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If It Ain't Broke, Brake It

Here in New Hampshire, we're rather proud of our minimalist approach to government. Our annual budget state budget runs about 4.6 billion dollars (a bit more than I thought), or about $4,200 per citizen per year. We keep a pretty tight eye on our legislature (they're the ones that pass the laws and spend the money, after all), and we have several ways we keep the brakes on expanding the power of government.

The first one is my favorite, the "big gun," the one that has never been invoked. Enshrined in our Constitution (Article 10) is the Right Of Revolution:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

That's right, you poor wretches who are stranded in the other 49 states. Here in New Hampshire, we not only have the RIGHT to overthrow our government if it goes too far, we have the DUTY.

The second one is that we simply don't give the government too much money. Money is power in politics, and as P. J. O'Rourke said, "giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." We are the only state in the union that has no sales tax or income tax, two traditional sources of revenue for governments. And no governor has been elected who has not vowed to veto any measure to bring them about.

The third way is probably the most subtle -- and the one that is currently under attack. It's the way we make sure the state government doesn't run amok on us.

Our legislature consists of 24 Senators and 400 Representatives (the third-largest deliberative body in the world, dwarfed only by the US House of Representatives and the British House Of Commons). This means that, on average, every state Representative has a constituency of less than 3000 people -- and that implies that the chance that a New Hampshire voter not only knows his representative's name, but knows him or her personally -- and can call them to account quite readily.

But it's not just the sheer size of the legislature that keeps things on a tight rein. It's that the job pays abysmally. New Hampshire Representatives and Senators are the poorest-paid lawmakers in the country by far. We pay them $100 per year, plus mileage. This guarantees that our lawmakers stay amateurs and don't turn pro.

When a legislator starts seeing their "job" is law-maker, then they start trying to justify their pay by passing more laws. This is a recipe for disaster, as we've seen in many other cases. Our attitude is that public service is not an opportunity, but a duty -- and it should be an onerous one. Our lawmakers have a powerful incentive to spend as little time in Concord as possible, and are actively encouraged to spend more time at home.

Well, there's a move afoot to change that.

Here in New Hampshire, we have noticed a disturbing trend -- people come here to get away from the wretched state of their home state, and then promptly start trying to re-create the very conditions that they fled. It's especially noticeable with folks from Massachusetts.

One of them is state Representative Anthony DiFruscia of Salem, NH. He's pushing to raise the salary of lawmakers from $100 per year to $100 per week. It's still a relative drop in the bucket (it would only increase their pay to $5200/year and add $2.1 million to the state's total budget), but that's still too damned much.

Mr. DiFruscia is an experienced legislator. Before moving to New Hampshire, he served in the Massachusetts legislature. And while he insists that he does not want New Hampshire's legislature to begin to resemble the Bay State's in any way (there lawmakers' starting pay is, I believe, around $58,000 a year), this is a big step in that direction.

The crux of Mr. DiFruscia's argument seems to be that the legislature -- in particular, the representatives -- are, shall we say, "unrepresentative." According to him, they tend to be older retirees and independently wealthy people and professionals -- the sort of people that have the time to devote to state service. He wants a legislature that looks more like New Hampshire.

As a citizen and taxpayer of New Hampshire, I say screw that.

I don't give a rat's ass what my legislature looks like. I care about what they do. And for the most part, they do the right thing. I'm not entirely thrilled about how they passed the recent "civil unions" bit (it was a top priority of the newly-Democratic majority, but hardly any of them campaigned on that as an issue -- kind of like Bill Clinton and the gays in the military thing), but I am happy with the results and can live with the way it was done.

So our legislature's 47% retirees, 3% homemakers, and 1.5% students. And big whoop that 60% of them are over 60. They're doing OK by me.

Maybe it's my innate Yankee stubbornness and old-fashioned ways, but I tend to be resistant to change. Call me unreasonable, but before I'll go along with any major changes, first I have to be convinced that 1) there really is a problem, and 2) the changes will actually improve things.

And jacking up how much we (meaning "me") pay our legislators fails on both counts.


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Comments (28)

You rock, Jay Tea. Thanks f... (Below threshold)
Tom Wannamaker:

You rock, Jay Tea. Thanks for a message on the value of tradition. Can't think of a better day of the year to send that message. Merry Christmas.

ah, quotas ... the liberal... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

ah, quotas ... the liberal theory that, like almost all liberal theories, fails to produce the indended results in the real world. Just another christmas gift from the liberals that starts with pretty wrapping paper and ends up with an empty box.

