Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Proverbs for Economic Sanity

Watching the current Debt Crisis debate is tortuous for any thoughtful person. Yes, there are real differences in how Democrats and Republican want to spend money - BUT there should be no differences on two goals - a balanced budget and a growing economy. What we have is political posturing, magical thinking and a contempt for Economics 101 and the good faith of the American people. In the tradition of King Solomon, considered the wisest man of his day (a claim I will not make!), I offer some proverbs to solve our current crisis:

Create a budget based on the real revenue of the previous year. If there is more money, decide ahead of time where it goes; if less, have the cuts ready.

We cannot be a warfare and welfare state. Declare victory, bring our troops home and have forces ready to strike at global terror threats from secure bases on land and sea.

Stop double and triple taxing the hard-earned wealth of Americans, here or abroad. No death taxes and lower the rate for foreign profits that have already been taxed overseas.

Begin a process of removing the thousands of agricultural subsidies that benefit huge agribusinesses and are no longer needed.

Eliminate the Department of Education.

Transform HUD and other agencies into efficient, decentralized catalysts for help and transformation instead of career paths for social science majors.

Cut defense spending and increase support for veterans. One less bomber means help for thousands of vets and less pork for Congress to give away.

Privatize all public pensions, with excellent regulations through the SEC and other agencies. Eliminate the special retirement benefits for elected federal officials and have them held to the same economic standards as all citizens.

Public employee unions should be able to bargain, but not hold taxpayers hostage to benefits they cannot afford. Bring all teachers and workers into Social Security and offer excellent private plans - just like the rest of the country.

Hold all government agencies accountable for best practices and have private-sector leaders offer insights on efficient methods and ethics.

Transform the IRS with a complete simplification of the tax code, and consider alternative ways of raising revenue.

Invigorate private/public partnerships for all kinds of infrastructure, with high standards, but honest bidding processes and a cap on "change orders" and lawsuits.

Stop sending tax dollars to colleges and universities for frivolous programs and lower the cost of education by demanding that teachers teach and students work.

Above all, create a balanced-budget process (with or without a Constitutional Amendment) that will unleash creativity and economic growth and allow us to start repaying our debt!

Friday, July 01, 2011

America's Founders and Today's Celebrities

On this Independence Day weekend we celebrate our freedom, remember a bit of history and eat wonderful food. All of this is good. Even the rather dour founder John Adams called for feasting and fireworks to mark the day the Declaration was ratified and signed by John Hancock (others would sign on August 2). As I consider the history, the contrasts between our founders and today's celebrity candidates are startling. Today's leaders have access to the finest information, excellent living conditions and communication organs undreamed of in the 18th century. Yet even a cursory comparison unveils the unparalleled genius of the founder's generation and the dearth of depth in our own. I am not deifying the founders - they were flawed and failed to confront the issue of slavery. They also struggled with hubris, image and vanity, warring constituents and competing agendas. But their breadth of learning - even among the unlettered - depth of thoughtfulness, humility before the Almighty and moral reflection stand in stark contrast to the narcissism and paucity of values characterizing much of our public discourse. Consider these contrasts:

James Madison is called the Father of the Constitution, examining 3000 years of sacred and secular history and adept in ancient and modern languages. Compare his irenic intellect with the sound bites of Carville or Gingrich.

Thomas Jefferson is the darling of the Left at times (excepting his ambiguities on slavery of course). But his most important work - our Declaration of Independence - reflects deep reverence for God, concern for natural rights, including personal and property rights, and economic liberty against the mercantile system. Compare this to the central planning economists and bureauocrats like Thomas Friedman who live in mansions while they dictate lifestyle to the American masses.

Many of the founders were clergy, but they defended the rights of others to dissent. Thomas Paine had little regard for traditional religion; however, he affirmed the important of personal responsibility and public virtue. Compare his Common Sense of 1776 with any writing of current Presidential candidates. Here is a freethinker unafraid of the world of ideas while today's Left cowers before Sharia-driven Islam and tries to remove all traces of the Judeo-Christian ethos from public life.

I am forever a hope-filled person. But I am finding it difficult to be hopeful about America's future with the current crop of candidates from both parties and the unreasonable posturing of our federal legislators. May I suggest that all in public life pause this weekend, read the Constitution, allowing the context of our founding to inspire courageous and creative action?