Kimberly: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: Going Fishing For Libertarian Voters at Red and Blue Events

Kimberly Richards

In the state of Arizona, political parties outside of the Republican-Democrat two-party stranglehold, like ours, have to periodically “prove” themselves to the Secretary of States by showing they have a certain number of registered voters. Consequently, the Libertarian Party is currently engaged in a comprehensive, aggressive push to increase our numbers. Although, since November, we’ve experienced an 11.3% increase in voters, that’s still not enough. Thus, volunteers within our party, such as the indomitable Debra De La Rocha, and MCLP Treasurer, Joe Cobb, spend their free time chatting with the locals at various events, sharing with them what it means to be a Libertarian, and providing them with an alternative that combines the best of both parties – ‘free minds and free markets’ as the Reason magazine slogan goes – without all the nasty baggage that makes politics in America so aggravating.

Having started volunteering with the Libertarian Party (I started attending MCLP meetings two months ago and have been tasked with putting together the 2009 AZLP Newsletter), I recently had the privilege of working with both Debra and Joe two weekends in a row. The first weekend, April 18 – 19, we rented a booth at Phoenix’s Pride Festival. The second, April 25 – 26, we staked out a spot at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show. As you can imagine, both events catered to specific, polar opposite demographics. The Pride Festival was geared towards the GLBTQ community, which is liberal-leaning and historically, Democrat. The Gun Show, on the other hand, catered to the gun-owning crowd, which is conservative-leaning and historically, Republican.
Different demographics mean different persuasive tactics. Of the two events, I was more worried about working the Pride Festival. Despite having been a writer for a local GLBTQ Entertainment magazine for the past five years and being very close friends with several influential members of the community, I was concerned about actively bringing up politics with a predominately liberal crowd. In my political science courses at ASU, I have consistently gotten into some very uncomfortable disagreements with Democrats who prefer to use emotional appeals and distributive tactics to make their case, which doesn’t jive with my own preference for logic, reason, and dialogue.  Conversely, I figured the Gun Show would be a veritable cake walk for me. Coming from a Conservative background with Republican parents, a father that own a small business and an admirable cache of guns, and a fiancé enlisted in the Armed Forces, I figured I would be able to successfully bridge the gap between Republicanism and Libertarianism.  In classes and conversations with Republicans, I’m usually seen as their adopted sister; similar enough to be family, but not quite the same.
Armed with these preconceived notions, I was completely agog when my experiences were exposed as counterintuitive.
The Pride Festival was, hands down, a great, cause-affirming experience. Both days, our booth was consistently crowded with open, excited people who were genuinely curious about the Libertarian Party and who openly and unabashedly supported our causes. Using several petitions as ice-breakers, both the young and old came up in good spirits and eager for conversation. Debra, saleswoman extraordinaire, explained who we were, what we were trying to accomplish, and that we needed their help. By the end of Sunday, we had registered 100 people to vote Libertarian, made some invaluable connections with members of the community who were genuinely interested in helping us out, and went home feeling the thrill of grassroots political activism. Interestingly, that Sunday afternoon, one of the fellows who manned the Democrat Party booth swung by to see how we were doing. Debra said, “great! How about you?” He shrugged and said, “alright.” We felt so good. Here, at a Festival that caters to a community that is typically very left-wing and we were churning and burning while the Democrats were just doing, “alright.” This is what it’s all about!
The Gun Show, on the other hand, was the precise opposite of the Pride Festival. Standing at a make-shift table in the parking lot, we tried to solicit people as they walked to and from the Gun Show. “Would you help me out with some signatures to ban photo radar?” I asked, the words so often said without any response that it became an automatic, unenthused script. Surely, people who guard their guns jealously would be against other measures of government surveillance and intrusion, but no…those who actually spoke to us usually said, “I like photo radar. It keeps people like you off my ass!” I didn’t have the stones to tell him the only time I tailgate is when there’s a party…
In addition to the disinterested and periodic shouts of irrational approval for government intrusion, we had a few very real, very uncomfortable arguments. The most notable of which was when a gentleman stopped by to sign our petition and Debra asked him if he was interested in joining the Libertarian Party. He sighed heavily and said, “third parties like yours steal elections from Republicans”. Standing over us, a rifle slung over his shoulder, he proceeded to lecture Debra and I on how Perot prevented Bush, Sr. from being reelected.
For those of you unfamiliar, allow me to explain. In 1992, when George Bush was running for reelection, the Texas Tycoon, Ross Perot, ran for President under the Reform Party ticket.  Surfacing towards the beginning of the election cycle, Perot dropped out midway. By the time the general election came around, Perot reappeared to capture 19,000+ popular votes, with Bush capturing 39,000+, and Clinton securing victory with 44,000+. If we are to assume that every vote that went to Perot would have gone to Bush, then yes, Perot did hinder Bush from winning the popular vote. Yet as the 2000 election has shown, popular vote does not necessarily translate into the electoral college vote, which is what is actually looked at when determining who wins the Presidential election. Perot did not earn 1 electoral college vote. Part of this is due to the fact that several states, including ours, have what’s known as the “Winner Take All” system for electoral college votes. What this means is that, rather than breaking electoral college votes down according to the proportion of popular votes a candidate earns in an election or by district as some states do, all the electoral college votes a state has are simply given to whoever has a majority of the popular votes. For example, in Arizona, even if you win by a slim margin (such as McCain’s 200,000 votes in 2008), you get all 10 of Arizona’s electoral college votes.
This policy, while easier on tabulation, is a big roadblock to political parties outside the two-party system.  For Perot to earn even 1 electoral college vote, he would somehow have to secure more votes than Clinton or Bush did in one district in one state that does not have a “Winner Take All” system. Yet, as is evident by the results, he did not. If we were to assume Perot’s votes would have gone to Bush and look at the results again, there are still not enough electoral college votes in influential swing states to sway the election enough to actually secure Bush’s victory against Clinton.  The fact of the matter is that Perot rather evenly siphoned votes off of both candidates and that Bush’s loss and Clinton’s win had little to do with Perot’s presence. Big Perot victories were in his hometown of Texas, which still went to Bush, and Maine, which still went to Clinton.
When that gentleman made his ignorant assertion, I told him he was wrong.
He said, “No, I’m right.”
“Sir, I just spent the past four years getting a degree in political science; I think I know what I’m talking about.”
“You’ve a right to your opinion,” he said, which is the slightly more civilized way of saying, “shut up.” Rather than getting into a philosophical debate about the dual properties of rights and duties, I took my cue and zipped my lip.
After he concluded his lecture on why the Libertarian Party, along with every other “fringe” political party should be abolished so the Republicans can experience unencumbered power, he took his leave and we breathed a sigh of relief.
Just then, in the distance, someone shouted, “Commies!” at us. If laissez-faire and free choice in, well, everything, makes me a pinko, then I guess he’s right.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson in the past week and a half. Never judge a Democrat or a Republican by their political affiliation because a prick is still a prick, regardless of who he votes for.

