Thursday, March 29, 2007

Look out, Webb's Got a Gun!!!

My column from Thursday, March 29, 2007 Potomac News, "Look Out, Webb's Got A Gun":

Look out, Webb's got a gun
Charles Reichley
Thursday, March 29, 2007

On Monday, James Thompson, an aide to Virginia Senator James Webb, was arrested carrying a loaded gun into the Senate Office building in Washington D.C. Thompson spent a night in jail for carrying a pistol without a license. That was one night too many.

Senator Webb is a strong supporter of gun rights. He has a concealed carry permit, and a strong rating from the National Rifle Association. And Virginia is a good state for gun owners. The District, on the other hand, has banned guns. A federal appeals court recently found the ban unconstitutional, but for now it is still law. If you get caught with a gun, you will be punished for possessing the means to defend yourself.

The gun was in one of Webb's bags, and belonged to the senator. A "senior Democratic aide" said Webb gave Thompson the bag with the gun when he dropped Webb off at the airport. Thompson didn't know the gun was in the bag. Webb says he didn't give the gun to Thompson. It will probably be a while before we learn the truth.

I support Webb's position on gun ownership, but fault him for two reasons. First, reports say the gun was loaded. The NRA's gun safety brochure clearly states that your weapon should always be unloaded until you are ready to use it. Carrying a loaded weapon in a packed bag is asking for trouble, and Webb should know better.

More seriously, his actions give support to the enemies of the Second Amendment. The common argument against allowing citizens to own guns is that people can't be trusted to handle them properly and to behave responsibly. James Webb is a senator, a trained Marine and a long-time NRA member. If anybody could follow the rules of gun ownership, it would be Webb.

And yet Webb left his loaded gun in a bag in a car. He allowed a person without a permit to gain access to his weapon. Because Webb didn't tell Thompson, Thompson didn't know he had a gun in the bag, which means he didn't safeguard it properly. This is exactly the shoddy mistreatment and mishandling of a weapon that gun opponents point to when they try to take our guns away.

Webb let his longtime friend remain in jail overnight for doing nothing more than taking Webb's bags to his office. His denial of responsibility suggests Webb wants his aide to take the fall. Hopefully, Thompson will not pay the penalty for Webb's failure to take proper care with his weapon.

This brings to mind a story from Prince William County. It is a story of another person who inadvertently carried a weapon in a bag to a place the weapon was not supposed to be. It did not turn out well for the perpetrator.

On March 6, 2000, Anne Esteban, an art teacher in the county school system, arrived at school with her art supplies in a zipped yellow bag. Another teacher opened her bag and found a loaded revolver. The teacher told the authorities, and Anne was arrested.

Esteban had a concealed carry permit and carried the gun for self-defense. She had unloaded her school supplies the previous Saturday and placed the gun in the bag to take with her on errands. When she returned she put the bag in the closet without repacking. In her rush to get to school, she grabbed her supply bag, forgetting there was a weapon in the bag.

Anne was willing to accept a reasonable punishment. Instead, prosecutors made an example of her, bringing felony charges for having a gun at school. She was convicted, fined, sentenced to prison and fired from her job. Her husband took two jobs to pay the legal bills. She can't get a job teaching. All because she forgot she had a gun in her bag.

Like Senator Webb, Anne carelessly left a loaded gun in a bag. But, because she was just a teacher, she lost her job, and is now a convicted felon. And because James Webb is a Democratic senator, he will suffer no penalty, and any punishment will be borne by his friend who unwittingly carried Webb's bags for him.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Buying votes to quit the war

My Potomac News column from Thursday, March 22, 2007, "Buying votes to quit the war":

Potomac News
Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Democrats insist that they were put in power last November to end the war. I believe the election was much more complicated than that, and the results showed we are still a nation sharply divided.

In any case, since the Democrats took over the House and Senate, they have (thankfully) accomplished nothing in their attempts to surrender in Iraq and undercut the democratic government we helped create in that country. Not for lack of trying -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell counted 16 plans the Democrats have proposed so far, all variations on the same theme: We need to quit now.

Try as they might, the Democrats have been unable to pass a resolution through Congress, even a non-binding resolution which was little more than a "don't blame us when things go bad" proposal. Their last vote, on a binding resolution to quit next year, failed in the Senate by a 51-48 vote.

