Recently in Democracy In Action Category
It's a dangerous thing, education. When someone receive a little of it and thinks he's truly educated, there's a discrepancy. And when someone doesn't know that he doesn't know, disaster often ensues.
Call it The Dunning Kruger Effect. And recall the famous lines by Alexander Pope.
Obama's runaway spending spree is so left-wing it makes Franklin Roosevelt look like a Republican. The most Roosevelt ever spent in one year (during peacetime) was 10.7% of GDP, at the height of the Great Depression. Over Obama's four years of office, federal spending has averaged 24.4% of GDP. Since World War II, up until Obama, federal spending actually was fairly stable around 20% of GDP. But Obama and his Che Guevara Democrats have already broken through that consensus, raising federal spending by about one fourth.Make that libertarian. And notice how the Marxist rhetoric utterly fails the smell test:
CBO reports that in 2009 the top 1% of income earners paid 39% of all federal income taxes, three times their share of income at 13%. That was more than the bottom 95% of income earners combined! In fact, the bottom 60% of income earners, as a group, paid less than 0% of federal income taxes. Instead, as a group, they received net payments from the IRS.
I am off to a special town meeting here in out little New Hampshire town to discuss a matter of great import - the replacement or refurbishment of one of our fire department's pumpers.
While this matter had been discussed and voted on during our regular town meeting back in February and March, the voters decided not to replace the 25-year old fire engine and considered having it repaired for a fraction of the cost of a new pumper. But the idea foundered when it was found the old pumper was in far worse shape than originally reported. And since the town can't make capital expenditures of this magnitude without a town meeting to discuss the matter and a follow-on vote the following month, our selectmen decided to call a special town meeting. They petitioned the court for permission to hold a town meeting off of the regular schedule and received the court's blessing to do so. (Towns can't just call a town meeting at anytime other than the designated dates, unless an emergency or other immediate need requires it. In this case the replacement of a vital piece of life-saving equipment was seen as meeting the conditions to allow this special town meeting to be held.)
I expect there will be lively discussions and debate at this meeting, if not some acrimony. (A lengthy series of letters to the editor in both of our local newspapers created an atmosphere that generated a lot of the aforementioned acrimony.)
If nothing else, it will be interesting evening.
And so it goes in small town America.
This is merely the latest in a series of municipal bankruptcies plaguing the Golden State. Far too many of the municipalities believed the good times would never end and promised things to their citizens and employees based upon that belief. However reality has proved them wrong, the bills have come due, and their coffers are empty.
State finances aren't in any better shape, with a projected $16 billion budget deficit in the offing. Unfortunately, unlike the cities and towns in California, the state cannot declare bankruptcy, meaning the taxpayers (what's left of them) are obligated to pay off the state's deficiencies. But as the state assembly and the governor are learning the hard way, raising taxes any more than they already have will not raise more revenue because the state is already on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve. The last round of tax hikes caused revenues to fall, leaving the state even deeper in debt.
How they believe yet another round of tax hikes will solve their problem makes me wonder if there is anyone sane left in the upper echelons of state government. Unfortunately the answer appears to be 'no'.
Now that the Wisconsin recall election is in the history books, the Democrat Machine has switched to the Max Extract Spin Mode, trying its best to make Scott Walker's successful defense against the public employee union onslaught seem like nothing more than a fluke. The union thugs lost this one by losing support of the very people they believed were firmly in their pocket - the working stiffs. These same working stiffs are also less likely to support a President they see as doing everything he can to kill jobs despite his claims to the contrary. His record speaks for itself. The spin the Dems and the White House are trying to put on Walker's win isn't resonating very well across the country.
So why did the public employee unions lose after spending millions in union funds to unseat Walker? It's simple, really.
It's tough to convince someone who's barely making ends meet all while seeing their taxes going up year after year that it's in their best interest to support state and municipal employee demands for gold plated benefits packages those of us in the private sector can only dream about. It was a major disconnect between the public employee unions and the average working folks.
What made this disconnect even worse is that Walker's actions did exactly what he said they would - turning a $6 billion budget deficit into the first budget surplus seen in years, all without raising taxes; lowering property taxes; and helping reduce benefits costs paid by school systems across the state. It's not easy convincing people who see more of their money staying in their pockets that they should "go back to the way it used to be." That's a tough sell.
