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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Taxes & Democrats

                                   Taxes & Democrats 

“I’m only going to raise taxes on the ‘rich’ and I’ll give tax cuts to the middle class.”  It is indeed the “silly season” when candidates make boasts and claims that would make a drunken sailor blush.  But the idea that a Democrat candidate for President of the United States is going to cut taxes is as believable as the idea that the moon is made out of cheese.

Democrats raise taxes.  The only exception among Democrats since 1932 - 76 years ago - was John F. Kennedy who famously said, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” and proceeded to lower income tax ratesacross the board and thereby ushered in an era of prosperity.  JFK was indeed an exception to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.

Republicans cut taxes.  Yes, there are Republican exceptions when clueless Presidents like Bush 41 raised taxes, who then got his just reward by being defeated for a second term.

As a practical rule of thumb, if you like lower taxes at the local level, you should vote for the Republican candidate for Mayor.  If you like lower taxes at the state level, you should vote for the Republican candidate for Governor.  And if you like lower taxes at the national level, you should vote for the Republican candidate for President.  The exceptions are few and far between.

Of course, taxes are important for many reasons, but primarily in regard to individual freedom and in regard to prosperity.

On the micro level, every one of your dollars collected in taxes reduces your individual freedom.  Instead of you choosing how and where to spend your dollar, some elected official, who considers himself or herself wiser and smarter than you are, decides how to spend your dollar.  And on the macro level, the more of your dollars that are taken by government in the form of taxes, the bigger and bigger government grows and threatens the very fabric of freedom in our society.  Large, powerful, centralized government always trends toward tyranny.  It is the sole cause of the loss of freedom whether its name is Fascism, Nazism, Communism, or Socialism.  

All human institutions, government included, are corrupted by frail, corrupt humans.  We are all sinful and everything we touch becomes corrupted as time runs on.  We are imperfect and the institutions we create are imperfect.  There is no such thing as a powerful, centralized government that is benign.  There is no such thing as individual freedom within a nation that is controlled by unrestrained politicians.  That’s the most important reason to oppose taxes - higher and higher taxes provide the foundation for the creation of bigger and bigger government.

Prosperity is similarly affected by high taxes.  You and I are more prosperous when we spend money as we choose.  Top down, command economies do not work.  No government, no matter how smart the leaders, can anticipate supply and demand.  It is the magic of a free society that creates jobs, that creates new products and services, that innovates, that develops cures for diseases, and inexorably leads to scientific and engineering progress. 

Socialist economies simply regulate scarcity.  There is no innovation except in building bigger weapons and more powerful delivery systems.  Citizens suffer at the whims of government and any consumer innovation that seeps into such a society is stolen or copied from free societies. 
The dysfunctional Trabant automobile built by the former East German government is as an apt symbol of socialism, as is the Volkswagen an apt symbol of freedom in the West.  There’s nothing progressive, or innovative, or creative, or free about a top down, command economy.  

Taxes not only mean less freedom for you and me, they also mean bigger, more controlling government, and less prosperity for all Americans.  

Liberal Democrats may be well-meaning in raising taxes and in their intent to do more for you and me, but the road of higher and higher taxes only leads to less freedom and less prosperity.  

You and I have a choice in November when we vote for politicians running for local, state, and national office.  What will your choice be—less freedom and a lower standard of living or more freedom and prosperity?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How Do You Want to be Remembered?

         How Do You Want to be Remembered?

Maybe it’s because I’m approaching my 65th birthday and I’m feeling my own mortality, or more likely it’s because I saw a silly plaque among flowers at a golf course. Whatever the reason, I’ve thought about what people might think of me when I’m gone (I’m not planning on leaving soon, but that’s in the Lord’s hands).

My conclusion after a recent family reunion is that it’s just like David said, "As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more."[1] Time flies and when we are gone we may be remembered by our immediate family for a little while, but soon they too will join us and we will be remembered no more. That’s the way life is.

About that silly plaque, I’ve actually seen several of them and they always make me chuckle. They are usually near the club house and are located among a small flower garden. The typical plaque says something like, "In memory of John Smith, long time member of such-and-such country club." I know we’re not here to be remembered, but I know I certainly don’t want to be remembered like that. 

