Do you ever feel as if you’ve been worked over by your government?

Getting a ticketI am very disgruntled. I got a moving violation today and have the strong feeling that I was set up.

There is a road near my home that I travel frequently. It’s a familiar road and, in its own way, a fun one:  Many people in my community travel that road on foot and I like to keep an eye out for friends.  Seeing them always gives me a comfortable, small town feel.

Given my dual reasons for keeping an eye out for pedestrians (safety and small town friendliness), you can take my word for it when I say that, as I neared a specific cross street, there were no pedestrians drawing near and, as I drove past that specific cross street, there were no pedestrians heading towards it from the opposition direction. Indeed, the only pedestrians  were two men nearing this particular intersection as I drove towards it.

Just as I entered the intersection (going the speed limit), one of the men walking north towards the corner suddenly swerved east towards the cross walk and stepped off the curb. I had a split second to figure out what to do. In that split second, he looked over his shoulder, up the cross street, and then stepped back onto the sidewalk. I had my foot hovering over the brake, ready to plow my passenger into the dashboard, but his change of plan made me change my plan.  I decided that he’d changed his mind about his impulsive decision to cross the street (because there was no indication that he was previously contemplating doing so), and I drove on.

Fifteen seconds later, I saw a motorcycle police officer coming up behind me with his lights on. An officer wearing a uniform from a police department two towns away from mine approached and asked politely if I had seen the pedestrian. I said that I had, but that he’d stepped into the intersection when it was too late for me to stop safely for the passengers in the car — even though I was going the speed limit — and, since he’d obviously then changed his mind and turned around, I kept going.  The officer informed me that I had enough time to stop and issued me a moving violation.

At this point, I might have thought the whole thing was my bad luck, but then something happened that got me wondering: About four minutes after the policeman stopped me, I saw another car in my rear view mirror getting pulled over. I’m betting he got pulled over for the same infraction because the office went out of his way to tell me that they were cracking down on cars that didn’t stop for pedestrians.

The crackdown might explain that another car got stopped immediately after I did, except for that information I opened the post with:  There were no pedestrians near that intersection other than the two men I mentioned, one of whom got me in trouble.  Perhaps — and I’m just say perhaps — that same pedestrian did the same thing to the other driver that he did to me: Looked as if he wasn’t going to cross, waited until the driver got into the intersection, stepped into the cross walk, then stepped back onto the curb, right in front of another motorcycle cop.

There’s no way I can ever prove this, of course. I just think it’s a remarkable coincidence that, within four minutes, on a street with only two pedestrians at a corner where police were hiding as part of a crackdown, two people got ticketed for moving violations.

It’s not the end of the world, of course, but I don’t like being made a fool of, especially when it costs me money — and being caught in a con (a scam? a sting?) does make me feel as if I’ve been played. Whatever the cost, I can afford it, thank goodness. Others who travel the road can’t (and I wonder if the police let them off with a warning, since the whole infraction is, I believe, a man-created offense).

Aside from the cost of the ticket (and I don’t know yet what it is, but I’m sure it’s not cheap), if I want to avoid seeing my insurance going up, I have to go to traffic school. The county makes that expensive too:

In addition to the bail, you must pay a non-refundable administrative fee of $52 when requesting traffic violator school. The Court accepts certificates of completion from classroom and online traffic violator schools accredited by the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will also be required to pay the fee at the traffic violator school you select. You must submit satisfactory proof of completion to the Court by your due date. If you do so, your citation will not be reported on your driving record. If you sign up for traffic violator school and fail to submit the certificate of completion to the Court by the due date, the Court will notify DMV of your conviction and this conviction will be added to your driving record.

You know what else irked me? The ticket itself. The useful information on the back is illegible, light gray on pink.  I could see that it said “IMPORTANT — READ CAREFULLY,” because that was in 10 pt text and all caps, but everything else was not only in faded gray on pink, but was also 6 or 7 pt text.

If a business handed out a document with important information in illegible text, not only would people not be bound by the information, but the business would be sued under all sorts of consumer protection acts. One of the mandates the law imposes on businesses is that they must ensure that important information in documents that they give to consumers is in dark ink and uses a readable font. Our government, however, is free to hand out unreadable traffic tickets. Fortunately, I was able to access the information I needed on the internet.  Not everyone, though, is as internet savvy as I am, something that’s especially true for older people.

I’ll get over this, but as someone who’s not fond of government at the best of times, I really didn’t need to be on the receiving end of this petty exercise in police power.  I was just speaking today with a contractor about building codes.  He said that inspectors don’t have to have any building experience.  Instead, they can just be any old person who takes a class on how to read the code and apply it to a building site.  This means that the inspector is going to be absolutely inflexible.  Since he has no knowledge, all he can do is paint by bureaucratic numbers.

