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Archive for January, 2010

Let’s Roll…

The question I have been asked most since taking the position of Executive Vice President of CRI is, “What is the Caesar Rodney Institute’s biggest goal for the coming year.”  It is a great question, so let me answer it.

CRI’s ultimate goal, for 2010 or any year, is to advance the debate over how our state should be governed.  We believe in a competitive free market economy where those who have the ambition are given the incentives to work hard and create jobs.  We do not believe that the government ought to be in the job creation business.  What made our economy the envy of the nation for a generation was the freedom that commerce and industry were given to generate wealth in a market based fashion, where jobs exploded onto the scene because the products of our businesses were in high demand.  Conversely, the cause of our recent decline in economic prowess includes a reliance on the state to provide jobs at an alarming rate of 500 per year over the last eight years, coupled with an incremental stifling of the private sector through excessive regulation and tax burden; the most recent instance being the Fiscal Year 2010 budget passed last year.  Juxtaposed to an alarming rate of spending growth since the 1990’s, these instruments of an over reaching state government have landed a heavy blow to the entrepreneurial spirit of our population.

We also believe that individual liberty cannot exist, in its rightful capacity, alongside of an ever-increasing and bloated state government.  The best government exists in its smallest, most efficient manner possible.  Only when the people of this great state are free to come and go, free to take risks, free expand their own horizons, will this state once again flourish.

I will gauge CRI’s success in 2010 as a function of how far that message has resonated.  And, we need your help to get there.  We win when the policy coming out of Dover is consistent with a good, constitutional government.  It is not about specific legislation, rather a systematic change in the mindset of those we send to do the people’s business.  Somewhere along the way, we have lost our sense of individual initiative and enterprise and have replaced it with an unhealthy reliance on the state to solve our problems.  The battle we wage is for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens.  We must remind them that the government does not provide solutions.  In fact, the government is that entity which gets in our way and establishes the problems that we must deal with on a daily basis.  If I could change one thing, about Delaware government, it would be to recall its proper place in our lives and not to consider its citizens as unable to live and function without its influence.

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            Imagine Delaware with $800 million more dollars a year in the private sector, a small income tax, and a much smaller government that stayed out of our way.  Delaware would be a magnet for business leading to high employment and good paying jobs.  Instead we are faced with a bleak future of shrinking employment, lower pay, and budget crunches year after year.

            One simple budget change twenty-five years ago would have made the difference.  If we had limited year to year increases in state budgets to cover the twin rising cost drivers of inflation and population growth our current state budget would be 30% lower, about $2.2 billion/yr instead of $3 billion/yr.  We would only need one-fifth of the billion dollars a year raised by state income taxes.

            Furthermore, Delaware’s public sector spending per capita would be closer to average for the country instead of the second highest in the land.  David W. Singletons’s August 2, 2009 article in the News Journal titled “Rethinking Government Spending” drew needed attention to this issue.  We spend 13% more than third place New York, 40% more than fifth place California, and 69% more than the national average. 

            If we were at the national average, our state budget would translate to about $1.85 billion/yr. Singleton observed, “Until recently, Delaware state and local governments have added programs and staff at a fairly steady pace, but have rarely shut down or overhauled services that were unnecessary, inefficient, or otherwise substandard”.  Singleton makes the important point we need to have the very basic debate about the proper role of government in our state!

            How did we get to this point?  The Dupont Administration certainly got things started in the right direction.  Starting out with a budget disaster, Governor Dupont drastically reduced top income tax rates leading to a rapid increase in revenue, installed an improved revenue estimating system still used today, and passed the Financial Center Development Act which led to the rise of the banking industry in Delaware with its’ high employment and well paying jobs.  After eight years the state was moving in a positive direction and spending had increased slower than population growth plus inflation. 

            The changes were so successful, starting about 1984 the state was awash in new revenue.  Each year DEFAC would say you have this much to spend and the legislature would spend it!  Spending is a good way to get re-elected. We do not need to continue to back into poor budget decisions thoughtlessly.  A bill to limit budget growth to the rate of inflation and population growth can be passed this year and we could enjoy the benefits for years to come. 

