Government Should Be the Solution of Last Resort
I live on the outskirts of the DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) metroplex. Over the decades I’ve had to keep moving further out because of urban sprawl. Sometimes I jokingly refer to it as living on the edge of civilization, but my wife and I have come to embrace it. We enjoy the conveniences of relatively nearby restaurants and shopping (how does anyone live without a Costco these days?) while taking advantage of less traffic, safer neighborhoods, and (for the most part) friendlier neighbors. This is especially true of businesses. There are at least three smaller-sized rural towns I can get to quicker than most places in the metroplex and when it comes to getting a haircut, servicing our vehicles, or establishing a relationship with a banker I’ll take the country roads every time.
You’re probably thinking I’m just a cheapskate and get better prices in the small towns. But that wouldn’t be true… (not the cheapskate thing, but the better prices part). Some things actually cost more in a small town – that’s just a premium you pay. No, it’s more about the relationships and trusts you build. The girl who does my hair isn’t going to constantly try to sell me on some new miracle hair conditioner or shampoo and my banker isn’t going to look at me with suspicion every time I want to open a new business account or move some money around. And, when it comes to auto repair…
We recently found ourselves in need of another vehicle. It’s a terrible time to buy a car, especially in Texas. Prices are through the roof and selection is limited. After a lot of looking, I found a low mileage Nissan Murano in Chicago with a reasonable enough price I could still afford to have it shipped here. It was exactly what we wanted; even the interior and exterior colors we had hoped for! So, we were excited and one of the first things I wanted to do was get the oil changed, check the fluid levels, etc. Because it was our first Nissan, I decided to take it to the dealership. I suffered through the 40 minutes of traffic to get there and arrived to the smiling faces in the Dealership’s service department. They assured me they would take great care of my SUV and escorted me to a luxurious showroom to wait. It really was great service; they offered me coffees, cappuccinos, lattes... anything I wanted! I was very comfortable… until my phone started blowing up.
I had given them my cell phone number and they were now sending me FLASHING RED text messages telling me my Murano wasn’t safe to drive! My rear brakes were shot! One of my tires was so worn it could blow at any moment! All in all, there were seven critical repairs that needed to be made RIGHT NOW or I WAS GOING TO DIE! (Please click here to authorize $2,000 in repairs).
I declined the repairs and put my service rep through the humiliation of pulling out the inspection report from the Chicago dealership I had just purchased the car from and made him show me one by one the ticking time bombs they were trying to save me from. Amazingly, we couldn’t find any – not even the worn-out tire. They must have gotten my vehicle confused with someone else’s…
My normal mechanic has a small repair shop in one of these small towns I’m talking about. He charges about the same for his labor as anyone else and doesn’t pad the cost of parts too much, but he would never try to take me to the cleaners. I’d call him a friend, but we don’t break bread together or anything… he’s just a decent, honest, small-town guy. With the above exception, I’ve used him for just about all my automotive needs. There is one vehicle I owned, however, that he couldn’t work on and it was frustrating as hell.
Another car we loved so much we put over 200,000 miles on was our 5 series BMW. BMW doesn’t call it a car; they call it ‘a driving machine’ – and after owning one I know why. The mechanical engineering is exquisite, the luxury opulent, and with performance ready for the race track. Unfortunately, it takes special (and expensive) equipment to diagnose problems and special skills to initiate repairs. Some independent mechanics might try to muddle their way through a fix, but stand a great chance of messing it up. One of the reasons I trust my mechanic is because he was honest with me. He said, ‘No. Take it to the dealership.’
So, for years I was forced to trust one faceless conglomerate-sized dealership for all my BMW repairs. I seldom had the same service rep twice and although I never suffered as blatant an attempt to fleece my bank account as I did with Nissan, I still spent thousands of dollars over that period of time and I really have no way of knowing if they were all necessary or not.
I don’t like feeling helpless and at the mercy of faceless entities.
I was reminded of my above experiences because I have recently had some reader feedback that I wanted to address. One of the challenges of blogging about human interaction, be it politics, religion, or family, is that you can step on people’s toes – sometimes on purpose, many times inadvertently. It usually happens through a difference in perspective. We all have different ways and habits of looking at things (what a great idea for a future blog!). We can want the same things, but view the problem from totally different angles. I want to take the opportunity to clearly highlight how I look at things…
There was a day in our country when we had private charities providing the homeless with meals, clothing, and shelter. When churches and other philanthropic groups helped the unemployed get back on their feet or supported families in crisis. Good intentioned citizens clamored for the government to step in and shoulder the burden – and, so it did. To the point where those other charitable organizations have ceased their activities in these areas or disappeared altogether. Now, we spend more taxpayer money on these issues than ever before (by huge factors) and we have more homeless than ever before. We also have the unemployed staying unemployed and more families in crisis. What gives?
