Category Archives: Government

De-fund Amtrak already!

Our “good friend” Dick Durbin came to Quincy today to meet with a carefully selected group of people to talk about Amtrak. The general public wasn’t invited, but that’s no surprise given the cold reception Durbin has gotten here in the past.

Durbin and his pals are worried that Amtrak will lose it’s funding and that the runs to places like Quincy will end. They like to tout the numbers of people who ride Amtrak as a testament to it’s success. They cringe at the idea of a reduction in any government-subsidized programs, and Amtrak just happens to be one of those programs that are held up as being good for rural areas and economic development.

As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Programs like Amtrak are created by mostly well-meaning people trying to help others, even when those others aren’t asking for help. Rural train and air service is supposed to promote economic growth by improving access. Whether it does that or not can be debated, but that’s not really the issue. These programs can’t sustain themselves. The either cost too much and therefore don’t get enough riders, or they lower the cost to get more riders and don’t make enough money. Either way, the only way they can continue is for the government to prop them up with our money.

So why is ridership up? I figure the main reason is the cost of gas. Gas at near $4 per gallon has made a drive from Quincy to Chicago pretty painful. When the Amtrak is available at pretty cheap rates, it starts to make sense in comparison. Also, technically we (taxpayers) are already paying for it, so we might as well use it, right?

We shouldn’t all be paying for Amtrak. Let it support itself. Yes, ticket prices will go up, and they will need to learn to be more efficient. If they can’t make it work, then it should be shut down.

School Speed Limit Signs

For years in our area we’ve had the usual School Speed Limits signs. On the bottom of the sign it’s always said, “on school days when children are present”. I’ve never liked that wording because it’s far too vague. Am I supposed to know it’s a school day? If I don’t see any kids does that mean I don’t have to slow down? What about at 10PM at night on a Wednesday while a basketball game is over and kids are walking to cars?

So, I was very pleased several years ago to see new signs where the wording was replaced with a simple, “From 7AM til 4PM”. It’s simple, clear, and easy to obey. Every day of the year, regardless of circumstances, if the time is between 7AM and 4PM, you have to slow down. I don’t like writing checks to the court, so I follow these new signs to the letter. That upsets people following me on a Sunday who assume the signs don’t apply on that day, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just too bad.

I had thought all the schools in our town had gotten the new signs, with the exception of one south of town that’s a little out of the town proper. However, lately I’ve noticed a sign that was either missed or was changed back to the old version. Oddly enough, it’s part of a school zone where all the rest of the signs are the new “7 til 4” type. In fact, I pass the old sign, go through an intersection, and the pass a new sign.

I’m against spending money for no reason, and in fact just posted an example of where signs are being replaced pointlessly. In this case, it makes sense to fix what is otherwise a confusing situation.

 

Series: Improving education part 1

Education, and usually public school education, is always a hot topic in the news and politics. Bring up the subject in a group and you’ll quickly see people choosing sides, those who think that more money can fix the problems, and those who think that the system is broken beyond what money can repair.

Also, my part postings about public schools tend to get a lot of hits, so apparently it’s something people want to read about. So, I’ve decided to put together a series of articles addressing what I feel are the main problems in our education system in this country, as well as what needs to be done to address them.

To begin, I think it’s necessary for me to explain where I stand on the subject of public education as a whole. On a federal level, government has no business being involved in education – period. It’s not within the Constitution as a function of the federal government, which means that it resides with the States. So, things like the US Department of Education are unconstitutional and need to be eliminated.

At the state level, each state has the ability to decide, based on their state Constitution, whether or not that state should be involved in education. If a particular state wants to establish a public school system, that’s up to them.

With that said, on a philosophical level I don’t think government should be involved in education at all, which means that we should not have a public education system. There are few things that government does efficiently or effectively, and public education isn’t one of them. When a few government bureaucrats in the state capitol are making decisions for schools in remote parts of the state, there are going to be problems. Pushing the control down closer to the schools such as the Regional Office of Education or local school board helps, because they understand better the needs of the school, but even at that level there is the tendency to spend a lot of energy on politics rather than results.

Ultimately, if there were no public schools and only private ones, some interesting things would happen. There would be competition between schools to attract students, since more students (customers) equals more profit. Parents (customers) would be able to choose a school for their children.

