Sunday, January 29, 2012

Worry Warts in the Indiana Legislature

HARBESON: Who’s worrying?
SOUTHERN INDIANA — Politicians sure seem to worry a lot. They’ve made the furrowed brow an art form, particularly during a legislative session when they introduce their bills that will supposedly fix the problems that worry them so.

For example, several state legislators are really worried about a problem concerning government education in Indiana. Their worry warts popped out immediately when these politicians found out that cursive writing is no longer a mandatory part of the government school curriculum.

I don’t know why they are so worried about this. If you know anything about the government schools, you know that teachers need to focus their limited time on other skills. Schools need to stop wasting time on cursive and focus on the single most important skill students need to succeed in today’s government school system in our modern age — learning how to correctly fill in answer bubbles with a No. 2 pencil.

(By the way, proponents of this law want to include private schools who accept vouchers. This is the second example I’ve found this legislative session proving that politicians will treat voucher-accepting schools exactly the same as fully funded government schools when creating new laws and regulations.)

Legislators are also worried about the ethics law that was passed a couple of years ago. Politicians say certain organizations that help pay their expenses for out of state trips should be exempt from this law because they are educational groups, not lobbyists, and legislators need to be educated on important topics.

Okay this one has me worried. Obviously Indiana has a bunch of woefully uneducated people who claim to be in charge because they seem to have no clue about how to use technology. I guess they’ve never heard of live online virtual conferences. I guess they’ve never heard of uploading video to the Web. I guess they’ve never heard of podcasts. I guess they’ve never heard of emailing pdfs and PowerPoint presentations. They must think their only alternative to a trip paid for by these “educational” groups is to read long reports written in cursive and sent through the U.S. Postal Service.

Alcohol purchases on Sundays provided another worry for some legislators, but not for long. They have no more worries for this year because the bill has been killed in committee. Part of the discussion centered on the lack of clear evidence that selling alcohol on Sundays would increase the tax revenue collected by the state. And if a legislative action doesn’t help the government collect more money, well, then they’re not going to worry about changing anything.

Hey, why the furrowed brow? You didn’t think the Sunday alcohol proposal was based on a foundational principle of freedom did you? I’m sincerely worried about you if you think individual liberty has anything to do with actions taken by the state legislature.

Finally, let’s talk about the worries of Southern Indiana legislator Rhonda Rhoads. During her campaign she appeared to be very worried about the taxpayer. I have several of her postcard advertisements and they all talk about how worried she is and how she wants to stand up for you, the taxpayer.

But now that she’s been elected she doesn’t seem quite so worried about all taxpayers. She is sponsoring a bill, known as the “parent trigger” that would convert a government school to a charter school if 51 percent of the parents vote for it. But when asked why this proposal does not include all taxpayers forced to support the school in question, Rhoads said the taxpayers without children wouldn’t know enough about what’s going on at the school.

In other words, you ignorant, uninformed taxpayers who have no children in a government school just don’t need to worry your pretty little heads about this politician’s proposed legislation. Just shut up and pay.

No wonder so many people worry when the legislature is in session.

Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson has been unable to find a set of worry beads strong enough to last her through an entire legislative session.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Government Property Controls

HARBESON: Whose property is it?

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — If asked, most people would say they want control over their property. And yet, at the same time, they often support various government controls, which is the exact opposite. This tendency toward the fickle gets everyone into a pickle and below is a jar full of juicy examples.

Clark Regional Airport

Two government controls are stuffed neatly inside the airport expansion fiasco — zoning and eminent domain. The airport tried to take advantage of government-imposed zoning classifications to seize a neighbor’s property at a lower value. The neighbor sued, won, and is now owed significantly more based on the “highest and best use” of the land. (Another property owner has now piggy-backed off of this ruling and will also get a higher price upon seizure.)

This case leaves county residents in the weird position of feeling better that someone whose property is being seized by the government is getting a better deal, while at the same time realizing that they, as taxpayers, are the ones really paying the price.

