5th-Grader’s Dreams Trigger Avalanche of Ideas, Emotions

By Bradley Harrington

“What I’m looking for is not out there, it’s in me.” — Helen Keller, “The Story of My Life,” 1903 —

WTE3 Column #88 Illustration -- July 4, 1776It isn’t often a letter by a 5th-grader will really make me ponder things, but the one by Kearra Siler (“People need to stop being stubborn, unkind, mean,” “Local 5th-graders share their dreams for Laramie County,” WTE, Feb. 19) sure did, so …

Dear Kearra:

I read with intense interest your letter in the WTE and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you if that’s OK.

You wrote that “what I want to see in this city of Cheyenne is that we be less stubborn, unkind, mean, etc. Everywhere I go, I see people yelling, cussing and fighting. I just want it all to stop.”

Well, I can certainly understand that, as I felt much the same way back when I was a 5th-grader, which was … ‘Way back in 1969, when I was but a small boy of 10 years old.

Despite having gotten old in that half-century in between, however, that little boy’s heart still beats in my chest, and his thoughts and feelings still live in my soul. He’s never gone away — and I can only hope that as you, Kearra, grow older and wiser, your little girl never really goes away either, for it’s the little boys and girls in all of our hearts and souls, no matter what our ages, that make life worth living.

You ask, Kearra: “Why can’t we all get along? Because of haters. Fighters.”

I, too, wondered about the source of all the conflicts — the fights between people, the wars between countries — but, unlike most kids, I decided to actually find out the answers for myself instead of just blindly accepting whatever my teachers and parents offered me.

And this is what I discovered: That, despite it sounding like a worthy goal, it is NOT beneficial for us to all think the same, believe the same, or pursue the same goals.

As individual human beings, you see, we all have unique thoughts and desires — and, therefore, as long as two or more are gathered together, there’s going to be disagreements. That’s simply a fact of life.

There ARE ways, however, for people to disagree and still get along without hating and fighting, both personally and socially, and it’s really pretty simple when you think about it. Each of us just has to be willing to let people do and think their own things. We have to be willing to give others the space to be who they are, as long as they don’t take away your right to do the same.

There’s a phrase for that idea, Kearra, and it’s called “individual liberty” — which is just a fancy, adult way of saying that we each have the right to our own thoughts and lives, as well as the right to free association.

And this nation we live in? The United States of America was actually the pioneer of that idea, as enshrined in our “Declaration of Independence”: That among these rights are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

No, that idea was not practiced consistently — but it WAS the first time in human history that it had ever even been proposed. And it was that idea that made possible the “melting pot” that America is famous for — a melting pot that worked because it set men and women free from other men and women.

So, as you look at the hating and fighting around you, Kearra, ask yourself: What makes it possible? Do we, as a country, still adhere to the American Dream of individual liberty? And, if not, isn’t that our real problem? That, now, instead of letting people be free, we’re busy meddling in everyone’s lives and telling everybody what to do?

You wouldn’t want someone to tell YOU what you have to think and do, would you, Kearra? So, what else could we ever expect from such actions, other than resentment, hatred and fighting?

So, Kearra, here’s my advice: Forget about those others. You can’t control them, but you CAN control yourself! Find out who YOU are and what YOU want out of life … And then go after it with everything you’ve got, never permitting another person to stand in your way.

And, possibly later, on the chance that you’re interested in solving that wider problem: Shouldn’t we be returning to that idea of individual liberty, making it consistent this time, and getting rid of all the rulings we’ve put in its place?

For that, you see, Kearra, is MY dream …

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on March 11, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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Fire the RIGHT Officials and You Can Save a Pile of Funds

By Bradley Harrington

“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” — Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on Virginia,” 1782 —

WTE3 Column #87 Illustration -- Bureaucratic Pink SlipA few weeks back, I observed that “Wyoming, additionally, has the highest per-capita proportion of government workers as well, with fully 22.4 percent of its population in 2015 employed by government at all levels (the national average was 14.2 percent).” (“Red-ink budgets rooted in our red-ink thinking,” WTE, Feb. 11.)