I have inadvertently upset a few teachers here and there by questioning the need for the federal Department of Education and the effectiveness of the Public School System. I have heard wonderful explanations of new educational theories and programs being implemented in our public schools but hear no concrete answers when I ask why all these great programs (and the highest funding in the world) have only resulted in the quality of a U.S. education falling further behind other countries. I am sometimes told this is because parents in our country are not as involved in their children’s education, but usually receive blank stares when I point out that our government is evermore telling parents they have no right to be involved in their children’s curriculum. And, when we try and talk about school vouchers…
My mechanic is easier to hold accountable than a large dealership. The larger the organization, the more wasteful and less efficient it becomes. Our federal government is the largest organization any of us will ever deal with. Theoretically, it is accountable to We The People but, over the years, our politicians have done a good job of shedding even that encumbrance. The bottom line is, our government is by definition prone to corruption, waste, bribery, extortion, inefficiencies, and cronyism. Our government should be the solution of last resort when it comes to solving any of our country’s problems… only used when there is no other choice.
When is there no other choice? When our constitution tells us so. One of those few responsibilities I would like to address today is the U.S. Military. I recently wrote the Substack article, Our Ruling Class Military-Industrial Complex. In it, I stated “Because military spending is (by necessity) wasteful, the opportunities for corruption are endless.” Some ex-military have taken offense to this.
If I were an ‘Insider,’ if I were a public school teacher my first inclination might be to resent the overall criticism of public schools by any outsider. If I were a military man (or, woman), I might have the same inclinations. However, we would both still want our organizations to run better, be more efficient, and more accountable. Our differences would simply be a matter of perspective – one from the inside and the other from the grand scheme of things.
We need our military. As wasteful and inefficient as it is, it is critical to the survival of our country. And while some might be afraid any criticism of its financial integrity might hurt its political funding, I refuse to treat the American people as intellectually challenged. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can understand something is wasteful yet necessary. We can constantly work to cut the waste while vigorously supporting the institution.
Yes, I still don’t like feeling helpless and at the mercy of faceless entities like the military but, just like with my BMW, I will abide it because there is no choice.
However, when it comes to education and philanthropy, we do have a choice. So, what will it be, America? Do we continue moving further into government dependence, or do we move back towards self-control? And, the next time you hear an outsider offering criticism of your vested interest, you might want to step back and take a look at the grand scheme of things 😉
As always, our Friday editions include a joke and a recipe - have a great weekend!
STUPID JOKE of the WEEK
Q: What happens after you rub ketchup in your eyes?
A: You feel really silly in Heinz sight!
Want something different? You’ve gotta try this! If you have trouble sourcing the ingredients, go HERE to have them delivered (Unfortunately, I make no commission on this recommendation… sigh…)
RECIPE: STEAKHOUSE SAUSAGE CHORIPAN
with Roasted Red Pepper Relish
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
This South American staple is not for the faint-hearted but certainly for the hungry! We've upgraded it using a pork steakhouse sausage, and this roasted red pepper relish further accentuates the meatiness and mouthwatering flavor. Serves 5 - 6.
PORK STEAKHOUSE SAUSAGE, THAWED
QTY 1 LB
FRENCH BAGUETTE, THAWED AND OVEN WARMED
QTY 1 PIECE
ROASTED RED PEPPER RELISH:
YELLOW ONION, DICED"
QTY 1 PIECE
QTY 2 TBSP.
ROASTED PEPPERS, DICED
QTY 1 1/2 CUP
GARLIC CLOVE, MINCED
QTY 1 CLOVE
FRESH PARSLEY, CHOPPED
QTY 1 TBSP.
Heat oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients for the relish. Set aside.
Preheat a grill to medium-high temperature. Grill sausages for 2-3 minutes per side making sure they have some grill marks. Reduce heat to medium-low and grill for an additional 12 minutes turning sausages often for even cooking.*
Bake baguette according to directions on the package. Remove from oven and cut into 5” segments. Slice in half horizontally without cutting all the way through.
Place the whole sausage into each baguette section and serve with roasted pepper relish on top.*USDA recommends cooking raw sausage to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F.
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