Government ‘Aid’ Makes Disasters Worse

By Ron Paul

Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey, including my family and me, appreciate the outpouring of support from across the country. President Donald Trump has even pledged to donate one million dollars to relief efforts. These private donations will be much more valuable than the as much as 100 billion dollars the federal government is expected to spend on relief and recovery. Federal disaster assistance hinders effective recovery efforts, while federal insurance subsidies increase the damage caused by natural disasters.

Federal disaster aid has existed since the early years of the republic. In fact, it was a payment to disaster victims that inspired Davy Crockett’s “Not Yours to Give” speech. However, the early federal role was largely limited to sending checks. The federal government did not become involved in managing disaster relief and recovery until the 20th century. America did not even have a federal agency dedicated solely to disaster relief until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by executive order. Yet, Americans somehow managed to rebuild after natural disasters before 1979. For example, the people of Galveston, Texas successfully rebuilt the city following a major hurricane that destroyed the city in 1900.

FEMA’s well-documented inefficiencies are the inevitable result of centralizing control over something as complex as disaster recovery in a federal bureaucracy. When I served in Congress, I regularly voted against federal disaster aid for my district. After the votes, I would hear from angry constituents, many of whom would later tell me that after dealing with FEMA they agreed that Texas would be better off without federal “help.”

Following natural disasters, individuals who attempt to return to their own property — much less try to repair the damage — without government permission can be arrested and thrown in jail. Federal, state, and local officials often hinder or even stop voluntary rescue and relief efforts.

FEMA is not the only counterproductive disaster assistance program. The National Flood Insurance Program was created to provide government-backed insurance for properties that could not obtain private insurance on their own. By overruling the market’s verdict that these properties should not be insured, federal flood insurance encourages construction in flood-prone areas, thus increasing the damage caused by flooding.

Just as payroll taxes are unable to fully fund Social Security and Medicare, flood insurance premiums are unable to fund the costs of flood insurance. Federal flood insurance was almost $25 billion in the red before Hurricane Harvey. Congress will no doubt appropriate funding to pay all flood insurance claims, thus increasing the national debt. This in turn will cause the Federal Reserve to print more money to monetize that debt, thus hastening the arrival of the fiscal hurricane that will devastate the US economy. Yet, there is little talk of offsetting any of the costs of hurricane relief with spending cuts!

Congress should start phasing out the federal flood insurance program by forbidding the issuance of new flood insurance policies. It should also begin reducing federal spending on disaster assistance. Instead, costs associated with disaster recovery should be made 100-percent tax-deductible. Those who suffered the worst should be completely exempted from all federal tax liability for at least two years. Tax-free savings accounts could also help individuals save money to help them bear the costs of a natural disaster.

The outpouring of private giving and volunteer relief efforts we have witnessed over the past week shows that the American people can effectively respond to natural disasters if the government would get out of their way.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/september/04/government-aid-makes-disasters-worse/

Will Congress and Trump Declare War on WikiLeaks?

By Ron Paul

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently passed its Intelligence Authorization Act for 2018 that contains a chilling attack on the First Amendment. Section 623 of the act expresses the “sense of Congress” that WikiLeaks resembles a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such.” This language is designed to delegitimize WikiLeaks, encourage the federal government to spy on individuals working with WikiLeaks, and block access to WikiLeaks’ website. This provision could even justify sending US forces abroad to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or other WikiLeaks personnel.

WikiLeaks critics claim that the organization’s leaks harm US national security. However, these critics are unable to provide a single specific example of WikiLeaks’ actions harming the American people. WikiLeaks does harm the reputations of government agencies and politicians, however. For example, earlier this year WikiLeaks released information on the CIA’s hacking program. The leaks did not reveal any details on operations against foreign targets, but they did let the American people know how easy it is for the government to hack into their electronic devices.

For the last year, most of the news surrounding WikiLeaks has centered on its leak of emails showing how prominent Democrats worked to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In order to deflect attention from these revelations, Democrats, aided by their allies in the media and even some Republicans, promulgated a conspiracy theory blaming the leaks on Russian hackers working to defeat Hillary Clinton. Even though there is no evidence the Russians were behind the leaks, many in both parties are still peddling the “Putin did it” narrative. This aids an effort by the deep state and its allies in Congress and the media to delegitimize last year’s election, advance a new Cold War with Russia, and criminalize WikiLeaks.