 

Coons: Do Rich/Wealthy People Deserve Tax Breaks?

I was in a discussion with someone recently who argued that we should increase taxes on the rich because they don’t deserve that much money. I followed up by asking why they don’t deserve it. The answer I received was because they have so much money and they don’t need it all. So the discussion instantly changed from one of “deserve” to one of “need”, probably without the person who made the comments even realizing it.

This person was one of many who equates “deserve” with “need”, as if they were synonymous. It’s probably true that someone who makes $100 million per year doesn’t need an extra few hundred thousand in tax breaks. But of course, we’re talking about whether or not they deserve it, not whether or not they need it.

To become rich someone needs to work hard, work long hours, and do something so extremely valuable that people are willing to purchase their products and services in such large quantity that they become rich. So in the process of becoming rich, one must provide some huge benefit to many others. And in the process, they have earned their money, and therefore they deserve it. For their hard work, they are rewarded with the ability to spend their money in any way they’d like. This may mean investing it, buying fancy yachts, or simply passing it on to their children. As those that did the work to earn gobs of money, they deserve to dispose of it by any method of their choosing (so long as they are not in violation of someone else’s rights when doing so).

But what if we tax rich people more, not because we think they don’t deserve the money, but because they don’t need it? A good example of the consequences is the 1990 tax on luxury yachts over $100,000 instituted by the U.S. Government. This was clearly a tax on the rich, as anyone else wouldn’t be buying these boats. But this did little to rich people, who simply shrugged off the idea of purchasing a yacht of that price, or perhaps bought it elsewhere that did not impose such a tax. The result was that yachts in this price range dropped 71%, a job loss of 25% in the yacht manufacturing and sales industry, and rich people still had their money.

In an attempt to “spread the wealth” by force by taking money from people that have earned it, the ones hit hardest were actually the average working person who fed his family by means of constructing and selling boats. The tax increase generated only a small portion of what was originally thought by those that introduced it. In 1993, the tax was removed.

(It should be noted that not all rich people are beneficiaries of their hard work or the voluntary transfer of work of others. Many have received favors from government in order to acquire what they have. Whereas some people will suggest that we should tax these people, libertarians believe we should strip government of the power to favor anyone, thereby leveling the playing field).

