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Friday, July 30, 2010

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace 

Almost everyone is familiar with the song Amazing Grace, the wonderful old hymn written by John Newton.  What many folks don’t know is that John Newton was the captain of a ship that transported slaves from Africa to the British West Indies.  He was a hard man, even at a young age, but by the amazing grace of God, he became a contrite, repentant sinner.  He went on to become a well known pastor to, among others, William Wilberforce, the great Member of Parliament who God used to change 18th century England from a miserable, barbaric state to a civilized nation dependent on God.  Among his many endeavors and achievements was his success in leading a campaign that ended the British slave trade and led to emancipation of all slaves in the British Empire.  His was the kind of Christian leadership this nation dearly needs today.

I knew just a little bit about Wilberforce after watching the movie, Amazing Grace (watch movie trailer at  I was interested in learning more about William Wilberforce, so I read the book by the same name, written by Eric Metaxas.  This book provides a more in-depth understanding of William Wilberforce, his life, his motivation, and his endeavors.  It also serves to give the reader a better understanding of the situation in England in the 18th century.  In fact, I found Amazing Grace to be a very encouraging book.  I did not previously realize just how depraved and low British society (both the rich and poor) had sunk by the time Wilberforce and his good friend, William Pitt (the younger) came to power.  England was truly a mean, ugly society that William Wilberforce was born into in 1759.  But I don’t want to tell the entire story, just encourage you to read Amazing Grace. 

Like any book, it’s not without its faults and shortcomings.  The author, especially about halfway into the book, strays from the story and adds a few of his own biases and personal opinions, but in spite of that, this book is an important read.  If it affects you as it did me, you’ll come away encouraged by what my friend calls “Irish Sympathy.”  He defines “Irish Sympathy” as being encouraged when you realize that others are facing greater problems and in worse shape than you are.  Indeed 18th century England certainly qualifies as a situation much, much worse than we are facing today.  With the hand of God behind us, we can accomplish anything. 
The book, Amazing Grace, is available in paperback (HarperOne, an imprint of Harper Collins) via  And, if you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly encourage you to view it.  It’s as powerful and inspiring as the book.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Post Office is Insolvent

The Post Office is Insolvent 

Government monopolies are always a disaster.  The United States Postal Service is one of the best examples.  The following article, written by my good friend, Craig Huey, spells out the problem and the solution.  It’s worth reading.

The biggest threat to direct mail: The U.S. Postal Service
Want to make direct mail more profitable? Start with postal reform

by Craig A. Huey

Direct mail’s greatest danger is not the advent of email, websites, paid search or banner ads. Because direct mail in an online world works—and it works well. In fact, integrating other media helps ensure direct mail response.

No, direct mail’s greatest danger is the government-protected monopoly status of the United States Postal Service (USPS). This creates bureaucratic inefficiencies and the ever-increasing price hikes.
    This has resulted in a $3.8 billion net operating loss which includes massive reductions in hours and other cuts. And according to the USPS itself, it expects a $7 billion loss in 2011.

Still, despite this failed business model, the U.S. Postal Service Governors on July 6, 2010 announced that they will again INCREASE postal rates. First-Class stamps increasing 2 cents to 46 cents. Postcards increasing 2 cents to 30 cents. And most important of all is the 23.3% average increase for standard parcels and non-flat machineable pieces. 

Each time USPS invokes a rate hike, marginal mailers—in other words, small businesses—are forced to find alternative marketing methods and larger mailers have to cut back.

That in turn adds to the death spiral that USPS has been caught in…and it also means a grim future for thousands of companies and millions of jobs for marketers, retailers and business owners.

Here’s the problem: Although it is not funded by taxpayer dollars, USPS is subject to congressional oversight. Unlike other businesses that constantly adapt to the changing marketplace, USPS is not free to make changes to its business model at will. It must have congressional approval. And, its monopoly protection has prevented competition that would drive down prices and create incentives for good service and cost containment.