By way of comparison, what was the entire country’s percentage of government workers on all levels back in 1900? 3.86 percent, a fraction of today’s figure (from “The Rise of Big Government in the United States,” John F. Walker and Harold G. Vatter, 1997.)

And, since that 3.86 percentage figure included all military, law-enforcement and court personnel — the only government workers needed to actually protect our individual rights — isn’t it fair to conclude that this is the absolute, upper-ceiling limit to that percentage that we need to have?

(And that’s being charitable, as even back in 1900, the country had already grown a pretty good crop of meddlesome bureaucrats.)

Now, of course, with a total population in 2015 of 321 million, 3.86 percent of it translates into 12.4 million employees, as a maximum, that our current population needs to protect its rights.

And yet, we seem to be employing quite a few more bureaucrats than that: As of 2015, the actual number of government workers rang in at “21,995,000 employed by federal, state and local government in the United States” (“21,995,000 to 12,329.000: Government employees outnumber manufacturing employees 1.8 to 1,” cnsnews.com, Sept. 8, 2015).

That’s about 9.5 million more than we actually need. So, here’s my plan for guaranteed jobs-creation and economic growth: Fire ‘em all.

And just imagine the benefits:

■ At an average salary of $51,340 for government workers on all levels, that’s an instant savings of nearly $488 billion. Not much when compared to $20 trillion, admittedly, but every little bit helps when you’re going bankrupt. The “free lunch” lines will increase for a while, but those former bureaucrats were essentially non-productive anyway. This way the taxpayers can now spend more of their money as they see fit instead of being forced by law to subsidize the livelihood of their jailers.

■ Apart from their salaries, however, those 9.5 million bureaucrats currently spend incredible amounts of taxpayer cash. Fire the RIGHT 9.5 million and you can save a pretty good pile of dollars.

Some $10-an-hour job sweeping floors at Capitol Hill, for instance, will cost us the price of the sweeper’s wages and benefits. Place that same sweeper into a suit and an office at the Dept. of Energy,  however, and that joker can cost you millions of dollars in assets and productivity before he’s even swilled his second cup of coffee. Especially if you happen to be an energy company.

And, speaking of the Dept. of Energy, which only has 16,000 employees but blows $25 billion yearly: Doesn’t that mean that each employee flushes an average of $1.56 million taxpayer dollars down the toilet annually?

Statistically speaking, we can call this the “flush factor” — but, when you start comparing them to one another, it’s instantly obvious that the Dept. of Energy’s “flush factor” is tiny indeed when compared to some other federal bureaucracies.

The Department of Education, for instance, employs a mere 5,000 people, but manages to squander $56 billion yearly, so that’s a “flush factor” nearly 10 times that of the Dept. of Energy, or $11.2 million per employee annually.

So, while closing those two bureaucracies right there barely makes a dent in the 9.5 million bureaucrats the country needs to relieve itself of, we’ve already saved $81 billion.

Anyone still want to claim that we’re not paying a price for our controls? Or that government can “stimulate” the economy?

■ And, finally, 9.5 million bureaucrats will no longer be acting to corrupt and pollute the integrity of our political and economic environment. Just imagine what the productive capacity of this country would be like with 9.5 million less dictators meddling in our affairs and telling us what to do. Pretty hard to put a price tag on that one, but I’d bet my next stimulus check that it’s trillions of dollars yearly, easy.

Such a proposal, of course, will encounter heavy opposition: 9.5 million bureaucrats relieved of their “responsibilities” will holler to the heavens about their pork being pinched, and government itself will greatly resist such a move as it will severely curtail its plans for more power and control.

Before too long, however, they’ll all be back to earning money again, this time doing real work such as digging ditches for instance, and everything will be fine.

