Archive for September, 2010

Conservative Cartography

News flash! Consensus in Washington, DC, this week: We are in a mess.

Politicians disagree ad nauseum on whether they inherited the mess or created it, whether they have helped or hurt it. But let us be thankful that, at a minimum, all agree a mess exists.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear from someone who is worried about our nation’s future. On various levels, there is broad belief that we have lost our way.

People are doubting that their children will live more healthful, prosperous lives than they. This is a first in American history.

American exceptionalism has taken a beating. We are beginning to look average in education, invention and production.

We have clearly slipped into moral decline. Many, especially our youth, are trading long-term hope for short-term pleasure. They are caught in a deadly trap.

We need a way out. A way back. We need a map…or two.

I don’t often give homework assignments, but this week I must. Two documents deserve our nation’s attention. One addresses fiscal policy; the other, social policy. Both are of the highest quality.

First, a Wisconsin congressman has drafted a Financial Peace University of sorts for our country. Paul Ryan calls his plan “A Roadmap for America’s Future.”

A trained economist, Congressman Ryan strategically lays out a plan to achieve what we all want: an effective social safety net, a solvent central government and a reasonable tax system.

He makes common sense adjustments to the health care insurance system, Medicare and Social Security that will lower tax rates, broaden the tax base, maintain existing coverage and create a sustainable federal budget. The Congressional Budget Office has endorsed his numbers.

He recommends such a simplification of the IRS tax code that a monkey could do your taxes. Hallelujah. I love my CPA friends, but we desperately need their smarts solving more important problems than how to minimize tax liability.

Ryan’s plan aims to restrain government spending, rejuvenate a vibrant market economy and restore “an American character rooted in individual initiative, entrepreneurship, and opportunity.”

Give it a read:

Second, a Princeton law professor, a divinity school teacher and the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries have together crafted a critical social reform plan.

It’s called the Manhattan Declaration because the founders gathered in New York City one year ago next week to begin writing it.

The Declaration unites Christians of all stripes to affirm shamelessly three things: 1. the dignity of every human being; 2. marriage between a man and woman as the most basic institution of society; and 3. religious liberty for all.

Under these three, the Declaration clearly sets the saving work of Christ as the foundation for restoration.

I found this line particularly relevant: “To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love.”

The Declaration is bold and thoughtful, a combination in short supply these days. See for yourself:

That’s your homework. There will be a test. In fact, it has already begun.

Why there’s mistrust

If political factions have existed in this country since the late 18th century, why does the partisan rancor seem historically high today?

In some ways, it is probably actually no worse than in the “good old days.” In other ways, something is unique about our times.

Most conservatives prefer unity. Their nature is not of the boat-rocking sort. It takes pronounced provocation to get them to protest.

Just ask the local Republican Party parade float organizer how difficult it is to get volunteers to march alongside the float – even in a super-red county.

Most conservatives trust. They give people the benefit of the doubt. They let them run their course. Perhaps to a fault.

If our traditionally center-right nation had been more on its toes, it may not have agreed so easily to the incremental rise in the entitlement state over the course of the 20th century.

It may not have slept so soundly as the ACLU flexed its liberal muscle in the one institution it could undemocratically overtake: the judiciary.

Conservatives believe in authority, in hierarchy, because order is the foundation of freedom.

But lions don’t sleep forever. They eventually rise to protect their domains.

What is waking the lions today?

One. A realization that the courts are overriding the desires of the many to appease a vocal few.

Even in left-leaning California, the people voted for a traditional definition of the family only to have it overruled by a single judge. It’s not as if they voted to send a certain sexual orientation out of the country!

In Arizona, the people’s representatives voted to use their own tax dollars to enforce existing immigration laws only to have a court (prompted by the federal government) deny them the right. It’s not as if they voted to send illegals out of the country! Well…

Two. Witnessing the federal government turn a deaf ear to the people in the health care reform debate.

How much more of a message can the people send than for Massachusetts to elect a Republican senator?

By traditional Senate rules, Scott Brown should have been able to block the passage of Obamacare. One might argue he was elected for that singular purpose. But the powers that be neutralized his power, using a heavy hand to pass the controversial legislation.

This, on top of the billions in political payoffs it took to get some Democrats on board.

When a lion feels like she has no control, when she feels backed into a corner…

And then there are stories like the first lady’s spending millions on a vacation to Spain. In a year when most families will struggle to see a state park. Why couldn’t she have chosen one of our gorgeous national parks? We taxpayers have already paid millions for them!

And so, another example of the myopia that leads to mistrust. Certainly, the mistrust is unfortunate but it is not altogether unfounded.

A Less Perfect Union

Last Labor Day, I reported the results of a Gallup poll that gauged faith in America’s institutions. At that time, only 19% of Americans had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in organized labor unions.

This year, I am happy to announce that a full 20% of us now believe in Big Labor! Let’s have a parade.

Unions managed to stay ahead of Congress, which fell from 17% in 2009 to a dismal 11% this year. The military and small businesses remain the most trusted U.S. institutions. Curious that Congress is cutting defense spending and is set to raise taxes on small businesses.

The City of Bell, California, has shed fresh light on the pain government employee unions are causing in the Golden State.

Before his resignation on Tuesday, Bell’s city manager raked in nearly $800,000 a year. He received 28 weeks of vacation and sick days (yes, weeks), and he pocketed another $700,000 per year in benefits.

The average Bell resident makes $30,000 a year.

He is now out of office but he remains a public economic enemy. His union-paved pension pays more than $600,000 per year. He’s a gift that keeps on getting.

My friends on the left often lament a perceived widening class divide. In doing so, they generally demonize executive compensation at for-profit companies.

However, they rarely acknowledge the growing pay gap between public sector and private sector workers.

USA Today recently cited Bureau of Economic Analysis data showing that federal employees make on average $123,000 in annual compensation and benefits compared to $61,000 for private sector employees.

Life is just as good at state and local levels. The Reason Foundation quoted a March 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed state and local government workers make 44% more than private sector workers.

When the incentives to govern and regulate outweigh the rewards of innovation and production, economies stagnate. Hence, Europe’s lackluster GDP growth. Hence, our sputtering, back-stepping recovery.

Two rallies happened last weekend; one on the national mall in Washington, DC; the other on the streets of labor-laden Detroit, MI.

The former, sponsored by conservative commentator Glenn Beck, drew tens and probably hundreds of thousands of people (depending on which media outlet you believe). A personal friend in attendance estimated the crowd at 500,000.

The latter gathered a meager 5,000 marchers despite prominent figures in attendance like Jesse Jackson, United Auto Workers president Bob King and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

The DC event occurred at the feet and in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, the one who fought to preserve a more perfect, self-sacrificing union.

The Detroit demonstration purposed to protect arguably less perfect, more self-serving labor unions. No wonder it could only inspire a few thousand people to sacrifice their Saturdays to show up.

What was the destination point of that measly Jesse Jackson-led march in Detroit? A place called Grand Circus Park. How appropriate.

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