Take wheelchair ramps, for example.  I like them.  They’re useful for all sorts of people, from the disabled to mothers with baby strollers.  My problem is that codes don’t say only that the ramp has to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs of a specific width, that it cannot have a grade greater than “X” or less than “Y”, and that it cannot force the disabled to wend their way through garbage piles.  Architects, engineers, and contractors can then act creatively to meet those parameters while still respecting the space or design of the building project.  Instead, codes spell out rigidly what the ramp must be like, even though it might be impossible or cost-prohibitive to fit that specific, code-defined ramp on the project, and even though an equally useful ramp might be built a different way.

I have the same problem with the ticket I got.  There was not the smallest likelihood I would have hit the man, who turned back to the curb the second his foot hit the road.  There’s also no indication that I was driving so recklessly or fast that I would have been unable to stop had it been apparent that he was bound and determined to cross.  The rule didn’t provide any flexibility for me to read the entire situation:  the passengers in my car, the other drivers on my tail, and the pedestrian’s actions, moving both forwards and backwards.

Instead, because the pedestrian (whether he was a plant or not) decided on the spur of the moment to step into the street, I was expected to stop immediately, sending my passengers flying and risking that another car would rear end me.  Keep in  mind that, as the situation played out, I could have hit the pedestrian only if I suddenly accelerated from 30 mph to about 70 mph (which I could do in a Tesla, not my Mom car), or if he had sprinted at warp speed to get in front of me.  Keep in mind too that, if the pedestrian was a continuing into the intersection, or was a child, I would have slammed the brake so hard, I would practically have moved backwards.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.  Grumble.

Found it on Facebook: People are beginning to catch onto the scope of the Obamacare fraud

obama-doctor-needleNo matter where you are in America, the definition for fraud is pretty consistent: Making intentional misrepresentations to people in order to induce them to change their position to their detriment and your benefit. Since October 1, growing numbers of Americans are realizing that they have been the victims of fraud on a spectacular scale, thanks to Obama and the Democrats.  That’s why it’s so ironic that Republicans have suddenly decided that Obamacare is here to stay.

As an example of people’s growing disaffection, I offer a Facebook thread from true blue Marin County. In order to protect people’s privacy, I’ve changed their names and slightly altered wording so that a computer search cannot tie this post to their Facebook accounts. Subject to that non-substantive massaging, the following is an entirely accurate replay of a post a Marin friend put up this morning, followed by comments from friends and neighbors (myself included):

Unhapppy Customer: My Blue Cross insurer is now the worst. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, because I used to get wonderful insurance from this company. Thanks, Obamacare!

Friend 1: Oh, dear. That’s my insurer too.

Friend 2: I get my insurance from [a non-Blue Cross company]. I make too much money to get an Obamacare subsidy, but I cannot afford very good coverage. I make too much money for Obamacare, and not enough to afford really good coverage. I just had an outpatient surgery the other day, and it’s going to cost me almost $9,000.

Unhappy Customer: I’m really sorry to hear that, Friend 2. I also don’t get subsidies, so I have to pay for everything. The promise was free preventative care, but that’s not what’s happening. Instead, I’ll have to pay out-of-pocket if I want to see my long-time doctors, because none of them are in the Blue Cross network.

Friend 3: I couldn’t agree more. I used to like my Blue Cross Plan. Under Obamacare, though, almost none of my medications are covered. Worse, my deductible has gotten so high, it’s the same as being uninsured for most things.

Friend 4: It wasn’t the recession that killed America’s middle class. It’s Obamacare that’s doing the job.

Bookworm: It’s shocking that, back in 2009, people actually believed the government could mandate vastly more coverage (a lot of which people don’t want), plus huge subsidies, while simultaneously lowering everyone’s premiums by $2,500 per year, not to mention promising that they could keep their doctors and their hospitals.

It’s especially amazing that we were supposed to believe all this could happen when it was overseen by the same state and local governments that destroyed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and that gave us the wonders of the DMV.

The con should have been obvious, but everyone was so swept away in the rapture of the moment, they couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge the problem.

Since I put the above into this post, someone added the usual comment insisting that we should go to Medicare entirely.  She backed off, though, when I pointed out rampant fraud in Medicare (do we really want more of that?), as well as the fact that those countries that have single payer have better access but worse outcomes. I then suggested to everyone in the thread that the open market, where consumers are more in touch with costs — a marketplace without layers of employers, insurance, and government regulations — could lead to both better service and lower costs. The person in favor of Medicare actually thought that the open market wasn’t a terrible idea.