Do the results in Wisconsin automatically mean Obama is doomed and Romney will have a cakewalk? No, not in the least. But it does mean that a state the Democrats saw as safely in the Obama camp is now in play, and that does not bode well for the President.
Too bad. Or not.
In the two weeks since that post the number of people doing that has grown. In a Glenn Reynolds post about the failure of the Media Matters driven Rush Limbaugh boycott, Instapundit reader Kirby Angell comments about a bit of anecdotal evidence the "dump HBO" phenomenon is continuing.
"I was at the cable store dropping all of the movie channels, but I told them I specifically wanted to drop HBO because of Bill Maher and objectionable content. Then I found out if I got a new cable modem I could get a faster internet connection. Yesterday the cable guy was out with the new modem and while testing it he said 'lots' of people were dropping cable service and going with streaming only. He said he would drop it at his house but there was one show he would miss and that's the only reason he keeps it. I've never seen Game of Thrones which he would miss, but I love Walking Dead and would still wait until I can stream it at my convenience than pay for cable. Soon the cable companies' only product may be the pipe."At the moment "the pipe" is the only service we have from our local cable company. We never had the video service (we subscribe to satellite, but don't have any of the movie channels) and dumped our phone service almost a year ago when we realized our home phone was redundant. We haven't subscribed to one of the streaming video services yet, but I figure that's coming. I do use Hulu to catch up on episodes of shows I might have missed.
The WP Parents use a Sony Media Player to stream stuff from Netflix. They'd never go back to HBO. I know a number of my co-workers have also dumped their movie channels in favor of streaming video, with two of them specifically mentioning HBO as their reason for dropping their service.
He brings up a number of good points. Ironically he mentions the Howard Beal rant, which is just as germane today as it was back in 1976.
(H/T Parkway Rest Stop)
With the New Hampshire primaries scheduled for January 10th, the media attention has been cranked up to "11". The various presidential wannabes have been spending every free moment in the Granite State, minus time in Iowa in preparation for tomorrow's Iowa Caucuses. (The one exception seems to be Jon Huntsman, who sees New Hampshire as the key to his moving forward.) There will be one last 'big' debate amongst the GOP candidates on the 7th, with national coverage by ABC.
It's going to be intense for the next eight days.
The lesser of the two events, the annual battle of budgeting for the towns also start in earnest. Not that there hasn't been a lot of behind the scenes work on assembling proposed budgets for the various departments and schools.
Here in my small town the town and school budgets have been undergoing a lot of scrutiny by the board of selectmen, school board, and the budget committee. Everyone wants to cut spending, but of course it's always "someone else" who should cut their budgetary requests. It's never a pretty process and at times emotion can get in the way of logic and reason. When a position is cut in one of the town departments, many of us realize it means that someone we know, perhaps a friend, will lose their job. (That's happened to a friend of mine in the planning department. Her full time position - with benefits - was cut to part time. She couldn't justify staying there under those conditions and left for another job.) In some cases open positions have been eliminated for the time being, leaving some departments short staffed. But those are the choices that have to be made in order to keep spending in check when everyone is having a difficult time making ends meet, particularly those on fixed incomes within our town.
Once the various boards and committees have done their thing it will be up to the voters in each town to vote on them, either at town meeting or during the town elections in March. (A few towns hold their town meetings in April or May.) Towns with a board of selectman/town meeting form of government fall in to two categories: traditional town meeting and SB2.
The traditional town meeting is usually held in some time in March, and all registered voters are encouraged to attend. The voters will discuss and vote on all of the articles presented on the town warrant, some covering budgetary items and other with changes in zoning ordinances (assuming a town has any zoning at all). A second town meeting, usually called the school district meeting, deals will warrants pertaining to the towns school expenditures.
SB2 towns do things a little differently, with two different sessions for both the town and school portions of the warrants. The first session deals solely with discussion and amendments to the town and school warrant articles. The second session of each meeting takes place on election day in March, with the voters deciding whether to approve the various warrant articles discussed the previous session.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems, but they seem to work pretty well. In any case, the tax money that will be spent in the upcoming fiscal year is vetted by the very people that will be paying those taxes. (There are a few taxes which the town voters have no control, those being the county and state assessments levied upon them to run county operations and for some education funding, respectively.)
