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What would freedom cost?

May 18, 2015

If you take Washington’s money, don’t cry about them controlling you.

Do we have the collective will to put the government on a budget, and if so, how?

What about the Fair, Flat or VAT tax schemes?

The problem with any of the conservative Republican candidate’s tax plans is that people tend to view them in terms of what they will lose, instead of what they would gain.

There is also the indisputable fact that none of the various plans can guarantee that that another administration won’t just issue an executive order to rescind any cost-cutting measures, including a Balanced Budget Amendment, by manufacturing some sort of crisis to justify raising taxes again. We’ve certainly seen how easily that can be done over the past six-and-a-half years.

Another consideration is that none of the current tax schemes would stop the Feds from adding fees, (like a national highway toll fee for instance) as substitutes for lost tax revenue.

In theory, if the  Feds get less, then the states should have more money, thus eliminating all or most of the administrative costs, waste and fraud issues that now plague Washington. With less money going to Washington, it follows that their sphere of influence should shrink.

How does Washington control us now?

By way of illustration of how it works now,  let’s look at a couple of examples.

In a move which should not surprise anyone, the President has made his move to effectively shut down local control of non-Federal police forces, according to a report in USA Today, by restricting or placing conditions on what types of military surplus can be sold to state and local law enforcement agencies and defining what police activities are federally approved.

Although the article focuses on what type of surplus military hardware can be sold, the real issue is the indisputable fact that he who holds the purse strings gets to set the rules.

According to the USA Today article,  a secondary list of items falls into a controlled sales category. The telling part of the article reports that in order to access this “controlled hardware” which includes things like mobile command-and-control centers and riot gear, police forces are required to submit their protocols to Federal review.  If the government likes their plan they can apply to buy the restricted items.  If it doesn’t, tough s**t.

In the report issued to provide cover for Executive Order 13688, it is noted that police departments increasingly rely on the Federal government for equipment.

While this is the breaking story at the moment, it only serves to highlight how little autonomy state and local governments have today. So much for the Tenth Amendment. No need to repeal it, if you can just ignore it.

Looking at another local issue, schools bow to the will of the Feds for fear of losing Federal funds.

A small school district in Idaho recently wanted to opt out of the ISAT test, and replace it with what they reportedly felt was a better testing method, citing the ISAT’s cost as well as the fact that it takes so long to get the results that teachers and school boards cannot use it as a real-time curriculum assessment tool.  Ultimately, with $11.6 million in Federal funding for the entire state on the line, the county school board caved to pressure and agreed to administer the Common Core “approved” testing protocol.

Of interest is that in a state with about 1.6 million residents, that $11.6 million amounts to about $7.25 per resident, or about $29.00 for a family of four.

While that would seem to be a small price to pay for freedom of choice, if you factor in just how much of what we have in the whole country that is now dependent in some measure on Federal funding,  you start to get a sense of how Washington has gained control of every aspect of our lives.

Would a Balanced Budget Amendment work?

Of course the logical way to rein in this power is to limit the amount of money the Feds can take from the people. So how much is that and how does it affect you personally?

While the exact amount is often in dispute, it has been calculated that Federal taxes alone amounted to $2.515 Trillion  in 2012. That figure does not account for fees or costs of regulatory compliance.

Going back to the small state of Idaho mentioned above, that was $4776 for each person in the state, or over $19,000 for a family of four. In a state where the median 2014  household income was reported to be $53,000, that’s a significant chunk of change. In fact, it’s 35.8% of every household dollar.

On the flip side, according to one source, Idaho receives 34.4% of its funding, which includes wages paid to Federal employees, from Federal sources. In actual 2014 dollars that amounts to just over $956 million out of the state’s $2.78 billion budget.

On the face of it, that seems like a pretty good deal. Yes, the Feds keep a little bit, but the state gets most of it back eventually. Not the people directly, but the state.

The problem is, just how much of that “returned” money gets siphoned off by the state in all the back-and-forth necessary to get it back into state programs? In short, how much of their $4776, actually winds up in the pockets of the Idahoans that worked for it in the first place? Not a lot.

The rub comes in deciding whether starving the Feds of funding would just transfer control to a smaller government, without actually letting the people and businesses keep the money and invest it in their own higher standard of living.

What would change?

Theoretically, if people got to keep more of their own money, we would need less money from government for unemployment, food stamps, medical care and all of the other programs that prop up those in poverty, because duh, there would be fewer people living in poverty.

Programs would be theoretically be more efficient.

Take the Veterans Administration for instance. If all of a veteran’s medical care was undertaken by local hospitals and medical providers, there would be no duplicated brick-and-mortar buildings to maintain.

People now working in huge, inefficient regional VA facilities could work in their own local communities, and emergency care would be delivered in a much more timely and efficient way.

If local facilities had to be enlarged, that money would provide jobs in the local area, and if the facility failed to perform as expected, the people overseeing that problem would be within a stone’s throw of the management of the offending facility.

Who stands to lose?

The most influential group that stands to lose out are the people most actively opposing reform, the politicians that derive their power and income from controlling the purse strings.

The most vocal group is comprised of the people currently using the programs that would change, and they vote for the people who stand to lose the most.

For generations of people that have always been supported by tax dollars, the thought that their only current means of support might just summarily disappear is understandably frightening.

Remember, this is largely a created lower class.  When you penalize people by taking away government money for trying to succeed on their own before they are quite ready to totally support themselves, your hold over them is very nearly unbreakable.

People running for office that are too inept or too naïve to understand that dynamic and who are too quixotic to implement reform policies intelligently simply feed into that fear of the unknown, leaving us effectively on the wrong path in spite of their good intentions.

Can we really make independence work?

Of course we can. The country existed for 200 years as a nation of motivated, thrifty and hardworking citizens. It’s only been since about the mid-1960’s that sponging off your neighbors became our national identity goal, and that was totally due to the comparatively few people whose vested interests were and are in making and keeping it that way.

It will require time, very good management and common sense, but we can be America again.

From → op-ed

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