ideas that are going to expend your tax money for someone's desired result.

In Smithfield, there is a problem that is dear to the hearts of the police department. The dear problem is deer. According to the news story, "for the past three years, police officers have been instructed to reduce the overabundance of white-tailed deer by shooting them." The police officers will "use deer stands, archery equipment, and shotguns to control the deer heard along the Neuse River basin in South Smithfield."

Do we not already have a North Carolina Wildlife Management Division for such things? Is killing deer a law enforcement function? Are the deer breaking the law? Is the penalty for Bambi's jay walking now a death sentence?

I have no problem with either hunting or with guns. I have some rifles that would serve nicely as deer hunting instruments. I personally am not into shooting Bambi and his cousins, nor have I seen Bambi Helper at my local Food Lion to use for cooking the meat. Many hunters I know are not really hunters, anyway. I shoot for fun and use open sights. A lot of hunters are not hunters at all, but rather snipers with high powered scopes and shoot from great distances. Nonetheless, I would rather the thinning of the deer population be reserved for private citizens who would be willing to take care of the problem at zero expense to tax paying citizens and reserve law enforcement officers for law enforcement activities.

I would have other concerns, such as whether the Town of Smithfield can disregard laws regarding hunting seasons, the types of weapons used in hunting, and the like. Those things are governed by the state, not a municipality. Are law enforcement officers being paid to break the law? What about the liability associated with any mistakes they commit while trying to whack a white tail?

A second thing I read that made me scratch my head was the Town of Selma's desire to build a $28,000 train-viewing platform. Yes, Selma has taken the moniker of a railroad town. Yes, there are some people who like to sit and watch trains from time to time. Yes, there is federal DOT money leftover from the remodel project. Yet, this is money that was forcibly taken from taxpayers.
Like I said at the outset, not every nice project is something we need to sink tax money into. I would rather see that money sent to Amtrak to help offset its budget deficits or lower the unreasonably high ticket prices that often are higher than airfare. Believe me, I have done some comparison shopping just within the past week.

I just had the conversation with a buddy of mine about the amount of use that such a platform would get. He said he knows folks who come to Selma just to sit, watch trains, and listen to the railroad radio traffic on scanners. My reply was that instead of spending $28,000 for an overblown gazebo (albeit a nice gazebo), I could spend $40 a piece for some benches at Big Lots and mount a scanner and speaker for far less.

I was also informed that some of his friends who come pack a lunch, take lawn chairs, and make a day of train watching. First, I can not imagine what it would be like to not have a life, like those folks, but bringing a lunch and loitering at the station does not bring tourism dollars except maybe for a few Coca Colas at the local Short Stop convenience store.

If you enjoy paying for police officers to summarily execute stags and does for breathing air and taking up space, or can equate train spotting in Selma to seeing planes take off at RDU Airport from observation decks, then you are going to love staying here in Johnston County. And if Selma does build such a train observation deck, at least I can hook up the town with someone I know who does excellent work. I am sure I can get a kickback somehow, thereby returning some of my tax money to me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Column for Sept. 10, 2009

I found an article in this newspaper interesting. You, the taxpayers, are paying for local businesses to borrow money for their businesses. To quote the article, "A $75,000 loan fund, made available to the town of Selma through a USDA grant, has made it possible for six Selma businesses to finance their operations in the midst of a tough market." This is not the first such program I have read about here in Selma.

Let me start with this disclaimer. I have absolutely no issue with any business or business owner that would take advantage of a program for them to finance a business. I get it. I was a business owner, myself. I just have a problem with a government that would use taxpayer money for such purposes.

I owned three small businesses that were running concurrently. Two of them were profitable. The third made a profit, as well, but was more of a hobby with which I made a few dollars or did work pro bono. My two main businesses were both at the point where I had to either expand or get out of business, since the growth was overwhelming on one and as a result, the other was being neglected and was more of a nuisance to keep running, though profitable.

I owned a used book business that grew huge on the internet and I really needed to either open a brick and mortar retail location or get some warehouse space. I had more books than the town library stuffed in my home. Like all businesses, the revenue was in direct proportion to the amount of effort expended in the endeavor. Already having a decent full time job, I could not afford the time to make book sales a full time job in addition to my regular one. Unfortunately, my business partner decided to be a slacker and failed to put any appreciable effort into the venture, although it was rather profitable and easy to do. If I had been more engaged full time in that business as a livelihood, I might very well have considered the revolving loan program provided through the USDA grant to the Town of Selma.

I am looking at the US Department of Agriculture web site right now. There are many programs that they administer for rural areas. They are involved in water and environment programs, housing loans, tourism promotion, rural economy loans and grants, utility services, etc.

