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Thursday, May 1, 2014

We the people...

Living in a democratic republic has its advantages. I can travel from state to state without fear of reprisals from unscrupulous, under-paid border-crossing agents mired in an unenforceable bureaucracy. In addition, I have at least the fa├žade that my hard-won vote counts for something at City Hall, the Statehouse and the White House. Our constitution guarantees us certain freedoms, although some of those are in danger of being abrogated by legislative or executive decree.

I doubt we'll have a bunch of parades but this year we can celebrate the 225th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration as our first president. I am by no means a historian but can work Google as well as the next person, I suppose.

At the end of his first term, Washington is noted to have bemoaned the burgeoning development of two parties. In his Farewell Address, he urged his countrymen to "forswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions". In foreign affairs, he warned against long-term alliances.

Two-hundred and twenty-five years on, how's that working out for us?

Listening to NPR news yesterday morning, I - somewhat randomly - connected several non-related reports. My thoughts on these matters may be a tad off the populist mark and, in fact, some might consider me an unnecessary alarmist. Be that as it may, I cannot escape the feeling that somehow our union is becoming less perfect each day.

1. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) issued a decision repealing a voter ID requirement law, removing barriers for minority voters. That's a good thing, right? Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who said it disproportionately excluded poor and minority voters because they’re less likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them.

Now, people in Wisconsin can vote without having to show any identification. And that's a good thing?

2. The NBA has banned LA Clippers' racist owner Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million. I don't think anyone in their right mind considers that a bad thing. Despite arguments that Sterling's comments may have been recorded illegally, there is a trail of racism in Sterling's history stretching back for years so good riddance, right?

Just to make sure there is no quid pro quo, the NBA is now working to force the man to sell the Clippers, to get him completely out of the sport for good. As has been pointed out, Sterling signed on knowing that the NBA is just like your local, neighborhood association (only with more money and nicer suits), with rules and fees and all that. So it's not like the NBA is stripping Sterling of a personal asset and, if initial reports are accurate, there are a number of very well-heeled replacements lining up to drop a billion large on the table and take over the team.

Who says you can't (eventually) be punished in America for being a knucklehead?

3. President Obama continues to push for an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10. Good, right?

According to a report released April 29, 2014 by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour would raise income for about 16.5 million workers by $31 billion, potentially pulling nearly 1 million people out of poverty. The same pesky report indicates that the proposed minimum wage hike would cost 500,000 jobs in 2016.

The net-net of half a million folks being better off is worth it though, right?

Widely conflicting reports on the effects of increasing the federal minimum wage are a clear indicator that no one really knows what will happen. While I agree it's somewhat childish to block a resolution which would simply open the issue up for debate, I can understand why Republicans might do such a thing. Clearly, congress men and women going home to their districts with an increased minimum wage in their pocket will fare very well in upcoming elections.

I mean getting nearly one million Americans above the poverty line is awesome, right? Only, I'd like to hear the facts on how that impacts overall unemployment and who will be paying for the increase. The money has to come from somewhere. We can't just pay workers $31 BILLION more dollars and not expect some impact on the economy...

If you've come with me this far, you may want to go ahead and just click away. I appreciate you reading this blog and I always welcome thoughtful comments on anything I write. I don't do profanity but I can handle opposing viewpoints. For some reason, I found it appropriate to close today with the following:

Our very own Declaration of Independence opens with the paragraph:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Somehow, we have lost the right for - and/or the ability of - dissolution. We live in the age of Why can't we all just get Along, when the get along part means accepting more and more government control in our lives which was anathema to the founders of this nation. We are slowly and surely replacing our freedoms with the very yoke of government that good men and women shrugged off two and a quarter centuries ago.

Who knows, maybe it will all work out. Let's pray so.


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