JT,I'm from Michigan... (Below threshold)
corwin:

JT,
I'm from Michigan-but may be moving soon.Our legislators make 80 K/yr and are full time.For many,this is by far the biggest pay of their lives.Recently-well,the past year,there's been a budget impasse.One rep was quoted as saying,if we make a controvesial9"wrong,per state party wants")we'll not be able to mave up to a different job when our term limit kicks in.
I'm not sure whick party is worse.Certainly,ex-Democratic pols don't fae away.I read frequently about ex-state sen.Lana Pollack(D-Lansing)who is now working for an environmental group.And I recall,Paula Blanchard-the ex-Gov's ex-is working on a mmemorial commission.Still,the Repubs try pretty hard to return to private enterprise.And our legislature gives lifetime health benefits tothe member (and spouse) who serve 5 years.
Anyway,Merry Christmass and a special thanks to thepatient who gave me the single malt I'm now drinking.

"I tend to be resistant to ... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"I tend to be resistant to change" -- Mr. Tea

Of course you are, Jay, as resistance to change in a changing world is one of the primary tenets of conservatism. Oh how you conservatives long for the 1950s of Ike and Tricky Dick, Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet (with even your front-runner for the presidency, one Mike Huckabee, openly indicating that wives should be submissive toward their husbands: some sort of biblical crap I gather). But always remember this, conservatives: while you can slow down human progress, YOU CAN'T STOP IT.

So deal with it. Deal with it now, deal with it every single day for the rest of your lives.

"He wants a legislature tha... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"He wants a legislature that looks more like New Hampshire." -- Jay Tea
"As a citizen and taxpayer of New Hampshire, I say screw that." -- Jay Tea

Uh, Mr. Tea, you might want to consider doing some editing. (Or maybe not, because right now it's quite funny!!!).

Herman you so full of sh_ _... (Below threshold)
Michael:

Herman you so full of sh_ _.

Here in California, our leg... (Below threshold)
Scott:

Here in California, our legislators make over $100,000 a year. They have only produced a budget on time twice in the last 15 years. They mass legions of nanny-state bills and continuously attempt to raise our taxes.

You should avoid this at all costs. I envy your legislature. I desire that ours return to a four month session with NO salary, and the cost of a cheap motel room while in session.

There was a time when folks... (Below threshold)
epador:

There was a time when folks recognized that their elders might have a drop or two more of wisdom than the younguns, and a shade or two less estrogen and testosterone to distort their thinking.

Then a certain political party moved to lower the voting age to 18.

I'm wondering what the down... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

I'm wondering what the downside in having older, more experienced people in the legislature could be, particularly as citizen representatives rather than a special class.

Herman, not all change is good. From an evolutionary standpoint, most mutants die, while stable species endure and change slowly.

Yes epador, it's awful that... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Yes epador, it's awful that people who can
go to war and die can't vote for or against those who send them. I'll bet those young soldiers and marines in Iraq would just think that's a great idea. Why don't you take it up with some of them.

Another great conservative ideal!! As few voters as possible!!

JFO;Perhaps you mi... (Below threshold)
Aog Author Profile Page:

JFO;

Perhaps you missed the announcement, but our military is currently all volunteer. Our troops can, in effect, vote for or against those who send them by remaining or leaving the military. But having read many of your previous comments, it's clear that empowering individuals to make choices is something you are adamantly against, placing value only in collective decisions that are then enforced against any dissenters.

JFO you full of sh_ _ too.<... (Below threshold)
Michael:

JFO you full of sh_ _ too.

So let me get this straight... (Below threshold)
JFO:

So let me get this straight. We have , more than likely, two fat comfortable conservatives (one of whom is truly an annoying old guy) bloviating away with their computers in their nice comfortable homes who don't believe that soldiers under 21 years of age, who may die defending them, should have the right to vote.

Because that's what epador said and you are obviously defending his position. And a nice comfortable fu** like you Michael says I'm full of shit for defending their right to vote?

It's really true - the last people in this country to really support our troops are you nutball conservatives. Way to go.

JFO:"Yes epado... (Below threshold)
marc:

JFO:

"Yes epador, it's awful that people who can
go to war and die can't vote for or against those who send them."

When was the last war the state of New Hampshire fought in JFO?

You know, one where the state legislature had to vote whether to send its National Guard to fight say... Vermont, or Mass.

STATE GOV. 101: State legislatures don't control who is sent to Iraq no matter how much you wish it true so your wildly off-topic comment is even remotely relevant.

It's nearly 2008 JFO, the year of the Rat, it could be "your year," if ya know what I mean.

On the other hand it could also be the year in which you get a clue.

LOL JFO. Still, my belly a... (Below threshold)
epador:

LOL JFO. Still, my belly ain't shakin' like a bowl of jelly. I've had white hair since I voted in my first Presidential Election for Shirley Chisholm. But I am not a really old guy, unless to you at the age of 13 anyone over the age of 20 is an old codger.

But I would think it makes sense that if we don't consider a twenty-year old mature enough to consume alcoholic beverages, we shouldn't impose the nauseating ability to vote for Teddy Kennedy.

The old "old enough to die means old enough to vote" logic means that we should consider letting the unborn vote too, as they are also old enough to be killed at their Mom's choice.

