Thursday, October 28, 2010

Column for Oct. 28, 2010

I ranted about political advertisements last week. The amazing thing about attack ads is that either an ad is going after someone’s character or their beliefs. One ad that really got my attention had a lot of elderly people griping about how one candidate for Congress wants to privatize the Social Security system. I personally love that idea. I would gladly relinquish any claim to Social Security benefits in the future if the government would allow me to take the money I pay into that system and instead put it into my own private retirement program. Yet Americans have been duped by the lie of “security” for so long, they have come to the “gimme mine” entitlement mentality.

I have paid into the Social Security system since I was 15 years old. When I sat down with my Merrill Lynch planning software and ran some figures on my target retirement income, Social Security was factored in as a part of my plan. But it was only a part of the plan, not all of it. As much as I dislike Social Security, I don’t know if I will ever be excluded from its regressive payroll taxation. The Social Security system was never intended to be a full retirement plan, but rather a supplemental plan. The New Deal under the Roosevelt administration was more of a raw deal for Americans. That Social Security system has morphed into something abhorrent and gives a false sense of security and entitlement.

Amazingly, through political wrangling, FDR managed to get the Social Security Act passed. It has never passed objective Constitutional scrutiny and would never have survived had he not received extraordinary, unconstitutional power from Congress. Franklin Roosevelt is often cited as one of our greatest Presidents, but I see him as one of the worst. When it comes to government intrusion and control, it is hard to beat FDR, but our present Commander in Chief is right up there with him.

This is going to sound rough, but anyone who was ignorant enough to buy into the lie that government will supply all of your needs and therefore never made any other arrangements is going to have to live off the fruit (or lack thereof) of their own efforts. I know that is not going to sit well with people who are elderly and on a fixed income, but it is the brutal truth. In this country, we are guaranteed equal opportunities, not equal outcomes.

I just had a discussion with a friend about Social Security and its lack of constitutional grounds. We discussed the Democratic-Republican party history that sprouted as a reaction to big government Federalists. The party included men like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Both were for limited government and a “laisez-faire” style of government, meaning that government stays out of your life and your business. The idea also was that you are responsible taking care for your own and your family’s well being, not the government.

I will never be a member of the AARP. One reason is that they are terrible about supporting gun control agendas. Another is that they are adamantly opposed to privatization of Social Security and play on the fears of the elderly. They frighten people into thinking that politicians who are for financial accountability and rule of law are trying to take away their entitlements and will force them to eat cat food because they can not afford groceries.

In the nation of Chile, their old system of social security was modeled much like our own. They found it to be inefficient, expensive, and not beneficial to their citizens. They abandoned their system and privatized much of their public system. To quote Chile’s Minister of Labor, José Piñera, “Pension reform has contributed strongly to an increase in the rate of economic growth. Before the 1970s Chile had a real growth rate of 3.5 percent. For the last 10 years we have been growing at the rate of 7 percent, double our historic rate. That is the most powerful means of eliminating poverty because growth increases employment and wages. Several experts have attributed the doubling of the growth rate to the private pension system.”

In the ad to which I refer, a politician taking aim at another totally missed the idea that there are Constitutional boundaries and fiduciary responsibilities to those who are and will be paying the bills in this nation and played upon fear. I find the nagging, “Don’t touch my Social Security!” and “Privatize Social Security? Are you nuts?” claims of gloom and doom as disgusting as the mud slinging personal attacks. I also find the entire Social Security boondoggle a sad testament to America’s decline into socialism.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Column for Oct. 21, 2010

I have to turn off the television, walk out of the room, or hit the mute button when some political ads hit my TV. I try to catch the news on my local broadcast and cable channels once in a while. Unfortunately, television news is peppered with political advertising. I often finding myself shouting at the television and using some unsavory verbiage. Why? Because I have a very low tolerance for blatant lies.

I am used to politicians trying to blow smoke up my pants leg, but the latest ads I have seen from Congressmen in particular have my blood boiling at times. I don’t mind when a Congressman touts his roots in his family, his education, his military service, his church service, and his record as an elected official. But when a Congressman brags about being a Sunday School teacher then turns around in his next campaign ad and blatantly lies about his opponent, that has me shouting at the television.

I have written on several occasions about my support for The Fair Tax plan, which is a plan to eliminate all federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, etc. and replace it all with a simple consumption tax built into the cost of products. It would not increase the cost of products, since there is already the cost of income taxes built into the goods we already buy.

