Thursday, May 21, 2015
There Oughta Be A Law
It’s amazing to me how often we read or hear stories about the number of laws that Americans are required to obey. When you take into account all the federal, state and local laws that are on the books, it adds up to tens of thousands. The latest example of the sheer volume of laws that the public must observe was the 2011 year-end report in the media that, effective January 1, 2012, some 40,000 new laws will be added to the sheer volume of laws we are expected to obey. So, what are we to do? It’s easy to say “Obey them,” but who can possibly know them all. Not ever the brightest, most well informed attorney can possibly know every law. How often do we hear the lament, “There oughta be a law,” about some perceived wrong or societal need? But, one of the major problems in America today is that there are too many laws and too much regulation. One assault on common sense occurred in California (surprise, surprise), where a state legislator proposed a law that would have made it illegal for parents to spank (read discipline) children age three and younger. There are many notable examples of legislators who either have no sense or somehow lose it in the exalted halls of government. For instance, Kentucky law mandates that people must bathe once a year. Not to pick on Kentucky, but like most states, they have a number of crazy laws: Throwing eggs at a public speaker is punishable by up to one year in jail; it is illegal to dye or color a baby chick, duckling or rabbit unless six or more are for sale at the same time; or if a horse dies in front of a residence, the owner (of the horse, that is) must remove the dead animal within 12 hours. If it is not done, then it becomes the homeowner’s responsibility. That may have made sense in the 1800s, but it hardly seems necessary today. One city had an ordinance that required the sheriff to shoot dogs whose owners did not pay a local tax on their animals. Consider the number of jurisdictions with boards, councils or commissions that legislate and the number of laws they adopt annually. There are over 3,000 counties in the U.S., ranging in size from 41.6 square miles (Arlington, VA) to 141,398 square miles (North Slope Borough, Alaska), along with almost 19,500 municipalities, in addition to the 50 states. That adds up to some 22,500 entities in addition to the Federal government, all putting laws on the books, presumably to correct problems or to influence or regulate behavior, that is, make people do things the legislators want. In California, the legislature adds upwards of 5,000 laws to the state’s code books every year. In the inimitable words of Will Rogers, “Congress met. I was afraid they would,” can probably be said to apply to all legislative bodies. Obviously, a certain amount of this is necessary. For example, local ordinances for such purposes as regulating traffic, land use, or taxation. In addition, advances in technology bring new problems and with them the need for new laws. The rapid development of computers and the Internet have brought new opportunities for mischief with them, such as Internet fraud and identity theft. And bio technology is presenting society with moral and ethical challenges that never would have occurred to earlier generations. Who knew? However, America has more lawyers than the rest of the world combined, and our society is suffering the consequences. Lawyers are hired guns. They will argue any side of any issue, and they write the laws and interpret them. In addition, peoples’ wants are insatiable. They never seem to be able get enough of whatever it is they think will satisfy them. Sometimes it’s strictly for personal advantage, sometimes for the greater good, or so they seem to believe. Environmental activism or unbridled business practices are good examples. Whatever the reason, legislators respond to special interest groups that want to impose their particular need or desire on the rest of society, and this results in thousands of new laws and regulations to implement them. “For the people in government, rather than the people who pester it, Washington is an early-rising, hard-working city. It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.” (P. J. O’Rourke (b. 1947), U.S. journalist. Parliament of Whores, “The Winners Go to Washington, D.C.” - 1991). Furthermore, we can be prosecuted for breaking laws we don’t even know exist. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” has always been a traditional mantra, but it has been reported that Americans are now subject to over five million laws. How can anyone possibly know and obey them all? And, they keep piling up. Every legislative body, municipal, county, state and Federal, is constantly making new laws, and nothing ever seems to be taken off the books. So, if ignorance of the law is really no excuse, then we are all charged with specific knowledge of the millions of laws that regulate us. That’s impossible and is undoubtedly one of the reasons why many Americans have grown increasingly cynical about the law and justice in this country. And, if five million laws are not enough, there are also hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of rules that are superimposed on top of them – by OSHA, EPA, IRS, HUD, EEOC and a host of other alphabet soup agencies. The Internal Revenue Code is a perfect example. The plethora of tax laws and regulations that have been adopted by Congress and the IRS require over 72,000 pages to codify. No one, not even the most brilliant CPA or tax attorney, knows or understands all these laws and rules. They can’t even agree on what various provisions may mean, yet it is possible to be prosecuted for fraud for violating them. Legal precedent has also added to the burden of excessive control and regulation that are strangling our society. Hundreds of thousands of court cases are used to interpret the laws and comprise entire libraries of additional rules we are expected to abide by in our daily lives. The sheer weight and complexity of all this breeds contempt for the law, evasion and deliberate lawbreaking. Ronald Reagan is credited with having said, “I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandment’s would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress?” How much longer can we continue to function under this burden before the system ultimately grinds to a halt? Will it end only when America finally goes the way of the Roman Empire? There ought to be a law against the sort of fiscal ignorance and irresponsibility we are witnessing just about everywhere we look in government today. © 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 15:52 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2015
Nothing Has Changed, Who Are The Minorities?
