Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tennessee - You gotta love this legislator

Big Rattler has friends slithering around the great state of Tennessee. I snapped a blog link to Tennessee Porch, written by a former state legislator named Jim Bryson.

Here is a sample of his work. Pull up a chair and take a quick read:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Campfield is at it AGAIN

Rep. Stacey Campfield sure is fun to watch.

There is not a PC bone in his body. He loves to put people in a quandry. Last year he attempted to join the Legislative Black Caucus on behalf of the African-American constituents in his district. When he was not allowed to join because he was not black, he had to ask how they could get away with racial discrimination. It seems that double standards are alive and well.

It is early in the session and Stacey has already struck twice. First, he has a proposal to remove the state sales tax on food and place an additional tax on porn. This puts the liberals in a quandry because they don't want to reduce the "stable" sales tax on food and lose all that revenue that government could spend better than people buying food, but they can't come out and say they don't want to tax porn either.

What's a liberal to do? Next Stacey has pro-choice legislators in his sights. He introduced a bill requiring death certificates for aborted babies. Another legislative quagmire if you are a pro-choice legislator. Do you vote for the bill and admit that the unborn babies were alive to begin with and have just been killed? Or, do you for against the bill sending the signal to your generally pro-life constituency that you don't believe unborn babies are alive.

What's a pro-choicer to do?

What they will do is weasel out of both these bills. Speaker Naifeh will send both these bills to a sub-committee he controls of legislators in safe districts who can make tough votes. The bills will be defeated by a handfull of legislators, never to see the light of day.

Thanks Stacey!

Posted by Jim Bryson at 10:22 AM

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Too cool, the VetoMatic

This is from our fine friend from Green Bay Wisconsin, Rep. Frank Lasee. He explains how the state governor has virtual unlimited powers via the veto pen to create any he desires.

I went to the VetoMatic web site and typed in the phrase: "Spending shall exceed state revenues by 175%." Volia! the VetoMatic, using the current spending bill and replicating the awsome veto power of the governor, created just such a law.

Give it a try!

The excerpt is from Rep. Frank Lasee:

The Governor of Wisconsin has, by far, the most powerful partial-veto pen in the nation. Through a series of court decisions, the Governor has gained the power to cut out any word or number from any bill that appropriates money.

The Governor just submitted the biennial budget, which appropriates a whole lot of money ($57.7 billion). The budget bill contains 379,805 words. Through the power of a partial veto, the Governor could theoretically create a law to do just about anything. The Legislature would not be able to override these partial vetoes because of the narrow majorities in each house.

You might be thinking, “Frank, you are talking about a budget bill, how could substantive law be contained in there? Isn’t it just a bunch of numbers?” Instead of just setting the state budget for two years, there is a whole lot of policy packed into the budget on top of the spending. Right or wrong (well, wrong), that is the way it is.

How do we know that the budget bill can be manipulated into nearly any law imaginable? Well, with a hat tip to Dan Akroyd’s Bass-o-matic on Saturday Night Live, we have the VetoMatic.

The VetoMatic was created to “demonstrate just how dangerous the Governor's power is. It will take the text you give it and show you how the Governor could create your new law with absolutely no legislative oversight.” You can try the VetoMatic yourself at

To prove the point, there was a VetoMatic contest in which people were encouraged to see what “laws” the Governor could pass using the Budget Bill. Here were some of the contest winners: “The Legislature authorizes the department of Revenue to create and implement any tax it deems necessary to fund any expenditure approved by the Secretary of the Department of Administration.” “The City of Milwaukee shall be given to Illinois.”

Try the VetoMatic yourself at

Keep on rattlin'
Big Rattler

Friday, February 23, 2007

Adam Smith on new pound

The Wealth of Nations

In March, the Bank of England will issue a new 20 pound note featuring Adam Smith and the pin factory.

(Click to Enlarge)
The Pin Factory is Smith's wonderful passage about the importance of the "division of labor" whereby, you who need a pin, would likely spend the better part of a year mining, smelting and fabricating a simple pin.

Yet by the "division of labor," pins are quite available in wide varieties and at the most modest of costs.

Hooray for the Brits! The 20-pound note is the most common, according to Bank of England.