If the government is successful in shutting down WikiLeaks by labeling it a “hostile intelligence service,” it will use this tactic to silence other organizations and websites as well. The goal will be to create a climate of fear to ensure no one dares publish the revelations of a future Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning.

Some have suggested that criticizing police brutality, the surveillance state, the Federal Reserve, or even federal spending aids “hostile foreign powers” by weakening the people’s “trust in government.” This line of reasoning could be used to silence, in the name of “national security,” websites critical of the welfare-warfare state.

By labeling WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service” and thus legitimizing government action against the organization, the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act threatens the ability of whistleblowers to inform the public about government misdeeds. It also sets a precedent that could be used to limit other types of free speech.

President Trump should make it clear he will veto any bill giving government new powers to silence organizations like WikiLeaks. If President Trump supports the war on WikiLeaks, after candidate Trump proclaimed his love for WikiLeaks, it will be further proof that he has outsourced his presidency to the deep state.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, along with notable whistleblowers, foreign policy experts, and leading champions of peace and liberty, will be addressing this important issue at my Institute for Peace and Prosperity’s conference on Saturday, September 9 at the Dulles Airport Marriott Hotel in Dulles, Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. You can get more information about the conference and purchase tickets at the Ron Paul Institute.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/august/28/will-congress-and-trump-declare-war-on-WikiLeaks/

Thought for the day

by Horatio Bunce

As the “thin blue line” in Durham stood around watching vandals (I guess there were no assets to forfeit) and despite the massive government spy machine we’ve paid for on all those phones, videos and facebook recognition, I can’t help but think nothing is done in these scenarios because we want it that way.

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

George Orwell, 1984

Jeff Sessions Endorses Theft

By Ron Paul

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered the Justice Department to increase the use of civil asset forfeiture, thus once again endorsing an unconstitutional, authoritarian, and increasingly unpopular policy.

Civil asset forfeiture, which should be called civil asset theft, is the practice of seizing property believed to be involved in a crime. The government keeps the property even if it never convicts, or even charges, the owner of the property.

Police can even use civil asset theft to steal from people whose property was used in criminal activity without the owners’ knowledge. Some have even lost their homes because a renter or houseguest was dealing drugs on the premises behind the owners’ backs.

Civil asset theft is a multi-billion dollar a year moneymaker for all levels of government. Police and prosecutors receive more than their “fair share” of the loot. According to a 2016 study by the Institute for Justice, 43 states allow police and prosecutors to keep at least half of the loot they got from civil asset theft.

Obviously, this gives police an incentive to aggressively use civil asset theft, even against those who are not even tangentially involved in a crime. For example, police in Tenaha, Texas literally engaged in highway robbery — seizing cash and other items from innocent motorists — while police in Detroit once seized every car in an art institute’s parking lot. The official justification for that seizure was that the cars belonged to attendees at an event for which the institute had failed to get a liquor license.

The Tenaha police are not the only ones targeting those carrying large sums of cash. Anyone traveling with “too much” cash runs the risk of having it stolen by a police officer, since carrying large amounts of cash is treated as evidence of involvement in criminal activity.

Civil asset theft also provides an easy way for the IRS to squeeze more money from the American taxpayer. As the growing federal debt increases the pressure to increase tax collections without raising tax rates, the IRS will likely ramp up its use of civil asset forfeiture.

Growing opposition to the legalized theft called civil asset forfeiture has led 24 states to pass laws limiting its use. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out of step with this growing consensus. After all, Sessions is a cheerleader for the drug war, and civil asset theft came into common usage as a tool in the drug war.

President Trump could do the American people a favor by naming a new attorney general who opposes police state policies like the drug war and police state tactics like civil asset theft.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/august/07/jeff-sessions-endorses-theft/

#TNaintReady 2.0

by Horatio Bunce

Common Core “state” standards performance numbers for high school students are in. Commissioner McQueen had a press conference and bar graph to declare success as reported by the always- government-school-sympathetic Chalkbeat. Chalkbeat had set up the press conference the day before with another article stating that Tennessee students were struggling with the testing on the “UtahReady” tests because of the “rigorous” Common Core “State” Standards that students have only been using for two years. Convenient excuse isn’t it?

