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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Upside of President Obama

We are about to enter the New Year and on January 20th, President Obama becomes a lame duck President.  The 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution limits Presidents to a maximum of 10 years.  It would take another Amendment to the Constitution to repeal the 22nd Amendment (a very difficult process), so we can rest comfortably that this is indeed President Obama's last hurrah.

There's no sense in rambling on about his lack of experience, his distorted view of America, and his crabbed far left ideology.  Everyone who has any knowledge whatsoever knows what an ill prepared, ill-suited President he is. 

Moreover, we all know about his complete disregard for the principle of rule by law.  He is of the stripe of liberal left leaders who either do not understand the concept, or simply reject the idea that a government of laws is always preferable to a government of men (or women).  Having this set of mind, he does his very best to ignore the Constitution and any law with which he disagrees.  He may not be the worst rascal to inhabit the White House, but he's certainly in the top five.

All that said, let us agree that he will do further damage to the Constitution and the rule of law.  He will bypass Congress and have various bureaus and agencies simply issue decrees and edicts that Congress will not approve.  He will appoint judges that either think the Constitution says what they want it to say, or for which they have outright contempt.  And he will be abetted in his villainy by a far left media that dances when he plays the tune.

So, the question is, where do we stand politically, and are there any possibilities for gains and advances?  Surprisingly, the answer is yes to the second question.  As to where we stand politically, the landscape is not as bad as the left leaning news media would have us believe.  It certainly does not look like 2008 when the Democrats not only controlled the White House, but also had a 60% majority in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.  Furthermore, in 2008, the Democrats had a majority of governorships, a vast majority of state legislatures, and control of many more city councils and county councils than they do today.

Thanks to the watershed election of 2010, there are far more red states today than there are blue states.  Let us not forget that the 2010 election victory was not only broad, but very deep.  Even in the darkest blue states, counties, and cities, conservative, tea party Republicans were elected to office.  In some cases, it was the first election of Republicans to public office in more than 100 years, and this happened not only in the South, but also in the Midwest, the West and even some places in the East.

Today the GOP holds 30 governorships and 27 state legislatures.  In contrast, the Democrats hold just 20 governorships and 17 state legislatures.  Five legislatures are split.  The Republicans also continue to control the United States House of Representatives.  The only gains the Democrats made in 2012 were in taking back a couple of state legislature houses and adding a couple of US Senators; otherwise, the gains made by the GOP in 2010 still stand.

So, let's not hang our heads.  We made tremendous, historic gains at the state level in 2010, and the Democrats failed miserably at taking back the races we won.  President Obama squeaked back into the White House with 9 million less votes than he received in 2008—hardly a mandate for his policies.

The off year election of 2013 in Virginia and in New Jersey will tell us a couple of things.  First, was the 2009 sweep in Virginia of every statewide office a fluke?  Remember, Obama carried Virginia in both 2008 and in 2012.  The Northern Virginia suburbs have become increasingly Democratic over the past few years, making it very difficult for the state to stay in the red column.  On the other hand, the turnout in 2013 will be just a fraction of what it was in 2014.  The headline race for Governor will feature a stark contrast of governing philosophy.  Terry McAuliffe was Bill Clinton's bag man in his second race for President.  He raised millions of dollars for Clinton's successful re-election campaign.  McAuliffe got rich through a somewhat shady deal involving Global Crossing.  The Republican candidate is one of the finest, most principled conservatives in America, Ken Cuccinelli.  It takes a lot to persuade me that a candidate can be trusted, but you can put Ken in that column.  He has rock solid integrity and has always won a good share of the Democrat vote. 

McAuliffe and his allies in the media are sure to portray Ken as an extremist, but they will have a hard time making that stick.  Ken was repeatedly elected to the State Senate from a strong Democrat district, and, in 2009, he led the Republican ticket statewide when he was elected Attorney General.  Cuccinelli is a rising star nationally in the GOP, so this is an important race to watch. 

The entire Republican ticket in Virginia should be very strong.  The state convention has not yet been held, but there are some great candidates for statewide office including Mark Obenshain for Attorney General and Earl Jackson for Lieutenant Governor.  Obenshain is currently a state senator and is the son of Dick Obenshain, a great conservative who was killed in a plane crash while running for US Senate.  Earl Jackson is an African American with a degree in law from Harvard University.  He is a tough, principled conservative.

New Jersey will also be interesting to watch.  Although Governor Christie talks a good game, there's no doubt he burned some bridges with conservatives when he "rescued" Obama by pumping him up during the final days of the presidential race.  Can this moderate Republican hold on to the New Jersey Governorship?  It's hard to say.

