Thursday, February 25, 2010

Column for Feb. 25, 2010

I have thought of my grandmother a lot today. Grammy LaPlante was born in 1908 in New Hampshire to a French Canadian immigrant family from the Province of Quebec. She was the descendant of both a King's Daughter and a Soldier of the Carignan Regiment, which I never knew (or heard of) until recently. For years I never knew much of my heritage past my paternal grandparents until I started investigating a bit. It turns out that being a descendant as well, I am eligible for membership in some elite genealogical society, "La Societe des Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan". OK, who knew?

Beatrice (Grammy) helped raise five children during the Great Depression. She was a frugal lady who grew her own blueberries, raspberries, a few fruit trees, and a huge garden. She did a tremendous amount of baking, canning, and cooking. I spent my childhood working in the garden, mowing the huge lawn at my grandparents' home, playing in their barn, and the like. They also had various farm animals on their land from time to time.

One of the things I remember about my grandparents was that they worked hard. My grandfather was in construction and even built the house I remember so fondly. Grammy worked the mornings at home taking care of five children then worked as a seamstress in a textile factory during the day. I heard stories of neighbors seeing her up until very late hours at night ironing clothing so that her children would look presentable. She even ironed underwear I am told though I never understood the point. The bottom line is that she worked harder than anyone I knew. My grandparents made a living during the greatest depression our country had known.

I learned a few values from my grandparents. I will admit that some of them have sustained and some not so much. The concept of reliance upon self and family has stuck. This is a core value that made America great. That concept is out the window, so to speak, with a huge number of people today.

Just today some unemployed, obtuse brute ran across one of my old columns on the internet. He took pride in the fact that he is making a good living sitting at home, playing video games, and living off the government monthly checks he gets rather than being forced to find a job. He literally thought himself entitled to do so, citing that he had five years work experience and paid taxes those five years, thus allowing others to sponge off the system. Since he did his part, he claims that he deserves the benefit of having others pay their taxes for him to live for a while.

Five years work experience? I have socks and underwear in my drawer more than five years old. I can probably even find some condiments in my pantry more than five years old. The more I discussed self-reliance, Biblical principles such as "if any would not work, neither should he eat", and stressed the poor ethics of the entitlement mentality, the more he employed self-justification and excuses for his slackness. I was even cussed out at the end of the conversation. I was told how evil Republicans are and how I must be one (actually I am not one), and how horrible it is that I can not fathom in hard times some money to someone like him while he bragged about eating twenty dollar steaks while on government welfare.

I must admit that it is more than self-reliance for me, it is reliance on the grace and provision of God in my life. Ever since I decided to live according to grace, my supply has been constant and sufficient. Yet these same principles are not exclusive to Christianity. Billions of people work hard and have their needs met yet do not have faith in Christ. Thus the principle is transcendent to the secular world, as well.

I chose a very different career path than my grandmother or grandfather. Then again, my path has been very different from all my family. However, I am no stranger to hard work. In times past I have taken minimum wage jobs and multiple jobs at a time to not even "make ends meet".

I am thankful for my job, my family, and the heritage passed on to me by my grandmother and parents. I look forward to sharing these values and even genealogy with Troy Junior some day. I still don't know that I will join some elite society for descendants of a famous group of men and women in French Canadian history, though.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Column for Feb. 18, 2010

I found that on occasion spend money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. I have been doing so since Friday. I guess that it is my part to continue a stimulus package for the local economy.

Actually, I just got my federal tax refund. It is the biggest refund I have ever gotten. With some deductions that have come my way this year and others I have just not taken advantage of, I did well on tax year 2009.

A few things strike me again this year as they do every year. With our current taxation system, we often lose sight of just how much we actually do pay in taxes. I started keeping tally of all the small taxes I pay such as property taxes, vehicle registration, and even some sales taxes. Doggone that adds up. I paid the most I have ever paid in federal and state income taxes this past year. I guess that is a good problem to have since it means I made more money than I ever have before. That is a good thing since my wife has been out of work for a year now.

I guarantee that if we had to cut a monthly check for our individual shares of taxes rather than have some form of payroll deduction, we would tar and feather some revenue agents in this country as was done in the 1700's.

