Thursday, September 29, 2011

Column for September 29, 2011

When will these people get it? Liberal tax and spend Democrats (and even some Republicans) don’t know what the word, “NO!” means or understand basic economics. I was reading a news story about a North Carolina State Legislator who wants to bring back a one cent sales tax increase for us citizens to pay. It did not take long to comprehend why it is being proposed again. Bill Faison is a state representative from near Berkley East, meaning liberal Orange County.

The plan that he has been pitching is to reinstate a one penny (1%) sales tax hike to fund state jobs that have recently been cut. His wants to rehire over 6,400 state employees that were laid off because of budget cuts. His claim is that the tax hike would bring in over a billion dollars a year. His slogan is “Give a penny, hire a state worker.” I will admit that a one cent sales tax would be nearly invisible to the average shopper. When I go to Wal-Mart and spend a few hundred dollars, I may never notice the increase in the tax. However, over a year’s course of time, that one penny sales tax hike adds up.

Several things occurred to me as I read the news story. First is that someone is actually proposing a tax hike in a down economy. That is abject stupidity. Of course that is exactly what is currently happening on the national level, not just the state level. The second thing is that state employees were laid off. Obviously they were not essential to the workings of the government, hence their dismissal. That tells me that they was extra baggage that was attached to an already bloated bureaucracy. I feel for the people who lost their jobs. We had to deal with it in our own household, too, as my wife used to be a government employee. I know first hand as a former state employee that there are more employees than are necessary for the efficient running of the government. I also know that some agencies are anemic on employees whereas other departments are employee laden and bloated.

On December 15, 1802, Thomas Jefferson said in his annual address to Congress, “...when merely by avoiding false objects of expense we are able, without a direct tax, without internal taxes, and without borrowing to make large and effectual payments toward the discharge of public debt and the emancipation of our posterity from that mortal canker, it is an encouragement, fellow citizens, of the highest order to proceed as we have begun in substituting economy for taxation...” Congress, along with the previous two administrations had instituted certain taxes. Jefferson decided to eliminate those taxes and instead allow the economy to grow. A growing economy with lower taxes actually eventually brings in an increased amount of revenue. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush also knew this principle.

One oft overlooked portion of that quote is “avoiding false objects of expense”. This simply means cutting spending levels and unnecessary expenditures. Jefferson also endeavored to eliminate the public debt rather than allow what he considered a moral canker to affect future generations. In all of the presidential administrations from George Washington to George W. Bush, the national government accrued some $12 trillion in debt. Under the present administration alone, we have doubled that figure. Jefferson would have most certainly considered this more than just a moral canker.

The Town of Smithfield has not figured out simple economics yet, either. Smithfield is attempting to force new businesses just outside of their public utility boundary to use their services rather than allowing them to use the cheaper, equally available electricity provided directly from Progress Energy. It is all about bringing in more revenue into the town. It has nothing to do with fostering a business friendly climate under which a company can thrive. It is all about feeding the voracious appetite of government.

I have written of my views on public power grids and their detrimental affect upon citizens and business. It would be one thing if Smithfield offered rates the same as Progress Energy, but they don’t. Furthermore, it is unconscionable to me to force businesses to go with a higher energy cost just because a town wants to use its governing power to gain more revenue. Lower overhead costs like the cost of electricity will help foster a better business climate, not forced, punitive, higher rates. Anything higher than what the power company would charge is nothing more than a tax increase, and I doubt that Thomas Jefferson would find it to be anything more than yet another moral canker.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Column for September 22, 2011

As I write this week’s column, I am sitting in a hotel room along the North Carolina coast. I finally took a break from working on a project for my employer. I am a technician for a large multi-media and entertainment company. Sometimes I put in long hours, sometimes I travel, and sometimes during my travels, I have to stay the occasional overnight (or several nights).

It is part of my job to work long hours when needed. More than that, it is part of my ethic to do so. There are limits, though. I will have a life outside of my job and I will have extra-curricular activities. For instance, I volunteer with a local Cub Scout pack in Smithfield. There was a feeble attempt to start a new pack in Selma a few years ago, for which I offered to become involved in any needed capacity. Since that work never materialized, I became involved along with my eight-year-old son in the existing organization. I am sure that I will have to go through it all over again in four or five years with my toddler when he is old enough to get involved in Scouting. Then, when the “bun in the oven” is born and is old enough, he or she may well get involved in Scouting and Dear Old Dad will probably be involved then, as well.