I’ll keep you posted if any other interesting comments pop up on that Facebook thread.

Cliven Bundy’s racist, or stupidly racially-tinged, rhetoric is irrelevant to the core issue of government overreach

AmericaThe best thing that happened to the Left in the last few days was the fact that Cliven Bundy couldn’t keep race out of the conversation.  It really doesn’t matter whether he was making a valid point about slavery by any other name or if he was making as invalid a point about race as the MSNBC crowd does on a daily basis.  What matters is that his stand against the government correctly brought to people’s attention the fact that our federal government has completely forgotten that it is the people’s servant, not their master.

To use an extreme example, the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian doesn’t discredit vegetarianism.  There may be other, nutrition-based or resource-based, grounds to discredit it, but Hitler’s food predilection says nothing about the merits of vegetarianism or vegetarians.

The same is true for Bundy’s stand against the federal government’s overreach.  There may be reasons to complain about his stand (e.g., “even though the federal government stole from him, the law is still the law, at least if you’re not President Obama”), but Bundy’s inept racial observations have nothing to do with the practical merits of the government’s conduct.

For more, see JoshuaPundit and Noisy Room.

IRS correspondence seems to reveal conspiracy to criminalize conservative speech

Obama-IrsThe IRS’s job is to collect the taxes that Congress demands the American people pay. Under Lois Lerner’s guidance, though, the IRS’s job, apparently, was to identify potential conservative targets for Department of Justice criminal investigations. Hmmm.

PJMedia currently has running two excellent posts on the subject. The first is J. Christian Adams’ “A new, more sinister IRS scandal.” The second is Bryan Preston’s “The terrifying implications of the IRS Abuse-DOJ connection.”

Preston opens his post with this compelling paragraph:

Thank God for Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. His investigation of what turned out to be the IRS abuse scandal may well have saved the Constitution and the nation.

I hope Preston is correct.

Adams closes his post by saying, “Just wait until the American people learn more about the modern American version of history’s speech regulators.”

Sadly, I think Adams is wrong. The ones who never pay attention will continue not to pay attention. As for the man-in-the-street Democrats, the ones who are unthinking, not activist, Leftists, I’m sorry to say that they won’t suddenly think, “Oh, my God! What have we become? This has to stop.”

Instead, when you try to convince knee-jerk, unthinking Democrats that their party is using the most powerful government agency in America to shut down political debate and imprison political dissent, you’ll get a shrug, along with mumbled remarks about “conservative wackos are paranoid,” and “these people were obviously breaking the law,” and “the IRS saved us from turning into a Christian Fundamentalist Nation, kind of like Iran.”

Government is the last place in which the war is fought.  The initial battles are for people’s hearts and minds, and the Left started fighting and winning those battles in the 1960s.  Now, as the old saying goes, “it’s all over but for the shouting.”

Why Bundy’s legal position vis a vis the federal government probably doesn’t matter

Charles C.W. Cooke is almost certainly correct that Bundy doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on when it comes to his fight with the feds.  While its disgraceful that the feds own most of Nevada, the fact is that they do, and they get to right the ownership rules for that land.  Nevertheless, Cooke acknowledges why Bundy’s plight makes him a sympathetic figure and these posters (h/t Caped Crusader) pithily sum up what really has people outraged:

America

compare Bundy and Sharpton

The view from the trenches puts the lie to the media’s gloating about 7 million Obamacare new enrollments

Obamacare error 404Rush opened his show today by focusing on the mainstream media’s joyous assertion that, overnight, Obamacare went from a mere 26% in support to plurality support and that, within two weeks, it went from 5 million to 7 million enrollments (with that 7 million number coming from two “anonymous” White House sources).  Rush asserted, and I agree, that this is lies and damn lies, powered through by falsely derived statistics.

Even assuming solely for the sake of argument that there’s any truth to the dramatically increased poll and enrollment numbers, the numbers are still meaningless because the law has failed resoundingly at effecting its primary purpose:  to insure the uninsured.  As of yesterday, based upon the limited data the Obama administration has reluctantly released, only 1.7% of the previously uninsured have enrolled in Obamacare.

If the uninsured aren’t enrolling in Obamacare, who is?  It seems that new enrollees consist primarily of (a) those who were insured but wanted subsidies and (b) those who lost pre-existing coverage because of Obamacare.  Moreover, analyzing enrollment data, it appears that the new enrollees are weighted heavily in favor of those requiring subsidies, as opposed to those paying full fare and funding the subsidies.  Even math-illiterates (i.e., the Democrat party and its MSM mouthpieces) will eventually figure out that this is unsustainable.

