I was reading a USA Today article, North Dakota Voters to Decide on Abolishing Property Tax, on the North Dakota ballot initiative to remove property taxes from the list of possible revenue sources for government operations. It made me think…
Ideally, shouldn’t governments raise the monies for their operations at the level which they are spent? (i.e. Federal government for military and border control, states for highways and national guard, localities for roads, police and schools) This idea is part of the concept of “subsidiarity”, or, writ large, “federalism”.
So, if this measure were to pass, the localities would lose their main mode of tax collection. From what source do they propose to replace these revenues? State monies. This goes against the idea of subsidiarity.
Why is this an issue? Local taxpayers would no longer bear the direct impact of the consequences of local governments’ expenditures. This would exacerbate the already existing problems caused by the federal government’s collection and redistribution of federal income taxes to the states. This form of taxing for the costs of governments results in “nobody” directly paying for “anything”, which leads to “everybody” paying more and more for a growing “everything”.
I know this measure has made it this far due to the increasing state surpluses created by the oil boom currently ongoing. However, there is a much better way of distributing these monies. Instead of letting state governments have first dibs on the proceeds of mineral resources, which they will always find a way to spend, distribute these revenues to the citizens of the state. Then the levels of government can tax the citizens to gather the funds.
After all, it is the citizens’ money, not the government’s.
By now we have all heard something about the 2007 decision of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) to sign an executive order mandating the Gardasil vaccine for all girls entering the sixth grade in Texas schools receiving money from the State of Texas. One of the most fair and comprehensive articles on the web about this incident has been written by Ben Howe (@Ben_Howe) at RedState.com (@RedState), Vetting Rick Perry (http://www.redstate.com/aglanon/2011/08/17/vetting-rick-perry/).
I’m not going to rehash everything in Mr. Howe’s article. What would be the point? Read it. It’s very good. Instead, I’m going to use Mr. Howe’s article as a jumping off point.
The trouble with almost all the reporting and opinion writing I’ve seen on the incident is that they all seem to miss the point of why this is important, if not necessarily fatal, when looking at the presidential candidacy of Gov. Perry. How did I get it and few others seem to? I don’t know. Maybe because I have no personal ax to grind. No, I’ll admit it, I am not the biggest fan of Gov. Perry; however, I did vote for him in every general election in which he ran. So, I can’t exactly be seen as his biggest detractor, either. So, let’s get to it.
The important thing about this incident is not the vaccine itself. Though I understand the problems many people have with vaccines, I am an advocate of necessary vaccines.
The important thing about this incident is not the mandate. Though I understand the concerns of libertarians and parents’-rights activists, many other vaccines are required to enter Texas’ state-funded schools. (However, I must say that mandated vaccinations for venereal diseases does push the envelope a bit much, and I would be opposed to it.)
The important thing about this incident is not allegations of influence peddling. Though I share the concerns of many regarding this candidate’s history of bending to corporate interests, there has been no evidence given of anything more than garden variety campaign donations and corporate lobbying involving Merck. (I don’t like the way it smells, but it’s perfectly legal.)
No, the most important thing about this incident is executive overreach by Gov. Perry.
The executive and the legislative branches have completely different duties and authorities. Governor Perry by-passed the Texas State legislature when he signed that executive order. Instead of having someone sponsor the desired legislation and letting it go through the appropriate process, he basically amended State Law by his own, independent action.
Did Gov. Perry have any right under the Texas constitution for such an act? Did Gov. Perry have any administrative authority under state law for such an act? No to both. As a matter of fact, his order was widely understood to be both constitutionally and legally dubious. Amongst the public furor arising from the order’s announcement, both houses of the state legislature passed measures denouncing Perry’s order, and not just for the publicly controversial parts. The legislature knew their authority had been commandeered by the Governor.
Now, Gov. Perry did rescind the order, after the public uproar. He did apologize for the nature of the order, the particulars concerning the vaccine and the mandate. However, he never apologized for assuming the authority to make the order in the first place. He never tried to explain why he had assumed such authority, except to say “I hate cancer”. (Well, don’t we all?)
So, why do I consider this the most egregious part of the entire affair? Circumspection.