To put this in the simplest terms, in our local system the budget works out to around $11,000 per student. Cut a check to every parent – $11,000 per student. Give them the option of sending their child to the local public school for that $11K or sending them to a private school for $11K. Suddenly there would be a lot of empty chairs in the public school, and the private schools, which don’t charge anywhere close to $11K, would be thriving.

Now, obviously it’s not as simple as just cutting everyone $11K checks per student. Some people pay in very little and others pay in far more than they will ever receive. However, the fewer levels of government involved in the process, the less money is wasted in the bureaucracy. Get the government out of the schools, cut taxes severely so that less is wasted in the bureaucrat shuffle, and if you need to have a safety net to help cover those few that genuinely can’t afford to educate their kids, that’s up to each individual community.

This all seems pretty radical since everyone has gotten so used to the government-run public school system, but when you really think about it, this is how things worked back before the government got involved. Local communities started their own schools, funded them locally, and communities helped out those who needed it.

Next installment: Dealing with the lack of discipline and respect in schools.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

H/T Daily Caller:

Here’s an illuminating article for you at the Daily Caller detailing how Obamacare is funneling money to corporations and unions in the guise of the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. Apparently the program is to cover health insurance for early-retirement programs from the retirement date until Medicare eligibility age. The whole point of offering employees early retirement is to give them a lump sum to leave early, therefore reducing ongoing costs going forward. I would assume that part of the package offered by the company would include health insurance, but I suppose that’s up to the company.

The telling part of the story is WHO the ERRP funds are going to. CBS and The Washington Post are receiving funds, and both of those news outlets are able to influence public opinion of the Obamacare policy as a whole. In addition to CBS and The Washington Post, money is being given to General Electric, Verizon and AT&T. These companies are made up of large numbers of union workers. Also, the unions themselves are getting direct ERRP funds – the United Auto Workers, Teamsters, United Mine Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, the AFL-CIO, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

So, what’s the best way to get re-elected? Reward those who elected you the last time. Funnel money to the liberal-friendly media that support your policies and to the unions who helped elect you. If you’re a union worker in this country, why would you vote against the Democrats? After all, you’re getting your big pensions and retirement plans and other benefits. Now they want to offer you free health insurance when you take early retirement. You’re getting yours, why should you care about the poor schlubs who are working their butts off to pay the taxes that are funding programs like the ERRP? The last thing you’re going to do is bite the hand that feeds you and elect a conservative that will put a stop to Obamacare.

Unless you have a conscience, that is, in which case you know that you’re basically standing on the backs of the citizens of this country while you wait for your next handout.

 

Democrats are driving businesses out of Illinois

High taxes and an anti-business climate in Illinois are driving people and business to leave the state. The latest news comes from Caterpillar, a company that is resisting the latest tax increases by contemplating a move out of the state.

The cold reality is that Illinois government is spending more money that it takes in. Expenses exceed revenues. It’s not really all that complicated to understand. The complicated part is getting people to understand what to do about it. Democrats think the solution is to increase revenues by raising taxes. Unfortunately that’s causing people and companies like Caterpillar to look hard at their finances and consider moving to a more friendly tax climate.

We’ve demonized business and the wealthy for so long now that the public’s knee-jerk reaction to news stories like this is to assume that such a move would be caused by greed. “Those corporate fat-cats are moving because they want to line their pockets!”.

What people tend to forget is that companies like Caterpillar employ a lot of people that otherwise wouldn’t have any jobs at all. Companies like Caterpillar are owned by many shareholders and people’s retirement funds are counting on them to make money. If Caterpillar doesn’t make smart business decisions, a lot of people will be affected, and most of them won’t be those supposed “fat-cats”.

There are plenty of other consequences of a company like Caterpillar moving out of Illinois. Many people in the Peoria area would lose their jobs, for starters. Property tax collections would take a huge dive, both from the direct loss of the Caterpillar properties and also from people having to sell their houses to move away, depreciating the housing market. Government agencies such as schools that depend heavily on those property taxes would have to make cuts. Local businesses who do business both directly with Caterpillar and also with the employees would suffer. It would take years, if ever, for Peoria to recover from such a loss.

