Yearly Archives: 2018

“Solving” the Budget Deficit Crisis

For over 50 years, Democratic and Republican Administrations and Congressional leaders have tolerated and sometimes touted deficit spending, resulting in a huge national debt. Balanced Budget Amendments are often proposed but dead on arrival in committee because no one wants to offend constituents or appear lacking in compassion.

The fundamental flaw is simultaneously maintaining a federal welfare state and a close to wartime economy at the same time. “Guns and butter” are problematic. This does not mean we must sacrifice adequate defense and concrete compassion! What we need is a complete reprogramming of political mindsets that merely “kick the can” down the road for the next generation in order to appease various special interests.

As I write these words, tax revenues are at an all-time high. So why are deficits also ballooning? Every new President and set of Congressional leaders promise to “sharpen the pencils” and “go line by line” through the budget….and then they cave to political expediency.

Underneath the surface is even more ominous news – there are no “savings” locked away for Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid needs in the decades ahead. Since the 1970s, it is all a numbers game!

As an aside, if we managed our family budgets like our national (and sometimes local and state) government(s), we would declare bankruptcy and perhaps face serious criminal/civil charges.

So, what do we do? Here is a prescription (using the insights of many folks much smarter than me):

  • Decide to live within our means. Apart from extreme global emergencies, this is vital.
  • Privatize government pensions and benefits so that elected officials are not immune to economic realities.
  • Streamline government services with the help of ethical and efficient business leaders so that recipients get what they need, and bureaucracy is minimized. It is a moral issue when government keeps ballooning and the poor and our soldiers barely make it.
  • Simplify the tax system and eliminate the egregious loopholes that reward the crafty and penalize workers.
  • Establish priorities so that when revenues go up, there are places for the extra funds (including debt reduction). And if revenues fall below expectations, plans are in place for judicious cuts.
  • Begin debt repayment and true Social Security savings once there is a balanced budget.
  • Establish alternatives to the public employees’ unions that forget their source is the American taxpayer.

With these starting points, we can wisely confront our warfare and welfare policies and devise new strategies for defense and compassion. Compassion is best administrated locally, with federal ethical oversight. We must be prepared to confront terrorism and aggression without being an occupying force longer than needed. And our veterans deserve good care.

Every day, thousands of families happily discover debt-free living. When normal includes sacrifice and saving, stewardship of limited resources and creative budgeting, families flourish and the foundation for prosperity is assured. It is time to get the government off the credit cards and on new pathways.

Careful budgeting will not “starve the children” or weaken our military – just the opposite. Today’s discipline is tomorrow’s destiny. Imagine the USA being the largest creditor instead of the largest debtor. It is possible within a decade if we have courage and self-restraint, creativity and vision for generations yet unborn. We need no long fear being held hostage by hostile powers that own our debt.

We can do this.

 

“Solving” Immigration

USA immigration history is full of draconian and hospitable seasons. Our Statue of Liberty represents the best in our history as Ellis Island welcomed millions willing to brave the journey, go through the vetting and find a new home in a new nation. We have also had horrific seasons of xenophobia and racial injustice, from the suffering of the Irish in the 1840s to the anti-Chinese laws on the West Coast in the 1890s to the anti-Semitism of the 1920s -1940s. Dark chapters indeed. With huge borders with Canada and Mexico and relative economic prosperity from the end of WWII to the 1970s, comprehensive policies were not needed, and many found their way to flourishing.

With the open-door policies initiated in the 1960s and never refined since, we have crises of capacity and compassion, economics and social cohesion. People from nations other than Mexico or who are not officially refugees and follow the rules sacrifice much as they wade through the red tape and often pay thousands of dollars to get legal residency and eventually citizenship. Meanwhile, millions of “undocumented” pour over the border, use our services and find work. Billions of dollars are sent back over the border. Most folks are hard-working and want a better future. Some are felons and need permanent deportation. A few use our porous border to infiltrate as terrorists.