Last week I had a weekend off from work. I got a phone call from a co-worker asking about a technical problem he was having. The technician on call had already been on the road that day and I was one of the few people who knew about the technology in question. So, I got drafted into working on a Sunday afternoon. In so doing, I had to blow off my commitment that day with Cub Scouts. That was the “season opener”, so to speak, for this year’s Cub Scout activities. I was not at all happy about it, but it was something that had to be done. After all, my employer supplies me with the job and salary that pays my bills.

On the way home, after working on my day off and missing my beloved Scouts, I had to stop by the friendly, local grocery store and pick up a few items. I took my less than twelve items to the express checkout lane, which was misnamed at this point. The young man behind the counter was obviously new. He had to constantly get help from other checkout staff no less than four times on one transaction. I don’t blame him for the problem and long wait. I do blame the company for putting such an untrained newbie at the register. I also blame something else.

As I was waiting in line for the incredibly long transaction, I could not help but notice that the couple getting the small amount of groceries and tendered the payment that caused the debacle most likely did not speak English as their native language and were probably from a land south of our nation’s border. They were using a WIC voucher as payment. It was the voucher processing that gave the young cashier such a problem, only because it was new to him. As I looked over at the next register, I saw a middle aged man paying for his cart full of groceries with a government issued food stamp debit card. I was less than thrilled to know that I was paying for their grocery purchases as well as my own.

In this present economy, I understand that a lot of people may be out of work. It is frustrating, however, to work as hard as I do and see my tax dollars supporting so many others who are not. I know people who have never worked in their lives but are collecting food stamps, Social Security benefits, disability benefits, or other forms of government subsidy. For those who do want to work, the government created the high unemployment situation with their own policies, and many just can’t keep up with the cost of living life with no job.

To make it worse, President Barack Obama is trying to push through yet another stimulus spending package and tax hike under the guise of a jobs bill. As I was explaining to a friend of mine the other day, this bill follows a pattern. I said to him, “Step one: institute plans that will financially injure the country and cause job loss. Step two: create a so-called solution to the problem just created with more of the same strategy that caused the problem to begin with. Step three: take an increasing amount of control over the population in the name of remedying the now increasing problem caused the solution to the problem originally created.”

I realize that this so-called jobs bill probably won’t pass through Congress, but I have a feeling that things are still going to get worse before they get better and I am going to see a lot more WIC vouchers and food stamps at my neighborhood grocery store. Maybe at least the nice but inexperienced grocery clerk will get better at what he does.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The next addition to the LaPlante family countdown

Column for September 15, 2011

Last week I wrote about the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. There were specials on television all weekend commemorating that anniversary and the events thereof. I have to admit that I was sufficiently busy that I didn’t get to watch any of them. However, on Sunday morning I was driving to worship services with other saints of God and I stated listening to the various memorial services that were being broadcast live on the radio. Live services were being broadcast from the Wold Trade Center site, the Pentagon, and the United Flight 93 crash memorial in western Pennsylvania.

As I started listening, I said to myself that I should turn the station, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The more I listened, the more I recalled the events of that day. I recalled the innocent lives that were taken by acts of pure evil. I recalled the bravery of citizens aboard United Flight 93 and that of not only emergency response personnel in New York City, but of ordinary people who helped and gave their lives for others. I was literally moved to tears.

One thing that irritated me about the aftermath of 9/11 was that I predominantly heard about the police and firefighters who ran in to the World Trade Center buildings that day to rescue people and perished in their efforts to do so. Maybe I am biased, but I often thought more about those who were trying to run out of the buildings, not just those who ran into them. Don’t get me wrong, I am in full support of emergency service workers. I did it for a living, myself at one point in my life. It is the sheer bravery and sense of duty to their fellow man that drove men to run into burning buildings and save the lives of others. These were people who willingly put their lives on the line and they deserve every last shred of respect that they got. My perspective is slightly different in that this was indeed their jobs. Their jobs were noble and it takes a special breed to save lives and property. It is the untrained, average person that perishes that I weep over even more, especially in such numbers.