The Wealth of Nations will indeed be well advertised beginning in March '07.

Also, see for a look at the new statue of the man who "Discovered the Moral Superiority of Capitalism" to be sited in Edinburgh. (Word has it that the Queen may do the honors of unveiling the statue later this year.)

Finally, Big Rattler is reading P.J. O'Rourke's latest book about Adam Smith's work. I say "his work" because of P.J.'s point that during Smith's time (American Revolution Era), people's work was debated, unlike today where many cackle about Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith's latest foibles.

Refresh yourself from mob of chatter'ers ... become a rattler ... and buy P.J.'s book. You will be surprised at how you actually have to focus to understand ... instead of just "feel."

Big Rattler

Transparency In Gov't Task Force

Hey all you rattlers out there ...

Here are some links to U.S. Senator Tom Coburn's effort to create 300 million volunteer government auditors who carefully watch various portions of bloated federal spending.

The idea (now law, now fact) is that all federal spending should detailed, be easily accessible and understandable and posted on the web. That way, anyone can do some digging about any federal project -- big or small. It should be right at your fingertips.

The result of this idea, is we can audit at will without all the bureaucratic hassle.

Right now it is comment time on how to construct just such a web site. The links below will get you started, especially if you have a knack for knowing what is needed.

Keep snapping,
Big Rattler

Coburn-Obama Site
Posted by Andrew Moylan - February 15, 2007

After the long, drawn-out fight that finally brought it into law, the Coburn-Obama legislation that we fought so hard for now has a preliminary website up. For those of you who don't remember, the Coburn-Obama bill will require all federal grant and contract funding to be on a searchable, publicly available website.

Check out the page at

Write them a comment and let them know how you'd like to see the site develop. Read more

Have you ever wanted to find more information on government spending? Have you ever wondered where federal contracting dollars and grant awards go? Or perhaps you would just like to know, as a citizen, what the government is really doing with your money.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006 asks the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to lead the development, by January 2008, of a single searchable website, accessible by the public for free that includes for each Federal award:

  1. the name of the entity receiving the award;
  2. the amount of the award;
  3. information on the award including transaction type, funding
    agency, etc;
  4. the location of the entity receiving the award;
  5. a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.

OMB has created a Task Force to implement the requirements of this important Act. Here is where you can have an impact on how the Task Force proceeds. Please use this link to provide feedback on how you, as a citizen, would like to see the FFATA implemented and government award information presented.

Monday, February 19, 2007


"Unlike the organizations of government, the organizations of free enterprise are self-liquidating at the limit of their usefulness." -- Isabel Paterson

Gov't saps resources from potential advancements

Friday, February 16, 2007 ~ 1:00 p.m., Dan Mitchell Wrote:Will American politicians repeat past mistakes? Brian Wesbury's Wall Street Journal column explains that America suffered during two periods of big government - the 1930s and the 1970s, and he fears that policy makers have not learned from these mistakes:

...the last two times government seriously tried to control the U.S.
economy -- in the 1930s and in the 1970s -- they made a terrible mess of it. In
the 1930s, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act caused a collapse in global trade, while
the Fed allowed the money supply to shrink by one-third. Government regulation
in the 1920s prevented banks from branching, which caused more than 10,000 to
fail in the 1930s, deepening and prolonging the Great Depression. Herbert
Hoover's tax hikes were icing on the cake, capping off a perfect storm of D.C.
policy mistakes.

It took another 35 years, and a nice run of prosperity, but Washington
finally gathered the courage to try this again. Between 1965 and 1981, Great
Society welfare and health-care programs, wage and price controls, inflationary
Fed policy, 70% marginal tax rates, 50% capital-gains tax rates, and highly
regulated energy, airline, banking and trucking industries created severe
problems. The Misery Index (calculated by adding inflation and unemployment)
rose to 21.9% in 1980 (today it is 7.2%).

...The cost of government intervention is always underestimated in the
midst of political battles, while the benefits are always overestimated.
Impeding the free market alters the course of economic activity in ways that
cannot fully be understood in advance.

For example, tax subsidies for using existing solar technology diminish
incentives for research and development, just like welfare payments undermine
the willingness of many recipients to work or go to school. Why give up a sure
thing for a future that is uncertain?

The U.S. is subsidizing ethanol, which pulls billions of dollars of
investment capital away from other areas of the economy. When government picks
what it thinks should be the winner, it saps resources from other ideas and
potential advancements.
(subscription required)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Root Shock" The Effects of Eminent Domain Abuse on African Americans

Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road Suite 900 Arlington, VA 22203
(703) 682-9320 FAX (703) 682-9321
Home Page:

February 14, 2007

New Study Details Devastating Effects of
Eminent Domain Abuse on African Americans

Arlington, Va. - "Eminent domain has become what the founding fathers sought to prevent: a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to give to the rich and politically powerful," concludes Dr. Mindy Fullilove in her new report released today titled, " Eminent Domain & African Americans: What is the Price of the Commons?" The report is available at

Eminent Domain & African Americans is the first in a new series of independently authored reports published by the Institute for Justice, Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, which will examine the different aspects of eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted national experts. The release of this inaugural report is particularly timely this month, as millions around the nation learn about African American history.

In this study, Dr. Fullilove, a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, examines the effects of eminent domain abuse on the African American community. Focusing specifically on the Federal Housing Act (FHA) of 1949, Dr. Fullilove finds that "[b]etween 1949 and 1973 … 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one million people, two-thirds of them African American," making blacks "five times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their numbers in the population."

Although urban renewal under the FHA was discontinued in 1973, Dr. Fullilove reported "the tools of urban renewal had been honed through 20 years of projects. Politicians and developers found that they could repackage eminent domain and government subsidies in many new ways, facilitating the taking of land for 'higher uses.'"

Dr. Fullilove shares the story of David Jenkins-who lost his Philadelphia home to urban renewal in the 1950s-to illustrate the devastating impacts of forced displacement. "Within these neighborhoods there existed social, political, cultural, and economic networks that functioned for both individual and common good," explains Dr. Fullilove. "These networks were the 'commons' of the residents, a system of complex relationships, shared activities, and common goals"-the loss of which cannot be replaced or remedied.

"What the government takes from people is not a home, with a small 'h', but Home in the largest sense of the word: a place in the world, a community, neighbors and services, a social and cultural milieu, an economic anchor that provides security during the ups and downs of life, a commons that sustains the group by offering shared goods and services," continues Dr. Fullilove.

"Dr. Fullilove's pioneering research reinforces the need for state and federal legislative reforms of eminent domain laws," said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, which helps homeowners nationwide fight eminent domain abuse. The Castle Coalition is a grassroots organization coordinated by the Institute for Justice, which litigated the Kelo eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. Anderson said, "Property owners nationwide-particularly minorities, as evidenced by this paper-will remain vulnerable to seizures by tax-hungry governments for land-hungry developers until the use of eminent domain is reined in and limited to only true public uses."

A recent example of eminent domain targeting African American communities can be found in Riviera Beach, Fla. Despite the state's new restrictions on eminent domain, city officials are pursuing a plan to remove thousands of mostly low-income, African American residents from their waterfront homes and businesses to make way for a luxury housing and yachting complex. The Institute for Justice is representing property owners there who want to protect their rights and save what rightfully belongs to them.

In addition to her clinical and teaching duties, Dr. Fullilove is the author of Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It , which takes a powerful look at the effects of urban renewal on African Americans. She coined the term "root shock" to describe the devastating effects of forced displacement.

# # #

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

MI -- Taxpayer money used to lobby for tax hike

 Detroit News Online
Detroit News Editorial
February 9, 2007

Two groups funded with tax dollars lead cheer for higher taxes

A s Michigan debates tax hikes, don't forget that politicians and bureaucrats have a vested interest in squeezing as much as possible from taxpayers.

And they can be more than a little cagey in how they go about it. For example, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy points out that the Michigan Municipal League and the Presidents Council of the State Universities of Michigan are using tax dollars to agitate for higher taxes. They are joined by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association in creating the "Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project," which has set up a Web site and issues press releases on the dire condition of the state's finances.

Mackinac Center analyst Diane Katz notes that both groups are funded by dues from local governments and the state universities. And they get their money from the taxpayers (and tuition fees and donor gifts for the universities).

