Archive for December, 2010

Humble royalty, royal humility

Unwed teenage mother. Manual laboring father. Homeless shelter.

God. Angels. Gifts.

Humility and royalty. A dichotomy in a Bethlehem barn, slave quarters in the kingly City of David. A foreshadowing of the true nature of the long-awaited messiah.

God with the limitations of flesh. Man without the limitations of sin. A concoction of scandal and miracle that only the omnipotent could blend up.

On earth, kings aren’t meant for feed troughs. Saviors aren’t born in squalor. They may give lip service to the plights of common men, but their place is back at the castle. Their idea of humility is throwing a bone to a pauper from an armored car. They don’t get too close.

This king could not have gotten any closer.

Was anyone among us born more lowly? Is anything about his arrival out of reach? The maker of the highest heights came to earth as the lowest common denominator. He laid down his life from the very beginning. Therein lies his saving power.

He didn’t need the things of this world: the wealth, the knowledge, the connections, the opportunities. He knew there was no life in things apart from God. As such, he was free to be born with sheep and friends with shepherds.

He held not onto his royalty and instead humbled himself in a royal way. As a result, every created thing will one day bow itself before his humble throne.

As prophesied, Christ arrived in the City of David, but only because his father’s donkey didn’t give out before they got there. His actual hometown, Nazareth, was not exactly a zenith of sophistication and culture. “What good can come from there?” asked one early commenter.

This honest observer may have also asked in subsequent years,

“What good can come from hanging out with prostitutes, IRS agents and wage earners?”

“What good can come from always being on the road and never settling down?”

“What good can come from insulting established leaders?”

“What good can come from an execution on a cross?”

No good, actually, unless you’re stuck in horrible habits, rough relationships, hopeless heartache or lasting longing. No good unless your life never stays nicely and predictably in organized boxes.

Then, it may be helpful to believe that God can bring good from the worst of places. That he can begin under the radar wrapped in humility and finish above the sky shrouded in glory. That he can resurrect a life from the depths of hell.

And that he can raise to his right hand a baby who started in a smelly stable.

Kevin W. Thompson is Vice President of Texas Heritage Bank in Leon Springs and a weekly columnist in The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

All I want for Christmas

Is a Republican presidential candidate that I can get excited about. I think I’ve found one. But first, the also-may-runs:

1. Mike Huckabee – He articulates the conservative position on virtually any issue as well as anyone. But his every-man demeanor doesn’t play well north of the south or left of the base. His decisions to forego a U.S. Senate race and host a Fox News show didn’t exhibit a public service seriousness and won’t impress swing voters.

2. Mitt Romney – His enterprise turnaround skills are desperately needed within the titanic federal bureaucracy. Whether it was his wealth, elite pedigree, or somewhat stiff personality, he failed to connect with a majority of voters in 2008. I don’t foresee a significantly different result in 2012.

3. Sarah Palin – She splashed onto the national scene like a seal on an Alaskan shoreline. The fame bug bit her quick and she hasn’t let anything get in her way, including a full term as Alaska governor. I commend her for sparking increased turnout this fall, but she lacks the gravitas to go the distance.

4. Newt Gingrich – The former U.S. House speaker has Limbaugh-like conservative instincts. Despite his deep experience and intelligence, his electability factor is low in large part due to the credibility cracks in his armor. He will live out his political days in a think tank, not a war room.

And now for my 2012 Republican frontrunner, the man in whom I get more interested each time I encounter him (most recently in Monday’s Wall Street Journal taking on public unions): Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Pawlenty knows how to put “limited government” into action, having reduced spending numerous times to balance his state’s budgets. He believes in free markets and has championed market-based reforms in education and health care.

The son of a milk truck driver, he hails from the heartland, but not from the south, making him attractive in non-southern swing states. His election would entomb the notion that the Republican Party is a single-region permanently minority party.

He is an attorney, but of the public-serving variety. He served as a criminal prosecutor before entering public service. He has proven his leadership mettle on various levels, from suburban city council to Minnesota House majority leader.

His eight years as governor of a larger-than-average state would be more government executive experience than his two would-be predecessors had combined. Yet, he has something in common with them: he has two children, both daughters.

Tim Pawlenty is a fresh face, but not flashy one. He won’t be draped by sweeping rhetoric and Roman promenades. Good. We don’t need celebrity now. We need quiet strength capable of enacting real reductions in spending that will put us on a sustainable path forward.

The cake of compromise

Americans got their cake and ate it, too, in Washington this week. Employed Americans will pay the government less. The government will pay unemployed Americans more. All the while, the deficit gets bigger and the dollar gets smaller.

