Monday, March 30, 2009

It's The Host's Fault?!

Here's an article I found in some newspaper (I forgot which one, I apologize to the author in advance). Apparently if someone drinks alcohol at a party you hosted, it's your fault if anything happens to that person.

Again, personal responsibility in this country has gone out the window! It's THEIR fault if they get a little tipsy and do themselves harm. The host did not force anything down the person's throat...the individual made the decision to have too much to drink and do themselves harm. It's ludicrous to hold someone else responsible for the decisions and choices of others. It also goes to show how much reform we need to our legal system.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Something I Can Agree with Obama on...

Obama has said that he will support and pursue performance-based pay system for teachers. Long opposed by the teachers' unions that are bedfellows with the Democrats, it is kind of a surprise to see Obama pursing this course. I hope he follows through on it, and I only have a couple concerns.

1) He wants to not have pay based on test score improvement, though I think that should play into the equation a little bit.

2) He wants it mostly focused on teacher credential acquirement, which I also think is important but should not be the only basis for performance pay.

Here's a story from the Argus Leader.

I am interested to see how this will play out and what his true intentions are...but for now I support it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

On Fiscal Irresponsibiliy

The stupidity of government never fails to amuse me. Look at the recent American International Group (AIG) bailout fiasco. The president signed the bailout bill without hardly reading the table of contents, and lo and behold Senator Chris Dodd, with the encouragement of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, inserted language that allowed for $165 million to be paid as retention bonuses to AIG executives. Public outrage prompted several senators to insist on taxing these bonuses at rates of up to 90%.

This situation disturbs me on so many different levels. First, we have the government singling out specific individuals for taxation just because the government feels they deserve it. Second, what other asinine things were in that 1000-plus-page document that we have yet to discover? And last, this really shows how redundant and inefficient government is. They buy a bailout on our ever increasingly maxed-out credit card, give $165 million to executives, then decide against it and tax the money back. The government gives with one had and takes with the other, all the while senators and bureaucrats are paid in the process, wasting our money as it gets passed around. We become mad at the people receiving bonuses and demand that money is returned, but it should be noted that President Obama received $130,000 in 2008 campaign contributions from AIG. Is he giving that money back? All our representatives in Congress are granting themselves bonuses and pay raises, many of whom were responsible for either promoting policy that led to this mess, or did nothing to prevent this crisis. Why aren’t more people outraged over that?

Not only are our spending practices off the hook, but also so the amount of spending we’re doing! President Obama also promises to cut the budget deficit in half? Nice. It would sound better if he didn’t triple it first!

All this is part of a broader misunderstanding on the part of the public. Remember back at the end of President Clinton’s term in office when we had a slight budget surplus, and there was all the debate in the 2000 about how best to spend it? Pay off the national debt! Government is sneaky in how it abuses your money, and gives us a sense of victory when we have a little extra money for the year. A budget surplus simply means that we spent less money that year that the government collected…but we still DEBT back then. So Obama can promise to cut the DEFICIT in half, but that doesn’t do anything to help rid us of the national debt, which is the accumulation of years of budget deficits ($11,052,095,977,798.83 as of writing). President Bush took us down the road of huge deficit spending, but President Obama, with his massive new spending proposals, made a huge left turn that got us on the interstate.

All these problems stem from a greater crisis, in that we as a society have been spoiled with a sense of entitlement from the government. We have been granted governmental services for years that we as a nation cannot afford. Few are willing to give up these provided services. For example, the bailout money given to South Dakota was used to keep the South Dakota Art Council going. A great program, to be sure…but that was kept by throwing the cost on the national credit card, because we simply cannot afford it. Years of unfunded spending will come back to hurt us, and we need to change that now.

I have a simple solution. Why doesn’t some brave representative propose legislation requiring of the national government what the states and we as individuals must do? Spend only what we have and live within our means.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Income Tax Unconstitutional?

Here's a thought that just popped into my head the other day, and I don't have an answer one way or another, so I was just wondering all of your thoughts on it.

Is income tax unconstitutional? Full disclosure, many of you know that I would personally favor a national sales tax, or FairTax, as opposed to income tax (I'll probably make a post about that at some other time), but I'm not really trying to push for one or the other in this post. I'm just looking at the idea of income tax in a new light, because taxation is taxation in one form or another, and whatever way we accomplish it, we can still have the argument over how much we should be taxed, so I don't really see this post as a partisan post.

