As America Succumbs to a Government-Provided Plague

All of us have heard a few examples of dumb laws in our time, ranging from a law in Oregon stating that dishes must “drip dry” to Canada placing a ban on any comic books that contain images of illegal acts.  While amusing, I don’t find these to be the truly stupid laws.  My examples are much worse.

Abortion Laws

Let’s start with pro-life versus pro-choice.  Everyone knows the argument and takes their own sides.  I’m not here to tell you who is right and who is wrong, nor am I here to explain my feelings on the subject.  Instead, I wish to present some facts that prohibit one side (either one, doesn’t matter) from practicing their beliefs, and how the government sometimes seeks to place firm restraints on its citizens that are far beyond what We The People should deem acceptable.

For example, Kansas made a few headlines recently when the Republican-driven Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill defining life as beginning “at fertilization.”  In layman’s terms, this renders all abortions illegal.  Period.  No argument, no discussion.  As soon as Governor Sam Brownback puts his name to paper, abortions will be considered illegal in the state of Kansas.

Duchovny Arrest Scene

Maybe we should start with locking up all the sex addicts first?  Nah, that’s crazy…

This is not the first state to pass such a bill; in fact, it’s the eighth (or thirteenth, depending on your source).  I understand why it’s such a hot debate: is abortion murder?  It’s nearly an impossible question to answer given people’s varying perspectives on when life truly “begins” inside of a womb, but to have a government impose laws telling us how we should view any subject is just wrong, pure and simple.  It is one of many steps this country’s leaders have taken to establish supreme control over its people.

North Dakota also recently passed an abortion-related bill into effect in a campaign spearheaded by Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple.  This particular bill states that abortions are declared illegal after a fetal heartbeat can be detected through a transvaginal ultrasound, which occurs about six weeks into a typical pregnancy.  Although this “Heartbeat Bill” has little chance of standing up to the Supreme Court, it is still a very clear effort to restrain the individual freedoms of the American people.

Jack Dalrymple

Hell, I can barely hear his heartbeat coming through those cholesterol-clogged arteries. Maybe we can still abort him?

Let’s change the subject, shall we?  Nobody likes talking about dead babies for too long.  How about…

Drug Testing For Welfare

Ah, this issue seems to have really exploded over the last few years amongst cries from blue-collar America, screaming about how drug users can still apply (and receive) welfare while they spend all their “free money” on drugs and alcohol instead of life necessities.  It got so hyped up that many states began working on legislation to pass bills addressing the issue, including Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, and a dozen others.  The most notorious of these instances involved Florida, however, in which the state legislation signed into law the mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients.  The entire affair lasted only a few months before a temporary – and still currently standing – ban was placed on the program, and in the span of these few short months, a groundbreaking 108 people tested positive for drug use, most of which were for marijuana use.  That may sound high, but considering the state tested over 4,000 people, the number is hardly impressive.  Another interesting bit of information is the fact that any person that passed the test was refunded the cost of the procedure, which resulted in costs of nearly $200,000 – all in the span of only four months.

“Well, maybe they knew the tests were coming and decided not to take them.”  A good theory, and one I certainly wondered myself.  It should be noted, then, that only 40 people actually canceled their tests.  So I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt: let’s say 148 out of 4,126 people would have tested positive for drug-use.  That’s…what, 3.5%, if my math is right?  WOW.  Good job, guys.  Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just pay the benefits to the drug users in the first place?  Actually, yes.  Yes it would.

heroin

Not pictured: someone worried about getting on welfare.

And while we’re on this subject, how many of you smoke pot?  Because I’m 26 years old, and pretty much every single person I know has at least tried it or become a full-fledged habitual user.  Not only that, but the most common reasons I personally hear when asked why you smoke pot is “It just helps me mellow out” or “I had a rough day and just need it to relax.”  Fair enough, we all have our vices, and I am of the opinion that marijuana, while not my cup of tea, really isn’t that bad.  I’d even say cigarettes and alcohol are infinitely worse, and I have experience with both of those things.  But anyway, let’s say things in your life take a turn for the worse and you find yourself in a position of applying for welfare to help get through the tough times ahead.  Is your first instinct going to be “I better give up that thing that makes me happy for a few hours a day!” or will it be “this sucks, everything sucks, I’m depressed, I’m gonna smoke a joint and chill out for a bit.”

….Yeah, I thought you might go with the latter.  So, are these people heathens that deserve to be denied access to money they would most likely spend on food, clothes, laundry detergent, shampoo, and electricity (and maybe a dimebag)?  I would say no, but we’re all entitled to our opinions.

Marijuana Machine

$15?!  There goes all my food money.

I’m simply asking for everyone, no matter which side of an argument to stand on, to stop and take a look around at what’s happening.  While we’re too busy having our petty squabbles with each other, our individual freedoms are getting destroyed by those that we elected to preserve them.  Maybe instead of blindly reposting the same images on Facebook and Twitter every day, you can go do some research on a given subject and weigh the pros and cons for yourself.  All I’m saying is, don’t get caught up in something just because it sounds nice in your head.  At the risk of ending this post with a cliché, even communism looks good on paper, but that doesn’t mean it works well in the real world.

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Congress and Me (second draft)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about politics. Those of you that know me are aware of my disdain for the whole process. I am not Republican, I am not a Democrat, I am not affiliated with the Greens or Libertarians. These parties, I feel, do more to separate Americans into bickering groups than they do to actually benefit the country in any way. To be honest, there’s a lot I don’t know about this whole politics thing. I know my own views on certain issues while having absolutely no idea which party I would align with in each given situation; it just isn’t important to me.

