Monday, September 10, 2012

Time to Grow Up

Now that the conventions are done and we are finally in the election homestretch, it is time for serious evaluation of the issues. To clear our minds, the following cliches are NOT allowed to obscure the important issues:
  • "There are two sides to every issue." Yes, but that does not mean two equally solid or valid positions. Sometimes there is a right or wrong stance, or at least a better or worse position.
  • "Both sides play dirty." Sometimes, this is true. But this is also an excuse to avoid listening and research. If we do not like something, we call it "politics" and avoid the issue. 
  • "Wall Street and the selfish capitalists are the reason we are in this economic mess." Partly true. But federal government policies since the late 1970s contributed to our mess and institutions were coerced into poor lending practices. Have we forgotten the "golden parachutes" of Democratic Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae leaders and the special tax incentives to GM so that UAW power continues to cripple the company?
  • "The Palestinians are oppressed and deserve a state next door to Israel." As soon as their leaders stop denying the Holocaust, denying the Temple and denying the Jews' right to a small strip of territory in their ancient land, peace becomes possible.
  • "The rich should pay their fair share." OK, who decides what is fair? The top 5% in the USA pay 57% of taxes now, with 50% of US adults paying nothing.
Quick insight: Rich liberals are fine with high tax rates for two reasons. One, they know how to shelter their wealth well; and two, they regard government as their charity. Conservatives give an exponentially higher percentage of their wealth away through private channels. Both are generous - the fundamental question for our future is which agencies do we task with managing our generosity?

With these simplisms out of the way, let's look at what our nation needs in the season ahead. Both candidates admit that the road ahead is not easy. Underneath these admissions are radically different philosophies of federal government power. That alone is cause for concern and reflection.

An Open memo to all candidates running for local, state and federal offices:
  • It is time to grow up and stop behaving like adolescents, with emotional appeals, vapid generalizations and "you don't understand" as excuses for laziness.
  • It is time to balance our budgets. End of discussion.
  • If we need more revenue, we need to open avenues for the private sector to create wealth (yes, within ethical and environmental guidelines).
  • When public works are planned, a open business plan and competitive process will ensure the best service at the best price.
  • No veteran should be without care. No soldier should be under supplied. This said, there are billions of over bloated Pentagon budgets that deserve a real scalpel.
  • All deserving recipients of public aid should receive their help in a timely fashion. Our goal must be reducing this number, not advertising for more customers.
  • Success should be celebrated, from a diploma to an IPO, from getting off welfare to discovering a new drug.
  • Religious freedom is the first freedom of the First Amendment. Jewish and Muslim circumcision is not a public health threat. Catholic caregivers must not be coerced into providing services that violate their conscience. Big Brother does NOT trump the conscience of business owners! If a Muslim owner wants to pause business for Friday prayers, that is fine. If Chick-Fil-A wants to close on Sunday, that is their call. If a Jewish establishment closes for the Sabbath, Gentile employees get time off. If owners have personal convictions that  some oppose, customers can take their business elsewhere.
  • Israel is a moral and political gift to the world. This does not mean agreeing with every policy. It does mean unequivocally affirming her right to exist.
  • Freedom only works when founded on virtue rooted in timeless truth. Even if we solved every economic and structural problem in the public square, we still face our greatest challenge: our own depravity. The best leadership can only do so much.
Good and evil is not Democrat vs. Republican. Good and evil are within each person and choosing the former requires courage, faith and humility. Schools will be as solid as the families that populate the neighborhood. When husband and wife stay together, they give their kids the greatest chance of future success - yes, even greater than educational level. Here is a novel thought: If Mom and Dad cannot live together, have the parents shuttle between houses rather than the kids. Mom, Dad, why don't you pack up every other weekend or every week or two and provide your kids with the stability of one location. (Yes, counselors, I am assuming no abuse or other pathologies that place kids at risk, just the narcissism of of one or both parents.)

It is time to grow up. This begins at home. How hard is it to send kids off to school with some oatmeal inside them, clean bodies and clean clothes on them? For some, this may be hard and they deserve our help. For most, it means placing our kids before ourselves and our future before our present pleasures. This is what adulthood is all about, from parenting to politics. If we merely want present power, we avoid tough choices and honest dialogue. If we really care about our posterity, we will cleanse our double minded hearts, roll up our sleeves and clear away the obstacles to prosperity.

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