Dog Days of the Republic?

by Paul Jacob


As we await the Republican and Democratic conventions and the subsequent autumn campaign about the future of the country, it’s a good time to reflect on where we are now.

So, where are we?

One simple but telling measure of a free country is whether a child can set up a lemonade stand without being arrested, closed down, or forced to break the piggy bank for a government permit. The much ballyhooed “War on Women” is a fiction, while the war on children, lemonade and early entrepreneurial efforts is exceedingly well-documented. Last week, protestors launched National Lemonade Freedom Day.

Also last week, my Common Sense e-letter focused on two events that place our modern society somewhere on the outskirts of banana republic moving at a high rate of speed toward a police state.

Fauquier County officials fined Martha Boneta, owner of Liberty Farms in Paris, Virginia, $5,000 for two unspeakable crimes against humanity. First, though she did have a permit to sell produce from her farm, she didn’t have the latest state-of-the-art permit required after yet additional regulations had been enacted. Second, without securing an event permit or any approval from government officials at all, this dangerous woman premeditatedly held a birthday party for a friend’s 10-year old daughter.

Dana Crow-Smith and her Christian group were recently ordered to stop giving away free bottled water in the 112-degree heat of downtown Phoenix by a Neighborhood Preservation Inspector. Seems she needs a vendor license, even though she hadn’t been vending.

A “Neighborhood Preservation Inspector”? How on earth will your community survive without such an official? Or do you already have one and just don’t know it because you’ve never committed the Good Samaritan crime of providing water to the hot and thirsty?

I only wonder how much the city of Phoenix pays in salary, health insurance and pension benefits for this important inspector.

I know in San Jose, California, according to a new study by the California Public Policy Foundation, the total cost of compensation for their average full-time city employee is a whopping $175,000 a year. Not the top compensation, mind you, but the average. No wonder, just months ago, 70 percent of voters in that city’s heavily democratic electorate approved a citizen initiative to reform the pension system.

In addition to government’s overreach in regulating every aspect of our personal behavior, from what we can eat or drink to whether we dare hold a kid’s birthday party or hand a bottle of cold water to a fellow citizen, there is the financial fleecing of taxpayers by the biggest special interest of all: the government itself. Promises politicians have made when “bargaining” with public employee unions are no bargain.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: When politicians sit down with the politically powerful public employee union bosses, who can and do threaten their electoral success, to negotiate over salary and benefits to be paid by taxpayers, who are not at the table, disastrous deals get made. Across the nation, municipalities are closing libraries and parks, cutting the number of policemen and fire fighters and teachers, or just going belly-up by declaring bankruptcy, because the cost of pensions have eaten a humongous hole in their budgets.

Simply put, the cost of rewarding those who work in government, and who used to work there, has crowded out the ability of government to fund the services to the people for which government exists in the first place.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s office released a study earlier this month, which found that by 2016 the Land of Lincoln will pay more toward government pensions than it pays toward public education. And that’s too rosy. Research by the respected Illinois Policy Institute shows that, going by proper accounting standards, the $83 billion unfunded liability the state claims is actually over $200 billion.

Government is running our lives at a cost we cannot sustain. Let’s hear what those who seek to take the reins of our Republic intend to do about it.  (links & citations)

 August 26, 2012

This column first appeared at Townhall.com.