Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Libertarian Responses To The Dallas Morning News Voter Guide

The Dallas Morning News recently sent out its Voter Guide to all candidates running for office in the DFW Metroplex.

Here are the issue-specific questions, along with what I think are the ideal Libertarian responses:

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

Our opponent(s) are affiliated with the Republican and Democratic parties. Those two organizations have led our nation into undeclared wars, failing schools, and a $16 trillion dollar debt. Those two organizations are not going to reform themselves. As a Libertarians we understand that we’ll have to overcome considerable resistance from voters concerned about “wasting their vote”, plus a large amount of media bias. But liberty-oriented, small-government candidates are our only hope for extricating ourselves from the wars, the inefficiency, and the debt.
(Please note that this question assumes only one Democrat or Republican opponent, not multiple opponents from multiple parties offering other choices. Shame on you, Dallas Morning News!)

The Legislature cut billions of dollars from the state budget in 2011. Are there areas where lawmakers went too far? Not far enough? How would you change that in 2013? Please be specific.

The Legislature didn’t go far enough. They could save billions more by extending retirement ages of government employees, and offering less generous benefits, benefits that would be in line with those offered by the private sector. State employees could be given 401K accounts instead of pensions. Parents should be allowed to personalize their children’s education through a voucher plan. This would encourage competition and improved efficiency in the Texas school system.
The Legislature should immediately shut down the Emerging Technology Fund and the Texas Enterprise fund. These programs are corporate cronyism at its worst.
A simple Google search reveals that we’re spending $750,000.00 per year on a Department of Agriculture “Egg Quality Program”, which is supposed to prevent consumers from buying cracked eggs. Kroger, Wal-Mart, HEB, and Albertson’s can handle that responsibility. The list of other savings opportunities is almost endless.

The state’s business tax has not raised enough money to offset local property tax cuts. What changes, if any, do you favor?

The correct way to phrase this question would be as follows: The state’s spending has exceeded taxes. What spending reductions, if any, do you favor? We should continue to cut taxes and find new ways to reduce even more spending. The Texas Public Policy Foundation has produced excellent lists of logical spending cuts and ways to reduce government waste. The difficulty lies in having the political will to do so.

Texas’ business climate is touted as a jobs magnet for the nation. Are there areas where business regulation is too lax or too tight, and what changes would you make?

Even with the current level of wasteful spending by the state, Texas has found itself leading most of the other states in job creation. We should examine our current levels of regulation, taxation, and bureaucracy as compared to, say, California. Ask new businesses why they chose to locate here, and continue to ensure that red tape and financial disincentives are eliminated.
We should also work to give consumers the right to choose between “government regulated” and “unregulated” products, since the regulations put in place by retailers and distributors are generally more effective and sensible than those put in place by 3rd parties in Austin and Washington.

The governor informed the federal government that Texas will not participate in certain parts of the Affordable Health Care Act. Was this a wise decision, and what should the state’s course of action be today?

1) This was a wise decision.
2) Nullification. If something is expensive, it is because it is scarce relative to demand. ObamaCare does nothing to eliminate the scarcity of doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical equipment, or pharmaceutical supplies. It does, however, eliminate the scarcity of IRS agents, and mandates that 16,000 more be hired. ObamaCare is an ill-conceived, poorly written, disastrous piece of legislation.

Critics have questioned the benefits and oversight of the Emerging Technology Fund and Texas Enterprise Fund, both administered by the governor’s office. Would you continue to put tax dollars into these economic development funds?

No. These are slush funds for political contributors and cronies. Government agencies have a horrible track record for predicting successful “Emerging” technologies. If an entrepreneur can’t attract private capital, chances are that his idea will fail. Socializing risk while privatizing profit should not be a function of the Texas government.

Some regulators worry that environmental restrictions on power plants might compromise the state’s ability to keep up with electricity needs. Do you agree, and how should the legislature respond?

All environmental restrictions are the result of a compromise – we make small compromises in the air quality in exchange for not having to chop firewood for our stoves. The legislature does have a role as referee in any disputes arising because of these trade-offs. If an individual has been directly harmed, he or she should be compensated by the business or individual responsible for the damage.

State officials have fought a number of federal air-quality regulations, arguing that they’re bad for business. Is this the right strategy, or should Texas comply with the EPA? How should the state weigh environmental concerns against industry protests?

See previous question. EPA overkill has been well documented. There is a point where safety cannot be improved by another order of magnitude without ridiculous expense or inefficiency. We should demand that all new regulations by all regulatory bodies be subject to a vote in the Texas legislature, rather than being automatically implemented by unelected bureaucrats.

What is your view on the science of man-made climate change? Do you support legislation that would reduce the output of greenhouse gases, and, if so, what approach would you take?

If AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) is a science, it has been a poorly administered one. The East Anglia “ClimateGate” emails have revealed a pattern of deception, fraud and mismanagement embarrassing to science. Researchers have actively worked to keep dissenting views out of peer-reviewed journals. Editors who published dissenting views on climate have suddenly resigned.
And it is puzzling to see how many of the leading Anthropogenic Global Warming advocates have gargantuan carbon footprints. We should believe that AGW is a problem only when those who stand to benefit most from regulation start acting as if AGW is a problem.

We’ve yet to see a real debate (as opposed to competing blog posts) between the leaders on both sides of the AGW debate. Perhaps Texas should offer to host such an event?

Natural gas production has been a boon industry in Texas, but regulators have cited it for adding to air pollution and contaminating groundwater. How should the legislature balance the benefits against environmental concerns?

The gas companies have indeed been good for Texas, but if gas companies have done harm, they should be held accountable. The legislature, along with the courts, should act as referees in any disputes or claims, but should not be in the business of favoring one form of energy over another. We should also bear in mind that the form of energy that is most harmful to the environment is the use of firewood. That’s what most of us were using for energy 100 years ago.

