The Liberty Professor Endorses Chris McDaniel for US Senate

McDanielPerhaps there is nothing more wonderful, more perplexing, or more troublesome than the challenge of discovering where we belong in life. As a Christian and theologian, I believe that life is God’s greatest gift to each of us. It is a gift that must be unwrapped daily, little by little. It can forever surprise and delight us.

The poet e. e. cummings was a unique person. To be oneself, he argued, is the toughest challenge of all. “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Yet discovering yourself is the first challenge.

I have come to realize that I am simply not called to the political arena. God has opened new possibilities for the fulfillment of my life’s genuine vocation. We academic types are used to argumentation. In some ways we even thrive on it. Others are not used to it and find it not only baffling, but confrontational as well. I do not wish my political commitments to be a barrier to those to whom I may be called to minister.

My political commitments have certainly not changed. But I will no longer be a public spokesman for those commitments. This will be the final post for The Liberty Professor.

These are unsettling times for constitutionalists. We are under fire from both sides of the political aisle. We are labelled with the cruelest of names and accused of the most vile of attitudes–for no other reason than the fact that we have asked important questions. Has government become too unwieldy? Is it too powerful? Are both major parties responsible for growing the size and scope of government for the sake of their respective agendas?

I believe the proper response to each of these questions is assuredly “yes.”

As we approach the 2014 midterm elections, Mississippi has an opportunity to make history. In my opinion, Sen. Thad Cochran has not done enough to support the Constitution. He is a big-government Republican whose time in DC should come to an end. With this post I thank him publicly for his service and I humbly ask him to return home as a private citizen.

In addition, I happily and vigorously endorse Chris McDaniel, whom I believe will bring a new voice to Washington politics on behalf of the good people of Mississippi. I have met Chris. I have heard him speak. I believe he is a genuine constitutionalist.

It goes without saying that I don’t always agree with Chris McDaniel. No one with a brain should agree with any politician all the time. There are things I would say differently than McDaniel. There are ways I would emphasize the message differently. But one thing is absolutely certain to me: Chris McDaniel is a person of profound integrity and soul-searching honesty.

I believe Chris McDaniel will join political forces with other elected officials in DC who are “fighting the good fight” to bring back to the national debate a full appreciation of the power of limited government as laid out in our Constitution. For that reason I support him without reservation.

Humbly, I ask you to give Chris your consideration. Think of the future and the burden being placed upon your children and your grandchildren. Think of the unbridled power and expense being accumulated in the halls of the federal government. Then take note of the growing clamor of false accusations and mud being slung toward McDaniel and his campaign. It speaks louder than words. It tells you that some powerful people are very afraid of the McDaniel campaign message.

Ideas are dangerous. McDaniel has a good idea: let’s be faithful to the Constitution.

Please mark your calendar. The Republican primary is set for June 3rd. I urge you to cast your vote for Chris McDaniel, and to vote for him a second time in the general election on November 4th. I have already contacted my neighbors and asked them to consider Chris. I hope you will do likewise.

It is a great honor to offer this endorsement, and it serves as a fitting way to bring this blog to a close.  May God bless America, and may God preserve the Constitution.

Moral Action and the State

untitledPublic-service announcements are everywhere.  For some time now it has been common for them to repeat a moral proverb that goes something like this: “You can judge a society by how well it treats its weakest members.” There are variations on this theme, but what they have in common is the idea that we have a moral duty to those who are unable to care for themselves or defend themselves.

Great civic and religious leaders have reminded us of this in different ways.

According to the gospels, Jesus of Nazareth argued for the rights of the poor and the necessity for his followers to be generous in offering assistance to them (Matthew 25:45f). Mohammed insisted on the practice of giving assistance to the poor; it is one of the five most important “pillars” of Islam to this day (Qur’an 9:60). Gandhi described poverty as “the worst form of violence.”  In all of the great religious traditions of humanity we find an emphasis on compassion, kindness, and mutual care.