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on March 4, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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Communistic Social Schemes Nothing but Envy at Gunpoint

By Bradley Harrington

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much … is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Joseph Milligan,” 1816 —

WTE3 Column #86 Illustration -- Communism is TheftIt isn’t often someone writes a rant defending rich people, so I knew when I penned “‘Tax the rich’ philosophy cuts into all of our wealth” last week (WTE, Feb. 18), I was bound to trigger objections.

Objections such as this, for instance: “History disagrees with Mr. Harrington. Concentration of capital in a tiny percentage of the population is a recipe for disaster. Thomas Piketty sets it out meticulously in ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century.’” (“Gruf Rude,” “Online comments,” Feb 18.)

Always curious to learn something new about political philosophy — but with a gut feeling, based on decades of study and debate in that arena, that I was about to step into some kind of collectivist rehash — I checked out the reference.

Nor did my gut feeling fail me, as the following Wikipedia summary of the book’s thesis (accurate, in my opinion, after reading it) makes clear: “The central thesis of the book is that inequality is not an accident, but rather a feature of capitalism, and can only be reversed through state interventionism. The book thus argues that, unless capitalism is reformed, the very democratic order will be threatened.” (Wikipedia, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” 2018.)

And what would such “reform” consist of, one wonders? “The right solution is a progressive annual tax on capital,” Piketty tells us, as this “will make it possible to avoid an endless inegalitarian spiral while preserving competition and incentives for new instances of primitive accumulation.” (Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” 2014.)

So: The problem, as Piketty sees it, is that (1) Some people have more wealth than other people do, and (2) That such inequalities are actually “not an accident” but function as a “feature” of capitalism.

Except that “inequality” is not a “feature” of capitalism, as such, but an aspect of reality itself: ALL of us are completely and absolutely unequal to one another in millions of different ways. (Sidebar: Such inequalities of ability and outcomes are NOT to be confused with the equality of all of our individual rights, which all of us DO retain equally.)

The fact that some people actually produce more than other people, however — the fundamental inequality leading to all the rest, economically speaking — is completely discounted by Piketty and his ilk, a fact apparently not worthy of notice or consideration.

Discounted, but NOT ignored: Otherwise, why the progressive taxes? No, the Pikettys of the world don’t seek to wipe out the fact that some individuals produce while others don’t — they merely seek to enslave them, along with the products of their efforts, instead.

What, then, separates Piketty’s political philosophy from communism? Not much that I can see, as both Piketty and Marx view the rightfully-produced wealth of individuals as the property of the State, as nothing more than economic tools to be used, plundered and exploited at will, for whatever purposes the State deems appropriate, all at the point of a government gun.

The fact that such communist economies have ever been spectacles of chaos, control and stagnation, of course, is just another aspect of reality that utopians such as Piketty and Marx choose to ignore.

Throughout the industrial history of the United States, however, where such “concentrations of capital” were encouraged and rewarded not penalized and punished, that capital accumulation made possible a level of production and a standard of living never seen before in all of man’s history. Far from such “concentrations” being a “recipe for disaster” as “Gruf Rude” claims, they are absolutely essential for such accumulations of investment capital to occur. And the more “accumulations” the better.

Nor do such accumulations take from anybody else, as — again — such concentrations represent NEW wealth that has been introduced into the economy. In reason, justice and morality, that new wealth belongs to those who created it. The fact that capitalism leaves that wealth in the hands of its creators is not its greatest flaw, but its greatest virtue instead.

So, what are we left with? Jealousy, as far as I can tell; some people just can’t stand the thought that other people might have more than they do and think they can just go ahead and steal it.

Thus, ENVY is now to be the force that drives all of our political organization? Now THAT, Dear Reader, is a “recipe for disaster.”

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on February 25, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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“Tax the Rich” Philosophy Cuts Into All of Our Wealth

By Bradley Harrington

“Tax the rich / Feed the poor / ‘Till there are no rich no more …” — “I’d love to change the world,” Alvin Lee, 1971 —

WTE3 Column #85 Illustration -- Capital is LifeThere are a large number of factors that can impact the manner in which an economy grows, or has its growth hindered — but the one thing no economy anywhere can live without, the one element that has to be present for it to even function, is: Investment capital.