I am glad that I was able to get as much back this year as I did. It is enabling me to get a few home improvements done, do some increased giving, cover some unexpected medical expenses, do more grocery and baby supply shopping, replace a bedding set, and even purchase some personal wants. I would trade that all in for a more fair tax system, though.

Tax refunds are just that, a refund of an overpayment of taxes. We eagerly await them every year, although we have just lent that money to the government interest free. If it was the other way around, I guarantee that we would be subject to penalties and interest. Ask me how I know.

I would prefer a tax system that is based upon consumption rather than income levels. That way, all people pay the same rate just as we do with the state sales tax. Everybody pays the same rates and pays more if they spend more. Spending money is a voluntary act and that means that you have control over the amount of taxes you actually pay.

If I could actually get my entire paycheck every two weeks under an alternative tax system rather than have taxes siphoned off and I get a net check, I would love it. If only there was a different system out there. Wait a minute…there is! It is called The Fair Tax and you can find out more on the internet at Under that tax system, we would pay in effect a national sales tax rather than a national income tax. The price of goods would not go up since current prices have built into them the inherent cost of business income taxes. When the income tax is non-existent, there is no need to increase the cost of goods to cover the cost of taxation. An alternative embedded sales tax within the price of a product would be about the same we pay now.

One thing about the Fair Tax is that it is much closer to the original concept of taxation as laid out by the Founding Fathers. There was a great amount of hatred towards the idea of direct taxation during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Under the Articles of Confederation, the national government was limited to taxing the states for the cost of running the government. It was up to each state to dole out their fair share of revenue to the national treasury. By so doing, states could punish or manipulate the national government by withholding their share of the burden.

During The Philadelphia Convention, imposts and duties on imports and exports were heavily discussed. Essentially, duties on imports amount to a tax on the consumption of goods. The Fair Tax is very close to that same concept. Therefore I find it to be much closer to the core of American values.

Any tax code in which behavior can be influenced, encouraged, or punished is inherently unjust and fully open to corruption. Any system that taxes some people at a higher rate than others and some even pay no taxes at all is just plain immoral. The Fair Tax for the most part eliminates these concerns. There are a few provisions in the Fair Tax I would like to see changed, but it seems to be the most perfect form of taxation out there. I would much rather pay taxes under it, even if I did get a huge tax refund this year.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Column for Feb. 11, 2010

"History is written by the victors," is a famous quote by Sir Winston Churchill. If we are not careful, they will teach history, as well. One of my hobbies is United States history. Perhaps I should have been a history major in college, but I figure that the only job for which that would prepared me for was as a history professor. I truly have no desire to be a professor in the Land of Academia.

I've had several discussions recently with those in the field of public education as well as with those who are college history professors. Quite honestly, after discussing issues with them, I am quite happy with my own learning, thank you very much.

I had already decided to write on an aspect of history this week and then I ran across an article that just coincided too well with my thought. First, I shall touch upon the article. Several national news agencies are reporting that The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction claims it is "certainly not trying to go away from American history," but is dropping world history in favor of "global studies, focusing in part on issues such as the environment". Furthermore, they want to drop the idea of teaching US history going back to the country's founding and instead "take U.S. history only from 1877 onward".

Have we allowed America hating, God hating, history re-writing liberals to corrupt our education system? Of course we have. The proposal is meant to dumb down our students towards a false religion such as environmentalism and lessen their learning from history itself. By dropping world history, students will not be taught about the great mistakes and triumphs of world civilizations. Nor will they be taught about our nation's founding. They will not learn about colonization, about our struggle for independence, and our founding documents. It is our genesis as a nation that determined where we are today.

One of my pet peeves comes around every February. Black History Month bothers me not because of the topic thereof. It bothers me because it is done out of appeasement and the idea that we can not effectively include Black history in with the rest of this nation's history. The history of Blacks in America is inextricably woven into the fabric of this great nation. Without the history of Blacks in America, America would not exist as we know it.