I have been racking my brain trying to find where the US Constitution authorizes these activities. The 10th Amendment seems to reserve any such things for the individual states. Furthermore, since these programs are administered through the USDA, I am trying to figure out what business development in downtown Selma has to do with agriculture. The last I knew, we did not grow corn, wheat, tobacco, hogs, or cows in antique shops, bridal stores, and furniture factories. Again, it is hard to blame a business for taking advantage of a program. It is not hard to fault a government entity for violating its constitutional authority, forcibly taking billions of dollars of tax money and giving it away to towns, and earmark that money for private enterprise.

From a taxpayer perspective, there is possibly one good part to the program. The money from the USDA is a grant and not a loan to the town. If this were a loan to the town, we would have been taxed on the one end to provide the original funds and then taxed on the other end by the town to pay back the money. Being taxed twice to provide loans to small business is just plain unethical; not that taxing us once for the program is exactly in and of itself ethical, either.

Are you fed up with the level of federal taxation? Look no further than programs such as this. Not every good idea necessarily should be implemented or is fair to all. Multiply this single grant of $75,000 times the literally thousands of rural areas in the country that have similar grants, and we have budgets of billions of dollars. If we are to ever get spending under control on the federal level (not to mention state, county, and municipal levels), then we have to start somewhere. I, for one, am tired of paying for others' businesses and households to operate. I have my own household to keep rolling financially.

When does it all end, people? With how much public debt and taxation are we going to saddle future generations? When are we as a nation going to abide by our own constitution?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Column for Sept. 3, 2009

I am trying my best to keep down my lunch and not blow chunks all over my keyboard and monitor. I try not to be disrespectful of the dead, but when debauchery filled men are lifted up as paragons of virtue, I have a problem with that.

The death of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy of Massachusetts is of course tragic for him and his family. I do not wish death upon anyone, especially by brain cancer. I actually had compassion for Mr. Kennedy, since I could not imagine having brothers of mine assassinated as he did.

I have met and even exchanged brief words with Ted Kennedy, but I did not know him personally. I have, however, followed him politically for years. I do believe that he was perhaps the most powerful Kennedy of the bunch, considering his length of tenure in office and continuous senatorial powers and influence.

His death was not unexpected. I quickly found the news of his passing in my morning news read. I found all sorts of flowery praise for his years of service, his compassion, and his vision for our country, etc. I also found his detractors discussing Chappaquiddick some 40 years after the fact and his liberal record in the Senate.

Here is what I find extraordinary. When Senator Jesse Helms died, I heard quite a bit of rancor from his liberal detractors. There was a lot of hateful, spiteful commentary in the media and from his haters. People rejoiced at his death. Pundits swooned with glee. These same pundits are attacking anyone who now would criticize Helms' archetype in Ted Kennedy.

Today, I have been reading comments from different people I know online. Yes, I have some liberal leaning friends. I read things such as "God bless the Kennedys", "[God] will call a Kennedy home but he'll leave a Barack Obama to insure the vision is alive", and "the legacy [Kennedy] leaves is one of service and compassion for his fellow man."

I will admit that Kennedy had a long history of public service. I doubt he had a private sector job in his entire life. My commentary about blessing the Kennedy family is that I, too, wish blessings upon them. First, understand what the very first blessing is, and then you will understand my blessing prayer. At the end of the Book of Acts, chapter 3, Peter was preaching and said "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." It is my honest prayer that an entire family who has never known Christ repents and comes to know Him, thereby finding eternal life.
I seriously doubt that Ted Kennedy is resting in peace as I am typing this. He led a life of drunkenness, debauchery, adultery, and deceit. I compare this to Senator Helms who was a born again Christian. Helms received scorn at his death from a sinful world, Kennedy is getting praise.

Just since I started typing away on this column, I have gotten personal messages from acquaintances touting Kennedy's accomplishments in the areas of civil rights and the passage of the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution. Actually, it was probably more the influence of Richard Nixon that helped in that regard.

There were some things Kennedy supported that I agreed with, but those constitute the minority of his voting record. I am looking at a long list of his major votes in Congress. The vast majority are laws for which no Senator should have ever voted, simply because they were unconstitutional, not to mention often immoral and/or just plain bad fiscal policy. We Americans are going to be paying dearly for the havoc inflicted by politicians like Ted Kennedy for years to come.

Here is the struggle I have when people like Ted Kennedy die. I wish to be respectful, but I also weigh principles such as Jeremiah 12:1 "Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?" Also in Proverbs 11:10 "When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting."

Yes, I really do struggle with these. I want to shout and I miss Jesse Helms.