When picking a candidate for President, we have to consider their experience. In this incident, Gov. Perry has shown a disregard for the constitutionally defined duties of his office. We are all too aware of our current President’s disregard for limits to his power, with his signing of executive orders and his appointment of “Czars”. How can we criticize President Obama’s actions, but accept out of hand similar actions done by our own candidate? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical of us?
Remember when you were a kid, and you were busted for doing something you weren’t supposed to? What was the first thing you would say? It was probably “I’m sorry!” If you had a smart-alec like my Father, you would have been asked “Sorry for what you did, or sorry for getting caught?” With my Dad, you had better know the difference.
Well, guess what? I want to know why Perry apologized for his actions. Was he “sorry” because people didn’t like the policy, or was he “sorry” because he over-stepped his constitutional authority as governor? There is sure as heck a difference between the two.
In 2007, Governor Perry’s (R-TX) issued an executive order mandating every girl going into sixth grade in a Texas public school to receive the Gardasil vaccine. He then quickly rescinded his order, when public opposition grew too great. Every explanation I’ve read was merely an attempt to justify his actions. “He was sorry for upsetting parents, but his motives were pure.” Well, I have another of my father’s favorite sayings: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
So, one more time for those riding the short bus, what is his explanation for subverting the constitution of the State of Texas? Why did he think he could pass law without the state legislature? Why couldn’t he have had a bill sponsored in the legislature? What does this tell us about his attitudes concerning executive power, before he possibly ascends to the highest office in the land?
Is he sorry because he did it, or because he got caught?
If we truly believe in the “rule of law”, are these questions really inconsequential?
Once again, we’re hearing about problems at the United States Postal Service. The Postal Service is still having difficulty staying profitable delivering the mail. The majority of items delivered by the service has changed over its history from individual letters, to bills, to bulk mail advertising. However, the change in the Post Service’s customers has not been reflected in the way the Service operates.
There has been talk of ending Saturday home delivery of mail. It would be an immediate admission to what is no longer possible, but it does not go near far enough. It does not sufficiently increase efficiencies. It is merely a stop-gap measure to stem the bleeding associated with the failed current business model. What is really needed is a change in vision. What will the Postal Service of tomorrow be? Will it be a shrinking shade of its former self, or will it be a lean efficient money-making machine?
Any company operating in the private sector knows it must meet the needs of its customers, or risk going out of business. So, private companies continually update their business models to meet the changing needs of their customers. The USPS has not done this. It has lost sight of who its customers are and what they need. It no longer has a cogent business model.
Now, the US Postal Service already operates as two separate businesses with differing modes of operation. The Postal Service everyone thinks of is the traditional post office, with its service of General Delivery of letters and packages to all addresses in the country. The other, more recent, business done by the Postal Service is Express Delivery, the high-speed delivery of letters and packages. Most people don’t realize these two businesses operate simultaneously, but quite differently.
The business of General Delivery is a constitutionally mandated function of the federal government. This function was meant to guarantee communication across all of the states from within and without the US. To affect this, the Postal Service gives regular service, delivery and pick-up, to all US addresses, and charges rates which subsidize the costs of less profitable areas of operation. Even those areas with low populations have equal access to this form of communication, according to its governmental function. This service is operated as a virtual monopoly.
The Express Delivery business operated by the USPS has a completely different business model. Instead of offering daily service to all US addresses, service is strictly scheduled according to the need for deliveries. Pick-up service is by appointment or according to schedule from specified locations. The rates charged may be based on the cost of the individual service, though the USPS does advertise flat rates based upon the speed of service. It operates in a highly competitive field, with companies such as FedEx and UPS.
Obvious differences aside, the main difference between these business models is who is seen as the customer. Express Delivery correctly perceives the senders, those charged the fees, as the customers, while General Delivery incorrectly sees the receivers, those at the addresses, as the customers. How else could they justify daily service, regardless of need, to every address? Would you return each day to a customer making little or no use of your service, or would you instead focus on those paying for your service?
So, the obvious solution to General Delivery’s unprofitability is to end daily service to every address.
Instead of seeing the physical address visited each day as the customer, the service should focus on the people paying for delivery. The vast majority of mail is generated by companies and organizations sending large quantities of bills and advertising. They should be the daily focus of the Service’s attention. Luckily, those generating the majority of mail already have service based upon volume, either by scheduling pick-up or by dropping off their mail.
