Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Duplicative Government Programs Are a Symptom of the Problem
Best of all would be to close down all Federal departments that duplicate State depts. Who needs an EPA, an OSHA, a DEA, a Dept. of Health or a Dept. of Education when all States have regulations and depts in those fields? Americans may need government for many things but no American needs TWO governments for any of those things. The savings from ditching just the depts. mentioned above would be enormous, to say nothing of the savings from eased regulatory burdens
The Government Accountability Office has released its third annual report on fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative federal programs and activities. Proponents of making the government more efficient view the findings as an opportunity to achieve cost savings. While there’s obviously nothing wrong with the government spending less money than it has to, the goal should be to permanently shut the trains down – not just try to get them to run on time.
The GAO says “Enhanced collaboration between the Small Business Administration and two other agencies could help to limit overlapping export-related services for small businesses.” The federal government shouldn’t be subsidizing export promotion for commercial interests, period. (See here and here.)
The GAO says “Federal agencies providing assistance for higher education should better coordinate to improve program administration and help reduce fragmentation.” The federal government should not be subsidizing higher education, period. (See here.)
The GAO says, “To achieve up to $1.2 billion per year in cost savings in the Federal Crop Insurance program, Congress could consider limiting the subsidy for premiums that an individual farmer can receive each year, reducing the subsidy for all or high-income farmers participating in the program, or some combination of limiting and reducing these subsidies.” Federal crop insurance subsidies and all farm subsidies should be abolished, period. (See here and here.)
The GAO says, “Federal support for wind and solar energy, biofuels, and other renewable energy sources, which has been estimated at several billion dollars per year, is fragmented because 23 agencies implemented hundreds of renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010—the latest year for which GAO developed these original data.” The federal government shouldn’t subsidize renewable energy (or traditional sources of energy), period. (See here.)
There have been numerous attempts to “reinvent government,” “streamline the bureaucracy,” etc, over the decades as the government has expanded in size and scope. Perhaps the GAO report will spur another. But while the initiatives change, the result is always the same: we still end up stuck with a bloated Leviathan that continues to have its snotty nose in every facet of our lives.
As I often point out, waste always comes with government the same way a Happy Meal always comes with a toy and drink. There is duplication and waste in the federal government because it has become massive and there are virtually no limits on what politicians can spend money on.
I’m not suggesting that government waste should be ignored. Indeed, examples of waste should be held up as reasons to terminate entire government agencies and programs. But I believe that a myopic fixation on “eliminating duplication and waste” is itself a waste. That’s because duplication and waste are merely symptoms of the real problem of big government.
SOURCE (See the original for links)
Front Porches Now Ground Zero in Property Rights Fight
From Minnesota to New Mexico, overreaching regulators are violating property rights
During five tours as a U.S. adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ethan Dean considered it part of his mission to model and promote basic democratic values in the war-torn nations. Ink-stained purple finger principles like free elections, universal education, and individual rights the rest of us often take for granted.
As did Dean, until he got a “Dear John” letter of sorts during his fourth deployment — not from a wife or girlfriend, but the City of Winona, Minnesota.
Authorities in the southeastern Minnesota city informed Dean that he was breaking a law he’d never heard of: Renting his house without a permit in contravention of an ordinance capping rental properties at 30 percent of homes per block.
“This property is on a block that is over 30 (percent) which would mean that it cannot be certified for rental,” the city’s “Dear John” letter stated. “IT IS A VIOLATION OF WINONA CITY CODE CHAPTER 33A TO ALLOW OCCUPANCY OF A RENTAL DWELLING WITHOUT OBTAINING A HOUSING LICENSE.”
Dean’s property rights became collateral damage when Winona implemented what’s believed to be the nation’s first comprehensive rental cap ordinance . The 2006 law restricts rentals to 30 percent of properties per block to curb “excessive on-street parking, anti-social behavior and deteriorating housing conditions” in the college community. In reality, however, 75 percent of Dean’s neighbors had rental licenses, grandfathered in when the ordinance took effect.
Suddenly, one of the bedrock democratic principles Dean was introducing overseas — property rights — was under fire, not in the war zone but back home in the Midwest.
“If they realize they can get away with taking these rights away, what are they going to do next? How far are they going to go until it’s not the good, old USA anymore?” Dean asked.
Dean’s campaign on the home front, now in the courts, illustrates a widening divide over the purpose and primacy of property rights. As copycat rental caps soon passed in three more Minnesota cities and beyond, homeowners’ front porches have become the front lines in what’s turning into a definitive local property rights dispute.
