Monday, January 25, 1999

Week of 01/25/1999

The Brutally Honest State Of The Union
Washington Still Does Not Get It
- by David Matthews 2

My fellow Net surfers, it is with a heavy heart that I present to you the state of affairs going on in America.

Normally this task is reserved for the President of the United States; an annual affair that eats up broadcast time and quenches the thirst of headline-starving members of the media. In fact, this task is so politically popular, it is now followed with rebuttals from the opposing political party.

Unfortunately, there exists in the District of Columbia a strange psychological affliction amongst our elected officials called compulsive lying. They used to suffer from simple pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but lately they’ve progressed much more blatantly into deceptions and lies. Simply put, we have elected officials who cannot tell the truth even to save their own necks!

Therefore, it falls upon me to cut through the political manure and to inform you, the readers, the brutally honest state of the union.

The state of the union is in flux. It has been for quite some time now, but you would never know it from our politicians.

Yes, we are enjoying economic growth in fields never heard of before. But the American workforce is also working harder and longer to make ends meet. Part of that reason is because we are having to pay more and more taxes than ever before. Where once the American taxpayer would pay on the average twenty percent of his or her pay for taxes, they now have to pay almost half their salary on national, state, and local taxes. The stay-at-home parent that was once considered to be the trademark of family living is now a luxury to be enjoyed only by those who can afford it, while the rest have to work in order to pay more and more taxes.

Every year, our elected officials, both Democratic and Republican alike, have promised relief that they call tax cuts. But in reality, all they ever actually provide are more and more tax credits, which they knowingly and deceptively call tax cuts. Real tax cuts mean more money in the average American’s paycheck, something no politician really wants to give. So instead they offer up promissory notes that can only be redeemed when the time comes to fill out your tax forms, and then only offer these pseudo-cuts to those select Americans that they deem to be "worthy" of tax relief.

Our elected officials tell us that the nation’s budget deficit is over. Not only is the budget balanced, but according to the Clinton Administration, we’re due to reap a $4 trillion surplus in the next fifteen years. This is more from the higher taxes we’re having to pay than from cuts in federal spending. So what do our elected officials plan to do with that excess money? They plan on spending every last cent of it on even more of their own pet projects. Why not return some of those taxes in the form of real tax cuts? Because - as the president put it so kindly - we’re not smart enough to handle our own money!

Yes, we are enjoying what some consider to be a "peace dividend." The Cold War is over, and the threat of global nuclear annihilation has been extinguished for now, but peace is far from at hand. We cannot seem to go more than one month without hearing from some trouble spot around the world, and like weary Chicago firemen on a typical Devil’s Night in October we are asked to respond to situations where we are often not wanted nor our response welcomed.

And if the massacres in the former Yugoslavia nation and the power-mad antics of one Iraqi leader are not enough, there are the bogeymen threats played out in the media. From asteroids to the Year 2000 bug to anthrax threats, every would-be and might-it-be-possible scenario is spoon-fed to us by a media starving for our attention. The sky is not falling, we are told, at least not today. Tomorrow is a different story.

We have infrastructure problems in our cities and our suburbs. As the people search for a piece of back yard that isn’t cluttered with the sight of other people trying to get their own back yards, city and county leaders are spending their time trying to appease the intellectually dysfunctional social and religious groups over sexual issues of their neighbors and whether or not someone else’s children are praying to their particular version of God. Growth is a double-edged sword for communities. They need it to continue to thrive, but they also know that too much of it can lead to people leaving for less populated areas. Contrary to the naïve views of certain leaders and the ultra-rich like Ted Turner, no growth is not a viable goal for these areas. I have personally seen this in progress, and the strangling effect it has on a community. No growth is stagnation. It is the death knell of a community.

And what do our elected officials offer? Still more government programs and still more regulations to look into the situation.

We look at the computer and telecommunication industry as the new growth medium in America, and yet we struggle to accept the responsibilities for bringing this new medium into our homes and into our schools. Instead, we look to those same elected officials to do our jobs as parents and teachers while we excuse ourselves on the grounds of ignorance and incompetence.

We are by far the freest nation in the world, and yet at no other time has our freedoms been put in peril than now. One by one, our freedoms are being legislated and regulated away by our elected officials under the guise of more security, fulfilling the warnings Benjamin Franklin made more than two centuries ago. With each perceived social crisis, government always seem to offer more programs to counter them. With each program and every new regulation, there is more and more micromanaging of our lives by people who have absolutely no business being in our lives in the first place.

Then there are the plethora of new government databases being created not just on the federal level, but also on the state level. Databases of information about you the individual. If you go to work, the federal government has a database about you. If you’re divorced, the federal government has a database about you. If you apply for a drivers license in states like Georgia, those states have databases on your fingerprints. Police now want to collect and store genetic information about citizens for their own purposes. The collection of information about you as a regular citizen is at a level that even George Orwell never would have imagined. And the hypocritical part about it is that the same government that is collecting this information is being critical of private companies doing the same thing.

With each of these situations, government can only offer more and more programs, further entrenching themselves into our lives. And these programs are not free. With each program being offered and with each new group of regulations proposed, we can look towards still more and more taxes that we will all have to pay for.

Further complicating matters is this new trend between state and federal governments to sue successful companies for the behaviors of its citizens. First came the lawsuits against the tobacco companies, which the states will be reaping billions in settlements. The Clinton Administration, whose blatant greed interfered with the first settlement, now plans on suing the tobacco companies themselves for even more money. Now cities are suing gun manufactures simply because the guns work they way they are supposed to, even though the people using them aren’t. This kind of reverse Robin Hood litigation continues to destroy any semblance of personal responsibility, and shows just how greedy government is against any successful private enterprise.

It is ironic that the administration that proclaimed that "the era of big government is over" has done just the opposite. It is further ironic that the opposition to the current administration is no different than them in both actions and words. The Republican Party can proclaim themselves that they are for individual freedoms until they are blue in the face, and yet when you put their actions up to the limelight, you’ll find that the GOP is just as mired in big government as the Clinton Administration.

One would think that the connection to higher taxes and more government intrusions would be plainly visible to most Americans, but it isn’t for two reasons. First, because these actions are happening quietly a bit at a time. Whittle away one freedom here, impose a new set of regulations there, and pay for them with a few hidden taxes here and there. The second reason is because most of these actions are happening while the American public is distracted with other issues. How many people knew about the new regulations called "Know Your Customer" that was enacted amidst the controversy of the President’s personal sexual encounters? If you didn’t, you aren’t alone. Most people won’t know about it until it is too late to do anything about it.

One of the key solutions to less taxes and less government intrusions into our lives has to be to stop asking government to solve every problem we face. Stop trying to get government to correct every social faux pas. No amount of tax money or government regulation can create a utopian society. That effort comes not from the apex of those who would presume to sit like gods of Greek mythology, but rather from the ordinary citizens who make the decision themselves. It happens when we let parents be parents, teachers be teachers, and businesses be businesses.

There is hope for Americans, but it will not come easily. It will require that they start taking responsibilities for their lives, and it will require that they kick the habit that is called government. Only then will the state of the union really be strong once again.

No comments: