Defunding NPR

Another week, another bunch of dumb decisions by our Fearless Leaders. The House voted this week to cease federal funding for National Public Radio, arguably the least biased news outlet in America. Also arguably the only news outlet left in America that doesn’t just ramble off a bunch of people’s tweets and calls it “news” or outright lie.

The move should save the American taxpayer about $1.50, or enough to buy you one tall coffee at Starbucks.

I like NPR. Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell me and Car Talk are about the most consistently humorous thing on the air and Morning Edition is absolutely fantastic. Republicans claim defunding NPR will save us money, which I guess is technically true, except that it’s not. Defunding NPR is like putting out a house fire with a squirt gun: it will do nothing to the bottom line for anyone or the Treasury. Republicans don’t like NPR because they’re “liberal”. Which, if by “liberal” they mean “factual”, I can see how they have a problem.

Defunding NPR won’t cause it collapse in urban areas. Rural areas might be in for a world of hurt. I can’t imagine places in the middle of Kentucky, Utah, Texas or Oklahoma will have much coverage in the next few years. They’ll be left with Glenn Beck for their “news”. God help us all.

On one hand, this may strengthen NPR. They may take the opportunity to garner new revenue streams. And, I have to assume a news story has come across their way at least once where someone said, “Should we report on this? What if some government committee gets mad and wants to shut us down?” Not relying on the government in theory only improves the journalistic excellence of the organization.

As a Libertarian, I’m not too miffed either way. It just goes to further prove my point that Americans don’t mind taxes when they’re going to things that are actually useful and benefit us. When we spend all our money on bombs, wars, drug enforcement, company bailouts and time-wasting bureaucrats, people get mad. If money went to head start, higher education, public access and infrastructure (i.e., things that everyone agrees we can use), we’d all be happier to pay because we’d see the results.

The Justin Harter Tax Plan

Because it’s on my mind as tax time rolls around, I thought it was time to reiterate The Justin Harter Tax Plan:

The Tax Form

  1. How much money did you make? _____________________
  2. What is 8% of that? _________________
  3. Pay us the amount from line #2.


Indicate where you’d like your money to go, up to 4%:

  • NASA __________________
  • K-12  __________________
  • Colleges / Universites __________________
  • Wildlife __________________
  • Museums / Art / Historical Preservation __________________

and so on…

Under The Justin Harter Tax Plan, your 8% is divided in half. 4% goes to a general fund with everyone else’s and that’s the money the politicians can piss away. Want to build a bridge to nowhere? A train no one wants to ride? Have at it. Want to fight a war? Fine. So long as there’s money in that pot.

Let’s pretend you earn $50,000 a year. You’d owe $4,000 in income taxes. If you made a million dollars, you’d owe $80,000 and if you made $10,000, you’d owe $800. For most people this is going to be less than they pay now, but it ensures everyone pays their fair share, too. No deductions, no loopholes, nothin. The whole tax system could fit on an index card. We could fire half the IRS with the savings from simplifying the math alone. This is what will be used to fund the federal government.

“But Justin, how will the government afford things?” A politicians response will be something like “By preventing waste, fraud and abuse!” That never works because no one ever bothers looking into these things. Fraud and abuse happens when no one’s looking. My plan helps eliminate some of the fraud and abuse by making the various government agencies compete for your money.

Since you’d be able to dictate how much of your remaining 4% went to specific departments and agencies, they’d need to earn it. If you made $50,000 and had to pay $4,000 in taxes, $2,000 of it goes into the general pot and the other $2,000 is up to you. Want to go to the moon? Spend your $2,000 and get your friends to fund NASA. Want more federal funding for schools, donate it to education. Want to split it up and give a certain percent of your $2,000 to every agency there is, fine. It’s up to you.

Suddenly, NASA has to make those dollars work harder and smarter so they can convince people to give them more. Schools are going to have to make sure they make their case for more money – no ridiculous statues, fountains and stadiums – but a focus on computers, books and teacher salaries to retain the best and earn more. Yeah, they’ll have to advertise like companies do, but it would make sure more Americans knew what their government was up to.

If a department fails to deliver or just plain sucks, like any other enterprise, they’ll be forced to close and go away unless the politicians want to give them some money from the general pot to keep them going. Think Homeland Security is a pain in the ass? Don’t fund ’em!

Talk about democracy – that’s direct voting on every level of government directly by the people. “We’re sorry, the TSA only received $4.50 this year. Therefore, we’re closing.” We can all go back to flying on planes with nail clippers and shampoo like the good ol’ days.

Then, you never have to hear debates about “I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for that.” or “I don’t approve of such-and-such, it’s a waste, stop funding it.” Here, you won’t be paying for it and you really don’t have to fund it! America gets precisely how much government it, and you, can afford. Heck, if you wanted to donate more than your 8%, go ahead. It’s your money.

This Week in Failure

I took a break from working on a new website and look at all this crap that popped up in my feed reader:

Arkansas wants to ban headphones:

State lawmakers have proposed a bill that would ban headphones in both ears near streets.