By the way, don't be fooled by those who call these attempts an effort to "stop the war." Nobody expects the war to stop when we pull our troops from Iraq. The war will continue, will escalate and will turn into a catastrophe of monumental proportions -- it's just that we won't have troops there to defend our interests or our allies.

Meanwhile, our troops are still fighting admirably. The reinforcement plan (surge) is ongoing. General Petraeus has taken charge, and is taking the fight against the terrorists and insurgents to the streets of Baghdad. While it is early, the new tactics seem to be working, although you won't hear that on your nightly news broadcast.

So the Democrats are in a bind. They wanted to undercut the surge before it has a chance to work, but they failed. They wanted to show results to the left-wing crowd that elected them. The anti-war activists have gotten very surly. They are picketing Speaker Nancy Pelosi's house in San Francisco, and staging sit-ins in the offices of Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Last week a video appeared on YouTube showing long-time anti-war Democrat Dave Obey arguing with an anti-war operative. Clearly exasperated that his efforts were not appreciated, he explained that he had to vote FOR the war funding to end the war, exclaiming "It's time these idiot liberals understand that."

He was speaking about the emergency appropriation needed to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democrats want to include provisions to control troop deployments, as well as a confusing timeline leading to a troop pullout whether our goals are met or not.

Unfortunately, some of his fellow Democrats seem to be "idiots" who don't understand. Speaker Pelosi is having trouble getting the votes needed to pass the bill. Some conservative Democrats won't approve the surrender, and more than a few liberals want to cut the funds now.

In late February, they adopted a new tactic to get votes. The House Democratic leadership added almost $10 billion in non-war spending to the bill, hoping to bribe the holdouts into voting for the measure. When that failed, they added even more spending. What was once a $100 billion appropriation to support our troops has bloated into a $125 billion pork-barrel extravaganza.

This past weekend the Washington Post said "House Democratic leaders are offering billions in federal funds for lawmakers' pet projects large and small to secure enough votes this week to pass an Iraq funding bill that would end the war next year." The projects include levees, aid to spinach farmers,and peanut storage facilities. There's money for wildfire suppression and to keep saltwater out of rice paddies. There's almost $200 million for fish projects and $22 million for salaries and additional office space for House members. This spending should be addressed through the normal appropriation process, not used to pay for votes.

War is one of the most serious acts a country takes. I welcome the debate about the war, if not the Democrats' destructive focus on losing. But if we are going to vote on the war, the vote should be held on its own merits so each representative can vote his or her conscience. A vote for surrender should not be bought with taxpayer money.

Democrats pay for surrrender votes

As I write this post, America has lost a battle in the War for our future. The Democrats were able to scrape together enough votes for a resolution to surrender to our enemies by next year regardless of the situation.

My column published yesterday dealt with the bribes the democrats needed to offer to their members to get enough of them to sell out our country.

Bush will veto this if it makes it that far, but the damage is done. Imagine instead a country where the Democrats, having won control and having seen how the Surge is working, get together with republicans to pass a nearly unanimous clean resolution showing our enemies that we are not backing down. Already running scared, it could have been their death knell.

Well, we were THIS close to acheiving that. 218-212. Two republicans voted with democrats, but that still is 216-214. Jo Anne Davis inexplicably didn't vote (maybe there's a reason) -- but that is still 216-215.

In other words, this is entirely on the Democrats. But had the vote been 215-216, Pelosi had said she would put out a clean bill, which would have gotten wide support.

3 votes. 3 votes between new life for our adversaries, or their total demoralization.

It is a sad day for our country. Our only saving grace is a President who will stand up to this crap.

If the republicans in the Senate were wily, they would force a vote on the house bill without change TOMORROW, and all vote for it -- just so we could get it to the President for VETO before the Sunday talk shows. That would send a message, and give us time to correct this fiasco.

Or better, it would force the democrats in the senate to FILIBUSTER the house bill to prevent humilation -- and that itself would send a message.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why do I blog?

Apparently the VBC hoster assigned a topic for the carnival. And while I don't do the carnival on purpose, and purposely therefore ignored the assignment (after all, I never listened to my mother, and the VBC hoster is not my mother), I decided to answer the question anyway now that the VBC is posted:

So, why do I blog?

Self Loathing.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Government for Community, not for Individuals

After a week discussing the first part of my immigration plan (a column not yet on the web site, so I haven't posted it), I went back to expand on my theme from two weeks ago regarding what government should spend money on.

