Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Posted by Bob Barcus on October 4th, 2013
Rarely do I step up on my soapbox and even more rarely do I blog in this manner two days in row. Mom and my brother Bill decided it was time to expand the garage built by my dad 25 years ago on the one acre Barcus Estate here in Argos. The plan was meant to be a simple affair – just add a 12 x 14 foot addition onto the garage with an estimated cost of under $2000.
Bill was ready to go this morning at 7 o’clock (which is freakishly early for him) when I delivered the bad news. “I think you need a permit,” were my enduring words. After some brief discussion with Mom and Bill, we decided it was best to make a quick trip to the Building Commissioner’s office in Plymouth before proceeding. In a way, I’m glad we did, but at the same time, I am now totally disgusted. We always try to follow the rules and obey the laws, no matter how silly they may seem to us. Our government knows best, right?
This morning, I read through a massive list of building permit fees for everything from porches and sheds to TV towers and carports. Basically, anything you have on your property that doesn’t have a title needs a permit (unless you live in a mobile home, then it needs a permit and a title). Not only do we have to pay the sales taxes on an item when we purchase it, but you also have to pay a fee to put it on your property and then pay the property taxes on it because it’s an improvement. What a grand scheme our lawmakers have created for us.
Worst of all, after two trips to the Building Commissioner’s office this morning, I got the sense that they really didn’t want us there. The first stop my brother and I walked in on a meeting. Even though everyone sitting there saw us and we saw them, no one immediately jumped up to help us at the counter. In fact, the woman sighed, got up from her desk and proceeded to tell us that we were basically inconveniencing her life.
Again, we are trying to do the right thing and build the addition in accordance with the laws. Laws that apparently even this county department doesn’t know. When I put up my computer repair sign a few years ago, the Building Commissioner’s office couldn’t even tell me if I needed a permit or not. The zoning laws even contradicted themselves on what size of sign I could have in my front yard. I went ahead and paid the $20 for the permit, to this day not knowing if I actually needed to pay or not. By the way, that $20 fee I paid three or four years ago has apparently jumped up to $40. Those yellow pieces of cardstock have sure gone up in value, especially since the property tax cap went into place.
The second trip into the Building Commissioner’s office was no better. Mom and I stopped by on our way out of town, enjoying our brief journey on one of the only elevators in the county. Room 302 was our destination. No meeting this time, but there was apparently a meeting of the minds as the workers sat in their chairs complaining about other county workers in the building.
While we waited for them to finish their conversation, I again felt as if I was inconveniencing the life of this same woman who helped us earlier. After wrangling some papers, Mom was finally able to pay her $80 fee for the building permit. The woman’s response was, “We’ll probably get around to this on Monday and put the permit in the mail then. You should get it by Tuesday if all goes well.”
Since the Building Commissioner’s office didn’t seem too busy, I’m shocked that they weren’t able to process our permit the same day. After all, I got the permit for the sign at my house while I waited. But apparently there was a whole lot more bitching to be done between the time we were there at 9:30 am and when the office closed later in the afternoon.
Needing to leave for a meeting with my biggest client, I came home and exchanged my flannel shirt for something a little more business casual. I hadn’t eaten all morning, so I stopped by the Family Dollar in Culver and grabbed some dried fruit. On a side note, Family Dollar has an excellent selection of dried fruit for anyone that’s interested. While I was checking out, I noticed a license taped to the cash register from the Indiana State Egg Board. I instantly became curious, “Who the Hell is the Indiana State Egg Board?”
Apparently, if you sell eggs in the State of Indiana, you need a certificate of registration from this agency, an elusive group I’ve never heard of before today. The registration can cost anywhere from $20 to $100 or more depending on how many eggs a retailer sells in a given period of time. WTF? The egg permit was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. At that moment, I knew I needed to vent via an all-encompassing blog post about the day’s events.
These two little things set me off and it got me thinking about the true role of government in our lives. In the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers outlined their willingness to fight for the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Instead, we got taxes, fees and penalties. I’ve determined that our government’s only role is to find new ways to tax the Hell out of each and every citizen. You don’t hear from the government unless you forget to pay your taxes – then they’re breathing down your neck.
Here’s a newsflash – the government doesn’t care about us. They can deprive us of any one of our inalienable rights without blinking. Even though I have a few friends who are politicians, the government itself is not our friend. In my blog post yesterday, I stated that perhaps it’s time for a new revolution in America. My disgust has further strengthened my belief in my own words.
I realize that my tax dollars are necessary for building roads, providing help to those in need and protecting our families. As the employer of those people sitting on the third floor of the county building, I expect a little more respect and courteous service. I felt like I was the enemy once I stepped through that door this morning. No citizen should be treated like my family and I was today. There may be problems in Washington, but those same attitudes definitely don’t need to trickle down to the local level.