The statements I made above are data-based, although the administration’s death grip on actual numbers leaves one unsure even about the accuracy of that information.  Now let me throw in some anecdotal information.  I know that anecdote is not data but, to the extent this anecdote tracks the available data, it’s worth noting.

I have mentioned before that I have a friend who has pursued a very different life path from mine.  We both come from extremely middle class backgrounds, but while I was able to stay economically middle class, my friend made life decisions that saw her sink lower and lower economically.  She now lives in a community where, as she jokes, she and her husband are the only ones she knows who don’t have a parole officer.  (A fact that relates in part to substance abuse problems rife in her community and in part to draconian prosecutorial abuse.)

What distinguishes my friend from her neighbors, aside from her lack of a criminal record, is her middle class values.  She may not live the middle class life, but she still follows middle class rules, one of which is her belief that you pay your bills and you carry health insurance.  Unfortunately for her, she reached a point a few years ago at which she could no longer pay health insurance bills.  Quite reluctantly, she let her insurance lapse.

My friend was therefore delighted when Obamacare finally went into effect.  Because her state’s exchange was dysfunctional, she had to sign up the old-fashioned way (by mail), but sign-up she did.  Moreover, given her dire finances, she qualified for a subsidy.  I don’t have the details, but I believe she pays $50 a month for a Gold plan.  The moment her plan vested, my friend went on an orgy of doctor’s visits to catch up on all the health care (mostly standard tests and procedures) that she missed in the last few years.  While I disapprove of Obamacare, she’s my friend and I’m happy for her.  At least someone’s benefiting from the law.

I was speaking to my friend just yesterday about her healthcare and she offered a very interesting observation:  She and her husband, the only middle class people in a sea of poverty, are the only people she knows, amongst both friends and acquaintances, who have signed up for Obamacare.  The others have no interest in getting health insurance.  Even with a subsidy, they don’t want to pay a monthly bill for health insurance.  Even a subsidized rate is too onerous when they can get all the free health care they need just by showing up at the local emergency room.  Additionally, the ER docs are usually better than any doc who’s willing to belong to whatever plan they can afford.  Nor are these people worried about the penalties for refusing to buy Obamacare, since none of them pay taxes.

Not only are the people in my friend’s world refusing to buy Obamacare, they resent it.  According to my friend, someone she knows abruptly announced that she’s getting involved in local politics, something she’s never done before.  Until recently, this gal was one of those people who just floated along, getting by.  Now, though, she’s fired up.

The reason for the sudden passion is unexpected:  She’s deeply offended by a law that forces people to buy a product they don’t need — never mind that she might benefit from the product, that she would pay far below market value for the product, or that she’s too poor to be penalized for ignoring this government diktat.  The mere fact that the diktat exists runs counter to her notion of individual liberty.  Her view of government is that, while it’s fine if it hands out welfare checks and food stamps, it goes beyond the pale when the government uses its power and wealth to coerce activity.

Democrats: Using band-aid remedies to “cure” systemic failures

bandaid-2One of the mantras to emerge from feminist side of the Leftist swamps during the late 1960s/early 1970s was notion that “the personal is political.”  As used by the feminists, it meant that, when suburban women got together to burn their bras, examine their genitals in mirrors, and gripe about patriarchal oppression, they weren’t just engaging in the updated version of coffee klatches.  Instead, this “consciousness raising” was a political act because the conclusions they reached would drive their politics.

As is so often the case when it comes to manipulating the political process, the Leftists were onto something.  No matter what they say, most people don’t approach issues through education and analysis, nor do they abandon ideas just because those ideas actually fail when they finally leave the analysis phase and become operational.  Instead, most people are driven by emotion:  Do I feel like a good person when I do this?  Is the beneficiary of my political act a good person?  And the contrary is true too:  Am I punishing an “evil” person if I vote or act in a specific way (since punishing an “evil” person elevates my “goodness” quotient).

I’m not saying anything all of you haven’t already figured out.  The only reason I mention this is because I’m struggling with the way in which I can counter a compelling, hard Left HBO documentary that my daughter saw, one that has left her inclined to believe that the welfare state is the answer.  The documentary is “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.”

Maria Shriver, who produced the documentary, chose well when she and her team selected Gilbert as the poster child for single mothers, since Gilbert is a very sympathetic woman.  She got married at 19 (no out-of-wedlock children here) and had three children with her husband.  Unfortunately, her husband was addicted to prescription drugs (no tawdry illegal meth addiction here), wrecking the family finances and destroying their marriage.  The show picks up with Gilbert now in her mid-20s, working hard for $9.49 an hour at an assisted living center for the elderly.  She’s able to do this work because her children attend a government-funded pre-K daycare center in their hometown of Chattanooga.  Further, this loving mother puts food on the table only thanks to the food stamps.