“Investment capital,” in essence, is privately-owned surplus wealth that has been infused into particular economic enterprises in order to generate profits — and, as the financial engine that creates such development, it is the vehicle that drives all new production.

Consider, as an example of this process, the field of calculators:

In 1968, when Hewlett-Packard released the first fully-electronic 9100A calculator, it sold for $4,900 – something only a rich person would buy. By 1971, however, Sharp and Canon were releasing portable calculators for $295 to $345. By 1974, prices had plummeted to well under $100; and, by 1975, they could be had for under $20. By 2001, credit-card-sized calculators sold for 50 cents.

So, in the space of 33 years, calculators — while also becoming micro-miniaturized and far more capable than HP’s original desk-bound 9100A — crashed in price from $4,900 to 50 cents. Yet what is even more illuminating than those incredible price reductions is the nature of the course those savings took. Consider:

When HP’s 9100A hit the shelves, it was a plaything for the rich — “luxury” spending. As the high profitability of such manufacturing acted to attract huge amounts of research and investment capital, however, competitive forces kicked in and quickly brought those prices down to the point where, in less than a decade, the poorest person in the country could buy one.

Thus, it was the SPENDING OF THE RICH — coupled with their investment capital — that made that whole process possible and acted as the catalyst for everything that followed. Remove those elements and we’re back to buying abacuses.

What are we to make, then, of proposals such as this? Where State Legislator Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, who never saw a tax hike she didn’t like, has a new income-tax scheme for us to take a look at:

“‘The bill we’re proposing, that wouldn’t kick in until someone has about a $350,000 personal income. Mom and pop on the street, you and your neighbor, that income tax rate would be zero.’” (“Wyoming legislative leadership expects differences,” WTE, Feb 13.)

Really, Ms. Connolly? Let’s consider just what your proposed “soak the rich” income tax would actually mean in the real world:

For anyone making $350,000 or more a year, it stands to reason that any tax paid on that income is going to come not from consumption income, but surplus income instead.

It is precisely such “surplus” income, however — whether it is directly invested by the owners themselves, or saved and then invested by the saving institutions — that drives all capital investment. Reduce that and you’ve just reduced your average standard of living by that same amount.

You’ve actually reduced it substantially more than that, however, since such taxes not only stunt the initial areas of investment, but also the would-have-been additions to the economy that would have flowed from such investments had they been left to chart their own courses.

And, as we’ve seen with the calculator field, the impacts of such developments can be tremendous and far-reaching: Does anyone care to figure out just how many jobs have been created in the calculator field since 1968? Or in its spin-off industries? Or of how many hundreds of billions of dollars have been added to our GDP as a result?

And, as we ponder such losses, inflicted to the extent that we simply “soak the rich” of their investment capital, does anyone care to trace out the impacts of such losses onto “Mom and Pop on the street”? It’s precisely “you and your neighbor” that will be affected the most, since it’s your jobs that will be disappearing out from underneath you.

I predict, however, that Connolly will continue to trod her tax-and-spend path, completely ignorant of its devastating implications, acting as the savior for the “little guy” … While her plans, if implemented, would actually decrease the chances of any of us being able to produce anything for ourselves at all.

Whether or not YOU, Dear Reader, will fall for her communistic approach to your income, however, is still up for grabs.

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on February 18, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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Red-Ink Budgets Rooted In Our Red-Ink Thinking

By Bradley Harrington

“The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” — Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to John Taylor,” 1816 —

WTE3 Column #84 Illustration -- Red-Ink ThinkingLast week we determined that few, if any, of our state legislators grasp that the only clear path out of Wyoming’s budgetary woes is to “CUT SPENDING” (“Even blind squirrels trip on acorns every now and then,” WTE, Feb 4).

