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Where's Janet Reno when we need her?

By Keith D. Cummings
web posted December 8, 2003

In the 1990s, Attorney General Janet Reno launched a crusade against the evil empire, also known as Microsoft Corporation. With millions of microcomputers on the market, in businesses, schools and homes, Ms. Reno decided that Microsoft needed to be punished. The company was bringing information and technology to nearly every corner of the United States. We couldn't have that.

Janet Reno
Reno

Actually, the Justice Department under Reno and Bill Clinton went after Microsoft for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Bill Gates and company were guilty of unfair trade practices by giving Internet Explorer away for free and, apparently, for producing the most popular computer operating system in the world. According to Reno, Microsoft forced PC manufacturers to bundle its software with their computers. It went on to incorporate Internet Explorer into Windows, to ensure that no one on earth ever used any other program.

Of course the Justice Department, and much of the news media, ignored a few things. First, Microsoft didn't have a monopoly, nothing even close. Both Sun Microsystems and Apple Computer produced competitive operating systems. In fact, Apple Computer was guilty of unfair trade practices by having a proprietary operating system that only ran on computers produced by the company. Unlike Microsoft, a company that doesn't manufacture computers at all, Apple had no competition for operating systems on its Macintosh computers. Red Hat Software, producers of Linux, has been in direct competition with Microsoft for the personal computer operating system business for years. Nevertheless, it was Microsoft who faced the government's ire.

Now we're faced with another monopoly, one even more powerful and dangerous than Bill Gates could dream for his little Seattle software company. This monopoly has the ability to quash competition, provide lower quality of service at a considerably higher price all the while forcing people, literally with threat of loss of life and liberty, to pay for its services. Who hasn't guessed that the monopoly in question is the U.S. Government?

In recent years, the federal government has stripped away the incentive for individuals to contribute to charitable organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. In the past, every taxpayer could deduct his charitable gifts from his federal income taxes. As a result, charitable giving was considered a popular way to reduce tax burden while providing a real benefit to the local community. Not any more.

Now higher income taxpayers, the people who are already paying proportionally nearly twice as much to the federal government as lower income Americans, are seeing the tax benefits of charitable giving disappear as the federal government closes the loopholes in the tax code. The federal government, an organization that wastes more money on bureaucratic overhead than any other charitable institution, must eliminate these incentives in order to maintain its stranglehold on tax dollars and the citizens at the fringe of society.

The bureaucrats of the nanny state know that organizations like the Salvation Army can provide benefits to individuals in need with greater efficiency. That should be enough to scare them into closing tax loopholes to ensure that gifts to individuals are solely the purview of the federal paper pushers. However, there is an even greater threat to the socialist-communist bureaucrats who run the public giveaways that we euphemistically call "entitlements;" responsibility.

The Salvation Army has long been known to provide food, clothing and shelter to alcoholics and drug users. These people, whom we called "winos" and "junkies" when I was a kid, receive assistance with strings attached. The Salvation Army doesn't seek to create and perpetuate a cycle of dependence, so they require a degree of personal responsibility on the part of the beneficiaries. Whether this takes the form of listening to a sermon on the evils of drink or enrolling in a twelve-step program to break the addiction, the message is clear: your problem is one of your own creation and you must take charge of solving it permanently.

The federal government has a completely opposite approach. Led by such admirable parents like Bill and Hillary Clinton, the government's would-be governesses are betting their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their children on the cycle of dependency. Refusal to require individuals receiving government benefits to do anything to deserve them is couched in psychobabble about self-esteem and tolerance.

As a result, charitable giving is already down in the highest income regions of the nation. It's not surprising that New York, California and Massachusetts rank among the lowest states in charitable contributions in 2002. In a nation where the wealthy liberals who populate these states (and voted for the likes of Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and Teddy Kennedy) believe that only government can solve our problems, personal tax rates have reached the stratosphere. The adage that conservatives give their own money while liberals give with other people's money is being proven every day in Manhattan, Los Angeles and Boston.

Conservative states, the states of the so-called Bible Belt, the red states in the 2000 election, are still ranking high on the gift-giving scale, but for how long? As the most charitable nation on earth, can we possibly hope to hold that position as long as a controlling and inefficient monopoly continues to destroy private efforts to help the less fortunate? It's time for a new antitrust suit against the federal government. Oh Janet Reno, where are you when we need you?

Keith D. Cummings is the author of Opening Bell, a political / financial thriller. His website is http://www.keith-cummings.com. He wrote this on an Apple Macintosh Computer and is not advocating a federal lawsuit against Apple Computer.

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