In essence, the Mackinac Center contends, they are using tax dollars to lobby for more tax dollars.

David Waymire, a Lansing public relations specialist whose firm represents the so-called fiscal responsibility group, is quick to point out that it isn't lobbying for a specific proposal, merely making information available for the public. Perhaps not, but the group's dire predictions of a decline in public services can easily be taken as attempts to soften the political terrain for a tax hike, since they so neatly mirror the remarks of Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

While Michigan law forbids the use of public funds by state or local government to advocate for candidates or specific ballot issues, it allows them to "provide information" to the public. And if that "information" is sufficiently scary, members of the public might be persuaded to part with more of their money.

Further, if local governments route public money through the Michigan Municipal League, according to a 2001 ruling by then-Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, it is transformed into private money, since the Municipal League is a nonprofit corporation, not a public body, and the league can take positions on ballot issues.

In this case, the public dollars have been sent through both the laundering and spin cycles, since they have gone from local governments to the Municipal League to the "Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project."

And the taxpayers have been hung out to dry.

We only wish government officials would exert the same mental energy they give to fleecing taxpayers on figuring out creative solutions for delivering services less expensively.

Monday, February 12, 2007

AZ -- School Districts' cash pool beefs up lobbying - East Valley Tribune -

Districts' cash pool beefs up lobbying - East Valley Tribune -

East Valley Tribune
Feb. 12, 2007

East Valley school districts are spending tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the Legislature this year, in hope the lawmakers will send more of the state's precious funding their way.

The Mesa Unified School District, the state's largest district, has budgeted up to $45,000 to spend on lobbying by Jaime Molera, a former state superintendent of public instruction. The district hired Molera, in part, to work with lawmakers on issues related to Career Ladder, a performance pay plan that is a large piece of how the district pays its teachers, he said.

State agencies shouldn't be allowed to use taxpayers' money to lobby for more

Published January 11, 2007
Spartanburg Herald-Journal
(South Carolina)

When a state agency hires a lobbyist, it is turning taxpayers' money
against them.

The State Ports Authority made the correct decision this year when it
declined to hire lobbyists to work on lawmakers in Columbia.

Usually, agencies hire lobbyists to maximize their budgets, but in
this instance, the authority is concerned about a conflict over
construction of a new port in Jasper County.

The authority chairman said the decision not to rehire lobbyists was
made because: "We've heard assurances that the state's interests will
be protected … ."

The Ports Authority should have recognized that the General Assembly's
duty is to make sure the state's interests are protected. Agencies
always speak of their own interests as if they represented the
interests of the state. The truth is that they usually hire lobbyists
to make sure they get the biggest piece of the state budget pie
possible or to make sure that their area of authority in the state is
not compromised. These interests do not necessarily coincide with the
best interests of the state.

Gov. Mark Sanford has introduced plans to merge some state agencies as
part of government restructuring to increase efficiency and save
money. You can expect lobbyists for these agencies to oppose these
plans. And it won't be because of the state's best interests. It will
be because of the bureaucrats' interests.

Agencies also will be pushing for more money in their budgets. This is
an egregious abuse of taxpayers' money. The government takes money
from the people of the state and gives it to an agency to fulfill that
department's work. The agency then uses the money to hire a lobbyist
to convince lawmakers to take more money from taxpayers and give it to
the agency.

When multiple state agencies do this, the sum of their actions is to
lobby for a larger state budget and higher taxes.

It is the job of lawmakers to look at the interests of the state, to
judge which agencies need more money and which do not, to decide which
policies are in the state's best interest. Agencies can advise
lawmakers, but it is not their role to make policy. And they have no
business using taxpayers' money to pay for lobbyists to influence

Whether the purpose is to influence a port location or a budget
decision, state agencies have no business hiring lobbyists. The
governor recognized this fact when he prohibited agencies under his
control from doing so. Lawmakers should extend this rule to all state

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Road to Serfdom (Ch IV)

Here are a couple of nuggets that reveal the "planners" mindset and why they hate the Private Property Rights enacted in Arizona's Prop. 207. This anti-competition, pro-planning monopoly is nothing new.

Many years ago in his most famous book "The Road To Serfdom," Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek concisely explained the nanny-state planners desire to control and why we should avoid their false seductions.