So is there an upside to Barack Obama's second term?  I'd say the answer to that is a cautious maybe.  Here are some things that might happen…

  1. US Supreme Court.  Current members of the US Supreme Court that actually believe the Constitution says what it means will probably try to hang in there until the next Presidential election.  Of course, Obama doesn't have anything to do with this, but the situation is hopeful.
  2. Keystone Pipeline.  Don't be surprised if President Obama ultimately gives approval to the Keystone Pipeline.  The reason is simple politics.  The radical Greens have votes, but they don't have money, and their political muscle cannot be compared to that of the unions.  I suspect that there was a sub-rosa deal made with the unions prior to election day.  Obama probably told them that he could not approve the pipeline and alienate the Greens before the election, but if the unions would hold in there, he would approve it in his second term.  The unions want those high paying jobs.
  3. Fracking.  Money is a powerful thing and here, once again, the unions have a big interest in keeping fracking going.  The supply of natural gas is growing rapidly with exportation likely to expand dramatically.  This will, for the first time in many, many years, tip the balance of trade payments on its head and will create many new union jobs.  Obama will probably make noises against fracking to satisfy his radical Green allies, but smart politics augurs for a hands off policy on fracking.
  4. Congress.  Although the Republicans control only one house of Congress, that control provides a huge roadblock to advancing some huge new government takeover.  You can be sure that the Democrats have their eye on nationalizing the energy industry.  It may be a ways down the road, but they have already let this goal slip several times.  Nevertheless, there is no hope of advancing this radical idea in the current Republican controlled House of Representatives.
  5. Scandals.  The White House is far from being in the clear on the Fast and Furious scheme to limit gun control, and they are still under the lens for their politically motivated screw-up in Benghazi that cost four lives.  In addition, a lame duck president is often lackadaisical when it comes to avoiding further scandals.  Even a compliant news media is going to be more skeptical of scandals in Obama's second term.

I certainly realize that these are not great gains for conservatives or for our nation, but with an ever worsening economy (how can it not get worse when every step the President takes is the exact opposite of what really needs to be done) the Democrats could find themselves in a very tough position by the time the next Presidential election rolls around.

Of course, the Republicans will have to be as smart as Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who appointed the first African American from the South to the United States Senate, Tim Scott.  Scott is not just another Republican, he is a tea party Republican with deep conservative credentials and a track record of voting his principles.  The GOP will also need to get its get-out-the-vote act together.  The Democrats have eaten the lunch of the Republicans in the last two presidential elections.

From my perspective, conservatives are in the cat bird's seat.  They have an opportunity to not only take control of the apparatus of the GOP, but also make significant gains in 2014 and 2016.  So take heart, the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Compassion Denied

