Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay Marriage: A Special Interest Victory

Yesterday, New York became the largest state to recognize marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Many people haven't thought the same-sex marriage issue through much further than "The government should let any couple get married." But same-sex couples aren't lobbying simply to be granted a marriage certificate or to be allowed to love- they're fighting for special treatment from the government.

Wanting to see what that special treatment was, I came across a New York Times article that summed it up (appropriately in the Business section). It begins:

Couples may marry for love, but the partnership is also an economic one. And now that New York has become the sixth state to perform same-sex marriage, couples who tie the knot here will gain a variety of financial benefits and legal rights.

Note: what same-sex couples are gaining are privileges granted by the state; not rights. I guess without the financial benefits and the extra "rights", same-sex marriage wouldn't even be an issue. I find it pretty funny that what's usually held up as some kind of issue of civil equality is really in large part about tax breaks to the special interest group known as married couples.

The article mentions benefits in the realms of: income taxes, estate and gift taxes, health insurance, inheritance rights, state employee benefits, and parentage. These probably aren't the first words that leap to mind when you think of what constitutes a marriage. But they're what count, and it really goes to show how much presence government has in our personal lives.

Of course, I would say that allowing same-sex couples to marry only makes this situation worse. Why? Because instead of questioning the role of government in these matters and having a debate over what gives it the right to dole out such benefits in the first place, we went ahead and gave it more legitimacy in sticking its hand into our private lives. It should treat all its employees the same, and has no business conferring special legal/financial status on couples. And while creating new rules for a specific class of people seems like a step forward, in some respects it is a step back.

But then again, I'm of those crazy people who think the government should treat us as individuals, no matter what the circumstances. If you disagree, not to worry! Mine is a vanishing minority.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The CNN Republican Primary Debate

If you missed the Republican primary debate last night, you didn't much. It was basically a gameshow where everybody lost- including the audience. Some of the questions were very stupid (Elvis or Johnny Cash?), and the moderator did little to cut off the candidates' rambling answers.

The establishment candidates (Santorum, Bachmann, Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich) used the platform to substitute boilerplate for specific answers, regale the crowd with their past legislative achievements, and to take cheap shots at the President. Everything about them screamed 'politician'. They embodied all the things the average person doesn't like about politicians by coming off as disingenuous self-seeking replicas of their political ancestors.

The non-establishment had their own problems. I've heard some people talking favorably about Herman Cain, but he lost my interest when he spoke of himself as a man who solves problems. The last thing I want to hear about is a politician who wants to solve problems. Indeed, the state of the nation is the result of politicians trying to save us with their solutions.

Ron Paul was the main reason I tuned in to the debate. I do like Ron Paul, and I wonder whether that's the reason I'm so quick to distinguish him from the other candidates. While people might disagree with him, he at least doesn't come off like a slimy politician who's only trying to aggrandize his own power. What sets Ron Paul apart from the pack is that he sounds sincere and comes with a touch of humility- two qualities rare among people running for office.

I wish Dr. Paul had a better way of making his platform palatable to the average Joe Nobody who just wants a job and to make sure the financial rug's not ripped out from under him when he goes to retire. While I agree with his message, talking about Keynes and fiat currency isn't going to resonate with anyone but the people who already strongly support him. He also needs to keep his answers concise. That alone would be enough.

I would have a comment here about Gary Johnson (the only other guy in the whole bunch with his head screwed on straight), but he wasn't even invited to the debate. I guess CNN thought their lineup was already diverse enough- even with five basically interchangeable candidates making the list.

So on the whole, the debate was an embarrassment. It was a reminder of why people don't trust politicians and a lot of people don't trust the Republican party. It's anybody's guess as to whom will ultimately be selected to run against Obama, but I don't think anyone has a chance to beat him except Ron Paul (from last night's group, anyway). In short, last night was a showcase of why the Republican party is a self destructive combination of hubris and incompetence. It looks like Obama has his second term in the bag.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What a Real President Sounds Like

I read a book once by a man who was running for president. The following is an excerpt from that book:

The President of the U.S. is the most powerful person in the world. He can personally make your life miserable or he can make it much freer. And when he can't do something personally, he can lead.

On my first day in office, by Executive Order I will:
  • Pardon everyone who has been convicted on a federal, non-violent drug charge, order the immediate release of those in prison, reunite them with their families, and restore all their civil rights.
  • Pardon everyone who has been convicted on any federal gun-control charge, order the immediate release of those in prison, and restore all their civil rights.
  • Pardon everyone who has been convicted of a federal tax evasion charge, order the immediate release of those in prison, and restore all their civil rights.
  • Pardon everyone else who has been convicted of a victimless federal crime, order the immediate release of those in prison, and restore all their civil rights.
  • I will make it clear to federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors that we want the violent criminals off the streets. No U.S. Attorney should waste his time or the taxpayers' money prosecuting people who haven't intruded on anyone's person or property. Every member of the federal criminal justice system should understand that prison space is only for criminals who have hurt someone.
  • I will announce a policy to penalize, dismiss, or even prosecute any federal employee who violates the Bill of Rights by treating you as guilty until proven innocent, by searching or seizing your property without due process of law, by treating you as a servant, or in any other way violating your rights as a sovereign American citizen.
  • I will immediately order that no federal asset forfeiture can occur if the property's owner hasn't been convicted by full due process- and I will initiate steps to make restitution to anyone whose property has been impounded, frozen, or seized by the federal government without being convicted by dur process. Over 80% of such seizures occur when no one has even been charged with a crime.
  • As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, I will immediately remove all American troops from foreign soil. Europe and Asia can pay for their own defense, and they can risk their own lives in their eternal squabbles. This will save billions of dollars a year in taxes, but - more important- it will make sure your sons and daughters will never fight in someone else's war.
  • As Commander in Chief I will remove all American troops from under the command of the UN or any other foreign organization.
  • As President I will make sure the executive branch stops harrassing smokers, tobacco companies, successful computer companies, gun owners, gun manufacturers, alternative medicine suppliers, religious groups (whether respected or labeled as "cults"), investment companies, healthcare providers, businessmen, and anyone else who is conducting his affairs peaceably.
  • I will end federal affirmative action, federal quotas, set-asides, preferential treatments, and other discriminatory practices of the federal government. [...]

And then I will break for lunch.

After lunch, I will begin removing from the Federal Register thousands and thousands of regulations and executive orders inserted there by previous presidents. [...]

He goes on like this for a few pages. It's one of the most memorable passages from anything I've ever read. The man's name was Harry Browne, and the book is The Great Libertarian Offer. If you notice, it doesn't read like it was written by a politician. There are no platitudes, no clich├ęs, no uncertain terms, and no grandstanding or partisanship. It was clearly written by a man who had a specific plan and who intended on following through with it. It's a prescription for actual change that would affect real Americans immediately- none of that "I'll get to it in six months" or "Within ten years, we'll have X Y Z" garbage we hear from every other politician who rides a wave of empty promises into office. I believe such a platform would be very popular among the American people, but I guess I'll never know for sure; candidates with such views (when they exist) are barred from taking part in national debates. And that's a real shame, because any candidate who doesn't specifically address (and plan to make good on) at least five of those points isn't worthy of the office.

The reason I bring this up is to illustrate how much of a disgrace our current president actually is. He is truly an empty suit who is content to walk in the footsteps of his predecessors and who has absolutely no genuine interest in changing the United States back into the free nation everyone pretends it is. Any of the above bullet points could be executed with the stroke of the President's pen. Why do you think he refrains from doing so?