Tim Poole says he’s seen the worst of what could happen while running with headphones.

Poole says, “Well a friend of mine she was running in her neighborhood and had her headphones on and she was hit from behind.”

He’s introducing a bill that would ban pedestrians from wearing headphones in both ears while close to a street, intersection, or highway.

Runner Charlie Moore says pedestrians should use their own judgment.

People using their own judgement!? GASP!

And then there’s this nifty new tax fee:

INDIANAPOLIS (WFIE) – A bill has been proposed that would have consumers paying .10 a bag for grocery bags.

If passed, the bill, introduced by northern Indiana State Representative Shelly VanDenburgh, would act as a type of tax.

According to the bill, 25% of the funds collected would go to the Indiana economic development corporation for the green industries fund, the other 75% would go to schools.

If passed, retailers would be required to have reusable bags for sale.

A fee is a tax, stop trying to make it sound different. And you know it’s a tax because there isn’t a human being in America that doesn’t use a plastic bag at some point or another. You go to the Dollar Store and buy a loaf  of bread and they throw the stupid thing in a bag because that’s what they do all day long and before you know it, you’ve just walked out with a bag inside another bag!

And if that wasn’t enough, the State is proposing we weigh all the kiddo’s at school and log that data into a database:

State Senator Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield) has proposed legislation that would require school corporations to collect information on students’ heights, ethnicities, ages, sex and even their weight.

Once students step on the scale their weights would be entered into a statewide data system that would help officials determine which part of the state has the most problems with obesity.

Then what? Send in the SWAT team to confiscate the chips and soda? I still remember how awful it was to have scoliosis testing done at school, I can’t imagine the horror this would induce. While we’re at it, why not log which kids we know (or think) are gay so we can send in the re-education teams?

For the love of all that is still good in the universe, government has got to stop trying to be everyone’s everything and let people deal with their own selves however they want. Everyone knows potato chips are bad, even high school kids know that. They still eat the stupid things because it’s better than that amorphous crap they’re serving down the hall in the cafeteria.

One good bit of news, though:

A state senator is asking a question she hopes will spur debate about sentencing laws and possibly save Indiana millions of dollars: Should the state legalize marijuana?

Although, she’s just asking for a study, so that’ll go nowhere. Everything else? Oh, those babies are ready for votin’!

I Support the Rich. I Guess.

Anyone paying attention to any media outlets lately knows that the Bush Tax Cuts are coming to an end this year. Democrats want to continue taxing the rich ($200,000+ a year income) and give tax cuts to the lower rungs of the ladder. Republicans want to extend them for everyone. Actually, I imagine if they had their way, Republicans would lower taxes on the rich and raise them on the lower and middle classes. I don’t think they’ve said that, though.

My opinion on this is mixed. There’s “the rich” and then there’s the “filthy rich” with more money than god. $200,000 a year in income isn’t a whole lot in my mind. Not enough to get mad at them for. But, that’s what Democrats have done. And good for them for at least being able to articulate rage for once.

First, tax cuts aren’t handouts. They just mean the government doesn’t steal as much from me or someone else. Republicans by and large like tax cuts because they leave more money in people’s pockets as they earn them. Democrats want to tax people and then spend it on people with less of it. I have a problem with that moral idea.

The practical side of me thinks about the matter of wealth creation. How many people making $200,000 a year are suddenly going to try and make $199,999 a year? Tax brackets encourage people to skirt around the numbers, all in the name of keeping the money they earn. Plus, by and large, taxes discourage wealth creation. If I didn’t think I could make more money running my business, I never would have left my last salary job. If taxes prevent that belief or possibility, then wealth stagnates. When I start a business, I at least have the opportunity to make more money — maybe even $200,000 a year or more. Take that away and people just get content to sit around and earn beans.

Plus, most people aren’t stupid. And rich people have more than two brain cells AND money to fix things. Maryland created a “wealth tax” that taxed the super-rich with the expectation of making $106 million. Instead, they lost $257 million because the wealthy all got up and moved.

I don’t hate or feel angry at rich people — Sam Walton, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, these people spent a lot of time and effort to create something and I believe they ought to get rewarded for it. They happen to be immensely rewarded. Frankly, I’m fine with the idea that Sam Walton makes a lot of money vs. a guy in a trailer in Kentucky drinking beer and wondering why he doesn’t have any money. One guy worked harder, longer. The other sits in a trailer and drinks beer on weekends.

If you wanted to eliminate this problem, you’d institute a fair tax of 10% or some equally agreeable number and everyone would just pay that amount of their income.

People work to get money and a better life. They don’t work to pay taxes or pay for someone else’s quality of life (at least not in a recurring manner). I do have more of a problem with people who “come into wealth”, such as people who just happen to be born in the right place. I think people should work for their rewards, not inherit them — or at least not all of it. But I don’t have a problem with the wealthy. I hope to be one of them someday. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But just because I’m not right now doesn’t mean I should be angry and try to take their money.