My column, Government for the Community, touched on the purpose of Government to serve the community, not individuals, the problem of government funding private charity, and how the only thing that will save us are people willing to enforce fiscal discipline:

Government for the community

By Charles Reichley
Potomac News
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two weeks ago, I argued that Prince William County should not run a senior day program. Unfortunately, the Board of County Supervisors deferred a decision on the program until June, after supporters put together a group of over 30 citizens (more than use the program) to lobby for its retention.

This shows why it is so hard to cut the county budget. Each day another letter-writer bemoans cuts in "critical" services, noting taxpayers are only saving "pennies" a day. The truth is, while the average tax cut will be about $138, funding all the programs requested would require a tax increase.

Still, the problem is clear. People who use a program will show up to defend it. A packed house attended last Tuesday's board meeting to save the program. But who will take a day off from work to fight for "pennies a day"? There are over 400,000 people in our county. Cut a program used by 30 people, and they are much more motivated to fight for the program than the other 399,970 are to kill it.

In fact, if someone asked you to donate a buck to save the program, you might well do so. But nobody is asking you -- instead, they are asking the county to take the dollar from you by force of law.

One person who supports the center questioned giving tax dollars to private non-profits to perform services. I agree -- the county should not give our money to private organizations who serve individuals, any more than they should spend the money directly.

The entanglement of charities and government makes it harder to cut programs. Organizations have paid lobbyists to attend meetings and explain the dire consequences of funding cuts. The board is told how their small "donation" is multiplied by volunteer efforts and private giving, so a small cut will have a large impact on the programs being supported.

If a program is a legitimate government service, there's nothing wrong with contracting a private organization if they can do the job better and more efficiently than the government. But it should not be treated as a "donation" or "matching contribution". And a program that isn't appropriate for government does not become "appropriate" by laundering the money through a charitable group.

What is an "appropriate government service?" The key is whether a program primarily helps individuals, or primarily helps the community. Of course, any program that "helps individuals" could have a side effect of helping the community.

Government is for the community, not for the individuals in the community. If a program mostly serves individuals, it is suspect. If it duplicates services available from the private sector, it is additionally suspect. If it's only for a small group of people, not the entire community, government probably shouldn't be involved.

In the case of the senior program, the community wasn't suffering because a few seniors needed day care. You can hire home caregivers. There is a private center available. The program only serves a few people, and isn't open to the general population.

Compare that with the library system. Every resident can use the library -- in 2005, our libraries had more than 1.5 million visits. While you can buy books, an individual cannot access millions of literary works. Schools use libraries to provide reference material for students. Libraries are a place for citizens to gather, and for programs which benefit the community and are open to all.

The county has proposed eliminating two community libraries. People who use those libraries are lobbying the board to reconsider. The savings are similar to the senior program cut, but the library serves the whole community while the day care program primarily benefits a few individuals.

The Founders had a wise idea -- that any money collected by government be paid equally by all, and spent for the good of all. That way, nobody could use government to take money from their neighbor for their own use.

What keeps government from taxing the richest people, and using the money to buy everybody else a big-screen TV? Only citizens who know it is wrong to take other people's money for their own enrichment -- a group that sadly seems to be fast shrinking.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Democrats On Suicide Watch!!!

Washington Post -- The Surge is Succeeding:

And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantial evidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion of new forces, is having a significant effect.
As the Fadhils report, "Commanders and lieutenants of various militant groups abandoned their positions in Baghdad and in some cases fled the country." The most prominent leader to go into hiding has been Moqtada al-Sadr. His Mahdi Army has been instructed to avoid clashes with American and Iraqi forces, even as coalition forces begin to establish themselves in the once off-limits Sadr City.
A greater sense of confidence produces many benefits. The number of security tips about insurgents that Iraqi civilians provide has jumped sharply. Stores and marketplaces are reopening in Baghdad, increasing the sense of community. People dislocated by sectarian violence are returning to their homes. As a result, "many Baghdadis feel hopeful again about the future, and the fear of civil war is slowly being replaced by optimism that peace might one day return to this city," the Fadhils report. "This change in mood is something huge by itself."

The Democratic Party has based their entire existance on the notion that we had already LOST the Iraq war, and that only they could see reality and save our troops from further pointless wasted losses.

However, they have failed to do anything to actually implement their strategy of defeat. And if the Surge succeeds, and Iraq becomes the stable partner the republicans want it to be and the democrats fear it might be, the last four years of democrats trying at every turn to defeat our country in Iraq will have been for naught.

