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The Political and Religious Views of a Not Quite Normal Citizen of the Greatest Country in the World

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Property Tax Relief vs. Income Tax Relief

Last Tuesday, Governor Christie introduced his budget for Fiscal 2013.  Part of that budget was a 10% Income Tax Relief, to be phased in over 3 years.  Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver would rather have Property Tax Relief instead, feeling that the Income Tax break would benefit the wealthy more than the middle class.  I’m a great believer in reducing taxes, whenever possible, so I’m happy when an argument comes up as to which taxes to cut.  I do have a problem with the reasoning behind the Sweeney/Oliver position, though.  Actually, I have two problems.

First, the argument that an Income Tax cut would benefit the wealthy more than the Middle Class is entirely true.  However, a Property Tax cut would do the same thing.  I don’t know what planet they live on, but Sweeney and Oliver seem to forget that the wealthy tend to own more, and usually more expensive, land than the Middle Class.  Therefore, logic* dictates that the wealthy would benefit more from this tax break as well.

Second, saying that the Middle Class would benefit more from Property Tax cuts than Income Tax doesn’t hold water in the current state of affairs.  I consider myself to be Middle Class (as does most of America), but I rent.  Do you think my rent is going to go down because my landlord’s property taxes have gone down?  Not a chance!  I still pay Income Tax, though, so a break there would directly benefit me.

Like I said, though, this is a great argument to be having.  If this is the kind of thing we can be worrying about, I think we’re on the right track.  Now if we can only get the Federal government to balance it’s budget.

* Yeah, I know logic is a dirty word in politics.  It won’t stop me from using it, though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why I’m a Heathen

Well the obvious explanation is that Christianity never worked for me.  It was a combination of factors, really.  Firstly, we were never much of a church going family, due to various issues that will not be related here, so the only regular contact I had with the religion was though CCD.  For those not in the know, this was a class for Catholic children where we were taught, supposedly, about the faith and what we were supposed to do.  We had to take these classes in order to have our First Communion and Confirmation.  It really wasn’t a fun thing for me to do and, as I got older, it was downright annoying, especially when I would ask questions and be told that I just had to believe.  Still, this is what my parents’ wanted so I did it.  I managed to make it all the way to Confirmation (which is a regret I have as a non-believer today) and I never went back.  Secondly, I never liked the fact that anyone, no matter how atrocious a person, could say that they were sorry for what they’d done in their life and be completely forgiven.  “Let’s see here.  Vlad the Impaler.  Well, it looks like you repented on your death bed.  Welcome to Heaven.”  Sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.

Around the later part of High School I decided that I was an atheist.  There just wasn’t some big, bearded father-figure out there worried about this, and only this, planet and had the ability to be everywhere, see everything and control the universe.  Besides, the Holy Trinity being three distinct beings, who can have a conversation, but all the same being is a little too out there for me.  This decision didn’t help me with trying to get my Eagle Scout rank, since one of the tenants of the Scout Law is that a Scout is Reverent.  Through a long drawn out process, the board finally decided that I was reverent enough and gave it to me.

So I get into college and, being an engineering student, I’m not all that free to think of philosophy.  That would probably be why I was required to take a philosophy course.  An entire course centered on ideas that all depended on if God existed.  Needless to say, I was not a fan.  I argued with the professor over just about every item, which resulted in an A in the course, and never took another class like that.  Still, I think it allowed me to look into areas that I wouldn’t have before.  I took a few classes in Roman history and culture, which were quite fascinating, and rediscovered the Hellenistic Gods.  Something still wasn’t right, though, as they were nearly all-powerful beings that didn’t have any kind of consequences.

Being the kind of guy I am, a geek, I briefly flirted with the Jedi way, but that wasn’t a very good fit either.  It was just a little too made-up, if you catch my drift.  However, being that most of the Jedi stuff was online, it caused me to look at other things like that.  Eventually, many years after graduating, I stumbled across Bil Linzie's website and started reading about modern reconstructionists worshiping the Norse Gods.  It was light a flashbulb went off in my head.  This fit.  This made sense.  Not only was I a huge fan of the Thor comic book (like you didn’t already know that) but I had read the Eddas and enjoyed them.  Here was a set of deities that 1) could be killed, either through use of weapons or old age, and 2) weren’t just sitting in their halls but actively fighting to prevent the end of all things.  Call it Ragnarock, Entropy, what-have-you, they were doing their damnedest to stave it off for as long as possible.  Now that’s a group of gods I can get behind.

In conjunction with that, because these Gods are busy doing stuff, they don’t have a chance to have a personal interaction with each and every person in Midgard*, so we have to get by on our own.  However, we can get in their good graces by making sacrifices (essentially giving them gifts), which, in the Norse worldview, means that they need to return the favor.  This Gift Cycle links Mortals and Gods in a mutually beneficial relationship.  I normally only approach the Gods for the big stuff, and leave them alone for normal day-to-day items.  Add this to the fact that a person’s destination in the afterlife is dependent on their life as a whole, and I’m all for it.