The state will be dealing with some supplemental budget items during the upcoming legislative session (the state runs on a two-year budget cycle). Sometimes adjustments are made if there's an unexpected expenditure needed to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes it's the other way around, with some line item that was approved but never implemented, meaning there are surplus funds that can go to other purposes to fill shortfalls someplace else. Sometimes the surplus goes towards the state's so-called rainy day fund, a savings account that can be used to fill revenue shortfalls under very specific circumstances.
All we can do is hope they folks in the state capitol don't go on some kind of a mindless spending binge. But then it does help that the GOP holds supermajorities in the state Senate and Executive Council and a majority in the state House.
What options does it have to preclude this out come? Only two variations on a theme, that being withdrawal from the EU. That leave them with two possible options once they've done so: Go it alone or seek alliance elsewhere. Going it alone may seem attractive at first, but it does leave them open the vagaries of the world market with no one else backstopping them. So perhaps they should seek an alliance elsewhere. But with whom?
Well, how about NAFTA? After all, the UK has far more in common with Canada and the US than they do with France, Germany, or Belgium.
Britain does have other choices. To find the country's new role, British leaders should look to North America.The only thing the UK has in common with the rest of Europe these days is proximity and a centuries long history of armed conflict with a number of countries there. Perhaps it's time for Britain to remember the rest of the Anglosphere and to consider re-aligning itself it with it. I have no doubt it would help both the UK and the other nations of the Anglosphere.
Alone among EEC members, Britain narrowed some of its major trade networks when it joined. It also traded ordinary Britons' right to virtually bureaucracy-free movement, temporary or permanent, between the U.K. and British Commonwealth nations.
While much trust was lost between Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth because of this move, strong personal, cultural and economic ties remain and could be revived. Ask the average Briton where he'd feel more at home, Paris or Toronto.
Canada and Australia have well-managed, vibrant economies. Both countries sit on huge deposits of natural resources of ever-increasing value. Britain's top-tier financial sector and still-excellent technical capabilities already play a role in Canada's economy. These ties could be much strengthened.
Britons also feel at home south of the Canadian border. Contrary to an oft-repeated myth, links between Britain and the United States are not reducible to the personal relationships between presidents and prime ministers. The U.S. and the U.K. have always been each other's primary financial partners. A few simple measures could substantially deepen this relationship, especially once Britain no longer needs to adhere to EU rules.
And the UK's trade with the rest of the EU? I have reason to believe that while there would be some fall off in trade, in the end it won't be all that much. And increased trade and relations with the rest of the Anglosphere would certainly help make up any shortfall from the rest of Europe.
Frankly I see little if any downside to the UK withdrawing from the EU and realigning itself with its former colonies and Commonwealth members.
But a group of five ordinary citizens were able to work out how to solve the problem in only an hour.
It seems to me we've been looking in the wrong place to find the answers needed to fix this problem. Some will claim their solutions are overly simplistic and overlook the nuances and complexities of the problem. But that is the problem. Those 'nuances and complexities' are what make it seem impossible to solve the problems. The folks in Washington tend to forget that no matter what they do, someone somewhere is going to be inconvenienced or hurt. The trick is that maybe we have to ignore that situation or any solution will be impossible. And then everyone will be hurt, possibly to a level not seen since the Great Depression. That is no solution.
What say you?
I've just returned from an exercise in small town democracy.
While most of our town's deliberations and voting on spending for municipal functions and education take place in February and March, an education issue going back to the March voting has come to a head and our school board decided it had to meet this head on rather than continuing an ongoing fight in the local papers, with heated point/counterpoint letters to the editor creating some of the best local gossip seen around here in some time.
It all came down to what is called a petition warrant article, in this case dealing with one specific petition warrant article that was aimed at eliminating an administrative position the petitioners believed was never authorized when our school district broke away from a larger school administrative unit (or SAU) 13 years ago. The warrant article passed by a 2 to 1 margin, but the school board ignored it, claiming it was "advisory only." That didn't sit well with a lot of folks in our town.