These enlightened traditions are arguing for a sense of human community–a recognition that none of us is here alone and therefore, how we live our lives affects one another.  They encourage us to act in solidarity (for mutual responsibility) rather than solipsism (acting as if the only thing that matters is the self).

At the risk of sounding like a preacher, let me share with you what I believe at the very depths of my being.  I believe in God and in the overflowing goodness of God.  To my understanding, the entire cosmos is infused with divine possibility.  Following the teaching of my favorite theologian (Jesuit Karl Rahner), I believe that the human person has an unlimited capacity for the divine, both in our experience of living and our capacity to act.

I also believe that kinds words and small actions can make a world of difference.  In fact, I know it from experience.

But I also know from experience that people can be shallow, selfish, uncaring, and foolish in their choices.  The great religions of the world have dealt with this reality as well. Christians often refer to it as original sin. Another Jesuit theologian, William O’Malley, has gone on record saying that original sin is the only Christian doctrine that you can see on the front page of the newspaper every day. Recent events in Newtown, CT and closer to home in Lucedale, MS demonstrate that O’Malley is correct.

Believe it or not, I’m actually trying to live my life as a person of peace, as a person who fosters the dignity of others, as a person who is compassionate. Though I may not always succeed, in my work and in my personal affairs I actually try to do a bit more than expected, to reach out to those who are hurting, to make a real difference for the betterment of the lives of others.

That’s our moral duty.  Or so I believe.

I’m willing to bet that lots and lots of my neighbors believe likewise. We’re called to lives of moral activity. And by that I don’t just mean that we should stay out of trouble. As the Boy Scouts like to say, we should leave the place better than we found it. My Jewish friends refer to this as tikkun olam, “repairing the world.”  In my system of belief I am responsible for this. You are responsible for this. We are responsible for this.

So why do we cede this personal responsibility to the state?  I realize that Jesus said to “give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar,” but I can find no evidence in the gospel accounts to justify the idea that we should give to Caesar so that Caesar can provide for the needy. It seems that Caesar isn’t doing a very good job of it, anyway.

When did it become the duty of the state to care for our neighbors? When did we decide that government bureaucrats could better care for the poor than churches? Why are those on the so-called “progressive” side of American politics considered to be the compassionate ones while those who argue for limited government supposedly have hard hearts and unreasonable demands? How did the insistence that laws, taxes, and regulations be applied equally and not to special parties become misrepresented as a preferential option for the rich?

Let’s get back to morality for a moment.

I truly believe the things that I enunciated above.  I think many others believe those things, too. But the problem with morality–like religion–is that it’s very subjective. I may believe that my moral standards are universal and should apply to everyone. You may disagree. You may have different universal standards. Whose will prevail? Who gets to tell everyone else how to live, how to work, and how to spend their money?

The great wisdom of our nation’s founders was that they recognized this inherent problem. They also recognized that ceding moral responsibility to centralized government necessarily implied the expansion of force. The more you authorize government to do, the greater must be its power to enforce its way. This would appear to be one more reason for limiting the power of government to essentials.

Obviously, in our federal system, certain prerogatives must be delegated to the federal government. The Constitution severely limits those things, and for good reason. Once they are ceded power, governments tend to accumulate more and more of it (both at home and abroad). Because of our history and our understanding of governmental power as based upon the will of the people, we Americans have generally been comfortable with the exercise of governmental regulation.

In my view it’s unfortunate, however, that we have now come to equate our society’s moral goodness with how much money government is taking from some to give to others.

This is not what the great religious traditions have in mind when it comes to their teaching on moral action. There is nothing inherently moral about bloated bureaucracies, wasteful spending, or specialized taxation aimed at particular segments of our society. If federal taxation is necessary, and it seems that it is, then it should be accomplished fairly, evenly, and with an eye to funding only the responsibilities specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.

Anything else is immoral, especially when it has resulted in $16 trillion in debt–a debt that is already harming the poor and destroying the economic future of our children (meaning an increase in future poverty).

