Addressing the Underlying Issues With Our National Infrastructure System

Our interstate system is in terrible shape and must be tended to now, but the usual “kicking the can down the road” approach so common in Washington will only exacerbate the issue.

The Obama Administration is absolutely correct that we’re facing an infrastructure crisis that can’t be avoided. Recent studies have suggested that repairs, maintenance, and growth-related improvements to our interstate systems could cost as much as $1 trillion. But from a federal government that routinely spends hundreds of billions of dollars more every year than it receives in tax revenues siphoned off of the burdened American worker, and from a highway trust fund that will reportedly be bankrupt in one month, it seems unlikely that we’ll be able to find that $1 trillion dollars without addressing some other major issues, right now.

Proposals by both parties in Congress seem laughable at best. Burdening the economy with increased gas taxes, income taxes, corporate taxes, inflation, or debt would be counterproductive if the primary reason to maintain or improve our interstate system is to benefit the economy. Judging by the results from the many other crises our federal government has recently encountered, it’s likely that a band-aid will be placed on the issue and it’ll be passed down the road. Nothing fundamental will be addressed, nothing will actually be “fixed,” and we’ll be facing the issue again in the near future, hearing all of the usual rhetoric about increasing taxes or taking money from the other party’s pet project for a superficial solution to a serious issue.

The bigger issue here (the one that seems to escape public debate) is the underlying problems with our infrastructure system. As it stands, the federal government extracts income from American workers, then disperses this “revenue” amongst the individual states with strings attached. The money is misallocated, and much of that money is directed towards projects that may never directly benefit many of the individuals taxed. Our current course of action has created an untold number of shortfalls within our interstate system, and simply is not working. It’s ineffective, and inefficient. In other words, it’s government as usual.

In order to avoid facing this crisis again, and to refrain from increasing the burden on the taxpayer, we have but two options:

1) The federal government reprioritizes both its role and its finances towards specific, necessary domestic issues like infrastructure, and away from doling out billions in foreign “aid,” billions more in maintaining a global military presence, and yet billions more in corporate welfare. If the federal government is going to continue to maintain its monopoly on infrastructure, it better ensure it has the funds available to do so, and do so without further damaging our struggling economy.

2) The federal government can return both the funds and total control of the interstate system to the individual states. With this proposal, federal fuel taxes can be ended, and the individual states can then determine if they want to continue accounting for the interstate system with public funding, instituting user fees, or turning the operation over to the private sector as much of the world has trended towards.

This proposal is consistent with the libertarian philosophy that the individual state is easier for the public to hold accountable than a bloated federal government is, and a state will best understand what its needs are and how to address them. Either proposal, though, will be a step in the right direction, and both deserve serious consideration in Washington D.C.

It’s simply not enough to pick and choose a handful of projects, inefficiently throw billions of taxpayer supplied dollars at it, and pretend that a crisis was averted. Regardless of the issue at hand, it’s vital that we open the debate beyond the false dichotomy we’re typically presented with if we’re to address fundamental problems in Washington. Our infrastructure undeniably plays a critical role in the economy at local, state, and national levels, and we’re only setting ourselves up for failure if we don’t take serious consideration of the root issues, today.

-Chris Mayo (L), candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (IN-7)

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Our Two-Party System is a Charade

Why is our political discourse limited solely to a left-right paradigm? Why is it that we’re limited to only two choices when it’s time to select our next government representative? Why are we told that a vote for anything beyond the two party realm is a “wasted vote?” And are our “two choices” fundamentally all that different?

These are the questions we are not supposed to ask. And if someone dares to address them, it’s with the usual “we have to beat the other guy,” “lesser of two evils” rhetoric.

I’m tired of it.

I once considered myself a Republican. But the Republican Party has been hijacked by neoconservatives, statists, and progressives that have little regard for limited government, fiscal conservatism, and individual liberty. I then considered myself a conservative. But it turns out “conservative” no longer infers that one believes in a conservative, limited government, but rather that one is socially conservative, and wishes to utilize government “authority” to promulgate those values among the rest of the population. With few exceptions, this summarizes that majority of the Republican party, and you know what? Their fundamental view that government can no longer be small or limited, and that personal liberties must make way for “national security” or certain social values is fundamentally indistinguishable from our “other choice.”

