Thursday, May 13, 2010

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

The following commentary from the Executive Director of the Montana Contractor's Association was aired on Montana Public Radio last week.

Public Radio Commentary

May 6, 2010

Cary Hegreberg, Montana Contractors’ Association

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

That famous quote by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is vividly playing itself out in Athens, Greece for the whole world to watch and learn from. The Greek government simply ran out of working people’s money it could distribute to vast numbers of over-paid government employees and other demanding citizens, in the form of generous pensions, excessive paid vacations, free health care, ridiculously early retirements, and various other entitlements.

The Greek population’s insatiable demand for other people’s money led to an insolvent government, resulting in other European people now working to maintain the unearned, undeserved, but expected lifestyle of the Greeks, many of whom are protesting in the streets simply because the people bailing them out expect a few sacrifices.

Socialistic thought creeps into a political system at the margins. We learn that a majority of us can elect a candidate who will give us something we want—usually something that belongs to someone else. It was earned, paid for, maintained, and improved by someone else. We may not get it all at once, but we can get little slices of it incrementally by demanding public policy changes of our elected officials.

Ms. Thatcher’s quote could be amended to say, “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s property.”

In communities throughout Montana, people are demanding a sliver, or sometimes a hunk, of the value of someone else’s property, and county commissioners in particular appear all too eager to appease this incremental erosion of private property rights.

Legitimate subdivisions are denied because people living in adjacent subdivisions don’t want new neighbors. They believe they are entitled to the open view and a place to walk their dogs, even though someone else pays taxes on that land. Rural residents, opposing a gravel pit on a neighbor’s property, are running to County commissioners with surprising success, demanding instant zoning restrictions on gravel extraction so they can continue enjoying the values provided by someone else’s property.

One of the most egregious examples is unfolding in Missoula County, where commissioners are entertaining, if not advancing, a notion they should provide a public good by seizing the property rights of Plum Creek Timber Company. Through an audacious proposal to create a so-called “Resource Protection Area,” the county would zone tens of thousands acres to preclude the property owner from selling parcels for residential use.

The loudest proponents of this idea of course, are the people who have already carved out their small parcel of paradise. While alleging Plum Creek would degrade the wildlife resource by subdividing, these enlightened residents are obliviously flushing sewage into Placid Lake and spewing petroleum into the pristine water through their outboard motors.

If the County establishes a zoning district solely to preclude the timber company from realizing the development value of the land it owns, what’s to stop Plum Creek from leasing the recreational rights to an outfit like Cabellas, as has been recently rumored? Just because the company has generously allowed hunters, fishermen and recreationists to use hundreds of thousands of acres for free in the past, this is a privilege, not a “right” or an entitlement.

If Missoula County uses zoning to deny Plum Creek one way of extracting value from the property it owns, why wouldn’t the company seek to realize the value in other ways, such as leasing a bundle of rights to someone like Cabellas? If Montana sportsmen lose access to Plum Creek lands, they can thank Missoula County Commissioners, because the law of unintended consequences most surely will kick in.

County governments must be kept in check. Private property rights are fundamental to our capitalist system that rewards people for their efforts. If we allow county commissioners, or any other elected officials, to continually seize the rights of one property owner and hand those rights at no cost to someone else, we are on a slippery slope. If we want to know where the slope takes us, just watch or listen to KUFM for tonight’s evening news.

Representing Montana’s commercial/industrial and public works construction professionals, I’m Cary Hegreberg with the Montana Contractors Association.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oppose Montana Initiative 160

Effective Wildlife Management is too Important to Allow Animal Rights Activists to Write Our Laws - Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management

Dangers of I-160
Say “NO” to I-160

Initiative 160 prohibits the trapping of all wildlife by any means on public lands in Montana. This initiative is strongly supported by animal rights activists who want public land trapping to stop, regardless of the damaging consequences it will have on Montana businesses and our economy as a whole.

Montanans have a rich history of working in industries, particularly agriculture, ranching and forestry, all of which will suffer if Initiative 160 passes. This initiative will also remove a critical wildlife management tool from home owners, ranchers, farmers and pest control professionals.

Vote NO on I-160 to protect Montana.

I-160 is Bad for Montana;

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cap and Trade = Cap and TAX

Apparently members of Congress have too much time on their hands. Just a few short weeks after ramming ObamaCare through, Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are already preparing for their next attack on the American taxpayer: the poorly named "American Power Act."

A far better name for this legislation would be the "American Power Grab." Little more than cap and trade in disguise, the bill would be a massive job-killing energy tax. In fact, the largest tax hike ever, and would hit the poor and middleclass, who spend a higher proportion of their income on essentials like electricity and fuel, the hardest. when American families are already struggling to make ends meet in our current economic downturn.

Cap and trade, or cap and tax, would mean sky high energy prices for consumers, but a new government slush fund for Washington. A twenty-seven cent "Fuels' Fee" on every gallon of gasoline included in the bill means not just higher prices at the pump, but higher prices on shipping and food production. It's hard to think of an area of life these higher costs won't affect. Higher energy costs will put the cost of doing business through the roof and send American jobs overseas at a time of record unemployment.

Altogether, this is far too high a price to pay for nothing in return. Any impact the legislation might have on global climate temperatures is too small to measure. The risks, on the other hand, are clear.