           David T. Stevenson

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            When the founders spoke of limited government they meant it.  Washington’s first administration consisted of the Departments of War for security, State for diplomacy to avoid war, the Attorney General to maintain the Rule of Law, and the Treasury to raise the money for the other three departments, mainly through tariffs, and to provide a stable currency to promote commerce.  The budget was an estimated 2% of the new nation’s economy.  The Revolution was the culmination of a two century pursuit of individual liberty over tyrannical monarchies.  Individualist virtues of independence, self reliance, individual initiative, local responsibility, voluntary cooperation, willingness to bear risk, non-interference with one’s neighbors, tolerance of the different, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority had won out.

            Contrast this with the National Socialist Party in Germany before World War II.  A founding principle of the party was the individual has no rights, only duties.  Government, driven by someone’s ideas of social justice, must have absolute power to organize society for its purposes.  When do individual rights disappear?  Friedrich A. Hayek wrote in his seminal work on the battle between individualism and socialism, “Once the communal sector, in which the state controls all the means, exceeds a certain proportion of the whole, the effects of its actions dominate the whole system.” 

            Hayek, once responsible for collecting economic data in Austria, estimates this occurred in Nazi Germany when the government controlled 53% of the national income.  By the way, if you are looking for a clear understanding of individual liberty, you need to read “The Road To Serfdom”.  Milton Friedman wrote in his introduction of the fiftieth edition in 1994, “Over the years, I have made it a practice to inquire of believers in individualism how they came to depart from the collectivist orthodoxy of our times.  For years, the most frequent answer was a reference to the book for which I have the honor of writing this introduction.”

            Where do we stand on this road to socialism?  By 1900 government spending was only 3% of the nations’ income, by 1950, 24% and by 2009, 47%.  Now add industries targeted by current government initiatives such as private health care and insurance at 7%, banking at 7%, and energy production at 13%, and we will easily exceed the point where government controls everything. 

             Not convinced?

             Read these prophetic lines from Hayek written in 1944, “We can rely on voluntary agreement to guide the actions of the state so long as it is confined to spheres where agreement exists.  But only when the state undertakes direct control in fields where there is no such agreement is it bound to suppress individual freedom.”  Compare this to the clarity we have gotten from those trying to save the health care bill since the Massachusetts election.  They now talk about two key goals of reform and the problems of meeting these goals.  One is to stop insurance companies from refusing coverage to people already suffering medical problems.  But this requires forcing everyone to buy coverage so healthy young people won’t wait until they need coverage.  This mandate comes with fines and even jail terms!  The second goal is to expand coverage to more low income people.  This requires government subsidies so they can afford the premiums.  The money for this must come from the forced transfer of wealth in the form of higher taxes on everyone else.  You already know the penalties for not paying taxes.  This clearly is an example of government passing socialist laws where there is no consensus agreement so it can only be done by suppressing individual freedom.  It is sad some people get caught without coverage but turn to Hayek again for this wisdom, “We shall never prevent the abuse of power if we are not prepared to limit power in a way which occasionally may also prevent its use for desirable purposes”.  Freedom comes with risks.

            This is my first blog.  I wanted to establish the basis for my writing.  Future blogs will address creeping socialism that can only lead to our complete loss of freedom.  It is not enough to slow the creep as Reagan did.  It must be reversed and that will require education.  The majority of people in this country still would tell you they support the individualist virtues summarized in the first paragraph.  They don’t realize how far we have moved in the wrong direction. 

David T. Stevenson 1/27/10

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CRI is preparing a special report for publication. Please stay tuned.

Your patience is appreciated.

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A 41-year-old Laurel man is the latest inmate to die in Delaware prisons.

George J. Dombrosky, was serving 50 years and 20 days for first-degree Unlawful Sexual Intercourse and second-degree Murder at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) near Smyrna. His sentence effective date was 11/10/1997.

According to a Department of Correction press release, Dombroskly died “after a lengthy illness.”

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The Caesar Rodney Institute has learned Attorney General Beau Biden will not run for his father’s Senate seat.

Biden e-mailed his supporters this morning, thanking them for their support:

As many of you know, since returning home from Iraq, I have been giving serious consideration to running for the United States Senate. I have received strong encouragement both here in Delaware and all across the country to undertake this effort  and this outpouring of support has truly been humbling.