Obviously, religious belief isn’t for everyone, and there’s no such thing as a one size fits all religion, but I thought that I would give you, my readers, some insight into why I made the choices I have.  Also, being a polytheist, I know that I don’t have a corner on the Truth, so I’m not going to try and convert anyone, but if any of you have questions about my religion, please feel free to ask.

* Here I’m using Midgard to mean the dimension (or universe) that contains Earth.  Maybe it’s my exposure to the comics, but I’m not one to think that the Cloud Kingdoms exist immediately above us.  Therefore, Asgard, Midgard, Hel, Jotenheim, et al exist each in their own dimension, with certain portals, such as Bifrost, able to bridge the dimensions.  Of course, that make the Midgard Serpent absolutely ginormous, which I don’t like to dwell on too long.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shared Services

Another item that is a hot topic in my home state of New Jersey is that of Shared Services.  For those of you not from this part of the USA, we have little thing here called “Home Rule”, which states that any town, no matter how small, has the right to its own police/fire/EMT/etc.  For a state with 566 towns (And here I’m using “Towns” to mean all types of municipalities.  There are five types of municipality in the state—boroughs (250), cities (52), towns (15), townships (246), and villages (3). New Jersey, the fourth smallest state, is 8,722 square miles, meaning the average land size of a municipality in the state is only 15 square miles.) this is a huge drain on our economy.  That means that we have >500 police chiefs in this state.  Wow.

What we really need to do is remove the services that all towns need and have them dealt with at the County level, of which there are 21.  Just brainstorming, this is what we would have at the County level rather than in the municipalities:
·         Police (under the existing County Sheriff’s office)
·         Courts
·         School District
·         Fire/Emergency Medical
·         Waste Disposal
·         Water & Sewer
·         Transportation (Mass Transit & Road Maintenance)
·         Tax Assessment/Collection
·         Animal Control (Including Shelters)
·         Parks & Recreation

Does this mean that areas like Newark or Camden would get the less service from the police, because they are more densely populated and don’t have control anymore?  Nope.  In fact, it means that police would be able to be moved from some of the areas of lower crime into areas of higher crime.  We could also be able to rotate duty areas so that you don’t have to deal with burn out.  What do you think a current Newark officer would say if he was told that he/she was to patrol the city for a two week period and then have two weeks working in Millburn?  Sounds like a great way to relieve workplace stress to me.

I suppose you’re wondering what would be left to do at the town level.  Plenty, as a matter of fact.  Each town would still have its own Planning/Zoning commission, so they could determine the look of each town.  They would also have their own financial department, which would get fed taxes from the County based on population & size of the town, but they would also be able to levy fees of their own.  An easy example of this would be beach badges (yes, for those of you out in the rest of the world, we actually charge people to go onto the beach).  Since not all towns would have need of things like this, it would remain at their level.

This isn’t only about cost savings, mind you.  This set-up would also be hugely more efficient on all levels.  Even if no one lost their job and were just reorganized under the county banner, you would see a streamlining effect almost immediately.  The county would be able to negotiate contracts with outside vendors from a much better position than a small town would.  Then there’s the improvement in the schools, with the reduction of the top-heavy management and more funds available for the teachers and needed supplies.

“Well, why hasn’t it been done yet?” you ask?  Pride.  Pure, unadulterated, “this is my sandbox and no one else to play in it” pride.  With the state of things today, I really hope that the politicians in this state wise up and realize that this would be better for everyone.  It sounds like we’re moving in that direction, for what the Senate President and Governor are saying, but it’s not quick enough, IMHO.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gay Marriage

Yeah, I’m starting off with a bang here.  One of the hot topics of our time, especially in my home state of New Jersey right now, is should Homosexuals be allowed to marry under Federal/State Law.  Well I’m here to say that it should not be allowed.

(pause for effect)

That is because I don’t think ANY marriage should be allowed under Federal/State Law.  Marriage is a religious idea and, as such, has no place in the government.  Now if you want to talk about a Domestic Partnership Contract, I’m all for that for anyone and everyone, but not for life.  It should be allowed that any group of humans over the age of 18 years can get a term contract for Domestic Partnership with all the benefits of the current laws for Married People.  How long the term would be is obviously up to the States, but I think options for 1, 3, 5 & 10 years would not be far-fetched.  Nothing says that you cannot renew your contract prior to it ending, but it would have to be mutually agreed upon.

You will note that I said “any group of humans”.  That was deliberate.  First of all, I don’t think it should be legal to marry a dog, tree, or kitchen sink.  That’s just … odd.  I don’t have a problem with more than two people wanting to join their lives together.  Not my cup of tea, mind you, but I think that the polygamy laws have fulfilled their function and protected women.  Now everyone is equal under the eyes of the law, regardless of sex, race, etc, so let those that want to do this be able to.

I would ask that the arguments against this that any of you decide to make be limited to non-religious arguments.  The whole point behind this is that marriage is a religious ideal and has no place in governmental law.  Thank you.