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.

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The Startling Hypocrisy of Sen. Harry Reid

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Oh! what a tangled web we weave 
When first we practice to deceive! 

Those immortal words were penned by Sir Walter Scott, the 19th-century Scottish poet and playwright.  As I watched Harry Reid stammer and stutter last night on the evening news, they came to my mind.  It seems that the tangled web of Harry’s political deceit enveloped him tightly as he struggled to deny the truth that slapped him aside his senatorial head.

Let’s set the scene.  As all the nation must know by now, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is locked in a bitter debate with the Democrat-controlled Senate. Constitutionally speaking, the funding of federal spending is a prerogative of the House. Republicans are keen to defund the supposedly “Affordable” Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.  (Low-information voters may not realize it, but the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing.)  Democrats in the Senate are refusing to consider any bill sent to them from the House that doesn’t fund the new healthcare law.  Eager to avoid the appearance of being ogres and haters of the needy, Republicans are sending over bite-sized pieces of legislation to fund particular portions of the federal government–while still holding the line on their refusal to pay for Obamacare.

Got it?  Both sides are playing the political game known as “Washington Song and Dance.” The nation is split right down the middle on this issue.  Don’t let either side fool you otherwise.  What should be done when a nation is divided and when its federal representatives are also divided?  The Constitution actually provides for that.  We are seeing in in the halls of Congress at this very moment.

The stalemate in DC is a good thing.  It’s a product of constitutional checks and balances.  A poorly-designed law was rushed through Congress and is now being implemented.  It wasn’t studied adequately or even read by many of those who voted for it with enthusiasm.  Citizens are torn over its provisions and their disgust is rising as the administration of Pres. Barack Obama gives exemptions to big labor as well as the staffers of big government.

The Democrats and their supporters in the “mainstream” media are painting the Republicans and the Tea Party as extremists and anarchists.  They complain about the refusal to compromise.  Yet all the while, there is no offer of compromise from the Democrats.  It became painfully obvious yesterday how foul a game is being played by Harry Reid and Senate Democrats under his command.

Folks, I have no pretensions here.  I’m not a Republican or a Democrat.  And I’m not happy with either of the major parties in DC.  That’s why I’ve returned to the Libertarian party.  But I’m entirely disgruntled by the fact that Harry Reid is acting so contemptuous and morally outraged and that he’s pointing a finger at the Republicans as if he himself is not to blame.  I’m tired of being told that Democrats care more about the poor and the elderly and that they are “the party of the people.”  I’m also tired of hearing so many of my fellow Christians wrongly think that the Democrat party is more charitable than the Republican party.  Certainly that is the national political mythology.  Many have bought into it with abandon–especially among the media.

Here’s the bottom line:  it’s not true.  Harry Reid proved it yesterday.  Record the date:  Wednesday, October 2, 2013.  He was being questioned by a reporter from CNN (not Fox–CNN).  Her name is Dana Bash and she had an urgent question for Sen. Reid concerning funding for the National Institutes of Health.  She reported to the sidestepping senator that children with cancer were being turned away from NIH clinical trials due to the federal shutdown.  Of course, Reid is eager to blame the nasty Republicans in the House of Representatives for this unfortunate reality.

Not so fast, Harry.  Dana Bash decided not to let him off the hook.  She made him squirm. Oh, goodness, how she made him squirm.  She informed the senator that the House was sending to the Senate a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the NIH cancer trials, and that this CR was coming with absolutely no strings attached.  After all, Democrats love children and the elderly.  They are not as cruel and as politically-minded as Republicans. Democrats are reasonable.  They are the party of the people.  They always put children first.  So goes the mythology.

So what did the fine senator say?  Simple enough.  He showed us his true political colors. He doesn’t care about children with cancer.  He cares about power.  He cares about winning.  The reporter pressed him and challenged him.  “If you can help one child with cancer,” she asked, “why wouldn’t you do it?”

Harry’s answer speaks for itself:  “Why would we want to do that?”

