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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Over the Cliff

One of the late Jack Kemp's axioms (and a favorite of mine) was, "When you tax something you get less of it, and when you subsidize something, you get more of it."  It's so simple, yet so true.  It is one of those universal axioms that fit every circumstance I can think of.  If you raise taxes on any goods or service, it becomes less attractive to the buyer and thus you get less of it.  If you subsidize any commodity or service or any personal practice, you get more of it.

You undoubtedly read in this morning's paper about the fiscal crisis or you heard about it over the television or on the internet.  It's being called the "Fiscal Cliff" by the mainstream media.  What is the so-called Fiscal Cliff?  It's a combination of what has been called "Taxmageddon" by members of Congress—the expiration of the Bush tax cuts (which fall primarily on the middle class) and the trillion dollar implementation of Obamacare.

Taxmageddon has been described by the Heritage Foundation this way…

  • Unprecedented Tax Hike For 2013: Starting January 1, 2013, Americans will face a $494 billion tax increase, the highest ever in one year. Obamacare's tax increase over 10 years barely edges ahead of Taxmageddon at $502 billion. The average American household would see its taxes rise by $3,800 in 2013 alone. And this is just for one year. Taxpayers would see even higher tax hikes in succeeding years.
  • Expiring Tax Cuts and Obamacare's New Taxes: Almost 34% of the tax increases from Taxmageddon come from the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Another 25% comes from the expiration of the payroll tax cut. Most of the remaining increases come from Obamacare, notably from the start of the hospital insurance 3.8% surtax on all forms of income over $250,000.
  • Taxmageddon Hits the Middle Class: Taxmageddon falls primarily on middle- and low-income Americans. That's because 60 percent of the Bush tax cuts went to middle and low-income taxpayers. The expiration of the patch on the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will cause these taxpayers to pay a tax they were never supposed to be hit with, and the expiration of the payroll tax cut is a tax hike almost exclusively on middle- and low-income families. That's just the direct impact. Americans at all income levels will feel the pain of Taxmageddon because it will slow job creation and wage growth.

If Taxmageddon weren't enough, the Budget Control Act of 2011 will also go into effect on January 1, 2013.  What are the implications of the Budget Control Act and how did it come about?

More than 1,000 government programs - including the defense budget and Medicare will be cut dramatically.  The defense budget will be effectively gutted, leaving the United States in a very precarious situation in an increasingly dangerous world.  On the positive side, the Budget Control Act will cut the annual operating deficit of the federal government in half.

How did Congress agree to such a potentially disastrous piece of legislation?  It was simply Congress (House and Senate) doing what they do best—kicking the can down the road.  It was also the result of the Democrats putting their hard line leftists the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, a super committee of the Senate and House charged with the responsibility of coming up with a compromise that would bring the budget into balance.  The Committee consisted of 12 members, six Republicans and six Democrats, six from the House and six from the Senate. 

The committee was given the responsibility of coming up with a deficit reduction plan that would keep the government from defaulting on its debts.  The recommendation of the committee was to have been voted up or down by a simple vote of the House and Senate (without any amendments).  It was the responsibility of this super committee to cut a minimum of $1.5 trillion over the coming 10 years.  If the super committee failed to act, "sequestration" i.e. across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion would automatically take place, including major cuts to Medicare and to the Department of Defense.  The Democrats stacked their super committee picks with hard line leftists—Senators Patty Murray and John Kerry with Max Bacus thrown in for good measure.  On the House side the Democrats picked three radicals—Xavier Becerra, Jim Clyburn, and Chris Van Hollen, perhaps the most partisan member of Congress.  For their part, the Republicans picked Senators John Kyl, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey.  On the House side the Republicans picked Representatives Jeb Hensarling, Fred Upton, and Dave Camp.  While the Republicans excluded Tea Party Congressman and Senators in favor of moderates (with the notable exception of Pat Toomey), the Democrats picked leftwing ideologues.  On November 21, the committee concluded "After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline."  There was no surprise in the outcome.  Essentially the Democrats would not agree to any specifically mandated cuts in spending, only promises of future cuts, while insisting on raising taxes.