I understand why people care so deeply about this election. The challenges we’re facing as a country are extraordinarily difficult. The economy. Jobs. Health care. Energy.  Education. Climate change. Financial regulation. Foreign policy. These are not only the issues of the moment – they’re the issues that will determine our children’s future.  And as someone who has had the privilege of serving with the bravest men and women on this planet, I care deeply about how we treat our returning veterans and how we resolve our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I feel strongly about these issues. However, my first responsibilities are here in Delaware. I have a duty to fulfill as Attorney General – and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence. And that is what I must do. Therefore I cannot and will not run for the United States Senate in 2010. I will run for reelection as Attorney General.

One of the primary reasons I ran for Attorney General was to protect the most vulnerable among us: children. As the father of two young children, I can think of no worse crime than those committed by child predators. It is why one of my first actions and top priorities as Attorney General was the creation of the Child Predator Task Force.

The idea that any child can be a victim of abuse is horrific. The fact that it has engulfed an entire community is unspeakable. The pain and trauma suffered by the children, their parents, and the families, can’t be measured. But justice can be done. And I am determined to see that it is.

I have a job to finish. And that’s what I must do.

Thank you for all your support,

Beau Biden

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Heated argument over ‘Bail Bill’ included multiple ‘F-Bombs.’

By Lee Williams

A meeting between the state’s top cop and its chief public defender became so heated, so loud and so profane Thursday, that a worried Senate staffer called the Capitol Police to intervene, the Caesar Rodney Institute has learned.

Attorney General Beau Biden and Delaware Public Defender Brendan O’Neill had been discussing Senate Bill 60, an act that would be the first leg of a constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to define certain criminal offenses for which bail or pre-trial release would not be allowed.

The Caesar Rodney Institute was told the two attorneys began yelling at each other, frequently using the “F-Word.”

A Senate staffer – worried that the screaming and profanity could be indicative of a security risk – called the Capitol Police Department, the agency charged to maintain order inside Legislative Hall.

Two Capitol Police officers were dispatched to investigate the source of the screaming and profanity.

Biden and O’Neill, however, had left the area before the officers arrived. Since the source of the yelling was not found, the officers did not take any action or complete any official reports.

O’Neill confirmed he never saw a Capitol Police officer.

“Beau and I had a disagreement over a business issue – SB 60,” O’Neill told the Caesar Rodney Institute. “He’s supporting it. I oppose it. We had a lively debate.”

As to any profane yelling inside Legislative Hall, O’Neill said, “I don’t recall.”

The Caesar Rodney Institute asked Biden in an e-mail whether his office would prosecute a Delaware taxpayer for screaming profanity inside of the People’s House. However, Biden was not willing to be interviewed for this story.

The cause of the cussing: SB 60

Battle lines are already being drawn over the legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Anthony J. DeLuca, D-Varlano.

Sen. Deluca’s bill is designed to address an anomaly within the state’s criminal justice system.

Currently, bail may only be denied to a defendant in capital cases. However, this constitutional provision was written in 1792, at a time when crimes other than first-degree murder were punishable by death, such as rape, robbery and burglary.

Rape and aggravated arson were removed from the list of capital crimes by Supreme Court application of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, partially in recognition that application of the death penalty was sometimes racially motivated.

DeLuca’s legislation would allow bail to be withheld from crimes “as the General Assembly may from time to time prescribe by law, when the proof is positive or the presumption great.”

By changing Article I, Section 12 of the state constitution, the General Assembly would be able to define the offenses that may subject a defendant to denial of bail, which preserves the state’s due process protections through hearings related to the offenses.

Nowadays, under current state law, even defendants such as Lewes pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley – who investigators suspect of molesting more than 100 children – must be granted an opportunity to make bail.

Bradley, while arguably the most notorious, is not the first defendant accused of a heinous crime to be afforded the opportunity to post bail and walk away from a Delaware courtroom.

In the 1970s, Delaware captured an international drug lord, along with tons of marijuana and pounds of cocaine.

He posted the required $1 million in bail, and was never seen again.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.

© Copyright Jan.25, 2010 by the Caesar Rodney Institute

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