Freedom in Film: Follow That Dream (1962)

What may be the funniest movie about personal initiative and limited government? Look no further than Follow That Dream (1962), a rollicking pro-freedom comedy starring Arthur O’Connell and Elvis Presley.

Elvis plays Toby Kwimper, the young adult son in a family that gets just about every possible government entitlement benefit; and his dad (O’Connell) is proud of it. When overbearing bureaucrats make them angry, what does the Kwimper family do? They swear off their benefit checks, build a homestead on an empty beach in Florida, and start a small business. With several subplots, Follow That Dream shows off Elvis’s deadpan comic ability. He outwits the mafia, cunning social workers, and (most) adolescent girls with equal aplomb.

Suitable for family viewing, the movie delivers a victory for ordinary folks over the powers that be. It’s full of jokes about welfare-state attitudes, zoning laws, and government “looking out for you.” In the climactic courtroom scene, a judge praises the American spirit of enterprise, initiative, and voluntary community.

As Pop Kwimper puts it, sometimes there just gets to be too much government, and a person wants to move someplace without all those regulations. If you’ve ever felt that way after a frustrating encounter with bureaucracy, Follow That Dream will have you in stitches.

Give Every Oregon Employer a Personalized Minimum Wage

Union-backed and activist groups are trying to put measures on the November 2016 ballot to raise Oregon’s minimum wage from the current $9.25 to either $13.50 or $15, and to allow local governments such as the city of Portland to go above whatever the statewide minimum ends up being.

State Senator Michael Dembrow (D) thinks he can improve minimum wage policy by recognizing that different regions of that state have different costs of living and employment climates. He’s trying to craft a bill for the February 2016 legislative session that would set three different minimum wage rates: one for the Portland Metro region, one for the Willamette Valley, and one for everywhere else.

Assuming the Senator is on to something (a dubious assumption at best), why stop at three rates? Clearly, every employer has somewhat different circumstances, so why not set a different rate for each of them? Dembrow could give each employer a hearing lasting as long as the legislature gives the public to testify on bills—three minutes—to explain their particular circumstances. He then could assign them their own personalized minimum wage rates. Assuming about 100,000 employers in the state, working eight hours every business day with no breaks, the Senator could have the perfect minimum wage bill crafted in only two and a half years. Voilà, problem solved! Or is it?

Of course, in reality, Dembrow and the activists are trying to solve a problem through government that is better left to free people in a free society. Minimum wage laws are nothing more than price controls that end up hurting the very people they purport to help: often young, less educated, and less experienced workers who will find it harder to get or keep a job when the government prices their labor above what a business can economically justify.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Let’s Talk Turkey – with Uncle Sam

On this Thanksgiving I have to give credit to The Blaze for alerting me to a serious issue of public concern. Apparently the U.S. government, in its collective wisdom, believes that Americans need its help to purchase, prepare, and eat the traditional holiday turkey.

The United States Department of Agriculture is devoting resources (read, your tax dollars and/or some of the nearly $17 trillion federal debt) to maintain a website called Let’s Talk Turkey—A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey. On it, you’ll find some helpful, and some less than helpful, tips that apparently your government doesn’t think you can find on any of the thousands of sites a quick Google search on turkey preparation will reveal before your eyes.

Sites hosted privately by the likes of Safeway, Butterball, and even the Mayo Clinic apparently aren’t sufficient to give you the reliable information you need on this significant national holiday.

But wait, there’s more. If you need more personal turkey help, there’s a federal Meat and Poultry Hotline you can call and speak with a live government employee. Just think of the last time you sought “help” with your taxes from an IRS phone line. Of course, the government turkey hotline is only live from 5am to 11am Pacific time on Thanksgiving Day. After 11am you may have to rely on that for-profit turkey purveyor Butterball, which answers its Turkey Talk-Line until 4pm and even answers the phone starting at 4am on Thanksgiving.

Please understand I’m not suggesting that you use any but an official government, taxpayer/debt funded website or phone line to get your turkey tip information. But if you’re going to ignore my advice and feel particularly rebellious this Thanksgiving, you might want to watch this State Farm video featuring “Duck Dynasty” turkey safety tips.

No matter how you glean your turkey safety and cooking tips, let’s be careful out there. After all, who could know more about turkeys than the federal government?

Steve Buckstein is Founder, Senior Policy Analyst, and Satirist-in-Residence at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Oregon’s Self-Service Gas Prohibition Probably Won’t End—But It Should

Only two states prohibit motorists from pumping their own gasoline: New Jersey and Oregon. I’m not sure what excuses the powers-that-be use in New Jersey, but here they in-effect warn that “you’ll set yourself on fire.” The ban went into effect in 1951, and the only attempt to end it failed at the polls in 1982.