Accordingly, the United States now faces a "fiscal cliff" that will, drive the nation into another recession, or frankly, into a depression.  The Democrats of 2012 are following the same recipe that was undertaken by the Democrats of the 1930's under the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt, redistributing income from rich to the poor.  But in the process, they will kill off the goose (free enterprise) that laid the golden egg (prosperity).

It is a continuation of the Marxist class warfare campaign waged by President Obama in the recent election.  Karl Marx said, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."  The modern version according to Barack Obama might be stated this way "Tax the rich to give to the poor."  There is no difference in intent or outcome.

The only problem with the Marx-Obama approach to handling the economy is that it doesn't work.  It has never worked.  Redistribution of income through the mechanism of socialism always ends the same way—in disaster.  It endeavors to force every person into the same mold, with each receiving the same income, the same reward (except for the political ruling class, the apparatchiks) no matter who works harder, who works smarter, who innovates, who takes risks, etc.

In reality, socialism simply freezes all advancement, all innovation, all progress.  It sacrifices freedom and progress on the altar of equality, and in the end equality doesn't exist either.  Sadly, President Obama and his cohorts in Congress either do not care about the consequences, or they do not understand the consequences.  The politics of greed, jealousy, and envy always lead a nation to economic collapse.

So here we are, facing Taxmagedden and a Fiscal Cliff.  Obama thinks the solution is to tax the rich, which is anyone who earns more than $250,000 per year.  But Jack Kemp's axiom always holds true.  A huge percentage of the folks who make more than $250,000 per year are small businessmen who operate subchapter S corporations, i.e. all expenses and revenue are passed through to the business owner.  The inevitable outcome of taxing these folks is that there will be less of them.  Many will simply go out of business and when they do so, so will the jobs they provide.  This group of business owners employ, in aggregate, more people than any other segment of the American economy.  They are the absolute worst group of people to tax at this critical time.  Yet, because of greed, envy, and petty jealously that's exactly what Obama plans to do and I fully expect him to be successful.

What makes this even more foolish is that the amount of revenues this punitive tax will produce to reduce the deficit is miniscule.  It compares to a homeowner seeing his house on fire and thinking he can simply spit on it and put it out.  But, frankly, that's not the reason for the tax.  The reason is to punish men and women who President Obama and his cronies think are greedy.

On top of this tax burden, the average taxpayer will suffer from a trillion dollar tax imposed by Obamacare, a house of horrors that will destroy the greatest medical care in the history of the world.  Today your chance of surviving cancer is greater than in any other nation in the world, but don't expect that to last for long.  The United States of America drives all innovation and research in medical care for the world, yet we are about to freeze it in place through a socialized scheme concocted by far left radicals.

The left only has one problem.  Everything they are proposing and everything they have enacted is financially unsustainable.  It will collapse of its own weight.  The question that remains is whether it will be replaced by freedom or by tyranny.  Socialism and freedom are incompatible. 

As I have said before, America has seen and overcome darker days.  I firmly believe that we will overcome this folly too.  The common sense of the American people will triumph.  The left has little to crow about in regard to the last election.  The result is that they held on to the White House by the skin of their teeth.  They were, in the President's words, shellacked in 2010 and they did not recover from that shellacking in 2012. 

Not only did the GOP add to their count of governors in 2012 and hold on to nearly all their gains in the House and in state legislatures, they also added to the "Demint" caucus in the U.S. Senate with the election of Ted Cruz from Texas (replacing a moderate) and Deb Fischer of Nebraska (who replaced Ben "Cornhusker Payoff" Nelson).  Do not underestimate the impact these dedicated and principled conservatives will have on the Republican Party and in the US Senate.

As Abraham Lincoln said, "You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."  Obama fooled too many Americans in 2012 and he had the luxury of running against a candidate who would not defend his own record and whose conservative principles were skin deep.  The next time around, by God's grace, we will run a true conservative, with bone deep principles who will route the left.