Hayek's excerpts:

The Road to Serfdom (Ch IV)

The "Inevitability" of Planning

We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become. -- Benito Mussolini

Most (planners) affirm that we can no longer choose but are compelled by circumstances beyond our control to substitute planning for competition. The myth is deliberately cultivated that we are embarking on the new course not out of free will but because competition is spontaneously eliminated by technological changes which we neither can reverse nor should wish to prevent.

The tendency toward monopoly and planning is not the result of any "objective facts" beyond our control but the product of opinions fostered and propagated for half a century until they have come to dominate all our policy.

What planners generally suggest is that the increasing difficulty of obtaining a coherent picture of the complete economic process makes it indispensable that things should be coordinated by some central agency if social life is not to dissolve in chaos. This argument is based on a complete misapprehension of the working competition. Far from being appropriate only to comparatively simple conditions, it is the very complexity of the division of labor under modern conditions which makes competition the only method by which such coordination can be adequately brought about.

It is no exaggeration to say that if we had had to rely on conscious central planning for the growth of our industrial system, it would never have reached the degree of differentiation, complexity, and flexibility it has attained. Compared with this method of solving the economic problem by means of decentralization plus automatic coordination, the more obvious method of central direction is incredibly clumsy, primitive, and limited in scope. That the division of labor has reached the extent which makes modern civilization possible we owe to the fact that it did not have to be consciously created but that man tumbled on a method by which the division of labor could be extended far beyond the limits within which it could have been planned.

Any further growth of its complexity, therefore, far from making central direction more necessary, make it more important than ever that we should us a technique which does not depend on conscious control.

There is yet another theory which connects the growth of monopolies with technological progress. It contends not that modern technique destroys competition but that, on the contrary, it will be impossible to make use of many of the new technological possibilities unless protection against competition is granted, i.e., a monopoly is conferred. No doubt in many cases it is used merely as a form of special pleading by interested parties.

While it is true, of course, that inventions have given us tremendous power, it is absurd to suggest that we must use this power to destroy our most precious inheritance: liberty. It does mean, however, that if we want to preserve it, we must guard it more jealously than ever and that we must be prepared to make sacrifices for it.

While there is nothing in modern technological developments which forces us toward comprehensive economic planning, there is a great deal in them which makes infinitely more dangerous the power a planning authority would possess.

We all think that our personal order of values is not merely personal but that in a free discussion among rational people we would convince the others that ours is the right one. The lover of the countryside who wants above all that its traditional appearance would be preserved and that the blots already made by industry on its fair face should be removed . . . know that (his) aim can be fully achieved only by planning.

The movement for planning owes its present strength largely to the fact that, while planning is in the main still an ambition, it unites almost all the single minded idealists, all the men and women who have devoted their lives to a single task.

It (planning) would make the very men who are most anxious to plan society the most dangerous if they were allowed to do so – and the most intolerant of the planning of others.

From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a single step.

Quotes from Chapters I & II can be viewed here:
Chapter III:
THE ROAD TO SERFDOM in movie form, 5 minute cartoon:

Friday, February 9, 2007

Finally, some good transportation ideas

Toll Road Trend Hits Arizona
Reason Founder Robert Poole is scheduled to testify before a House committee on toll roads and using public-private partnerships to build new highways on Tuesday.

And next week, Reason's Geoff Segal will be appearing in Phoenix to testify about Arizona's plans to convert carpool lanes into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes and to partner with the public sector to build new freeways. In a column for the Arizona Republic, Poole and Leonard Gilroy write, "The private sector has committed nearly $2 billion to add high-occupancy toll lanes near Washington, D.C., and $7.2 billion to build toll roads from Dallas to San Antonio.

There are more than $25 billion in public-private partnership highway projects planned or already approved across the United States. Arizona's freeways don't have to resemble parking lots. The Senate bills encouraging toll roads and public-private partnerships are significant steps in the fight against gridlock."

The full column is here.

Reason's Toll Roads Research and Commentary

Thursday, February 8, 2007

I'll kill your competition, if you kill mine

Washington Bureau -

Banks praised legislation that would keep retail chains like Wal-Mart out of banking, while Realtors applauded a bill that would keep banks out of real estate.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., introduced legislation that would prevent major retailers from owning federally insured banks through an industrial loan corporation. Frank is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

"Commercial firms should not own banks," says Edward Yingling, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association.