The Oregonian published a provocative editorial last week making fun of our self-serve ban, but prohibitionists came out of the woodwork to make argument after argument in favor of keeping the ban.

The three most popular arguments for keeping the ban seem to be:

I don’t want to pump my own gas, so you can’t either;

The ban is a good “make-work program” that keeps people employed and tax revenue flowing; and,

Employing attendants doesn’t make our gas more expensive anyway.

First, I don’t want to pump my own gas either, but that doesn’t give me the right to prohibit you from pumping yours. If there is enough demand for station attendants, someone will fill that demand in a free market.

Second, sure, creating jobs is a good thing. But government “make-work programs” often misallocate resources, costing taxpayers more than any tax revenue they might generate.

And third, if labor costs have no impact on prices, then why not mandate one attendant for every pump? Or, mandate one checkout clerk for every customer at the grocery store? Lots of jobs will be created at apparently no cost to consumers; what could go wrong?

In short, it seems that too many Oregonians see our self-serve gas ban as something that makes our state unique. The ban probably won’t end, but it should.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Terminate Illegitimate Government Programs…Before They Terminate Us

I recently heard that the Oregon legislature actually may kill a wasteful, non-productive, and from my perspective, illegitimate government program.

I won’t tell you which one, because that could give its supporters time to organize and to pressure legislators to keep squeezing taxpayers for more money to keep their gravy train alive. This program and many others wouldn’t have existed in the first place if we had kept true to the legitimate purpose of government in America.

Our founders gave us a government whose proper role is to protect our lives, liberty, and property, not to redistribute wealth, nor to offer us bread and circuses. However, modern day national, state, and local governments have morphed into much more than this.

The beneficiaries of these illegitimate government programs will keep coming back, until they get what they want from us. This reminds me of a famous line in the original 1984 Terminator movie. Here it is, spoken by the character Kyle Reese to Sarah Connor. Listen now, and understand what we’re up against:

Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

For Cascade Policy Institute, and every believer in limited government, I’m Steve Buckstein, and “I’ll be back.”

 

Turn out the Lights

Now that the Dear Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea) has left this earth, it is up to the Great Successor (aka the Dear Leader’s youngest, inexperienced son) to carry on his legacy.

Rumor has it that the Great Successor’s first command was that all lights in the hermit kingdom be extinguished every evening at sunset for the indefinite future in honor of his dead father.

Don’t believe it? Check out the satellite photos that show South Korea ablaze with progress-shining lights while the North is almost totally dark. But, you say, these photos are years old? Yes, and that just confirms how brilliant the boy leader is. He commanded darkness in honor of his father years before this demigod was no more.

One theory is that the North is not really dark at night; it is just that they can only afford 25-watt bulbs, which are too dim to be seen from space. If this is true, the U.S. Congress might take note. Rather than argue over effectively banning incandescent light bulbs here, it might instead simply mandate no bulbs over 25 watts. Same result, and we get to look dark from space, too. How’s that for saving the planet while punishing the one percent who could afford those wasteful 100 watters? The Dear Leader would be proud of us.

In any case, everyone at Cascade Policy Institute wishes you a Happy, hopefully bright New Year.

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and Founder of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. He is also, occasionally, its Satirist-in-residence.

Power to the People!

By Nick Sibilla

The Oregon Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a bold new plan to create green jobs: investing in human energy. With retrofitted bikes and elliptical machines, people can turn their workouts into renewable energy. Thirty minutes of exercise generate 50 watt hours of human energy, enough to charge a laptop for one whole hour.

Among other sources of green power, Oregon is also a pioneer in human energy. The University of Oregon has spent $22,000 on 20 human energy machines, while in March 2009, Oregon State University had the largest human power plant in the world. Those are some sweaty Beavers.

Inspired by these universities, the DOE will pay all 185,000 unemployed Oregonians to generate human energy. If each jobless Oregonian exercised eight hours a day, five days a week, we could produce 18.5MW[i] of clean power each year. That’s enough electricity to power 2,700 homes! All this is possible, for only $3.3 billion.[ii] Now that’s a bargain.

Since anyone with legs can bike or run, these are the ultimate “green collar” jobs. No skills required. Plus, by investing in human energy, even more jobs will be created: Machines break down—mechanic jobs. Athletes need food and water—concession jobs. Bikers need music to listen to—Steve Jobs!

As you can imagine, all this exercise will be great for our health. In fact, we could eliminate childhood obesity altogether by mandating that kids provide human energy. After all, our children are getting fat and corrupted by violent video games. Our children need to learn a sense of civic duty. What better way to teach them how the government works than by forcing them to do something that goes absolutely nowhere?

More jobs, more clean energy and lower health care costs—it’s a triple win!

