In Praise of Harmony & Mutual Respect

The budget/debt ceiling bill passed the House last night, and the Senate is slated to vote on it today. Half of the Democrats opposed it; sixty-six Republicans also said no to it. The Democrats’ objections were that there were no tax increases, there were spending cuts, and it called for the Congress to send a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification. Republicans’ objections were that most of the spending cuts were too far down the road, there is the possibility for tax increases in the future if a special commission deems them necessary [although they would still have to pass both houses to take effect], and the debt ceiling was raised in the process.

I don’t have any sympathy with the Democrat objections, but I understand why some Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to support the measure. This is not a bill that makes a fundamental change. At the same time, I understand why the majority of Republicans went along with it: when you control only one part of the Congress and there is a president who will veto anything stronger, you go for the best deal you can get, and it does change the debate at least. No longer will Congress be pushing new spending programs; the discussion will now center on how to make effective cuts in spending. In other words, I see the strengths of both Republican positions.

What we have here is not a basic philosophical difference among most Republicans, but merely a tactical one. Is this not supportable because it doesn’t do enough, or is it instead the first step along an arduous policy road on the way to the ultimate goal?

I know some people’s passions are running high on this issue, and there are those calling for new leadership in the Republican party. Yet from other accounts I have read, even many of the Republicans who rejected this bill had words of praise for Speaker Boehner and his leadership team. They recognize he did his best, and they appreciate his efforts in a tough political climate. Although they may have voted against this specific piece of legislation, they are hopeful that it really can be a first step after all. They certainly need to pull together now if anything more significant is to be achieved. Initial reports indicate they can go forward unified in what they seek to accomplish overall.

It’s always nice to see harmony. Then, of course, there is the opposite of that. Yesterday, Vice President Biden met with disgruntled House Democrats to explain why he and the president support the bill. By all accounts, it was a heated meeting, and in the midst of that heat, a few verbal shots were fired. Apparently, the VP and/or other members of the Democrat caucus called members of the Tea Party “terrorists.”

Once again the Party of Civility leads the way into a new and brighter future where mutual respect forms the cornerstone of our political system.

Identifying the Extremists

For weeks now [I could say “for years,” but I’m trying to limit it to the present debate] we’ve been treated to a steady stream of invective from Democrats saying that “Tea Party wingnut extremists” are the barrier for reaching a budget deal. What exactly are those “extremist” views? Please choose among the following:

  • A desire to live within our means as a nation rather than going even more trillions of dollars in debt
  • A call for a balanced budget amendment—such as those that exist currently in many states—to ensure that wiser spending decisions are made
  • A reluctance to raise the debt ceiling once again, in hopes that we can turn our spending habits around
  • An attempt to reduce our current debt by $4-6 trillion to stave off the downgrading of the nation’s credit rating

These are radical, wild-eyed proposals? These are extremist policy stances?

They used to be called wisdom.

On the other side, calls for raising taxes will only hurt the economy. By the way, the very people the Democrats say they want to help—the needy—will be hurt the most by the reduction in jobs those raised taxes will cause. They are also the ones who will suffer the most by a downgraded credit rating, as costs will rise and interest rates on loans will shoot up.

And here’s some more basic knowledge that people need to learn: tax cuts do not cause deficits; as the Reagan years revealed, revenues increased significantly by lowering the tax rates. The only reason the deficits went up during Reagan’s presidency is that spending increased faster than the new revenues, thanks to a Democrat House of Representatives that promised to cut $3 in spending for every $1 dollar raised in revenue. Needless to say, they reneged on that promise.

How about a real example of extremism? Here’s former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sharing her keen insight into the budget process:

What we’re trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget. We’re trying to save life on this planet as we know it.

I’m sure glad she’s not prone to overstating anything. At least she didn’t extend her remarks to the galaxy or the universe.

Yes, there are extremists out there, but they need to be identified more accurately.