Over at the Atlantic Wire they are taking up for Sen. Reid with a bold headline:  “Come on, No.  Harry Reid Doesn’t Hate Kids with Cancer.”  If you want both sides of this debate, I encourage you to read the article.  Reid’s comments are placed in their fuller context.  I’m nothing if not fair.  Nonetheless, let’s try to keep our focus.  The question at hand has nothing to do with whether or not Harry Reid hates children with cancer.  The question is whether he will allow those children to die in order to gain political capital.  Perhaps he and the rest of the Senate leadership qualify as Obamacare’s first death panel.

Both sides are playing political games.  Neither side has clean hands, but one side is playing particularly dirty.  For my money, it’s the Democrats.  Why is their game so much worse?  Because it’s not just politics as usual.  It’s nasty politics pretending to be objective morality.  It’s akin to the divine right of kings claimed by tyrants throughout all of history. It disgusts me.  It should disgust you, too.

The Truth About Truth

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737)

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737); in retrospect, perhaps it’s a bit of political irony that the day after completing this piece, the artist tragically committed suicide

Last night, while channel surfing, I happened upon a documentary about the flooding of Venice, Italy. According to one city official interviewed on the program, about 100 times a year the tide rises higher than normal and floods the city. The waters of Venice are beautiful when they stay in their canals, but troublesome when they visit themselves upon homes, businesses, and historic cathedrals. Never mind that the Venetians have had problems with their lagoon for centuries or that their city rests atop wood pilings. The producers of this video claimed to know the cause and they proclaimed it passionately. Venice is undoubtedly flooding, they said, because of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. It’s worse than that, however. In their own words, “the world is sinking.”

I sympathize with the good people of Venice. But they’ll find an answer to their water problems as they always have. Their history is loaded with past examples of flooding (and taxation to pay for its remedy). In great part this is because its underwater foundation slips a bit lower every year. Even those who believe in human-caused global warming have to admit that “the greatest threat to the city” for most of its history has been “earth subsidence.” In other words, its wooden foundation is slipping deeper and deeper into the mud below.

As a popular science-fiction program once reminded us with the start of every episode, “the truth is out there.” Yes, it certainly is. But to get to it there are a few things you need to understand about the truth. In other words, there is some truth about truth that you need to know–truly!

First, let’s realize that we humans are “wired” to find explanations for things. That, along with our advanced brains, has given us a biological advantage over the other species on the planet. They may be bigger and stronger, but we’re smarter. We’re driven to find answers.

Before you become too proud of your genetic superiority, remember a second important point. We humans are also, in a sense, sociological herd animals. We move in psychological “packs.” Rather than doing the hard work of thinking for ourselves, we often accept what others believe. This can happen for any number of reasons (affection, political preference, religious belief, admiration, physical attraction, etc.). I confess to having a strong distaste for this tendency. As a child, when I did stupid things, my father wisely challenged me. His challenges stuck with me. When I see a parade of others following a “Pied Piper” of any sort, I shy away to watch … and to learn.

A third truth about truth that we must recognize is that money changes everything. Even truth–or what is presented as truth. There are plenty of people who would sell their souls for money. There are even more who would manipulate data for money or accept funding with “strings” attached. When billions and billions in government funding is involved, there simply is no way to know how deeply the influence and corruption have drilled themselves into a search for truth. Big money can come from big government or big corporations. Sometimes both.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves that there is no such thing as pure objectivity. Perhaps Leonard Nemoy’s Mister Spock came close, but even he was half human. We humans are motivated by all sorts of things, and not all of them are bad. Please don’t interpret my words to suggest that I’m a pessimist or misanthrope (a people hater). I’m not. But I am a realist. Call it sin, or imperfection, or simply human reality–but let’s face it. We humans aren’t perfect. Sometimes we respond to our base instinct for self-preservation. Sometimes we’re selfish or greedy. Other times we act with real generosity. Quite often we are a mix of “good” and “bad” at the same time. (As an aside, it strikes me as odd that when government starts doling out money to those “in need,” our human failings are no longer suitable for discussion.)

Lack of objectivity isn’t a bad thing. It’s a very human thing. The problem isn’t that objectivity is lacking. The problem is that we’re not honest about its absence. Wouldn’t it be nice if people claimed their biases so that when they speak of their greatest beliefs and philosophical commitments we can understand where they’re coming from?

