A+ A A-

Bob Meade - Hand out or hand up

When the 16th Amendment was ratified one hundred years ago, it gave the federal government the ability to lay and collect taxes on individual citizens. Prior to that time, the federal government assessed each state their portion of the federal budget, based on each state's population. States would then levy a tax on the citizens, collect the money, and send it to the federal government. President Taft wanted a more equitable way to assess citizens for their share of the federal expenditures and, from that, evolved the 16th Amendment.

While President Taft was right, the mere fact that the government can impose taxes on individuals as it sees fit, is cause for concern. Individuals simply don't have the voice, or the clout that a state government has, to put pressure on the federal government to manage more wisely. The ability to tax also negates the need to find real solutions to problems, as it allows bureaucracies, once started, to continue to grow regardless of their performance. Every deficiency or failure of the bureaucracy brings a shout, a demand, for more tax revenues. There is no need for a bona fide solution, just levy more taxes and let the failed bureaucracy continue to grow.

An example of a new bureaucratic failure is the website for the Affordable Care Act. The site has already incurred over $600 million in costs and has yet to perform up to any measure of acceptable standards that normal businesses would demand. More money will continue to be thrown at the problem in the hopes that it will one day operate within some standard norms. No business would have ever permitted such excessive cost over-runs, or have undergone such minimal testing, or have proceeded to launch when every pre-cutover signal was that the cutover would be a failure, or, importantly, have no security built into the system. To say that it has been a novice performance up to this time is the kindest thing one can say.

However, to this point, the website failure is miniscule when compared to other federal bureaucratic failures. For example, the War on Poverty was started under President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, in the hopes of elevating those in need out of poverty and into the middle class. At that time, there were about 34 million people living at the poverty level. Fast forward to 2009, and we find about the same percentage of people were living in poverty as did when the program was started . . . in spite of the fact that over $16 trillion has been spent trying to eliminate it. One of the side effects of that "investment" is that in 1965, two thirds, or 67 percent of low-income households were headed by a full-time worker. By 1991, only 11 percent of those households were headed by a full-time worker. An article in the New York Times pointed out that, in 2009, the federal government spent $14,849 for every man, woman, and child living in poverty. The article went on to say, "Throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty nor made the poor self-sufficient."

To this point, our national debt of $17+ trillion is quite close to what we have spent on the War on Poverty, without making any significant improvement in the poverty level. It seems that our bureaucracies prefer to seek tax revenues more than they seek solutions to problems. Why not try seeking solutions? For example, there are some geographic locations in this country that have been poverty stricken for decades, and there appears to be little hope of turning around that problem. Shouldn't we consider a family relocation plan that would allow people to move from systemic poverty areas to locations with good employment? In combination with that relocation plan, provide a corresponding job training program for members of the household so they could become proficient in any number of marketable skills. Such a plan would help people work their way out of poverty and become self-sufficient, and, in the longer term, would reduce the Federal expenditures that exist today.

When WWII ended, returning military could use their GI benefits to learn any number of trades . . . plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, and so on. The employers who were willing to take on that training responsibility were compensated for a portion of the wages they paid to the apprentice. Over time, the employer no longer needed to be subsidized, as the trainee had become skilled in his chosen field and could offer his services on the open market.

This is but one example. The federal government is rife with problems in need of solutions. Every process can be improved. We should stop suffering bloated bureaucracies and demand solutions to problems.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 10:04

Hits: 277

Froma Harrop - Feed the Beast with nothing

We know that about 20,000 pseudo-, semi- and real journalists "cover" Washington. We know that mid-December is slow-time in the nation's capital as the public turns its attention to the holidays. But big news or no, the scriveners tending political websites must still, as they say, "feed the beast" and take it out for a walk three times a day.

Hence the to-do about Vice President Joe Biden's latest "gaffe," an alleged sexist remark in Tokyo. Biden had asked women at an Internet company, "Do your husbands like you working full time?"

That was the length and breadth of it. I consider my sensitivity to patriarchal cuts fairly high-tuned, and honest, the comment would not have set off a bleep. After all, Japan remains a culture in which 60 percent of women leave their jobs when they have children. Presumably, their husbands are involved in the decision.

One imagines that husband-wife talks on whether a mother of young kids should work outside the house are held in Topeka, as well. The issue goes beyond concern about male dominance in decision-making. Rather, it centers on who will care for the little ones and create a civilized home life, which some people still care about.