Remember how when back in 2014 (that’s 3 whole years ago for you Common Core Math students) when Stacey Campfield introduced a bill to stop implementing more Common Core “State” Standards, it was too late to turn back and lose all that ground? Apparently none of that counts, nor does the instruction happening between then and 2015 when we started paying millions of dollars to “lease” Utah Sage Assessment questions for TNReady tests. So the setup was that if we didn’t see improvement, it would be really bad news, therefore telegraphing that flat or any improvement at all is “success”. So, Candice makes up a bar graph that is really exaggerated to show improvement from 2016 to 2017.

I felt it necessary to edit her bogus graph to include the rest of the data set and illustrate how statistically insignificant the difference in the two years’ scores are. The educrats have changed the federally-driven testing language from the old “below basic, basic, proficient and advanced” terms to now only show us two terms called “on track” and “mastered”. There is a very significant data set (added by me in red) that does not fall in these categories. Not sure what that is called, since it is not “on track” or “mastered”. Maybe “obscured”, “obfuscated”, “ignored in press releases” or something similar would work?

 

 

 

Many links on this site are broken due to county’s new website

Blount County government recently launched a new website.  As a result, many of the links to the Blount County government website (www.blounttn.org) found on this website (www.bcpublicrecord.com) will no longer work because the files are now in different locations.  If you read past articles and find that the links aren’t working, there is a good starting point page to look for the references found throughout this site. Please start here: http://www.blounttn.org/926/Meeting-Archives

Meeting Archives

Commission Meetings

Budget and Finance Committee Meetings

Agenda and Work Session Meetings

Insurance Committee Meetings

HR Committee Meetings

Blount County’s YouTube Channel containing meeting recordings

June 2017 Commission Report

“Last year we said, ‘Things can’t go on like this,’ and they didn’t, they got worse.”  Will Rogers

Annual Budget
Traditionally, each June, the Blount County Commission adopts an annual budget and sets the property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year (FY).  A fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30th, which is why the commission usually adopts the budget in June.  A fiscal year is denoted by the calendar year in which the fiscal year ends.  For example FY 2017 ran July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.  Accordingly FY 2018 runs July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

The Blount County Commission approved an annual budget in June of 2016 for FY17 that was $181,267,406 (see pages 105-107).  In June of this year, the commission adopted a budget for FY18 that is $195,958,364 (see pages 534-536).

Not all of this was an actual increase.  According to the county’s Finance Director (FD), Randy Vineyard, governmental accounting standards require some expenditures to be recorded twice.  Troy Logan, the fiscal administrator for Blount County School District told me that he couldn’t think of any expenditures that were recorded twice in the school’s budget.  Upon my request, FD Vineyard provided this spread sheet outlining the use of fund balance and the monies that are being accounted for twice.

According to the numbers provided by FD Vineyard, $5,381,930 is accounted for twice.  Based on these figures, that means that the commission adopted a budget that is $9,309,028 more than what it initially approved for the previous year, when the double accounting amounts are removed.  This is a huge increase for local government that will not be sustainable in the future without either growth in tax revenues or more tax increases.

The spreadsheet shows the county using $7,087,000 of fund balances from the various funds.  Some of the increase is for nonrecurring capital expenditures.  You can read my questions and FD Vineyard’s responses related to the use of fund balances here.  Please take the time to read this as it shows that $1.1M of fund balance may be used for corporate welfare for one company.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I asked Mayor Ed Mitchell how much this secret company would receive from local governments (City of Maryville and Blount County) and the state of Tennessee.  He only knew what the county’s contribution will be.  Thus, local elected officials walk into these types of “deals” without knowing how much public money will actually be spent.

According to FD Vineyard the county’s General Fund grew to about $15M at the end of FY16 and an estimate for the end of FY17 had not been calculated in early June.  Property tax and federal inmate revenues may have been sandbagged in FY16.  Both came in higher than projected, and you were slammed with a higher property tax rate than necessary.  Some local elected officials may feel good about having accumulated such a large General Fund, but it came about as a result of two large tax increases (sales tax and property tax) not from being good stewards with your tax dollars.