In addition, no one really has a clue what the price should be for such property because government interference has corrupted the process. The value of a property can only really be determined when both parties freely consent and the buyer does not use taxpayer dollars to complete the transaction.

Floyd County Parks Department

The dispute concerning property near Budd Road is another twist of the same two government powers. The parks department successfully seized private property through eminent domain but those same private property owners managed to stop the parks system from getting the full zoning classification the department wanted.

Or so the private owners thought. The parks department is accused of ignoring the law and overstepping their zoning classification. I imagine these property owners, who thought zoning laws were there to protect them, are now wondering how true that is when the one you want protection from is the government itself.

Ed Clere’s law

Republican State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, is pushing for a law to increase tax credits for historical preservation purposes. (He is also taking advantage of the latest political propaganda fad by defining this attempt to increase the benefits given to a government-created special class of property owners as a “jobs bill.”)

One of the problems with such government control is that it creates an atmosphere where no one has any idea what could be done in the voluntary market, with owners controlling their property and making their own preservation decisions.

Greater Clark Schools/city of Jeffersonville

This example is noteworthy because this was a property transaction between government entities. The school system had property in the Franklin Square area that has been sitting vacant and, with the push of a school board member, the property was sold to the city of Jeffersonville for one-third of its appraised value. (Not sure what zoning value was used.) Promoters of the deal are now talking about grand plans that will be of great benefit to all.

No one is saying much about the actual transaction though. The school corporation says it could not sell the property at that price to a private entity, only to another government entity. This means we have no idea how this building may have been used if the offer was open to any potential buyer. All we have are politicians proudly relishing the sweet deal.

Ohio River Bridges Project

One problem associated with the high cost of this project has been the use of a federal historical preservation designation to protect a property from eminent domain seizure. Of course, Ed Clere and anyone else who advocates government-imposed historical preservation can’t really be irritated at them for doing this. After all, those Kentucky folks did exactly what historical preservation proponents would want someone to do: Use government to control how a property is used.

People are so busy running around trying to gain control over other people’s property through zoning, eminent domain seizure and historical preservation that they don’t seem to notice that the same government property controls that can be used to benefit you can also be used to harm you. And in all cases, one way or the other, the sour truth is that you will pay for these controls.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson once found herself in a pickle but ate her way out of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Making Indiana a Right To Work State

HARBESON: Labor intensive

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — How sad to see the waste of human labor, unionized and not unionized, that’s being expended on the political fight in Indiana concerning the right-to-work issue.

Removed from government, unions are simply people united for common goals in their workplace — a marvelous concept. Removed from government, businesses are simply people trying to meet a demand in the market and hiring people to help — a marvelous concept. Removed from government, when there is a need for conflict resolution, the parties involved work to negotiate a mutually satisfying agreement, understanding compromise may be necessary — a marvelous concept.

However, when unions and corporations use government to gain an advantage over the other party, well, that’s not so marvelous.

It’s also not very smart. When government interferes in what should be voluntary interactions, even when one group thinks they benefited and “won” the fight, they still lose because now they are prisoners, handcuffed to the unpredictability of the political process.

We have clear evidence of this in regards to this issue because a right-to-work law was successfully passed in Indiana back in 1957. Then it was repealed in the mid 1960s. Now here it is again, casting a huge shadow over the people in Indiana. And if the legislation passes, it could be repealed at some future point.

What’s worse, all of this action is only a tiny part of a continuing response to previous government actions, much of it on the federal level. On and on we go. And yet we still believe government solves problems.

The only people who really benefit are the politicians because their interference solidifies and intensifies the rift, ensuring their continuing involvement. This interference between these two groups in particular has helped create the huge funding funnels that are essential in maintaining the two major political party machines we see today.