I cringe at the special legal and media attention given to “cop killers” sometimes. Again, don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for law enforcement personnel. They are often highly trained and professional. I guess that the difference is that they are just that. They are armed, trained, and are paid to risk their lives. For that they deserve our admiration and respect. It is when untrained, unarmed, innocent lives are taken by evil people and often given far less attention that steams me even more.

I think that my perspective is this way because I have done the emergency response career. I have worked for and with police officials. I expect others who do that line of work to be willing to put their lives on the line as much as I was. My wife is often the biggest critic of and is harder on restaurant wait staff than I am. The reason is because she was a waitress for years, herself. She expects others who do that line of work to be as dedicated to service as she was, and I comprehend that.

I started to weep Sunday morning over the lives that were lost, the evil that came upon people, the children who would grow up without a parent or loved one, and the husbands and wives who lost their life partners.

To top all of this off, I started watching the show “24” on DVD. I had never seen a single episode until about a month ago. I bought season one on DVD and then quickly bought seasons two and three as well. They are fairly inexpensive now on and this is how I often watch TV shows. I find a show I want to see and sneak in an hour of watching in between work cycles. I was watching season two the past few days. It sort of gives the show a different perspective right around the ten year anniversary of 9/11. Yeah, it is just a TV show. I see a lot of things that are very “Hollywood” and unrealistic in the show. I have to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the show at times, but that is the case with most television shows. Watching terrorist plots destroyed by Jack Bauer does give just a little bit of a desire to cheer the good guy, I guess.

I did not plan on going in this direction in this week's column, but that is what has been on my heart for the past few days. I pray that we never have to endure another attack in this country, but I know that we eventually will. The terrorists only have to get it right once to succeed in an attack. We as a nation have to get it right each and every time in order to prevent one.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

World Trade Center

With the upcoming 10 year anniversary of Sept. 11th, I am sharing this photo. I found it shortly after the events of 9/11 and kept it. It is an artist's rendering of what the rebuild World Trade Center should look like. I am in full agreement. It sends a message to the ones who perpetrated the act. We are still here.

World Trade Center artist rendering

Monday, September 05, 2011

Column for September 8, 2011

This coming weekend will mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the United States. I remember well how I began my work day at my computer on the dining room table and had the television on in the next room. Since at the time I was in a small, rented, single wide trailer, the two rooms were open and near each other. I remember tuning to a news channel out of curiosity of the day’s events and caught a breaking story about a jet airplane that had hit The World Trade Center in New York City. I watched with astonishment as I observed live on national television, the second jetliner slam into the other tall building. There was no doubt that this was not a coincidence.

Just the day before, on September the 10th, I remember driving through Raleigh. I had an urgent feeling within me to pray. I had no idea why, but I had the burden. After a while, the Spirit of God said very clearly to me, “War is coming to your shores.” I had no idea that it would take the form it did the very next day.

I could sense the rising anger in America that day. It was almost palpable. Just as after December 7th, 1941, this nation heard of “a day that will live in infamy”, we had our own generation’s infamous day. Can you imagine during World War II the government issuing guidelines to minimize the role of Japan in the attack on Pearl Harbor? Ten years after the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians and public safety officials, that is just what our government is attempting to do. The administration of President Barack Hussein Obama has issued guidelines to federal government managers admonishing them to minimize the role of Al Queda (i.e, radical Islam) in Sept. 11th. The guidelines state, “As we commemorate the citizens of over 90 countries who perished in the 9/11 attacks, we honor all victims of terrorism, in every nation around the world. We honor and celebrate the resilience of individuals, families, and communities on every continent...” Furthermore, the document states that with Osama Bin Laden dead, there is reason to “minimize references to Al Qaeda” and that “Al Qaeda and its adherents have become increasingly irrelevant.”

Look, I don’t care what sect or organization from whence the perpetrators of 9/11 came. I do know that they were adherents to a radical view of Islam. Lately I have been doing more study on Islam and I don’t find it to be “the religion of peace” like we keep hearing. I find that their definition of peace is having every person in the world in submission to their god, whether by personal volition or by sword.

On June 4th, 2009, President Barack Hussein Obama gave a speech in Cairo, Egypt that was meant to address Muslims about the relations between the United States and Islam. He said, “I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story.” He is correct. If Muslims had not conquered Constantinople in the year 1453 and cut off the land trade route from Europe to India and China, Christopher Columbus would not have been sent to find a sea route to the Orient by sailing westward. In so doing, he found the North American continent in 1492.

