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.

The Media Drumbeat

Have you caught the new media mantra? It goes something like this: “What a weak field of presidential aspirants on the Republican side. There’s no one of real stature there.” The goal of some, I believe, is to repeat this endlessly until the majority believes it. After all, if something is uttered often enough, it must be true, right?

Well, that field includes a former governor of Minnesota who managed a Democrat-majority state for two terms and still maintains his conservative credentials. It also has a sitting congressman, a former senator, another former governor, and a business CEO. A congresswoman who not only raised her own family but also opened her home for twenty-three foster children is poised to enter the race as well.

Now, I don’t agree with all of those candidates on everything, and there are a couple I could never see myself voting for, but that doesn’t mean it’s a weak field. Do you want to consider weak credentials for the presidency? How about the following example?

Consider a man who, while a state senator, earned a reputation as “Senator Present” for avoiding votes on many controversial issues—who served as a U.S. Senator for two years, virtually in absentia because he almost immediately began running for president—who commented that he had visited all 57 states [does anyone recall the media ridiculing him for that? Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her front porch, yet she is still ridiculed for that bogus statement made by a comedian]—who told supporters that the problem with some Americans is that they are bitter clingers to their guns and their religion, and they don’t like anybody different than them—who clearly told a man that it was best for the government to redistribute his income to help others—who sat in a church for twenty years listening to a wacko “pastor” speak out against America and Israel and white people generally—a man who had absolutely no executive experience and never ran anything—

Do I really need to continue?

Yet somehow this man became president, while a true reform governor like Palin has been ripped apart for things she never said and events she never caused [remember the Tucson shootings?].

This past week, he said Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders. I know he tried to backtrack afterwards, but if you listen carefully even to his later words, the onus is on Israel, in his mind, to make concessions—even to terrorist organizations like Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took this president to task the day after his infamous statement. Some commentators were horrified that a foreign head of state would dare to “lecture” the U.S. president. If you watch what Netanyahu said, you will see that he carried himself with diplomatic civility while delivering a much-needed message.

The tragedy is that this president is so ideologically bound to the other side that he won’t really learn anything from the lesson.

So, as you hear the media drumbeat that will attempt to trivialize Obama’s competition, keep in mind these media people have their own agenda. They are “in the tank,” so to speak, for his reelection. Don’t allow the “newspeak” to sway you. Listen to what those competitors for his job are really saying and make up your own mind as to their worthiness. In my opinion, any of them would be an improvement over what we now have.

Taken for a Ride?

The grumbling on the Right is increasing with respect to the budget deal agreed upon last week. At first glance, it appeared that $38 billion was cut from the current budget. That, by itself, was a reduction from the $61 billion the House Republicans had passed.

It wasn’t much of a cut to begin with—consider that $4 billion gets added to the debt each day—but now it’s beginning to look even worse. More careful scrutiny of those cuts reveals most of them are a little phony. Some are budgetary sleight of hand, many are simply unspent funds from this year for certain programs that weren’t going to be spent anyway. One estimate says that only about $14 billion can be called “real” cuts.

Does this mean that the Republican House leadership under John Boehner has been taken for a ride?

I freely admit I’m more than a little disappointed in the results. Within me is a desire to cry, “Where are your principles? Why did you settle for so little?”

Yet there is another side of this that has to be taken into consideration. First, if Republicans had pushed harder, it might have led to that vaunted government “shutdown,” an action that the media would have pinned on the Republicans despite the evidence that the blame rests on the other party. Second, there is still another party in D.C. I wonder if some people have forgotten that Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. Republicans have only one-third of the components of the legislative and executive branches.

It’s a daunting task to get anything done with that kind of entrenched opposition.

Another factor to consider is that this was just the first skirmish in a long battle: coming up next are the debt ceiling debate and the new fiscal year’s budget. Even if Republicans had achieved their original goal of a $100 billion cut in expenditures, that would have been the proverbial drop in the bucket.

I’m not going to rush to judgment and declare the Republican leadership to be devoid of backbone–just yet. Let’s see what future negotiations accomplish. If something is done that deals substantially with so-called entitlements like Medicare, and if they hold the line on the debt ceiling, there is still hope.

Budget-toons

In no particular order, and with no real precise plan, I thought I’d run by you the best political cartoons dealing with Congress and the budget. Let’s get started.

I’m always amazed by how smoothly Democrats blame Republicans for everything, painting dire pictures of deprivation and untold catastrophes if Republicans ever get their way:

Democrats and Republicans obviously have different solutions to the financial crisis we face:

But maybe there is hope. Can Democrats change their ways?

That’s not very impressive. Maybe we’re missing the whole point by focusing on political parties. Maybe those most affected by policies should be our focus:

Budget Battles–Now & Later

The Republican House passed a continuing resolution that will keep the government operating one more week and fund the military for the rest of the year, to ensure that those in harm’s way are not treated like dirt. The Democrat Senate, however, refuses to follow suit. If there is a shutdown, just who is to blame here? If logic applies at all, most citizens ought to be disgusted with the Democrat leadership.