The service of mail pick-up and delivery to all other US addresses should remain regularized, but should be reduced to three times per week. The number of mail carriers would be reduced by almost half (sorry, guys). The miles driven each day would be reduced by half (without need of green technology). This one simple change would almost double the efficiency of the remaining carriers.
The actual customers of the service, those paying, could still receive daily service, while homes would still be serviced regularly. It would reduce how often people had to check their mail. The biggest inconvenience would be a one day delay in delivery of an item having no guaranteed delivery date. Those individuals who demand daily delivery of their mail may purchase Post Office Boxes for the privilege.
In the old days, it mattered if you received your mail on a given day, like the 1st or 15th of the month. Today, accounts are deposited electronically. All you may receive in the mail is a statement. If you pay your bills by mail upon receipt, you are unaffected. If you wait until the last-minute to pay, do it electronically or in person. If you need a letter delivered in town tomorrow, send it overnight or by courier.
The greater efficiencies gained by the reduction in unnecessary deliveries and its concurrent staffing will reduce the cost of General Delivery. The previously experienced cycles of increased postal rates followed by reduced traffic will end. The costs associated with an ever-growing population making ever less use of the current home pick-up service of mail will be lowered. It will allow the public to continue enjoying the regular home delivery of mail, subsidized by the Postal Service’s real customers.
Since his breakout hit movie, Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon has been in the public eye. He has used his celebrity to advance a Left-leaning political agenda. Much of his advocacy, especially of public education, is premised on how he is seen by the public as “intelligent”. This aura of intelligence is simply a shadow cast by his portrayal of the (self-styled) character, Will Hunting, from his Oscar-winning screenplay.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, here’s a brief description of the character. Will Hunting is a young man, probably early- to mid- twenties. He has been born and reared in a lower-income area. He has anger-control and abandonment issues, probably stemming from childhood abuse. He has been in and out of state correctional and social systems since early youth. He has adopted a group of friends as his “family”, and is very protective of them. He works menial jobs. He lives alone. He is a genius, but his brilliance is a self-kept secret. So, he lacks a formal education.
During the course of the movie, the following happen: Will solves a mathematical puzzle. He meets a girl. His genius is discovered. He is re-arrested. He is rescued and mentored by an acclaimed professor. He enters court-ordered therapy. He begins a relationship.
As you watch the film, you notice certain attitudes, which appear counter-intuitive to what one would expect. As a curious, self-educated man, you wouldn’t expect Will to mimic the academy’s line about class and economics. Having been passed as a child through an impersonal system, you would expect Will to have a general disdain of government’s ability to “aid” the individual.
Instead, Will calls out a Harvard student for quoting economics theory as his own, belittling his plagiarism of thought. Will claims the student has wasted money on an education freely obtained with a library card. The student counters that he will have a Harvard degree and the financial rewards which follow. Will finishes with an argument in favor of “original thinking”.
During the initial meeting with his psychologist, Will belittles the man’s personal library. Will asks if the man had even bothered to read the books. Seeing a US History book, Will suggests the man read Howard Zinn’s History of the American People, telling him it will blow his mind.
When his mentor sets up interviews with perspective employers, Will doesn’t keep the appointments, sends a friend in his place or treats the interviewers with disrespect. During an interview with the NSA, Will goes on a rant about how corporate interests run American foreign policy to the detriment of the public. While talking to his closest friend, Will expresses his wish to stay in the neighborhood working menial jobs. Will goes on about the nobility of manual labor. Will’s attitude is negative toward leaving his friends, until his best friend becomes angry about Will’s waste of his gifts.
I thought Will was supposed to be a “genius”. Is it “original thinking” to be anti-American, anti-property, and anti-capitalist? That sounds more like the left-wing pabulum spread by the academy. Most people I know who’ve come from a low-income situation appreciate education, upward mobility, and property. They’ve had to work hard to achieve them. Most Leftist revolutionaries have been from the highly educated and middle class, as everything was given to them and they sought something “more”.