The legislation is timely because of recent applications for ILCs from large commercial firms. An FDIC moratorium on new ILCs was scheduled to expire Jan. 31.

"We urge Congress to act now before the wall between banking and commerce is damaged beyond repair," Yingling says.

Allowing big retailers to own banks concentrates economic power, hurts local merchants and threatens the soundness of the nation's financial system, contends the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Realtors make similar arguments in their long-standing effort to keep banks out of the real estate business. They've got a powerful ally as well: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is sponsor of legislation that would define real estate brokerage and management as commercial activities, not financial activities, and therefore make them off limits to banks.

"Without passage of this legislation we are concerned that national bank conglomerates will continue their attempts to enter into the real estate industry, putting both competition and the nation's economic health at risk," says Pat Vredevoogd Combs, president of the National Association of Realtors.

Realtors failed to win passage of this legislation in the past, but Congress has used spending bills to block attempts by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to define real estate as a financial activity.

For more information, see or

Maybe just tax the ammo and leave property owners alone

Big authoritairian government squabble in Idaho over this very same issue. At least the NoDaks' respect private property rights.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ Fenced game preserves may spark impassioned debate about hunting ethics, but the Legislature should defend landowners' right to operate them, the state Senate decided in rejecting legislation to ban them.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Tim Mathern, sought to prohibit hunters from paying to shoot deer, elk and other big game on a private hunting preserve.

The measure was often called the "high fence" hunting bill, a reference to the fence that game preserve operators are required to have around their land. North Dakota has more than 100 registered deer and elk farms.

North Dakota's Senate voted 44-3 on Wednesday to defeat the legislation.

The proposal's supporters argued that game farms were the equivalent of shooting animals in a cage.

Big Rattler

Bullet tax @ 10 cents a round -- Where do we go to surrender?

What could be the nation's first tax on bullets is being floated as a way to help balance Cook County's budget.

Commissioner Roberto Maldonado wants to slap a 10-cent-a-bullet tax on those buying ammunition in the county. It's one of dozens of plans offered to close the county's $500 million budget deficit.

The plan comes as the County Board raids the Forest Preserve District for $13 million, demands millions more from state government and considers slapping fees on SUVs, towed cars and other items. It's all being discussed to try to lessen the impact of thousands of job cuts, as proposed by Board President Todd Stroger.

Stroger said he'll listen to any ideas to increase fees but wouldn't change his commitment to a no-tax pledge.

Maldonado said an ammo tax "is as close as possible to a sin tax" and could bring in more than $250,000 a year.

A National Rifle Association official urged the County Board to look elsewhere for funds.

THE BULLET POINTS A look at how much of an effect a fee on bullets would have - from small fries to big shots: 10 cents: Deputy Barney Fife, if he bought his own police-issued bullet and was able to join the Cook County Sheriff's Department.

$50: Terry "Tank" Johnson, if the Bears defensive tackle made the trip across the county line for the 500 rounds of ammunition allegedly found in his Lake County home.

$530,368: If every person in Cook County, 5,303,683 according to 2005 U.S. Census estimates, were to do his or her part and buy one bullet.

Snapping without a silencer,

Big Rattler

The Paradox of the Statist Businessman

Ever wonder why your local chamber of commerce(rads) seem to always side with big government dreams and schemes? You question what happened to good old fashioned competition, to free-market, to limited government?

Businessmen are just trying to make a living within the "rules of the game," but resist bucking the system to change the rules ... why? Is it because of fear from retaliation from the government commissars? YOU BET!

Is it because some businessmen have secured an advantage over their competition via cronyism with the government commissars? YOU BET!

Are there still businessmen out there who have spent lifetimes struggling up the ladder and are completely disgusted at the "rules of the game?" YOU BET!

Here are some snakebite bits from a classic Theodore J. Forstmann's article.

Biography: Theodore J. Forstmann is a founding general partner of Forstmann Little & Co., a private investment firm, and a member of the Cato Institute's Board of Directors.