As Alfred Doolittle would have said, Gilbert is definitely among the deserving poor.  When you see Gilbert — who did the right thing when she married her children’s father — struggling to cope with sick children and a flooded house (her boyfriend’s house), you can’t help but feel sympathetic.  You want to help her.  You want her to earn more money considering how hard she works and you want her to have better childcare opportunities.  And you think to yourself, “Heck, if she  lived in Denmark, none of this would be a problem.  (In part, of course, because Denmark’s young people aren’t having children to begin with.)  Gilbert would get free child care, a high living wage, all the benefits in the world, and be able to take endless sick days for her kids, as well as for herself.”

When the documentary ends, by which time you’re firmly rooting for Gilbert, the film hits you with the real numbers.  Gilbert, we’re told, isn’t an anomaly.  She’s part of a crowd:  According to the documentary, Gilbert is the living embodiment of the 42 million women in America who live at or below the poverty line, along with (I believe) 28 million children.  The documentary doesn’t have to say what we need to do.  It’s quite obvious that we ought to raise the minimum wage, make free childcare available to all American children, and provide comprehensive welfare for food and housing.

In case you’re too dim to reach this conclusion by yourself, HBO helpfully provides a guide for you to read alone or discuss with a group.  Some of what you’re supposed to discuss involves smart choices women can make.  Other discussion ideas, though, encourage Big Government as a solution, and advance a highly partisan Progressive agenda:

The Chambliss Center [pre-K childcare] is very important for Katrina. When she picks up her children she says, “The kids are learning so much here. If I went to a normal day care center, it would cost me $300 per week for all three of my children …that’s a whole paycheck.” Child care expenses for families with working mothers can range from 20 to nearly 50% of the mother’s monthly salary. How do you think Katrina would function if her kids weren’t at the Chambliss Center? Do you know anyone who is struggling with childcare needs? What can we as a society do to help? How important is it that the Chambliss Center operates 24/7?

Numerous studies have shown the long-term benefits of high-quality early education for young learners. However, fewer than 30% of American 4-year olds attend high quality preschool programs. President Obama expressed his support for universal high-quality preschool and many states have been developing universal pre-K legislation and programs. What do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages to government sponsored universal pre-Kindergarten programs?

[snip]

What did you know before about federal programs like Head Start, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit? Has this changed after viewing the film?

What are the social services in your area for families in need of financial assistance? Do you think it’s not enough, or too much? How are they affected by budget decisions at the State and Federal level? Do you think people are aware of what government programs provide? How do you think people feel about receiving assistance? Can you think of other programs that could be helpful to women on the brink?

The study guide ends with a list of resources, the second of which is the hard Left Center for American Progress, which some describe as the “shadow Democrat party,” and which sets the agenda for many of the Obama administration initiatives.  People troubled by the hardships Gilbert faces will quickly learn that Big Government is the only thing that can save her.

After my daughter saw the show, she was pretty sure that we ought to have more free education for the pre-K crowd, more free daycare, more free food, and mandated higher wages.  She was certainly correct that each of these things would have been an immediate benefit to Gilbert.  My task was to get my daughter to see that these are all band-aid remedies that might staunch small individual wounds, but will  not stop the fatal hemorrhaging in the American economy.

The problem I had is that there’s nothing sexy about free market fixes.  They’re abstract and the benefits fall randomly, rather than on specific, targeted people, such as Gilbert.  It’s this last fact that means that market reforms cannot guarantee immediate — or, indeed, any — aid to sympathetic figures such as Gilbert.

People who watch the documentary want Gilbert to be fixed immediately and her personal life becomes an overarching political argument.  When I said that single motherhood is the biggest dividing line between rich and poor, my daughter pointed out that Gilbert had her children within a marriage.  When I said mothers should stay married if at all possible, she pointed out that Gilbert’s husband was a drug addict who destroyed finances, so staying together was not an option.  When I said that education is important, she noted that Gilbert was trying to go back to school, but could do so only with government help.

My prescriptions were a free market (as opposed to the over-regulated market we now have), which has proven repeatedly to provide increased economic opportunities for everyone, not just government cronies; education, marriage, and children, in that order; and sticking with a bad marriage, provided that it’s not violent or otherwise abusive, because that is the best way to avoid poverty for both women and children.  My daughter’s prescriptions after getting a close-up look at Gilbert’s sympathetic struggles were Big Government.

