December 20, 2014
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My Take on the News
Election has taken us beyond the tipping point
Lonnie Barham

HAS AMERICA REACHED THE "TIPPING POINT?" Malcolm Gladwell's wonderfully enlightening 2002 book, “The Tipping Point,” explores the phenomenon referred to in the book's title, that seemingly magic moment – the tipping point – when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire. Has America reached the tipping point in its politico-social approach to governance and life in general?
The Obama victory seems to indicate we've crossed the threshold and have tipped over that unseen but palpable point of no return, the point beyond which we begin the inexorable slide toward a society and a political system controlled more by beneficiaries of tax dollars than by those who work to contribute those dollars; a system controlled more by those who expect a big spending, big taxing government to resolve all their problems instead of trying to resolve issues themselves with the help of their families and through their own hard work and initiative. How else can one explain an incumbent president's victory in a struggling economy mired in debt and deficits caused mostly by excessive and reckless entitlement spending?
Countless political and social philosophers have warned that when a society devolves to the point that those who tend to vote for self-benefits over societal benefits become the majority, the society itself is doomed. Alexander F. Tytler, an 18th century Scottish history professor, summed it up best, “A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy..."

THE FOX IN THE HENHOUSE IS AFRAID: R.I. House Speaker Gordon Fox won re-election by a slimmer margin than almost any other Democrat, and only partly because of his involvement in the 38 Studios' fiasco. He lost many votes in his extremely liberal district because he allowed the voter ID law to pass and because he failed to allow a same-sex marriage bill to reach the House floor. His relatively narrow victory has shaken Fox. Very simply, he is afraid.
A frightened politician is a dangerous politician! We should all be concerned. For self-preservation reasons, Fox now plans to cater more to his leftist-dominated district to the detriment, in many cases, of statewide voters. While he plans to finally bring a same-sex marriage bill to the floor – a good thing, he also plans to try to water down the voter ID law or add a sunset provision. Further, since leftist voters almost always support labor unions, will his district's voices tell him to revisit pension reform? While his newfound attention to his district's opinions may be good for the very liberal chickens in his district, the rest of us chickens in Rhode Island need to be very careful around this fox.

PENSION REFORM JUDGE UNFIT: Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter is clearly unfit to hear appeals in the pension reform case because of her relationship with two who will be affected by her decision. Her son is a state employee and her mother is the widow of a retiree and collects his pension benefit. Both will be financially affected by the outcome of the case before her. Further, she declared before a recusal hearing began that she would not recuse herself. How objectively can a judge consider evidence in a hearing when she declares beforehand what her decision will be? And, she failed to disclose her mother's financial interest in the case before the recusal hearing; thus, denying the state the opportunity to present evidence of that relationship's influence on the judge's decision.
There is clearly a conflict of interest in this case. The judge should have recused herself and did not. The presiding judge of the Superior Court should have forced recusal and did not. Now the recusal appeal will go to the R.I. Supreme Court. This could all have been avoided had the presiding judge simply checked Judge Taft-Carter's relationship with those who might benefit from her decision before assigning her the case. It's Management 101; don't assign a task to someone whose objectivity will be called into question because of potential familial bias.

BIGGEST REFERENDA SUPPORTERS: Richard Salit, environmental writer for the Providence Journal, pointed out that the two municipalities that voted most heavily in favor of the two referenda involving the environment were Providence and Block Island. Salit seemed surprised that a city and a town at opposite ends of the economic spectrum both voted so overwhelmingly in favor of the two referenda. The explanation is simple. Voters in Providence, for the most part, were voting to spend someone else's money. At the other end, voters on Block Island are in the upper economic strata and can likely afford the higher taxes that will go with the two referenda projects. It was the hardworking, middle class folks in North Smithfield and Scituate – folks who can ill afford the higher taxes that will pay for these projects – who recorded the lowest voter support for the referenda.

PATRIOTIC CARTOONS: Of the 18 cartoons featured weekly in the Sunday Providence Journal, only two depicted gratitude toward our nation's veterans last Sunday – Veterans Day. It's a sad commentary on our society when cartoonists choose to honor politicians, sports, psychiatrists, pets, the workplace, etc., on Veterans Day while forgetting about those who sacrificed so much – literally giving their lives, their limbs and, in many cases, their sanity to protect the principles that allow cartoonists to freely express their opinions.
Kudos to cartoonists Norm Feuti and Brian Basset for their respective cartoons "Gill" and "Red and Rover," both of which took the opportunity to remember our country's veterans on Veterans Day. Thanks from a grateful veteran!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Lane Filler, editorial board member of Long Island's Newsday newspaper, writing about why the memory of former President Clinton’s fiscal stewardship – as opposed to that of our current government – has returned him to such popularity, exclaimed, "...he didn't spend money like a drunken sailor, or a sober liberal. "


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