Obama the Avenging Angel

untitledHere in the South we have an old saying that comes to mind in times like these:  “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

When Barack Obama was elected to the presidency in 2008, he pulled off the greatest political hoax of all time. Then he did it again in 2012, to an even greater and more damaging degree.  In 2008 most Americans didn’t know who he really was or what he stood for.  They elected him in spite of this.  By 2012 they did know–and they re-elected him anyway.

Internationally, Barack Obama intends to put the United States in its place.  Domestically, he intends to fix what has been wrong with the nation since its founding.  American capitalism is a gangrenous limb to him that must be amputated, even if the patient doesn’t recognize its poison.  For the next four years he will be relentless.  He will saw, hack, and chop off anyone and any institution that stands in his way.  Helping him in his hell-bent mission are his union and corporate minions whose pockets are stuffed with government cash disguised as “stimulus funding” and “quantitative easing.”

Nothing matters to him but his goal:  certainly not truth or honesty.  He is not interested in governing for the good of all.  He seeks only to divide us into competing constituencies where he can demonize those whose personal sacrifice has brought them success.  Those who have built businesses, earned salaries, and saved for retirement have done it by unjust treatment of others.  They have accomplished these things by harming, depriving, and cheating others whose backs were the stepping stones to their wealth.  So he believes.

You see, for Barack Obama, capitalism is not a form of economic freedom.  It’s not a way of social interaction for the sake of mutual benefit.  It’s a system of theft.  It’s dishonest.  It’s diseased.  It must be cut out.

And how does he propose to do it?  The first stage is already complete.  He has stolen from free-market enterprise the very language that explains it.  Back in July the president reminded us that “if you were successful somebody along the line gave you help.”  He went on to say that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”  Then, in October, he offered this insight: “As Abraham Lincoln understood, there are some things that we do better together.”

For all of his limitations, Obama is a master political strategist.  He learned his strategy from the very best of socialist agitators.  He is, after all, a community organizer.  His talents are to be found in primarily one area:  mobilizing mobs who make demands while threatening with the possibility of violence.  He does this by hijacking the message of his political adversaries, reframing that message and then turning it against them.

Let me make it clear in the examples I gave from Obama’s campaign speeches earlier this year.  He says there are some things we do better together.  He says we need each other to be economically successful.  He says we need the expertise and talents of others to build businesses.  Those of us who believe in economic liberty (free-market exchange of capital) already know this.  We understand that we can only build our businesses with the help of others … that’s why we put them to work, paying higher wages to the best and brightest.  That’s why business competitors are always offering more incentives and greater benefits to workers!

When Barack Obama says “we,” he doesn’t mean “we free people.”  He means “we the government–we the ones with the armed power of the state who can take what we want from anyone we wish.”  He means “we who will tax, spend, and redistribute as we wish.” He also means “we who will allow you keep an appropriate amount of what you’ve earned, saved, or inherited.”  This is the all-wise, all-powerful “we” of tyrannical government. This is the very government that is seizing control of healthcare, inserting its bureaucrats into your medical decisions, raising taxes, destroying the value of the dollar, and making plans to confiscate private retirement funds.

To accomplish all that he hopes, President Obama must have the backing of the people as willing accomplices in his tyranny.  He can only get this cooperation if he convinces enough Americans that their dream of freedom and economic success was a nightmare from which they must be awakened.  It appears he may have already accomplished this.  Our nation’s founders feared this tyranny of the majority and attempted to establish a governmental system that would prevent it.  We have chipped away at the precautions they left us.

Obama’s goal is simple:  tax, spend, and create fiat money so fast and ferociously that the entire economic and financial system implodes.  When it does, the president will calmly step forward with his head held high and his chin thrust forward. “All is well,” he will tell us. “We, the government, will make all of this right for you.”  In their fear and panic, most Americans will agree to anything that appears to give them security.  Governmental power, already at a dangerous all-time high, will increase exponentially.  The remaking of America will then be complete.

