Are Voters Foolish? (Part II)

Mankind is sinful. That’s the Biblical message. Consequently, we should not be surprised that voters will make foolish choices at times. Yet what do we mean when we say that mankind is sinful, and how does that connect with voting?

Let me try to explain how I see sin. First, all sin is foolish. What could be more foolish than to stiffarm the God who created you and who wants to free you from a life (both now and in eternity) separated from His love? Our rebellious hearts create a barrier. It’s not God’s fault; it’s ours. We are foolish.

Second, all sin is selfishness. We don’t want anyone else telling us what to do, and we don’t want to be held accountable to the standard God has set. Instead, we want to follow our own thinking, our own selfish desires, our misguided concepts of what is “good.” In short, we want to be our own god.

Combine that selfishness with foolishness and then apply it to voting. What is the result? We vote for whoever promises to give us more. We just want things to go better, so we pick someone who says he is all about “change.” Never mind what the change might be; we simply want “change.” We choose not to be truly informed on the issues. We don’t bother to think about foundational principles of life and government. All of this comes from sinful hearts.

I expect that from the world at large. What is distressing is when professing Christians do the same thing. We are to be the salt and light in this society. As Jesus noted, if the salt loses its flavor, what is it good for? The answer: nothing. If we hide the light, who is going to find the right path? No one.

We should be taking the lead in promoting Biblical principles in all of society, but particularly, at this time, in the sphere of politics and government. We should be the most informed on the issues and be able to explain why certain policies are right and others wrong. We should never vote for “change” without first examining what the change will be. Neither should we simply cast our vote for those who promise to give us more goodies. That’s selfishness. That’s sin.

Are Voters Foolish? (Part I)

I saved this political cartoon about a decade ago because I thought it was an insightful commentary on the problem with voters.

Let me be quick to say that I favor a representative system of government; people need to have a say in government because the government itself needs a check and balance. To trust a small group of individuals (whether in a monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, or dictatorship) is foolish. The tendency is to see oneself as more important than one ought, which gives rise to a lot of false ideologies such as “divine right of kings” or rulership based on one’s rank in society. Therefore, people should have input into how the government operates and who should be operating it.

Yet that doesn’t mean that we can repose all trust in the people either. In our political discourse, we have raised “the people” to an almost godlike status. The people will always make the right choice, some say. That can only be true if the people are thinking the way God intended for them to think, and then acting upon what they know is right, based on Biblical principles.

As I survey American political history, and the choices the people have made over the years, the result is definitely mixed. All too often, people will vote for that which leads to the destruction of a society. Why will they do so?

There are many reasons, but they all start with a Biblical view of man and of sin. I’ll continue with this in the next post.

Democrats & the Economy: History Lesson #4

Bush I Experienced a Short Economic Downturn

Bush I Experienced a Short Economic Downturn

George H. W. Bush inherited a robust economy from Reagan. He even pledged, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” If only he had stayed faithful to that pledge. He did reject new taxes from a Democratic Congress a number of times, but as part of a budget deal in 1990, he allowed some taxes to be raised. That angered his conservative base, a base he would need in the next election.

In early 1991, after the success of the Gulf War, Bush’s approval rating was at 91%. Then a downturn in the economy began to erode that approval. Now, let’s be serious here: it was just that–a downturn. It was not a recession; neither was it a depression. In the months leading up to the 1992 election, all the indicators showed an economy revived and growing again. All that had happened was a minor correction in the market, something which occurs regularly.

Yet the Democratic nominee for president turned this economic “hiccup” into the Great Depression. Clinton’s campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid!” became the focal point of his bid for the presidency. He called the Bush economy the worst in America in the last 50 years. Really? This required short-term memory loss. What happened to Jimmy Carter? Did everyone simply forget the late 1970s?

“The worst economy in 50 years” was a blatant lie. But it set the tone for the entire Clinton presidency, where lying became an art form.