First off, here is the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that explicitly allows for income tax collection:
"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
Pretty explicit, right?

What I'm thinking is that the 16th Amendment goes against the 14th Amendment (amended prior to the 16h), specifically in the first line. (The rest of the Amendment deals with abolishment of slavery, which gives us keen insight to the intent of the 14th Amendment). Here's the first part of the 14th Amendment, which deals with equal protection:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
I specifically put "equal protection of the laws" in bold, because doesn't income tax go against that? It is specifically discriminates against citizens based on their accumulation of wealth. As in the context of the time, former slaves were being singled out simply because of their skin color and not given the same rights to life, liberty, and property. Fast forward to today, wealthier individuals are being singled out to "deprive" them of economic liberty and property (money).

Would not a flat tax or a flat sales tax grant more equal protection under the law, in that every citizen is subject to the same taxation rate under the law without discrimination?

For the poor, they (we) naturally pay less tax anyway, because either under a flat tax they make less income and are therefore taxed less, and with a national sales tax they buy less and buy cheaper items. Those are individual experiences outside the law, which under a flat/fair tax applies to all equally, and individuals are free to move up and down without any discriminatory change.

It is not the law's job to discriminate on any basis, but to afford equal protection to all individuals.

Here's another thought. If my argument were to be valid, that means that two parts of the U.S. Constitution conflict with one another (the 16th and 14th Amendments). What does that mean? Say, for simplification purposes, we pass an amendment that states, for example, "be it here deemed, capital punishment shall hereby be a legal and just means of disciplinary action in the United States."

Say 20 years later, we pass another law stating the opposite: "be it here deemed, capital punishment hereafter is found by the Congress and President of the United States to be an illegal and harsh means of disciplinary action in the United States."

This is just a side thought, but does the latter automatically invalidate the former, is there a repealing process? Any law students or more knowledgable people may be able to help me with this.

I would appreciate any thoughts on these ideas I was kicking around!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hyphenating Individuals Divides The Country

Here's a sneak peak at my Collegian article that will run in the next few weeks:

Life is not fair. As much as we would like all aspects of the world to be fair in every sense, the reality is that the world is not fair, nor will it ever be. People in all walks of life have been blessed with various levels of skill, intelligence, talents, personalities and so on. We have a President and Congress now that feel everything in life needs to be distributed equally to create a government mandated, quasi-fairness. The reality is that no action of government can make everyone equal, because, by nature, none of us are the same. Everyone has strengths, and everyone has weaknesses, regardless of race, creed, color, gender, status, or any other “category” someone can be thrown under.

Splitting people into different categories and defining their issues for them does not work to better the country; it ignores the fact that everyone within these groups each has their own individual issues and strengths. Putting people into these groups (African-American, Latin-American, women, men, gay, straight, etc.) creates a culture of divisiveness, allowing an environment where one can claim they are victimized. Assumptions are made about a person’s beliefs and their issues based on the category they fit into, telling individuals they are victims based on their category’s particular injustices, rather than raising up these individuals as talented human beings, not just a target voting bloc.

Many of you will say I’m being insensitive to the plights of these certain groups of people. That I just don’t get it. Let me put it this way: we have all been screwed over in some way or another. We have all been discriminated against, to various extents. How many of you were cut from the basketball team because of small-town politics, because you didn’t have the right last name? How does it feel being left-handed in a right-hand dominated world? How did it feel when your friend got off with a warning but you were stuck with a $100 speeding ticket? Life’s not fair. Rather than feel sorry for ourselves and complain, capitalize on your individual strengths as a human being and be the best you can be, moving past the injustices of life.

We live in a more diverse world than is implied with all the labels we put on groups of people. Diversity should not be defined by the amount of people you hang around that are of different “classifications” than you. Diversity should be defined as interacting and relying upon people with different strengths than yourself, which in turn helps you cover for your weaknesses as well.

The best thing we can do is recognize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and capitalize on those strengths, avoiding victimizing of particular groups of people. Categorizing people only divides us, rather than uniting us as Americans. We are each unique, which can be seen as unfair…but what are you going to do about it? Complain that you were given the genes you have and be an unhappy, despondent person…or will you take life by the horns and be the best person you can be with the talents you were endowed with? The choice is yours.

Once we move past classifying people and capitalize on our individual talents, that is the point where we will become a truly tolerant, colorblind, genderless society that sees people for who they are, not for what they aren’t.