Do you know the frivolous programs your tax dollars fund?


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TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, last week, it was reported that the National Endowment for the Humanities spent nearly $13 million in just one month for 253 projects. Now, the National Endowment for Humanities gives away a lot of money for a lot of projects and a lot of these projects, Harry, I’d have to just say they’re nonsensical-like grants to investigate the bell and music and culture of Bulgaria.

Another grant for almost $100,000 was given to Texas Women’s University to investigate incorporating global perspectives into its college humanities courses. There’s been thousands of dollars spent on panel discussions concerning the LGBTQ history.

Harry, the list goes on and on and on and on and, most of these things, I think if people had to pay for them out of their pockets, the average American would say, “No way.”

DR. REEDER: And we need to make clear you are paying for it out of your pockets – that’s your tax money that’s going to these issues. And, by the way, the list is unbelievable. You’ve just picked a few little things that were in that report.

Some of the projects, you’ve got one called “Slouch: How to make people sit up better and why do they slouch?” Listen, just cut my mama loose on this one: “Stand up straight, boy.”

FRUGALITY AND STEWARDSHIP

I promised yesterday I would give the reason as to why my mama will be proud of this program. My dad and mom were not part of the Depression, but they were born in the Depression and, therefore, they were born to families that were addressing the Depression.

It carried over into habits to us. My dad and mom taught me and my three sisters a work ethic that is manifested in our life and they taught us frugality – “stewardship.” One of the things it’s allowed Cindy and I to do is to be able to give a lot for Christ out of what God is giving to us and one of the reasons why is because we’re able to live with frugality.

FRUGALITY IN GOVERNMENT

Well, if there’s any place frugality needs to be in place, it ought to be in the government, particularly if you have a view of limited government. What is the government there for? For the general welfare – that’s what the government is there for. It’s not there for special interests.

I believe there’s a place for us to fund medical research and I believe there’s a place even to fund some of the fine arts, but what we don’t fund are specialized agendas.

I was part of the debate in Charlotte over the funding of The Arts and Science Council. The Arts and Science Council had given grants to plays that supported the LGBTQ agenda and I challenged that. And they said, “Well, you just don’t want any support for the arts.” I said, “No, no, I benefitted from the arts.”

When I was a kid in elementary school, I remember them putting us in a bus, driving us down to Ovens Auditorium and that money that had been set aside was used to pay the Charlotte Symphony in order for us to come and hear something we would never have had the money to go and hear.

TRUMP SHOULD EXAMINE THE BUDGET

I’m all for that use of it, but what we don’t want are these specialized projects in place and so I have a recommendation, Tom, out of this program: I think this president is perfectly placed as a “populist president” businessman to go and do what he would do in his company, which is make sure you sharpen the pencil and you don’t have extraneous, nonsensical projects in which you’re spending money where you ought not to be spending money. And, if he could put together a Blue-Ribbon Committee to search and make recommendations of how to destroy all of these nonsensical projects and initiatives that are out there that are there only for special interests.

LITTLE CUTS CAN GO A LONG WAY

Now, people say, “Now, Harry, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars of this and millions of dollars for that, we’ve got debt that’s unbelievable. That’s a drop in the bucket.” Well, you put enough drops in the bucket, you’ve got a pail full of water in a bucket.

And, by the way, knocking out 1 to 2 percent of a budget is not a bad idea, no matter what size the budget is. There are some congressmen and some senators I know who share this perspective who are very smart in this matter of looking at spreadsheets and looking at projects and understanding what is important.

Don’t take the money of the citizens of this United States through the tax system and waste this tax money on those initiatives. I don’t care if it doesn’t amount to 1 percent of the budget, go after it and get it done.

TIME TO CUT PET PROJECTS FOR GENERAL WELFARE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Indeed, is this not symptomatic of a bigger problem?

DR. REEDER: Which is the government is now existing and trying to be a player in the industry. Now, listen, I know there are necessary projects that need to be funded, particularly in the area of science and particularly in the area of medical research. I understand that – I am not talking about that.

I am talking about these inane programs that I think somebody almost proposes them as a joke on the government, but somebody takes it and funds it and now a whole class of people exist off of the dole of the government in carrying out these research projects that are meaningless, that are filed away, that have no impact on the general welfare.

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S FISCAL ROLE?

Remember, the federal government is here for the general welfare of the people throughout the United States as it carries out the protection of the Bill of Rights and the execution of the law of the land and that is the Constitution.

The government provides defense, the government provides protection, the government provides law and order in a nation – that’s what the government does. It should not be here in order to fund meaningless and unnecessary projects that have nothing to do with the general welfare of the citizenship in this country.

FAMILY BUDGETS CAN SET A GENERATIONAL LEGACY

TOM LAMPRECT: Christian application, Harry, in terms of how we spend our money and in terms of how does the believer respond to the situation?

DR. REEDER: Tom, all I’m asking for is for the government to take a look at its purpose, create a budget according to its purpose and treat the money that you have taken from people through taxation with respect and with thoughtfulness. This isn’t Monopoly money for you to play around with. Be a leader of responsibility – and I know we have a number of elected officials that feel this way.

On a personal level, this is the way that we ought to live as believers. Our money isn’t our money – God has given us stewardship. We are stewards.

What does it mean to be a father and a mother and creating a budget for your family that is not superficial and that is not devoted to following the latest fads of society? Teach your children how to create a budget that is the meat and potatoes of life. Teach your children something about respecting the financial and material resources that God has entrusted to you.

SHOULD WEALTH BE HANDED DOWN?

One final thing that’s a little bit beyond our program for today: I believe one of the most non-productive things is second generation and third generation wealth. You want to hand off a business? You want to hand off property? You want to hand off a stipend to your children? That’s fine, but the No. 1 thing you ought to hand off to your children is a spiritual legacy of what it means to live for Christ, trust in Christ and be a follower of Christ. In the meantime, the money that God has given to you, measure it out and use it for the Lord.

And, when you get to the end of your life, yes, here’s a stipend for your children, here’s a business, maybe, for your children, here’s some real estate for your children, here’s a library for your children, here’s an education I’ve given to you but, everything else, God’s given to me, I’ve invested it according to Biblical principles and values in life and it’s been done in a way to honor the Lord. I’m not like the man that took the gift of God, and dug it, and put it the ground and saved it up. I used it for Him.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

11 hours ago

VIDEO: Prisons could be built with COVID-19 funds, Shelby endorses Katie Britt for Senate, Brooks battles with Swalwell as a new poll shows big lead and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Alabama really use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons?

— Does Katie Britt’s entering of the U.S. Senate race shake things up, or has U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) already won this race?

— Can U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) keep the more radical members of the Democratic Party at bay?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who want to use the illegally acquired tax returns of the uber-wealthy to push for higher taxes. He argues the released returns show that we should implement a flat tax and do away with all deductions.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

15 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

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“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

19 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

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The History of Alabama Marble

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The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

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Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

20 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

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From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.