Thomas Jefferson sent the newly founded navy and marines to fight the Barbary Pirates, who were Muslims that captured the ships of other nations. We built new ships for our new navy to serve not only in the Quasi-war with France, but also in The First Barbaby War. The USS Constitution was a frigate that served well against the weaker corsair ships that the Muslims had at the time. “Old Ironsides”, as The USS Constitution was nicknamed, is still in service today. I have personally stood aboard that vessel and hope to again soon.

Make no mistake that the attacks on the United States were about us, not other nations. Though there are terrorist acts all over the world, perpetrated by radical Islam upon us “infidels”, commemorations of 9/11 are about our own country being attacked by radical Islam. I can not imagine wanting to minimize the role of the responsible party. I believe in this so much that I have purchased and wear a ball cap with the word “Infidel” in both English and Arabic on it to make it easier for radical Muslims to spot this Christian patriot. I will never forget September 11th, 2001, who perpetrated the events of that infamous day, and why. May God bless America, the land considered by radical Muslims to be “The Great Satan”.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Column for September 1, 2011

How did you fare during Hurricane Irene? At our homestead, we fared the storm rather well. We still have not gotten around to picking up the storm debris as of the time I am sitting and writing this, but we will soon. Oddly enough, the yard at the house next to mine, which normally looks like it is owned by Herman Munster, looks better than mine. The house has been abandoned for years and the town regularly has to enforce the tall grass ordinance upon its owners, but a work crew came out just after the storm.

We have family and friends closer to the coast that had some flooding and power loss. I have family in New England that saw a lot of tree limbs down. I have a friend in New York state that had his entire house flooded up to the second floor, and he lost his car to Irene, as well. The Northeast is often prepared for blizzard conditions in the winter but is rarely prepared for events such as the recent earthquake and hurricane. Irene was just a category one storm when it hit North Carolina and moved up the eastern seaboard, but it still dropped a lot of rain and destruction in its path.

Long before hurricane season, we discussed purchasing a generator for emergency power. Just before the storm was coming, I found a decent price on a small generator that would have been more than sufficient to power my freezer and refrigerator. It figures that when I went back to the store, the only one left had been sold. Oh, well. Fortunately for us, we never lost electricity, telephone, cable television, or internet. We were able to keep in touch with others and current conditions.

The county’s Code Red system even called us when there were flash flood warnings issued. If you have not signed up for the county’s emergency telephone notification system, you can do so free of charge. Just go to the county’s web site and look for the Code Red logo. I was on the Local Emergency Management Planning Committee when this system was demonstrated for the county. It seemed to work well and should be able to suit our needs. It is a service provided at taxpayer expense, so it is not in reality “free” but it costs no extra money for us citizens to make use of it. If we are paying for it, we might as well use it. No offense to Greg Fishel and WRAL, but if the county is going to pay for an emergency service, I doubt I am going to pay to subscribe to another service.

Now there is yet another tropical depression that could become named storm number 12 and is predicted to come towards the east coast. As the east coast recovers from the Carolinas to Canada, I can only hope and pray for those who have suffered loss. There is that and I can help financially as I am able. I encourage you to do the same. My employer has set up a donation fund I am going to investigate. There are also some reputable charities out there that can take donations. Americans are some of the most generous people on the planet. We reach out to help earthquake and tsunami victims on the other side of the globe. We also tend to help our own. According to the CIA’s own web site, 76.8% of Americans are identified as professing Christianity. I tend to think that has something to do with the charitable ethos.

I have to be honest in that I don’t always understand God’s ways. I figure that I am not supposed to, since his ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9). I know of theological schools of thought that believe that God sends every hurricane. I know other opposing views that storms like this are of Satanic origin. I suspect that the truth is probably somewhere between the Calvinist and the hard core Arminian beliefs. I do know that God sends rain on both the just and the unjust alike and that the winds and the waves can obey His command. Does He give the command for tropical storms to develop? I have to be honest and say that I don’t have the answer to that question, but one day I hope to have an answer. What I do know is that I am thankful for God’s provision, the life that He has given, the tribulations that make us stronger, for the family he has given me, and the shelter he has provided from the storms of life, both material and metaphorical. May we all reflect upon God’s mercy and grace and be thankful for what we do have.