Like I said, you ain’t see nothin’ yet.

Elections Have Consequences

Two weeks and a day.  That’s how long it has been since America made its presidential choice for the next four years.  The prediction of Michelle Obama will continue to unfold as the country’s Democrat leadership works to “change our traditions, our history,” and as we “move into a different place as a nation.”

While I was wrong about how the voting would turn out on November 6th, there were some things I got right.  I wondered aloud back in February if “Anybody But Obama” was enough to defeat the sitting president.  The GOP tried to be excited about this contest, but I’m not convinced that most Republican voters were that enthused about Mitt Romney. Their energy was aimed at removing Obama from the White House rather than putting Romney into it.  That wasn’t enough.

If you compare the electoral maps of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, you’ll see that very little has changed in terms of how the state electoral votes will actually be cast on December 17th.  Romney garnered a few more electoral numbers than McCain (206 to 173), but the overall pool of nationwide voters was down.  Approximately five and a half million fewer voters turned out for this election than in 2008.

One of the biggest mistakes that Romney made in his campaign was to present the economic issue as “us vs. them.”  As I have often pointed out here, the tide of those who receive government benefits is growing rapidly while the number of taxpayers is shrinking. That isn’t the combination for a successful economy; it’s bad news for the future.  But it’s understandable that people vote to keep their benefits coming.  Mitt Romney was right to point this out, but he did a poor job of explaining why it’s such a dangerous situation to be in.

It’s not “us vs. them.”  Nor is it really “the makers vs. the takers” or anything else like that.  It’s about us–all of us.  By describing the free market in a way that divides us (as Democrats often do) we misrepresent its communal nature and we allow ourselves to be duped by the rhetoric of the left.  Simply put, Republicans must make the case for why our current spending is a path of destruction–not for the rich but for the poor and the middle class.  Romney was painted as the wealthy guy who resents the poor and the working classes.  I don’t for a moment think that hey believes that, but the Democrats did a good job of making it appear that he does.

How high will spending go?  Will it get to $20 trillion?  Perhaps $24 trillion?  Economic bubbles eventually burst.  That includes monetary bubbles.  Maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to avoid a complete meltdown.  But must we take the chance?  Can we awaken from this dreamworld of never-ending spending that our political leaders have led us into? The one good thing about Obama’s re-election is that if the double-dip recession does become a reality, there won’t be a Republican in the White House for the Democrats to blame, though they’ll undoubtedly try to blame the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.  (Given the timid nature of Speaker John Boehner and his merry band of big-spending Republicans, that will be especially ironic.)

By the way, that predicted double dip is now a reality in Europe.  We can expect it to move our way in the near future.  As it does, the economic darlings of the left will continue to push for more spending and higher taxes.  This includes the intractable Paul Krugman.  In a recent column he sang the praises of 91% federal taxation.  That’s right.  He seems to like the idea that a wasteful, bloated, overspending federal government should be allowed to return to the days of taking nearly all the money of the very wealthy.  He wants them to pay their fair share.  We hear that often these days, don’t we?  How much is fair?  If they take 100%, will that finally be fair?

As author Dustin Siggins points out, the top 1% of earners make fifty times the amount of money made by the bottom 20% of earners.  But they pay 1500 times the taxes!  It’s not enough to talk about what’s fair–we have to talk about what’s just, what makes sense, and what is hurting everyone.

In the midst of all this, it appears that the GOP has lost its soul.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got to take a ride on Marine One (the president’s helicopter) and to speak to Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen while they rode on Air Force One.  Who knows?  Maybe he even voted for Obama.  Now he has made his debut on Saturday Night Live.  His constituents probably enjoyed seeing their governor on TV.  Well, those who have electricity anyway.  These are unfortunate signs of the time.