It doesn't have to be the woman. I was reading this weekend about female hotshots on Wall Street, flying out of the house before dawn and jetting off to every continent while their highly competent husbands stay at home, getting breakfast into the children and dropping them off at day care before they pick up the dry cleaning. There are about five of those.

Many more couples in this country perform a stressful balancing act for sharing the duties — both breadwinning and domestic. If the workplace offered more time flexibility and day care were easier to find, the quality of American family life would improve considerably.

The question Biden might ask women in Topeka is whether their husbands would mind their not working the job they do — in addition to handling most of the child care and homemaking. And that's assuming there is a husband, which in America is more and more not the case for mothers of young children.
The chief reason for Biden's trip to Tokyo was security-related, to help ease tensions among Japan, South Korea and China. The side trip to the Internet firm was to show support for a Japanese government plan to draw more women into the workplace. Japan is experiencing a sharp drop in population, and women could ease the resulting labor shortage. Hence, the Japanese government has launched a program to help families balance the demands of parenting and outside work.

Which brings us back to Washington, passionately engaged in dissecting a "gaffe" unnoticed by about 99.9 percent of the American public. On CNN, Newt Gingrich denounced Biden for launching a "war on women," and Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz punched back with counter-accusations against Republicans. Meanwhile, The Washington Post produced a fevered headline: "Out-of-context Biden comment to working women in Tokyo sparks firestorm back home."

The quality of the umbrage was so flimsy that the political posters quickly employed the time-honored trick of finding significance in the fact that they were discussing something of no consequence. Fine, keeps them busy.

But the giant stresses of juggling home life with job life remain an enormous concern from Topeka to Tacoma, Tempe to Tampa. Highlighting a government plan for easing those strains was what brought Biden to meet female office workers in Tokyo.

Let's make note of that plan — if only to fill the time as our political media wait to hear what crazy thing Joe Biden will say next.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 01:29

Hits: 251

Pat Buchanan - Reagan and the zebra

"Apartheid is an affront to human rights and human dignity. Normal and friendly relations cannot exist between the United States and South Africa until it becomes a dead policy. Americans are of one mind and one heart on this issue."

So said Ronald Reagan in his 1986 message to Congress vetoing the "sweeping and punitive sanctions" Congress was seeking to impose.

Reagan equated the sanctions to "declaring economic warfare on the people of South Africa." His Treasury Secretary James Baker said Sunday that Reagan likely regretted this veto. But having worked with the president on his veto message and address on South Africa, I never heard a word of regret. Nor should there have been any. For in declaring, "we must stay and build not cut and run" from South Africa, Reagan, whose first duty was the defense of his nation in the Cold War with the Soviet empire, saw not only the moral issue but the strategic imperative.

In 1986, there were 40,000 Cuban troops in Angola, where South Africa was a fighting ally and backer of anti-Communist Jonas Savimbi. In Zimbabwe, Robert "Comrade Bob" Mugabe, having butchered thousands of Ndebele of rival Joshua Nkomo, was communizing his country. Southwest Africa and Mozambique hung in the balance.Reagan was determined to block Moscow's drive to the Cape of Good Hope. And in that struggle State President P. W. Botha was an ally.

Second, as Reagan declared, the sanctions ban on sugar imports would imperil 23,000 black farmers, and cutting off Western purchases of natural resources would imperil the jobs of 500,000 black miners. "The Prime Minister of Great Britain has denounced punitive sanctions as immoral and utterly repugnant," said Reagan in July of 1986, "Mrs. Thatcher is right."

"Are we truly helping the black people of South Africa — the lifelong victims of apartheid," said Reagan in his veto, "when we throw them out of work and leave them and their families jobless and hungry in those segregated townships? Or are we simply assuming a moral posture at the expense of the people in whose name we presume to act?"

Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi had come to see Reagan to implore him to block sanctions, as they would harm his people.

Alan Paton, author of "Cry the Beloved Country," the conscience of South Africa, wrote: "I am totally opposed to disinvestment ...

 primarily for a moral reason. Those who will pay most grievously for disinvestment will be the black workers of South Africa. I take very seriously the teachings of the Gospels, in particular the parables about giving drink to the thirsty and the food to the hungry. I will not help to cause any such suffering to any black person."
"Nor will we," declared Reagan.

He cited an African leader who described South Africa as a zebra: "If the white parts are injured, the black parts will die, too."