The Statist Worldview
One view begins and ends with government. It is of a statist society in which the government regulates and mediates most human relationships--economic and otherwise. The other view begins and ends with the individual. It is of a civil society in which people organize themselves through voluntary association and exchange. Statist society promises you happiness in exchange for the better part of your freedom. Civil society merely guarantees your freedom. Happiness is up to you.

Perhaps we can understand the statist impulse on behalf of the unskilled and unschooled, the disabled and the disenfranchised, the infantile and the infirm. But why would the businessman choose to bargain with his most precious capital--freedom?

It would be easy to dismiss the statist businessman as either a knave or a fool. The sad truth is that he's neither. Remember what Voltaire once said: "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." The statist businessman is simply doing his job. He's probably just part of a big corporation. He didn't make the rules; he just follows them. He doesn't ask why the government holds all the cards; he simply accepts the hand he's dealt. To play it safe, the bureaucratic businessman plays along.

But by joining rather than fighting the forces of an activist big government, he becomes part of the problem. Indeed, he becomes a significant part of the problem to which he contributes in three ways. Number one, he is a conservator--not a creator. Number two, he is a lobbyist. And number three, he is used as an argument against capitalism even though he is not a capitalist at all.

Businessman as Lobbyist
The statist businessman is, by definition, a lobbyist. Having made his peace with 20th-century collectivism, he is fundamentally concerned with "who gets what" from government's redistributive powers. He seeks subsidies for himself and penalties and regulations for his competitors. He is the miserable figure Ronald Reagan described as the fellow who hoped the crocodile would eat him last.

Take a good read of Forstmann's full article and coil you mind around his pearls of wisdom.

Snap at you later,
Big Rattler

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Eat the Rich -- (Nod to PJ O'Rourke)

New tax proposal combines social engineering and class warfare. Congressional Democrats want to use the tax code to penalize large corporate severance packages. But this should be a matter for stockholders to decide, not headline-seeking politicians. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, explains that the middle class often feels the brunt of tax schemes designed to punish the so-called rich:

One of the ways the Senate bill does this is to place a cap on the amount of "deferred compensation" that a company can award its top executives in a given year. The cap is equal to $1 million or the executive's average salary for the previous five years, whichever is lower. But rather than simply tax any deferred compensation above that threshold as income, it imposes an additional 20% penalty tax on deferred comp above the limit. The Joint Committee on Taxation predicts this provision will bring in $800 million over the next decade. We'll go out on a limb and predict it brings in an amount closer to $0.

AZ -- Killing us softly with their voyerism

I've snaked down these roads with the "government photo cash registers" flicking flashes of new found fortunes for fat bureaucrats.

What happens ... free-flowing traffic abruptly slows with tail lights flaring and rear-end collision avoiding maneuvers abound when approaching the government photo cash registers.

Another wreck avoided, almost all the time. At least the government gets more money for our hassle. And, what about "due process" under the law? A photo is a far cry from traffic officer wouldn't you think?

Here are quick snaps from another liberal rag-paper:

Two Scottsdale companies submitted proposals Tuesday to operate the city's
lucrative photo enforcement contract, which could include the speed cameras on
Loop 101. And just hours later, the Scottsdale City Council agreed to oppose a
photo enforcement bill - one of a number introduced at the Legislature - that
would divert a city's profit away from any municipally-run freeway program.

During the [Scottsdale] council's discussion Tuesday on photo enforcement
legislation, members agreed they did not like a bill introduced by Rep. Michele
Reagan, R-Scottsdale, that would require any city that runs a freeway photo
enforcement program - Scottsdale is the only current one - to send any profit to
the Arizona Highway Patrol Fund, Criminal Justice Enhancement Fund and Crime Lab Assessment Fund. Scottsdale has made more than $850,000 to date, and is
projecting a $1.2 million general fund profit by the end of June.

Snap at you later,

Big Rattler

Minimum work for minimum wage

Sali is right on

Rep. Bill Sali is right on the money in opposing minimum wage laws. The Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit research organization, recently released a study that revealed some of the unintended consequences of such laws.

The study found that for every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, unemployment jumped 3.9 percent among minorities overall, 4.9 percent among Hispanics, 6.6 percent among teenagers and 8.4 percent among African-American teens.