Another town that could see a huge loss is Bloomington, the home of State Farm Insurance. Tax revenues drop because of the slow economy, government expenses climb because the Democrats have never met an entitlement program they don’t like, and the response is to try and soak a company like State Farm for more taxes. There will come a time when they will be pushed too far and it will make financial sense to pull their operations out of Bloomington, leaving a massive hole in the economy behind.

When will it get bad enough in Illinois that people finally wake up and quit voting Quinn and Madigan and the rest back into office? How many companies need to leave? How many people need to leave? The corruption just keeps getting worse and the debt keeps growing. If we can’t convince people to make a real change in leadership in this state the next election cycle, we’re doomed.

What would happen if we eliminated the EPA?

The Environmental Protection Agency was founded in the early seventies, like to many other socialist big-government agencies. Over the last 30 years, it has grown to a budget of over $10 billion and 17,000+ employees. Whether it has made a positive or negative impact on our country is a matter of opinion, but the fact is, it costs the American people a lot of money.

So, what would happen if we shut down the EPA? When the idea comes up of shutting down a major government agency like the EPA or DOE, a lot of people immediately think about the things that won’t happen. Some claim that corporations will dump waste in the oceans or CO2 will kill us all.

Since I happen to think the EPA does little good, if any, what I usually think of first is what would happen to the 17,000+ employees and their families if they lost their jobs? It sounds terrible to want to put those people out of work, so what should be done?

Today when I looked up the budget and staffing numbers, I found pretty much what I expected. The EPA costs almost $600,000 per employee to run. Now, obviously that’s not all salaries. There are other expenses such as utilities, office buildings, etc… But, it’s pretty clear that the money saved by shutting down the EPA would be more than sufficient to prop up those 17,000 people until they could find new jobs, plus save us a lot of money in the federal budget.

Also, keep in mind that that $10 billion isn’t producing anything. It’s not adding value to goods or providing services to people who want them. It’s just paying for an organization to come up with rules and apply them to the people. When a dollar circulates through the economy without adding value, it does nothing to stimulate that economy. Also, when that dollar is diminished in value because the hands it passes through all tear off a piece, it depresses the economy.

So what would happen if we shut down the EPA? Well, there would be an immediate 17,000 additional unemployed. The $10 billion saved would reduce the deficit, which would increase both consumer and world confidence in our economy. When confidence increases, people spend more and businesses expand and hire more, which in turn puts those 17,000 back to work.

Amazing, isn’t it? The free-market economy is a beautiful thing when government gets out of the way and let’s it work like it is supposed to.

Are we being fair to Ron Paul?

H/T News Real Blog:

Apparently Lisa Richards is pretty unhappy with Ron Paul’s earmarks in the scrapped Omnibus spending bill:

The anti-pork, anti-tax-hike, anti-IRS, anti-Fed libertarian Congressman Ron Paul has a dirty little secret: he is a pork-spending bureaucrat who stuffed the latest, and now defunct, $1.3 trillion dollar Omnibus bill with $8 million dollars in earmarks.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who looks at these bills.  Ron Paul has snuck pork into already inflated stimulus packages American taxpayers and the country cannot afford.

Now, I may not agree with Paul’s reasoning regarding earmarks. Apparently he’s against spending, but he feels that IF a spending bill passes, it’s his responsibility to make sure his district gets it’s cut. I’d like to think that I’d be more idealistic, and refuse to even cooperate with any spending bills by putting my earmarks in them, but I’m not Ron Paul and I don’t have to answer to his constituents.

Richards is being unfair, however, in criticizing the projects in the earmarks themselves. She points to the Gulf States Consumer Education Program and points out Paul’s stance that the Federal Government should not be involved in public education. If Richards checked her facts, she’d know that the Gulf States program has nothing to do with public education, and that it’s really something of an R&D program for the commercial fishing industry. Do I think the Fed should be handing out money to private industry for R&D? Of course not, and Paul shouldn’t be for that either, but if you’re going to bash the guy, make sure it’s for the right reasons.

The reality of it is, the current state of things has gotten so bad that it’s very hard to stand on principle. If Paul refuses to earmark and play the game, he risks the chance that his district will pay taxes into the system and get nothing back out. If he plays along, but then votes against the whole bill, he can be against spending, but make sure his district gets their cut in the event that it passes. This is no different than states deliberating on whether to turn down stimulus money. Our city government was encouraged to turn down money for a transportation hub. If they do so, it’s not as if the people in that district are then going to get a tax refund for the unused money; instead it will go to some other district.