$1.85M of fund balance will be used for Information Technology (IT) updates.  This is addition to the $4.1M that has already been spent for IT improvements and huge software purchases since 2014.  This new budget brings the total to nearly $6M that has or will be spent from 2014 through the end of June in 2018.

One would think that with such large expenditures that the IT Committee would be keeping a close watch on the various IT projects but it is not.  From June 2016 through June 2017 the IT Committee only met twice and during one of those meetings it lacked a quorum.  The Mayor canceled the other two meetings that were scheduled.

Blount County taxpayers will be forced to pay $96,717 in additional salaries and benefits to four office holders beyond the state mandated minimums.  These office holders are already some of the highest paid employees in county government and have been paid nearly double or triple the average salary of a Blount County citizen.

Chromebooks lease
The commission approved a 3 year lease agreement for Chromebooks for the schools.  I voted against this because the county will be paying interest when it does not have to.  The funds are available to purchase the computers without wasting any money on interest.

Medical plan changes
The commission voted to reduce the out of pocket maximum from $4,000 to $3,000 for health care and to charge $5 for the employee only dental plan.  The dental plan for the employee only is currently free.  The cost of the dental family plan is currently the difference between the price of the premium of the employee only plan and the family plan.  The dental family plan was also increases $5 and will become the difference between the employee only premium and the family premium, plus $5.  The county will be paying $22.14 a month for employees that are enrolled in either the employee only or family dental plans. These changes will take effect January 1, 2018.  The health care plans run the calendar year, rather than the fiscal year.

Interruptions continue
Commissioner Mike Caylor continued interrupting commissioners by twice declaring a point of order.  He appears to be abusing the power to raise a point of order to stifle discussion that challenges the status quo.

Up next:
The commission will look at hiring an architectural firm to renovate and/or expand the jail.

Just How many Motorists are stopped and ticketed in America?: NMA E-Newsletter #446

From guest writer Joe Cadillic who writes the MassPrivatel Blog

According to The Stanford Open Policing Project which looked at over 100 million police traffic stops in the United States,  “Police pull over more than 50,000 drivers on a typical day, more than 20 million motorists every year.”

Does that mean 50,000 people are breaking the law every day? Is there an epidemic of lawbreakers on our streets? Of course not, so why are police stopping 20 million motorists every year? Police across the country don’t just ticket millions of Americans every year, they’re also questioning them.

Unfortunately the Open Policing Project doesn’t mention how many passengers are stopped and questioned by police every year. Many motorists travel with someone so the amount of people being stopped & questioned might be double than the estimated 20 million. The numbers become even more disturbing when the estimated 50,000 motorists stopped each day turns into a conservative estimate of 80,000 or more motorists plus passengers stopped each day.

In a recent Reason.com editorial, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote in Curbing Traffic Stops would Save Lives that traffic stops are often an excuse for cops to search a car for drugs and guns. He added,Curtailing police reliance on this pretext would free motorists from being dragooned to ‘consent’ to searches for which the cops lack probable cause.” Chapman continued, “True, the change would let criminals operate at less risk. But hassling the innocent to catch the guilty is an abuse of our constitutional principles. In Illinois last year, police conducted 2.17 million traffic stops. Just 8,938 yielded contraband—one bust for every 242 stops.”

Unfortunately, Chapman goes on in the editorial to extol the virtues of automatic traffic enforcement, a major step in the wrong direction, which most of the online commenters were quick to point out.

On top of traffic stops, did you know that law enforcement use at least fifteen different types of checkpoints to stop and question motorists?

In what country would it be acceptable to stop and question millions of people?

Certainly not America the land of the free, right?

For years, police have had to meet ticket quotas during their shifts. A Google search for “do police have quotas” returned over five million hits, and a Google search for “police ticket quotas 2017” returned close to six million hits.

In 2015, a Boston.com story said Traffic Ticket Quotas are Real. “Officers were told to issue more revenue-generating tickets. Officer Tom Delaney said that officers who didn’t operate under the system wouldn’t get overtime assignments and other perks.”

It’s the same story across the country.

Police departments send text messages to officers on the road reminding them to reach their quotas during their shifts. In 2015, a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer claimed he was texted about not meeting ticket quotas and denied a night off.

In 2017, the NYPD agreed to pay $56.5 million to people written bogus tickets by police.

If the public knew how much money is being made off of motorists each year from taxes, fines and arrests there would be a public outcry.