With all the talk about minorities in this country and the heat that is so often generated by the topic, have you ever thought about where you fit? Are you a member of some minority group and, if so, how has it affected your life, your beliefs and values, your perceptions of others, your friends and associates, your job or profession, your expectations and, of course, your day to day activities. Even if you have never thought of yourself as a member of a minority group, chances are, when you examine the details of your personal circumstances, you will find that you are. Consider just some of the many and varied categories that can determine your status: Ethnic: Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, East Indian, African, etc. Race: White, Black, Asian, other Gender: Male, female, gay Religion: Christianity (about 33% of the world’s population, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Oriental Orthodoxy, Latter-day Saint, Seventh Day Adventist, Nestorianism, etc.), Islam (about 20% of the world’s population, Sunni and Shia), Hinduism (13%), Chinese fold religion (6.3%), or Buddhism (5.9%). Atheist and other non-believers are about 14% of the world’s population. Other religions, such as Sikhism, Judaism, Baha’i, Janism, Shinto and others, each represent about one-half-of-one percent of the world’s population. There are many more types and categories of religions and religious beliefs, but this illustrates the multitude of those that most people generally follow. In the United States, we seem to have elevated the issue of minorities to a major, if not THE primary consideration in a wide variety of choices. Decisions, such as college entrance and employment criteria, employee relations, customer relations, housing, business associations, friendships, pretty much every aspect of American life. Our laws have become such a labyrinth of complex considerations that we are forced to navigate in making decisions about hiring, firing and disciplining employees, making public statements, and membership in service clubs and other groups, among others. All decision making, personal, public and business, must be processed through a minefield of potentially risky options, with the consequences of making a poor or incorrect decision ranging from loss of one’s position or status to being sued or public approbation. The New York Times reported in an August 14, 2008 article, “William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, said that by the 2028 presidential election, racial and ethnic minorities will constitute a majority of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 for the first time…When the first census was conducted in 1790, about 64 percent of the people counted were white… By 1900, about 9 in 10 Americans were non-Hispanic white, most of European ancestry.” What happens when whites are in the minority? Will they then qualify for favored treatment under our laws? Will they be given preferential treatment in college admissions, employment, housing and other matters? Should they? Looking at population projections for Texas, demographer Steve Murdock concludes: "It's basically over for Anglos." Two of every three Texas children are now non-Anglo and the trend line will become even more pronounced in the future, said Murdock, former U.S. Census Bureau director and now director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. Today's Texas population can be divided into two groups, he said. One is an old and aging Anglo and the other is young and minority. Between 2000 and 2040, the state's public school enrollment will see a 15 percent decline in Anglo children while Hispanic children will make up a 213 percent increase, he said. Murdock also noted, “The state's future looks bleak assuming the current trend line does not change because education and income levels for Hispanics lag considerably behind Anglos... Unless the trend line changes, 30 percent of the state's labor force will not have even a high school diploma by 2040,” he said. “And the average household income will be about $6,500 lower than it was in 2000. That figure is not inflation adjusted so it will be worse than what it sounds…It's a terrible situation that you are in. I am worried," Murdock said. America.gov noted in August 2008, “By 2050, minorities – those who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or mixed race – will account for 54 percent of the U.S. population…” And, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that about 10 percent of the nation’s 3,000 plus counties have already reached the point where they are over 50 percent minority population. Almost everything in American life is influenced by minority status and, up to now, the primary characteristic of majority-minority status has been based on race, which has been dominated by whites, who have outnumbered all other groups. But, what happens when the current minority becomes the majority? This is already the situation in California, which has been heavily impacted by the influx of Hispanics from south of the border. Furthermore, population projections indicate that by the year 2023 the majority of all American children under the age of 18 will be so-called minorities, and by 2039 minorities will comprise the majority of all working-age Americans. Will we ultimately reach the point where a white minority demands the same legal advantages and benefits that have been woven into the fabric of our society in the effort to level the playing field and make amends for past wrongs? © 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved NOTE: This commentary was originally written in March, 2011, and it’s worth noting, I think, that nothing has changed.
Posted at 15:47 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

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