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:

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 10% or 50%] 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.

How about the current debt debate? I am opposed to raising the debt ceiling. 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?

My Tea Party credentials are impeccable, by the way. I just want to say that up front before I continue.

One thing that all principled conservatives have to recognize is that in politics you don’t always get everything you want immediately. Last November’s election was wonderful, but those who believe as I do only control one house of Congress and the president has veto power. Consequently, I cannot reasonably expect to get it all right now, no matter how much I desire that.

So I push for as much as 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 a law like this 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.

More Fiscal Crisis . . . and the Reasons for It

Talks broke off again yesterday between President Obama and Speaker Boehner regarding the debt crisis. Obama held a press conference first, claiming the Republicans just don’t know a good deal when they see it. Boehner followed with his own, noting that they were close to an agreement until Obama made a last-minute demand for more tax increases. He still labors under the ideology that seeks to drain as much out of the private sector economy as possible for the benefit of government control. I’m grateful Boehner rejected his “generous” terms.

Of course there’s another reason why the president is anxious to get more money:

The plain fact, though, is he could take ALL the money from every rich person in the country and still not have enough to cover the massive outlay of expenses for which he is responsible. And if he did so, he would undercut all economic growth. He seems bent on continuing his usual pattern:

Amazing, isn’t it, that the media portrays him as the adult and Republicans in Congress as the petulant children? Republicans in the House have twice passed legislation that would be fine steps toward reining in the spending and setting up a more responsible system. How have they been received at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue?

Then there’s that other “remedy” offered by the so-called Gang of Six. Now, there are some good people in that group, such as Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, but their proposal again focuses too much on raising revenue immediately and taking control of spending somewhere down the road—which means it would never happen.

While the fiscal fire rages, and the administration burdens businesses with more regulation and uncertainty about the future, the prospects for recovery are bleak:

Two Democrat big businessmen, one of them the CEO of Home Depot, blasted Obama this week, saying, in effect, he doesn’t know what he is doing. Well, I could have told them that back in 2007 or 2008. Late to the game, but if the lesson sticks, there might be hope in 2012. In November, that is.

Cut, Cap, and Balance Was the Right Move

The Republican-led House of Representatives has passed a bill called “Cut, Cap, and Balance.” It calls for cutting spending back to 2008 levels, capping spending to a certain percentage of the GDP, and raising the debt ceiling only if both Houses of Congress send a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification. Political commentators are calling it dead from the start.

I agree, to a point. Will it pass the Senate? It might have a small chance [some Democrats might actually be afraid of losing theirs seats if they don’t sign on to it], but the real issue is whether Majority Leader Reid will even allow it to come to a vote. Even if it did pass the Senate, it would face a certain veto from President Obama. That’s why the political class is saying this was merely symbolic and a waste of time. That’s the part with which I disagree.

It’s important for the Republicans to stake out their position. The people of this country need to know what they stand for. They also need to know if they will abide by the promises they made in the last election. Since Republicans control only half of the Congress and have to deal with a president hostile to their efforts, there is little hope they will achieve this time what they seek, but this is all groundwork for the 2012 election. It shows, first of all, that they are serious about changing the direction of the country economically. Second, it can serve as a rallying point for the message that the Senate and the presidency must be in their hands if anything is going to be accomplished.

Therefore, I endorse what they have done. Sometimes in losing, you win.

If the voters can ever remove the blinders from their eyes, they will see what Obama’s economic policies are actually doing and how pitiful and insincere his “solutions” are:

There’s some concern on the Right about the provision for a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget—that it might hamstring the government or that it will be ineffective. Yet already the Democrat response to the call for this amendment is to decry its ability to stop any effort to raise taxes. I will consider seriously any concerns expressed, but I currently believe it’s still the only way to introduce fiscal sanity.

We shouldn’t have to need a constitutional amendment for this, but desperate times call for stronger measures.

An Upside-Down World

The last two days I’ve pretty much displayed my lack of faith in the American electorate. I won’t belabor that today, but I did find some political cartoons that express well a number of things on my mind presently:

In case you missed the reference in that last panel, Obama, in one of his dreary press conferences this past week, actually maintained that 80% of citizens agree with him that taxes have to be raised. In this case, I’m siding with the people: there’s no way that many believe that. The president is hoping that if he is brazen enough in his assertions, they will become reality. Of course, he always has the media to prop him up. If you’re wondering how he can stay as high as he does in the polls, there’s an easily identifiable reason:

That only works when the electorate is willing to suspend disbelief.

I wish the press would press a little more:

Are Congress and the president doing their jobs in the debt ceiling debate?

Why has it come to this again? What has led us to this precipice?

And yet the media proclaim him as the “reasonable” one in the debate, as opposed to those “extremist” Republicans who seek to lower the debt, cap spending, and mandate a balanced budget. In real life, those goals are laudable. In government, they pass for ludicrous, apparently. The world has turned upside down.