We should teach all of America's history, the good, the bad, and the ugly. America has our share of all three, as does the entire world. History is, after all, the story of fallen mankind living in a sin cursed world, all being short of God's perfection. To ignore any of history is to ignore the lessons that can be learned from history. To ignore our nation's founding principles is to fail to teach the precepts that are the building blocks of the rest of our history. Likewise, to ignore the contributions of the Negro in America is to ignore the lessons that can be learned from both mistakes and triumphs in America.

When it comes to American history, it should be just that, American history. Though I come from a French family, I don't want Franco-American History Month, White History Month, Hispanic History Month, or any other. When I studied (and still do study) American history, there were many discussions about slavery, freedom, war, and it could all be analyzed, picked apart, and dissected.

To pass over the context under which our nation was created and to take the history of a particular race out of that context are both equally wrong. The victors who write history in America have re-written history to teach that our Founding Fathers were rich, agnostic, racist, white guys. Perpetuating that fallacy is one reason to skip over the nation's founding. It is also one reason to have a special focus on the history of a single race. America is not made up of any one race and should never be portrayed as such, regardless of from whence such a portrayal comes.

Let's stop short changing our children and teach ALL of American history…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let us also learn from our own history so that we do not repeat the bad and the ugly parts.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Column for Feb. 4, 2010

Just about every year, one of my friends ends up asking me if I am going to see "the show". The show he refers to is The State of the Union Speech each January. Often times my answer is no, since I often prefer to read the transcript later rather than utter bad language aimed at the television. My friend is right. It is a show, not an address actually containing the state of our Union.

According to the United States Constitution Article II Section III, (referring to the President) "He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." I look each year for a complying, constitutional message. Each time I fail at this endeavor.

The US Constitution does not require a speech. It does not require a specified time for the address to happen. Nor does it state in what form it must be delivered. There are some things the Constitution does indeed leave open to interpretation, this being one of them. Every President since Woodrow Wilson has grandstanded his views, policies, and wish lists before Congress.

Well, I got suckered into watching this year's address on television right up until the time I could not take it any more. I found myself shouting at the TV, "You lying sack of [censored]!" fairly often and finally just turned the show off. For you Obama supporters, don't get too upset. I often said the same about Presidents Bush and Clinton.

Not only do most Presidents use this address as a way of feeding their need to be an attention whore, they totally disregard the entire raison d'ĂȘtre of the speech to begin with. They pimp their personal agenda items rather than actually telling us what the state of our Union truly is. I want to hear real facts and figures about our budget, our military readiness, our national security level, and the like. Instead we get ideas about what programs to begin, expand, and what constitutional principles we should violate as a nation, almost all of which are not "necessary and expedient".

What amazed me this year is that as usual, the blame for everything wrong was put on George W. Bush. I am so tired of this tactic. Sure, I was no fan of Bush, but the things whined about in this speech can certainly not be blamed on Bush and were abject hyperbole. For instance, "One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted – immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed."

No, we were not on a verge of financial collapse…at least not until Obama signed a so-called stimulus bill into law. We are more deeply in debt under his administration in just one year than we were for the previous 220 years of our present form of government.

Today has to be the kicker to the speech for me, though. Obama spent much of his speech touting the need to reduce deficits, freezing government spending, eliminating earmark spending, eliminating programs that are unaffordable or don't work, and tax cuts. Then today (Monday) I read the headline "Obama unveils 2011 budget with $3.83T in spending" $3.83 trillion dollars in one budget? That is a full trillion dollars more than the Bush Administration 2007 budget and $800 billion more than the 2008 budget.

Where are the reductions in deficits coming from? Where are the tax cuts going to be? If we are going to eliminate failed or unaffordable programs, why is Obama calling for a national health care system and increasing the budget $800 billion over previous year? This is incompatible with his speech, which was in reality a wish list for more government spending.

I have the full text of the speech in front of me as well as an outline compiled of the points he made for quicker reference. Quite honestly, I am disturbed by the contents of the speech just like I tend to be each and every year. I am disturbed that we have yet to have an actual statement of the Union's state of being. I am disturbed by the blatant disparity between the President's words and his actions. I am just glad that I resisted the urge to throw something at my nice, new television.