Which may depress a lot of them. So if you know any liberals, please monitor them for signs of depression and suicidal tendencies. Their side may yet lose this war.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Iranians, Democrats join to Attack American War Effort

When your position matches that of an Iranian Dictator, a SANE person would realise they had made a mistake. But Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi aren't likely to be taken for sane these days. From the Telegraph, Iran tells US to set timetable for Iraq exit:

Iranian officials last night demanded a timetable for US troop withdrawal from Iraq as they attended a rare meeting with American diplomats in Baghdad.

From CNN, Anti-war House Dems demand 'clear timeline' for pullout:

Anti-war lawmakers Thursday called on colleagues in the House of Representatives to set a "clear timeline" for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, challenging fellow Democrats to assume the political risk of ending the war.

I saw that Hillary is having trouble getting to a majority for her Presidential run. Maybe the democrats should consider the Iranian leader for their nominee -- he's right in line with their party platform on defeat for America.

Why not ask the Generals?

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado 4th District: "Rather than consulting with the commanders on the ground about the best policy for victory in Iraq, Democrats have spent several weeks arguing with themselves, trying to rummage enough votes to pass their plan for defeat."

From the Pueblo Chieftan, Dems want to use budget bill to withdraw troops:

Just weeks after passing a resolution opposing President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, House Democratic leaders unveiled a plan Thursday calling for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq in 18 months at the latest.

Nice they can see into the future and know there's no reason for troops after that point. But Pelosi's got a problem with her own caucus:

Whether there are sufficient votes to pass it was uncertain because some moderate Democrats, such as Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., did not endorse the measure.

Others will vote because the troops need money, but resent the leadership hijacking the process:

Rep. Mark Udall, the 2nd District Democrat who is an acknowledged candidate for the Senate next year, said he would support the supplemental budget bill because it was essential to maintain U.S. troops in Iraq. He objected to having a timetable for withdrawal, though.

"I think it would be wiser if that were not part of the final bill that we will consider on the floor of the House," he said in a statement.

Pelosi and the Democrat leadership are trying to buy off wavering democrats with unrelated pork tacked onto the bill that won't go through their new "pay-go" rules:

Pelosi and House Democratic leaders have added other money to the initial $93 billion request, including some $4 billion in disaster-assistance funds - some of which Salazar and Musgrave hope will be shared with Colorado ranchers and farmers hurt by recent blizzards.

About 10% of the bill is unrelated to it's purpose of funding the war. The Democrats promised to clean up Washington, and a lot of voters, tired of the Republicans paying lip service to limited government, took them up on the offer.

But unlike the Republicans, who took several years to abandon their princples after winning back the House in 1994, the Democrats never even paid lip service to their promised "new tone" or the "ending of the culture of corruption". Instead, they have shut out the republicans, and used pork spending and intimidation tactics to arm-twist their own caucus to support their plans.

If you won't stop the war, you better give the generals what they need

The Democrats are still showing the same lack of courage of their convictions regarding the war, talking about how it is wrong, how our troops are being wasted, how it's just hurting us, but refusing to even bring up a vote cutting off funds.

They are afraid that if they take real action, they will have to accept responsibility for the results. And while they talk like they are sure, they aren't. They are worried the surge will work. They are worried that pulling out immediately will be a disaster worse than Vietnam, and that they will be blamed for it.

But they do seem ready to block any attempts by the administration to WIN the war. And I want to say they better stop. For example, in this Reuter's story we find "US general wants more troops for volatile province":

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. commander for northern Iraq has asked for more troops to clamp down on insurgent attacks and sectarian violence in the volatile province of Diyala, he said on Friday.
"Could I use more forces in Diyala? No question about it and I'm in discussions about it with Gen. Odierno as he attempts to balance the requirements in Baghdad," Mixon told reporters at the Pentagon by videolink from Iraq.

The article notes that the Democrats are trying to stop additional troops:

Despite opposition from Democrats who want a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, President George W. Bush has already ordered more than 20,000 additional troops into battle, most of them to help stabilize Baghdad.

But to their chagrin, it appears things might be getting better:

He said he was encouraged by security progress in other northern provinces but that violence had increased in Diyala.

Mixon said U.S. forces believed extremists had moved into Diyala from Baghdad, where U.S. and Iraqi troops are engaged in a security crackdown, and the western province of Anbar, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda fighters.