Don’t look for genuine leadership from most of the GOP.  Instead, you should expect them to stomp their feet and to talk a good game.  All the while they’ll do only what they have to do in order to appear to oppose Obama.  Our nation’s capital is a stage on which the players perform.  Perception is everything.

Even I was surprised on November 6th, but now I’m listening more attentively.  As Republican leaders argue about turning further left and becoming even more like their Democrat counterparts, I wonder if we really have a two-party system anymore.  The Democrats kept the White House and the Senate.  The Republicans kept the House.  The electoral map has barely changed.  That speaks more to me of apathy than an energetic mandate.

Republicans, take note.  Becoming more like Democrats is the wrong lesson to take from this election.  Drinking their Kool-Aid is intoxicating, but it makes you lean left.  It doesn’t look good on you.  Give the voters an alternative vision, one that is inspired by the constitutional values and free-market inventiveness that made this country great.

This vision might be a hard thing to sell to voters who have been poorly educated in these truly American values, but acting more like liberal Democrats isn’t winning the GOP any friends.  In fact, it appears to be losing them the few that they already have.

Unleashing Joe Biden

The choice of Joe Biden as VP for the Democrats was a bit of a mystery to me.  Sure, he comes with some amazing insight into the ways of Washington.  But he also comes with one heck of an impediment:  he does a very poor job of self-regulating.  My mother long ago taught me that “just because you think it doesn’t mean you have to say it.”  Joe’s mother may never have had that chance.  Or perhaps Joe refused to listen.

Let’s set the scene.  Tonight is the vice-presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.  Some are billing it as “the Thrill in the ‘Ville.”  They may be right.  Republican Paul Ryan has a wealth of financial and government data at his command and he has already demonstrated that he’s not afraid to use it.  Democrat Biden has a reputation as an experienced politician who sometimes allows his mouth to move faster than his brain.  No matter how you slice it, tonight’s debate should be exciting.

My hope is that Ryan will be measured and accurate, but not timid.  He has to present the facts against this current administration in a way that proves the economic dangers they’ve offered in place of leadership, but without bringing boredom and confusion to the public.  My hope for Biden is that he feels the groove of the moment and breaks the leash that was put on him by the Democrat party several days ago.  Essentially, he was yanked off the streets for a six-day preparation period as tonight’s debate draws near.  Perhaps this is because, as some have argued, Biden is a “happy warrior” who enjoys debate prep.  On the other hand, perhaps it’s because there are those among his handlers who know his penchant for losing control of his tongue.

Many are expecting that “Smokin’ Joe” will go on the attack tonight.  Democrats would like to shore up the independent vote and regain the undecided vote, especially in light of Barack Obama’s poor performance last week.  They also want to reassure the media establishment that was so devastated by that performance.  (There wasn’t just one meltdown last week; Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC suffered their own implosion at the time.)

Joe will probably come out swinging.  Oh, how I hope he does!  If Ryan has a strong upper cut and hammers his message of responsible government spending, Biden may break his leash.  Should that happen we’ll be in for a genuine thrill “in the ‘Ville” as Biden begins talking off the cuff.  He’s already famous (or infamous) for a number of gaffes.  In 2007, just after Obama announced his presidential candidacy, Biden called him “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate, and bright, and clean, and a nice-looking guy.”  In January of this year he caught himself when he started to use a mock foreign accent while speaking about overseas calling centers while visiting New Hampshire.  Perhaps he was recalling the heat for his previous comments about the ethnic makeup of Delaware, a state he served as senator from 1973 until he became vice president.  In the summer of 2006 he described Delaware as a place in which “you cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin’ Doughnuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”  For emphasis he added, “I’m not joking.”

Never mind that Republicans have been run out of town on a rail for much less.  Democrats get a pass on such things, at least as far as long-term consequences are concerned.  Yes, they’ll be questioned, and yes, some eyebrows will go up.  But the majority of the media will give the benefit of the doubt to any Democrat … after all, Democrats care more, right?