Imagine a Fox News broadcast beginning like this:  “Good evening. We here at Fox believe that Barack Obama is the devil. Now on with the news.” Or imagine that CNN begins its nightly programs in this way: “In the interest of honesty, the broadcasters of CNN wish to remind you that we believe that conservatives, Republicans, and Tea-Party people are selfish bastards who want to screw Mexican immigrants and the poor. Here are this evening’s highlights.”

I always find such honesty to be quite refreshing, actually. It’s one of the reasons I named this blog “The Liberty Professor.” If you’re looking for absolute objectivity, you won’t find it here. The truth is that you won’t find it anywhere. But I’m honest about that. Get it?

With all of these caveats in mind, here are a few of the so-called “truths” that I have rejected. I speak only for myself, but I do so after reasoned reflection and research. Each of the issues described is what Patricia King and Karen Kitchener refer to as an “ill-defined problem.” If you’re a teacher or have a philosophical bent, you might enjoy their book entitled Developing Reflective Judgment. In it they argue that an ill-defined problem has more than one possible outcome (as opposed to a well-defined problem with an easy solution).

Let there be fanfare and the blast of trumpet … here are some “truths” that I robustly reject!

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was intended by its creators to lower healthcare costs and “fix” what’s wrong with America’s healthcare system. Nope. Not even close. It was designed to move us toward a single-payer healthcare system in which the federal government is financier and supervisor. Promises were made about how much it would cost and how much freedom would be granted to those who already have health insurance. Guesses, estimates, and even lies were offered to us for our mental consumption. The most recent estimate I heard is that it will cost three times as much as promised in the first ten years. In addition, its thousands and thousands of pages of regulations are going to cause premiums to go up for nearly everybody, especially young men. Remember the promise of Barack Obama about your own health insurance? “If you like it, you can keep it,” he insisted. Maybe. If you can afford it. Most of us won’t be able to. We–along with our employers–will be forced to drop private coverage to move into the single-payer (federal) system. The entire law was designed with this in mind. As they say, “out with the old and in with the new.” Don’t forget the words of Barack Obama to the Illinois AFL-CIO in June of 2003: “I happen to be a proponent of the single-payer, universal healthcare program.”

2. Federal gun-control initiatives are being designed to reduce crime and protect our children from violent criminals. Even I have to say that this sounds nice. It’s a feel-good proposal if ever there was one. But that’s not the primary factor for the unconstitutional gun grab taking place before our very eyes. (It has hit some temporary road blocks, but as with Obamacare, its proponents won’t stop until they get what they want.) The real goal is to have a nation in which guns are in the hands only of government officials and to outlaw them for everyone else. When that happens the government will have little to fear from dissenters, and only outlaws will be armed. Everyone with a weapon, whether it’s used in a crime or not, will be subject to arrest and punishment. In addition to maneuvers in Washington, international pressure is being put upon Mr. Obama to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty. That treaty, like all treaties, will require Senate approval. We can look for one heck of a mud slide when that battle comes. Obama is widely expected to sign the treaty since it moves us one more step toward his goal, and since it provides cover for the confiscation of many types of civilian-owned weapons as well as a UN-supervised, international gun registry. That’s right. According to the president of Iowa Gun Owners, if allowed to keep my .38-caliber pistol I’ll have my name on a UN list as well as a US list.

3. IRS officials did nothing wrong when they targeted conservative groups,Tea-Party organizations, and groups favoring Israel for special scrutiny. Oh, really? That must be why IRS division director Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth-Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to answer questions before Congress. That’s a constitutional perversion of the highest order. Here’s why: She is a government employee called before the people to answer for her actions. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution was enacted to protect the people from the government, not the other way around. She and her minions at the IRS have the power to pry, to search, to seize, to confiscate, and to order the arrest and imprisonment of citizens. They carry guns. When we, the people, call her to an accounting she suddenly wants to invoke her constitutional rights. She needs to be held in contempt of Congress and the investigation into the matter must continue. Without a doubt, the trail will end in the Oval Office. White House visitors’ logs already demonstrate this.

