My good friend the Rev. Harvey Stower died today, Sept.29, at the age of 65.
Why State's Righters are missing the points
I recall a recent local debate over the merits of enforcing tobacco sales to those under 18. The lengthy discussion touched on issues of parental control, responsibility, individual choice and whether we should entrust teenage retail clerks with the job of “gatekeepers” for society’s evil habits.
I agree it is a noble cause, keeping kids from “cancer sticks.” But it seems ludicrous for government to bet their budgets on people smoking forever to balance their books with related tax increases.
While fining someone up to $500 (add another $189 for court costs) for selling a pack of smokes seems reasonable to some, I would remind them that retail workers are truly the lowest paid workers in America today; they are the primary reason for minimum wage laws.
Again, we’re relying on the poor to feed the tax coffers, whether through smoking heaters or selling them to the wrong people.
But I am a man from another era; a time when fake ID’s were easy to make, finding buddies to buy a case of beer cost $5 extra, and driving into Wisconsin on your 18th birthday to buy booze was a rite of passage - and a test of your car’s rear shocks.
Wisconsin was a haven for booze commerce due to its lower drinking age and ridiculous drivers’ licenses, which looked like glorified library cards.
Today’s Wisconsin driver licenses are routinely six to eight years old. At my last renewal, I paid my fee and instead of receiving a new, high-tech, state-of-the-art hologram license, the DMV sent me a sticker for the corner, stating it now expires four years later than what it reads.
There’s a bargain.
As a recovering bartender, I saw first-hand the difficulty in discerning “real” from “fake” identification.
I challenge any local law enforcement officer to describe a Delaware driver license. Or Missouri, Kansas, Alaska, Rhode Island.
The problem is that drivers’ licenses have become little self-esteem enhancers for the states. No two states’ licenses are even close to similar.
There are few standards on what we consider the “universal” ID, short of a passport. Driver licenses are it.
Retailers, bartenders and other business firms are not afraid to use their “right of refusal” for anything they deem suspicious.
Apparently, being from another state in the Union is suspect.
While many people are still convinced that the Patriot Act is the biggest threat to our liberties in all our lifetimes, the concept of “state’s rights” has been taken to an extreme for years.
Did you know Minnesota law enforcement does not legally need to respect a Wisconsin temporary vehicle tag? I’ve talked with several officers who assured me that they do, but don’t need to. How kind.
Sure, you can pay taxes in their state, work in one and live in the other, but God forbid you drive a vehicle there until the plates come in the mail.
States have become oblivious to the meaning of being an American. They treat it like some sort of generic, umbrella term.
Don't believe me? Cries of "Socialism" beginning to leave your lips? Then consider trailers in Michigan.
Several years ago when I licensed my vintage Shasta camper, I realized that under Wisconsin law, it DID NOT NEED a tag, since it was under 3,000 lbs. Confused, I called a State Patrol administrator, who said I "may want to consider it, if I was planning on leaving the state," he said.
Hmmm, not realizing what was going on, I inquired to the Michigan State Police, who confirmed that yes, non-licensed trailers would be ticketed in that state, but that some confusion existed.
OK, where's my State's Righters now? Is it bad enough that a car with Arizona tags can have jet black window tint, but not Minnesota or Wisconsin cars? Or that my camper only needs a plate so I can hit the UP for a spell?
The same thing applies to driver’s licenses.
I firmly believe Americans have a right to a nationally sanctioned identifier; a piece of plastic that protects my rights no matter which bridge I cross over the Mississippi, or state border I traverse.
It is time for a national driver’s license, or something like it. Same size, embossing, type of picture, hologram, maybe a “secret tag” or barcode that easily identifies the ID as real, legit and legal - here’s a patriotic concept – and as a derned American.
States could have a little spot in the corner for their logo or seal so they feel good. But the ID would essentially be the same no matter if it were issued in Madison, Montpelier, Sacramento or Raleigh.
This would overcome much of the national obsession with age-related violations, virtually eliminate fake ID’s, and help with homeland security.
Civil rights groups and state’s rights extremists will hate this idea. But it makes sense and could help guarantee the rights of Americans to engage in interstate commerce, and would help law enforcement with state-to-state record sharing, which is spotty.
With three-fourths of all U.S. states facing serious red ink, it might be time to consolidate forces on ID production, both to save money and to protect individual freedom.
It might also make it easier for those 16-year-old gatekeepers to see whether your kid is buying a pack of Camels.
And it might make me visit Michigan again.
"It's a boat, no a plane, no, it's a, a Spartan camper?"
"Yes. Virginia, the Spartan Manufacturing Company briefly considered using their fancy travel trailers in a different mode altogether in 1954, as a houseboat!