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September 13, 2006

Letter To A Tennessee Friend

John W. Ashbury

(At the end of last week, a friend in Tennessee forwarded a piece from the national headquarters of a major political party. It stirred my juices; and thus the response below.)


Having political opinions is the right of every American. And sharing them is equally important. But I would much rather read what your opinion is - and how you arrived at it - than to read a propaganda piece from the leadership of either party. These people tend to twist everything to their point of view. And they leave out salient facts that could put the lie to their own statements.

Unfortunately, We The People have little opportunity to gather the facts for ourselves. Therefore we have to rely on the integrity of others to present them to us in a truthful manner. We cannot, however, place our trust in the words coming from politicians, especially during an election cycle. We have to base our votes on their performance, whether it be in the public or private sector. And we cannot allow ourselves to be overtaken by emotion to the point that we are blind to the consequences of the positions we support.

At the present time we here in Frederick County Maryland are in the throes of a battle between the pro-growth and the no-growth crowds. One side wants to halt growth altogether. The other side want to "manage" growth, which, in the past few years has been "unbridled," some claim. But now the economy is slowing down housing starts. Still the no-growth crowd wants to institute a moratorium, conveniently ignoring the fact that such will put more than 30,000 people who work here in the unemployment line.

Also, past governing boards have placed fees on the construction of housing to the point that before anyone can break ground for a new house they must pay the local government more than $30,000. The greater consequence of a moratorium - or even a government-imposed slowdown - on housing starts means that the elected officials will have to get revenue from other sources to fund the programs, etc., they are paying for with the revenues from housing starts. And guess where that money is now? Right! In the pockets of everyday citizens who really don't pay that much attention - until the government reaches deeper into their pockets.

As senior citizens, our income is now more static that ever before. Our Social Security checks are reduced by government programs. Yes, we benefit from them - Medicare and its drug benefit program. But still it is a government intrusion into our lives that was never intended by the Founding Brothers.

There was a Census Bureau report released recently about wealth in this nation. It was most revealing. Of the 10 wealthiest counties in the nation, five are in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. The median income for those who live in Loudoun County (VA) is $98,483, which tops the list. Do you want to guess where most of the residents in Loudoun County (VA) work? And for whom? That's right, in Washington and for the government.

Four other counties among the top 10 also surround Washington - Montgomery ($82,187) and Howard ($91,184) counties in Maryland, and Prince William ($81,904) and Fairfax ($94,610) counties in Virginia. If you take the median income for a male working for the government, and marry it to the medium income for a women working for the government, you come up with a figure in excess of $100,000 per year. Enough, already!

Another explosive fact that was recently reiterated was that even during downturns in the economy, government grows. And that includes the Depression of the '30s. And what got us out of that?

Let me go back to Frederick County for a moment. I don't believe for a moment that anybody who works for any department of the county government which can be associated with "growth" will be laid off if, in fact, we see a building moratorium or other measures taken to slow the growth of residential properties. This would include the planners, the permits department, the inspectors, etc. They will still have jobs and we the taxpayers will have to dig deeper to keep their salaries coming. And this doesn't include the pay raises they will demand each year.

So, you see, Marguerite, there is always more than one side to every story. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can get it right. The Democrats holler and scream about what the Republicans are doing now, but I'm not hearing of any plan to do the job any better - only that the Democrats will be in power and the Republicans won't.

Over on the Republican side, it isn't a whole lot better. Where's their leadership? It seems to be non-existent. A friend asked me about how one would go about getting Republicans on the same page for a change. I told him that organizing Republicans was like trying to herd cats. It just can't be done.

To satisfy my own morbid curiosity about the news, having been involved with journalism now for 47 years, I read three newspapers each morning - have to get up quite early to do so. I read Baltimore's Sun for the liberal point of view; The Washington Times for the conservative point of view; and the local paper for local news with a slant no one has been able to figure out; it is all over the board, depending on which reporter wrote the piece. Then I watch a couple of news programs during the day and evening on TV, and the slants get even worse there.

So, one has to be very careful what one believes in any media. We all tend to read the media that presents the news in a manner most closely aligned with our own beliefs. That is only natural. But when we read (or hear) something that isn't presented from our own point-of-view, we must be careful not to reject it out of hand. There will always be some truth in what we read (or hear). We just have to learn how to know what the truth is and how to recognize it. What comes from a political party's headquarters seldom tells all the truth, just the part that suits their purpose and agenda.

Thanks for letting me blow off some steam. I suppose the Primary Election on Tuesday is really getting to me after all.


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