4. Global warming is a rising disaster caused by human industrial and economic activity. Look, I reject this proposition. But I don’t reject the idea that we should be responsible stewards of our environment. Another of Dad’s witty and wise sayings recognizable to many fellow Southerners is that one should never put fecal material on the handle of the water pump! But the global-warming hype isn’t being controlled by reasonable people who care for the environment. It’s being directed from the upper echelon of government for the sake of raking in more tax money, penalties, and fees to fund bigger government. The “science” behind human-generated global warming is tainted with government money. As some very bright but mistaken academics have argued, the scientific consensus is that human-caused global warming threatens the planet (not just Venice). They insist we need severe limits on economic activity, travel, and energy production; we need more taxes and government-controlled carbon credits. My own research brings me to the conviction that global warming is entirely natural and that the recent warming trend is tapering off. We are probably entering a new period of global cooling. It wouldn’t be the first time, as historians recognize from recent history. Perhaps our children and grandchildren will be subjected to overblown predictions of a new Ice Age!

5. The solution to our economic problems and social injustices is to be found in more government activism. So said Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and a veritable host of central planners. But when central planning fails it fails big. Guns are needed to keep people in line. Perhaps you’re seeing a pattern? American constitutionalists do not reject all centralized government activity. The Constitution makes provision for the activities of the federal government. But once it’s engaged, the power at the top tends to be centripetal. In other words, it exerts a pull toward itself. Power exercised at the top tends to increase and multiply toward the top, or toward the center of power. The founders of the United States recognized this fact. They had overwhelming historical precedent for it. That’s precisely why power was invested primarily in citizens organized by states, not in the federal government. It’s also why they chose a federated system and not a national government (there is a difference). Only a small number of powers were granted to the federal government. Was it a perfect system? No. It didn’t recognize the rights of slaves, for instance. But its inspiration (that everyone is “created equal” in rights, not abilities) would eventually blossom to repair this immorality as well as other defects.

6. Fatty foods are making us fat and high blood cholesterol is putting us at risk for heart attack. So says an official US government blog and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). There is even a new government push to monitor the cholesterol of children and to put them on statin drugs if necessary. Research is moving us rapidly away from this thesis. Fat isn’t making us fat. Carbohydrates and sugar are making us fat. They increase inflammation and cause heart disease. Among the scientists and medical doctors now arguing for a new approach to the matter can be counted Dr. Jonny Bowden and Dr. Stephen Sinatra. Check out their excellent and well-researched book, The Great Cholesterol Myth. According to them, the “four horsemen” of the cardiac apocalypse are inflammation, oxidation, sugar, and stress. Dangerous statin drugs, they insist, should be used only by those who already have heart disease. They show strong evidence that statins are useful only because of their anti-inflammatory properties and that lowering cholesterol isn’t the proper approach for stopping heart disease. In their opinion statins should never be given to children. To get the updated research full disseminated, the tie between big pharmaceutical companies and big government must be broken. And doctors who treat patients should never be paid advocates for particular companies or brands. The ties between these entities amount to a contemporary medical mercantilism or corporatocracy–similar to the military-industrial complex that guides so much of our foreign policy.

7. If you love someone you’ll never hurt their feelings. Well, you might not hurt their feelings intentionally–but that’s a whole different matter. Love isn’t a feeling. As Jesuit theologian William O’Malley has pointed out, love is a conscious and active commitment to the well-being of someone. I bring up this point because too many people these days, when arguing politics, seem to be guided less by intellectual consideration and more by emotion. They decide what’s right based upon how their proposals make them feel. The Christian virtue of love is shared by many religions. One doesn’t have to foist one’s Christianity on others to love them, but love nonetheless is a terrific guide for making political decisions. Too often our political debate is framed as if it’s a choice between the people who care for others (the “liberals”) and those who don’t (the “conservatives”). That’s just downright stupid. There are people on both sides of that divide who genuinely care to increase the well-being of others. My complaint is that we can’t decide what’s best based upon how it makes us feel. We need to think and think hard.

So there they are. Seven “truths” that I reject because I don’t think they are true at all. There are others, such as immigration reform (the real reason for which is to secure votes). Each of these is an ill-defined problem with adherents who passionately argue that I’m wrong. So be it. As Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” But my stance isn’t based upon any attempt to be hard-headed or belligerent. It’s based upon my appropriation of the best information I can find. Don’t take my word on any of it. Do your own research. If I found the information, you can find it as well. I make my own choices and live with the consequences. You must do likewise. Gosh, we don’t hear that too often, do we?