I am aware, however, that “Congressman” is a bit of a blanket term, covering both Senators and state Representatives, and that the number of representatives each state has is a direct correlation to the state’s populace and number of electoral votes. This makes sense to me: more people means more issues to work out, which leads to a greater need for public servants.

Having said that, they hardly seem like “public servants” to me. I’m constantly reading stories about Congress passing legislation from which they exempt themselves, forcing laws on the American people that are somehow deemed unworthy for their own use(more on that later). Now I don’t disagree with the fact that we need people to represent the majority’s interests. It would be far too anarchic having individuals represent themselves; nothing would ever get done.

But that leads me to my next point: what exactly does Congress do? I’m aware of their general purpose, but I’m wholly unfamiliar with a more down to earth, day-to-day routine. When I write to my Congressman, I’m not writing to an address in my home state, but rather to an address in Washington, D.C. Why is that? If my state representatives are all living in a different part of the country, how can they possibly be familiar with the specific needs of their people? Now yes I am aware that they take three or four (I think) trips per month to their home state in a mandatory (yes, mandatory) effort to stay connected, just as I’m aware of the idea that we, as citizens, are supposed to make our voices heard and let our individual representatives know what it is we need. I am also aware that the United States government only provides funds to cover the cost of 12 trips each year, thus leaving the remaining travel expenses to the Congressman his or herself. What I’m asking is, why do representatives need to live in Washington when they could just be used as middlemen between the Senators and the people?

This could help explain the high salaries received by members of Congress. Not only are they saddled with these additional expenses, but they are now also forced to maintain their lives in two separate homes in accordance with two different costs of living, one of which (Washington) has one of the highest costs of living in the entire country. I understand the “need” for it, as explained earlier: they must be able to meet and vote in Congress while maintaining a stable relationship with the populace they represent. A populace, I might add, that a majority voted for in an effort to align their interests with ours. Alright, so we have the people we want in the offices we want them in, representing our needs to the best of their ability. What’s the problem, then?

The problem is the idea that these members of Congress are NOT representing us to the best of their abilities, but instead only looking out for themselves and leaving “we the people” to feast on the crumbs. This is best shown in the aforementioned ability they have to exclude themselves from any laws they pass. Take Obamacare, for instance. I for one don’t know a whole lot about it; I never read it, and everything I see is just propoganda made in an effort to make one party look bad (another issue I’ll get more in-depth with later). What I do know is Congress has voted themselves exempt from Obamacare, opting instead to keep their already existent health benefits. Why? Because we’re getting the crumbs once again, the morsels that have fallen to our collective mouths from the edges of their gold-rimmed china. If it’s not good enough for the person representing us, why is it good enough for us? I don’t mind dining on kraft macaroni and cheese every once in a while, so long as you don’t treat yourself to a porterhouse every night while we’re at the same table. And don’t kid yourselves, we are at the same table. We are all citizens of the same country no matter what views you hold or how much money you make.

Money. That’s another one. I took the liberty of checking out some charts detailing the per capita income (PCI) of each state over the last ten years, and was not the least bit surprised to find that the citizens of Washington made an average of about $15,000 more in 2010 (the most recent year on the graph) than citizens of any other state, with members of Congress averaging about $174,000 per year and members of the Senate making over $193,000. Not only that, but even after retirement, these same people are still making anywhere from $36,000 to $64,000 per year. Now let’s say these men and women were actually working for us like they’re elected to. It goes without saying that they should be paid for their work, and they do work hard. However, making triple or quadruple the national average seems totally unacceptable to me. Why not have the Senators live in Washington and the representatives live in their home state, with their salaries adjusted to the PCI of that state? This would not only serve to eliminate the need to constantly fly back and forth, but it would greatly improve the impact people can and will have on their local Congressmen. And do they really need the constant meetings and travelling? Let’s face it, the advent of the technological age makes all of that a thing of the past. I see no need why we still need these hundreds of men and women to continue meeting in person for voting purposes. Establish meetings among the local representatives, determine what is in the best interests of the people, and have those members contact the Senators, who are still in Washington. Create a Skype account if you want to talk face-to-face; it’s not that hard.

As for the issue of party affiliations, I just don’t get it. Maybe you can help me to understand. How does it benefit the country to split each and every issue into an attack, making one side black and the other white? There is always a middle ground, a gray area, and whether we choose to find it is up to us. Sadly, it seems nobody wants to hear that. It’s all “my way or the highway” with all this party nonsense, each with their own petty squabbles and constant conflicts. Think for yourself, not how a group of others tells you to think. For example, let’s say you’re pro-gay marriage but anti-abortion. Do you have to sacrifice one ideal for the other, just because your party of choice doesn’t agree with your personal feelings? Absolutely not, but it astounds me how commonplace this kind of behavior is. Personally I tend to see things as more of a democrat (so I’m told). However, if the Democratic party were to tell me something is wrong or unamerican, as politicians so often do, am I just going to take their word for it? No! I can make my own decisions. And when that decision is made, I can vote on it how I see fit and contact my Congressional Representative with my concerns. At least, I wish it was that simple. Instead we are split into factions, constantly warring with one another over power and dominance, all while getting bent over by those that are supposed to be helping bring us together.

The government is partly to blame, yes, but so am I. And so are you. If we want something from our government, we have to let our voices be heard. Not as individuals, but as a unified front that cannot be stopped. The only problem is these unified fronts always end up becoming a new political party, and that is the LAST thing we need. We need a party without an agenda, composed of citizens that are willing to both talk and listen without getting blinded by their own beliefs.