Principle & Compromise: Not Always at Odds

I’ve called this blog Pondering Principles because I’m dedicated to laying a principled foundation for whatever subject I scrutinize. I also want to see principles—Biblical principles—become the basis for all public policy. Those of us oriented toward principles have a natural aversion to compromise; we have a tendency to see all compromise as a step backward. I would like to argue that is not the case.

Let’s start historically and work our way to present-day issues.

At the Constitutional Convention, a major disagreement erupted between states with lesser populations and those with greater. The less-populated states desired representation in the Congress to be based on equality; they wanted an equal vote for all states. Their concern was they would be outvoted on everything if population became the cornerstone of representation. Larger states naturally felt the opposite: since they had the most people, they should have a greater say in legislation. Who was correct? I think both had valid points. Their concerns were genuine and needed to be addressed. The convention came up with a compromise that divided the Congress into two houses, one based on population, the other on equality.

That is an example of an excellent compromise because it didn’t sacrifice principle on either side. Without that compromise, there would have been no Constitution. The nation might have split into three or four warring factions, with all the misery that would have been connected with such a division.

Then there’s the example of New York state during the governorship of John Jay at the turn of the nineteenth century. Jay, an evangelical Christian, had often worked for the abolition of slavery in his state. Now, as governor, he had the opportunity to sign into law a gradual emancipation bill. This bill did not free all slaves immediately; rather, it laid out a plan that would eventually eliminate slavery in the next generation. As someone who believed slavery was contrary to God’s purposes, should Jay have signed such a bill? He had no hesitation in doing so. Why? Because it set slavery on the course of extinction in New York. Long before the Civil War decided that issue nationally, New York had resolved it gradually.

Was Jay disobeying God in signing that bill? I believe just the opposite. His was a principled position. The compromise of gradual abolition achieved the long-term goal of his principle—getting rid of slavery once and for all. The new law made a step in the right direction. Therefore, I consider his action to have been consistent with his principles. Not to have signed it meant the perpetuation of the slavery institution, not its demise.

Now let’s bring this up to date. Let me offer two more examples.

First, let’s look at the issue of abortion. I firmly believe that the taking of an innocent human life is immoral. It is opposed to God’s moral law. My principled position is that all abortions should be outlawed. What if, as a legislator, I were faced with a decision on a particular bill that would eliminate 95% of all abortions in America? Should I vote for it? If I were president, should I sign it into law?

There are some who would say no. Why? They consider it a compromise of principle. Any law that doesn’t eliminate all abortions is less than what God requires. Consequently, support for a proposed law that would take care of “only” 95% of them would be a sin.

Again, I disagree—vehemently. If I have the opportunity to save 95% [or even 50% or 10%] of all babies who would otherwise have their lives snuffed out arbitrarily, I must take that opportunity. I would be advancing the principle in which I believe. By supporting such a measure, I am moving my society closer to God’s purposes. If we take an all-or-nothing approach, I believe we are deceiving ourselves in believing we are standing on principle. I would call it stubborn foolishness instead.

Congress is going to be dealing with raising the debt ceiling again soon. I am opposed to doing so. I am opposed to raising taxes in any way that will harm those who provide jobs for others. I wholeheartedly seek spending cuts. Now, do I hold out for everything I want or is there a way to advance what I believe is principled even while compromising temporarily?

One thing that all principled conservatives have to recognize is that in politics you don’t always get everything you want immediately. We can, though, push for as much as may be possible.

If an agreement is reached, for instance, that raises the debt ceiling, yet also includes “real” spending cuts, a cap on future spending, no increase in taxes, and at least a vote on a balanced budget amendment, why would I not support this? Enacting measures like these would lead us further on the path toward a principled and sane tax-and-spend framework.

Here’s how I summarize it: a compromised principle leads to unrighteousness, but a principled compromise is a step closer to the principle’s ideal.

I wish I could convince everyone of the wisdom of this perspective, but I’ll settle for whoever has ears to hear.

Redefining Prosperity

President Obama has come forward with his new budget—a $4 trillion-dollar whopper. Unreconstructed radical that he is, he has decided to double down on his approach. This budget is a natural outgrowth of the attitude he projected in the State of the Union Address—“in your face.” Does he really believe we can tax and spend our way into prosperity?

Dem Bookstore

Or, at his core, does he not even care about a traditional definition of prosperity? Perhaps for him, prosperity is determined by how many more people look to the government for their sustenance. His ideological worldview posits that government should be the guiding hand for all of life. Debt is no problem, he thinks, because it is a positive indicator that the government is doing its job:

Totally Sustainable

Republicans have already said this budget proposal is DOA. One can only hope they will flex their new muscles to counter what he is attempting:

Working Out

Whenever this administration wants to offer some comedic relief, it sends out VP Joe Biden to give a speech. He fulfilled his task again earlier this week, speaking to an audience of Democrats about just how hard the last six years have been, basically blaming all the bad news—whether economic or in foreign policy—on George Bush. Doesn’t he realize that an admission that the last six years have been so bad might reflect on the people in charge for the last six years?