In short, tonight’s debate is all about meeting the real candidates.  Some have been arguing lately that the Romney campaign is holding Ryan back from saying what he really thinks.  If this is correct, then tonight is the night to set him free from those constraints.  We constitutionalists want to hear the bold criticism that Paul Ryan can bring regarding the size, scope, and expense of government.  Holding Ryan back only increases our concerns about Romney.

On the other hand, we also want to see Biden off his leash.  Holding Biden back only hides his agenda and his racial biases.

I continue to predict a strong victory for Romney–perhaps even a landslide.  One pollster has pulled his apparatus out of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia because Obama can’t win in those states.  We’re looking at a Romney victory of at least 310 electoral votes, or so I believe.  Time will tell.

Until then, let’s unleash Ryan and Biden. 

The Federal Tax Code is Part of Our Problem

You may be dismayed to discover that Title 26 of the United States Code–federal tax law–contains no less than 11 subtitles, 100 chapters, and 9,834 subsections.  That comes to 73,608 pages.  God seems to need fewer pages for the entire Bible.  I use the word “dismayed” because any law that affects a citizen has consequences.  Imagine all the possible consequences that may very well appear in almost 74,000 pages.

This isn’t tax law … it’s a tax nightmare.  Maybe Congress agrees since they’re always tinkering with it.  Still, it continues to grow and to become more convoluted.  Taxes are necessary.  I get that.  But this mess called the “tax code” is not necessary.  It’s actually detrimental.  It changes so quickly that millions of us pay professionals to file our taxes because only someone who keeps abreast of the code’s mutations can be trusted to do it properly (except perhaps for the simplest of filings, such as the 1040 EZ).  By the way, Congress tinkers with the US Code so often that the House of Representatives has its own website to keep track of the changes.

Even if everyone agrees that taxes are necessary, the federal government does much more with the tax code than just collect money.  It alters our behavior.  And it does it intentionally.  Things that are encouraged are taxed less while things that are discouraged are taxed more.  It’s a not-too subtle form of manipulation.  From fines to armed agents, government has lots of ways to control us.  It’s also a form of payoff to those who get a nod of approval from government and a way of punishing those who don’t.  Government, through the tax code, picks economic winners and losers.

If we’re serious about reform, the first thing we have to do is stop using the tax code for social control and political payback.  It should be about collecting taxes, period.  That kind of leadership won’t come unless the voters insist on it.  We Americans need to reclaim the time-honored tradition of criticizing the constant government tendency to tax.  For all the falsehoods and misperceptions concerning the contemporary movement known as the Tea Party, these citizens are faithfully exercising a right that goes all the way back to Boston Harbor in 1773.  Thank God for that.

Here are a few thoughts about specific reform of the tax code, brought to you by the Liberty Professor.  I hope to get lots of feedback on these ideas.

1.  America needs a flat tax.  The tax code should be clear, concise, and easy to fulfill.  Citizens shouldn’t have to hire professionals just to satisfy the government need for finance.  Dump the deductions and all the special considerations.  For the genuinely poor, an exception can be made.  Nonetheless, everyone must have “skin in the game.”  Even the poor would be expected to complete a tax form and mail a dollar to the IRS each year.

2.  We must avoid a national sales tax.  Herman Cain, Neal Bortz, and others have proposed a value-added, or national sales tax.  It goes by other names as well and is sometimes referred to as the Fair Tax.  I oppose the idea, not because I necessarily think it bad in itself, but simply because giving another taxation tool to the federal government is a very bad idea.  History proves it.  Once we allow the camel’s nose into the tent with another tax, it will be difficult or impossible to control it.  We should be very afraid of this idea, even if it proposes to do away with income tax altogether.  What is proposed and what will come out of Congress would be two different things.  Can you imagine how many politicians in DC would adore the chance to tax us on the federal level first on our income and then again on our spending?  Perish the thought!