Dean bought the 1800s Victorian house in 2007 to start a nonprofit recovery home for returning troops, the Welcome Home of Winona. Ultimately, he rented out the residence during deployments to help meet his mortgage payments.
Via email from Al Asad-Anbar Province in Iraq, Dean begged the city to allow him to continue receiving his vital $1,050 monthly rental check.
“If I cannot rent my home, it will be extremely difficult financially to make the monthly mortgage, as well as maintaining the utilities and upkeep,” Dean wrote in a letter presented to the Winona City Council in May 2010.
Under the radar, Dean chafed over city interference in email correspondence with a reporter at the time.
“I am currently on my fourth mission in Iraq,” Dean wrote from his post with the U.S. Army Human Terrain Team 3-7 infantry. “It kills me to defend our freedoms, when my own home is subject to some 1944 Berlin Nazi BS…I don’t care what the city says, THEY do NOT own MY house…why the hell do I need THEIR permission?????”
Wary of a public relations minefield, the Winona City Council granted Dean a waiver, but only until he returned stateside. For his service, Dean was welcomed home in 2011 with an upside-down mortgage and no more breaks from the city. Besides the loss of thousands of dollars in rental income, without a license to attract buyers interested in rental investments the market value of Dean’s house plummeted by an estimated $25,000. He had a house that could neither be rented nor sold.
“It’s gotten to the point now that something really central to the use of our property rights, being able to rent out your home, is being taken away,” said Anthony Sanders, Dean’s attorney with the Institute for Justice. “I think we have a really good shot at fighting back because people understand this is just such a central component to owning property.”
Peter and Frankie Smith fit the part perfectly in a newly contested case in New Mexico. The Army Corps of Engineers accused the retired couple of violating the Clean Water Act in mid-2011, declaring their parched desert property a water of the United States based on aerial photos, maps, and surveillance from a neighbor’s yard. According to the feds, the Smiths owned the proverbial waterfront property, classifying dry land as wet.
“They never phoned me, knocked on the door or anything like that,” said Peter Smith, a 65-year-old retiree. “They just wrote me this letter basically saying ‘you’re guilty’ and that’s all there is to it.”
The Smiths built their retirement home on 20 acres of bone-dry scrub brush and sand south of Santa Fe. In the process of cleaning up the place, Peter cleared out hundreds of dead trees and trash littering a dry ditch the feds dubbed the Gallina Arroyo. Acting on an alleged complaint, the Army Corps shot off a violation notice warning against “conducting any additional work in any stream, arroyo or wetland” without federal permission, stunning and stopping Smith in his tractor tracks.
“Somebody’s got to stop these regulators from taking people’s rights away,” Smith said. “Sitting here looking out my window, I can see probably 15-20 little beds and banks all with dead trees and garbage sitting in them.”
A retired surveyor who made his living sizing up land, Smith says the arroyo is a drainage ditch that’s dry year-around except for the rare storm in which the precipitation evaporates or seeps into the dry sand almost instantaneously. To the Army Corps, however, it’s a tributary that theoretically drains into the Rio Grande River 25 miles away, threatening the silvery minnow, a fish on the endangered species list.
“It sure appears to me they’re just after control of land,” Smith said. “They’re using the excuse it’s a water of the United States. If I went to the real estate salesman and said, ‘OK, the government has now declared I have waterfront property’, they’d laugh at me!”
A year and a half into their ordeal, the Smiths finally turned to the Pacific Legal Foundation, filing a lawsuit against the Army Corps in December 2012. The case accused the Corps of acting as a national zoning board with unlimited control over Americans’ land use, aiming for nothing short of a nationwide precedent to curtail Clean Water Act regulators.
“If the Smith’s dry creek bed really is a water of the United States under the Clean Water Act, then so is the drain in your front yard and so is the ditch in my back yard. If this is under their authority, then so is every square inch of America and legally speaking, that is not what Congress intended,” said Jennifer Fry, the Smiths’ PLF attorney.
The Albuquerque office of Army Corps of Engineers did not respond to requests for comment. Yet soon after the Smiths case went public, the Army Corps claim came and went as abruptly as a desert derecho. In March the agency withdrew its classification of the Smiths’ property.
“This episode should put the federal government on notice,” Fry said. ”If they try this ploy again — if they try, in effect, to seize private property by conjuring up a mirage of water where there isn’t any — PLF is ready to fight them in court, anywhere in the country.”