With dozens of school districts suing the state, lawmakers might have to contend with another court order to find a new way to finance public education. What would be a fairer, longer-lasting method of paying for schools?

We should implement the fairer, longer-lasting method that we use to provide for groceries, televisions, garden hoses, and most other commodities.  We should give parents a choice. Open the school system to competition by giving parents vouchers.
Since 1970, inflation-adjusted spending per student has tripled while test scores have remained flat. Give kids a ticket out of underperforming schools !
Also, there is no rational excuse for teachers to be working in a tenure system, or being given extremely generous retirement packages while in their early 50’s. No system that pays for more years of retirement than work is sustainable.

What changes, if any, do you advocate in certification, evaluation, or pay for teachers?

In an ideal system, certification, evaluation, and pay for teachers would be left up to the private institutions that employ them. In the current public school system, however, the two criteria that least influence effectiveness (certifications and # of years spent teaching) are the ones used to determine teacher pay.

Test scores for black and Hispanic students have traditionally lagged their white counterparts in public schools. How should the legislature address this?

By giving them educational choices besides those public schools. Give the parents a real choice. If people were assigned grocery stores based on their zip codes, you would also see a decline in the performance of grocery stores.  Give minority students a choice !! 

State universities have been challenged to ensure the productivity of professors, be more efficient and boost graduation rates. What measures are appropriate, and should they be tied to tax support?

In the age of the internet, there is little or no reason to bring students into one classroom to hear one professor. We have the opportunity to introduce every student in the nation to some of the greatest professors who have ever lived, and at a minimal cost. With the exception of a very few “lab” courses, some disciplines that require one-on-one instruction, and a few group activities, the cost of a university education could be slashed by a massive percentage simply by taking advantage of the internet. This is a "solved" problem.  All we lack is the political will to change the system.

Privatizing the college system and giving the right of 3rd Party Educators to issue certifications of competence in various areas of study would open up the world to a far greater number of students. 

The state should not be in the business of boosting graduation rates.

The drawing of new legislative and congressional maps was nothing short of chaotic, for voters and candidates. Would you support the formation of an independent, bipartisan commission to draw new districts after the next census?

No. There is no such thing as an independent, bipartisan commission.

Also, if the voters are going to tolerate racial gerrymandering from judicial appointees, then we are getting the system that we deserve.

Should Texas abolish its system of allowing straight-ticket voting in state and local partisan elections?

Yes. We should also abolish the system of putting party affiliations beside the names of candidates. A system of “Approval Voting” could eliminate the need for expensive primaries, run-offs, and final elections.

Texas has a 50-year water plan but no specific way to pay for it. What steps should the Legislature take to make sure the state has long-term water supplies?

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” The idea that we’re going to plan for an adequate water supply for the year 2062 puts a lot of faith in the flawed souls who make up the Texas Legislature.

The state has relied on new ways of tolling and borrowing to pay for road and bridge projects. Most major new highways in North Texas are being built as tolled or partially tolled roads. Is this acceptable, or is it time to raise the gasoline tax for the first time in more than 20 years?

This is acceptable. In these cases, the roads are being primarily funded by the users.

Should the Legislature enact laws to help combat illegal immigration? If so, what would you advocate?

Increased illegal immigration from Mexico is a direct result of our war on drugs. We should decriminalize recreational drug use and possession immediately, and totally legalize them as soon as politically feasible. We have turned Mexico’s justice and law enforcement system into a cruel joke. The drug lords don’t fear the Mexican military, police, courts, or the U.S. military. They don’t fear confiscation of their drug shipments, as these only cost them pennies on the dollar to produce. The drug lords in Mexico fear legalization. Let’s help give our Mexican friends their country back.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved eyewitness ID reforms and other measures in 2011 in response to troubling DNA exonerations. What other steps do you favor to improve the justice system?

We should discourage plea bargaining. We have tens of thousands of prisoners languishing in jail who have never been given a trial, but feared our ramshackle courts system more than they feared prison.

What additional safeguards, if any, are needed in the capital punishment system?

Capital punishment should be ended immediately. Most of us don’t trust the U.S. mail system with important documents. We avoid V.A. hospitals. We return from trips to the DMV with stories of waste and inefficiency. “Good enough for government work” is now a cliché. Why should we trust the government with taking someone’s life?  Texas has released 35 prisoners from Death Row because of shoddy DNA work. 

Texas homeowner insurance rates continue to rank among the highest nationally. How should the Legislature respond?

The Legislature should merely enforce contracts between homeowners and businesses, while working to remove any barriers keeping additional insurance companies from competing in Texas. We have more hailstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes than the rest of the nation, and acts of the Legislature won’t change this.

Should the Legislature let voters decide whether to expand gambling by licensing slot machines or casinos in Texas?

No. Gambling is none of the Legislature’s business. It’s none of the voters’ business. If you choose to wager money on the performance of a slot machine, a deck of cards, Tony Romo, or a horse, it should be between you and the person/business with whom you are placing the wagers.

Should the state impose additional regulations on payday loan operations? If so, what should those rules include?

No. The typical payday loan operation charges $17.50 per $100.00 borrowed. The typical bank charges as much as $30.00 for a single bounced $5.00 check. Which organization is charging extortionate interest? Plus, the payday loan operations provide a service to many people that traditional lending operations often turn away.

That’s all of the questions. Hope this was interesting.

2 comments:

Stephen Smith said...

I hated those questionnaires, especially the ones from the single-issue groups. They all asked the same two basic questions:

a. “What’s your central plan to run everything?”
b. “Will you promise to funnel taxpayer money to our pet project?”

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Yeah, but as LBJ said, you shouldn't pick too many fights with people who buy ink by the barrel.