3.  The so-called “progressive” taxation system is immoral.  That’s right.  You read it here.  Increasing the percentage of tax paid by a citizen just because that citizen makes more dollars than another is immoral.  It’s unreasonable and unfair.  It’s a form of legalized robbery.  Government does it because it can and because it’s popular.  It’s not just a tax policy, it’s an ideology of greed.  Some will complain that “the rich should pay more.”  I agree.  And the flat tax assures that they will.  Whatever percentage of income is paid by virtue of a flat-tax system, the rich will pay more.  Whether the universal rate is 10%, or 12%, or 15% of a person’s income, the actual dollar amount will be higher for those whose income is higher.  It’s simple mathematics.

4.  Only people should pay income tax, not corporations.  If businesses and corporations didn’t have to pay federal taxes, imagine how much of their earnings could be invested in building new factories, hiring new employees, and developing new products or services.  All of this money diverted into the coffers of government could be spent on free-market incentives to re-establish and enliven a vibrant economy.  American corporations that have moved their operations overseas would return, and foreign corporations would look to establish businesses in the US.  Only those who prefer government control over free economic enterprise could oppose this idea.

5.  The federal government will have to get smaller.  Proposals such as these would mean a restructuring of the economy.  Money would leave the hands of politicians and bureaucrats and return to the pockets of citizens.  But it would not stay in those pockets.  That’s the nature of capital-related enterprise.  If I have a jingle in my pocket, that jingle will eventually finds its way into yours.  The movement of money is the dynamism of a strong economy.  Politicians like to speak of this when it’s time to find votes, but they don’t really believe it.  Notice how often they speak of the problem of “paying” for tax cuts?  There’s no such thing.  What they really mean is they want and demand the money we have produced.  And once a politician has a hand in your pocket, there’s no end to how deep it will go.

More Americans would rally to these ideas if they had to write a check to government each pay day.  But since government takes “its share” before we get paid, it’s easier for us not to miss it.  If it went into your pocket first and then you had to write a check, you’d be clamoring for a new tax system.

If you hate my suggestions, you probably don’t have much to worry about.  There are very, very few politicians in either of the two major parties who would support such a drastic economic empowerment to the people who make the nation work.  Tea is always better than Kool-Aid, but it takes courage to drink tea.

The New Symbol for America’s Economic Decline

It really is the “silly season” of politics, friends, and now Barack Obama and his Democrat supporters are trying to save Big Bird.  Or to put it more correctly, they’re trying to use Big Bird to save the Obama campaign.  At the presidential debate on Wednesday evening, Mitt Romney actually threatened to make PBS pay for itself.

At PBS, the chicken coup where the big yellow fowl hangs out, they weren’t pleased.  The CEO immediately went on the defensive.  I’m not sure exactly what sex Big Bird is, but clearly for the CEO this bird is laying eggs made of gold.  She receives well over $600,000 per year as salary.  Now I’m stunned.

Speaking directly to the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer (an employee of PBS), Romney said, “I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to—I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

Why is it so egregious to suggest that PBS fund itself like all other television networks?  According to New York Times columnnist Charles Blow, it’s because Mitt Romney hates poor people.  Addressing Romney for his remark, Blow asks, “do you know anything about looking out for the less fortunate … or  do you think they’re all grouches scrounging around in trash cans?”  Mr. Blow really is blowing something our way.  It seems to be political smoke.  It can be used to provide cover for President Obama.

Over at PBS, Paula Kerger (the well-paid CEO) said it’s “stunning” that Romney would single out PBS in his remarks.  Her comment, and those of others who find Romney’s “attack” to be appalling are being covered widely in the press.  There’s talk of a million-muppet march and a revolt by moms everywhere who don’t have time to entertain their kids.  There’s even a photograph making the rounds in which the poor bird is standing in line with 1930s-era unemployed waiting for a handout.

For just a moment, America, can we put our feelings aside and use our brains?  Isn’t there more to making funding decisions than just the fact that some things make us feel warm and fuzzy inside?  I adore Big Bird, too.  I adore all the Muppets.  I think children should have the help they need to grow and develop solid skills for success.  How could I not?  I’m an educator!

