Monday, October 11, 2010

The American Dream

The Washington Post has a story today titled "Beyond the Tea Party: What Americans Really Think of Government." That's kind of a big subject to attack in a single news article... the truth is that American opinion ranges far and wide. Frankly, that's part of the beauty of being in America. We have the freedom to speak, write and in any way proclaim whatever opinion suits our fancy.

I am a true, red-blooded American. I find it difficult to understand how someone can admire Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro, Karl Marx, etc... But, clearly - there are those who do. In fact, there are many in charge today who admire these people.

There are also people who are true, red-blooded Americans who cannot understand how I admire people like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, John Adams, etc... for some, these people are simply dead, white men who hungered for power and encouraged the blight of slavery.

When you get down to the heart of the matter, however, things get a little more complicated. I don't admire our founding fathers because I think they were perfect men - or even that they set up our government exactly perfectly. They were, in all likelihood, like other men... flawed in many ways. I'm certain they all had things about them that, were I to know them today, I would find less than admirable. But the idea of freedom is something I cling to. And our founding fathers did give us that.

For centuries, the American dream has been one of freedom... people living in oppressed countries would travel far - and yes, sometimes even risk their lives - in order to participate in the great freedom experiment that is the United States of America. In 1931, James Truslow Adams defined the American dream as: that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

That dream, as defined, is one to which I subscribe. Freedom to be. Freedom to live... and to work to attain the lifestyle I choose. This is why I admire our founding fathers... this is why I value freedom over comfort and security. Without the freedom to live, to be ourselves, to achieve and realize our dreams, life becomes less meaningful.

Granted, our dreams must have meaning in order for their fulfillment to give our lives meaning... but this, too, is a personal choice. A cursory glance at the rich and famous shows us that fame and fortune do not a fulfilled life make. If we don't dream meaningful, we cannot be meaningful.

Freedom. Independence. Liberty. Self-government. Self-rule.

There are people who would argue that freedom is dangerous. People need to be protected from themselves. I've heard it said that "the masses are asses." And, okay, even the Bible says that people are like sheep - which is not exactly a ringing endorsement. Human nature being what it is, I'm certain that there will always be people who make poor choices and have horrible natural consequences while living in freedom.

But if we're going to truly consider this line of thinking... that people are not smart enough to rule themselves... then how smart is it for us to let people rule over us? Don't they succumb to the same human pitfalls?

Living in freedom, people exercise poor judgment and pay the price on an individual and family level. This is a horrible circumstance and cannot be ignored within the scope of this discussion. BUT... living without freedom is worse. The consequences are felt on a national level... as a whole collective.

Captivity. Confinement. Dependence. Vulnerability. Defenseless. Tyranny. Slavery.

Antonyms of freedom, all of them. If we no longer value freedom, this is what we have left. I'm not a fan of being vulnerable and defenseless... I refuse to be dependent on my government. I do not wish to be a slave to the state.

There are two sides to every coin. Heads... or tails.

The American dream isn't owning your own home. It's not a BMW or Mercedes Benz. It's not indulging your every whim on a moments notice. The American dream is freedom. If we've lost that, we've lost the very heart of America.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Class, Culture, and Word Wars

I am so sick of the tired arguments I am hearing and reading. Really. Really sick. There are folks who are beating the drums for government growth in the name of economic prosperity and it makes me want to tear out my hair...

Argument number one: Extending the "Bush Tax Cuts" across the board is like giving a "present" to "rich people," and why should we do that? Here's the problem with that... the government is incapable of "giving a present" through a legitimate tax cut. Meanwhile, nobody is calling the misnamed Earned Income Tax Credit a gift - even though it very clearly is. See, when the government decides to allow someone to keep their own money, this is NOT a gift. This is what would happen with extending the tax cuts or making them permanent. The Earned Income Tax Credit, though, is when the government sees that someone didn't make very much money on their own and so, instead of them paying taxes the government gives them extra money. THAT is a gift.

Argument number two: The economy is better stimulated by giving out money to the poor because the poor spend all their money while the rich save theirs. Hoo-boy. This is a really annoying one for me. First of all, the "rich" don't "save" their money by cutting a hole in their mattress and sleeping on the stuff. In fact, I would argue that the rich don't really "save" their money at all - at least not in the sense that "poor" people might be tempted to. See, people with money don't want to put it in a jar and stare at it. The sorry fact is that money won't grow there. And rich people like to get richer. So... their method of "saving" is actually "investing." This means that they take their money and decide where it is most likely to grow... and they invest it in these things. This actually creates growth in the private sector of the economy... creating jobs and allowing more people to get to work and spend their own darned money. If you take that same money and simply hand it to poor folks, they spend it - but it hasn't created a job for them. So, essentially, they need another handout next week.