Let’s see. I can just imagine the small talk. "John was a nice fellow. Always showed up on time for his tee time. He had a slice in his swing, but he could really tell a good story."
I once asked my good friend, Bill, if he could retire and play golf all the time. He said, "Sure, all the time for about two weeks." Isn’t it the truth! I love the game of golf, but I would be bored shortly if that was the sole purpose of my life.

The mother of Barry Goldwater, Sr. told him that he should leave the earth a better place. That’s sounds like pretty good advice, but it really misses the point if you take Jesus’ word seriously.
Sounds good to leave the world a better place, but is that command of Jesus’ Great Commission? He doesn’t want us to just leave the world a better place, even though that’s a good thing. No, He wants us to help others leave this world and join Him in Heaven. In the Great Commission Jesus told His disciples to be His "…witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."[2]  His commission to me might sound something like, "Be my witness in Vienna, in Virginia, across the United States, and around the globe."

My first response is always, "That’s impossible. I can’t witness across Virginia, much less across the US and around the world." Of course, my response conveniently fails to take into account my responsibility for witnessing to neighbors, friends, acquaintances, and all the others I bump into on a daily basis. It’s easier to find an excuse.

But, of course, I don’t even have an excuse when it comes to sharing the Good News across Virginia, the United States, and around the Globe. There are lots of avenues for me to not only share the Good News first hand in my local community, but also support effective mission programs in my state, across the nation, and throughout the world. So what’s my excuse? If I’m honest, I don’t have one.

That’s why I’m personally so excited about Time of Grace Ministry (, a national and international media outreach that has been blessed with phenomenal success in reaching those who don’t yet trust in Jesus as the long promised Messiah, their personal Savior.
If you are a follower of Jesus, what will you do today to gently tell someone you know about Jesus? What are you doing with the blessings God has given to you to share the Good News across your state, across our nation, and around the globe?

[1] Psalm 103:15-16, excerpted from Compton's Interactive Bible NIV. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved
[2] Acts 1:8, excerpted from Compton's Interactive Bible NIV. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 12, 2008

Our Failure

                                                    Our Failure
Recently, I received the 2007 numbers from Giving USA™, which is the statistical authority on to what, to whom, and how much Americans contribute each year.

I have always been amazed by the amount donated by Americans to nonprofits ($306.39 billion), and especially by the amount donated to religious causes (this includes all religions, but the vast portion goes to Christian groups, probably 80% or more). According to Giving USA™ the amount given to religious groups in 2007 was $102.32 billion. Yes, that number is $102,320,000,000 and, adjusted for inflation, that was a 1.8% increase over the amount given in 2006. The total given to religious activities is more than any other segment and amounts to 33.4% of all funds donated to various nonprofit organizations in the United States (of which there are more than 1.1 million groups). 
Incidentally, the group closest to religion is education, which received $43.32 billion in 2007, a distant second to the amount contributed to religion.

The $102.32 billion contributed to religious activities is a lot of money, but my question is: If we are donating so much more to religious causes than ever before, why aren’t we seeing an impact from such giving?

Let’s say that just 60% of all this giving goes to Christian groups. That would be more than $60 billion dollars. If that’s the case, why isn’t Christianity flourishing? Why isn’t it growing rapidly? Why isn’t Christianity having a powerful impact on our culture? Why isn’t the USA becoming a more civil, kinder country with each passing year?

Why aren’t there more people in church each Sunday, less foul language, fewer abortions, less pornography, less divorce, fewer broken homes, less crime, etc.?

I think I know the answer. Christianity has become an institution, not a cause. It’s become inwardly focused. It has become, as Reggie McNeal says, a "club" with its own rituals and buzz words, but its impact on society as a whole is negligible.

From the perspective of a donor who wants to see his dollar have an impact, Christianity circa 2008 is a flop. It is understandably not written up in the book, Forces for Good, as an effective cause.

Whoa, my Christian friends are going to say, that’s not fair. We need churches, we need staff, we need to take care of the elderly, and we need fellowship, etc. And my answer is, yes, but $60 billion should still allow plenty of funds for sharing the Good News.