Now, as proof that Gov. Matt Mead doesn’t get it any better than our legislators do, consider this:

“He [Mead] said that revenue streams that spike and plummet leave the state’s agencies and communities that depend on state funding in a constant peril of uncertainty in the boom-bust economy … ‘We can’t be telling people you have enough money for 100 people in a nursing home in year one, then in year two, say we only have enough for 50,’ he said.” (“Wyoming governor supports ENDOW policy of not advocating on taxes,” WTE, Jan. 20.)

Well, it’s real easy for our state politicians to blame our budget problems on “boom-and-bust” cycles, but that’s not what the figures tell us. Consider these Wyoming spending figures since 1976, for instance, in biennial increments:

Wyoming State Expenditures:

■ 1976: $700 million
■ 1978: $800 million
■ 1980: $1.2 billion
■ 1982: $1.8 billion
■ 1984: $2.2 billion
■ 1986: $2.5 billion
■ 1988: $2.3 billion
■ 1990: $2.4 billion
■ 1992: $2.7 billion
■ 1994: $2.8 billion
■ 1996: $3 billion
■ 1998: $3.3 billion
■ 2000: $3.7 billion
■ 2002: $4.3 billion
■ 2004: $5.1 billion
■ 2006: $6 billion
■ 2008: $7.5 billion
■ 2010: $8.7 billion
■ 2012: $8.7 billion
■ 2014: $8.9 billion
■ 2016: $9.9 billion

(From www.usgovernmentspending.com.)

Well, I certainly see plenty of “booms” in state spending, but — except for a small slowdown in 1988, erased by the next biennium — I’m looking in vain for any “busts” to be found anywhere.

So, do our budgetary “boom and bust” cycles come about because of the fluctuations in energy prices? Or is it that state spending simply climbs to meet incoming revenue, regardless of “boom” or “bust” — and then ends up being caught short when the next “bust” hits?

The facts clearly point to the latter, but you will hear little more than crickets chirping when you question your state politicians on this. No, they will continue to blame our economic woes on a “lack of economic diversification” or on “uncertainties” in our “revenue streams” — anything other than admit that we’re in this fiscal mess because state politicians can’t keep their hands off the spending throttles.

Because, you see, in even the worst possible of “boom and bust” budgets, it’s always possible to make things balance — simply by using your average incomes and expenditures as your guide.

If, for instance, to use Mead’s example, the state has funding for 100 nurses this year and only 50 the next, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you fund 75 for each year, the average of the two.

So, when state government gets extra income during the “booms,” what SHOULD it be doing? Setting those dollars aside for the “busts” coming down the road — NOT blowing it on spending increases not warranted by one’s average income streams! Yet this is exactly the course Wyoming state government has taken for decades — and now these people want to lecture us about “diversity” and “economic uncertainty”?

And then, to top it all off, some of our “leaders,” such as Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, seek to “fix” this problem with tax increases? To hold YOU as responsible, at the point of a government gun, for their failures and errors? You have GOT to be kidding me.

Now, on top of all of this, let’s throw in a couple of other facts to consider as well:

■ Wyoming, as a state, is outstripped only by Alaska in per-capita government spending; for 2016, they spent $14,290 per person to our $13,477. And the national average? Less than half of what we spent, at $6,683.44.

■ Wyoming, additionally, has the highest per-capita proportion of government workers as well, with fully 22.4 percentage of its population in 2015 employed by government at all levels (the national average was 14.2 percent).

So, clearly, there’s plenty of room for cutting spending everywhere you turn — and it’s about time we turned to it.

That’s not going to happen, however, while we remain mired in excuses and obfuscations. Yes, there’s a huge deficit looming for our State Legislature in the coming weeks — but the real “shortfall” here doesn’t involve money, but our red-ink modes of thinking instead. And who knows when any of that will ever end up in the black?