Let’s take a look at the recent history of the beleaguered USPS…and what its regulation means for the future of direct mail.

GAO: “Not a viable business model”

An April 2010 report from the U. S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) declared: “USPS’s business model is not viable due to USPS’s inability to reduce costs sufficiently in response to continuing mail volume and revenue declines.”

That echoed what we’ve already known for decades—or at least since the release of the stern 1988 CATO Institute report, The Slow Death of the U.S. Postal Service. Even then it was clear that mail service is “getting slower, more expensive and less reliable,” with First Class Mail® moving 15% slower than it did in 1969. 1

1U.S. Postal Service, Origin-Destination Quarterly Statistical Report, FY 1988, Quarter 1, p. 7.

That slow death has hastened over the last 3 fiscal years, as mail volume declined 36 billion pieces from 2007–2009. For the fiscal year 2008–2009, the postal service reported a crushing $3.8 billion net operating loss. The 6 months that followed ended in a $1.9 billion net loss.

In total, USPS has a $13.2 billion debt—and it’s on track to lose another $7 billion this fiscal year.

Some of the mail decline is due to the recession, the advent of online banking and other electronic forms of communication. But that’s only part of the story…

Crushing for business: Repeated postage hikes

Facing dire deficits and drops in mail volume, postage rates climbed an average of across all classes of mail of 5.4% in 2006, 7.6% in 2007, 2.9% in 2008 and most recently 3.8% in May 2009. This has been one blow after another to small businesses and direct marketers. Catalogers saw a 2.3% increase in 2009. But those who ship small parcels were the hardest hit with a whopping 16% rate increase.

You see, 150 billion pieces of mail delivered by USPS in 2009 were from businesses. So instead of treating these mailers like loyal customers, the USPS punishes them with higher prices…as though they were at fault for the post office’s debts.

The rate hikes kept coming despite the post office’s hit-or-miss customer service and its unreliable delivery. You just never know whether your letter or package is going to arrive in one piece—or if it will arrive at all. The fact is, that for standard class mail 5% to 15% of your mailing never reaches its intended destination!

An outrageously expensive workforce

The GAO report also reveals that labor makes up a full 80% of USPS’s cost structure. Nearly 85% of its workforce is covered by collective bargaining agreements. The average postal employee earns an impressive $83,000 a year in total compensation—and many are protected by “no layoff” agreements. And, that does not take into account health and pension benefits

In addition, USPS covers a higher proportion of employee healthcare premiums and life insurance than other federal agencies do. But right now, USPS is about $90 billion short on its required retiree health benefit payments.

Not to mention that it expects to pay out some 5.8 billion in pension benefits between 2007 and 2016.

Despite these exceptional compensation packages, the reputation of the USPS workforce leaves much to be desired.

There are countless tales of mail delivered to the wrong address and mail lost en route. I have friends in Pennsylvania who once pulled a mangled magazine out of their box and found a letter tucked inside that was intended for someone in Arizona. But the letter had never even made it through the stamp-cancelling machine before it was lost between the pages of the torn magazine. 

To make matters worse, mail distribution centers and individual carriers have been caught destroying mail. For example...

“Mailman Steve” sparks an anti-mail movement

Friendly and personable “Mailman Steve” is a favorite postal worker among residents of Apex, North Carolina, just outside of Raleigh—but direct marketers don’t share the sentiment.

The letter carrier had taken it upon himself to censor out advertising mail because he reportedly was having trouble carrying and delivering it all. Over the span of 7 years, 58-year-old Steve Padgett of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) failed to deliver hundreds of thousands of direct mail pieces.

Many citizens have spoken out in defense of Mailman Steve, commending his actions. But tampering with the mail is a federal offense that can result in a $250,000 fine and 5 years of jail time. However, Padgett received only a $3,000 fine and 500 hours of community service.

Mailman Steve not only wasted millions of dollars of direct marketers’ money, he also skewed response rates for all of the affected marketers…and further jeopardized the postal service’s reputation.

That’s not too smart for an organization that counts on direct marketers for the lion’s share of its revenue.