Anyway, read up on the Fair Tax and learn about it on your own. Congressman Bob Etheridge obviously has not done so. He blatantly lied and said that his opponent, Renee Ellmers, supports a 23% sales tax on all goods and services including medications and mortgages. No, she supports The Fair Tax, which would replace the income tax. His ad is intentionally misleading and just plain dishonest. I fired a salvo of one way conversation at my television and on the internet after seeing that garbage.

Representative David Price is not much better. He levied the charge of being “wrong in the extreme” against his opponent B.J. Lawson. Lawson supports the idea of the abolition of the US Department of Education. Wow, that is extreme...wanting the U.S. Government to only perform the functions it is Constitutionally allowed to perform. The creation of The Department of Education is not in accordance with the Constitution or original intent. Nowhere does the Constitution give the federal government the authority to intervene or fund public education. As I wrote several weeks ago, the idea of public education was soundly rejected during the debates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

I firmly believe that the states, counties, and towns are much better equipped and knowledgeable about how to educate our children here in North Carolina than some bureaucrat behind a desk in Washington, D.C. Our state constitution deals with public education, our federal constitution does not. Therefore the federal government should get out of the business of education. Period.

I hate lies and dirty politics, but it happens at all levels and has happened for centuries. I read about the federal election of 1800 and it easily eclipses today’s dirty political climate. The more I read on that election, the less respect I had for some Founding Fathers, and more for others.

Right here in little old Selma, I saw dirty politics at work three years ago. At the time, I was running for town council. I encountered a situation in which I was the victim of marital infidelity. I will spare the details, but the next thing I knew, I heard from six different sources about the rumor that I was a wife beater and that is why I was separated from my (then) wife. I can count on one hand (and have a few fingers left over) how many people in this town knew that I was separated at the time, so that narrows it down from whence that dirty political trickery came.

I can handle hearing political criticism and even news about scandalous behavior by political candidates if (and that is a big IF) it is true. That is a part of public life. Congressman Etheridge’s notorious, caught on tape, “Who are you!?” assault several months ago is one of those cases. However, blatant lies and character assassination for political gain are dishonest and worthy of great disdain.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Column for Oct. 14, 2010

Whether you like and support Sheriff Steve Bizzell or not, do you want him or his employees looking through your prescription drug records? Or do you find that concept and the invasion of privacy as repugnant as I do? Well, if The North Carolina Sheriffs' Association has its way, your prescription drug records will be made available to your local sheriff. They have yet again asked the state legislature for a law allowing access to state computer records to help track down prescription drug abusers.

For years I have not slept well. I have gone through a sleep study and tried numerous over the counter sleep aids. I have resisted seeking prescription drugs to aid in getting sleep. I even bought a $3300 Sleep Number Bed to assist with better sleep. However, if under my doctor's care I decided to take Ambien or something similar, it is none of Sheriff Bizzell's business.

A year ago, I about broke my toe and went to an urgent care center. My toe was swollen and red, but it turns out it was not broken. Is it any of my local sheriff's business that the doctor gave me a prescription for Percocet for a few days to mitigate the pain? Heck, no, it's none of his business.

The idea is that law enforcement officials want access to the records to help track down drug abusers. Sorry, but that means that about the 30% of North Carolinians that got prescriptions for controlled substances would be subject to an invasion of privacy to root out a tiny fraction of the population.

Not only is that a huge invasion of your privacy, I am sure that the information could be used for non- drug abuse situations. In a small community like we find in some areas of the state, do you want Grandpa's Viagra prescription becoming public knowledge through some loose lips at the sheriff's office? Could an unscrupulous employee leak sensitive medical information about political foes?

Better yet, the county sheriff is responsible for issuing pistol purchase permits. In permit issuance, sheriffs have a good amount of discretion as to whether or not to issue a purchase permit. The fact that someone takes a strong, regular dose of Percocet or Ambien could be used as a reason for justifying the denial of a permit (which is not a Constitutional process, by the way) to purchase a pistol.

I have a close personal friend who is on a strong, regular dose of Percocet every day and has been for five years to help with the pain associated with regular foot surgeries. He is one of the most lucid and levelheaded people I know and experienced in the use of firearms. Should he be denied a purchase permit because he regularly gets a legitimate narcotic prescription for pain relief?

I personally know someone who was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon by our local sheriff because she had a few issues with depression and sought treatment for it. She had dealings with the county mental health department, so the issue was brought to light through a background check. If she had not dealt with a county agency and was only dealing with a private physician, should she be denied the right of self-protection because she was found to be on Zoloft or Prozac?

Another issue here is just plain incrementalism. If we give up privacy rights concerning prescription drugs now, what is the next privacy we will have to give up? Will complete health records later be submitted for government review? Should all of our emails, phone records, internet use records, credit card bills, library records, and utility bill statements become subject to government inspection in order to pinch a few offenders?

