Saturday, May 25, 2013

Does Moore, Oklahoma need FEMA?

There are many ways a person can spend a Saturday morning that will bring enjoyment to their lives.  For me, relaxing with a cup of coffee, the newspaper and good conversation with my wife is at the top of the list.
For others it might be biking, sleeping in or playing baseball.
Today, I had the opportunity to spend my Saturday morning doing something totally different with people who normally are doing something other than what we found ourselves doing.
On this Saturday, I found myself donning a red stocking cap of some sort while making lentil stew dinners for complete strangers in my home state of Oklahoma.   With me were my sons, their good friend, members of my Little League baseball team, their parents and about 200 or so other private citizens for whom Moore, Oklahoma is but a dot on a map - but also now a place in their hearts.

In an amazing display of speed, efficiency and joy the people in the large room (donated by a for-profit business) worked with the staff of a wonderful charity called Feeding Children Everywhere in an assembly line that mixed lentils, salt, spices and rice into bags that were quickly weighed, sealed and packed - 96 bags to a box - in cardboard boxes. 

My group managed to make 768 bags - enough for over 2,000 meals.  Other tables did even more.

Next to the front door where stacks of donated bottled water which rested next to scores of bags of food that people brought in that morning.  Next to that food was a jar filling up with cash and checks to buy even more food for the 33,000 Oklahomans in need.

I asked one of the staff members when the food would leave for the Sooner State.  "Within days" was his answer.

All of this kindness - from Floridians to Oklahomans 2,000 miles away - reminded me of a story...

In the 1830's Congressman David Crockett was asked to vote on using taxpayer dollars to relieve the suffering of the wife of a deceased Naval Officer.  Congressman Crockett rose to the floor of the House of Representatives and said, “Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.
Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.” (Read more:

Which brings me to this point.
The people of my home state do not need FEMA.  They do not need to wait around for the slow process of federal aid.  They do not need to rely on the plunder of their fellowman.
All they need is the private charity that can only come from the care and compassion their fellow Americans are showing them now. 
Imagine how much more money and time we could give to other victims of other disasters if we did not have to pay income taxes.  From 1776-1913 we owed the IRS zero money and FEMA did not exist.
Through fires and floods and tornadoes and drought, private citizens helped their neighbors without the forced philanthropy that government has created.
Left to our own devices - and left with more of our hard-earned money in our pockets - the same would happen today at a much faster pace and with more love than any bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. could ever hope to show.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

R.I.P. Charley Reese

Charley Reese, a longtime Orlando Sentinel columnist and friend of Libertarian Thought, has died.  What follows is one of his more famous columns.

The 545 People Responsible for All of America's Woes

by Charley Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?
You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.
One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices — 545 human beings out of the 235 million — are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.
I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.
I excluded all but the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.
No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislation's responsibility to determine how he votes.
Don't you see how the con game is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.
What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O'Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.
The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes.
O'neill is the speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetos it, they can pass it over his veto.
It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence and irresponsibility.
I can't think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.
When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.
If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it's because they want them in Lebanon.
There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.
Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation" or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.
Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses — provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.
This was written in September 1985.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The IRS is corrupt? Je suis choqué!

What follows is an Op-Ed from the May15, 2013 Wall Street Journal.  It was written by one of my favorite writers - Dr. James Bovard.  Enjoy...or throw up...

Many Republicans are enraged over revelations in recent days that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative nonprofit groups with a campaign of audits and harassment. But of all the troubles now dogging the Obama administration—including the Benghazi fiasco and the Justice Department's snooping on the Associated Press—the IRS episode, however alarming, is also the least surprising. As David Burnham noted in "A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power" (1990), "In almost every administration since the IRS's inception the information and power of the tax agency have been mobilized for explicitly political purposes."
President Franklin Roosevelt used the IRS to harass newspaper publishers who were opposed to the New Deal, including William Randolph Hearst and Moses Annenberg, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Roosevelt also dropped the IRS hammer on political rivals such as the populist firebrand Huey Long and radio agitator Father Coughlin, and prominent Republicans such as former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. Perhaps Roosevelt's most pernicious tax skulduggery occurred in 1944. He spiked an IRS audit of illegal campaign contributions made by a government contractor to Congressman Lyndon Johnson, whose career might have been derailed if Texans had learned of the scandal.
President John F. Kennedy raised the political exploitation of the IRS to an art form. Shortly after capturing the presidency, JFK denounced "the discordant voices of extremism" and derided people who distrust their leaders—President Obama didn't invent that particular rhetorical line. Shortly thereafter, JFK signaled at a news conference that he expected the IRS to be vigilant in policing the tax-exempt status of questionable (read: conservative) organizations.
Within a few days of Kennedy's remarks, the IRS launched the Ideological Organizations Audit Project. It targeted right-leaning groups, including the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education. Kennedy also used the IRS to strong-arm companies into complying with "voluntary" price controls. Steel executives who defied the administration were singled out for audits.
A 1976 report by the Senate Select Committee on Government Intelligence on the Kennedy program noted: "By directing tax audits at individuals and groups solely because of their political beliefs, the Ideological Organizations Audit Project established a precedent for a far more elaborate program of targeting 'dissidents.'"

