Posted by: bkivey | 9 November 2010

Buying Civilization

While visiting with my sister and her family I had occasion to talk to her husband about living in North Carolina. I lived in the Raleigh area for ten years and was favorably impressed with how Raleigh has developed. The town is all grown up now and offers a varied and vibrant lifestyle with many things to see and do. While much of the surrounding countryside has been developed and there are far too many Yankees: one is more likely to find a boutique bagel shop than a good BBQ joint, the area appears to be a desirable place to live.

While talking to my brother-in-law about Raleigh and North Carolina I said that the main reason I hadn’t considered living there was the tax burden. While not as onerous as most Northeastern states or California (hence the influx of Northern neighbors), North Carolina does levy a personal income tax of between 6 and 8 percent (less than Oregon) and a sales tax of about 7 percent (not collected in Oregon). Many towns in North Carolina also levy significant property taxes on real estate and personal property such as vehicles. Depending on where one lives in the state and what you buy it’s entirely possible for upwards of 15% of your income to go to state and local government, in addition to whatever the Feds take. Because I have lived for the last 14 years in places that collected either a sales tax (Washington), or income tax (Oregon), but not both, I am understandably reluctant to live in a place where one is seemingly taxed eight ways from Sunday.

While acknowledging that the tax burden in North Carolina was significant, my brother-in-law noted that they enjoyed safe neighborhoods, good roads, good schools (although, as noted, that’s threatened), a desirable quality of life, and a good place to raise a family. The perception seems to be that the money appropriated by government directly translates into quality of life, and is thus an acceptable use of private property.

And that’s  really the crux of the matter where taxes are concerned. While few people are enthusiastic about having their private property forcibly taken by the State, most folks realize that some level of taxation is necessary to the functioning of an orderly society. Taxes buy civilization. If benefits are tangible and proportional to the level of taxation, people may grumble but most will understand the necessity and desirability of a certain tax burden. Problems start to arise when people perceive that government is either spending money unwisely or taking too much or both. As government spending goes to ever-more obscure programs that benefit fewer and fewer people, or go to gilded projects, or when politicians appropriate tax money levied for one purpose to fund their pet projects, the feeling amongst the citizenry may well be not that government isn’t taking enough money to fund a desirable society, it’s taking too much.

The Mystery Missile

At sunset on 8 November an apparent missile launch took place in the ocean about 35 miles west of Los Angeles. The event was captured from a distance and at altitude by a news helicopter. While the video is very brief it’s obvious that the video does show a rocket of some sort.  What is most disturbing is that the DoD says that not only is it not theirs, but that the event posed no threat to the country. Excuse me? How, exactly, do they know that if it’s not ours? I’d say that a rocket launch fairly close to the nation’s coast by person’s unknown would pose a significant security threat. 

While it’s possible that the rocket was air-launched, the trajectory and apparent size of the missile argue for a sea or sub-surface platform. The number of nations capable of a sub-surface launch is a very short list, and the number of nations capable of launching a missile of the type seen in the video from a surface ship not a lot larger. It’s possible that the launch was performed by a private organization that, but if secrecy was desired, why not go out a few hundred miles and be certain that the launch couldn’t be seen from land?

If the Pentagon really doesn’t know who launched the missile, then we could just as well be kissing an American city goodbye. We really need some answers here, and ‘I don’t know’ won’t cut it.

Word Watch

From the CNN article on the mystery missile, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan is quoted as saying various government agencies “have been pinged” regarding the launch. I don’t know what Col. Lapan’s area of expertise is, but he needs to get away from the computer more often.

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