In a drought period and subsequent water usage ban, should your water bill be up for government review? If the government decides to institute requirements to own fuel-efficient cars, should they have access to your gasoline credit card statements to see if you are buying too much fuel?

I value your privacy more than The North Carolina Sheriffs' Association does, and so should the state legislature. I will most likely vote for Sheriff Steve Bizzell in next month's election, but that does not mean I think he should be looking through my prescription drug records.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Column for Oct. 7, 2010

I am sure that there are a lot of you are like me in that you know of someone who has been out of work for some time now. I stand by my earlier assessment that the economy was not as bad as many people made it out to be. Unfortunately, just as with the Great Depression at the end of the 1920's, government intervention that was intended to help had just the opposite effect. But that is a different subject for a different column.

There are two people in my family who lost their jobs in the past couple of years. Both of them were long time employees of their respective employers. Both ended up being laid off and receiving unemployment benefits while they applied for new jobs. Neither has found new employment to this day. One finally reached the proper age for retirement, so he started drawing on his retirement savings. The other decided to just become a stay-at-home mom full time rather than re-enter the workforce.

Both of these people ended up being "overpaid" in their unemployment benefits. The elder of the two was the first one laid off and ended up paying back about a thousand dollars (as I recall) to the state. The younger of the two was amongst the 38,000 people who recently got nastygrams from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission saying that she owed the state.

As a matter of fact, this young lady received a total of four letters saying that she owed the state money. Three of those letters all arrived on the same day. You may have read, seen, or heard about this story in recent newspaper articles, on television, on the internet, or on the radio. I heard numerous stories about it. It was even national news.

Every one of the people that received nastygrams from the government allegedly received benefits above which they were entitled. The state knew that over payments were being made as far back as January but did nothing about it then. They waited until September to do something about it and put pressure on the poverty-stricken to repay money they did not have.

My family member was rather unhappy with the demand for money back since she, like tens of thousands of others in North Carolina, is still out of work. She received the alleged overage money through no fault of her own. She showed me the letters and they were as confusing to me as they were to her. She told me that every time her unemployment benefits were supposed to expire, she would get an extension of benefits letter. After getting these four letters saying that she owed the state money, she got yet another letter informing her of yet another extension of her unemployment benefits.

I am glad to say that Governor Beverly Perdue did the right thing by stepping in and making sure that the people who received any overage did not have to repay it. I am not much on government entitlements, but unemployment benefits are a bit different than welfare, WIC, food stamps, government housing, and other such programs. People pay into the system, as do employers for benefits during such cases of unemployment.

As I was told about the fun that my family members had in dealing with a state agency, I could only marvel at the gross inefficiency. The same state that knowingly overpaid unemployment benefits and failed to correct the problem is the same state government that tries to run our education system. The same state government that sent duplicate letters to 38,000 unemployed people is the same state that is ruthless in collecting back taxes from its citizens.

Look at this on a larger scale. If a state government can be so inefficient with unemployment benefits for 38,000 people, imagine how inefficient and wasteful the national government is with all of its giveaways and entitlement programs. I imagine that it is 50 times or more as bad as North Carolina.

When I think about government inefficiencies like this, I wonder why in the world we agree to depend upon them for retirement income programs, for running the mail service, for income for the elderly and infirm, and for medical care. Is the government that knowingly did not make correct payments to the unemployed then tried to demand the money back, the same government that you want taking decisions for your children's education or for your health care? Not me.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Tim Hawkins - The Government Can

Friday, October 01, 2010

And sometimes I get fan mail

Received today via email:
I have never written to a news paper column before, so this is a first for me,but after I read your column in today's paper and read the other column regarding your choice to not let your son listen to Obama's speech , I felt the need to speak my piece. If you choose not to let your son listen to the speech, it is your choice and should not be any body's business!! Oh, and if we don't like your column, we also have another choice, DON'T READ IT .

I read your column every week and I sense that you are very concerned about the direction this country is headed, and I too am very concerned. It seems to me that some people have become so "politically correct" that if you don't agree with them, you are wrong.We as free Americans are slowly loosing our freedom and some people refuse to open their eyes enough to see this. I also took training and had the background checks to be granted a concealed weapons permit and I agree with you 100% on the fact that we should have the right to carry them anywhere. It is not the law abiding citizens that people need to be concerned about.There is an old quote that says" if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns".This is very true in places that post handgun bans. If Our founding Fathers could see the direction we are headed in as a country, they would roll over in their graves!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !! Marie Kadow Micro NC

My reply to Marie:
Thank you for your kind words and for reading. I truly do appreciate it when people take the time to read my meager rantings. Whether people agree or disagree with me, they are reading. And for that, I am humbled and thankful.