Indiana Republicans are either dense or being completely disingenuous about the right-to-work proposal. The Democrats have it right — this law, if passed, would not make Indiana a right-to-work state.

Yes, it’s true that this law would prohibit contracts between employers and unions that require all employees to pay union representation fees. But that does not mean Indiana residents would then be living in a state where no fees were charged in order to work. It would only mean the fees that are paid would be lowered for some individuals.

Indiana cannot be a right-to-work state as long as it continues to charge its own fees for the so-called right to work, otherwise known as the income tax. And even if the politicians pushing for this right-to-work law decide to be consistent and amend this bill to include repeal of the state income tax, Indiana still wouldn’t be able to completely unshackle hard working individuals because the federal government also charges fees for working.

They don’t call those annual speeches the state of the union for nothing you know.

Business owners/management, unionized workers and nonunionized workers are experiencing the exact same labor struggle — being hindered in their desire to gain higher wages when forced to hand over fees to the state. Unfortunately, as long as these groups focus on fighting each other through the political process, they can’t see this one grievance they actually have in common — the one grievance that can unite them.

And the politicians certainly aren’t going to point it out.

Although it’s now complicated due to previous actions, the root of the right-to-work issue is as simple as any other issue — government should not be interfering in the voluntary interactions between individuals and it’s a mistake for either side in this conflict, business or union, to use it to do so.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is currently searching for a huge funding funnel of her very own.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Indiana Republican Senator Vaneta Becker's Idea of Freedom

HARBESON: The land of the free

SOUTHERN INDIANA — It has come to my attention that some of you do not think you are free. I find this particularly horrifying considering that yesterday marked the beginning of a very special time of year — the time when politicians gather together for that wonderful annual expression of freedom known as the Indiana General Assembly. This session promises to be packed with proposals from politicians proving you are indeed free.

Take Republican State Sen. Vaneta Becker for example. When she heard that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sometimes altered by performers, she decided to propose a law mandating standards when the song is performed at events sponsored by government schools.

Clearly, she only wants everyone to understand what freedom means and there’s no better way to help free people express that freedom than by having government place strict guidelines and rules on how to perform a song.

Her proposal makes even more sense considering it’s focused on expressing freedom properly in government schools. After all, these places are the official centers that government uses to educate the masses about the wonderful freedoms they enjoy. So it’s perfectly natural that politicians like Becker would want to tell individuals who perform inside these compulsory-funded buildings exactly how to sing a song expressing freedom.

Yes, it’s true that Francis Scott Key, the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics, wrote that poem to suit himself as he expressed his freedom. However, the song is now the official government anthem, which means it is now used as a hymn for worshiping the nation-state, so clearly it must be performed in a government-approved manner. Surely even you freedom-loving extremists can understand that.

What should really be encouraging to freedom lovers is that if Ms. Becker succeeds in getting her law passed as written, she will be helping even more free people express their freedom properly because her proposal will extend the freedom-loving hand of government to private schools who accept vouchers.

You remember vouchers, right? They were part of one of the laws proving you are free that the Republicans moved through during last year’s annual expression of freedom. The law that the freedom-loving proponents said would provide more freedom to people, while at the same time assuring private schools who accepted the vouchers that they would remain free from increased government intrusion.

Now it’s only one session later, and already a politician is making no differentiation at all between private schools that accept vouchers and fully funded government schools. Oh, wait a minute. Forget I mentioned that. Pay no attention to that camel with his nose under the tent of those private schools. Let’s move on.

The bureaucracy needed to support enforcement of Becker’s proposal is a simple matter. The only requirement for the government schools — and the private schools who accept government vouchers — is that they must record all performances and keep them on file for two years, in case there is a problem with a performer who takes liberties with the song.

According to Becker, these requirements would be easy to fulfill due to technology like cell phones. Now, come on naysayers, you have to admit that this is a marvelous example of how free people make good use of technological advances.