The off year elections in Virginia and New Jersey next year will give us a good indication of the temperature of the voters.  If the Republicans run strong conservative candidates and they win, it will be a good sign for 2014.  And, of course, the results of the 2014 elections will signal whether or not the GOP has regained its political footing. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks to God

As if everything must be God-free and secularized, the modern version of Thanksgiving being taught to our children in school is about the Pilgrims thanking the Indians (native Americans) for their survival.  Gone is the truth that the Pilgrims held a Thanksgiving celebration to thank the God of the Bible for their bountiful harvest.  It's not that the Pilgrims did not especially appreciate and thank Squanto, a member of the Patuxet band of the Wampanoag tribe, for all they learned from him about harvesting crustaceans, success with crops and other practical living skills.  In fact, his guidance proved so indispensable to them that Plymouth Governor William Bradford was moved to declare him a "special instrument sent of God for [their] good."  In fact, so close was their relationship that Squanto was baptized into the Christian faith.

This practice of giving thanks to God for his providence and his guidance was repeated throughout American history.  In fact, when Columbus first landed in the New World, his first act was to kneel and give thanks to God for their safe journey.  The first recorded day of thanksgiving in America was in what is now St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565.  The first celebration of thanksgiving in Virginia was held in 1620 about 20 miles north of Jamestown.  Its purpose was "giving thanks to God."  The Pilgrim Thanksgiving which receives the most publicity was celebrated in the autumn of 1621.  It is from this particular celebration that the tradition of eating turkey on that day comes.

Pilgrim leader, Edward Winslow wrote this about the first Thanksgiving (in modern English)…

"…our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

On June 1, 1774, Thomas Jefferson introduced a resolution into the Virginia House of Burgesses, calling for a day of fasting and prayer.  It read in part…

"Being deeply impressed with apprehension of the great dangers, to be derived to British America, from the hostile Invasion of the City of Boston, in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts bay, whose commerce and harbor are, on the first Day of June next, to be stopped by an Armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House as a day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, devoutly to implore the divine interposition, for averting the heavy Calamity which threatens destruction to our Civil Rights, and the Evils of civil War; to give us one heart and one Mind firmly to oppose, by all just and proper means, every injury to American Rights; and that the Minds of his Majesty and his Parliament, may be inspired from above with Wisdom, Moderation, and Justice, to remove from the loyal People of America all cause of danger, from a continued pursuit of Measures, pregnant with their ruin."

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued the following Proclamation of Thanksgiving…

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and…for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. …and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions…To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

On October 3, 1863, in the midst of a terrible civil war, President Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation which reads in part…

"To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt included in his proclamation the following words…

"…Americans have thanked God for their blessings. In our deepest natures, in our very souls, we…turn to God in time of trouble and in time of happiness. 'In God We Trust.'

On October 27, 1961, President John F. Kennedy began his Thanksgiving Proclamation in this way…

"More than three centuries ago, the Pilgrims, after a year of hardship and peril, humbly and reverently set aside a special day upon which to give thanks to God for their preservation and for the good harvest from the virgin soil upon which they had labored. Grave and unknown dangers remained. Yet by their faith and by their toil they had survived the rigors of the harsh New England winter. Hence they paused in their labors to give thanks for the blessings that had been bestowed upon them by Divine Providence."

In his first Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Ronald Reagan wrote…

"Searching our hearts, we should ask what we can do as individuals to demonstrate our gratitude to God for all He has done. Such reflection can only add to the significance of this precious day of remembrance. Let us recommit ourselves to that devotion to God and family that has played such an important role in making this a great Nation, and which will be needed as a source of strength if we are to remain a great people.

President Bill Clinton's 1997 Thanksgiving Proclamation began this way…

"Once again, millions of us will gather with family and friends to give thanks to God for the many blessings that He has bestowed upon us."

All of our Presidents have included references to God and giving thanks to God in their Thanksgiving Proclamations right up until today.  That is as it should be considering that God is the author of our freedom and has watched over our nation since its founding.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday.  It is an expression of a nation founded by men of faith who understood that their every need was in the hands of the almighty God who created the heavens and the earth.  Every attribute we were born with—our appearance, our innate abilities, our aptitudes, our personality, our intelligence—all are gifts from God.  We are what we are because God created us this way.

Sadly, some have sought to secularize Thanksgiving and to erase our Christian heritage from our textbooks.  But God cannot be erased.  He is the author of life and of freedom.  He is the source of all wisdom.  He is the God of our Fathers.