Now, I know some free trade capitalists will hate this, but we need to make sure that only Oregonians can have these jobs. We can’t let the unwashed masses from Idaho or Seattle steal our human energy. We need to seal off the border. That’s the only way we can keep our energy local. Plus, think of all the jobs that would be created: construction workers, guards, moat diggers, you name it. Soon, we would have too many jobs—can you say negative unemployment?

But fiscally conservative nattering nabobs of negativity will say it’s insane to pay people to ride bikes to power Oregon. They say clean energy subsidies are completely unnecessary. After a Portland streetcar that costs $50 million per mile and a billion-dollar wind farm, they would have you believe Oregon can’t afford any more gimmicks.

But the DOE’s plan has two sources of funding. The first would be to raise taxes on the rich. Recently, Robert Reich proposed a 70% marginal tax rate. But that’s too low. Instead, that rate should be 100% of revenue. Why? 100% is bigger than 70%. Obviously. Better yet, make the rich give 110%. They can afford it. (And what’s this business calling taxes “marginal?” Too many hard-working, middle-class Americans have to pay taxes. Taxes aren’t marginal: They’re mainstream.)

Second, this plan would sell “human energy certificates” (HEX). Buying HEX would allow people to finance human energy without actually exercising. People who buy HEX receive the benefits of human energy, like sweat, a sexier body and an unflappable sense of moral superiority, all at low, low prices!

We must invest in human energy to save our economy and our planet. After all, people are the ultimate renewable resource.


Nick Sibilla is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s premier free market think tank. When he’s not being über-manly, he dabbles in political satire.

[i]100 watt hours per hour X 40 hour workweek = 4,000 watt hours (4 kWh per week)

4,000 X 50 weeks = 200,0000 watt hours per year (200 kWh per year, per person)

200 kWh X 185,000 unemployed Oregonians in May 2011 = 37,000,000 kWh (37,000 MWh)

37,000MWh = convert to MW (divide by the number of hours biked each year [2,000h (40h X 50 weeks)]

37,000MWh/2,000h = 18.5 MW QED!

[ii]$8.50 X 2,000 man-hours per year = $17,000 annual wage X 185,000 unemployed= $3.145 billion

$1100 per machine X 185,000 unemployed = $203.5 million

Total cost = around $3.35 billion

Stop Self-Service Electric Car Charging

A specter is haunting Oregon. One of two states that prohibit self-serve gasoline, Oregon is now caving in to the electric vehicle lobby by allowing owners to plug their cars into commercial charging stations all by themselves. They can even plug into personal charging stations and their own wall plugs at home. All this activity is taking place away from the protective eyes of our friendly, helpful state safety regulators.

 

Don’t these rogue individualist electric car owners know that they’re likely to electrocute themselves? What training do they have to safely charge anything? None. What about the innocent children and inquisitive neighbors who might be leaning against their cars when the power surges and turns their sleek metal machines into death traps? Don’t they know that it rains in Oregon, and rain and electricity don’t mix well at all?

 

NO. Not in Oregon. Oregon is for dreamers, not electric charging schemers. This travesty must not stand.

 

The Electric Vehicle Safety/Plug Jockey Jobs Act has just been introduced in Salem to require all commercial charging stations to be manned (or womaned) by state certified plug jockeys who must earn the state minimum wage.

 

The legislation further requires that if you want to charge your electric car at home, you must make an appointment at least 48 hours in advance with a state certified plug jockey who will arrive at your home within a specified four-hour window to plug in and charge your vehicle. He/she must stay at your home until the car is fully charged (which will average four to eighteen hours). Offering milk and cookies to the plug jockey is encouraged, but shall remain voluntary during a trial period. Once the car is fully charged, your plug jockey will unplug the vehicle and leave your home. You will be billed for his/her time to the nearest minute. To ensure tax compliance, these charging bills cannot be paid in cash to the plug jockey. Payments may be mailed to the State Department of Anachronistic Regulations, or may be deposited in special Plug Jockey Drop Boxes strategically placed throughout the state.

 

Oregonians know that they’ll set themselves on fire if they pump their own gasoline, and they know that low-skilled minimum wage workers will lose their jobs and form roving bands of disgruntled youth if we were ever to repeal our self-service gas ban. They now must recognize similar dangers associated with allowing the elite electric car owners among us to charge their own vehicles. We must stop this madness before it spreads to the general gasoline-car-owning population.

 

Call your state legislator now. Demand that they protect us against ourselves and create some unneeded jobs by voting for the Electric Vehicle Safety/Plug Jockey Jobs Act. Remember, it’s for the children.


In addition to being a founder and Senior Policy Analyst, Steve Buckstein occasionally serves as Cascade Policy Institute’s Satirist-in-residence.