Really Tough

No, it’s not all that hard to explain why we’re in the state we’re in. It’s pretty obvious.

A New National Conversation

I’m fighting the temptation to write a blog that lists every action of the Obama administration that manifests scandal, deception, misinformation, racial division, or astounding incompetence, but I don’t have the time to write that long of an article—nor would many readers make it to the end. So I have to break up those incidents into bite-sized pieces.

Let’s just focus for now on the latest manifestations. Jonathan Gruber of Obamacare deception infamy will be testifying before a congressional panel soon. That will put him back in the limelight, which is important, because the public needs to be constantly reminded of what has been foisted upon them. When that happens, I fully expect this type of response from the White House:

Most Transparent Admin

The president’s chief enablers will probably step in at that point, and it will be hard to tell the difference between the White House spin and what the enablers are saying. But if they could be totally honest, we would hear something like this:

Our Job

Also, since Ferguson has been our obsession for the past week and a half, and we’ve made a hero out of a thug/thief, the administration has decided that we once again need a national conversation on race. If I had the authority, I think I would ban the phrase “national conversation on race” indefinitely. Why? The administration’s definition of any such national conversation only goes one way—blaming law enforcement for all the problems. In the past, we’ve had presidents who acted racially—think of Woodrow Wilson, a staunch supporter of segregation who acted it out during his administration—but now the pendulum has swung in the other direction:

Racial Profiling

Translation: guilty until proven innocent, and in our eyes, you are never innocent.

Almost unnoticed while the fallout from Ferguson continues is the new barrier we’ve broken with our national debt. The $18 trillion mark is now in our rearview mirror as we head on to new heights in the next two years. It is now an established fact that the Obama years have added more to the national debt than all other years in our nation’s history combined. Yet the president brushes it off as inconsequential while he seeks to add even more to that total:

How Much

What makes this particularly galling is that while running for president back in 2008, he specifically targeted the debt George Bush contributed, calling it “irresponsible” and a “failure of leadership.” Then, to add to the rhetorical flourish, he said that amassing a debt such as Bush had done was clearly “unpatriotic.”

By your own words, you will be judged.

Might I suggest a new national conversation? How about we talk nationally about the voters’ responsibility to place men and women of honor and integrity in office? For some reason, I doubt the eagerness of the Obama administration to take part in that national conversation.

The Republic Is Saved?

So the big shutdown is over. The republic is saved. We may now go about our business borrowing more money and digging an even deeper hole. And on top of it all, nothing was done to chip away at the Obamacare nightmare.

I understand political realities. With a Democrat Senate and Obama in the White House, nothing drastic was going to happen. But when the final result appears to be a total cave, the disappointment among those who take these matters seriously is palpable.

Critics will continue to harp on Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and others who stood tall in their attempt to draw attention to the principles of constitutionalism and reined-in government. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure they chose the right strategy to advance those principles, but they nevertheless performed a valuable service by making the arguments.

The public, and unfortunately many of their Republican colleagues, became skittish about a shutdown that was anything but a real shutdown and about the horror stories of default, even though tax revenues are enough each month to cover all debts, Social Security, and most other aspects of the government. Are we really to believe we can’t live within our means? With 83% of the government functioning as usual, are we truly in dire straits?

Obama and his minions used this “crisis” to their advantage, helped along as always by a subservient media. Not everything went the way they hoped, however:

Capt. Obama

The trashing of the WWII veterans was one of the biggest missteps the administration could have made. It highlighted the arrogance of those in power:

Get Off My Lawn

And all for a compromise—if one can call something this lopsided a compromise—that solved virtually nothing and will be replayed again in a few months:

Pull Him Free

Yet the administration/media theme will forever be the irresponsibility of only one party—the one that at least had some members willing to tackle the tough issues and put us on a path to recovery. If only the media had any integrity, they would be informing an ignorant public about the true source of most of the irresponsibility:

So Irresponsible

We’re back at square one. We’ll rerun this scenario again in the near future. I wonder what a united Republican party based on the principles Cruz and others enunciated would look like? What could it accomplish?

The Shutdown, the Debt Ceiling, & the Media

I have to make a decision every day: do I follow the most pressing issue everyone is thinking about or do I stake off in a different direction? The last thing I want to do is be bound by what has everyone else’s attention, but there are times when it seems important to stay with one particular topic. So, once again, let’s concentrate for now on the shutdown/slimdown that’s dominating the news. This time, though, I want to connect it to the next upcoming battle—the debt ceiling.