Increasingly, the case can be made that like politics, all property rights are local, regardless of the level of government jurisdiction involved. No wonder that city, state, and federal authorities across the county are closely tracking a Minnesota court ruling expected soon on the constitutional challenge brought by Dean and two other homeowners in January.
Win or lose, Dean will never get back his foreclosed house or an estimated $50,000 he invested.
“I’ve lost my house, I’ve lost my equity, that can’t be reversed and I understand and realize that,” Dean said. “The lawsuit is to bring justice back to the citizens of Winona.”
Ugliness from ugly ideas
The philistine statists who disgraced the streets of Britain with vulgar spasms of hate for Margaret Thatcher in the wake of her death on April 8 stunned decent people everywhere. Violence and bloodshed at so-called “death parties” erupted across the country. Walls and buildings were sprayed with the vilest of epithets. It was a sickening, even frightening, paroxysm from people who in their calmer “Kumbaya” moments talk incessantly of how much they care for others and want the government to be a helpful nanny in our lives.
They loathed Margaret Thatcher because she stood up to them, questioned their false compassion, and dared to expose statism as the senseless, dehumanizing cult that it is. She rhetorically ripped the velvet glove from the iron fist and spoke of welfare-state socialism as a wolf in sheep’s clothes. Those are things state worshipers cannot abide. Among the many debts decent people owe Margaret Thatcher is one that stands vastly magnified by her death: She coaxed out of hiding the intolerant, destructive essence of statism.
Americans might be asking themselves, “Ronald Reagan shared many of Maggie’s core beliefs, so when he died in 2004, why didn’t we see here the kind of ugly spectacles that have showed up since April 8 in Britain?” Don’t assume the Brits are a different, nastier lot. They’ve just gone a little further down the path on which we too are traveling. Think of the ugliness you saw this past week or so as a glimpse of what ugly ideas produce. It’s a taste of what’s in store for us if we do not come to our senses. If we keep hiring intellectual barbarians to teach in our schools and universities and if we continue electing their disciples to high office, then you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
If you want an American example of the statist wolf in sheep’s clothing, look no further than these comments from MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. She deplores the notion that children belong to their actual parents. She thinks they really belong to every other parent (translation: they belong to those parents who have political power). On the surface, the message sounds “caring” and “thoughtful.” Do you think she means things like parental choice in schooling or diversity in opinion within the schools? Why do I get the feeling when I watch her that I’m listening to one of the academic Khmer Rouge in our midst?
“Violence,” wrote Isaac Asimov, “is the last refuge of the incompetent.” This thought may explain why the plans that statists like Harris-Perry cook up for other people's lives are rarely voluntary. Statism at its core is ugliness writ large. It is violence raised to the level of social philosophy.
How can I make such a sweeping statement? Because statism isn’t voluntary, and if it isn’t voluntary, it’s violent. Either we interact with others in peace and mutual respect, or we boss them around as nanny states always do. We must choose between the power of love or the love of power.
If you’ve ever met a true-blue statist (and these days, who hasn’t?), you know what I’m talking about when I describe him this way: He thinks he has a monopoly on compassion and good intentions. He thinks that non-statists are either evil or stupid. He’s often more eager to shut you up than to engage you in serious discussion. He’s impervious to reason, logic, economics, history, and evidence because his good intentions are more important than such things.
When he talks about the rich and the poor, he reeks of envy. As Thatcher herself so eloquently put it in parliamentary debate, he cares less for the poor than he cares that the rich be punished. He thinks his plans for other people are so superior that he’s not content to persuade you to accept them; he’s ready to call the cops to force you to comply. He’s up to his eyeballs in the tyranny of political correctness and will savage you if you dare question his assumptions.
If he’s an academic, he will profess devotion to “academic freedom” but then use his tenure and political power to intimidate and monopolize. If the university hires its first defender of Western civilization, he’ll see it as a takeover and vigorously protest.
He’s an end-justifies-the-means kind of guy: If he has to buy your vote with other people’s money, look askance when voter fraud steals an election for his side, live one way and preach another, and apply endless double standards that always work in favor of his perspective, he’ll gladly do it and chortle to his friends about it. He’s for government-run this or that whether it works or not because what’s most important to him is that the State is in charge. His definition of good intentions trumps whatever the outcome might be.
When such people take to the streets with ugly actions, they should get credit for one thing: For at least a moment, they’ve ceased the deception and shown themselves to be what they really are. They are what Ayn Rand would call the “destroyers” among us.
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Posted by JR at 12:36 AM