I didn’t increase my sympathy quotient when I explained to her that there will always be poor people, no matter the system.  (In North Korea, outside of government circles, everyone is poor.)  In a strong, free-market, capitalist system, fewer people will be poor and even poor people will do better than in non-capitalist countries.  For example, I said, while Gilbert is struggling by American standards, the reality is that she shares a big house with her boyfriend, complete with a modern kitchen and nice electronics; she has government-subsidized food; she owns a car; and she has a smart phone, as do all the other adults in her low-income world.  It’s almost ludicrous to call her experience “poverty” when one looks at poverty in Brazil or India or Cuba or North Korea or large swathes of Africa.  Yes, she’s struggling, but life is struggle.

ThornsIt would be lovely to give an economic band-aid to the hardworking Gilbert.  But when the Democrats demand 42 million band-aids for all the other single mothers, you’ve got a problem.  If the body politic or body economic really were a body, this would be the scenario:  The American body (we’ll call it Sam) gets entangled in economic brambles, and poor Sam ends up bleeding from millions of scratches on his arms and legs.  He looks at the scratches and thinks, “Yikes, I need some band-aids.”  Fortunately for him, a mobile blood bank rolls by and offers to buy almost all of his blood in exchange for 42 million single-use band-aids.

Sam is delighted with this offer.  He’ll be able to stop the blood flow, even though he’s probably giving to the bank almost as much blood as he’s losing to the cuts.  What Sam ignores is that, when the bandages are applied and the mobile blood bank rolls away, he’ll still be stuck in those brambles.

Economic reality says that, if you’re mired in brambles, you don’t sell all your blood for band-aids, while remaining deep in the thorns.  Instead, you first get out of the brambles Only then do you deal with the worst cuts, ignore the rest, and get down to the business of regaining your health and staying away the brambles that got you into trouble in the first place.

None of the above is sexy.  Advocating a free market capitalist economy so that there will be fewer poor people is not sexy.  Encouraging marriage, even unhappy marriages, for the sake of the children is not sexy.  Acknowledging that there will always be poor people and they will always suffer is not sexy.  And trying to explain that, in a healthy economy, fewer people are poor and fewer people remain poor isn’t sexy.  Appearing to turn your back on the Gilbert’s of the world isn’t only un-sexy, it appears downright sadistic.  And explaining that economic reality means that it’s impossible to be, simultaneously, both a comprehensive welfare state and a thriving free market is un-sexy too.  (Not to mention the fact that you have to explain that Europe managed to have a welfare state with a capitalist gloss only because America paid for Europe’s defense during the long Cold War years.)

I’ve described one show and one child who was moved Left by its message.  However, this close, personal focus is a chronic issue when dealing with the Left.  To gain sympathy for its larger agenda, the Left always focuses on the one child who’s illegal immigrant father is deported (although never the one child whose redneck father goes to jail following drunken revelry); or the one single mother who did all the right things; or the one single Gitmo detainee who was a mere child when the Taliban forced him to kill Americans.  The focus is always tight, obscuring the rest of the message.

I mentioned the other day that Ben Shapiro has written an excellent book about arguing with Leftists, How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them, which you can get free by registering at Truth Revolt. The book presupposes an argument. My question is how does one challenge this type of gooey, emotional propaganda, which gains a wide television audience and promises that the world can be healed, one government band-aid at a time?

Grumble, grumble, overregulated, grumble, grumble

Los-Angeles-building-inspection-manMany years ago, we were contemplating building a separate mother-in-law unit on a back part of our property:  one room, a bathroom, a little kitchenette, etc.  There were several reasons why the plan wasn’t feasible, but the major one proved to be the requirement that we had to make the whole thing wheelchair accessible, something that added tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of the plan.  None of us need wheelchairs. And of course, the unit would never be open to the public, unlike a store, so we had no concern that someone needing wheelchair access would have a right to enter the property.

Even if I knew then what I know now, which is that there are times in your life when you wish you could use a wheelchair in your own home, I still wouldn’t have invested tens of thousands of dollars in a relatively small project because of the off chance that, for a month or two, I might prefer getting around with a wheelchair or a walker.  If it subsequently turned out that I would permanently need wheelchair access, then — and only then — would it make sense for me to invest tens of thousands to upgrade the property.  Likewise, if subsequent buyers wanted to make that mother-in-law wheelchair accessible, let them bear the cost.

But nooooo.  Thanks to the bureaucratic who write regulations, and who have an endless desire to control and perfect everything, I was being forced to spend tens of thousands of extra dollars for something useless to me.  The net result was that we built nothing at all.