Argument number three: There are many different ways to grow the economy. A tax cut is only one of them. Building public infrastructure is another. Adding government jobs is another. This one kills me. Government jobs are a part of the economy, much the same way that a drain is part of the overall plumbing system of a house. The government doesn't produce anything, doesn't retain a profit... it's an endless sinkhole into oblivion. So, to "create jobs" through the government they must first take money from the private sector to pay that person - and, likely, to put them in some beautiful brick building since we also just created a job through "public infrastructure." This ensures that the new government employee also gets a corner office with a view and plants in the lobby. But all that money to build the building, pay the employees and maintain both has to first get pulled out of the private sector where legitimate job creation through profit and supply and demand could be taking place. So where that money in the private sector could be invested in new innovative technologies... in new products... and yes, in new sales pitches to get the American public buying the product... it is now sucked into the vortex that is government spending. But HEY. Someone has a job.

Argument number four: What we're really worried about is growing income inequality. We just want to make life fair. Well, buck up, little camper. Life isn't fair. And income inequality, to some degree, makes sense. If you want to make more money, get out there and better yourself. Use your creativity... use your gray matter to figure out what needs doing and get it done. Charge for it. This is the way capitalism works. Frankly, if you're sitting around complaining because someone else makes more money than you do -- and holding out your hand to the federal government, expecting them to "even things up," you're sitting in a mess of your own making. This is the land of opportunity... but nobody promised opportunity was going to beat down your door, drag you out of bed, light the way for you, and make you drink from its fountain. You actually have to find opportunity for yourself.

If our country chooses to continue listening to these four arguments, we will no longer be the beacon of freedom and opportunity we once were. And we will all be sitting together in a mess of our own making.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Flotilla Fiasco

The news coverage regarding Israel recently has been, in a word, horrible.

Yes, I'm biased. I have written blog posts before about my love for Israel. My viewpoint includes compassion for the plight of the Palestinian people - but it does not lay the blame for their situation at the feet of the Israelis.

I have been watching the news reports regarding the flotilla incident... regarding the recent deaths of the four divers... regarding the next "aid" convoy being offered Iranian escort... and I am troubled. Seriously, Israel has always gotten a bum rap from some. International expectations of them as a nation are completely unrealistic. But the anti-Israel rhetoric has been ratcheted up to new levels.

Sure, Helen Thomas spewed some vitriol their way... anybody seriously surprised by this hasn't been paying attention to her viewpoints. And she's well known for asking "tough questions" of certain people -- and cozying up with others. She's not a serious journalist... she's kind of the Sean Hannity of the left... with less drama and scarier looks.

And honestly, the fact that Obama refused to stand with Israel in the face of international condemnation isn't a huge surprise, either. I don't think anybody truly expects him to stand with Israel when push comes to shove regardless of what's going on. He tried to cloak his refusal to stand with them behind a wishy-washy, "We need to wait until we know the facts," but we pretty much knew what had happened already. It was all on film, after all.

The news organizations, in general, insist on reporting the flotilla incident as if Israel had "attacked" some peaceful ships with humanitarian aid. The language used continues to give this impression, regardless of any facts that surface to the contrary. Now there is some lip service paid to the fact that the people aboard the ship attacked the soldiers, but we are meant to believe that this is only because the mean, nasty Israelis scared them into doing so. One publishing made it sound as if these people were afraid for their lives and so they quickly sawed off pieces of the ship in order to protect themselves. What a joke!

Now the NYT has an article out there titled, "Washington Asks: What To Do About Israel?" According to this article, Israel has recently "ignored the national security concerns of its biggest benefactor, the United States, and instead have taken steps that damage American interests abroad." A Mr. Cordesman (with the Center for Strategic and International Studies) states, "It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States, as well as the United States to Israel, and that it become far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews."

... Seriously? The United States, while supporting Israel militarily and monetarily, has also consistently pushed Israel to make ridiculous concessions with their enemies - endangering her people and putting them in more and more awkward positions. Frankly, I think it's high time she stood up for herself and said, "No more!"