The article notes more troops might be needed:

"If we do not, I will make adjustments and I may go back to Gen. Odierno and ask for additional support," he said.

Gen. David Petraeus, the overall U.S. commander in Iraq, said on Thursday Diyala required attention and Baquba was an "area of concern" due to sectarian tension. He indicated such areas would get more troops.

A senior Pentagon official said this week the number of additional U.S. troops needed to carry out Bush's security plan for Iraq could approach 30,000, taking into account units needed to support 21,500 extra combat troops announced in January.

So I will say this to my Congressman Davis (who voted against the additional troops the General said he needed) as well as my Senator Webb:

If you don't have the GUTS to vote to end the war and bring our troops home, you DAMN WELL better support whatever it is the Generals say we need to win the war. There's no MIDDLE GROUND except a disastrous defeat.

Obey: "We have the votes if you guys quit screwing it up"

It seems the democrats are trying to sneak through a resolution to end the war, using language that they hope is obscure enough that it's true meaning is hidden, but Obey let the cat out of the bag arguing with anti-war protesters who he claimed kept "screwing it up" by publicising what they were trying to do while protesting it.

The anti-war left posted an interesting clip on YouTube this week, an ambush of Congressman Obey in the halls of the House or Representatives. A lot of people are entertained by Obey, a staunch critic of the war from day one, being attacked by anti-war people for not doing enough. At one point he even calls them several names normally heard only from the likes of Ann Coulter.

I actually felt sorry for Obey. The questioners used one of their typical bait-and-switch tactics, asking about the injured soldiers in order to force him to stay so they could ambush him on secret camera about his supplemental. If you watch the beginning, you will see how the 2nd person walks past Obey and corrals his staffer to leave Obey alone with the "distraut woman" while a 3rd person filiming ducks the camera down until Obey has his back turned and can't see it.

But there is a very interesting thing Obey said during the tape, starting around 5 minutes into the video. He says clearly "We don't have the votes", meaning they don't have the votes on the floor for an open resolution which ends the war. Then he says "We do have the votes if you guys quit screwing it up".

The Democrats know they can't get a straight, open vote to end the war. But they hope that by burying just the right language in the supplemental, they can trick people into voting to end the war without having to say it.

Unfortunately, the anti-war left doesn't trust them anymore, and so the anti-war protesters are attacking the bill because the "end the war" part is so-well hidden they don't understand it. Obey has to explain it to them, but in doing so he lets the cat out of the bag.

It won't matter, Bush won't sign a bill establishing timetables for the end of a war because you can't possibly know when you will finally defeat your enemy. And he should veto this monstrosity anyway -- it's supposed to fund the military, and it's got over 10 BILLION dollars of democrat add-ons for stuff not associated with the war, and which is not paid for under the Democrats new "pay-go" rules.

This includes money for Lousiana to try to buy back the democrat votes before the next election.

Playing politics with war -- I had hoped that once the Democrats were in power, at least they would accept their responsibility for this country.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Not Yours to Give!

In my column from last week, I referenced a letter supposedly written by Davy Crockett which I found at the New Hampshire Center for Constitutional Studies. In an article they also titled "A Lesson On The Role of Government With Respect To Charity", they reprinted the story under the heading "Not Yours to Give!".

I can't say whether the story is true or not. I spent a little time looking for information, but I'm not a researcher. Congressional records don't exist for that time. But whether it's real or not, it is a great explanation for why government should NOT be in the charity business.

In my column, I mentioned a section of the story which was supposed to be a constituent's argument to Davy Crocket as to why he wouldn't get the man's vote. The full text:

" 'It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the govment ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question.

The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be intrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government.

So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any thing and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper.

You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief: There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the suffers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of men in and around Washington who could have given 520,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.

The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditable; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution. the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.

So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch it's power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you..'

It's hard today to even imagine what government would be like that didn't provide a host of personal services to it's constituents. Prince William has it's own Water Park. It runs golf courses (I just read a great article by Thomas Sowell where he notes that golf courses are NOT for the poor and indigent). There are homeless shelters, a skate park, and yes, two Senior Day Care centers.

We are working to cut our budget, but are debating whether to build a new baseball stadium for a businessman who owns a minor league ballclub to use. And whenever you try to cut any individual charitable program, people who use the program will rise up and point out all the other "less worthy" charities that are being funded. I got a good list from one reader who supported the Senior Day center.