The whole thing stinks, and there’s no good clean way out of it. Paul may not be holding fast as a pure Libertarian, but he’s doing far better than many others.

Will Obama’s pay freeze really save any money?

The big news is, there’s a planned pay freeze for several million government employees for 2011. It’s projected that it will save $2 billion in 2011, $28 billion after five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years.

I have a couple problems with this whole thing. Firstly, I have my doubts that a salary freeze is really going to translate into money savings. Keep in mind, base salary is only part of the equation. There are bonuses, overtime, benefits… It’s not exactly an original idea to shift money from one area to another in budgets. I’ll be surprised if any of these people that are having their pay frozen truly end up with less.

Next, government projections are just that – projections. They’re based on estimates that are truly more like guesses. The so-called experts cherry-pick the facts that they like and combine them with their guesses to come up with projections that their bosses want to hear. That $60 billion over 10 years is assuming the best of all conditions.

Lastly, who exactly is going to analyze the results after 2011, 2015, and 2020? Who is going to look at what savings were really seen and report back to us on the success or failure of the plan? No one, of course. No one will even remember. By then some other idiotic government power-grab will be big news. The 2012 elections will roll in and the Democrats will point to this stunt as an example of how important it is to them to reduce the deficit.

Prepare yourself, between now and November 2012, you can expect an avalanche of this kind of nonsense from the Democrats.

Republicans to try and cut public funding of NPR

H/T: The Hill

If you ask me, it’s about time. The firing of Juan Williams is being held up as the example of political bias in NPR’s reporting, but it’s hardly news that NPR is a shill for the liberals.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much money this would save. In the grand scheme of things, it would probably be a pretty small drop in the bucket. Regardless, it’s a drop, and we need to start somewhere. It’s a signal to the voters that the Republicans are listening and serious.

Hare on the defensive

There’s a good synopsis over at RedState about how Phil Hare is starting to panic.  When you look at what’s happened with Hare over the last year, it’s no wonder:

The guy is obviously scared to death that he’s going to lose his job. We’re planning on replacing him with Bobby Schilling in November.

Currently Schilling is leading by small margins in various polls. There’s not much point in referencing the polls and the actual margins, since they change constantly. The point is that it’s still a close race. How do we widen the gap and make sure Hare is looking for a new job soon?

The biggest problem is probably the makeup of the 17th Congressional district in Illinois.

Illinois 17th Congressional District

Only in Illinois can you see gerrymandering like that, folks! Basically what we have here is a district that was carefully crafted to make it solidly Democrat while at the same time locking up as many GOP areas as possible. The intent is to keep the conservative rural areas from being able to swing enough votes to have any effect on government. It’s Chicago machine politics at it’s most brilliant and also most corrupt.

The only thing they couldn’t plan for was the trio of Obama, Pelosi and Reid combining together to put this country on the fast track to ruin. The power grab by the Progressives (or Liberals or Statists) has been so heavy-handed and brutal that people who would otherwise not have gotten involved have woken up. Districts like the 17th are suddenly in play, and may very well end up GOP.

If you’re someone who wants to put Phil Hare on the unemployment line, there are several things you need to keep in mind:

1) This isn’t a gimme for Schilling. This race could go either way at this point.

2) Your vote counts. Your neighbor’s vote counts. In districts like this one, many people have become discouraged because in election after election, they voted only to find out that the Democrat strongholds in the urban areas made it seem pointless. It’s important to get out of that mindset and to get those around you out of it as well.

3) This has national implications. To stop and hopefully repeal the damage the Democrats have done under the Democrats, we need every seat we can get in Congress. That means we can’t take ANY race for granted. We need to work hard to win them all, and hope that when the dust settles we’ll have what it takes.

So get off your couch! Talk to your friends, neighbors, family – explain to them why you’re going to vote conservative. Sure, some might be die-hard liberals and impossible to convince, but there will be others that could go either way, or might normally not vote. Offer to give them a ride. Offer to watch their kids while they go vote. Help them understand the differences between Schilling and Hare. Make sure they understand the enormity of what is happening and how important it is that we change course before the USA as we know it is gone.