I raise this bit of ancient history because I’ve once again learned that, because of some remodeling on our property, I have to spend several thousand dollars to comply with safety regulations that confer no benefit on me, my family, nor those who visit our property.  The regulations are inconvenient, expensive, and, as to me, entirely unnecessary — but the entire project must come to a halt if I don’t comply.

There’s nothing that brings out the libertarian in me like a municipal code.

Having had my grouse, let me say that I’m not entirely opposed to building codes and inspectors.  There are definitely things that can and should be standardized for the greater good.  Having standards for plumbing, electricity, weight-bearing, etc., all makes good sense, especially in earthquake country.   A good building inspector can also help protect a homeowner from a bad contractor, and that’s nothing to be sneezed at.  Having mandatory access laws for politically correct reasons, though, is something entirely different.

Also, for those who are familiar with my community, I feel I should say that, when it comes to dealing with my local building department, they are nothing but pleasant:  from the front desk to the back office, they’re polite,  helpful, and responsive.  My gripe isn’t with the my local building department, which is just doing what the law requires it to do.  It is, instead, with the governing principle that says that this kind of micromanagement is acceptable.

The problem with being on a pedestal is that, when you fall, you fall hard

Destroying Stalin's statueWas it only yesterday that I posted about the young woman who burned her Obama shirt in a frenzy of betrayal?  She isn’t just done with Obama, she’s done with government.  Her ideology, most of it foolishly Leftist, hasn’t altered one iota.  What’s different is her belief that government is an engine of change.

But, but, but, I hear you asking, “How can you be a Leftist without believing in Big Government?  Leftism is predicated on a Big Government doing the right things.”

You’re absolutely correct, of course.  She’s suddenly a young woman with a heart full of anti-government animus, and no functioning ideology to go with it.  My suspicion is that, if she ever votes again, she’ll pull the lever for a libertarian.  Perhaps in 2016, she’ll be another Rand Paul voter.

That inflamed young lady isn’t the only one who’s shattered to discover that her idol had feet of clay, and bad clay at that.  Will Pitt, notorious for years as one of the more rabid anti-Bush haters and one of the utterly fatuous, strung-out Obama worshipers, has also been slapped in the face by ugly Obamacare reality.  At Newsbusters, P.J. Gladnick details Pitt’s disillusionment, which set in very quickly once Obamacare failed to work as promised.

Within months, Pitt went from saying that a few glitches with Obamacare were “No. Big. Deal.” to castigating Obama as a “piece of sh*t used-car salesman.” Needless to say, his friends in the Democratic Underground are not happy with him.

When it comes to these two people and all of the others like them, their sudden epiphanies about Obama, about Democrat policies, and about Big Government can easily be described as too little, too late. They’ve already visited upon us eight years of what will quite possibly be recorded in the books as the worst administration in American history, one that devastated not only America but the whole world.

But here’s the deal: It’s not too little, too late. There are local, state, and federal elections coming up this year and next year and the year after that. Although our ship of state has had eight years to sail this disastrous course, it is still afloat and can be turned around. The process will be laborious, it will go very slowly, and the damage will be significant, but as long as we’re above water it still matters that we get rid of as many loathsome barnacles as possible. These former Obama fanatics were barnacles. It remains to be seen whether, as I once did, they’ll turn around politically or whether they’ll just slink off and leave the body politic alone. No matter what, we’ll be better off without them.

The only way to cut government spending is to cut government

The Cato Institute is putting together a series of videos to identify government agencies that are not merely wasteful, but are also destructive to our country’s well-being.  This video, attacking the horribly misnamed Department of Education, is one of the five videos Cato has already created:

Of course, the above video brings coals to Newcastle.  Those who watch it already agree with its premise, although it’s nice to have hard facts to back up our sometimes inchoate sense of outrage.  What I would love is to see every liberal I know watching the video.  Sadly, though, I know with absolute certainty that none will dare. They are resolute in their desire to avoid contact with any information that might disrupt their New York Times world view.

Hat tip: Power Line

Is there such a thing as “Big Government Done Right” or is that an oxymoron?

Big BrotherOne of the things I’ve noticed tracking my few conservative and my many Progressive friends over at my “real me” Facebook is the difference in their approach to government.  My conservative friends are consistent:  They want to confine the federal government to its traditional constitutional boundaries:  national security, including managing a standing army; preserving interstate commerce, including maintaining America’s roads and airways; economic dealings with foreign powers; etc.  They’re not opposed to a welfare safety net, but believe it should be limited in scope and duration, and that the best safety net is a strong, free-market economy.  They heartily approve of immigration, but want it to be legal immigration, not an illegal free-for-all.  They support law and order, but not a militarized police force.