In the final analysis, remember one thing, please. Only in a free society can divergence exist when it comes to values, beliefs, and ideologies. Wherever you stand on the issues, I beg you to be consistent and to be honest with yourself. Don’t give a pass to politicians or government bureaucrats just because they share your preferred political agenda–especially not if they have the privilege of carrying government-issued sidearms.

Avoid schadenfreude. That German word describes the human tendency to take pleasure in the suffering of someone else. If it pleased you to see certain groups targeted by the IRS, remember that it may one day be a group you admire. It could even be you. Political winds blow where they will.

Tyranny hurts us all. Even when it’s applied to our political adversaries.

When a Tea Party Conservative Fights Back

untitledHe has only been in the Senate for seven weeks, but the more I watch him, the more I like Ted Cruz (R-TX). This first-term senator is rattling the windows up in Washington. He refused to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling, he didn’t support John Kerry’s nomination to be Secretary of State, he voted against renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and he spoke out forcefully against the nomination of former Republican senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. Pointing to a potential cause of downfall for any high-profile member of the Defense Department, Cruz inquired of Hagel during his hearings if his bank account included any funds from Saudi Arabia or North Korea. He also brought up at the time the fact that Iran is in favor of Hagel’s nomination.

If you want to know what he’s up to, well, it’s fairly simple. He’s doing what he said he would do when he ran for office. Isn’t that refreshing? As he promised the people of Texas, he’s in DC “to shake up the status quo.” 

In response, a whole bunch of folks on the left aren’t happy with him. Pulling out an old favorite from the Democrat playbook, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) accused him of McCarthyism. “In this country we had a terrible experience with innuendo and inference when Joe McCarthy hung out in the United States Senate, and I just think we have to be more careful.” To her and to Chris Matthews at MSNBC, Cruz is just an extremist mistreating a patriot nominated to high office.

Jonathan Weisman at the New York Times bemoans the fact that Cruz is upsetting the sense of “comity,” or courtesy that normally marks relations between senators.  The Hill is a left-leaning tabloid that covers politics in DC and they have blasted Cruz as an embarrassment and a slanderer.  Ed Schultz, another MSNBC commentator, can’t understand why Republicans are filibustering a defense-secretary nominee “for the first time in a century.”   Cruz is painted by the Democrats as a joke at best, and possibly worse, because he’s supposedly endangering the nation’s security.

Politicians on the left don’t like it when Tea Party conservatives fight back, but the moral outrage on the left rings hollow. Is there any nasty political ploy that hasn’t been used by the Democrats in the last year? The truth is that they aren’t morally offended in the slightest.  They’re just shocked that a conservative Republican has decided to join in the fray and stand up for his values and the values of those who sent him to the Senate. Their words don’t come from their honest feelings–they are a script for public consumption. It works like this: they pretend to be offended, then they paint Cruz as an extremist nut job and a “teabagger,” and then wait for the left-leaning media to pick up the mantra.

Unfortunately, this methodology usually works. Why? Because so-called “moderate” Republicans like John McCain take their side and refuse to support the vocal conservatives trying to take the fight back to the Democrat front line.

Where was the moral outrage on the left when Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) accused Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of being a felon and a tax dodger? There was no evidence whatsoever for the accusation (Reid said he had an “anonymous source”), yet at times it continues to be bandied about by Democrats even to this day. Unlike the Hagel situation, where a senator simply asked a question in a public forum with Hagel sitting before him, Reid made his accusation on the floor of the full Senate without Romney being present to defend himself. Where was Sen. McCaskill’s outrage then? Where was Democrat outrage when Nancy Pelosi said she could have GOP advisor Karl Rove arrested, or that she had dirt on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich?

And let’s not forget the other hypocrisy being perpetrated on the left. Ted Cruz is the son of a Cuban immigrant by the name of Rafael Cruz. He should be a darling of the Democrats. But his crime, of course, is that he’s a conservative. Hispanics and immigrants are praised by the left only when they are liberals.