The greatest forces for equal opportunity, higher wages and better working conditions in South Africa, said Reagan, are the U.S., British, French, Dutch and German businesses. Sanctions will force them to divest, depart and sell out to Afrikaners at fire-sale prices. How does this help the black majority?

Calling capitalism "the natural enemy of such feudal institutions as apartheid," Reagan noted it was not in the Great Depression but in the prosperity of the 1960s that segregation collapsed in the USA.

While decrying the Pretoria regime's repression, Reagan also attacked "the calculated terror by elements of the African National Congress — the mining of roads, the bombing of public places" and the "most common method of terror ... the so-called necklace. "In this barbaric way of reprisal, a tire is filled with kerosene and gasoline, placed around the neck of an alleged collaborator and ignited. The victim may be a black policeman, a teacher, a soldier, a civil servant — it makes no difference, the atrocity is designed to terrorize blacks into ending all racial cooperation and to polarize South Africa as a prelude to a final climactic struggle for power."

In his speech Reagan called specifically for Nelson Mandela's release, and the release of all political prisoners. Not for four years would Mandela be let go. But when he was, he, like Reagan, recognized that just as Xhosa and Zulu built South Africa, so, too, had 5 million Boers and Brits. And peace between them — reconciliation, not reprisals, not revenge — was essential if the promise of the country was to be realized.

Undeniably, the American right was suspicious of Mandela and an ANC that condoned and practiced terrorism in the struggle for power, and aligned with enemies like Moammar Gadhafi and Fidel Castro. Yet, in the last analysis, Ian Smith, the World War II Spitfire pilot and last ruler of Rhodesia, got it right: "I was right about Mugabe, but wrong about Mandela."

As for Reagan's veto, issued in the face of a certain override during a major epidemic of moral posturing, it was both courageous and correct. No regrets needed.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 340

Sanborn – Love it or list it

As of December 1, 2013, there were 987 single family residential homes on the market in the twelve communities covered in this Lakes Region real estate market report. The average asking price was $495,189 and the median price point stood at $249,995. Last December there were 1,023 homes on the market with an average asking price of $498,763. The current inventory level represents an 11.5 month supply of homes on the market.

There are dozens of home improvement and real estate shows on TV these days and many of them are generally pretty informative and entertaining. You can learn how to do everything from the common household repair, to totally renovating a home, to making a fortune flipping houses... well, maybe breaking even flipping houses. One of my favorites lately is Love It or List It on HGTV. It is a pretty neat concept where homeowners that have outgrown their current residence have the opportunity to get their home remodeled to meet their needs while also shopping for a new home that might work better for them. The show is set up as a competition between the designer in charge of the remodel and the real estate agent charged with finding the homeowners some new and better digs. But rarely does anything go smoothly and there are a couple of flaws in the show that are a little misleading and always make me chuckle.

It doesn't take long for you to realize that the show is not based in the United States. It's actually a little north of here, in Toronto and that's not bad as the Canadian housing market is pretty strong. The Canadian accent is clearly the main tip off along with the architectural style of the homes which is slightly different than down here. The high prices of the homes might be another giveaway. It seems that most of the homes are in the $750,000 to $1.5 million for something not all that terribly grand.

There doesn't seem to be a shortage of people that have out grown their homes in Toronto. Seems like storage is always a big issue as stuff is always piled high and rooms are cluttered. There never seems to be enough bedrooms for the kids or bathrooms to go around. Enter Hilary Farr, the designer, and David Visentin, the agent. They get a list of the homeowners' must-haves for the renovation as well as what they would need in order to be enticed to move to a new home. They also get a budget for the renovations and for the new home. That's the easy part. Things generally unravel quickly from there.

Hilary comes up with a renovation plan for the homeowner to approve and sets to work ripping, tearing, and rebuilding. Now Hilary is good at what she does, very good. But I always wonder why she gets herself into the same mess show after show. It seems like in every renovation she does, there are hidden issues that cost more to correct than was budgeted. This leads to her trying to get more money from the unhappy home owner or more likely cutting back on the project which doesn't go over well either. Could the lack of proper budgeting be just a ploy to cause television discourse and increase ratings?

Agent David doesn't have it easy, either. They say he is one of the best real estate agents in Toronto and I believe it. From what I can see he is very personable, works extremely hard, listens to his clients, and does everything to make them happy. I'd hire him in a minute if he could just say "about" instead of "aboot." His problems usually stem from the fact that only one of the spouses wants to move, neither can agree on a new location, and both have different wish lists (That's no different down here south of the border.) So he shows his clients two or three great homes. Just to make the plot thicker, there's always one home they really love, but it is way over their budget (it is Canadian money, so it doesn't seem real anyway.)