It is literally true that with some folks, everything is politics.  They eat, sleep, and breathe politics 24 hours per day.  Every event in life, good or bad, is viewed entirely through the prism of politics.  There is no time for rejoicing, no time for reflection, no time for compassion, no time for beauty, no time for having fun.  Every waking hour is filled with politics.  There even is no time for love, only time for anger, and scheming, and political intrigue.  Their life is a tragedy.
On Friday, December 14, 2012 the unthinkable happened.  A mentally disturbed young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 20 children and he shot and killed his own mother.  These aren't 20 statistics, they are 20 lives snuffed out by evil.  Each one of these children had loving parents, many had loving siblings, and others who cared deeply about them.  Their deaths are nearly incomprehensible.  Most were just 6 or 7 years old.
Their parents need our prayers and our support as they struggle to endure such an unspeakable loss.  They deserve our true compassion.  They don't deserve to have the news media intruding into their lives at this awful moment.  And, most of all, they don't deserve to be used by political opportunists to advance their political agenda.  This is not a time for politics, it is a time for compassion and reflection.
But, alas, from the White House to Congress to the media there is little compassion and much political scheming.  Any compassion for the children who died is being squeezed out by political opportunism.  Their deaths are not viewed as a time for reflection on the spiritual character of our nation, but rather as an opportunity to be seized for political gain.
I hate it.  It is nothing less than despicable.  This is not a time for politics, it is a time for mourning.  It is not a time for division, it is a time for unity.  But, like it or not, we are once again thrust into a political debate that divides Americans, instead of uniting them in sorrow and compassion for those who died and for those left behind.  Gutter politics is never attractive, and using the deaths of young children to advance a political agenda is disgraceful.
Therefore, like it or not, you and I have no choice but to speak out.  Let me briefly make just a few important points…
  1. Right Time.  There is a time and a place to debate important topics like gun control and the Second Amendment.  The Founders intentionally created a republic, not a democracy, so that such debates would not take place in the heat of the moment when emotions are the highest.  When actions are taken on emotion, only ill-conceived legislation is enacted.  Any action that infringes on the right to keep and bear arms should be based on reason and the law, not on emotions.  Whenever there is a rush to judgment, neither reason nor justice is served.
  2. Legal Process.  The Founders established a specific legal process for modifying the United States Constitution.  The wording of the Second Amendment is very specific.  It says that the federal government does not have the right to infringe on an individual's right to keep and bear arms.  Maybe the government should have that right.  Maybe we should place some restrictions on gun ownership.  If that's what should be done, then Congress should propose a specific Amendment to the Constitution that includes such restrictions.  However, neither the Congress nor the President has the right to infringe on an individual's right to keep and bear arms by simply passing a law.  And neither does the US Supreme Court have the right to curtail the right to keep and bear arms by simply re-interpreting the law.  When that happens we have crossed over from a government of laws to a government of men.  In other words, the republican form of government that our Founders created has suffered a near mortal wound.
  3. The Loss of Life.  If there is to be a reasoned debate on passing an Amendment to the US Constitution, it must include consideration of the lives that would be lost by passing such infringements on the right to keep and bear arms.  The fact is, each year there are over a 100,000 incidents of armed citizens using their firearms to defend their lives and property from criminals.  If only 10% of these individuals (or their loved ones) would have otherwise have been killed, it would mean an annual loss of more than 10,000 lives.  Are we willing to sacrifice those 10,000 lives on the cross of political correctness?
  4. Right-to-Carry Saves Lives.  Thirty-seven states have right-to-carry laws on their books.  In every single case the incidence of violent crime declined after the passage of right-to-carry gun laws.  Moreover, these states have lower violent crime rates than the states that do not have right-to-carry laws.  In other words, right-to-carry laws save lives. 
  5. Decline in Morality.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has for many years sought to drive religion, especially Christianity, from the public square.  Could it be that the decline in religion and spirituality in the United States is the root cause of the tragedy that occurred in Sandy Hook, Connecticut?  I hesitate to sound like a broken record, but freedom can only exist when citizens respect life and property and exercise self-restraint.  Where does such respect and self-restrain come from?  It comes from faith in God and belief in his Ten Commandments.  When schools are more attentive to showing children how to use a condom than they are to teaching the Ten Commandments, the seeds of violence and chaos are spread.  The exercise of faith and religion in the public square is not only forbidden, it is derided by schools, television, politicians, and Hollywood.  Without morality (or virtue as Adams, Washington, and Franklin referred to it), freedom contracts and society becomes more immoral and more violent.  It was evil that killed those children, and no new gun law will have any effect in curbing a rising tide of violence.  The Bible warns us in Matthew 24:12 that as faith declines "…there will be more and more lawlessness, most people's love will grow cold."  You simply cannot mock the Ten Commandments and expect virtue to exist among the people.
  6. Culture of Death.  Why are we surprised that a tragedy like the one that happened in Sandy Hook occurred?  Perhaps we should be surprised that more mass murders don't occur.  When government sanctions policies that snuff out the lives of millions of pre born children each year, dallies in euthanasia, and passes laws that authorize the killing of children born alive, who were supposed to be aborted, should we be surprised that life itself is so little valued by those who kill others?  You can't have it both ways.  You can't have a peaceful, non-violent society, and on the other hand sanction the killing of human life inside or outside the womb.  Like it or not, the government has created a culture of death and this culture will foster more killing no matter what gun laws are passed.
  7. Institutionalization of the Mentally Ill.  In the case of the mass murders that took place in the theater in Aurora, Colorado, at Virginia Tech University, and now at Sandy Hook Elementary School, all the killers were suffering from mental illness.  Had they been institutionalized, the murders would not have happened.  It is as straightforward and simple as that.  However, once again, the ACLU has worked hard and effectively to make it impossible to institutionalize even the criminally disturbed.  It was the ACLU that effectively closed down all homes for the mentally ill in the United States.  They did it in the name of freedom, but the result was terrible personal misery for those who were incompetent and unable to care for themselves.  It also resulted in even the criminally ill being set loose on the streets.  The consequence is events like those that have taken place in Colorado, Virginia, and now in Connecticut.
No matter what your position is on the ownership of firearms, and your anger at what happened in Connecticut, and elsewhere, the solution lies not in passing ill-conceived laws in the heat of emotion.  Rather, it lies in reasoned debate that doesn't take shortcuts bypassing the rule of law.  Such debates must consider all the possible reasons why these terrible mass killings have taken place and why they will continue to happen.  Otherwise, all that will result is the further infringement upon the rights of law-abiding men and women.  Worse yet, the end result will be that only the criminals and the government have firearms.  Ask yourself this, do you trust either the government or criminals as the sole repository of firearms in America?
While President Obama may have autocratic instincts, he is no dictator.  He has awesome power as President, but he does not and will not possess absolute power over the citizens of this land.  We do know from history, that nations rise and fall.  Some last but just a few years.  Even the powerful, ambitious Soviet Union lasted less than 100 years.  Nevertheless, it is understandable that a dictator or aspiring dictator would want to remove all guns and ammunition from the people.  After all, what dictator could rest easy at night knowing that the people are armed.
Chairman Mao is famously quoted as saying that "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."  How true!  Taking guns out of the hands of citizens is always a top priority of tyrants.  It was with Stalin.  It was with Chairman Mao.  It was with Hitler.  The widespread ownership of firearms by the citizens of any land, including the United States, is the last defense against tyranny.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook will long be remembered.  But rapid legislative action driven by emotion that restricts the ownership of firearms is not the solution.  Evil man will always find a way to kill, just as Cain killed Abel.  It is only if we change hearts through spiritual renewal that we will be able to stop the killing and maintain our free society.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Charles Dickens & a Possible Motor City Revival