Whoa, they will say again. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change hearts and convert souls.
And I would respond that yes, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change hearts, but we have been commanded to bring the Good News to those who do not yet trust in Jesus so that the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to change hearts.

Is Christendom in America taking the Good News outside our churches to the hurting? If that is a legitimate question, then I’d say we are getting a poor return on our $60 billion or whatever the actual number is. 

We are exhorted to exercise good stewardship with our dollars and our talents. Spending $60 billion per year without any significant return seems like poor stewardship to me.
It’s not a shortage of dollars that is holding back spiritual renewal in America. It’s not the Holy Spirit. What else can it be but a lack of focus on outreach that is restraining the Good News from spreading far and wide?

If you are a believer, where’s your focus? Are you satisfied with the impact your donated dollars are having? Before it is too late, shouldn’t we start thinking of Christianity as a cause, rather than an institution?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why So Mean and Nasty?

  Why So Mean and Nasty?

You’d have to live on Mars to believe that the mainstream media, i.e. Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, New York Times, CBS, ABC, and NBC isn’t biased to the left. But generally, they are smart enough to keep their bias within the bounds of reason and common decency. That being the case, why did they react so intensely and unreasonably against the selection of Governor Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s running mate? Their attacks were not only irrational, they were downright mean and nasty. What gives?

Some laid it off to the media being caught by surprise, but the mainstream media has been caught by surprise before and hasn’t reacted with such venom. Others said it was the Governor’s lack of experience, but at minimum, Sarah Palin has as much experience as Barak Obama. Still others said it was John McCain’s failure to conduct proper vetting, but after all she is a sitting Governor and it turns out that the vetting process was actually quite lengthy. 

So the attacks began... "She’s too inexperienced." Or, "She has five children, one with special needs which precludes her from having enough time to handle the responsibilities as Vice President." In their panic to gain traction with any attack, they tried every possible approach.

Why the gutter level attacks?

It’s not about experience. It’s not about her being distracted by her family. It’s not because she was not properly vetted. It’s not because she is a woman (although it does rankle them that the first woman President might not be named Hilary, but Sarah). It’s not because her daughter is pregnant out of wedlock.

So why have the attacks on Governor Palin and her family been so vicious?

The answer is that the mainstream media is still living in the 1940’s and 1950’s when the Eastern liberal establishment was able to control the selection of both political parties. It’s the same reason their attacks on Barry Goldwater were so outrageous and over the top. The Goldwater campaign put the Republican Party firmly in the hands of conservatives and because of that, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States.

Just a couple of weeks ago the liberal news media thought they were back in the driver’s seat. It was 1950 again and they were serving as "king maker" in choosing the Republican nominee. They had already gotten their pick for the head of the ticket, John McCain, and they thought that they had secured the second spot for liberal Democrat, Joe Lieberman.
It was Nirvana! At the top of the Democratic ticket was a US Senator with a very liberal voting record and a personal background complete with radical leftists. In the second spot, they had another reliable liberal Senator. 

Perfect! No matter who would win the White House, they would have been successful in driving those hated Reagan conservatives from power. Even better, there would be no conservative star on the horizon.

But their plan to act as "king makers" of the Republican Party failed and they are outraged. Not only is it now possible that the Republicans will triumph in November, but worse yet, a Reagan conservative is waiting in the wings (win or lose)! How could John McCain be so stupid? 

Clearly Governor Palin had to be driven off the McCain ticket. She and her family had to be destroyed. And that’s exactly what they tried to do for a few furious days.

It was a high risk gambit, because to fail would be to lose further credibility with regard to any semblance of objectivity. Throwing caution and common sense to the wind, they went all out, but they forgot several things.

First, Americans cherish fairness above almost anything else and their low level attacks were anything but even handed and fair.
Second, it’s not the 1940’s, 1950’s or even the 1970’s anymore. The Eastern liberal establishment no longer has the power to act as "king maker" when it comes to choosing the nominee of the Republican Party. The mainstream news media no longer has a stranglehold on the news. That monopoly was broken long ago by talk radio, by the Internet, by FOX News, and by independent minded newspapers like The Washington Times. The mainstream media no longer has the ability to limit the American public to hearing only one side of the story.