Clinton can be excused for this, some say, because look how well the economy functioned during his administration. He must have been a financial genius. Two factors must be recognized here: first, a president can sometimes be the beneficiary of the policies of his predecessors; second, a president does not control the entire economy–things happen without him.

Just as Reagan suffered from the Carter policies in his first two years, Clinton benefitted from Reagan’s policies that reinvigorated America. Just because Reagan left office doesn’t mean his policies and their benefits ended when he moved out of the White House. They continued through the presidencies of his successors.

Clinton also found himself in the middle of the dot.com boom. The new internet technology was just coming into its own. He was hardly responsible for that. Of course, to be fair, neither was he responsible for the dot.com bust at the end of his term.

The point being, Clinton really had very little to do with how America’s economy functioned during the 1990s. The only real economic reform during his administration was the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, for which he took credit. That was a joke. It was the Republican Congress that formulated that plan; he vetoed it at first, then signed it into law prior to the 1996 election, to bolster his reelection bid.

Clinton, therefore, had little to do with the robust economy of the decade. Yet he smugly took credit for everything.

A President at the Height of His Smugness

A President at the Height of His Smugness

There is a quote attributed to Lincoln, whether genuine or not, that I hope is not an accurate assessment of the American people today. Supposedly Lincoln commented, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

A lot of people were fooled by Clinton. Are we going to see a repeat of that in this upcoming election? Is the electorate foolish? That sounds like a good topic for a future post.

Democrats & the Economy: History Lesson #3

Jimmy Carter: Author of Stagflation

Jimmy Carter: Author of Stagflation

The 1970s were dark years in many ways, and one cannot blame all the economic woes on one individual. OPEC kept increasing oil prices, which was a major headache for everyone. Yet presidential leadership can make a difference. That leadership was not forthcoming, however. At the beginning of the decade, we had Watergate and the Nixon resignation, followed by Ford, who failed to inspire. Both were Republicans; the economy was not strong.

When Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, it was hard to believe things could get worse–but they did. The Carter presidency gave rise to a new term: stagflation. What did it mean? Depressed productivity occurring simultaneously with high inflation. Unemployment rose to 9%, inflation topped out at over 13%, and buying a home became foolhardy. Who would want to pay double-digit interest rates? Carter tried “voluntary” wage and price controls. To save energy, he encouraged people to turn their thermostats down in the winter to 65 degrees. That’s an energy plan?

While the decade’s problems cannot be laid solely at Carter’s feet, he obviously didn’t have any idea of what to do to solve them. When Reagan took office in 1981, he inherited this terrible economy. The media loved to call it “Reaganomics.” But Reagan’s first budget and the tax cuts he initiated didn’t even start to go into effect until October 1981. What the country was experiencing was not Reagan’s fault. By the end of 1982, things were picking up, and by the time the next election came in 1984, the economy was in a constant pattern of growth. Reagan noted that after a while, the media stopped referring to the economic situation as Reaganomics–they didn’t want to give him any credit for the turnaround.

Reagan: Presidential Leadership on the Economy

Reagan: Presidential Leadership on the Economy

Genuine Presidential leadership on the economy is a rare commodity. None of the Democratic presidents I have highlighted thus far really understood how an economy works. Their basic solution for growth was government spending, which is actually a big part of the problem.

Democrats & the Economy: History Lesson #2

LBJ: The Great Society?

LBJ: The Great Society?

FDR changed the way Americans thought about the role of government by using government as the supplier of needs in a time of crisis. Lyndon Johnson, in the 1960s, took that concept a step further; one might refer to his “Great Society” program as the New Deal on steroids.

The philosophy of the Great Society was a shift from helping in a time of need to helping all the time. Whereas the New Deal was conceived as a temporary measure that would get us back where we needed to be economically, the Great Society, at least as it played out in reality, started with the assumption that a system of permanent transfers of income was necessary to achieve “fairness.” The government now became responsible on a permanent basis for everyone’s well-being.