Renzolli: If I Only Had a Gun

I watched ABC’s 20/20 news report If I Only Had a Gun on Saturday and, as I suspected, it was nothing more than a tirade to try to debunk the idea that a regular person bearing arms can stop a wrong-doer from killing or doing harm to others in a shootout situation.

In the first segment, select college students are trained by police fire arm instructors on the usage of firearms and then put one of the students in a situation where an armed intruder comes in to shoot up the class. This segment had two holes in it that I will punch through as well as rebutt other points brought up in the report.

The classroom shooting scenario assumes that if guns were legal on university, college or school campuses that only one or very few students would possess a gun and would not be effective in stopping a shooter.

It also gave the false impression that a person needs some sort of formal training in order to properly use a firearm and that police training is the way to do it.

Ms. Sawyer and her colleagues did not care to investigate Front Sight in Nevada that specializes in training people in the usage of guns that exceeds police training standards.

Neither does she or her colleagues take into account the ease in which to use a gun. After buying my first pistol a friend of mine showed me how to handle it, fire it and clean it.

In a situation where students could legally carry guns on school property there would be more than one student armed in every classroom and, consequently, would increase the likelyhood a shooter would be stopped.

Also, with students being able to carry guns openly or concealed on campus, in a scenario with a shooter opening fire in a classroom, there is also the high likelyhood that armed students and faculty outside the classroom would respond and address the situation. The armed students and faculty would either hold him or her at gun point for the police to apprend or kill or maim the suspect if they tried to continue their shooting spree.

David Rittgers of The Cato Institute has also done an excellent response to the 20/20 report and details instances, many that took place at schools, where just one person halted a shooter from committing mass murder on campus.

There was also the profile of Omar Samaha who is working to close the so-called gun show loophole in Virginia. Mr. Samaha’s sister was one of the victims of the shooting spree at Virginia Tech in 2007.

What happened to this gentleman’s sister, like other victims of shooting incidents, is tragic beyond description. Samaha has a right to lobby for the policies he wants to see enacted. However, like Sawyer, he needs to be reminded that in a free society like ours, no one (including him) has the right to take away the rights of another by a majority vote.

In this case, it is wrong for him and anti-gun groups he maybe affiliated with to work to force his or their views on gun owners like myself.

Its a fact that the Virginia Tech shooter, Seung Hui Cho, was a disturbed individual since childhood and legally bought his firearms at a gun store. Not a gun show.

Cho, like many of the other people who shot up public establishments, was under the care of a psychiatrist and was prescribed anti-depressants.

Not surprisingly, reporters, like Dianne Sawyer, either will not or do not take the possibility that the psychiatrically-prescribed meds Cho and other shooters took prior to committing their heinous acts could have helped influence their decisions to go on shooting rampages.

What was entirely disgusting was Omar Samaha was made out to be a hero yet no mention of how gun restrictions, like the one he is lobbying for, contribute to, and does not deter, crime.

Laws regulating or banning the owning or usage of guns by people are an infringement on their ability to preserve their lives from others who would do innocent people harm. News reports, like Ms Sawyer’s, leaves many people with the impression that gun ownership is not effective to preserve a person’s life.

Shame on ABC, Dianne Sawyer and her colleagues for doing an extremely biased report slanted to demean gun owners and gun ownership.

Coons: Earmarks

With the massive increases in the federal budget, there’s been a lot of talk about earmarks, or “pork-barrel spending.”  One of the recent bailout bills included an estimated 8,500 earmarks.  And with any call to decrease government spending, accompanying pleas to get rid of the pork soon follow.

But what is an earmark?  Does it really increase spending?  If all the pork-barrel earmarks were removed, would the budget go down?

An earmark is a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects.  Congress decides that it’s going to spend some amount of money on some vague list of projects, the specifics of which it delegates to bureaucrats.  Individual congressmen can then insert an earmark, which takes a portion of those funds and directs them to something more specific.  So an earmark doesn’t actually change the level of spending, it just provides instructions on how previously-approved funds are to be spent.

So if the 8,500 earmarks didn’t exist in the bailout legislation, it wouldn’t have changed the dollar amount at all.  Instead, it would have increased the funds headed straight to the Executive branch without oversight, where unelected individuals get to decide how it’s spent, instead of those we elect to Congress.

One has to wonder — Would it be better if all of the funds were earmarked?  Instead of giving the Executive branch $1 trillion dollars and saying “Have fun!”, Congress could instead say, “Here’s $1 trillion, and here’s how you’re going to use it.”  While it would be better to not spend the $1 trillion in the first place; if it is to be spent, it should be spent by the people we elect.

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