So they lost. They lost big time. As a result their readership will continue to decline, viewer numbers will continue to drop, and their influence will continue to wane. The power of the so-called "mainstream media" has hit the skids.

Their anti-Sarah Palin gambit backfired. Ironically, their unfair attacks have offended fair-minded Americans and unified the Republican Party, thus boosting the chances of the McCain-Palin ticket winning in November.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Obama Nomination: An American Triumph

    The Obama Nomination: An American Triumph

The nomination of Barak Obama was indeed an American triumph, a triumph over racism as a collective ill of our society. And, yes, it was a special triumph for the Democratic Party who took the lead in fighting for equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their race, in the 1940s. I can’t imagine that it will be too long before a talented and qualified African-American becomes the Presidential nominee of the Republican Party. We are indeed blessed to have two parties, both Republicans and Democrats, who oppose and detest racism in America. The Republicans may be late to the cause, but today they are just as ardent, from the precinct to the White House, in their rejection of racism. The fact is that over the past 30 years, both have led the way by nominating qualified candidates to major political positions, from the Secretary of State to the Supreme Court Justices. While the parties advocate different solutions to the major issues of our day, including those that affect minorities and black Americans in particular, racism is simply not tolerated within either party.

Senator Barak Obama became the Democratic nominee because he was the first choice of Democrats, black and white, on the issues they support, because of "Clinton fatigue," and not, one would hope, because he was black. I include the latter because to oppose or support someone simply on the basis of race is the very definition of racism.

Now, let us also hope that those in the news media will not dishonor Senator Obama by suggesting that opposition to the Senator is based on racism. To portray those who oppose the election of Barak Obama because they disagree with him on the issues or are concerned about his character or background, epitomizes the racism that America needs to put behind us. In fact, using race in any way to gain political advantage is not only cynical, but detestable, and detrimental to our nation.

Senator Obama is an American and to treat him fairly and honestly, as I believe the Democrats did in their primary process, his positions, his record, and his choice of confidants become fair game, just as they are for John McCain.

What is racism? It is, of course, hatred or dislike of another person, simply on the basis of race. It is also affection or support for anyone on the basis of race. Has racism been eliminated from our society? That is, of course, an uninformed question, to put it gently. Racism is a sin, just like stealing, jealousy, dishonoring your parents, adultery, lying, putting other things before God, or any of the other sins enumerated in the Ten Commandments. 

Are you a sinner? Am I a sinner? Of course, it is the nature of the human condition. Only a fool would assert that he or she is without sin. As it says in the Bible, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8). Accordingly, hatred (racism), or lying, or stealing, or jealousy, or dishonoring God will never be eliminated as long as the sun comes up in the morning. Those who endeavor to create perfect societies, like the Communists do, are always doomed to create earthly hells.

Racism will regrettably continue to exist in isolated pockets and among individuals in our land (and throughout the world), but thankfully, it has long since ceased to exist as a consensus among any large number of Americans. This is the 21st century, not the 1940s, or 50s, or 60s, or even 70s. The Robert Byrd’s of our society have seen the error of their ways, as have the noblesse oblige Republicans like George Bush ’41 who practiced "soft" racism with his paternalistic approach to African-Americans. Apparently the senior Bush had his epiphany as Vice-President under Ronald Reagan, from whom he learned to honor and respect African-Americans as equals, not as a group of Americans who were inferior in any respect. 

Ronald Reagan was absolutely uncompromising in his intolerance of intolerance. As a young man, Ronald Reagan considered his African-American friends as equals. When Reagan was participating in sports and local hotels wouldn’t take in African-Americans, he refused to stay at the hotel himself. This was consistent with his support of the critical civil rights struggles of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Throughout his life, Ronald Reagan displayed his total commitment to equal rights and equal respect for all Americans, and this served as an inspiration to all around him to do the same, including George Bush ’41.
So, yes, the nomination of Barak Obama was indeed a triumph for the Democratic Party and for all Americans. Three cheers for the United States! Hip, hip, hooray! Well done, Uncle Sam!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin—A Great Choice

Governor Sarah Palin—A Great Choice
Congratulations to John McCain on making a truly great choice for his Vice-Presidential running mate. A great choice not because Sarah Palin is a woman, but because she brings something to the race that none of the other three candidates, Obama, Biden, or McCain brings—an understanding of the proper role of government in a free society. That understanding is why millions of conservatives across our land have now gotten on board the McCain campaign. Without their support, their enthusiasm, and their dollars, the McCain campaign was almost certainly doomed to failure—as were the campaigns of liberal Republicans like Dewey, Ford, and Bush ’41. Because Governor Sarah Palin is on the ticket, the Republicans now have an excellent opportunity to win the White House in 2008.