These are difficult times for America; but, throughout our history there have been many other dark times.  The Pilgrims experienced dreadfully difficult times during which many lost their lives.  The Founders risked having their neck in a noose if they failed to secure American freedom.  The bloody civil war cost hundreds of thousands of lives in North and South.  Reoccurring wars, from the time of the Revolution up through World War I and II and continuing on today, place our nation in a perilous position.  Threats external and internal threaten to destroy the nation created by our Founders, yet by the grace, mercy and blessing of God, we continue.

Ironically, the hymn most associated with Thanksgiving is Come, Ye Thankful People Come, written by the Englishman Henry "Dean" Alford in 1844.  Its words are truly inspiring…

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;

All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;

Come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God's own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;

Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.

First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;

Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;

From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,

Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;

But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;

Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,

There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;

Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

As we celebrate another Thanksgiving, it is my hope that you and all Americans will pause to give thanks to God for all our blessings, especially the blessing of liberty.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Election

Well, I hereby resign as a prognosticator of any election results.  My forecast (as well as those of Michael Barone and Dick Morris) was as far away from being accurate as the North is from the South.  I did not see the outcome of the presidential race coming. 

Folks, we still have a very divided nation and frankly, some very weird election results.  The popular vote count as of November 7, 2012 was Obama 58,720,700 (50.1%) to Romney 56,145,950 (48.4%).  Obama was way down from his 2008 vote count of 69,456,897 and Romney was way down from John McCain's total 2008 vote count of 59,934,814.  In fact, as you can see, had Romney gotten as many votes as John McCain, he would have won the popular vote. 

The US House of Representatives is virtually unchanged with the Republicans guaranteed a 35 to 40 seat majority.  The Republicans slipped in the Senate, where the Democrats now have a 10 seat majority.  In the state house races, the Republicans have reached a milestone.  The GOP now has 30 out of 50 state governors!  This is a very big and a very important accomplishment.

The weirdness did not end there.  In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker added enough seats in the State House of Representatives to regain a majority there.  Reporting on the results of state legislature races in other states is unavailable at this time.  However, the mixed results clearly indicate that the United States is a very divided nation.

What the results do not show is that the conservative principles of limited government, a balanced budget, and adherence to the Constitution are not a winning political message.  Republican moderates like Mitt Romney will always struggle in a national election.  The last Republican to win a large majority was Ronald Reagan, who not only won convincingly in 1980, but overwhelmingly in 1984.  Reagan didn't couch his conservative views in muddled words. 

The conservative message is not an amalgamation of messages, some for one special interest group, another for a different interest group.  It is one message for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnic background, or geography.  It is a simple message.  We believe in freedom and opportunity for all Americans.  We don't believe in special privileges for one group over another.  We don't believe that those in government can or should pick winners and losers in the marketplace.  We don't want government to run our lives by telling us through regulations or taxes what kind of car to drive, what kind of light bulb to buy, how electricity is to be generated, or what size Coke we can drink.  That's not freedom, that's a loss of freedom.

Conservatives do not believe that Americans are stupid and need to be told how to live their lives, how to spend their money, or how to raise their children.  We believe that Americans are smart enough to make their own choices when it comes to health care, toilet paper, bananas, clothing, roller skates, and everything else in their lives. 

If you love nanny government and are willing to accept less freedom, please move to one of the soft tyranny socialist states of Europe.  Conservatives have the quaint idea that the United States Constitution means exactly what it says.  If you don't like it, don't pretend it's some sort of "living document" that can be interpreted in any way you like.  If you want to change it, then go through the process stipulated by the Constitution to do so.  If you can't make that work, don't cheat and fabricate some sort of interpretation that would cause the Founders to roll over in their graves.

As conservatives, we believe that one of the primary roles of the president is to keep us safe and to preserve our national sovereignty.  That role is specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  We expect our nation to be strong enough militarily to scare off any threat from abroad.  We don't like or support military adventurism, but that doesn't mean we want to sacrifice our military strength.  The Reagan doctrine was peace through strength.  That is the only way to peace.