While Republicans are attempting to deal responsibly with the budget issue, Democrats are once again playing politics—the same accusation President Obama launched against the Republicans. Harry Reid’s heroic effort to save the Cowboy Poetry funding appears to have impeded progress:

As Republicans work to put out the fiscal fire, their actions are being interpreted differently:

I’m still trying to figure out just what the Democratic plan for taking care of the national debt might be. Since they have offered no real plan, what is their fallback position?

This current budget battle is for this fiscal year only. As I noted in yesterday’s post, the only reason this is still an issue is that the Democrat-controlled Congress refused to pass a budget by last October. Once we finally get this behind us, the next budget battle will begin. Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, has drafted a detailed plan to tackle the deficit over the next decade. It even enters the field of entitlements, showing the way to rework the entire Medicare and Medicaid systems. He has something that a lot of politicians lack:

The only question now is whether he and his Republican supporters will get a fair hearing for this plan. The House certainly will consider it seriously, and make any amendments it deems necessary, but will the Senate, under Harry Reid, even bother to look at it? It’s not difficult to predict its future in that body. Hopefully, down the road, after the next election has tossed Sen. Reid from his exalted position, we can move forward. It’s a shame, though, that we’ll have to wait that long.

That Looming Shutdown

A government shutdown looms. Some questions that we should be asking: how did we get to this place? why is it happening now? so what if it does happen? Let’s begin with the first question.

The budget was supposed to have been passed by last October. Let’s see, who was in charge of Congress at that time? Ah yes, total control by the Democrats. They had the House, the Senate, and the presidency. So why didn’t they pass a budget? Could it have been that the election was too near for comfort and they didn’t want to be held accountable for their profligate spending? They punted, and here we are.

The problem now is that the Republicans control the House while the Democrats continue to run the Senate. What has transpired since that change? Well, the House Republicans passed a budget proposal. What has the Senate done? Nothing. And in the “newspeak” of our political times, that means the Republicans are to blame. If that doesn’t make sense to you, join the crowd. While Republicans are busy taking aim at the overspending, the Democrats seem to have a different target:

Republicans were the ones who led the charge to keep the government running over the last few months with continuing resolutions. Yet Republicans, and the Tea Party advocates that support them, receive the “extremist” label for wanting budget cuts. Just how extreme are those proposed cuts?

My, but that hurts! Careful, the country might bleed to death. Old people will be thrown out in the streets. Children won’t have anything to eat. At least that’s what Nancy Pelosi predicts.

But let’s get serious. Democrats don’t really want to cut anything; they believe all good things come only through government spending. Further, they are ideologically bound to oppose the type of cuts proposed—such as defunding Planned Parenthood. There is talk of a filibuster to stop that effort. The Republicans’ quandary?

Dire predictions accompany the threat of a shutdown, but just how dire is it really?

It’s all about making Republicans look bad. Yet if you stop and think about it, any shutdown would actually get us much closer to the limits placed on the federal government in the Constitution. If we could stay shut down long enough, that $14 trillion debt would eventually disappear. Have we found a new strategy?

Pearls of Wisdom

Yesterday at Southeastern University was a good day.

My department brought in as a special speaker Dr. Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World magazine, which serves as an excellent commentary on current events from a Biblical perspective. We kept Dr. Olasky quite busy.

In the morning, he delivered a message in chapel that focused on how to analyze issues through a Biblical lens, showing that there are gradations in how directly the Scriptures apply to various situations. Some are obvious—abortion, homosexuality—while others are more vague, such as whether we should establish a no-fly zone over Libya. Yet even in those areas where there is no direct Biblical command, principles based on the Bible can still guide us.

At a luncheon, he provided a unique interpretation of the parable of the prodigal son, pointing out that both sons in that parable were wrong—the prodigal for wasting his inheritance and the older son for working joylessly at his tasks and being resentful of the reunion with the prodigal. He said, in political terms, Democrats were more like the prodigal, departing more from a Biblical standard, but that Republicans often mirrored the older, joyless son, thereby alienating voters. What is needed, he suggested, is a third son—not prodigal but not stern and joyless either. He believes that this type of person, one who can enjoy life and have a sense of humor yet still operate on solid principles, is not only the best person to have in office, but also more likely to attract votes. As he spoke, I naturally thought of Ronald Reagan. He fit that description perfectly.

At a special faculty colloquium, Dr. Olasky tackled the knotty issue of social justice, basing his remarks on a passage of Scripture from Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

He defined justice, mercy, and humility in the original Hebrew, which then opened into a discussion of the role of the church in providing God’s kind of justice and mercy, and showing how God’s goals are thwarted when government takes over this task.

Finally, in an evening session, he challenged students to discover joy in the life and work God has given them. Although we live in a fallen world where the “thorns and thistles” get in the way of joyful work, we can learn what we do best and carry out God’s purposes in our lives.

I felt like we were treated all day long to some real pearls of wisdom.

Yes, yesterday at Southeastern University was a good day.