Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An Indictment of Modern-Day Politics -or- I am not a Republican

I am a conservative.

What the hell does that mean, and why am I wasting time this morning on it?

It means that I, in general, believe that Government's (big G) role is to provide a framework of basic laws to protect the rights of man, while acting as a nation's aggregate defense against and diplomat to other nations.

I believe it is the responsibility of multiple governments to create the minimal amount of laws necessary to ensure that people live in relative peace, but are free to pursue their own goals, and that municipalities, like businesses, should be free to create whatever laws are mandated by their local constituencies. This, in turn, creates competition (for tax dollars), and gives the individual the right to choose the laws under which he / she shall live.

I believe that the People (big P) should elect their local representation, and their representation in the Congress of each level of government under which they live, but that the government itself should choose or appoint representatives with similar authority to represent the needs not seen by the common man. This was originally provided in the Constitution, but subsequent Amendments changed the way we put people into office.

I believe that the US Constitution is a perfect document. It is NOT a living document, subject to re-interpretation, editing, redacting, or writing off as "old-fashioned". The Constitution provided a very basic framework under which the federal government oversaw international relations and free trade between states. It acted solely as an arbiter, never as a moral authority, never as a benevolence association. And the federal government had very little say in the average person's day-to-day activities.

And yet that seems to be the "old-fashioned" idea. I've harped on it before, but our federal government seems to have more direct involvement with our lives than any of our local or state laws. Most people have no idea who their local councilmen are, little idea of who represents them at the state level, and yet a strangely overdeveloped notion of who their US senators are. We all know who the president is, along with probably at least half of his cabinet, but to what end?

You might have voted for all of these people, but when you get right down to it, the government level at which you can affect the most change is most likely alien to you. In days of yore, the taxpayer paid the municipality. The municipality was then responsible for remunerating the state, which, in turn, paid the federal government. The idea was simple: you wrote one check, and everyone got paid. If you had a beef with your local government, you withheld payment and got a bunch of other folks to do so, too. Your voice was heard, and you effected change.

Now, when you pay taxes, you have no clue what happens to your money. You pay federal taxes directly to the IRS, which then gives a big chunk of that money right back to the states in building and road programs. The money you give to the state goes to places unknown, but a large percentage of that pays your local taxes. Strange, but true. Consider the car tax: when it was first implemented, it was a way for localities to collect taxes. Then the state took control of your car tax, and paid something like 90% of the revenue back to the locality. Then the state decided to abolish the car tax (as a state tax), but continued paying 90% of the originally projected revenue back to the localities, with the plan to eventually phase that remuneration out. The localities complained, and rather than levying their own local car taxes, they got the state car tax re-instated. The funny thing is, you've always paid your car tax directly to the locality, never to the state. WTF?

Ok, back on target: government != moral authority. In general, I support the Republican party. Their beliefs do not always coincide with mine, but from the general perspective of minimal government, they're the best fit for me. And I've been a strong supporter of George Bush through his first 5 years of office, but I'm getting tired of him.

At first it was just little annoyances, like the gay marriage amendment. I have a lot of gay friends, and at first I thought I agreed with the notion that benefits would be very tricky to ensure if marriage were completely unrestricted. But then I heard that there are no federal laws that define marriage in any way (although a lot of federal laws depend on there being at least some basic definition of marriage), and I realized (completely unrelated) that there's no reason to deny people the opportunity to pledge love to each other.

So that started to piss me off. Why do we need this as a constitutional amendment? And why was he campaigning so hard for it to be a constitutional amendment? Remember: I believe the Constitution is a perfect document. And that brought us to flag burning, which, though annoying, is protected as a form of expression by the First Amendment. Attempting to deny this First Amendment right is a violation of the 9th Amendment.

And, intermingled in all of this, we get the stem cell debate. Why is this a debate? In principal, I agree that it's terrible to destroy life, but I'm not of the opinion that a government that allows abortions up to the 2nd trimester is in any position to moralize on EMBRYOs. Now, I'm not anti-abortion, but it's still a tough pill to swallow: "You can kill that fetus if you don't want it, but you can't dedicate an embryo to helping cure disease."

All of these are examples of George Bush reaching into our homes and dictating our behavior, and all for a few votes that he personally doesn't need. I think he's lost his compass. I liked him better when he was dealing with international issues, and allowing the country to take care of itself. People hated him for it, but I respected it. Why did he need to be personally involved in Katrina? It's not like some terrorist organization or foreign government caused the devastation, so why does the president need to be involved? It made no sense, but the public wanted to hang him for his aloof treatment of the hurricane.

I loved his response to China when our spy plane was captured in 2001. I was deeply impressed by our swift actions to remove the Taliban from power, and had no moral compunction with our invasion of Iraq. I think a strong-arm approach is sometimes necessary with Europe, and Russia is truly regressing. Our efforts to help with the Kursk, our awesome pull with Khadafi, and our pressure on both Iran and North Korea are to be lauded. But every time I hear him talk about something on American soil, I get angry.

But I can't place all the blame on George Bush, nor would I want to. I impeach us, as the citizens of this country, for imbuing the office of the President with supreme legislative power, for ignoring our responsibility to our local governments, for putting too much faith in our Senators (who, incidentally, were originally appointed by the states to represent state governments), instead of our congressmen, and for demanding a moralizing government.

We live in a welfare state, with social security, medicare, medicaid, and a bevy of other programs where we rely on the federal government to fund our ventures. We no longer need to fend for ourselves to be successful, but in exchange, we allow the NEA, the Department of Education, and countless other federal agencies to place restrictions on our daily lives, and our collective response to their quest for more power is to give it to them, robbing and marginalizing our local representation.

Our voices are no longer heard, and we have elected a king.

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