One recent fine spring morning as I started to leave for work, I found that the police had left little presents on both my husband's car and my car. Apparently, we missed -- by two days -- the deadline to renew the state license plates. Two days.
As it turns out, my car was also ticketed a second time before I could obtain the blasted sticker. The final sum owed the government was now a whopping $180, plus the cost of the two sticker fees.
No mercy for residents who live on a numbered street where notices are lost because the mail is constantly mis-delivered. No grace period for newcomers who have no idea that cops roam the streets of safe neighborhoods focusing on expired tags rather than out protecting citizens where crime is rampant. Welcome to the neighborhood.
Like many of you, I have to submit all three vehicles for a state inspection. If any of the 300 items the mechanic checks does not come up to state-specified snuff, I can fix it in 15 days and pay another inspection fee, or just pay him to work on my car till it passes.
And that's not all. Because I now live in Northern Virginia -- which doesn't meet its Environmental Protection Agency air-quality goals set by bureaucrats -- I must also obtain emissions-inspection certificates. Cha-ching! Another tax on the working American!
If the contraption that tests my new car's emissions says I pass, I then go to the state and obtain a license plate or tag that "frees" me to drive on the roads my taxes paid for. (You don't want to know what happens if I fail.) Luckily, my cars passed the tests, and after taking a day off of work and paying the government several hundreds of dollars on top of what they already get from me, I was once again legal.
And this is all in addition to my driver's license, the card that means the state has extended to me the "privilege" of driving on its roads.
Let's see. I pay for the roads, I pay for the car and the gas -- both also heavily taxed. In fact, I pay sales tax when I buy the car, then a tax on the car every year for these county and state stickers. I buy the tires, parts, oil, anti-freeze and whatever else is deemed necessary (all taxed). And the state's going to be all-magnanimous and extend to me the privilege of driving on its roads? Whatever.
When did it get this bad? And why do we put up with it? This past Friday, on Independence Day, I vowed to do my best to put some independence back into living in America.
This recommitment to the cause of slashing government and restoring freedom came on the heels of a speech I recently heard by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.
As the head of HHS, Secretary Thompson waxed eloquently about how pleased he is to control the biggest single budget in the United States government -- way bigger than even the Department of Defense (which happens to perform a function the Constitution actually requires of the federal government).
Secretary Thompson's budget is huge. HHS spent $500 billion last year -- $120 billion more than defense -- on programs we somehow did without for 150 years. His budget, he bragged, is bigger than the budgets of all but five countries.
He then proudly boasted about how much of our lives he controls. "I regulate the food you eat. I regulate the medicines you take," he gleefully exclaimed. I stared down at my Caesar salad and images of Tommy Thompson's hands on my Romaine lettuce filled the plate. Suddenly my appetite vanished.
Thompson went on to tell a stunned audience that he had recently met with the head of McDonald's to try and convince them to make healthier food. That's enough to make me want to go on a French-fry eating frenzy -- salt, ketchup and mayo included (I love to dip my fries in mayo).
Then Thompson told us he'd put his entire department on a diet. He even bought them pedometers -- at $15-$20 each. My boss, Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, told me he'd bought one too -- for $9. While Dr. Feulner bought his $9 pedometer with his own money, Thompson used your money to pay $15 to $20 each for the same item.
No wonder you (if you're an average working American) have to work every weekday from Jan. 1 until July 11 just to pay the various taxes and fees the government demands. Think about that the next time you awake at 6:00 a.m., while it's still dark; load your kids on the school bus; fight traffic; and work until 6:00 p.m. For more than six months out of every year you're doing it only to hand your entire paycheck over every single week to Uncle Sam and his siblings.
My mom taught me to be an optimist. And I truly believe that I am. But I'm also an American who is sick and tired of all the government waste and abuse. I plan to take the righteous indignation I feel and use it to work that much harder in my efforts to help fight government intrusion and over-taxation. I hope you'll recommit to the battle, too.
Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation.
Reprinted with permission of Internet newspaper WorldNetDaily