These conservatives are appalled by Obama’s lawlessness, as seen in his executive orders seeking to undercut the Second Amendment and his almost-daily ukases changing Obamacare so as to minimize the PR fallout from that misbegotten law.  Looking overseas, they support our traditional allies, including beleaguered little Israel, and find shocking Obama’s free-fall into the arms of bad actors such as Iran, Vladimir Putin, the Muslim Brotherhood, Bashir al Assad, the Taliban, etc.  When it comes to “women’s issues,” conservatives believe that the U.S. should stay out of women’s uteruses, in that it should stop telling Americans, nuns included, to pay for other women’s birth control and abortions.

They also believe that “global warming” has always been an anti-capitalist hoax meant to slow down Western development and redirect funds to Third World nations that get the Left’s stamp of approval.  They accept that climate changes; they just don’t think it’s America’s fault.  We are responsible for pollution, and we have a duty to be a good steward for the natural world around us, but our puny efforts are not changing the world.  (In that regard, I’ll note that the heat and drought in the south and the snow and cold in the north are nothing new.  The papers breathlessly report that they’re the worst in 100 or 1000 years, as if that proves anthropogenic climate change.  To me, the comparisons to the same events in the pass simply prove that Mother Nature is fickle and always has been.)

Conservatives support gun rights, not because they’re crazed killers, but because both logic and real world data regularly shows that a free, armed population is the best defense against crime and government overreach.  They believe that there’s a reason for the Second Amendment’s explicit language holding that the federal government cannot touch people’s guns.

My Progressive friends present a mirror image, albeit one that fails to be consistent.  As far as they’re concerned, the bigger government is, the better.  Obamacare is horrible, not because it sees the government take over 1/6 of the economy by trying to control the healthcare market, but because healthcare isn’t fully socialized.  They hate Obama’s border policies, not because he’s stopped enforcing immigration laws, but because he hasn’t successfully done away with immigration laws.  They think our best national security plan is to intervene only in those countries where America gets no benefit from that intervention; anything else is imperialism.

My Progressive friends fear a free market, because it allows corporations to get bigger, and they all know that the greatest threat to each American’s wealth, health, and happiness is corporations.  They think Israel is evil because she refuses to turn her country over to a group of people who make no secret about the fact that their goal is to massacre every Israeli.  They support Obama’s foreign policy in other respects simply because it’s oriented away from traditional Western imperialism.  It’s irrelevant that these nations engage in their own forms of imperialism, and that they routinely trample on the rights Progressives hold most dear:  womyn’s rights, LGBT rights, and, where there are blacks (as in the Sudan) people of color’s rights.  To them, global warming is a revealed truth that cannot be questioned and that appropriately seeks to stop the West’s development because, they believe, it harms the Third World.  They are unmoved by data showing that ethanol development, by diverting food crops to fuel, is starving the Third World.

And of course, when it comes to guns, Progressives know they’re evil.  Data to the contrary is irrelevant.  Guns exist only to kill, and their role in preventing or diminishing violent crime, or in protecting people against their own government, is irrelevant.  Facts must bow down before ideologically driven fear.

The one tie that binds both conservatives and Progressives on my “real me” Facebook is that they’re both horrified by the scope of the NSA’s spying on American people.  Each recognizes that this is a staggering infringement on American freedom.  To all of them, the knowledge that Big Brother has been watching them is almost too terrible to contemplate.

Summed up, Progressives believe that there is such a thing as “Big Government Done Right,” while conservatives believe that this is an oxymoron. I side with the conservative view.  The very nature of Big Government is abhorrent to individual liberty and free markets.

The fact that history repeatedly shows that freedom drives economic progress and individual liberty, however, never shakes a Leftist’s faith in the theory that there is such a thing as “Big Government Done Right.”  My Dad was raised a Communist and eventually ended up as a Reagan Democrat.  To his dying day, though, he believed that Communism was the answer.  The problem was that it had never been done right, no matter where it was applied.  In his heart, the theory lived on.  Americans, with their vague feints to Leftism under Carter weren’t doing it right, so Reagan (who was pro-Israel) was a better bet to deal with the misbegotten American system.  The Soviet Union wasn’t doing it right, because it relied too much on oppression.  Brilliant man though he was, he couldn’t be brought to understand that it’s the nature of the state to oppress.  It’s a “bear hug” that, whether aggressive or loving, still smothers you.

Anyway, that’s what I think.  Would any of you care to make a counter argument, to the extent that Big Government Done Right isn’t invariably an oxymoron?