Most people, myself included, want the national debt curbed by spending cuts not higher taxes (see John Zogby’s recent poll on the presidential debt commission report). We applaud keeping taxes low. We question the additional entitlements. It feels like we’ve been force fed the cake of compromise.

We’re a “both / and” society, not “either / or.” We want both career and family. Both athletics and academics. Both marriage and mistress. Restraint just ain’t in our vocabulary. “Working vacations” is.

Peggy Noonan: “The American people are philosophically opposed to big government but have become operationally insistent on it.”

It’s the ole “I hate congress but I love my congressman” irony. It is here where St. Augustine speaks for us all, “Lord, grant me chastity and continence but not yet.”

Hubris, the pride of life, causes each of us to overextend at times. The trick is cutting the superfluous, the extra-curricular, the urgent but not important, before it cuts you.

There will come a time in every overloaded family, in every double-minded man, in every schizophrenic government, when something’s gotta give. The dam won’t hold. Natural laws will prevail. Natural laws like you can’t both spend all your money and have money in the bank.

Or like you can’t print new money and have the old money be worth the same.

What if an umpire awarded extra strikes to batters at will? Competitive players would become less interested, less motivated. The extra strikes would cheapen the game, exactly what “quantitative easing” (i.e., printing money) does to the dollar.

A better approach is to let the chips fall where they may. A strike, like a dollar, is a chance. If you miss or lose a chance, the answer is to learn from it, practice harder and be ready for the next one. The answer is not to modify the rules of play.

Thankfully, the State of Texas doesn’t have the luxury of D.C.-style deficit spending. It must balance its budget every two years.

And thankfully, Texas House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts understands the message sent by voters last month. Regarding the multi-billion dollar tax revenue shortfall facing the state next year, we’re not raising taxes; “we’re making huge cuts.” If only it were so in D.C.

In a conflict between philosophy and operations, operations wins, much like deeds trump intentions when the two don’t align. It matters little that I’m philosophically opposed to fast, fatty foods if I’m operationally insistent on the drive-thru window.

Kevin Thompson is a former chief of staff in the Texas House of Representatives and is now vice president of Texas Heritage Bank. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Marijuana and the youth vote

Few issues embody liberals’ disconnect with reality like marijuana. Just beyond its legalization, they rationalize, lie revenue windfalls for ailing public budgets, security for Mexico, and uncrowded prisons. In other words, there’s a pot of gold at the end of the pot rainbow.

Liberal hippies and their support systems (ACLU, NAACP, George Soros, etc.) placed marijuana’s legalization before California voters last month. Proposition 19 failed by a hefty 8 percentage points. A full 54% passed on the joints. Only San Francisco supported the referendum and, even there, the margin was slim.

Some Democrats had hinted at using the marijuana referendum strategy to bring young voters out in battleground states in 2012. The California result exposes a dilemma: How do you motivate people to get out to vote for a substance that makes them inherently unmotivated?

If only lethargy and lackluster academic performance were the extent of the drug’s negative effects. Unfortunately, the National Institutes of Health cite a variety of other possible ills: balance and coordination impairment, memory loss, acute psychosis, bronchitis, lung cancer and prenatal problems.

For all the comparisons pot proponents make to the freeing of alcohol from puritanical prohibition in the 1920s, they don’t regularly remember that society pays a significant price in exchange for the sin taxes it collects. The costs, both tangible and intangible, of alcohol-related accidents and incidents are not negligible. They wouldn’t be for legalized marijuana either.

It is ironic that liberals’ distaste for Big Tobacco coincides with their belief in little weed. Tabooed cigarette smoking is being relegated to the fringes of society, as perhaps it should be.

But why don’t freedom-loving, weed-endorsing liberals stand up for Joe Bar Owner’s right to permit tobacco smoking in his own establishment? (Many municipalities have outlawed smoking in privately owned, commercial places.)

And does anyone really think that criminal pot pushers will see the light at legalization and begin reporting income and paying taxes like lifelong saints?

Convicted drug trafficker George Jung reflected on his career this way: “Was it the fact that I had the courage to be bad or that millions of Americans did not have the courage to be good?”

Without doubt, a part of each of us lacks the courage to “be good.” For this reason, reasonable laws can help support us when our courage wanes. They can legitimately deter us from indulging our addictive and detrimental tendencies. There is no shame or backwardness in keeping such laws on the books.

As a general rule, we need less addictive behavior in the world, not more. If a red X reminds some people that weed leads to a less healthy, less prosperous life, by all means, let’s keep it there.

And if pushing pot is the Democrats’ best idea for inspiring young voters to patriotic action, Republicans are well-positioned to engage the demographic with more thoughtful and beneficial policy solutions.


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