It is not my intention to challenge the usefulness of educational programming.  What I do challenge–in the most energetic of ways–is the assumption that children won’t get those skills unless the federal government pays for their dissemination on PBS.  Quite literally, there are many sources for gaining knowledge and skills.  Those sources include twelve years or more of free schooling and thousands of free libraries all over the nation.  And let’s not forget that in 1990 the US Congress enacted the Children’s Television Act (CTA), mandating every TV broadcast station in the country to provide three hours of educational programming per week.  In addition, that programming must have a minimal amount of advertising and must be aired during particular times of day when children are watching.

How many education channels do we need before someone realizes that government funds aren’t necessary for people to learn?  We have the History Channel, History Channel 2, Discovery, National Geographic, Science Channel, Disney Channel, Animal Planet, Food Network, Biography, the Military Channel and more.  We even have music channels aimed at teaching and entertaining children such as Kidz Only and Toddler Tunes.  These channels are 100% educational all the time.  As Rasmussen pointed out earlier this year, 63% of the nation’s poor homes have cable television, meaning that a wide array of these educational resources is available to most of the poor.

Should PBS be saved?  Sure, that sounds fine.  But let PBS find its funding the same way that every other broadcast network finds their funding:  by advertising.  No more “games.”  Public broadcast stations actually already have advertising, but it comes across as plugs for their donors and the foundations that support its programming.  If you look closely at those foundations, they most often have policies and directives that lean left.  There’s nothing wrong with that at all.  But don’t shovel a load in my direction while trying to sell me the idea that there is no bias at PBS.

And let’s also not suppose that the well-paid CEO at PBS is acting from motives of benevolence or altruism.  She receives a large salary and she would like to keep receiving it, preferably at taxpayer expense.  I can’t really blame her for wanting to be paid well.  Don’t we all want that?  The difference is that most of us aren’t expecting our neighbors to come up with our salary by way of force through taxation.

To my mind, the argument that PBS must be publicly funded has about the same validity as the weak argument that tax dollars must be used to provide cell phones to the poor.  This is one more feel-good project that is being abused on a massive scale.  Should people have easy access to a phone, especially in the case of an emergency?  Of course.  That’s what pay phones are for.  They are cheap and they can be found almost everywhere (though their number has declined due to the proliferation of cell phones).  In addition, calls to 911 can be placed without cost.

I’m a constitutionalist.  I believe we need to return to the original understanding of our nation’s Founders regarding the prerogatives, powers, and expense of the federal government.  Those prerogatives, powers, and expenses should be limited.  I’m also a Christian and a theologian.  I do not advocate abandoning those who are truly poor and truly unable to help themselves.  But just because an idea sounds charitable and makes us feel more virtuous about ourselves doesn’t mean that we are obligated to put that idea into practice.

In the end, politicians speak about their care for the poor but in reality they’re buying votes with the political giveaways that are paid for on the backs of others.  It’s unjust.  It’s unfair.  It’s excessive.  And more than ever, it badly needs to be reformed.

Thanks to the Obama campaign and its emotion-driven, giveaway agenda, Big Bird has become the latest symbol of national decline.  The debate isn’t about whether we’ll care for the poor or not.  Our choice isn’t between rugged individualism or community concern.  It’s not between capitalism or working together, as Obama is trying to convince us.  Capitalism and free markets are one of humanity’s most perfect examples of what it means to work together.  I have economic needs.  You have economic goods to sell.  I have talents that are marketable and you have need of my skills.

See how it works?

The longer we wait for government the poorer we become.  The more government spends, the weaker our economy gets.  The costs of excessive government beneficence outweigh the benefits.

Big Bird, we love you.  We love you so much that we’re setting you free to find your own funding.  ABC, CBS, Fox, and all the others have made it work for them.  So please take your pretty yellow hand out of my pocket and get to work.