Another story surfaced in Connecticut, where efforts to cut costs was redirecting a deluge of mail from one post office to another. Overwhelmed postal workers decided to hide mail in closets and unused rooms at their facility. A rep for the postal workers’ union told the press that they were just pushing the mail aside for the next day, but who can really be sure.

We need reform…and we need it now

The only solution is to free the postal service from government control and allow competition. Because when private carriers compete, everybody wins. Services will improve, costs will go down and the postal service will find a way to survive in a competitive economy…or it will suffer the consequences of failure.

The reality is, monopolies always do the same thing when the going gets rough: They cut services instead of improving them—because there’s no incentive to earn more business.

To start, the Postal Regulatory Commission is conducting a 6-month review to examine the impact of cutting mail delivery to 5 days a week—potentially eliminating Saturday home delivery. Studies estimate that a 5-day schedule could save from $1.9 billion to $3.5 billion a year.

Maybe that solution will work without resulting in an outraged public. But the USPS should turn their attention to where the fat really is. Shockingly enough, there are 36,000 post offices across this grand nation—more locations than Walmart, Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. There is just no need for this many locations, but the USPS doesn’t have the freedom to adjust to the market.

And the government isn’t the only roadblock: Voters and politicians raise a fuss every time U.S. Post Office closures are proposed…but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s no money to fund these unnecessary locations.

President Obama said it himself: “UPS and FedEx are doing just fine…it’s the post office that’s always having problems.”

It’s time to end the monopoly. Deregulation and privatization will greatly benefit all mail customers and ensure a bright future for direct mail—targeted, accountable advertising that really works.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Obamanomics: A Recipe for a Depression