The Democrat Party has proven over the last century (and no less so, the last decade), that it too wants to wage certain wars, infringe on civil liberties, perpetuate a nanny state, and spend like there’s no tomorrow. Ultimately, the differences between our “two choices” are limited only to how they want to use the government, rather than how they want to limit the government and protect personal freedoms. The Constitution designed to protect your individual liberties is only pertinent when it underpins their agenda, and is otherwise a nuisance or outdated document.

This brings us to the third largest party in the United States: the Libertarian Party. While Republicans and Democrats debate which country they would drop bombs on or place boots on the ground in, Libertarian candidates are proposing that our military is reserved for defense purposes or to prevent/repel imminent attacks on U.S. citizens and soil (and only via the means prescribed by the Constitution). While other candidates talk about increasing taxes on this group a couple percent or lowering them for that group a couple percent, Libertarians are advocating for the total abolition of our immoral tax code and the IRS. And while Republicans and Democrats are debating tweaks they’d make to interest rates, subsidies they’d like to handout, “adjusting” or “replacing” the Affordable Care Act (misnomer), or “reforms” they would make to the NSA or the USA PATRIOT Act (another misnomer), Libertarians are calling for a full audit or abolishment of the Federal Reserve, ending corporate subsidies, returning our health care industry to a free market system, and repealing ineffective and unconstitutional legislation.

The Republican party likes to paint Libertarian candidates as “vote stealers,” but is it really “stealing a vote” when a Republican candidate’s proposals and philosophies on government are so much different from a Libertarian Candidate’s? When YOU make the personal decision to vote for Libertarian Bob instead of Republican Larry, did Libertarian Bob really steal a vote from Republican Larry?

Democrats and Republicans both like to convince voters that any vote cast for a third party candidate is a “wasted” vote. Voting for the same thing over and over again and somehow expecting a different result, sounds more like a wasted vote. The very fact that Republicans and Democrats alike choose to ridicule, mock, or marginalize libertarian voters rather than work towards encompassing them ought to be evidence enough that it’s not real “change” or “reform” that they intend to institute. Rather, they’ll work tirelessly to ensure Libertarian candidates aren’t invited to their debates (Gary Johnson in 2012, comes to mind) or enact a barrier (by legislation) to prevent third party candidates from appearing on a ballot.

Do not mistake this as some grandiose attempt to convince you to vote for every Libertarian candidate on your ballot, or even depress you or make the situation seem hopeless, because it’s not. My feelings wouldn’t not be hurt if every ballot had 3, 4, or even 10 choices on it. But what every ballot (and debate) should have is a candidate that promotes actual change. Having such a candidate is entirely plausible, and the responsibility rests with you, the voter.

As a voter, you unfortunately are now tasked with giving due diligence in your decision at the ballot box. I say “unfortunately,” because life shouldn’t be so complicated, and neither should our government. Regrettably, our “two parties” have willingly perpetuated a system so convoluted that their differences seem significant, partisan politics dominates media, commentary, and meaningful political debate, and any viewpoint, opinion, or candidate that represents anything out of the mainstream realm of discourse is ignored or relegated to second-tier status.

As a voter, though, you can change this. It’s your vote, after all, that they want.

-Chris Mayo (L), candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (IN-7)

Why Aren’t We Talking About This?

Cannabis, whether it’s prohibited, regulated, or subsidized, should be of no matter to our federal government.

 

“Now what I contend is that my body is my own, at least I have always so regarded it. If I do harm through my experimenting with it, it is I who suffers, not the state.” – Mark Twain

 

My usual title, “Why aren’t we talking about this?” is probably a bit of a misnomer for an article regarding marijuana policy. While it’s true that the mainstream media frequently discusses marijuana decriminalization, and I’m sure we’ve all discussed it at some point in our personal lives, much of the discussion has been rhetorical or superficial, and full of biased, predictable talking points.