The solution comes in three steps: First, real reform that solves the genuine hardship issues of DACA and refugees, while allowing for screening out terrorists. Pathways for temporary work and long-term residency and citizenship need clear guidelines, fair application and a hospitable spirit. Reform must also not favor foreign students for college dollars and the undocumented for entry-level labor. Second, border security and ICE enforcement must be unimpeded by the misguided and sometimes hostile sanctuary movement. Third, current undocumented and temporary residents who are repeated violent felons should be deported and security personnel alerted to any attempts at reentry.

The above can be done in a matter of weeks with courage and wisdom; however, Democrats must stop vying for cheap votes and Republicans for cheap labor. Both parties are responsible for the mess and it will take people of conscience and intelligence in both parties for reform to work. Security on our borders and screening some from a handful of countries is not racism and xenophobia. Favoring the productive is good common sense and national policy.

Finally, a word to the compassionate: reasonable guidelines and enforcement of the law is not a violation of either the Bible of human pathos. If one feel certain laws are unjust – change the laws! Extreme positions of groups like La Raza must be rejected in favor of inclusion with integrity and a refusal to exchange one form of racism for another.

There are Answers: If We have Courage

This is the beginning of a series entitled, “There are Answers: If We Have Courage.” We will examine what many regard as intractable and unsolvable issues. We will fearlessly look at economic justice and the future of work, tax reform, immigration, Middle East policy, human identity, including gender, sexuality and transhumanism, racial tensions, religious freedom, academic and intellectual liberty, political polarization and principled compromise and global/local culture and life.

As always, we will distill insights from as many perspectives as possible – within the bounds of axiomatic principles and critical thinking. Conservatives may balk as the complexities of institutional transformation are evaluated. Liberals will worry that emphases on personal responsibility and certain enduring values will reverse gains in liberty. Good! We need deliverance from narrow ideological agitation propaganda.

In this essay, two issues foundational to all the rest will be examined: 1) the crisis of human identity/nature (anthropology); and 2) the crisis of objective knowledge and truth (epistemology). Without clarity on who we are and what we can know, all dialogue devolves into subjective opinion, with any critical comments deemed intolerant or a microaggression. Without such clarity, human freedom is confined to certain private experiences and life is increasingly controlled by a totalitarian state, since people “need help and cannot care for themselves.”

What does being human mean? Diverse philosophical and religious traditions answer this question in a variety of ways, from accidental evolutionary materialism to bearing the image of God. Are we merely highly evolved animals or divinely-crafted beings called to steward the rest of creation? Is human nature defined by physical processes alone or in there a unique interaction of body and spirit, brain and mind? In addition to our basic identity, are humans (like most of nature) either male or female or is there an almost infinite spectrum of identities?

Regardless of worldview, most people through most of history have not questioned the unique nature of human beings and the basic binary realities of male and female identity, albeit with a variety of opinions of erotic affections and actions.

Going forward, our American and global experiments in ordered liberty rooted in truth and virtue rest on humankind being uniquely endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights and responsibilities. Anything less than this and we devolve into arguments over blood and soil, raw scientism or fantastical speculations on human/machine singularity.

What about our foundations for knowledge? Until a half-century ago in the West, a basic correspondence theory of truth allowed for both cohesiveness and spirited debate, unity of essential facts and diversity of interpretations. No one argued whether certain events actually happened, though their impact and interpretation made for lively discussion. Today, we are told that there is no objective “there” – all we can do is interpret stories and hopefully find some convergence with shared narratives and opinions. Former President Obama’s two (!) pre-presidential autobiographies are perfect examples of ideological fabrication. Why do we need his “composite” portraits of friends and mentors? Why can we not have access to his records and writings? Why? Because history no longer stands on its own – it must serve the purposes of political advocacy. Beyond historical narrative, our epistemic crisis has fueled the same subjectivism for private and public morality, gender confusion and even allowed some to question full freedom of conscience and speech!

The uniqueness of being human and the knowability of the world are essential for grounding all arguments over justice and truth, love and human flourishing. Instead of marginalizing philosophical traditions, we should rediscover the wisdom of ancient texts and the goodness of contemporary research and synthesize these insights, so we can have a basis for social cohesion.

Our future as a nation – indeed as a human race – rests on this.