Obamanomics:  A Recipe for a Depression 

Barack Obama wants us to believe that his policies have created an economic upturn.  He promised that his “stimulus” package would keep unemployment under 8%.  Tell that to the 10% of unemployed Americans.
Our President must have been born on opposite day, because his policies are exactly opposite of what America needs to do to return to prosperity.  His policies are a recipe for creating an economic depression that could make the Great Depression look like child’s play.
In order to turn a recession into a depression you have to first create a recession and that’s exactly what the party of Carter, Clinton, and Obama did when they passed the Community Reinvestment Act (Carter).  Then you change the act to encourage subprime loans to people who cannot afford the loans (Clinton with the help of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank), and then refuse to make changes proposed by President Bush to avert the collapse of Freddie Mac (Reid and Pelosi with the support of then Senator Obama).
President Obama is now doing his best to turn a recession created by misguided liberal policies into another economic depression.  His formula consists of liberal policies that have never worked before and are guaranteed to fail again.
1.          Spending.  Spend billions and now trillions of dollars we don’t have to on failed “stimulus” programs that only make the economy worse and that our children and grandchildren will be forced to pay.
2.          Inflation.  Create runaway inflation through more government spending of money that we have to borrow from China and other non-friendly lenders.
3.          Bailouts.  Bail out Wall Street banks with the money of hard working Americans.  Bush helped with this too, and Obama voted for it as a US Senator.
4.          Takeovers.  Without any Constitutional authority whatsoever, take over failing businesses like Chrysler and General Motors, giving half of the business to the unions who were the primary cause of the business failure in the first place.
5.          Taxes.  Raise corporate and capital gains taxes making it harder for companies to prosper and expand, and driving many of them out of business. 
6.          More Taxes.  Raise taxes on all working Americans by letting the Bush tax cuts expire.
7.          Even More Taxes.  Propose “carbon taxes” that will raise gasoline prices to European levels of $7 to $10 per gallon and drive up the cost of heating and air conditioning, all in pursuit of solving a problem that doesn’t exist, global warming.
8.          Socialist Schemes.  Instigate a massive socialized medicine program against the wishes of the American people that will cost billions and perhaps trillions of dollars more, and cause the rationing of medical services, doctor and nurse shortages, lower quality medical care, less innovation, and higher mortality rates.
9.          Regulations.  Impose massive regulations on businesses and the banking system that will further stifle economic growth.
10.      Unions.  Bail out the unions that have bankrupted states like California by sending “stimulus” money.
11.      Raises.  Increase the pay and benefits of government workers (including members of Congress) while those who create goods and services in the free market continue to suffer.
12.      Expand Government.  Hire tens of thousands of additional government employees, including 10,000 new IRS employees, to further burden the taxpayer and to hinder and destroy yet more productive jobs in the free market.
We’ve been here before, folks.  By the fall of 1932 the United States was coming out of a depression.  But it was at that point that the wild spending, government expansion, and social engineering schemes of the Roosevelt administration kicked in.  The result?  The United States was in an economic depression for eight years longer than the rest of the world.
There is only one way to get out of a recession and Ronald Reagan proved that once and for all:
1.          Reduce Government Spending.  Cut government spending 10% across the board.  This will reduce our indebtedness to non-friendly nations, spur economic growth, and stabilize the dollar.  It will also end the threat of runaway inflation.  Ronald Reagan only reduced the rate of increase (falsely reported and still recounted today as cuts), but even that sped economic recovery.
2.          Cut Taxes.  We must cut taxes across the board, stimulating economic growth and creating jobs.  It worked for Calvin Coolidge, it worked for John F. Kennedy, and it worked for Ronald Reagan (who faced much more difficult economic circumstances than this recession).  Who can forget the 22% home interest rates, 11% unemployment and 16% inflation brought on by the misguided liberal policies of Jimmy Carter?  Tax cuts not only spur economic growth, but actually increase tax revenues as they did under Ronald Reagan.
3.          Shrink Government.  Reduce the size of government across the board (except for the military and the judicial system) by 10%.  The last thing a weak economy needs is more bureaucrats harassing businesses with crippling regulations in the middle of a recession. 
4.          Enterprise Zones.  Create enterprise zones in severely depressed areas that reduce corporate taxes by 75%.
5.          End Socialist Schemes.  There is never a good time for social engineering and this is absolutely the worst time.  Americans don’t want socialized medicine in any format and Obamacare will only make health care and the economy worse for all Americans.  Free market solutions are the only approach compatible with the philosophy of our Founders and with the United States Constitution.
6.          No More Bank Bailouts.  Banks that fail through mismanagement should fail.  If there is a liquidity problem, do three things that will flood the economy with much needed capital:
A.          Suspend capital gains taxes.
B.          Declare a tax holiday on foreign earnings by American companies.
C.          Suspend corporate taxes.
7.          No More Business Bailouts.  Businesses that make bad decisions should fail.  When government interferes in the marketplace it only causes problems and hurts the economy. 
8.          No More Union Bailouts.  States that agreed to collective bargaining, like California (under Jerry Brown), need to solve their own problems by shrinking the size of government, cutting taxes, and through pension reform.
9.          End Global Warming Schemes.  Scientists (real, not political) now know that global warming and cooling is a result of a natural cycle.  Schemes based on faulty science lead to economic disasters and a loss of individual freedom. 
10.      Energy.  Create energy independence and economic growth by allowing domestic drilling for oil and gas.  Tens of thousands of jobs would be instantly created benefiting all Americans and ensuring ample supplies of low cost energy for all Americans.
11.      Power.  Allow the construction of safe, pollution free nuclear power plants, thereby creating jobs, low cost electricity, and greater energy independence.
12.      Reduce Red Tape.  Government interference by Dodd and Frank set off the banking crisis by encouraging loans to people who could not afford them.  The new banking regulations should be repealed and further deregulation of the marketplace will spur economic growth.
13.      Cut Government Pay.  Cut the pay of all government employees, including members of Congress and the White House, by 10%.  Those who are a burden on the economy as government employees should share the burden of hard economic times.  The last thing America needs is more government employees who create no consumer goods and services, but instead hinder economic growth.
The old, tired, worn out, failed policies of Franklin Roosevelt that exacerbated the economic crisis of the 1930s are not the solution.  Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan showed that prudent common sense—smaller government, lower taxes—which places its confidence in the American people is the answer to solving America’s precarious economic situation. 
Will we be able to end the misguided policies of President Obama before he successfully creates another Great Depression?  We’ll find out this November.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