The Myth of the Well-Informed Electorate

No one is supposed to cast doubt on the wisdom of the American voter. To do so is to be accused of elitism, or some other equally odious quality. We are constantly assured that the overwhelming majority of voters are well informed and make their decisions based on sound knowledge.

There’s an academic term for that—baloney.

Now by saying this, I’ve opened myself up for criticism. Who do I think I am passing judgment on the electorate? What proof do I offer? Well, look who’s president right now. What had he ever done to earn the position? Key legislation? Executive experience? No. Many voted for him because they were upset over what Bush had done. They never bothered to find out what Obama believed, or what policies he would promote. They wanted “hope.” They wanted “change.” They got the latter for sure. The first is still an illusion.

More evidence? Bill Clinton served two terms in spite of all the scandals percolating around him. Even when caught lying to a grand jury, 67% of the electorate didn’t want him removed from office.

Every four years, as if on schedule, no matter what the real issues, Democrats will trot out their magic formula: tell people the Republicans are going to take away Social Security and Medicare. They’re going to kick the helpless out in the streets. They’re plotting to starve all the old people. It’s become routine.

It nearly always works. That’s why they keep using the tactic. You would think that after a while, the falseness of the charge would be so evident that it would fall flat. But our “educated” electorate panics every time.

We’re seeing the same approach now with the debt ceiling/national debt talks. Democrats have done nothing at all to resolve the situation; Republicans have offered concrete plans for dealing with it. Yet some polls show that voters will blame Republicans if the government has to cut back on expenditures due to this debt problem. Never mind that fully 1/3 of that debt has accumulated in the first two and one-half years of Obama’s administration, and that he has shown no sign of wanting to slow down his spending spree. He’s now talking about another stimulus—you know, because the first one wasn’t large enough to do the job.

How many voters will fall for it this time? There’s this mantra out there in the political world that says everyone’s vote is really important:

I’m going to break from this political correctness. In my view, “Phil” shouldn’t vote. And to all you “Phils” out there, please do your country a service and stay home on election night. We’ll make wiser choices without you.

Welcome to the Real World, Mr. President

The other day at the budget talks, President Obama abruptly ended the meeting and, according to Republican Eric Cantor, just walked out after chiding Cantor and saying, “Don’t call my bluff.” Now that’s an interesting statement. What did he mean? If you parse this accurately, apparently he’s saying, in effect, he’s actually bluffing when he declares that Republicans have to meet his criteria for dealing with the debt ceiling. Perhaps he’s only bluffing when he sadly opines that the money may not be there to pay Social Security recipients. If that’s the case, go ahead, Republicans, call his bluff.

Of course he may have just mixed up his words and said something he didn’t intend to say. You know, like he’s visited all 57 states. Or how we can save on gas by inflating our tires rather than drilling for oil. Or confusing Memorial Day with Veterans Day. I’m sure it was a simply slip-up when he declared the border fence was complete, that the Mexican holiday was called Cinco de Cuatro, and that corps is pronounced corpse.

Hey, no problem, because he’s the smartest person who’s ever been president. How do I know that? Easy—all the media tells me so.

What comes out of that meeting, though, is something that surfaces repeatedly and on which I’ve commented before. When it comes right down to it, Obama’s pretty thin-skinned. Less flattering descriptions might be “immature,” “childish,” or “petulant.” I think he really believes all his press about being so smart, and how dare lesser mortals try to correct him. He’s gone through his entire life with all the privileges: classy private schools, a Harvard law degree [who paid for that?], a smooth path in elections [primarily by finding ways to disqualify his opponents]. I’m not sure he knows how to handle anyone who actually disagrees with him. He finds it rather incomprehensible.

Welcome to the real world, Mr. Obama. That’s where the rest of us live.

Only in the realm of Obamadom can a government continue to spend more than it receives, and then blame it on not receiving enough. A reality check is sorely needed.

What he apparently doesn’t realize is that this can’t go on forever. You can’t add another $5 trillion to the debt over the next three years [like he did in the last three] and remain solvent. He’s now beginning to talk about the problem, but his solution is so insufficient it hardly qualifies as a solution. In fact, no one quite knows what it is. That’s probably because it doesn’t really exist. He just goes merrily on his way thinking nothing will change. Not true. There will be a day of reckoning.

And then he has the nerve to call out Republicans for being irresponsible—the very party that has passed a budget in the House, but which he and the Senate under Harry Reid rejected. By the way, if that August 2 deadline comes and goes, there will still be enough money coming in to the government to pay Social Security, the military, and all essential services. There just won’t be enough for everything the government pays for all the time. This could be a good thing; it would force the government for the first time to live within its means.  As I’ve explained countless times, if we would return to constitutionality and only legislate and spend money on things the Constitution gives authority to spend money on—we would be out of debt in no time.