On top of that, the school board announced the day before the vote in March that they had hired a replacement to fill administrative position being vacated due to the retirement of the person occupying that position. Quite a few people saw that as a slap in the face, taking it as arrogance on the part of board by flaunting their decision ahead of the vote as if to say "We don't care what you want, we going to do it our way."
But was it arrogance? Or was it poor timing on their part? It doesn't matter, the reason being that perception is reality. (If the voters see it as arrogance then it is arrogance, motives not withstanding.)
A lot of people showed up for this 'special' school board meeting, held at the our high school auditorium, and a lot of people spoke up, not pleased with the way the board handled the matter. There had been a lot of name calling in the letters to the editor published in our two local papers. Some of the anger displayed in those letters was evident at the meeting as person after person took the opportunity to address their comments and questions to the board. There was plenty of fancy footwork (figuratively speaking) displayed by the board and the school district's attorney. A lot of people left the meeting feeling nothing had been accomplished.
Some questions did get answered. The one I asked dealt with what criteria is used to determine whether a petition warrant article is advisory or binding. (If the petition deals with a specific action, such as adding or cutting funding for a specific purpose, such as a job or activity within the town or school district, then it's binding. If it doesn't address a specific action, then it's advisory.)
One thing is certain, the people got involved in how our school board is performing its function. Another thing that's certain is that a number of school board members will be seeing some serious competition come the next election in March.
And so it goes in small town New Hampshire.
Some time tomorrow the House is supposed to vote on overriding Governor John Lynch's veto of House Bill 474, the Right To Work bill. The bill originally passed in both the House and the Senate with overwhelming majorities, though the original House vote was just 14 votes shy of a veto-proof majority.
However, House Majority leader William O'Brien may delay Wednesday's vote long enough to lock in the last votes he'll need to override the veto.
HB 474 supporters say the state will see a burst of job growth if the bill becomes law, and point to other right-to-work states as proof. Critics say right-to-work brings lower-paying jobs with fewer benefits, and that it sticks the nose of government into contract talks between labor and management.A lot of pro-union folks point to the "lower-paying jobs with fewer benefits" canard as if that explains everything and no further discussion is required. However, most of the 22 Right To Work states have a lower cost of living, so unless that factor is taken into account, which union supporters choose to ignore, the comparison is meaningless. As I've mentioned before, a perfect example of this factor can be seen in the battle between the NLRB and the state of South Carolina and Boeing.
If HB 474 becomes law, New Hampshire would be the 23rd state, and the first in the Northeast, to adopt the principle.
The unions in Washington State claim Boeing's new plant is denying the working men and women a living wage. While the pay for those employees in South Carolina is less than the pay of the union workers in Washington, the cost of living in South Carolina is also lower (as is the cost of doing business), which implies that taken as a whole, the workers in South Carolina are receiving comparable pay to those in Washington State.
And so it might be here in New Hampshire as well. If it helps lower the cost of doing business, then Right To Work will help lure more businesses from high cost states like Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, just to name a few. (It doesn't hurt that New Hampshire also has no sales or income tax.)
The days of forced financial support of unions by those not wishing to do so must come to an end. As the reasons for the existence of unions no longer exist, maybe it's time for them to fade away into history.
"This" is an editorial written by Charley Reese and it rightly attributes all of this country's problems to the 545 people in Washington who are, at the heart of it, responsible for the ills we've suffered for decades (and particularly the past few years). Reese doesn't play the partisan card, blasting both Democrats and Republicans for the troubles they've caused.
The portion quoted below is from the 1995 version.
Politicians, as I have always said, are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.Though a little dated, the points Reese brings up are just as valid today as they were 16 years ago.
Everything on the Republican contract ( Newt Gingrich's Contract With America - ed.) is a problem created by Congress.
Too much bureaucracy? Blame Congress. Too many rules? Blame Congress.
Out-of-control bureaucracy? Congress authorizes everything bureaucracies do. Americans dying in Third World ratholes on stupid UN missions? Congress allows it. The annual deficits? Congress votes for them. The $4 trillion debt (now $14 trillion -ed.)? Congress created it.
To put it into perspective just remember that 100 percent of the power of the federal government comes from the U.S Constitution. If it's not in the Constitution, it's not authorized.
