Friday, December 22, 2006

Red-State Socialist Racketeering: A Case Study...

... and an uncomfortable one, at that.

Rexburg, Idaho is plausibly considered the most Republican community in the union. It is also my hometown – the place where I graduated from High School and junior college, where I was senior class president and starting fullback on Madison High School's first state championship football team, and made many good and close friends.

In recent years, Ricks College has expanded into a four-year university, Brigham Young-Idaho. The LDS (Mormon) Church has also announced plans to construct a temple in the community. The conjunction of these two developments has led to a growth spurt: Over the past six years, 9,000 people have moved into the southeastern Idaho town. Rexburg, a small, socially conservative town, has begun to outgrow its infrastructure.

Last year, city voters turned down a $950,000 levy to pay for street repair and other improvements, and the Idaho state legislature later voted down a proposal to permit college towns to raise local sales taxes. Furthermore, the construction boom hasn't done much to expand the property tax base, since most of the new properties – such as expanded college facilities and Mormon Church meeting houses are tax-exempt; in fact, roughly half of the property in the city is off the tax rolls.

With the local revenue aquifer running dry, the Rexburg City Government has decided to invest $60,000 to retain the services of the National Group, a Washington lobby shop run by veteran Republican activist John Harmer of Bountiful, Utah. Harmer's company, reports the AP, was hired “to bring in federal money.”

Rexburg Mayor Shawn Larsen

This is to say that it will work its wiles on legislators in the Imperial City in the hope that they will steal money from communities in Wisconsin, Iowa, Alabama, and elsewhere in order to pay for street improvements in my southeastern Idaho hometown.

If the city has $60,000 to spend on lobbyists, and its needs are so pressing, why doesn't it either spend the money on some urgent project?

Harmer claims that his firm is charging Rexburg half its normal fee, and that it will bring back five or six times its fee in federal boodle. City Mayor Larsen expects to spend the ill-gotten funds on road and street improvements, as well as “homeland security and economic development.”

The former, of course, means that Rexburg's Finest will be folded into the ever-growing Leviathan Force. And like other cities nationwide, Rexburg is most likely going to find creative ways of raising the funds to keep its lobbyists on the payroll – which means speed traps, red-light cameras, and other police shake-downs will become common back in my hometown.

Among the most disagreeable aspects of this sordid business is the fact that those involved in this corrupt exercise in public plunder are consciously sinning against constitutional principle.

A little more than sixteen years ago, while working as a columnist at the Provo, Utah Daily Herald, I interviewed John Harmer during his congressional campaign in Utah's 3rd District. A former Lt. Governor to Ronald Reagan, Harmer, understandably, was eager to play on that association, urging voters to see him as inheriting Reagan's mantle as an exponent of minimalist government. Suffice it to say that Harmer, like Reagan, has never been bent double beneath the burden of his limited-government principles.

John Harmer: Political profit before principle

Harmer has been successful as a political entrepreneur, casting himself as an anti-pornography paladin, urging the creation of a federal commission to explore (among other things) changes to federal obscenity laws. He's smart enough to recognize that a federal “war on porn” would be as successful in dealing with that problem as the “war on drugs” has been at eliminating narcotics use – and he's probably cynical enough to recognize the profit potential in declaring “war” on another ineradicable vice.

More recently, Harmer has sold his services to the Chinese automaker Geely, which plans to market a five-passenger family sedan, priced below $10,000, in the USA starting in 2008. Harmer has no background in the auto business, but great value as a Sherpa to aid the Chinese automaker through the treacherous terrain of US regulatory law.

Which is to say, once again, that Harmer, a supposed bane enemy of large, invasive government, has learned how to make a profit from regulatory overkill.

Were he a genuine patriot and constitutionalist, Harmer would devote his efforts to the task of paring back the regulatory thicket, or even putting it to the torch.

But that's not where the money is.

There is something ironically appropriate in the designation of Republican strongholds as “red” states: During the late, unlamented Republican reign, these communities – often vilified as strongholds of reaction – have become clients of Washington and net consumers of redistributed wealth.

This is true, alas, even of my hometown, where I learned the virtues of constitutionally limited government, and the evils of welfare state collectivism.


dixiedog said...

He's smart enough to recognize that a federal “war on porn” would be as successful in dealing with that problem as the “war on drugs” has been at eliminating narcotics use – and he's probably cynical enough to recognize the profit potential in declaring “war” on another ineradicable vice.

<quasi-sarcastic rant>
Yep. In fact, why have a LAW opposing or mandating anything? Many vices are no longer even considered a vice within the post-modern commoner brain. Besides, as you said, they are ineradicable anyway! There should be no LAW against obscenity, streaking around naked (hey, all of these are not crimes of v-i-o-l-e-n-c-e, so shut the hell up, prude!), public drunkeness, ho'ing on the street, etc., etc.