Keep it up, Ted. Take the ideological battle to the front lines. Stay on the offensive. The only way to falsely paint the Tea Party as a bunch of extremists is to allow the radical left to remain in the mainstream. Don’t give up an inch of territory. They aren’t mainstream at all–but those in that camp have seduced enough voters with their rhetoric against “the rich” and their promises of government benefits to retain power. Playing nice isn’t going to get us any closer to reclaiming our constitutional values.

Honestly, I praise Ted Cruz and I am thrilled with his leadership. At this point the GOP has little to lose–but America has much to lose if Republicans lose their spine.

It’s time to play a new game. Let’s call it “conservative hardball.” It should be played fearlessly, and with a bat of extra-large proportions. Suit up, Democrats. Ted Cruz isn’t the bad boy of the Senate. He’s a conservative Texan who’s tired of playing defense. He has switched to the game of offense and he’s lighting a fire in the halls of the political elites.

Oh, here’s another message for the Democrats: you can stop pretending to be outraged. The needle fell off your moral compass years ago.

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.

Putting Limits on the Limit Makers

Many of us probably remember hearing about Socrates in school.  He was the great philosopher of Athens whose teaching method was to constantly ask questions.  Answers he received back were always met with more questions, helping students to dig deeper, analyze more accurately, and think more critically.  Socrates may have referred to himself as a gadfly, an annoying insect buzzing around as a constant irritant.  Perhaps he was a bit like the Tea Party of today.

His way of teaching came to be known as the Socratic Method.  It must have been powerful, because like many others in history who asked too many questions, Socrates was considered a dangerous man.  According to his student Plato, he was condemned to death by the Athenians–his life cut short by the consumption of hemlock.

What many people don’t know is that he was given the opportunity to escape.  He refused to do so, in great part because of his loyalty to the state.  Like our parents who brought us into this life, the state makes our peaceful existence possible.  According to Prof. James Rachels, Socrates believed “that if he disobeyed the law, he would be destroying the state” (Problems From Philosophy, 4).

Political theory has evolved a great deal since the days of Socrates and Plato (about 2,400 years ago).  But what I might call “the sin of Socrates” is still with us.  What is that so-called sin?  I would express is as an excessive reliance upon the state, a myopic and unrealistic focus that tends to suggest that whatever is good and just about American society is a product of strong, centralized government.

In a text called Crito, Plato personifies the laws and constitutions of Athens and has them say the following to his teacher Socrates:  “Do you not realize that you are more bound to respect and placate the anger of your country than your father’s anger?  That if you cannot persuade your country that you must do whatever it orders, and patiently submit to any punishment that it orders, whether it be flogging or imprisonment?  If it leads you out to war to be wounded or killed, you must comply, and it is right that you should do so” (51).

As a constitutionalist, I recognize the need for government.  I also recognize that everything government accomplishes is done by coercion and threat.  Government doesn’t make requests.  It commands.  It gives orders.  Even when its dictates are promulgated in friendly terms, they come with punishments intended to force compliance.  Recognizing this, constitutionalists demand that severe limitations be placed upon government.  It appears to be the most moral of all political philosophies.  If it’s necessary to coerce behavior and force compliance, then this should be done only when absolutely necessary.

Must we have limits and restrictions?  Of course.  But among some in our country today, there appears to be no limit on the limit makers as long as they announce the good intentions that supposedly justify the restrictions being placed upon the rest of us.

Think about political argumentation as it currently takes place in the United States today.  It won’t take long for you to realize that it revolves around all sorts of limits being proposed upon the hard-working, law-abiding citizens who have made the country a success.  How much money should you be allowed to make, and keep?  What types of private contracts will you be allowed to enter into?  With whom can you be forced to live, or do business?  What can you do with your own land?  How much “rent money” (better known as property taxes) must you pay for the right simply to possess what is yours?  How easily can a local government seize your land and give it to another simply because the new owner wishes to develop it and pay higher taxes?  What benefits can you be forced to offer to your employees, and what unions can they be forced to join, even if their own desires differ from the commands of those in power?

How often I am told that these concerns of mine are unreasonable!  All such governmental limits, I’m told, are for the good of society.  Only a selfish person would deny this.  I’m astounded at the unquestioning loyalty given by many to government.  If it weren’t for government, it seems, we’d all be living in caves, owning slaves, and dying of cancer.  “For the public good” is now the rallying cry of limitless power to those who run government.