The very next paragraph of the article reads as:

The list of recent moves by the Netanyahu government that potentially threaten American interests has grown steadily, many foreign policy experts argue. The violence that broke out when Israeli commandos stormed aboard a Gaza flotilla last week chilled American relations with a key Muslim ally, Turkey.

Ummm... wait a minute. America's relations with Turkey should be chilled by the fact that Turkey played a key role in trying to break the blockade that has been in place for Israel's security for the last three years. I realize that this isn't the case... that our current administration is more intent on fostering cozy relationships with radical muslims (like Iran) than it is on continuing a long-standing friendship with the only beacon of freedom in the Middle East. But I think that trying to befriend the countries who are interested in seeing the West destroyed - at the expense of our friendship with Israel - is stupid.

The article goes on:

The Gaza fight also makes it more difficult for America to rally a coalition that includes Arab and Muslim states against Iran's nuclear ambitions. Mr. Netanyahu's refusal to stop Jewish housing construction in Arab East Jerusalem also strains American ties with Arab allies. It also makes reaching an eventual peace deal, which many administration officials believe is critical to America's broader interests in the Muslim world, even more difficult.

So wait a minute. The fact that Israel is protecting itself from Hamas is what is making it difficult to get other Arab states to join the West in its concern about a nuclear Iran? If only Israel would give in and allow Hamas to bomb its citizens, then the Arab world would be okay with the United States? Really? Two things... one, if this is true, then that tells us huge things about the Muslim world. And two, it's not true. If there's one thing we know, it's that the Muslim world - in general - despises the United States. Please understand that I'm not saying all Muslims despise the United States. But, in general, countries governed by Sharia law are not going to be on our side - even if we bomb Israel ourselves. They don't like us.

The article continues to talk about a statement made by General Petraeus in which he said that if progress toward peace wasn't made, it gives the extremists a "stick to beat us with." No word from Petraeus in the article on how one is to go about achieving "progress toward peace" with an entity that will not be satisfied until you are "wiped off the map."

Israeli officials are becoming alarmed at our current administration's lack of support - as well as people within our own national politics, both Republican and Democrat. Representative Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York, has spent hours with the President trying to impart his concerns.

Things are lining up in such a way that I believe the United States is going to desert Israel in her time of greatest need. I'm sorry to see it - I love Israel and I think that the United States can only be benefitted by befriending her, regardless of how the rest of the world sees it. However, due to various other beliefs I hold, I don't worry for Israel simply because the United States won't stand behind her. After all, with the God of the universe on one's side, who really needs the measly United States government for protection?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Democrat Reaction

Oh, my word. Where to begin?

Scott Brown won in Massachusetts -- in MASSACHUSETTS, of all places. Conservatives everywhere are jubilant. I logged on to my facebook page to see posts of HE WON, HE WON, HE WON everywhere. (Yes, I have a lot of conservative friends.) It was a good piece of news in my day... I'll say that much.

And what of the democrat reaction? Well... that's more interesting even than the news that Brown won. Gail Collins of the NYT writes, "Looking on the bright side, having 60 votes in the Senate could have been more trouble than it was worth. With one less vote, expectations might be more modest." Uh-huh. People were just expecting too much of those sixty votes... that was the problem. What the Democrats really need is a way to blame problems on the Republican party again.

The NYT editorial board writes that the Dems "had an exceptionally weak candidate, but the result calls into question the party's tactical political competence." AH!! It doesn't call into question the president's radical agenda, only the competence of the party's political tactics to get it done. Hmmm... I suppose there's truth to that, to a certain degree. With the super-majority that they had, they should have been able to get the president's stuff completed before the election took place. In that respect, their tactics were nonexistent.

But the icing on the cake comes from Barack Obama's response to the election:

"Here's my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts but the mood around the country - the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years."

"If there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And I do think that is a mistake of mine."

So... it's largely George W. Bush's fault... but to the extent that it's Obama's fault, it's because he has not been effective in telling the American people what their core values are... and how he needs to change institutions to more closely match what the American people's core values are supposed to be. Sheesh. Some nerve.

I know what my values are... and I know that what Obama and Congress are pushing don't match up to my values. I don't need an administration to be more effective in telling me what my values should be. And if they want to ramp that up in an effort to make sure the next election cycle doesn't include a bunch of Scott Brown upsets, I say go for it. No better way to tick off the voting public than to tell them all what they're supposed to think and believe now, too.

I'm almost back to loving politics again!