After Richard Nixon took office, his administration quickly created a Special Services Staff to mastermind what a memo called "all IRS activities involving ideological, militant, subversive, radical, and similar type organizations." More than 10,000 individuals and groups were targeted because of their political activism or slant between 1969 and 1973, including Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling (a left-wing critic of the Vietnam War) and the far-right John Birch Society.
The IRS was also given Nixon's enemies list to, in the words of White House counsel John Dean, "use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies."
The exposure of Nixon's IRS abuses during congressional hearings in 1973 and 1974 profoundly weakened him during the uproar after the Watergate hotel break-in. The second article of his 1974 impeachment charged him with endeavoring to obtain from the IRS "confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner." Congress enacted legislation to severely restrict political contacts between the White House and the IRS.
In the following decades, the IRS regularly sparked outrage by abusing innocent taxpayers, but there was not much controversy about the agency's politicizing until Bill Clinton took office.
In 1995, the White House and the Democratic National Committee produced a 331-page report entitled "Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce" that attacked magazines, think tanks and other entities and individuals who had criticized President Clinton. In the subsequent years, many organizations mentioned in the White House report were hit by IRS audits. More than 20 conservative organizations—including the Heritage Foundation and the American Spectator magazine—and almost a dozen individual high-profile Clinton accusers, such as Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers, were audited.

The Landmark Legal Foundation sued the IRS in 1997 after being audited. Its brief quoted an IRS official who had explained at an IRS meeting in San Francisco that audit requests from members of Congress or their staff had been shredded and also suggested how future requests from Capitol Hill could be camouflaged. The IRS told the court that it could not find 114 key files relating to possible political manipulation of audits of tax-exempt organizations.
One potential bombshell of the Clinton era that went relatively unrecognized was an Associated Press report in 1999 that "officials in the Democratic White House and members of both parties in Congress have prompted hundreds of audits of political opponents in the 1990s," including "personal demands for audits from members of Congress." Audit requests from congressmen were marked "expedite" or "hot politically" and IRS officials were obliged to respond within 15 days. Permitting congressmen to secretly and effortlessly sic G-men on whomever they pleased epitomized official Washington's contempt for average Americans and fair play. But because the abuse was bipartisan, there was little enthusiasm on Capitol Hill for an investigation.
The IRS has usually done an excellent job of stifling investigations of its practices. A 1991 survey of 800 IRS executives and managers by the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics revealed that three out of four respondents felt entitled to deceive or lie when testifying before a congressional committee.
The agency also has a long history of seeking to intimidate congressional critics: In 1925, Internal Revenue Commissioner David Blair personally delivered a demand for $10 million in back taxes to Michigan's Republican Sen. James Couzens—who had launched an investigation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue—as he stepped out of the Senate chamber. More recently, after Sen. Joe Montoya of New Mexico announced plans in 1972 to hold hearings on IRS abuses, the agency added his name to a list of tax protesters who were capable of violence against IRS agents.
With the current IRS scandal, we may have seen only the tip of the iceberg. Thorough congressional investigations would no doubt help reveal the extent of the operation, and the criminal investigation announced by the Justice Department on Tuesday may prove fruitful as well. Regardless of what these inquiries uncover, though, we can be almost certain that IRS audits will remain irresistible political weapons.

Mr. Bovard is the author, most recently, of the e-book memoir "Public Policy Hooligan."



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Jason Collins, Jackie Robinson and the true nature of liberty

I thought you might enjoy my Op-Ed in today's Orlando Sentinel

It was bound to happen. After all, it is the year 2013, not 1947.

This week, for the first time in history, an active player from one of America's four major team-sports organizations announced that he is gay.

Jason Collins, an NBA player, did so — and immediately began drawing praise, criticism and comparisons to Jackie Robinson.
All three are undeserved.
I am a 46-year old heterosexual Christian who happens to also be a registered Libertarian and a former high-school and college athlete.
Allow me to use that background information to build the case that Collins' announcement was no more significant than if I came out today and said, "I am a 46-year old white economics professor who is also not gay."

First, the comparisons to Robinson.

In 1947, Robinson was at risk for being beaten, harassed, arrested, discriminated against, threatened, hated, suppressed and verbally assaulted — just for being a black man

As of April 29, 2013, being gay carries virtually none of the same risks as being black did back then.
Collins will not face anywhere near the level of hatred Robinson faced.

Sure, there will be random lunatics and other homophobic individuals who will say awful things and think awful thoughts. Very little of which will find the mailbox, Twitter account or ears of Collins.
He has opened himself up to a great deal more scrutiny by fans, the media and teammates, and for that it is logical to conclude that his decision took guts. But to compare what he will face and what he means to gay people with Robinson is severely misguided.

As to whether he deserves the praise that many have showered him with is also questionable.
What are we praising? Is it his lifestyle? Is it his willingness to openly tell America that he prefers to have sexual relations with men? Is it the fact that he is an athlete and somewhat famous and therefore a more important gay person?  Is it the opening of doors for other gay athletes to announce they prefer sex with their own gender?

Do we openly praise Tim Tebow for being a virgin? Do we openly praise athletes who are heterosexual and faithful to their wives? Do we need doors opened for other heterosexual athletes to make it easier for them to announce that they do not sleep around and father children with more than one woman?

Which of the two is more worthy of praise?

Finally, the critics...

To others who have characteristics closer to what is "normal" in our society, please note that the U.S. Constitution protects three rights: our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Collins is not killing anyone; neither is he taking away anyone's right to pursue happiness or enjoy our liberty.

For those who would argue that there is something wrong with Collins and that his announcement is another sign of America dying under the weight of immorality, I would ask the following:
Does the Constitution give us the right to do things that others might disapprove of, as long as no one else's rights are violated? Yes, it does.

Is liberty important enough that we need to be tolerant of people who use their liberty in ways we dislike so that they will be tolerant of how others use their liberty? One could argue that it is.

Does the Bible say anything about heterosexual lust, adultery and fornication? Yes, it does. For many of us Christians, the challenge will be to not judge a man for announcing what we call sin while we engage in other sins that we announce to no one.

I would hope that we could all look at this announcement as one man who has decided to say something about his view of liberty and his view of himself. His teammates — whose liberty is still intact — have the right to reach their own conclusions about working alongside him. That is the nature of freedom, too.

There is really nothing more or less to it than that.