Like Socrates, there are many today who think that our salvation is to be found in obedience to the state.  The limits placed upon us by government, they too often insist, are an absolute good and a social necessity.

So here’s my question, and it comes earnestly:  if limits are so very good, why are they not acceptable upon the limit makers?  Why is the Tea Party so dangerous and so reviled by many?

I’ll tell you why.  They have dared to question the power of the state.  They insist that the people who make the limits must themselves face limits. 

Politically speaking, we’ve come a long way in 2,400 years.  Socrates could not persuade the state, so he took the execution cup as a sign of his faithful citizenship.  In November I predict that many more of us will prefer tea to hemlock.

The Betsy Ross Flag (Flags That Inspire Me: A Series)

This being Flag Day in the United States, it seems fitting to feature the predecessor of our national Flag, famously known as the Betsy Ross Flag.  But did good Betsy actually have anything to do with producing the first edition of this banner?  The point is debated among historians today.

According to Betsy’s grandson, William J. Canby, she did.  In a paper presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870 in Philadelphia (Betsy’s birthplace and home), Canby asserted that his grandmother had been visited at her seamstress shop by none other than George Washington (then still a colonel), a relative of hers named George Ross (also a colonel and a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress), and a third man who is popularly remembered as Robert Morris (“the financier of the revolution”).

Though legend gives Betsy credit for designing the flag, she claimed in her lifetime only to have been responsible for changing the star design from those with six points to the five-pointed version.  The committee of men who came to her for assistance arrived with a rough sketch of their idea.  Canby’s account says that there was considerable discussion about that design.  It included the six-pointed star in the canton (the blue field) because the committee members thought it easier to sew, at least until Betsy demonstrated that she could easily accommodate the other design.  Washington himself sketched out the final design for the banner in her presence and left it with her.  Also left in her care was an old naval flag, the solid stitching of which the committee wanted Betsy to imitate.  Canby, in the paper he delivered to the historical society, said that Betsy Ross went into the flag-making business and the new nation kept her busy from that day onward.  She died in 1836.

Betsy was originally buried in the Quaker Cemetery on Philadephia’s South 5th Street.  A couple of decades later she was moved to the Mount Moriah Cemetery.  As the nation’s bicentennial celebration approached in 1975, Philadelphia decided to honor her by transferring her remains to the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House.  No bones were found in her reputed gravesite.  Bones nearby were moved instead, and we can only hope that the remains in her grave are actually hers.  In the year of her two hundredth birthday (1952) she was honored by the US Post Office with a postage stamp.

Betsy may or may not have had a hand in making the first version of the Stars and Stripes, but national legend holds that she did.  If historical facts interest you, I recommend you visit the Wikipedia site for a list of the evidence for and against the argument that she sewed our first national banner (click HERE).

One thing is sure, and that’s the fact that the so-called Betsy Ross Flag has gone down in our national consciousness as a sign of revolutionary fervor, patriotism, and the constitutional values of our Founders.  For me, those values include smaller government at every level and with less intrusion into our personal lives.  Our Founders knew that tyrany is always predicated upon what’s good for us by those in power.  Many of those Founders were intimately connected to the City of New York.  Wouldn’t they scratch their heads if they knew that the city’s mayor has at his command a powerful committee of bureaucrats whom he has appointed himself and who are now forbidding things like salt, large soft drinks, and even big bags of popcorn?  What would those same Founders say to the idea that people are now being forced to pay for the reproduction-preventing devices and medications of others?  I suspect they’d not only react with bewilderment–they’d also blush!

By the way, the Besty Ross Flag is a symbol for this blog.  If you’ll look in your URL line you will see that it appears there.  You can drag it to your task bar and pin it for easy access to all of the Liberty Professor’s commentary.    In addition, some of you may already know that the Besty Ross Flag is the inspiration for a new banner which is being referred to as the Flag of the Second American Revolution.  It appears at the end of this blog post.  It’s popular with members of today’s Tea Party and the Liberty Professor has been known to fly it proudly himself ….