Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Mighty Hand of ... Caesar

There is little that sickens me more than to see photos in the newspaper of legislators slapping each other the “high five” or patting one another’s behinds as the governor or president signs a tax increase into law (most recently in Arkansas). In the case of Arkansas, the latest tax increase on tobacco is just that: a tax increase. The funds are not attached in any way, so we are completely at the mercy of the legislature and the governor as to where this money will actually end up. And political promises being what they are, consider that the grocery tax is still there in spite of talk and promises during a political campaign. And make no mistake: this government would much rather see you go without than they.

Having said this, however, I find myself becoming increasingly agitated at the ever-expanding, yet inconsistent, role of government in daily life. Take, for instance, the recently passed tobacco tax increase. Out of one side of the mouth, the government wants us to stop smoking. Out of the other side, however, this money is already spent (at least in the governor’s own mind) on new or expanded health-related programs (it must be noted, however, that the money will simply be collected. These programs do not currently have legislation to fund or create them). According to proponents of this tax increase, “all” Arkansans will benefit, yet only a few Arkansans are being burdened with the responsibility of paying for it. And all the while, these same proponents are secretly hoping all tobacco usage will stop? Puhleez.

An adult does not have to wear a motorcycle helmet, but this same adult must wear a seat belt when riding in an automobile. A parent can no longer buy an off-road ATV or motocross motorcycle for a child under 12 (or parts for already-owned bikes!), but these same parents can buy their 16-year-old a street-legal “crotch rocket”, a racing style motorcycle that has power to spare, so that “Junior” can go tearing down the road at 100mph and put MY life, or the lives of those whom I love, in danger with his youthful exuberance, testosterone, and corresponding stupidity.

I am a Republican in a sea of Democrats. It is clear that I can climb aboard their life raft but only if I am willing to compromise what I believe for the sake of “unity”. My thoughts and opinions are not welcome, I am not allowed my say (except on a “blog” few read anyway), and I effectively have no representation because I will write to a state or US representative or senator and “might” get a response several months later, if at all.

I am surrounded by abortion proponents who refuse to acknowledge the certain reality about life but will, instead, celebrate the “right” to destroy that life. Yes, you have a right to have an abortion (even while refusing to exercise a right not to reproduce), but you do not have the right to buy your 11-year-old child an off-road vehicle. And we are reaching a critical state in which it may soon become a government “obligation” (read, against my Republican will) to sustain one’s “right” to destroy a human life, even if unborn, by offering full funding (Obama’s executive order) against my wishes and in spite of my objections on any grounds.

Additionally, we may well be coming to a point in government services in which artificial birth control will also be deemed a “right” so much so that government would financially obligate itself to pay for it, but only for poor folks.

In the midst of the gloom and doom of the worst recession to hit this nation in 25 years (or since the Great Depression, depending on who is doing the talking), our state legislature gives itself a raise with the governor’s blessing and all but gives the people of Arkansas the finger while it does so. And then to “help” us, they raise taxes on tobacco in conjunction with a pending federal tobacco tax increase, and create new spending programs to “save lives” even though such salvation does not include unborn (read, unwanted) children.

This is only a drop in the bucket. I am not sure how the immediate future is going to unfold, but I am quite certain that government will soon own us all lock, stock, and barrel unless or until we draw a line in the sand. The only ones who will have any freedom will be the very rich and the very elected. The worst part is that a complacent electorate will continue to reelect these who are slowly and surely chipping away at what we once knew as “free to live our own lives”.

Silly people.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Interesting Comparison

Interesting perspective in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial (Perspective, please) on 2/6/09 regarding Dr. Dan Hawkins’ appointment to the governor’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Advisory Committee and his idea that lawmakers can possibly be held criminally and civilly liable for “pro-tobacco (pro-death for profit) votes injurious to the public health”. More interesting still is the reference to the post-WWII Nuremberg trials of the Nazis without reference to the Nuremberg Code of Medical Ethics, which came as a result of the findings of these trials and the horrific medical experiments conducted on unwilling human subjects.

Could it be possible, then, that such lawmakers who can be held accountable for such “pro-death” legislation as allowing tobacco consumption can then be expected to answer, both criminally and civilly, for pro-abortion legislation, up to and including President Obama’s recent executive order that essentially puts the US government in the unique position of financing and exporting this particular mode of death internationally?

A comparison to Carrie Nation “busting up a saloon” is not fair. Government revenue for a new spending program in the midst of a massive recession that is getting worse by the day was not at stake. The ideal and goal was the prohibition of alcohol consumption, not new or additional taxes to finance new and expanded programs while “hoping” people stop drinking. That movement was not talking out of both sides of the proverbial mouth. Arkansas legislators and the governor are.

Last Word

How much more can be written about the proposed tax increase on tobacco in Arkansas? Once this measure passed the state House, I was tempted to simply give in and stop worrying about it. It is clear that Democrats in this state legislature believe it is the government’s task to save us from ourselves, and it seems clearer still that too many Republicans would rather go along than to stand up for a clear political philosophy that distinguishes one party from the other. It is not a matter of being “obstructionist”, as the accusations go, but it must necessarily be a distinction that holds firm to the premise that there is only so much government can do and that no matter how much government takes from a staggering economy, ostensibly to “help” us, they still cannot save us from ourselves.

Trauma is trauma, wounds resulting from, more often than not, avoidable accidents that will continue to occur, some still resulting in death, in spite of a government decree to the contrary or even the greatest trauma system on the face of the planet. We still cannot help but to drive drunk, or drive too fast for conditions, or apply makeup while driving, or talk on cell phones while driving, or fail to take all precautionary measures as “bothersome” before undertaking a dangerous job. And let us not forget that drug dealers will still shoot other drug dealers, and anyone else for that matter, if things don’t go the way they expect them to go.

None of this is to say that we cannot take reasonable action to enforce safety measures, and none of this is to say that we simply write trauma victims off as deserving of whatever befalls them as the result of their carelessness or neglect.

Still, people die. It is an incontrovertible reality that mortal humans are faced with every single day. No government spending program, no tax increase, no bureaucratic mandate will change this. We as individuals can take reasonable measures and precautions to avoid dangerous situations and we as individuals can take responsibility for our own health situations, but we cannot avoid death. It is not even reasonable to suggest that we can delay death because we do not know when or where or even how our lives will end. This is well outside our realm.

Let us be more reasonable about what we ask and expect of our government. Let us be mindful of the current environment in which normal citizens have stopped spending money out of fear and uncertainty about tomorrow, and let us demand of our government that they, too, be mindful of certain realities. Our Arkansas legislature gave itself a raise, secure in the knowledge that in two years when they are up for reelection, they will be either termed out of office or we will have long forgotten.

Let us, finally, be mindful that we are not only responsible for our individual choices, but we are also responsible for the members of the legislature. We put them there, and we can take them out. They work in our behalf, and they need to be reminded of this absolute. No more incumbents; no more lifetime, career politicians.

Now give me a minute while I hold my breath till this all comes to pass.