Government Failures, Beauracracy and the Local DMV

Last Friday was my oldest daughter’s 16th birthday. A very exciting day, sweet sixteen, and in the state of Connecticut, the day you are allowed to get your driving permit. Though each state is slightly different, in Connecticut, before you are allowed to get your driver’s license, you must have a driving permit for a minimum of 90 days, as well as a certain number of driving hours and classroom instruction on driving safety as well. The instructions and requirements are available online. The permit is not just a right of passage anymore either, you must pass a basic multiple choice test first on the “rules of the road”. The state of Connecticut driver’s manual is easily accessible online, as well as various practice tests to gauge how well you know the material and help you not be nervous. So far so good.

When we first looked into this information a few months ago, we also noted the identification requirements needed by the applicant, as well as what proof of ID I would need as her parent approving her endeavors to learn to drive. The main list for her included either a passport as a solo item or a birth certificate with some other ID, such as a social security card or school ID. We rechecked everything again about a week in advance. Her passport seemed like the most logical choice, it was less than a year old, still looked like her, and certainly a valid form of identification throughout the world. It was not enough for the DMV.

We first walked in the DMV at about 11 in the morning. A man greeted us right inside asking what we were there for. We happily explained we were there for a new learner’s permit. He asked what ID we had with us. I mentioned her passport. He shook his head and said, sorry, that not enough anymore. He proceeded to pull out an information sheet with absolutely tiny writing in a light grey coloring, nearly impossible to make out the words. He said, see, right here, you need something from both lists now, as of the new laws enforced starting July 1st. I was not intentionally argumentative, just incredulous, why had the new points not been noted online perhaps a week ago? At that point we left to go home and get her social security card, I decided to just take her birth certificate along as well, just in case. When we arrived back, now noon time, we got in line, the first step was actually to go up to a digital picture machine to get our point in the que as well as security reasons I guess. I never actually saw the picture taken of my daughter, just a scan bar that was spit out at us.

The line itself was long, used for various purposes of the DMV. My license was to expire on Sunday(my birthday!) so I had brought my renewal letter and forms with me as well. I decided to check out that area of the DMV while my girl was in line. There was no one waiting in this particular area of the DMV. I walked right up to the counter, gave them my forms, showed my old license for a second, and paid $60.00. I next was called to have my new picture taken and sign my name. The whole process from start to finish was less than 7 minutes!! I was hopeful that the efficiency would continue, I was wrong.

My daughter and I waited for more than an hour to get to the front of the line. It was crowded, but yet there had only been about a dozen people ahead of us. There also seemed to be plenty of staff on duty, but yet nothing was flowing smoothly. It was finally our turn, we handed over our documents and forms. I was so excited, yet scared for my daughter to get behind the wheel, that is until the staff member asked for proof of residency. I said your joking right? You have my license, that I just renewed 50 minutes ago, two counters away from here, right in front of you, as well as her passport, birth certificate and social security card. Again, new rules as of July 1st. (really it would have been nice to know) What exactly do you need? A w-2 form was the answer…( Did I mention this was my daughter’s 16th birthday? There are no w-2’s yet just baby sitting money.) Anything else? Mail showing address.  I went to my car in hopes of finding anything. I came across my car registration with address as well as my most recent car payment bill. I ran back in thinking, yeah! I was wrong. My car payment envelope does not  have a dated stamp on it…I ask if I can just open it to prove the date? No, it must be closed….I’m stunned at this point. I realize I have to drive home again, and get my mail for today and hope there is something, that is two somethings that will be the right pieces of mail. The fifteen minute drive away is excruciating, but alas I am successful! Thank God! We mercifully are allowed to cut the line upon return, but that still means a wait at least with who is finishing up ahead of us. We finally get approval and are told to move to”area 3″ where my daughter will be called to take the test.

It is now almost 3 in the afternoon. We have been trying to accomplish this supposedly simple task for the last 4 hours. My daughter’s nerves are rattled with everything we’ve gone through so far. I try to reassure her that she will do just fine on the testing piece of this. I make a joke claiming that a DNA swab was the only thing missing from proving who she was, and in a paranoid state it dawns on me that this terrible process has been set up so that you would prefer to give up your right to privacy for something an easy as a swab just to make this go as quickly as my license renewal. It is a disturbing thought.