The federal prohibition on marijuana is one of preconceived notions, biased opinion, bigotry, and power, plain and simple. Though cannabis sativa has been cultivated and utilized for manufacturing, medicinal, and recreational uses for thousands of years, our federal government did not find reason to prohibit the drug until 1937 (after alcohol had been prohibited by constitutional amendment, which was later repealed). As history has proven, the prohibition on marijuana apparently wasn’t even worth a constitutional amendment (why the difference?), and the debate on the 1937 bill to prohibit the possession or transfer of marijuana lasted for less than two minutes on the House floor. The bill’s most ardent supporters? Federal Bureau of Narcotics officials Henry Anslinger and James Munich, who made claims about “taking two puffs and turning into a bat,” “killing dogs,” and “outlawing marijuana” because of its effect on “degenerate races” (marijuana was primarily prevalent in Mexican culture  and the jazz scene at that time, not to mention with the “Hindoos” as stated by a 1913 California report).

By 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the 1937 marijuana “tax act” unconstitutional, prompting Congress and President Nixon to enact the Controlled Substances Act, thus initiating the “War on Drugs.” The Controlled Substances Act places a priority  or “rating” on various substances, with Schedule I being the most prohibited (you can’t even get a prescription from your doctor), and Schedule V being the least prohibited (over-the-counter substances, primarily). Hopefully you’re as perplexed as I am to find marijuana rated as a Schedule I substance (like heroin), while cocaine, meth, and oxycodone are Schedule II substances, and are permitted for distribution via prescription in some instances, and available to drug companies for research. You read that right: a major pharmaceutical company cannot even touch a marijuana plant, but they’re free to play with cocaine and meth.

Since the start of this “War on Drugs,” hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars have been spent attempting to eliminate marijuana. It goes without saying that they’ve clearly failed their mission (making it yet another ineffective War on Something), and the end result is nothing less than your money wasted, overcrowded federal, state, and local jails and prisons, death, unnecessary criminal records, loss of personal assets, the apparent justification for a growing police state, and the associated black market that comes with any prohibition.

None of this needs to exist. There shouldn’t be a black market for weed and hemp, just like there shouldn’t be a militarization of our local and federal law enforcement departments to combat this “problem.” Not only has our government failed (miserably) at their aim to eradicate the possession and transfer of marijuana, but their efforts have been counterproductive at best, perpetuating their “problem.” The War on Drugs is, and always has been, a lose-lose for everyone involved. The only people “winning” in this “war” are the profiteers created by the black market, and the entities profiting from the militarization of police departments spanning from Mayberry to the Drug Enforcement Agency. As USMC General Smedley Butler infamously stated 80 years ago, “war is a racket.”

But the states are standing up. Numerous states have enacted legislation or are debating legislation to decriminalize marijuana, permit it’s medicinal use, and permit the industrial use of hemp. The effort to put these decisions back into the hands of the individual states is gaining traction, and this is just the start. Ultimately, all federal drug laws should be repealed and the DEA needs to be abolished. Sound radical? Probably to some. I’m sure many envision some sky high naked teenager charging down their street on horseback, shouting obscenities, burning flags, and shaving their cat the day the Controlled Substances Act is repealed, but this ignores the fact that repealing such laws merely places the responsibility of addressing any issues in the hands of each individual state. Certainly, Indiana may want to try a different approach at prohibiting or decriminalizing various substances than say, California would.

Intrinsically, that was the entire philosophy behind the creation of this Great Experiment nearly 230 years ago. We were never meant to be endowed with a government that has assumed the illegitimate authority to issue broad, sweeping, cookie-cutter laws and regulations for everyone to follow, but rather with a federation of states that can operate independently, and if you simply can’t stand what your state did, there’s (now) 49 other options out there for you to try.

Eliminating federal drug laws and related agencies and ultimately allowing free, independent people, communities, counties, and states to decide what works best for them is the only approach to resolving the abysmal failure that is our War on Drugs. It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue, and it’s not a Libertarian issue. Consequentially and philosophically, the War on Drugs is the antithesis of a limited, conservative government, and contradicts the concept of both federalism and individual liberty. It’s appalling regardless of what side of the aisle you stand on, and it has to end before the problems it created eternize.

-Chris Mayo (L), candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (IN-7)