Just imagine how great it will be if Ms. Becker succeeds. Indiana will be bathed in that rocket red glare and the air will be bursting with sounds and words emanating from the collective as they sing, correctly and properly, according to the specific directives set forth by the government.

“Oh, say you can see what it means to be free?”

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson might have more to say about the politicians as they gather together during this most special time of the year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Visit To Opinion Addicts Anonymous

HARBESON: It’s just my opinion, but ...

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Hello, my name is Debbie and I’m an opinion addict. I’m here today at my first meeting of Opinion Addicts Anonymous because I need to re-evaluate and yes, perhaps even change my ways.

I write weekly columns for the local paper and while riding high on opinions, I occasionally run into other people. Sometimes it’s a minor fender bender, sometimes it’s a head-on collision and sometimes I drive right over them.

When I wake up the next morning after one of those binges and see what I’ve done, I sometimes regret my actions. Oh, I don’t really care if I see politicians or government officials with tire tracks on their backs. They chose to get deeply involved in an entity that depends upon the threat of violence and they must accept the consequences of playing a direct part in such a system.

However, I sometimes find myself writing opinions that also sideswipe entities and people who mostly operate in the private voluntary realm. I don’t set out to run over private entities — they get hit because they have somehow become intertwined with the government. (Although it must be said that often this is due to an explicit choice they made at some point.)

Even so, I’m here today because I’m wondering about my behavior in regards to these private entities and people. In theory we should be working together and perhaps I have been wrong to give such entities and the people involved too much grief.

Like me, they have to live within the society that exists today and are often taking actions merely to survive. Perhaps I should sympathize more and regard them as collateral damage to the real problem — society’s collective legitimization of the institution of government.

I gained this insight in part by observing Occupy Wall Street. After speaking directly with people involved and looking at the movement as a whole, I noticed that much of the anger is directed to corporations and the acts of individuals within corporations.

But corporations and the protections it provides to individuals only exist because of government. The reason we end up with crony capitalism is because government is there to create and protect the sleazy partnerships.

I realized the people inside these nationally acting corporations are behaving in regards to the federal government in the same manner as local people inside local entities are when forced to deal with local governments. Yes, it’s a problem when the federal government hands out special benefits to favored entities, just as it is when done on a local level. But all of these deals could not exist if government did not exist.

One other problem related to my opinion addiction is that sometimes people get upset when I write about individuals without making an effort to contact them first. I’m not sure why they want me to do this. I know it has nothing to do with the facts I share because these people never claim my facts were wrong and the newspaper has never had to issue a retraction for incorrect factual information. They just don’t like my conclusions.

Many people do not understand that I am not a newspaper reporter. I am a freelance opinion columnist and as such, I am under no obligation to contact anyone who may be called out by name as I share the facts I’ve used to draw those conclusions.

Readers understand this in regards to opinion columnists who write about larger national issues and people. Those writers generally do not contact the individuals they write about, they just share their opinion. I’m just a writer who does the exact same thing on a local level.

I certainly could contact the people I mention and others may prefer I do so but clearly this issue itself is a matter of opinion. I have and will continue contacting people for more information if I think I need it but in the end an opinion column’s purpose is to share individual conclusions and everyone else is free to share their conclusions in response. Without contacting me first.

That said, I’m here to re-evaluate my actions so perhaps I will attempt to contact the people I mention more often. We’ll see what happens as a result.

Wow, I feel much better now after sharing my story. As a matter of fact what the heck am I even doing at this meeting? I don’t need to work on my opinion addiction. I don’t have a problem like you people do! I’m outta here.

Oh, but before I go, can you guys pass on some information for me? Tell people operating in the private voluntary realm that if they don’t want to get sideswiped, then they might want to try their best to stay away from government. Otherwise they could be standing in the middle of the road that this opinion addict is almost always driving on.

Thanks for listening. Now, I’m off for another year of adventures in opinion sharing.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is always trying to improve the manner in which she drives her points home.