America’s Highest Pollution Vehicles

America’s Highest Pollution Vehicles

Everyone wants to breathe fresh air and seeks to reduce air pollution.  And, according to government statistics, we have made great progress over the past 50 years in doing so.  The air is cleaner over America’s cities and towns than ever before and the engineers who helped achieve this through the design and construction of automobiles with low pollution exhausts are to be greatly commended.
Automobiles emit NO3 (nitrous trioxide) during acceleration, which is a pollutant.  This happens primarily when inadequate highways cause stop and go traffic.  More and better highways will reduce automobile pollution even further.  Frankly the construction of bigger, better highways that have both limited access and that provide unrestricted use will lower pollution from this source even further.
CO2 (carbon dioxide), also emitted by autos, is not a pollutant.  Although it was designated as such by the Environmental Protection Agency, there is no scientific basis for such a classification.  You and I exhale CO2, as do animals.  Trees and plants depend on CO2 to survive and grow.  It seems apparent that CO2 was classified as a pollutant simply a means to gain more power for the politicians over your life and mine.
As a sidebar, Climategate has exposed the so-called “hocky stick” graph as a fraud.  The graph purported to show an above average increase in planet temperatures coincident with the advent of the industrial age.  We now know that the numbers were fudged to intentionally create this misleading graph.  In fact, there are no objective scientific studies showing any significant increase in planet temperatures with the onset of the industrial age.  Accordingly we can now place belief in “global warming” into the same category as those who believed that the earth was flat.  For more information on this go to, to read a petition signed by more than 30,000 American engineers and scientists.  I’ll take the word of real scientists and engineers over political scientists any day.
Why then, I wonder, are we taking a big step backward in the battle against air pollution?  After the automobile, the largest source of pollution (according to the decidedly left wing Union of Concerned Scientists) is America’s coal fired electric plants.  The UOCS states on their website that coal fired power plants generate 54% of America’s electricity and are our number one polluter.  Setting aside the fact that the UOCS may intentionally overstate numbers due to their political bias, let’s assume for the moment that their numbers are accurate.  If so, it would seem to me that our goal should be to limit the use of electrical power for transportation purposes.  Duh!
So why then do our liberal friends support the use of mass transit and electric cars that derive all their power from electricity?  We already know that 54% of all our electricity comes from coal fire plants, so won’t the use of more electricity to power mass transportation and to power electric automobiles simply increase pollution?
Contrary to the propaganda, electric cars will generate far, far more pollution than any other existing automobile on the road.  It’s a fact.  How can anyone deny it?  The electricity they use will come primarily from coal fired plants.
Similarly, electric motors that drive mass transportation will also put tons of pollutants into the air since they too derive their power primarily from coal fired electric plants. 
While electric cars and mass transportation are hailed as pollution free, it’s simply untrue.  They will, in fact, receive their power from the highest polluting source in the nation, America’s coal fired plants.
Liberals may suggest that getting our electricity from coal fired power plants will soon come to an end by moving to renewable power sources.  But generating all our power from wind, waves, and the sun is, from a realistic engineering perspective, simply pie in the sky.  We can, at most, generate 20% of our electricity from these sources.  And even that will not happen overnight.  Germany has already abandoned its goal of generating 35% of its electrical needs from renewable sources.  It’s a mirage, not a real solution.
While we may achieve a breakthrough in reducing pollution from coal fired electrical generation, we can’t count on it.  But we will continue to depend on it for the near future.  Politicians and political scientists seem to think that they can legislate scientific advances.  They can’t.  When they interfere with the market place they only make matters worse.
Their next gimmick is a carbon tax.  It sounds clever, fair, and even scientific, but it’s a scam.  A carbon tax will dramatically drive up the cost of electricity and gasoline for every American.  So much for the President’s promise not to tax anyone who makes less than $250,000 a year.  A carbon tax will be a crushing blow to every American family and to our economy in general.  It will result in European style gasoline taxes of $7 to $10 per gallon.  It will be an especially devastating tax on anyone who commutes to work and it will be a financial back-breaker for young married couples who are just getting by under an already oppressive tax system.
Just as Obamacare will mean the rationing of health care services for all Americans along with less quality, less innovation, and less freedom, a carbon tax will result in higher taxes, smaller and more dangerous cars, and less freedom.
Electric cars are not a solution, they will only make air pollution worse. 
Neither is mass transportation a solution, it too will exacerbate air pollution.
Gasoline taxes (both state and federal) up until the 1970s were dedicated exclusively to highway repair and construction.  The highway trust funds provided adequate funds to make sure bridges did not collapse, that highways were maintained, and that the necessary funding was available for highway construction.  When politicians’ greed for more tax dollars overcame their common sense, the highway trust funds were busted and now the gasoline taxes you and I pay are used for general funds. 
There are three things we can do to improve transportation and increase individual freedom:
1.  Re-establish the federal and state gasoline trust funds to solve congestion and thus reduce pollution. 
2.  Drill for domestic oil in known oil reserves in Alaska, South Dakota, and numerous other states to create energy independence, reduce the price of gasoline, and thereby benefit hard working American families. 
3.  Construct nuclear power plants to further reduce pollution and make America energy independent. 
Nuclear power would also justify and encourage the building of non-government subsidized electric cars that truly would not be polluters.  And a halt in construction of taxpayer subsidized mass transportation would be a shot in the arm for an economy impaired and inhibited by government intervention.
So the next time someone hails electric cars and mass transportation as pollution free, gently and persuasively tell them the truth.  Point them to real science and to market place solutions that mean more freedom and more prosperity for every American.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Celebrating the Signing