That argument won't work with me because I agree they should all be cut. Government is way too big. It does way more than it ever was intended to do, or has a right to do. Government is not a particularly efficient provider of services, and it has no idea about cost/benefit.

In contrast, the free market is brutally efficient, and well-capable of setting the "correct" price for services, much to the shagrin of those who enjoy getting subsidized services at other people's expense. A private company would offer Senior Day care services if there was a demand at the price it cost to deliver those services. If there is no demand, the service won't be offered, if the people who want the service aren't willing to pay what it costs, they have effectively chosen for themselves not to partake of the service.

If someone is not willing to pay the full value of something, I'm not going to feel guilty when they tell me it's so important that it's my responsibility to help them pay for it.

You are not responsible for my parents

The title I chose for my column last week was "County Taxpayers are not responsible for your parents". I argued for ending the Senior Day Care program.

Anyway, my column was published under the heading "You are responsible for your own parents." In fact, I did not say anything about someone being responsible for their parents. I wasn't trying to tell people to take care of their own parents. I was simply saying that government, as a representative of the taxpayers, is not responsible for taking care of people's parents for them.

The column hasn't made it to the web site yet, so I don't have a link, but since it's my column I don't really need one:

Critically Thinking
By Charles Reichley
March 1, 2007

County taxpayers are not responsible for your parents

After years of double-digit growth, Prince William County is finally taking steps to curtail its runaway spending. However, even these first small attempts are meeting heated opposition, primarily from those who benefit from the County’s largesse.

First up is the Manassas Senior Day Program. This hardly counts as a difficult budget choice. As Sunday’s Washington Post notes, “(County Executive) Gerhart said he would have recommended its closure even if budget cuts were not necessary.” The program is underutilized. According to the Potomac News, there are only four regular attendees, and twenty seven occasional users.

Also, private Senior Day Care is available. Gerhart cites this alternative saying “As a government, we don't exist to out-compete with the private sector”. The director of the Prince William Agency on Aging said the private program is bigger and offers more services for about the same price.

But even if there were no private alternative, the government has no business offering subsidized day care for adults, children, or pets. Government does not exist to meet the needs of individual citizens, but rather to ensure the common good for all citizens.

I found an article claiming to be the words of the legendary Davy Crockett. Congress was voting to give money to a Navy Officer’s widow, and Representative Crockett took the floor in opposition. His argument? “Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity”.

Explaining his opposition, Crockett recounts a vote he cast to provide aid to families in D.C. who had lost their homes to a fire. Later, while running for re-election, a constituent took him to task for that vote. Crockett was surprised the man would complain about giving “the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve suffering women and children”.

The man’s response should be required reading for every politician. I can only summarize it here – read it all at The “power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure” is dangerous, and easily abused. Taxes are paid by people who might be needier than those to whom those taxes are given. If a politician can give away one dollar of the taxpayer’s money to one individual, the politician can collect any amount of tax and “give to any thing and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper.”

This opens the door “for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other”. To drive home the point, the man charges: “If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief.”

Government has no right to give away tax money, and no authority to provide individual services such as day care for people’s parents. But some argue this is exactly what the government must do. One supporter said the board had responsibility for the elderly. “Our impaired elderly have no voice except that of their caregivers and you, their government officials”. This is wrong – government officials give voice to all the people, not just a few. And taxpayers are not responsible for an individual’s parents, impaired or otherwise.

The comments of some supervisors show the corrupting influence of the power to give away other people’s money. Dumfries Supervisor Maureen Caddigan responded to the lack of demand for the program by urging supporters to drum up more clients for the program. Woodbridge Supervisor Hilda Barg complained that since the County runs a program on the other end of town, it wasn’t fair to close down the Manassas program. “We should treat all of our citizens equally", she said, arguing to continue the wasteful spending. But spending the taxpayer’s money to benefit a few people isn’t “treating all of our citizens equally”. There are thousands of taxpayers that have needs but aren’t expecting other taxpayers to pay for them.

I realize that losing this program will be a hardship to those who use it. But that is no reason to continue a wasteful, underused program that never should have existed in the first place.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mitt Romney on America's Culture and Values

7. Affirming America's Culture and Values:
American values are at the heart of America's historic rise to world leadership. These include, among others, respect for hard work, sacrifice, civility, love of family, respect for life, education and love of freedom. To remain a superpower in the world we must continuously and vigorously reaffirm these key components that have led to America's greatness as a country.