We wait for another hour, my patience is wearing thin, more because we have more exciting plans for the evening that do not include still being at the DMV at 4 pm after five hours waiting time. I approach the counter to try to find out what the delay is now, that other people who came after us had been called to take the test and that we really couldn’t stay much later as we had tickets to a show. They were nice, if annoyed by me, explaining that my daughter was finally going to be next. I politely asked what the delay was about and was told that her background check took longer to process than most, they didn’t know why. I was stunned. A background check for all new licensed drivers is enforced by the state of Connecticut now?!? I really didn’t feel so far off from my joke about the DNA anymore. I can not grasp how this has become part of the requirements for the Department of Motor Vehicles, and better yet what would have happened if there was something awry. I mean this is a driver’s license, not a gun permit. I grasp that there is safety needed while driving, but ultimately what rights are new drivers giving up to the government and why? The amount of time this process took, was costly to my value of time, though I was glad to be spending it with my child, however, the cost was more in what now is happening in the DMV. The staff was over-worked and yet very large. What do these new measures of safety cost us as tax payers? What does it cost in lost hours of work waiting in these lines? What do these measures add as value weighing in against what is also taken away in rights. It’s very disturbing. For now I will put it aside as I watch my daughter take to the road, we won’t be back again for 3 months until she takes her driving test!

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Inertia. Why Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Right Choice

For the past week I have been inactive, at least in my writing. I’ve certainly watched the news, read my usual media, and had my opinions, but felt exasperated by the frustrations of feeling like I’m on the gerbil wheel spinning to no where. It was most likely indicative of the messes in my own world versus the more global perspective. I think I felt like any slant I took would be too harsh based on my own experiences of life lately. However, as I realized during my pity party of the last week, it is never all bad. I’m alive, have more than most and wouldn’t appreciate the greatness around me if I never felt the angst as well.

One of the news items of the week that I personally viewed more befitting of the National Inquirer versus The New York Times was the pouring over of Sarah Palin’s e-mails. 24,000 documents released and asked oh so nicely for the general public to jump on board to uncover whatever could be found. I mean really, there is so much more important information, action, and time spent better than perusing Sarah Palin’s official governor e-mails. I just can not fathom how deeply seeded this vitriol weighs on the zealots behind the lynch mob effect looking to tar and feather this woman.

I’m not praising her, nor am I deriding her. Personally, that is a moot point. I am tremendously concerned that this type of scrutiny would be undertaken solely on the crusade of finding ways to bring her down. No one has to like Sarah Palin or admire her for that matter, but she should be shown basic tenets of respect as a human being. Philosophically, you do not have to agree with her, but is that enough reason to desire to look for ways to harm her character?

Why not do nothing. Dont buy her books, don’t watch her shows, don’t follow her bus tour, don’t vote for her, but most importantly dont invent new ways to be spiteful without merit or cause. I rarely could ever find reasons worthy to allow or understand such behaviour, so I choose to ignore this as news and hope that others break away from this type of poisonous mindset.

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A Not So Stimulating Jobs Report Hurts Our Economic Outlook

On Friday, the latest Jobs Report was released. Whether you argue semantics and say the latest employment data is flat or relatively unchanged, with the new job total at 54K and unemployment jumping from 9% back up to 9.1%, the grim statistics show that growth has definitely stalled, or worse yet heading into a double dip of a recession. I don’t even like to think of that prospect, much less put it into words.

I don’t know what upsets me most about these cold hard facts, but certainly the White House blog press statement, The Employment Situation in May, makes the most ridiculous excuse to possibly not be as concerned. The post, written by Austan Goolsbee, concludes by saying:

The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision.  Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

I would find this comical if not so absurd in trying to make light of these figures by stating, well we don’t always get are numbers right, so don’t count on it. In some instances, yes, there are adjustments made tweaking the figures as more information becomes available. However, in the May report, the only adjustments made were to worsen statistics from the April’s Job report, not improving the situation. So, based on these most recent trends, should I be concerned that it is actually worse than claimed? I am in awe that there could be any positive spin on this report, I even feel bad for the painful task Austan Goolsbee had of trying to write something upbeat with the information at hand.

When will reality check will take place? What will have to occur before the Obama administration admits the stimulus did not work, that perhaps a different approach is desperately needed. In the WSJ on Friday, the article Job Market Loses Momentum, claimed:

Republicans said the administration’s policies have undercut growth and employment. “Until we restore some semblance of confidence—and that starts with significantly cutting spending in Washington—this economy will continue to limp along,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R. Mich.).

I agree that is assuredly a part of the problem, but worry that as election year approaches, there are too many cracks in the dam and am fearful of the onslaught of perils looming if the whole thing collapses before any real fixes can and will take place.

 

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Shout Out…A Not So Hidden Gem I Found, Learn Liberty

I came across a you tube clip today I found to be simple, clear, and brilliant in a four-minute synopses of deficit issues. I highly recommend viewing Dr. Jeffrey Miron’s clip Debts, Deficits, and Spending Cuts. He is a Harvard professor, who also happens to be part of a group, Learn Liberty.org. I found his explanation of Libertarianism wonderful, as well as Prof. Antony Davies of Duquesne University, Who Favors More Freedom, Liberals or Conservatives?, to be educational and thought provoking about how our political structure is defined for the present. In any case, I’m a new fan of what this group is trying to promote about a Free Society. Check it out.