I’ve used a couple of these posts to reveal the rather spiteful actions of the Obama administration as it curtails the public’s access to memorials, monuments, and even, in some cases, to their own homes, if located on federal land. We’re supposed to be in such dire straits that not even open-air memorials like the one commemorating WWII can be viewed.

Move Along

Yet yesterday, the administration gave approval for a protest held on the National Mall in favor of immigration reform/amnesty. A crowd dominated by illegal immigrants was granted access to an area that WWII veterans have had to fight for during the past week. So I guess the limited access is limited only to those who might oppose the president’s policies, not to those who promote them. How much did it cost the government to police yesterday’s demonstration? Arrests were made. Compare that to what it costs to police an open-air memorial that is normally without a police presence.

Shutdown Rules

This is all just part of the overall strategy:

Business as Usual

What has the mainstream media’s role been in all this?

Belongs on Donkey

That same media took part in a lovefest yesterday masquerading as a press conference. The president never once had to answer a challenging question. He could have stayed there all day spewing propaganda and false information without fear of contradiction. For instance, he not only doubled down on Republicans’ culpability for the shutdown, but declared that raising the debt ceiling wouldn’t add one dollar to the national debt. How does one get away with a statement as ludicrous as that?

Not High Enough

Everyone knows that raising the debt ceiling simply provides more room to increase spending, which will happen automatically. And what about the logic in the cartoon above? What if you tried that for your personal finances?

Personal Debt Limit

What makes this even more galling is that when he was a senator, Obama not only railed against—and voted against—raising the debt ceiling, but he cited the desire to do so as evidence of failed leadership:

Leadership Failure

We’re seeing political opportunism at its most despicable level. I now call on the mainstream media to do what it seems reluctant to do: commit a genuine act of journalism.

Competing Budgets

In the past few days, we’ve seen a contrast in budget proposals. Paul Ryan, on the Republican side, has come up with a plan that will repeal Obamacare—which insurance companies are informing us will lead to a possible doubling of premiums by next year—and put the country on the path to a balanced budget in ten years. The Senate Democrats have an entirely different plan, one that comports with President Obama’s vision. John Hinderaker, at the Power Line blog, explains,

After four years, Congressional Democrats have finally produced a budget. The process has proved revealing: the Democrats’ budget never balances, increases spending by 62% over ten years, and adds $7 trillion to the national debt despite raising taxes by $1.5 trillion. So Senate Democrats must agree with President Obama that the nation does not face a debt crisis. . . .

We know from the budgets he has submitted for the last four years that Obama doesn’t care about the debt, immediately or otherwise, and has no intention of addressing it, ever. His budgets contemplate nothing but huge deficits as far as the eye can see, and would add trillions to the national debt through ever-increasing spending.

House Republicans have tried repeatedly to send bills to the Senate that would help solve our financial crisis. Each time, the Senate has refused even to allow a vote—all at the behest of the White House.

As the nation slides inexorably into a massive debt that might never be stopped, the president and the Democrat leaders in the Senate are ideologically blind to the disaster that looms:

For those who choose to believe Obama’s rosy picture of financial stability, there is a surprise coming:

A pleasant surprise, it is not.

Ideology & the Height of Irresponsibility

I think the Obama inaugural is worth at least one more day’s commentary. But I’ll let the cartoonists carry most of the weight today. For instance, we all know the president takes his oath of office while putting his hand on the Bible. According to one cartoonist, perhaps this should have happened at that moment:

It didn’t. God rarely makes such a dramatic gesture; He prefers we figure it out because, frankly, it shouldn’t be that hard. All one has to do is look at Obama’s actions for the last four years. If we’re so comatose not to be aware of his attitude toward the rule of law, we deserve to suffer the consequences.

The speech itself also has generated commentary for its unabashed and unapologetic liberal/progressive nature. Again, why would anyone be surprised? When some were saying Obama would tack to the center to get support for Obamacare and other initiatives, I never bought it. He is too ideological for that. He boldly ventured where few publicly dare to go:

He’s also quite adept at appearing to venerate American tradition and reverence for the Founding. But if you listen closely, you realize he’s uprooting those principles, replacing them with an opposing ideology:

One of his points, in passing, was the importance of reasoned debate and how we all should refrain from name-calling. Are we really that absent-minded with respect to his own conduct?

In the entire speech, there was not one word about the danger of the mountain of national debt he has accumulated. He’s not really all that concerned about it. One of his mentors, economist John Maynard Keynes, who was largely responsible for convincing politicians that government spending was the pathway to prosperity, once famously [or infamously] remarked about his lack of concern over debt, “In the long run, we are all dead.” In other words, don’t worry about it—we all die anyway, so spend to the hilt.

The biggest problem with that scenario is that future generations will have to deal with what we’ve done. They will be stuck cleaning up the mess.

That’s the height of irresponsibility. That’s the kind of president we have.