Defining Compromise–The Obama Way

For the third time, the House of Representatives—this time with zero Democrat votes—sent a bill to the Senate to deal with the budget and the debt ceiling. And for the third time, the Senate has turned it down. President Obama gave another speech—this is getting really old—talking about how the Republicans need to learn how to compromise.  He’s had three options from Republicans, the last one pretty close to what was almost agreed to last weekend, except for the provision requiring the Congress to send a balanced budget amendment to the states for their consideration. Democrats always say they’re in favor of a balanced budget until they have to vote for one. Compromise? How is that defined by our president?

And just what would be his way, if he could get it?

Foolishness. Utter foolishness.

Captain Greece?

I think President Obama’s Monday evening address was an attempt to make it seem like he’s still the key person in the debt debate, when in fact he has been left in the dust. He has never laid out a specific plan, yet castigates those who do, all the while blaming them for an impending crisis. His character seems to be pretty fixed—blame everyone but himself for problems. I’ve often commented that he lives in a fantasy world; he isn’t doing anything to change my impression.

He’s been abandoned by his Democrat colleagues on the issue of revenues. Let’s call them what they really are—tax increases. Even the flawed Reid bill doesn’t add any new taxes. On that issue, he’s standing alone now. Of course, that doesn’t mean his political friends don’t want to raise taxes anymore. They just know it won’t fly with the electorate, and they desperately desire reelection. Obama, though, hasn’t gotten the message.

Unless he wakes up, he’s going to earn a new title:

Have Republicans Learned Their Lesson?

The last I heard there’s supposed to be a big meeting again tomorrow about the debt ceiling and how to proceed with government spending. President Obama, before the last meeting, told all participants to leave their talking points at the door, then promptly disgorged his own talking points with reporters. The hypocrisy is so blatant I remain amazed that his approval rating can still be in the 40s in the polls. This would sink a Republican simply because the media would pound it into the populace without restraint.

Since the economy is the top of the news right now, I’ve decided to set a record of sorts today for my blog. I’ve written a lot this past week. Today I’m going to let the cartoons carry the commentary more fully than I ever have before. Get ready for a lot of them that I’ve been storing. They’re all relevant to what’s happening.

Remember when Chris Wallace asked Michele Bachmann if she was some kind of flake? I’m waiting for the really courageous reporter to do this:

Valid question, I think. And what would happen to all those jobs if the government came down on corporate jet companies?

So what is the president’s strategy when he makes comments like those?

I think his real concern is rather easy to discern:

Things really haven’t been going too well:

Do we have any reasons to trust him?

So now Democrats and Republicans are in negotiation to figure out how to make the economy work again. There’s just one small problem:

I get this uneasy feeling that we’ve been here before, thinking that there is an agreement, only to have a trick pulled by the Democrats. This image keep coming to mind:

I hope I’m wrong, and that the Republicans have learned their lesson better than Charlie Brown ever did.

Weiner vs. Genuine Repentance

You knew it had to happen, right? When someone like Congressman Anthony Weiner dominates the news cycle, I can’t ignore him completely. I don’t intend to enter into the realm of double-entendres or get involved with the details of what he has done. You already are aware of the details—unless you’ve been on a deserted island for the past week. His so-called confession on Monday was anything but a real confession, and that’s where I would like to focus.

I stayed silent about the Weiner story on purpose because I wanted more facts to come out first, and I figured they would. I never for a moment believed his fantastic tale of being “hacked.” Why not? I’ve watched Weiner for years; his character was obvious from the first time I listened to him. Lying about policy was his staple already; if he had to lie to cover up his indiscrections, I had no doubt he would. I mean, get serious. Who really believed him?

Yes, he had his staunch defenders in the Leftist blogger world, aided by like-minded compatriots at MSNBC and other media outlets. A great cry went up that it was a vast right-wing conspiracy. Now where did we hear that before?

Finally, though, when confronted with more incriminating photos, one of which apparently was so pornographic that Andrew Breitbart, who now possesses it, has declined to release it publicly to spare Weiner’s marriage, the congressman realized the jig was up, and he had to put on a contrite face.