I do believe that life experience is important for the person who serves as President of the United States. It is a serious weakness of Barak Obama. And while I might wish that Sarah Palin had more experience, it is accurate and fair to point out that she has more political executive experience than Obama, Biden, and McCain combined! And remember, Sarah Palin is number two on the GOP ticket, not number one like Senator Obama.

The fact is that the US Senate is not a good training ground for serving as President of the United States. It is a debating society. There are no executive decisions made as a Senator or state representative. With all due respect, Senator Biden is a 36-year incumbent and a Washington insider nonpareil. Senator Obama’s background is as a junior legislator with a far left voting record and questionable relationships with radicals and corrupt machine politicians in Chicago. Senator McCain is a war hero, but his record as a Congressman and Senator provide no confidence that he has any deep understanding of the foundations of a free society.

What are those foundations that Sarah Palin has such a good grasp on? It is the same understanding that our founders had when they carefully formed a new kind of government, one that is to serve the people, not rule over them. They understood the frail, imperfect nature of the human state. As observers of history, they saw that whenever a government became powerful, it always trampled on the rights of its citizens to the sole benefit of those in power. They understood that our republic would survive as a free society only if we were a government of laws, not of men. 

They wrote the Constitution to protect American citizens from government abuse, not to create a government that would do everything for its citizens. They knew that the path of big, powerful government always leads to despotism. Through the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they tried to limit government’s responsibilities to provide for the common defense, provide equal justice, and maintain internal order. Their goal was that future generations of Americans would live in freedom.
It is important to note that the founders failed miserably in regard to slavery. It was not, however, a failure to correctly understand the danger of a big, powerful government, but rather their tragic failure to recognize African-Americans as human beings, as citizens. Thomas Jefferson reputedly called slavery the fatal flaw of the Constitution. If he said that, he was absolutely right. Slavery is the worst human condition. It happened then and continues today because of the power of unfettered and all-powerful government to advance misguided and unjust causes when there is no consensus of virtue among its citizenry.

The founders understood that in order to keep our country as a free society, virtue had to exist as a consensus of its citizens. They did not want a state church to exist, but they did want to encourage a respect for Judeo-Christian virtues among the citizens of our land. They encouraged attendance at Christian churches and Jewish synagogues. They knew that laws alone would not keep our land from deteriorating into chaos if virtue did not exist as a common attribute of our citizens.

It is this understanding that Governor Sarah Palin brings to the 2008 race for the White House. She has a sound, Constitutional philosophy of government that was heretofore absent among the candidates for President and Vice-President. That is not to say that the candidates are not well-intended, but rather that they do not have a sound, coherent philosophy based on an accurate understanding of human nature and the intent of our founders as expressed in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Of course, Governor Palin also brings great personal character—kindness, toughness, respect, honesty, decision making ability, and great personal integrity to the McCain ticket. Imagine a woman who fought and overcame the "old boy" network in her own party by beating the incumbent Republican Governor and then going on to victory over a strong Democratic candidate for Governor. Imagine a crusader who rooted out corruption in her own party against tremendous opposition. Imagine the love and kindness of a mother who welcomed a Down syndrome child into her life and home as a blessing from God. Imagine a competitor who not only was runner-up for Miss Alaska, but also a member of a high school basketball team that won their state championship. Imagine a Mayor and a Governor who vetoed multiple tax increases. Imagine a Governor who returned excess revenues to the taxpayers instead of spending it on unnecessary projects and programs. Imagine an incumbent Governor who has an 80% approval rating from the citizens of her state. Imagine a Vice-Presidential candidate that truly understands the foundations of a free society. 

If you can imagine all of this you can begin to understand why Governor Sarah Palin is such a great choice to serve as John McCain’s running mate!