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on February 11, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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Even Blind Squirrels Trip on Acorns Every Now and Then

By Bradley Harrington

“What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.” — Adam Smith, “The Wealth of Nations,” 1776 —

WTE3 Column #83 Illustration -- Property Tax Wrecking BallIt isn’t often that our state legislators get it right, but  — in the fashion of the proverbial blind squirrel that trips on an acorn every now and then —  it DOES happen occasionally:

“After nearly a year of work, Wyoming lawmakers let controversial sales and property tax proposals die silent deaths in less than a minute Wednesday … It was something of an anticlimactic end for the four bills that would increase taxes in an attempt to diversify the state’s revenue streams.” (“Legislative committee won’t sponsor property, sales, tourism, tax bills,” WTE, Feb. 1.)

As tax-increase bills for Wyoming, every one of these bills greatly deserved the deaths doled out to them. One of them in particular, however, really merited a good skewering: The property tax increase bill, which would have raised property taxes on residential property in Wyoming from 9.5 percent to 11.5 percent.

While this might seem to be a “slight” increase of only 2 percent, don’t be fooled by that hype. As Cathy Ide of the Wyoming chapter of “Campaign For Liberty” put it recently, that would actually by a property tax increase of 21 percent instead.

How’s that again? Ide explains, and her explanation warrants a detailed look.

In a “real-life example of what the legislature’s proposed 2 percent increase does to a residential property with a market value of $326,983 in Natrona County (Natrona County’s mill levy is 72.89),” Ide calculates that “Fair Market Value times 9.5 percent times Local Mill Levy Rate/1000 = Property Tax.” Filling in those figures, you get: “$326,983 times .095 times 72.89 divided by 1000 = $2,264.25.”

Once that 9.5 percent figure becomes 11.5 percent instead, however, things change quite a bit: “Now,” Ide states, “let’s plug in the ‘itty bitty’ 2 percent tax rate increase for the same property: $326,983 times .115 times 72.89 divided by 1000 = $2,740.89.”

And, once you take the difference between these two figures and divide it by the original, you get: “An increase of $476.64 — a whopping 21 percent increase in your property taxes!” (“Action needed to stop Wyoming property tax increase,” Cathy Ide email, Jan. 24.)

Neat trick, huh? Upon doing a little bit of calculator work myself, I was able to determine that this 21 percent increase would have applied to ALL homes with that mill rate, regardless of their value … So … Goodbye and good riddance!

Despite the fact that the Joint Revenue Committee exercised good judgment in whacking this tax trash, however, there’s still a few concerns to discuss, as the news story makes it clear that at least two people on that committee don’t get it after all:

“With Wyoming tapping into savings, drawing down the balance while there’s less going in, Revenue Committee co-chairman Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, said the state will need to take diversifying its revenue streams seriously. ‘One person asked me down here Monday night, when are we going to get serious about addressing our shortfalls and revenue streams in Wyoming,’ he said. ‘I said, ‘I’m convinced it will be when we have no savings left.’ ‘When we’re broke,’ Madden [co-chairman Mike Madden, R-Buffalo] added.”

Really, gentlemen? In case you haven’t noticed, we’re ALREADY BROKE, we have been for quite a while now, and I can’t help but wonder when you two are going to figure that one out: You’re $800 million in the hole for the biennium, and looking at spending a good chunk of a paltry “rainy day” savings that doesn’t even equal what Wyoming receives from the Feds every single year (about 34 percent of its budget, or well over $2 billion annually).

And the Feds, the magic fount of those transferred dollars? Why, they make Wyoming look positively benign in comparison, with $20 trillion in debt and $112 trillion in unfunded liabilities. What are you gentlemen going to do — and whose wallets are you going to look to be raiding — when that “revenue stream” ends up in the bit bucket, as it inevitably must?

So, in the interests of true fiscal responsibility and integrity, legislators, here’s a plan that’s guaranteed to get us out of this mess: CUT SPENDING!

Just in case you didn’t catch that, let me repeat myself: CUT SPENDING!