Whatcha think?

Well, I think you're an idi... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Well, I think you're an idiot if the truth be known,

There is a possibility that... (Below threshold)
jdgjtr:

There is a possibility that old codgers might have already have been in the service, JFO. They already know what war is about. Possibly people who have been there, done that have a greater appreciation of family and home than those who haven't. "You have never lived, until you have almost died. For those who fight for it, life has a flavor that the protected will never know!" (quoting Mr. Anonymous)

JFO - "Well, I think yo... (Below threshold)
marc:

JFO - "Well, I think you're an idiot if the truth be known,"

And surely epador considered the source.

And BTW, which war was it that the NH legislature sent it troops to? Was it the one between Effingham and Center Harbor, or the war between Nashua and Tuftonboro?

JFO,So you are rai... (Below threshold)
U.P. Man:

JFO,

So you are raising the chickenhawk meme again?

Conservatism is more of saving what is good and changing what isn't. Or are really against classrooms that educate and safe schools?

"Before moving to New Hamps... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

"Before moving to New Hampshire, he served in the Massachusetts legislature."

There is the root of the problem.

If libtarded mASSholes invade and make policy, nothing but the rapid downfall of NH will take place.

Some kind of wall should be built along the border......lmao

Interesting how you wingers... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Interesting how you wingers leap to the conclusion that you want. Funny actually.

Lets try to educate the learning challenged, i.e the ever ready to write something dumb, marc and the big brown truck driver guy. My original post was in response to the incredibly stupid comment by epador, bemoaning that the voting age is 18. I simply said why don't you go talk to some soldiers who are fighting for you about whether they should have the right to vote for or against the folks who send them off to war. He then got even more stupid by making an inane remark about aborted babies and voting.

Then, of course, marc leaps to to the rescue as he always does cause there's a dreaded liberal in the house. Makes his usual inane and off the mark response. And then we have a few other goofy wingers assuming I'm making a chickenhawk argument while all I'm doing is defending the right of our service folks, under 21, to vote.

God, you people can be incredibly stupid sometimes, especially when there's a liberal around. I hope you're not that stupid when you're around each other.

I'll repeat what I said earlier. You folks have no idea of the meaning of supporting our troops. Take away the right to vote though is something you really stand for and want.

JFO,Actually your ... (Below threshold)
U.P. Man:

JFO,

Actually your comments about voting on the war are idiotic, we vote on our representatives then the representatives vote on the war? Or do you live in a different country.

JFO apparently missed my ea... (Below threshold)

JFO apparently missed my earlier posting when I advocated lowering the drinking age to 18 for members of the military...

That's in addition to his not comprehending the difference between the New Hampshire legislature and Congress. It's been a very, very long time since they sent anyone off to war... it might have happened during the Civil War (I recall a lot of units were named after the states the member hailed from, but I don't know if they were actually chosen and ordered to war by the state government), but I doubt it.

But JFO missing a point is something so frequent, it almost doesn't bear repeating.

J.

JFO - "God, you people ... (Below threshold)
marc:

JFO - "God, you people can be incredibly stupid sometimes, especially when there's a liberal around. I hope you're not that stupid when you're around each other."

Actually it's our incredible ability to speak at the level of our libtard visitors when needed that you refer to, although you fail to realize it.

And as J notes above you've missed the point. Again.

I don't give a rat's ass... (Below threshold)
mojo:

I don't give a rat's ass what my legislature looks like. I care about what they do.

That's a keeper.

"Break" is what happens whe... (Below threshold)
english:

"Break" is what happens when you drop a wine glass.
"Brake" is the pedal next to the gas.

Absolutely true, english. <... (Below threshold)

Absolutely true, english.

But I did it on purpose.

"If It Ain't Broke, Break It" is the title of a song by Jim Steinman and performed by Meat Loaf on Bat Out Of Hell III, and one of the few songs on that album worthy of "Bat" status. I was referring to that.

But in the very first paragraph, I deliberately chose to use the word "brake" in the context of "stop." I was trying to say "if it ain't broke, stop trying to change it," playing off the song title and the familiar aphorism that it turns on its head. And until now, I thought I had done just that...

J.

Excellent writing Jay Tea! ... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Excellent writing Jay Tea! I agree with you wholeheartedly and wish we had the same common sense approach in Florida. Unfortunately we are the exact opposite with a bloated and corrupt State and local government beaurocracy!

Herman: your reference to Ike is way off base. Eisenhower was the first to warn the American people of the "military-industrial complex", a term he created. Study your history. He detested Nixon and accepted him as a running mate with great trepedation. He was in many ways much more "liberal" than Democrat Harry Truman. While Bush may be an incompetent, it doesn't put every one on the right side of the fence in the same league. Jay's version of New England individualism is neither liberal or conservative. It is just good common sense which thank God our Founding Fathers had.




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