BUT, outlaw them basta'd cigarettes! Or, at the very least, keep regulating them with a heavy hand to save our chillun (sic) from lung cancer and make them smoke-free! Yay!! Hoo-rah, rah, rah!! Meanwhile, the children are "smoke-free"...yay!... while their character overall slithers further down into the sewer of depravity...nay! At least their lungs are clean, even though their minds are becoming ever more fouled.

Hey, we're on a roll, Will. Let's keep the momentum up here. Let's see...them drug LAWS are a bane on us commoners, so let's slash those from the books, and then, why have zoning LAWS?? Heck, just burn all them dang books of LAW we're so encumbered with. We all harbor and exhibit sensible restraint and self-control, just like our forefathers, and we all possess the sharp and sound minds of the folk who lived in those early eras.

After all, Will, why should...for example say...your neighbor have to run the regulatory gauntlet and become an eventual SWAT-raid chum victim of the "war on drugs" if he happened to decide to merely convert his "humble abode" into a neighborhood meth lab, coke den, or crack house? Hey, it would be easy money....and I'm certain Will would no doubt exhibit no hesitation rolling out the w-e-l-c-o-m-e mat for the man, right?


Oh, and let's wipe those pesky drunk-driving LAWS off the books as well.

But..but...once again, keep those tobacco LAWS on the books, ya hear??!! Heck, why haven't they outlawed those terrible "coffin nails" especially already, dang it!!

Oh wait, these behaviors are ineradicable, ain't they? [Bangin' head against wall..] Gee, my bad. I see, only certain behaviors are "ineradicable." Whatever Hollyweird, the state, and/or media claims, I, the morally rudderless soccer-mom and gutless and/or absentee dad both suck down as the gospel truth. Don't you get it? [Have now punched my fist through the wall!]

That's incredible, how in the world did I miss that impeccable logic of yours, Ms. Jones? You should be declared "soccer-momma of the year." Hoo-rah...rah...rah, kum...bah...yah.


</quasi-sarcastic rant>

Will, I agree that state interference is overall bad, but with the commoner brain racked by terminal cancer and an inability to discern left from right, up from down, right from wrong, how in the heck do you expect them to discern a government handout from a genuine paycheck? Money is money and they both are checks that can be bank-deposited (or both can be and are direct-deposited electronically). They both buy bread (or repairs for city streets), after all. The only difference is that one check requires no labor, while the other requires it.

In fact, some folk really believe the government oozes money from special trees somewhere on the Treasury lawn.

Llana Mercer is a fine woman in my opinion. Her columns, like yours, always make me sharpen my focus, when required, and get the critical wide-angle view and think in the abstract. And as always, like your every column, her Sluts Galore: Scenes From 2006 column doesn't ever disappoint.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly...have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Enjoy this time with your wife, children, and the rest of your family, ya hear? This pesky dog will probably be absent from your bloghouse from this point until next year, but I look forward to even more incisive commentary thenceforth.

May God's grace be upon you and yours, and all of us as well, as yet another year comes to a close.

William N. Grigg said...

Bro. D.D. -- As a lover of finely wrought sarcasm, I express my gratitude and admiration!

Some day I'm going to have to do a piece examining the manifold ways in which puritans-for-profit like John Harmer mold their convictions to fit the contours of political expediency.

Here's one example: Harmer, the Utah-dwelling anti-porn crusader, has never -- to the best of my knowledge -- gone after the Mormon-owned Marriott Hotel Chain, which is one of the country's largest purveyors of in-room porn. All Marriott rooms feature both a nightstand copy of the Book of Mormon and in-room smut.

In fact, one reason Provo, Utah wasn't able to shut down porn was because a judge discovered that its own informal "community standards" were such -- owing, inter alia, to Marriott's influence -- that laws against obscenity were effectively moot.

This is simple hypocrisy, of course, but the larger point is that the "war" against some things is simply too useful and profitable to permit the struggle to come to a successful end.

A variation of this principle might be at work when we see the same State that abets a "war on tobacco" doling out subsidies to farmers who grow the demon weed, n'cest pas?

With respect to the trollop parade, are you familiar with the behavior of one of the Miss USA participants -- Miss Nevada, I believe -- who was captured on film at age 17 performing what were described as homosexual acts at a drunken party?

My reaction, as yours would be, no doubt, was to bellow, "Does that girl have a FATHER?" In our age that would either be regarded as a quaint rhetorical inquiry, or as a species of heteropatriarchal hate crime.

Her behavior, as that of the other concupiscient callats profiled by Miss Mercer, offered a museum-quality exhibit of what happens when parents permit their children to be raised by the State and its allied organs of cultural corruption.

That despairing note notwithstanding, thanks, D.D., for your Christmas wishes -- and may God bless and care for you and yours this season, and always!

KoWT said...

we don't need better government

we need better citizens