In speaking of Paris and London in his book, A Tale of Two Cities, the famous English novelist, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) wrote…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

In many ways the United States of America of 2012 (soon to be 2013) could be described likewise.  There is much wisdom in the ideas of the Tea Party movement in returning the United States to the principles of America's Founders.  At the same time, foolish ideas seem to be gaining ground as their failure rate accelerates.  Socialism works, really?  With nary a successful example, and multitudes of examples to the contrary, America plunges forward into the darkness of a Socialist abyss. 

Even as faith in the Founders principles and in God expands, skeptics abound.  Renowned pundits skillfully ponder why the leading problems in high school in the 1950s were bubblegum chewing and talking in class, while today the challenges are drugs and violence.  Duh!  These experts can't understand why the violent crime and murder rates of 50 or 60 years ago were so low compared to the skyrocketing rates of today.  They are puzzled.  They worry about the huge homeless population of today and wonder why there were few homeless in 1960.  Really?

We have systematically driven God out of the public square and we wonder why people have become more corrupt and more violent?  We have destroyed the institutions that showed compassion to those who could not fend for themselves and we wonder why the rolls of the homeless continue to grow?  We trap the poor in government welfare programs and wonder why poverty only gets worse.  Wisdom is in short supply, but foolishness is in abundance.

Some honestly believe that, through ever more powerful government, we have made progress over the past 50 to 60 years.  Maybe so, but where are the results?  There aren't any.  Yet there is hope, there really is.

In today's newspaper I read about something I was sure would never happen.  The State of Michigan passed a law giving individual workers the right to decide if they would join a union.  If I had to pick the last state in the nation that would pass a right to work bill, Michigan would have been my first guess, or pretty close to it.

In one of those, "can't see the forest for the trees" moments, supposedly smart men have agonized over the deterioration of manufacturing in the United States, especially the north central states of Wisconsin and Michigan.  They can't identify a reason, but they did come up with a clever description.  They call these states (and a couple of others nearby) "the Rust Belt."

Rust Belt my eye!  There is no mystery about what happened in Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee.  It is very simple.  Government granted a labor monopoly to the unions.  That's all that happened.

All monopolies—labor or business—originate with government.  Working with politicians and bureaucrats, monopolies that only benefit the privileged few are created to prop up and sustain enterprises that should go out of business.  When government legalizes a labor monopoly, every worker in a union shop is forced to join a union, and to pay union dues whether he wants to or not.  Government even mandates that companies deduct union dues for the union.  Or, when government grants special privileges and advantages to certain business enterprises (or provides them with subsidies) it guarantees that the consumer will pay more than the free market rate for those products and services.  Such business monopolies diminish the economic well-being of all Americans, by lowering their standard of living.

Similarly, when government subsidizes any economic activity, it punishes all Americans.  If it has to be subsidized, it should not exist.  If it has to be subsidized, that economic burden falls on the back of every American.  For example, consider mass transit that is not only constructed with tax dollars, but which cannot sustain itself and thus must be subsidized forever.  It becomes a permanent financial burden on us, our children and grandchildren because it is not a marketplace solution to transportation.  If it was, it would have been built by private enterprise.