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Economics and Debt, We Can’t Spend and Tax Our Way to Recovery

Yesterday a letter was released and signed by 150 prominent economists stating starkly and simply:

A DEBT LIMIT INCREASE WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT SPENDING CUTS & BUDGET REFORMS WILL DESTROY AMERICAN JOBS

An increase in the national debt limit that is not accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms to address our government’s spending addiction will harm private-sector job creation in America. It is critical that any debt limit legislation enacted by Congress include spending cuts and reforms that are greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority being granted to the president. We will not succeed in balancing the federal budget and overcoming the challenges of our debt until we succeed in committing ourselves to government policies that allow our economy to grow. An increase in the national debt limit that is not accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms would harm private-sector job growth and represent a tremendous setback in the effort to deal with our national debt.

Well, as much as the optimist that I am, I wish these measures would not be so dire and feasibly drastic, but unfortunately I must agree entirely and would go so far as to say this can’t be an ideal or wishful thinking, it must happen.

With just preliminary numbers on the private job sector yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ Composite and S&P 500 all dropped over 2 percent. Words like “sluggish” and sharp declines in car sales and manufacturing only add to the market anxiety. The icing on the cake was the late afternoon announcement that Greece’s bond rating was to be lowered once again due to their intense economic strains due to having too much debt. Pessimism is taking hold with the uncertainty of our Government’s Debt now past it’s threshold and a budget that is busting through the seams. We need a voice of reason, a sound and rational economic future for sustaining and growing our economy by curbing our addiction to credit.

Roll Call reported last night on John Boehner’s perspective that this is imperative to take action sooner rather than wait until the so-called August deadline. :

“I suggested to the president this morning the sooner we deal with this, the better. The president agreed,” he said.

Boehner ominously warned that if Congress and the administration do not come to a solution, “the markets may do it for us.”

Let us hope that yesterday’s 2 percent market decline was enough of a warning to force an intelligent and constructive debate that will ultimately help to contain, control our short-term debt problems as well as bring positive measures to curbing our budget to allow for a future without these same sustainability issues arising.

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New CNN Poll, Taking a Deeper Look at the Numbers

A new CNN Poll at first glance shows President Obama’s approval rating to be edging higher. In taking a more in-depth study of the actual numbers and questions asked, the only places his ratings were over the 50 percent mark was foreign policy.  Which I really don’t even want to address today, because I do not fall in the happy side of the equation, and the explanation is too long-winded.

Quite telling in looking at the questions asked, and better yet the history of when the same question was asked a year or more ago, is the drop in approval in every other category. President Obama has not had a 50 percent or over rating in any other category since September of 2009. In fact many of his swings downward have been over 15 percent in Health Care, the Budget Deficit, and taxes. None of our domestic policies has been viewed with any positive feedback in close to two years. Interesting data, please look it over!

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Memorial Day: Honoring the Ultimate Sacrifice

Who doesn’t love a three-day weekend? Traditionally, Memorial Day has become the unofficial kick off to summer, to relaxing, parades, carnivals and barbeques. I love all those things, and have been a happy participant in all those aspects of this holiday weekend.

I think though that we all sometimes need the reminder or history of what Memorial Day is truly honoring. It is not a holiday for our founding as a nation, for our veterans, for our wars for justice and freedom, but instead to honor, the soldiers who died in service protecting our nation, our values, our freedom. Memorial Day is meant to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

My grandfather died in World War II. He was in a training mission in a bomber and the plane crashed. There were no survivors. He was not in combat yet, but his life was taken in the courageous act of preparation, of new technology, of trial and error. His death hopefully helped save countless others. Ideally making the future bombing raids safer and more successful.

My mother was just a toddler when this happened. She has no memory of him, and was raised lovingly, but yet as an orphan, by her paternal grandparents. Her father was a gravesite, mementos, a few photographs and for many years, unspoken memories because the pain of the loss was too much for stories to be told of who he was, or what he was like. Her life was completely altered the day he died in that plane. He was not able to parent and love and nurture her. Though the tale has more to it, her mother, ultimately started over as well, leaving my mom and her sister for a clean slate without the grief.

I adore my mother. I know so much of who she is, her loving nature, her kindness, and soft spot for every “orphan” she has come to know and try to help, comes from her own losses. Yes, she had a home, and was loved, but she always had the gravestone too, never a real person to be her dad.

I am beyond saddened to think of all the children orphaned by this sacrifice, all the widows and widowers, all the parents forced to endure their children’s untimely deaths. The grief that ebbs but never completely goes away. Regardless of what faith you may or may not have of an afterlife, we still miss our loved ones. We ache for the small moments, the feelings, the hugs, the laughter, and the tears we can never share with them again in this life. In our lives we all experience death, let us acknowledge, this ultimate sacrifice for Country through respecting what these brave souls have done.

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