As the saying goes, Read The Whole Thing.
Here in New Hampshire the governor put forth a budget that will bring spending down to pre-2008 levels in FY2012, trims the state workforce by 1100 jobs (10%), though only 255 jobs actual will be lost (the balance are jobs unfilled due to a hiring freeze), lowers the amount of state aid to towns and cities, pushes back the retirement age for state employees, and delays funding for hospital expansions. The new proposed two-year budget is $800 million lower than the present biennial budget, which helps fill the $800 million deficit created by the formerly Democrat majority legislature over the past 4 years.
To read some of the comments about the slimmer budget, you'd think the governor and the legislature is proposing stealing bread from the mouths of the poor at the behest of the rich. Some are proposing a state income tax or sales tax to fill the budget gap despite plenty of history showing the tax monies raised would only be wasted and, in the end, leave the state even more vulnerable to economic downturns. (All one needs to do is look at the states with such taxes to see what an unmitigated financial disaster was created by dependence on those taxes.) Far too many of the economic ignoramuses seem to thing we have a revenue problem when the truth is we've had a spending problem. As one commenter put it, "This is less than a 10% reduction in state spending. I know families that have reduced their spending by 10%, and some by as much as 40%." If we can do it, so can the state.
Other states, like Wisconsin and Ohio are seeing pushback by their state employees despite the fact that both states are facing huge budget deficits and raising taxes any further would cause far more economic harm.
In Wisconsin, state employees protested at the state capitol building, decrying Governor Scott Walker's push to limit the public employees unions' grip on state payrolls in an effort to deal with an $8.3 billion budget shortfall. Listening to some of the protesters you'd think they believe they have the right to a job for life and that the state's taxpayers had better come up with the cash to pay their salaries and benefits, or else. They complain about measures the state has taken that private businesses have had to take in the recent past in order to survive, like increasing the the amount employees pay towards their health insurance. What makes them think they are somehow immune from the effects of a bad economy and state cash flow problems? As if that isn't bad enough, Wisconsin State Senate Democrats have fled the state and hidden themselves in Illinois in order to prevent any further legislative action from being taken on the matter.
Similar scenes are taking place in Ohio as well, where the state faces a similar $8 billion budget shortfall.
The question is, when will the state legislatures and employees start listening to the taxpayers, who have said "Enough! We can't afford any more!" The answer? Not any time soon.
While there weren't nearly as many warrant articles to debate, they were more important because the school portion of our town's budget is two-thirds of all the monies that will be spent. And, unlike the town meeting, there was a lot of lively debate over two of the three warrant articles presented. In fact, the school district meeting lasted longer than the town meeting even though the town meeting had 20 warrant articles to address.
In the end, the final decision will be made by the voters on March 8th when all the warrant articles will be on the ballot and the voters will have their final say on the direction our town will take during the coming fiscal year.
Here in a paragraph is more wisdom than you'll find in the White House and the Dept. of State. Put together.
But [Bush's] belief that free elections would solve the problem of Arab radicalism and instability was completely wrong. At base, Bush's belief was based on a narcissistic view of Western values as universal.
Take theft. Today, huge numbers of Westerners live their lives as thieves in that they demand and take money extracted by force from others. They believe, immorally, that what would be armed robbery on the street if performed by a private person is quite moral so long as there is a majority vote in a legislature to authorize the same transaction if the private person is instead a tax collector. This is the two-wolves-and-a-sheep-voting-on-what's-for-lunch situation. Theft that's run through the legislature is still theft....It's undeniably both, but I think at root we have a moral problem made worse by democracy. We have widespread theft that's sanctioned by the electoral system.
The covetousness of socialism, race reparations garbage, and tax the rich rhetoric is clear.
Democracy ratchets feelings of ressentiment (Bertrand de Jouvenel's phrase) or envy, as I've quoted Bertrand Russell as saying. Amazing, that. This left-wing atheist saying the driving force in democracy is envy. But there you have it.
And who takes responsibility for anything these days outside mid-level officers in the Army? Was anyone fired for letting 9/11 happen? Bankers who blew a trillion dollar hole in the economy? Have we become a guilt-free society?
Except, I guess, for the smokers. But really their earlier deaths save money on the other end, making the cost argument mute.