Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind
By Malia Hill
“Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty .”—Ronald Reagan
Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government. Here are some of the highlights from the past week:
While the politicians in Washington dance around the hows, wheres, and whys of possible gun bans, Hawaii residents are experiencing the frustrating reality of invasive, ill-thought bureaucratic restrictions on gun ownership. Malia Zimmerman of Hawaii Reporter details how Oahu citizens attempting to comply with Hawaii law on gun registration can expect to spend some nine hours in line over three separate days—an especially inefficient result of a situation where both law and policy have no regard whatsoever for the law-abiding citizens who try to follow it. Zimmerman’s report abounds with firsthand accounts that begin, depressingly, with lines like, “I got there at 3:30 am and was already the 9th person in line.” Since when is registering a firearm supposed to resemble a Black Friday sale? There are, of course, several sensible ways that the process could be streamlined—to the benefit of both the applicant and the employees charged with helping them. (After all, restrictive and intrusive government doesn’t just hurt the citizen—sometime it’s no picnic for the person charged with enforcing it either.)
The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom has been released, and those who had been hoping to see a real improvement in the US position . . . probably have not been paying much attention to things as of late. The US score has sunk even more (to 76.0), and is ranked as the 10th, with a classification of “mostly free” (as opposed to just “free”). In fact, the authors say that economic freedom worldwide is stagnant, and lay some of the blame for this in the lack of American leadership on the issue. A diplomatic way to describe a seemingly unending series of barriers put up by the current presidential administration, not least of which are the Dodd-Frank banking regulations and the tax-and-business-migraine otherwise known as Obamacare. In fact, the report specifically cites the more than 100 major new federal regulations with annual costs of more than $46 billion enacted since 2009 as major reason for the poor performance of the US. As citizens, we are only learning to see the harm done to our economy and our freedom by the hidden taxes and penalties of heavy government regulation, but the world can see it and is responding in its own way.
Politicians will do anything, sell you any line, rather than offer up the hard reality of our spending and debt. This is why we need Michael Tanner, who gives it to us straight—it is simply not possible to tax our way out of the levels of debt we are now incurring. Tax the rich more heavily? If we confiscated every penny of the $840 billion that our millionaires and billionaires made in 2010, it still wouldn’t cover the budget deficit of our 2013 fiscal cliff “deal”. In 2008 (which now seems comparatively austere), the Congressional Budget Office estimated that just to pay for the spending levels at the time, we would have to raise the top tax rate to 88%, the middle-income rate to 63% and the low-income rate to 25%. There’s an economic truth that will never make it into a political campaign. The long and the short of it is that there is no way forward that doesn’t include cutting spending. And not with the kinds of cosmetic cuts that keep everyone happy. Real cuts, serious ones—the kinds that touch entitlements and make various interest groups very unhappy indeed—need to be made. And we the people need to support those who have the courage to propose them.
Parents go to incredible lengths to try to provide a better education for their children. Finally, one state has seen how this instinct can be turned into a more efficient and effective statewide education system. Arizona has pioneered the creation of the Education Savings Account, a state-funded bank account that families use for approved education expenses. Through these accounts, students can pay school tuition, buy textbooks, pay tutors, enroll in online classes, and otherwise direct their own education in the way that best fits them. Though initially only for special needs students, they have since been expanded for students in failing schools, active-duty military families, and adopted children. Giving families and students the power to control the direction of education funding over the state bureaucracy is a big step in eliminating wasted funds and the stranglehold that teachers’ unions often hold over education. Here’s hoping more states follow Arizona’s example.
It is easy to get people to admit that they make mistakes in the abstract. More difficult is getting them to admit to making specific mistakes. And even more difficult is remembering that human failure is a constant that can be found in every human endeavor—up to (and especially) politics. In this article, Paul Jacob remembers James Buchanan, whose work reminds us that we’re no angels and that government failure is rampant. An important lesson for a culture that continues to make the error of looking to government to save them from themselves.
Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.
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