Supposedly, he takes “full responsibility” for his actions, yet refuses to resign. In other words, he doesn’t want any real consequences for what he has done. He’s hoping that a “confession” will be enough, and that he can continue taking taxpayer money as a representative of the people. After all, he’s got the Bill Clinton model he can follow. For the record, what Clinton did was worse than Weiner’s actions, but he was allowed to remain as president when he should have been kicked out on the street.

What Weiner did in his press conference was put on a show of humility without anything substantive to indicate it was genuine. I’m reminded of the Scripture where the apostle Paul has to discipline someone in the church at Corinth. He had written to the church a stern message, and it created the proper reaction:

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. … I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God. … For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. [see 2 Corinthians 7]

Paul clearly explains that there are two types of sorrow: one that doesn’t produce the fruit of repentance; another that provides evidence of a genuine realization of sin and leads to a changed life.

Has Anthony Weiner truly changed? Not if he seeks to keep his perks as a congressman when he has disgraced himself publicly. His moral character disqualifies him from holding any public office. If he were truly repentant, he would step down.

He may have to do so anyway, simply from the external pressures. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised if he weathers this storm; after all, Bill Clinton did even though some of his own people said he had to resign.

Shame is a lost trait in our society.

Republicans have disgraced themselves at times, too. Most of them had to leave office rather quickly. The Republican party at least holds to a moral standard publicly, which, if it is violated, points to hypocrisy. But at least it has a standard. There’s a political cartoon from a couple of years ago that I recycle now and then—it speaks so eloquently to our moral situation today. It’s time to use it again:

Anthony Weiner is a fine representative in one way: he represents the moral standards of his party quite well.

It’s Time for Principles

I truly wish elections didn’t turn so much on the state of the economy. I’d rather people have a more basic understanding of principles that emanate from a Biblical foundation—economic, moral, education, governing—and a fidelity to the limits imposed by constitutional authority. Those limits were placed there by the Founders for the sake of preserving our liberties.

There are times when the bad state of the economy will work out in favor of the change I desire [the current situation, hopefully], but it also works the other way: think “Bill Clinton.” So, as I said, it would be preferable if the electorate weren’t so fluid, tossed by every wave of economic uptick and downturn.

As 2012 approaches, many will simply look at how the economy is functioning and make choices based on that. If things continue as they are, Obama is in trouble:

While mouthing the platitudes of controlling the deficit and reducing spending [anyone remember his promise to go through the budget line by line, eliminating pork?], he has never met a spending cut he has liked, except possibly for defense, which just happens to be the main reason for the government to exist in the first place.

The president recently went to Europe to attend the G8 meeting. On the way to the meeting, he stopped off in Ireland, from which some of his ancestry hails. That country has had some of its own economic woes:

Obama’s counterparts in the Congress aren’t doing much better at facing reality. By law, the Congress should have passed a budget by April 15. The House, controlled by the Republicans, did its part before that date. We’re still waiting on the Senate. Now, who is in control there? Oh, right . . .

Majority Leader Harry Reid has even said he doesn’t plan to put forward a budget. The strategy is to continue criticizing the Republicans’ plan. This is not new territory for Sen. Reid. When the whole Congress was controlled by Democrats before the last election, neither the House nor the Senate passed a budget. For them, apparently, politics takes priority.

It should work against them. If the electorate truly understood the requirements and saw clearly that the Senate Democrat leadership is ignoring its responsibilities, that leadership should have to pay dearly in 2012. Will that happen?

Meanwhile, Republicans—or some of them, at least—are attempting what has been long considered the political impossibility of tackling out-of-control entitlements. In the past, any attempt to make changes to Social Security, in particular, has been political suicide. Social Security often has been labeled the “third rail of American politics.”

Will they have the backbone to do what’s necessary? If the voters wake up and realize the whole system is on the verge of collapse and something meaningful has to be done, there is hope. Again, I would prefer that Republicans do the right thing even if their plans don’t show well in public opinion polls, but backbone is stiffened when there is some degree of public support.

So, voters of America, will you do what is right or continue to be tossed here and there by the winds of economic fortune?

It’s time to be Biblically principled.