Sali was viciously attacked for his position. Logical review of the facts reveal the result of increases in the minimum wage. I would very much like to help the intended target recipients/beneficiaries of an increase in minimum wages.

The problem is, the very people we want to help can be hurt more by our meddling with the market, by meddling with employer's choices to hire, determine pay levels, and reward for merit and for the increases in business income due to employee efforts. Bill Sali took the position that is most likely to promote job growth and allow for a free market to thrive, and is most optimal for minority Americans. Good for him.

Terry Silsby -- Meridian, ID

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Arizona Taxpayers Pick Up $10 Million Tab for Government Lobbyists

GI logo
News Release

Arizona Taxpayers Pick Up $10 Million Tab for Government Lobbyists
New report exposes practice of government lobbying

Contact: Ann Seiden
(602) 462-5000 x 223

PHOENIX - A Goldwater Institute study released today reveals that government lobbyists in Arizona outnumber legislators 10-1. The report reveals how much money is spent on taxpayer-funded lobbying, that is, the practice of government agencies hiring lobbyists to promote their agendas. Author and Goldwater Institute constitutional policy analyst Benjamin Barr offers two paths to reform: disclosure and prohibition.

Your Tax Dollars at Work: The Implications of Taxpayer-funded Lobbying tracks Arizona's public lobbying expenditures from 2000-2005, and finds Arizona government bodies spent more than $10 million in taxpayer funds on lobbying activities during that time. The Department of Transportation alone spent more than $1.3 million.

"Government lobbying is toxic to representative democracy," says Goldwater Institute Chairman Tom Patterson. "It distorts the democratic process by pitting government interests against those of citizens." The United States and Arizona constitutions protect the right of citizens to petition their government. Mr. Patterson continued, "Letting government agents lobby with taxpayer funds, however, drowns out the voices of regular citizens, putting private citizens at a distinct disadvantage."

The report includes a list of Arizona state agencies that employ more than 900 registered government lobbyists. Government agencies from the Department of Education to the Board of Barbers hire lobbyists. Cities and counties also use registered lobbyists, with Maricopa County, the city of Tucson, and Phoenix listing 85, 71, and 43, respectively.

Your Tax Dollars at Work also examines the effects of government lobbying on the democratic process. In particular, the report discusses the implications of requiring taxpayers to fund advocacy they might not otherwise support. Mr. Barr uses the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) as an example of this conflict. In 2003, the ASBA spent over $200,000 on lobbying expenditures. The association actively lobbies against school choice programs and has even brought suit against tuition scholarship organizations. Meanwhile, public opinion polls show 90 percent of Arizonans support these programs.

More than 10 states have considered reforms to eliminate or reduce taxpayer-funded lobbying. Your Tax Dollars at Work explores two such reforms that have been implemented in other states. Washington State adopted a Public Disclosure Act, which requires detailed financial reporting on all public lobbying activity. Florida, meanwhile, has taken a more aggressive approach by prohibiting state entities from using public funds for lobbying purposes altogether.

Mr. Barr says, "Government officials should be allowed to testify or share information with other branches of government, but they should not be permitted to hire lobbyists to influence and mold public policy. While there are different models to consider, the best way forward is clear. True reform requires the outright prohibition of government bodies lobbying with taxpayer dollars."

Download Your Tax Dollars at Work: The Implications of Taxpayer-funded Lobbying here.

Goldwater Institute | 500 E. Coronado Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone (602) 462-5000 | Fax (602) 256-7045 | Email

IDAHO: Ada Courthouse funding mess

Civic Parners, CCDC and Ada County
Idaho Business Review - Boise,ID,USA
The county couldn't come to an agreement with Civic Partners, so they used eminent domain laws to force the sale. There's a lot of interesting backstory and ...

Starting to Rattle

I've just been waiting to clear the backlog and get to rattlin' about the ways to make statism unpopular.

For too long, too many folks have been letting themselves get pick-pocketed by power hungry politicians and bureaucrats.

Businessmen are the hardest group to remind them in the merit of what they do.

They let the trough feeders crush their profits and most importantly, their spirit.

Rattlesnake Country is not just about money, it's about liberty.

Snap at you later,

Big Rattler