The true mark of genius is the ability to better understand how the world operates, and how to work with it. Einstein was a genius because he better explained how the world worked, not because he wanted to blindly change it. When he saw how Germany was headed, where did he go? He could have easily gone to the USSR, but he chose the US. Might he have seen in the USSR a shade of the Statist regime he was leaving? He didn’t eschew profit upon arrival, so he doesn’t seem have been anti-capitalist. What are the three things for which he I best known? His Theory of Relativity (e=mc2). His Definition of Insanity (doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results). His Understanding of God (God doesn’t play dice).
When examining Will’s attitudes, we really see those which can more correctly be attributed to Matt Damon. Damon was reared by a college professor, Early Childhood Education. Damon was raised middle class, in Cambridge. Damon was educated at Harvard. Damon gave the Leftist attitudes in which he was inundated to his creation, thinking they would make Will sound even more intelligent. Instead, it made Will sound indoctrinated because, Mr. Damon, you are no genius…
The other day, I was watching an episode of the Food Network show 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. The host is Scott Conant, a chef/restaurateur. Before he got this show, I was not a big fan of his. Conant had been appearing on the show Chopped as a judge. He may be a great chef and have a great restaurant, but he is a pompous ass. Whenever he was judging, I felt bad for the contestants, especially if they made the mistake of cooking any form of pasta.
Mr. Conant’s big thing is pasta. It seems he went to Italy to study pasta for a while, and he thinks he is the end-all-be-all of pasta. Well, good for him, but that’s no excuse for being an ass. Everybody didn’t go to Italy to study pasta. Everybody hasn’t dedicated themselves to “perfect” pasta. Actually, I know plenty of Italian grandmothers, and none of them is as “fussy” about pasta as this guy. It got so bad I began referring to him as the “Pasta Fascist”, and people knew about whom I was talking. That’s pretty bad.
Anyway, he began hosting this new series 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. Two teams compete to open a “restaurant”, from concept to menu to decorating to service within 24 hours, for a monetary reward. It was a fairly entertaining show. Conant didn’t go off on anybody about their pasta. I started to not dislike him after a while. Of course, he had to go and ruin it.
The other day, I watched an episode from June. I had DVR’d it, and I could find nothing else to watch. The episode had two teams doing Texas-themed concepts, “grilling” versus “smoking”. The smoking team gave them a “traditional, Texas, relish tray” along with their appetizers at the beginning of their service. The relish tray had sweet and dill pickles, raw onion slices, and smoked sausage. Well, Conant and this other jerk, who co-founded Outback Steak House, were two of the judges. They went on about how they hated raw onion, and how it should never be served to a table. Then, when the team came out to get feedback from the judges, this impolite, rude pair ridiculed the team for having been served raw onion.
So, in addition to being rude and impolite, these two showed themselves to be ignorant as well. The team’s theme was “traditional, Texas barbecue”, and that is exactly what they produced. You cannot go to a local barbecue joint in Texas without being given dill pickles and raw onion. They had best consider themselves lucky they weren’t served a half loaf of white bread along with the “relish tray”. (Eh Gads!) The most celebrated barbecue places in Texas have you stand in line (no waiters) for custom cuts of meat served on butcher paper with the usual condiments at a separate station for you to take as you want.
Recently, I had my wife’s family reunion catered by my favorite local barbecue place. Guess what. That’s right. A big jar of dill pickle slices, two plates of white onions cut into rings, two squeeze bottles of yellow mustard and four loaves of white bread were sitting at the end of the service line of smoked beef brisket, chopped barbecue beef, pulled pork, smoked quartered chickens, and smoked sausage. (I don’t know about you, but that’s good eatin’.)
What most upset me was the way the judges so readily dismissed the traditional accoutrements of Texas barbecue as beneath them. Oh, really? I bet you a MILLION DOLLARS that if you were to take either of these jerks to some obscure, foreign, ethnic restaurant which served gelatinous lamb ovaries as a condiment they would go on and on about how “authentic” and “rustic” the meal was (however much they may or may not enjoy it). Guess what? I’m not saying they shouldn’t. My point is that they should show the same respect to the regional cuisines of their own country.
You don’t have to like it, but be respectful. When they tell you it is “traditional”, don’t be so quick to mock them. Just because you don’t know about it (and they are rednecks) doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Get over yourself and your cultural superiority.