The latest hate mail

The following is a letter that was published in The Selma News in response to one of my columns. I find it interesting that he proves my point. I did indeed support my argument with Obama's own words. I did have my facts straight as to how things at the school went in terms of whether or not children had to watch the speech. A child had to get a note from their parents in order to be excused from watching the speech, hence the note I wrote.

I was even got a phone call from and had a resulting meeting with the principal of the school after the column ran and we discussed the issue. She said that there was indeed an alternative activity scheduled, but John was the only one in the entire school who did it. The principal also said that they did not spend the whole time in the office as John had said, so I found out there was a half truth there. I was also told that the teacher in question did deny laughing at the note. Otherwise, the column was accurate on facts.

Anyway, this guy proves my point about the subtlety of the collective message. He can't recognize it his own self. His presumption of the ideas on education of The Founding Fathers is just that, presumption, and without basis. The facts are not in his favor. The Constitution is clear as to the federal government's role. The voluminous writings from their era totally support the idea of the federal government being kept out of such things. Period. Mr. Worley is purely ignorant.

Here is the rant against my rant. Enjoy.

To the Editor,

I’m not sure just exactly who Troy Laplante is, or why he merits a five column wide diatribe about anything. Perhaps there is a reason why his particular viewpoint is significant enough that your paper saw fit to allow him to editorialize for nearly a quarter of a page.

It might be nice however if Mr. Laplante would at least get his facts straight before writing statements that simply are not true. It also would be nice if he would learn the art of supporting his arguments with some shred of evidence, no matter how flimsy it might be.

Johnston County School students were not mandated to watch the President’s message to them. All students were given the opportunity to be excused from watching the message as long as they had parental permission. And just what activity did Mr. Laplante want his child to be doing while his classmates were watching the President of our country speak on television?

I hate political labels and those who engage in political labeling for the sake of choosing sides. Mr. Laplante strikes me as such a person.

President Obama may not be the person you voted for in our last election, but he is the President of the United States regardless. What a wonderful lesson we teach our children when we show them that if our man does not win, we simply reject the winner.

Mr. Laplante seems to suggest rather strongly that President Obama’s message to our school children was nothing more than political indoctrination. The problem is that he offers only the tiniest sliver of evidence, promises more, and ultimately fails to deliver when he gets caught up in the rapture of his words apparently.

So the President is indoctrinating our children to socialism when he suggests that it takes “the whole village to raise the child?” Really? Because, gosh, I guess my parents and all our neighbors were closet socialists way back during my childhood. That was sure the prevailing idea at work during my youth at least.

If I was messing around with some kids doing bad things, the neighbors would fuss at us and run us off, then call my folks so that they could fuss me out as well. Strange. I thought we usually referred to those as the good old days.

Clearly I am not as knowledgeable or educated as Mr. Laplante, but I’m pretty sure that many of our founding fathers had quite strong ideas about the education of our children. Horace Mann (for whom the insurance company is named) was but a generation removed from Thomas Jefferson when he responded to Jefferson’s idea for an academy of sorts for gifted children by asserting that a common educational experience for all students was necessary.

Given that our country has grown exponentially since the time of the founding fathers, is it so difficult to believe that they would have indeed been supporters of the federal government endorsing and supporting the education of our children?

I was still looking for Mr. Laplante’s “little bit of arsenic in the meal” when he literally stunned me with his final observation of how President Obama was seeking to twist and warp the minds of our children. When the President said that education was NOT all about getting into a good college or getting a good job, but instead was about fulfilling our promise and becoming the best version of ourselves we can be...well... apparently there was a sinister and hidden message there.

I read on through Mr. Laplante’s diatribe, hoping to find what my simple mind was unable to notice on the surface. Surely President Obama has slipped one in on us by suggesting that our children should treat others as they would like to be treated (oh my goodness, does that mean the President is now using Jesus’s words against our children - for shame!)...but alas, Mr. Laplante could never find his point again.

The excitement of sharing with us his many great educational accomplishments, all achieved by him and him alone, was apparently simply too much for the man.

Honestly Selma News, are you telling me that there is no one else in the Smithfield-Selma region who could do a better job finding a topic of relevance and interest to those of us in the community?

Are we simply fated to continue reading Mr. Laplante’s rantings and ravings about the insidious evil of encouraging people to become the best they can be?

Please save us all...

Bill Worley