Once the renovation work is done everyone meets back at the ranch and the homeowners get to see their newly remodeled home. It is always a stunning makeover and the owners are amazed and thrilled even though she didn't get that first floor powder room or he didn't get that office space he so desperately needs.
The homeowners then have to decide whether they are going to "Love" their home "or List It," but before they do David shows them one more listing; what their own home is worth now that it has been remodeled. Amazingly, their home's value always seems to increase about $30,000 more than the cost of the renovations! In the real world you just don't get over 100% ROI on remodeling your home! I really think there should be a disclaimer on the show; "Do not try this at home!" Some viewers have blogged that the homeowners don't pay for the labor costs of the renovations and that could be true, but I'd like to know for sure. I do know that if they "Love" the remodel that's the end of the story. But, what happens if they "List It?" Can they actually "Sell It" for David's quoted new value? And will the dream home that they want to buy still be there if they do? That, I am betting, might even be a better show...
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 12/1/13. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 10:53

Hits: 1211

Susan Estrich - All things that can go wrong

You may remember hearing about the Montana judge who sentenced a former high school teacher who admitted to raping a 14-year-old student to 30 days in prison. As if that wasn't bad enough, he blamed the victim, who committed suicide before the case could go to trial.

In the latest chapter of this unusually ugly story, Judge G. Todd Baugh has now admitted to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission that he should not have said that the teenager appeared older than 14 and was "probably as much in control of the situation" as the rapist. In response to a complaint against him filed by the state chapter of the National Organization for Women (which released his response), the judge apologized for those comments, writing that he was "sorry I made those remarks. They focused on the victim when that aspect of the case should have been focused on the defendant."

Actually, the whole case should have focused on the defendant. Blaming the victim, much less a dead 14-year-old victim, is inexcusable at any stage. The teacher, 54-year-old Stacey Dean Rambold, pleaded guilty. How do you get from there to 30 days?

"I believe this sentence to be fair, imposed impartially, and without bias or prejudice," Baugh wrote in response to the complaint. "I did not impose this sentence without weighing the relevant factors, and did not impose this sentence based on some misguided attempt to blame the victim."

The bias or prejudice part was a response to the NOW complaint that the judge had acted as he did because the victim was female and Hispanic. The judge's answer presumably means that he would treat the rape of a young white teenage boy equally cavalierly — although his record on cases involving young male victims is actually much tougher.

I've long defended giving judges discretion in sentencing so that the punishment can fit both the crime and the criminal. Discretion in the criminal justice system, it has been noted by many over the years, is like toothpaste in a tube: Squeeze at one point, and it just shows up somewhere else.
When legislatures pass mandatory sentences or embrace three strikes or two strikes or other politically appealing slogans that should not be enacted into law, they just transfer the discretion from the judge at the sentencing stage to police and prosecutors who decide what to charge and what plea to accept. I prefer that judges make those decisions, not only because they tend to be more experienced than prosecutors, but also because their decisions are more transparent. Sentences are imposed in open court, subject to scrutiny. At least there is that.

What happened in this case illustrates all of the things that can go wrong. The rape took place in 2007. The teacher was charged in 2008 with three counts of rape. In 2010, the victim committed suicide, and the prosecution, apparently concerned that the case would be hard to prove without her testimony (even though she was 14 at the time and the age of consent in Montana is 16), allowed the teacher rapist to enter a sex treatment program and agreed to dismiss the case if he completed treatment.

Am I the only one who thinks that is exactly what's wrong with prosecutorial discretion?

He didn't complete the treatment, and so they reinstated the charge, and he pleaded guilty last April to a single count of rape. The prosecution asked for 20 years with half suspended. The judge decided that was too much (this is what is wrong with judicial discretion) and sentenced him instead to 15 years in prison, and then suspended all but 31 days of the sentence and gave him credit for the one day — one day — he had already served.

But here's the kicker. The sentencing took place back in August. The outcry began in September. But it took the attorney general of Montana until last week to ask the Supreme Court of Montana to overturn the sentence because it is woefully too short.

I wish I could believe it is just a coincidence that the criminal justice system shows itself at its worst in a rape case with a 14-year-old female victim. I don't.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 10:05

Hits: 264

 
The Laconia Daily Sun - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy
Powered by BENN a division of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Login or Register

LOG IN