The Stanford Open Policing Project points out that police don’t want the public to know how many people are stopped each year. “Some states don’t collect demographics of who police pull over. States that do collect the information don’t always release the data.”

Why do we know how many people are arrested for drunk driving each year but have no data about how many motorists have been ticketed by police?

According to Stanford, “The most common police interaction — the traffic stop — has not been tracked, at least not in any systematic way.”

It’s 2017 and we still don’t know how many motorists are being stopped and ticketed in America! 

States like California and Texas have stopped 24-32 million motorists from 2009-2015, while states like Rhode Island and Montana have stopped approximately 500,000-825,000 motorists.

Secrecy is a cop’s number one priority.

The Open Policing Project found that police require less suspicion to search black and hispanic drivers than whites and they’re two or three times more likely to be searched: “After accounting for age, gender, and location, we find that officers ticket, search, and arrest black and hispanic drivers more often than whites… when pulled over for speeding, black drivers are 20% more likely to get a ticket (rather than a warning) than white drivers, and hispanic drivers are 30% more likely to be ticketed than white drivers. Black and hispanic motorists are about twice as likely to be searched compared to white drivers.”

“When we applied the threshold test to our traffic stop data, we find police require less suspicion to search black and hispanic drivers than whites. This double standard is evidence of discrimination,” the findings noted.

This is the first study that shows police are stopping and questioning thousands of motorists every day and millions of passengers every year.

The next time you’re stopped by the police, exercise your right not to speak. To travel freely in America is not a privilege, it is one of our constitutional rights.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author. For the NMA’s list of Traffic Stop Do’s and Don’ts, click here.

Source: https://www.motorists.org/alerts/just-many-motorists-stopped-ticketed-america-nma-e-newsletter-446/

Trump Should Veto Congress’ Foolish New Sanctions Bill

by Ron Paul

This week’s expected House vote to add more sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea is a prime example of how little thought goes into US foreign policy. Sanctions have become kind of an automatic action the US government takes when it simply doesn’t know what else to do.

No matter what the problem, no matter where on earth it occurs, the answer from Washington is always sanctions. Sanctions are supposed to force governments to change policies and do what Washington tells them or face the wrath of their people. So the goal of sanctions is to make life as miserable as possible for civilians so they will try to overthrow their governments. Foreign leaders and the elites do not suffer under sanctions. This policy would be immoral even if it did work, but it does not.

Why is Congress so eager for more sanctions on Russia? The neocons and the media have designated Russia as the official enemy and the military industrial complex and other special interests want to continue getting rich terrifying Americans into believing the propaganda.

Why, just weeks after the White House affirmed that Iran is abiding by its obligations under the nuclear treaty, does Congress pass additional sanctions anyway? Washington blames Iran for “destabilizing” Syria and Iraq by helping them fight ISIS and al-Qaeda. Does this make any sense at all?

When is the last time Iran committed a terrorist act on our soil? It hasn’t. Yet we learned from the declassified 28 pages of the Congressional 9/11 report that Saudi Arabia was deeply involved in the 2001 attacks against Washington and New York. Who has funded al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria for years? Saudi Arabia. Yet no one is talking about sanctions against that country. This is because sanctions are not about our security. They are about politics and special interests.

Why is Congress poised to add yet more sanctions on North Korea? Do they want the North Korean people to suffer more than they are already suffering? North Korea’s GDP is half that of Vermont – the US state with the lowest GDP! Does anyone believe they are about to invade us? There is much talk about North Korea’s ballistic missile program, but little talk about 30,000 US troops and weapons on North Korea’s border. For Washington, it’s never a threat if we do it to the other guy.

Here’s an alternative to doing the same thing over and over: Let’s take US troops out of North Korea after 70 years. The new South Korean president has proposed military talks with North Korea to try and reduce tensions. We should get out of the way and let them solve their own problems. If Iran and Russia want to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda at the invitation of their ally, Syria, why stand in the way? We can’t run the world. We are out of money.

President Trump was elected to pursue a new kind of foreign policy. If he means what he said on the campaign trail, he will veto this foolish sanctions bill and begin dismantling neocon control of his Administration.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/july/24/trump-should-veto-congress-foolish-new-sanctions-bill/