Perhaps the greatest shift in thinking was the idea that poverty was a part of the economic system known as the free market. People were not poor as a result of their own bad decisions or bad character, but simply because the system was against them. They were not to blame; the system was.

Consequently, the government’s role was to make up for the inequities in the system. To help the “disadvantaged” (who were in that state primarily because of discrimination), LBJ, like his mentor FDR, initiated another round of government agencies and set a course for government involvement in the economy and in people’s lives that has been almost impossible to reverse.

It didn’t take long, once these new programs were enacted, to build into them automatic increases in funding every year. The result: deficit spending that has spiraled up ever since. LBJ’s “War on Poverty” was supposed to eradicate all poverty in America. As many have said, it’s time to run up the white flag of surrender in this war. How many more trillions of dollars do we have to spend before we come to the realization that the poor will always be with us. Now who said that, I wonder?

The Great Society led us into the 1970s, where we witnessed the worst economy we have experienced since the Great Depression.

The excellent British historian Paul Johnson, surveying American history in the 1960s and 1970s, declared this to be the time when America attempted suicide. I believe it is only by the grace of God that the attempt failed.

Trust the Democrats in a bad economic time? Why?

Lesson #3 tomorrow.

Democrats & the Economy: History Lesson #1

FDR: Architect of the New Deal

In the midst of the current economic jitters, I have heard more than one commentator assert that when economic times are rough, voters tend to gravitate toward the Democrats.

Why on earth would that be?

I want to provide a little history lesson on how Democrats have handled the economy over the past 70-plus years. Let’s start with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Great Depression hit America in 1929. Voters turned out the Republicans and looked to FDR to reverse the economic downturn. He initiated his program, which was called “The New Deal.” He became the most activist president in history up to that point, and more legislation passed Congress in a short period of time than ever before. A slew of new agencies (dubbed “Alphabet Agencies”) erupted on the national scene, all created for one ostensible purpose: bring the country out of the Great Depression.

Eight years later, no visible improvement had occurred. In fact, in 1937, when things had started to rise slightly, we suffered another recession in the middle of the Depression. I think most honest historians today have to admit that FDR’s New Deal was actually more of a stimulus for extending the depression than solving it. What got us out of it? Only all the production that was needed for WWII.

Now, people who lived through the 1930s “feel” like FDR brought us out of the Depression. He was a good communicator (his Fireside Chats on the radio) and all the activity made everyone feel like the government was busily reversing the bad situation. But, in fact, it was doing nothing of the kind.

Feelings can lead us astray. I submit that if the commentators are correct, feelings once again are poised to undermine genuine recovery.

Lesson #2 coming up soon.

The Market and Personal Responsibility

The big news last week, of course, was the near-collapse of the market, fueled by the bailout of major firms by the federal government. Leading the way were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-private, quasi-government lending institutions. Now the taxpayers have the burden of guaranteeing an additional $700 billion.

Why did this happen? I’m not going to go into all the economics of it, but at the base of the problem is a spiritual issue. It has to do with personal responsibility. First, individuals were irresponsible when they sought loans for homes they could not really afford. Then, the companies were irresponsible for giving them those loans.

Further irresponsibility came from Congress, which did nothing to warn against the oncoming crisis; in fact, under Democratic leadership, the Congress refused to deal with the issue at all, primarily because of the cozy relationship between members of Congress and the leaders of the industry who were giving them money.

How many news reports pointed out that the men running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were staunch Democrats? I didn’t see any, did you? Instead, we are given sermonettes on the “failure” of the free-market system. That system can fail, yes–but only when character fails.

It all comes back to understanding that we are accountable for our actions, and that arrogance, greed, and selfishness (the lenders and Congress) combined with foolishness and selfishness (the buyers) has led to this debacle.

Loss of Biblical principles affects us all.