There is a simple and easy way to know that something is not a market sustainable service, i.e. one that should not be built.  If an enterprise cannot cover its operating costs, like mass transit, it should not be built.  The capital cost of construction is the least of the burdens on the taxpayer.  The greatest burden, one that extends for many generations, is the operating cost shortfall.  If tolls by the user do not cover the cost of operation and provide a profit, operation of the enterprise becomes a permanent financial burden on all taxpayers.

It is always a mistake for government, at any level, to second guess the free market, or worse yet, enter into the marketplace itself.  For example, consider the glaring inefficiency and high cost of mass transit or medical services.  In each and every case, without one exception, the capital and operating cost will be far greater, the inefficiency larger, and the quality less than any free market built and operated enterprise.  There are no exceptions.

Subsidies and monopolies always artificially drive up the prices of goods and services to the universal detriment of all citizens.  For instance, if any manufacturer is forced by law to accept a closed union shop (i.e. labor monopoly), it is forced to collect mandatory union dues, higher cost and less productivity.  If all workers are forced to participate in a labor monopoly, i.e. union, everyone who buys goods or services will pay a higher than market price for those goods and services.  Similarly, if government creates rules and regulations that bar entry into the marketplace in the form of licenses and certifications, it is artificially driving up the price of those goods and services.

Such actions may be well intentioned, but the inevitable result is higher, and possibly inferior, goods and services.  Only in a free market, where free men and women freely exchange goods and services in the form of dollars (representing labor and goods), will the best quality and the best possible prices prevail.

A monopoly cannot exist in a free market.  A truly free market destroys attempts by individuals or even cabals of individuals to create monopolies.  They exist for the short term, and then they are decimated by the forces of the free market.  Monopolies can never survive competition in the free market.  It is only when government intervenes that monopolies can exist.  And when monopolies exist in either labor or in business, the consumer is punished.

What happened to Detroit is simple.  When Detroit had to compete on the world market, they could not do it because the union labor monopoly had artificially raised the cost of automobiles above the market level.  Who lost, by the way?  The answer is every single American who was forced to pay a higher-than-market price for his car prior to allowing competition from foreign automobile companies whose labor costs were not inflated because they were not compelled to obtain their labor from a monopoly.  As long as American automobile manufacturers remain in states that force workers to join a union, they will not be able to compete with foreign manufacturers.

The reality is that when the US opened the markets in the 1970s, Americans benefitted from the high quality and the lower prices of Japanese manufacturers that had access to non-monopoly labor.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with Detroit or the workers or engineers or designers that a free market can't fix.  But you can't pay 30% to 50% more for wages and benefits and still compete in a free market. 

That's why I was so excited about the news that was published and broadcast on Thursday, December 7th.  Over the protests of big labor bosses and their paid protestors, the Michigan state legislature passed, and the governor signed, a bill that empowers the worker to decide whether or not he will join a union.

What a tremendous irony.  The union bosses and the union workers were protesting a bill that can rejuvenate and strengthen the automobile industry and save their jobs.  In truth, the only way Detroit can make a comeback is by eliminating the labor monopoly.  Detroit is quite possibly in the worst economic shape of any big city in America.  Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Detroit, tens of thousands of houses sit empty, many simply abandoned.  Detroit is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, begging for a bail out.  General Motors is on track to ask Uncle Sam for more billions to run their bloated, non-market operation.

Only Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican majority seem to have sufficient sense to know that Detroit either competes in the marketplace without a government sanctioned labor monopoly, or it continues down the path to extinction.  Radical filmmaker Michael Moore is not surprisingly outraged, but then again, Michael Moore thinks Fidel Castro is a great leader.  Sadly, neither Michael Moore, nor President Barack Obama have any idea whatsoever how the free market works. 

Hooray for Governor Snyder and the courageous legislators of Michigan.  They are throwing a lifeline to employees and businesses in Michigan.  These employees may not grasp the lifeline and may succeed in repealing this inspired piece of legislation, but they do so to their own personal detriment.  This is an opportunity for Detroit revival.  It's good news for the citizens of Michigan and a harbinger of all the good things that the Republican governors of 30 states will be bringing to America over the next few years.

While our president sees government as the answer, Ronald Reagan knew the truth.  Reagan said wisely, "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem."  You can almost hear the Founders applauding.  The wisdom of the Republican governors stands in stark contrast to the foolishness coming from the White House.  It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.  Which will prevail?