Governor Romney: "America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home."
(UPI, February 26, 2005)

Governor Romney: "What is the culture of this country, what are our underpinnings? We respect hard work. ... We are self reliant, we respect human life, we are a religious people. ... We are a purpose-driven people founded on the family unit. I think every child deserves to have a mother and a father."
(Union Leader, March 19, 2006)

Governor Romney: "Last year the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck a blow against the family, as I'm sure you know. The court forgot that marriage is first and foremost about nurturing and developing children. Its ruling meant that our society is supposed to be indifferent about whether children have a mother and a father."
(Boston Globe, March 2, 2005)

Governor Romney: "What is it about America's culture and values that makes us such a successful nation and society? Part of that is we love liberty, we love our country, we're patriotic," Romney said. "I believe it's also because we are a people who love God and look for a purpose greater than ourselves in life."
(Boston Globe, May 18, 2006)

Governor Romney: "I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate."
(Boston Globe, Mitt Romney Editorial, July 26, 2005)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Would Rudy Still Support Abortion if he saw This?

Abortion stops a beating heart. It's easy to say, but a picture is worth a thousand words. New technology will change the face of the abortion debate. As seen in this new commercial:

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Push is on to end secret ballot union elections

Or, Secret Ballots are OK for Mexico, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the civilized world, but not for poor employees being sucked into a union.

My column from last week's Potomac News, Push is on to end secret ballot union elections:

Potomac News
Thursday, February 22, 2007

The secret ballot is fundamental to our election process. But it wasn't always that way. It was only through hard lessons learned about voter intimidation that secret ballots gained widespread use by the late 1800s. Only by making it impossible for party bosses, company enforcers, and union thugs to know how a person voted could elections truly be free.

But now labor unions want to end the use of secret ballot elections for employees choosing whether to have union representation. And the Democratic Party is supporting their anti-democratic agenda.

At issue is a practice called the "card check." When a union wants to organize a group of workers, they distribute cards requesting union representation. If 30 percent of the workers sign the cards, the union can force an election. If 50 percent sign up, they can ask the company to recognize them without an election.

Some employers accept union representation when the 50 percent threshold is reached. Others enter into binding agreements to do so, in which the employer actively helps the union obtain signatures from the workers. When a union is accepted based on signatures, it is called a "card check" election. Otherwise, an "NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) election" is held.

Unions are not happy with this process. While over 60 percent of NLRB elections are won by unions, there are many cases where a majority of employees sign the cards but then vote against the union in the election. This seems to indicate that some people sign but don't really want a union. But election opponents see this as a conspiracy to deny workers the representation they want (despite the fact that they vote to reject the union).

So unions are pushing a new law, ironically named the "Employee Free Choice Act," to eliminate elections, and instead certify a union if it collects enough signed cards. This will lead to a lot more unionized businesses. It will also subject anti-union workers to intense prolonged pressure to "support" unionization.

Election opponents claim more workers report coercion in NLRB elections than in card check elections. But that is obvious -- card check elections are only accepted by agreement with the employer. The agreement suggests cooperation which means there is no need for coercion.

The history of "open" elections shows fear, intimidation, and guilt used to force people to vote the "right" way. But a card collection "election" is even worse. Elections take place over a period of a few days, limiting the time those who seek to steal an election have to pressure voters.

But union cards are collected over a period of weeks, months, even years. If you say no today, union representatives will be back tomorrow, and the day after. They can get friends and family to pressure you. They can call you on the phone and show up at your door. They can use other union members to lobby you. Pro-union co-workers could pester you or worse to get you to sign.

And if you ever give in, and sign the card just to end the harassment, the cards are held by the union. There may be procedures for revoking the card, but you have to go through the same people who spent months pestering you to sign the cards.

If you've ever been pressured to switch phone companies, and then tried to revoke that decision, you have a small taste of what this new process could be like. The phone company does it for a few bucks a month. The union stands to make a lot more, so they have a much greater incentive to make your life miserable.

Meanwhile, the law already prohibits excessive coercion in NLRB elections. Complaints are in fact rare, and actual violations are rarer still. For example, in 2005, only 137 out of 2115 elections had any complaints, and only 10 objections were found to have merit.

We could strengthen the law to add more protections for workers. But don't take away the right to free, fair, and secret ballot elections. Once a union is approved, it's virtually impossible to go back. A secret ballot election is the only way to ensure that irrevocable choice is what workers really want.