Celebrating the Signing

Why is it that the Founders encouraged Americans to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence “with bon fires and fireworks,” instead of the date upon which the United States Constitution was ratified?  I believe it is because they understood that America’s true foundational document is not the US Constitution, but rather the Declaration of Independence that was signed on July 4, 1776.  The Constitution is the highest law of the land, but the principles upon which it was constructed have their origin in the Declaration of Independence.
In truth, King George III had himself dissolved the bond between England and the Colonies when he chose to violate the Magna Carta that was signed at Runnymede in 1215 by King John.  The Magna Carta limited the King’s power and made the rule of law superior to the whims and wishes of a King.  The Magna Carta formed the basis of rights for English citizens.  When King George III, through an act of the Parliament, imposed taxation on the Colonists without them having a say in the matter, he violated their rights as English citizens under the Magna Carta and in effect the Colonists lost their English citizenship. 
The Declaration is a marvelous and timeless document.  It establishes without equivocation the foundational principles of a free society.  Included in these principles is the acknowledgement that rights come not from government, but from God.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It was, in fact, this bold statement “that all men are created equal” that gave hope to and ultimately secured freedom for those who were enslaved at the time of the signing of the Declaration.  Clearly, the framers knew that all men (and women) are not equal in terms of God-given talents, abilities, intelligence, skills, and aspirations, but rather that each has an equal standing under God and under God’s law.  Further, that each man and woman has the right to equal justice under the law and to go as far in life as they can, in whatever direction they choose.
It is important to note that while the Signers affirmed the equal standing of all citizens under the law and their right to liberty (freedom), they also affirmed every American’s right to pursue happiness.  The Signers, most of whom were devout Christians, were well-grounded men.  They understood the shortcomings of human nature and thus they knew that government can only protect and defend the “pursuit of happiness,” not guarantee it.
Jefferson’s original draft included “censures on the English people” that included in part blaming England for the introduction of slavery into America.  Whether Jefferson was right or wrong, this admonition was deleted in order to get the Declaration passed, but it was not forgotten.  It seems inconsistent and hypocritical for slave owners to be signing a document declaring independence, personal freedom, and equal justice under the law.  But in fact, by setting forth this declaration, these slaveholders and the others who signed the Declaration established the principles under which all Americans achieved freedom.  Theirs was a personal failing, but not the greater failing of someone who misunderstands human nature and who rejects God and the laws of God. 
Unfortunately, this failing carried over to the creating of the United States Constitution itself.  However, it is worth noting that there were many prominent abolitionists among the signers of the Declaration of Independence and those who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  The most prominent of these was Ben Franklin, who as President of the Philadelphia Abolition Society, announced his intention to introduce a resolution calling for the condemnation of slavery in the Constitution.  Franklin reluctantly refrained from introducing the resolution in order to hold the shaky union of former colonies together.
It was left for other Americans, more than a century later, to fight for and secure the blessings of liberty for all Americans and to end what Jefferson is reputed to have described as “the fatal flaw of the Constitution,” the enslavement of African Americans.  It was left to Abraham Lincoln to lead the United States out of slavery. 
But back to the Declaration of Independence itself, the ending words laid the foundation of the great and good United States of America we are blessed to live in today:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have the full Power to levy War, conclude peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may or right do.—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
And what happened to the men who signed this historic and unprecedented statement of “unalienable rights” given to them by God?
Five signers were captured by the British, tortured, and executed as traitors.  Twelve had their homes burned to the ground.  Two lost sons in the war.  Nine of the 56 signers died of wounds or hardships suffered during the war.
Carter Braxton, a wealthy planter and trader, lost everything and died a pauper.  Thomas McKeam too suffered the loss of all his possessions and ended life in poverty. 
How great was their dedication to the cause of freedom?  At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., seeing that the British General Cornwallis was using the Nelson home for his headquarters, quietly urged General Washington to open fire.  Washington did so and the home was destroyed.  Thomas Nelson died bankrupt.
These farsighted men signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if captured or if the Americans lost the war.  Theirs was a very high risk gambit.  England was the most powerful nation in the world with the largest navy and army.  The American chance for success was very slim, yet these courageous men willingly signed and pledged “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to secure freedom for you and me and for all Americans that came after them.
Our Founders put their faith in God and their trust in the good judgment of their fellow citizens.  Amazingly for their time, 50 to 75 percent of the white, male citizens had the right to vote.
The Founders well understood that the greatest threat to individual freedom comes from the concentration of power into the hands of a few all powerful men.  They knew history was full of examples of dictators and kings who sought power over others and abused such power for their own gain.  They understood that there is no person or groups of persons who are benevolent and kind and would not use power to limit the freedom of others.  They understood that all men, including themselves, were corrupt sinners prone to take advantage of others.  That’s why they wanted to limit the power of those in government. 
While our generation suffers from generational arrogance, believing without any empirical evidence, that somehow we are better or smarter or wiser or kinder or more generous than previous generations, the Founders understood the terrifying nature of all powerful, centralized government.  They sought to disperse and limit power in order to maximize individual freedom.  And most important of all, they feared and trusted God as the ultimate ruler of the universe.  In fact, James Madison said, “Belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and the happiness of man, that arguments to enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources.”  And speaking of the Constitutional Convention, Madison said, “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in [the convention] a finger of that Almighty hand.”
Since the time of the American Revolution, our freedom and the founding principles have been tested and challenged time after time.  Blood was shed in 1812 as America once again fought the British.  Finally in the ugliest and nastiest inter family fight of all, the American Civil War, slavery was abolished once and for all.  There have been numerous wars and skirmishes, including all out battles for survival in World War I and II, and still today in the War on Terrorism Americans are shedding their blood and giving their lives for your freedom and mine.
As we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence this year, may we be resolved to fight for and preserve America’s founding principles whether the challenge comes from without or within.  How can we do any less than to pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to preserving freedom in our land.  God bless America!  Happy Independence Day!