Americans are historically a moral people.  As conservatives, we understand and believe what Founder John Adams said…

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

That same sentiment was echoed by Benjamin Franklin…

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

And by Patrick Henry…

"Bad men cannot make good citizens.  It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.  A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.  No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."

And finally, George Washington…

"Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.  The general government… can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppressive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people."

Of course, the religion that all of these men were referring to was the Christian religion.  Their heritage and ours is that of the Pilgrims who came to America for the purpose of religious freedom and who strove to create "a shining city on a hill."

The essential understanding of our Founding Fathers was of human nature.  They understood that man by nature is sinful.  It is only when he becomes a forgiven child of God that he can do good works and love his neighbor.  This understanding of human nature is the cornerstone of all of our founding documents. 

The Founders made every effort to curb the power of men so that the citizens of America could live in freedom.  They created a government of checks and balances, and they intentionally limited the power of government over its citizens.  They understood that freedom can only exist when men (and women) exercise self-restraint.  And they knew that self-restraint springs from faith in God.  Freedom is a product of faith.  It is not itself a virtue, it is an outgrowth of a virtuous society.

The challenge for you and I today is not to win the next election.  It is to promote and encourage spiritual renewal in our land—without spiritual renewal, virtue dies, and with it, our freedom.

This is not the darkest hour of our Republic.  To believe that would be very arrogant.

The darkest hour undoubtedly existed at the very foundation point of our nation.  When the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence and pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the new nation, they knew that they were signing their own death warrant.  At that instant they went from being loyal English citizens, to being traitors.  It was not something they did lightly, and the price they paid was heavy.

At Valley Forge, George Washington saw the chance for victory slipping away.  All seemed lost.  His troops were starving, enlistments were ending, desertion was rampant, shelter and clothing were practically non-existent that brutal winter.  Meanwhile, the British were well-fed, well-clothed, and sleeping comfortably in warm beds. 

If Washington failed, he would hang.  So would the others.

Washington versus what was then the world's most powerful army was like Gideon versus the Midianites.  There was really no logical chance that he could be successful.

This is how the website, describes the situation and what Washington decided to do…

"During the night of December 25, Washington led his troops across the ice-swollen Delaware about 9 miles north of Trenton.  The weather was horrendous and the river treacherous.  Raging winds combined with snow, sleet and rain to produce almost impossible conditions.  To add to the difficulties, a significant number of Washington's force marched through the snow without shoes.

The next morning they attacked to the south, taking the Hessian garrison by surprise and over-running the town.  After fierce fighting, and the loss of their commander, the Hessians surrendered.

Washington's victory was complete but his situation precarious.  The violent weather continued - making a strike towards Princeton problematic. Washington and his commanding officers decided to retrace their steps across the Delaware taking their Hessian prisoners with them.

The news of the American victory spread rapidly through the colonies reinvigorating the failing spirit of the Revolution.  The battle's outcome also gave Washington and his officers the confidence to mount another campaign. On December 30 they again crossed the Delaware, attacked and won another victory at Trenton on January 2, and then pushed on to Princeton defeating the British there on January 3.

Although not apparent at the time, these battles were a decisive turning point in the Revolution.  The victories pulled the languishing Revolution out of the depths of despair, galvanized colonial support, shocked the British and convinced potential allies such as France, Holland and Spain, that the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with."

God was certainly with Washington.  He will be with us if we continue the fight.

Millions of babies have been murdered.  Immorality is broadcast to millions each night over our televisions.  God's standards of decent behavior have been replaced by human cravings for immoral behavior.  Today's America is not the America of our Founders or the America of just a few decades ago.  It is not the America that you and I grew up in.

But God doesn't care about the odds.  All he cares about is our faithfulness to him.

We are more than a remnant.  Each year our nation sends out more than 140,000 missionaries around the globe.  We publish more Bibles, more religious tracts, and broadcast the Christian message to millions each week.  A higher percent of Americans go to church each week than in any other industrialized nation in the world.  God is not dead.

God will not abandon us if we place our trust in Him.  He still governs the course of all nations (Psalms 47:8), including ours.  If we have the faith of our Fathers, we will preserve the Republic.

May God continue to bless the United States of America!