Instead of taking that tack, however, all you two can think of is plundering the Wyoming taxpayers on an ever-wider scale. So, here’s my recommendation for this year’s legislative session: Instead of tripping over more acorns, how about tripping over a budget ax instead?

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on February 4, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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“Ballistic Missile Threat” Spurs Range of Thoughts

By Bradley Harrington

“Why don’t we listen to the voices in our hearts? / ‘Cause then I know we’ll find we’re not so far apart / Everybody’s got to be happy, everyone should see / For we know the joy of life and peace that love can bring …” — Uriah Heep, “The Wizard,” 1972 —

WTE3 Column #82 Illustration -- Barbie and I's RideIt isn’t often when you have to seriously consider the possibility that one of your daughters is about to be atomized in some kind of nuclear attack, but I was given that opportunity just last Saturday, when SamiJo, who lives in Volcano, Hawaii, texted me this:


Which, of course, was followed up immediately by a phone call: “What the Hell is going on, Brad?” my stepdaughter asked me. “Is this for real? Should I seriously seek shelter?”

“You’d better,” I said. “Find a tunnel, anything. Get moving, take your phone with you, and I’ll call you back in a few.”

Luckily enough, I was already sitting in front of my computer. Searching Google for “Hawaii missile attack” yielded no meaningful results, so I typed in part of the message instead: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii.”

That brought up a story out of the UK, informing me that everyone in the entire state of Hawaii had just received that text on their phones. The story even had a picture of the same alert I now had on my own phone, so … The alert was real. But was it true?

I called SamiJo back. “Keep heading for cover, Pretty Girl,” I said. “I can’t verify if it’s a legitimate alert or not. You’d better assume it is, until we hear otherwise.”

And there I sat, wondering if this was the last time I was ever going to speak to SamiJo again. Visions started swirling in my mind: Mushroom clouds over Hawaii, cities exploding, oceans boiling … And my daughter disappearing into a cloud of dissipating vapor …

“I love you, SamiJo,” I burst out. “No matter what happens, whether you’re still here in 20 minutes or not … I love you like crazy!”

Thankfully enough, however, about 20 minutes later, Hawaii got an announcement that the alert was bogus instead of having to suffer atomic incineration.

That didn’t change my experience of those 20 minutes, however: What if it HAD been true? What if, instead of being a cluster of gorgeous islands, Hawaii was now reduced to a series of blown-out craters on the floor of the South Pacific? With my daughter dead, along with another 1.5 million people?

We take so many things for granted, don’t we? Had I been as close to SamiJo as I could’ve been? Had I loved her enough? Was I ever going to have the opportunity to love her some more, again?

Thankfully, this time, yes … But which one of us knows what lies down the road just a few steps into the future? What man or woman among us can see all ends? Who can say who will suddenly disappear out of our lives forever, for whatever reasons, and have we had the kind of relationship and said the kind of things we need to say to those individuals, while they are still here?

Life is such a fragile and delicate gift, isn’t it? A number of years ago, back when my dad Byron Harrington was suffering from the cancer that finally killed him in 2004, we were talking about things …

“Was it a worthwhile trip, Dad?” I asked him. “I know you hurt, and you want to go … But would you have turned this ride down if you’d been offered the choice? Would you have passed on the opportunity to experience existence?”

His eyes grew thoughtful, and he paused before he replied: “I never thought of it like that before,” he said. “But, since you put it that way … NO! I’d never have missed this ride for anything. Not in a million years.”

So, yes, Hawaii’s bogus missile alert WAS an “opportunity” … An opportunity for me to reflect on the fact that this ride ain’t gonna last forever, so maybe I should be paying a bit more attention to just where I’m headed and how I’m getting there.

However, Dear Readers, do those risks mean that we should live our lives in constant fear? Should we be timid, worrisome and overly careful instead?

Not on your life! Ride, and ride in style! Just make sure you hug your fellow loved riders every chance you get , before the ride’s through …

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on January 21, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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