Tag archives: Federal Government

USAID Tells UN That Abortion Is Not “Humanitarian Aid”

by Patrina Mosley

May 20, 2020

The United Nations (UN) has declared abortion as “essential healthcare” and intends to use humanitarian coronavirus funds to supplement abortions around the world.

John Barsa, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), recently sent a letter urging the UN to stay focused on saving lives rather than taking them. As we previously noted, it has been apparent that world abortion leaders, like the World Health Organization, have been using the current pandemic to push abortions now more than ever before as “essential.” Unfortunately, the United Nations is one of those leaders that is willing to use billions of U.S. dollars to deliver abortions as a part of coronavirus humanitarian aid.

USAID’s letter reminds UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the U.S. is the “the largest donor of global health and humanitarian assistance” and emphatically states that the UN’s $6.71 billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan (Global HRP) “must remain focused on addressing the most urgent, concrete needs that are arising out of the pandemic.”

Barsa further noted that the U.S. alone contributed half of this amount—just in fiscal year 2019—at $3.5 billion. As President Trump stated in his address to the 74th UN General Assembly, the U.S. will “never tire of defending innocent life.” We have a vested stake in protecting our sovereignty as well as standing with those who wish to protect their sovereignty in accepting aid without strings attached. The letter reemphasized Trump’s statement that the UN simply has “no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

The United Nations has acted as the global enforcer of liberalism, disregarding the national sovereignty of nations by withholding aid to nations that do not support their abortion agenda. For far too long, developing countries that desperately need basic necessities have had to choose between their national sovereignty in holding values like the sanctity of life or accepting UN food and water that come with contraceptives and abortions. So much for the UN being “humanitarian.” Now that we as a global community are confronting something we have rarely faced before with the current pandemic, it should not be controversial to collectively say: Abortion is not humanitarian aid.

The USAID letter is unprecedented in that it brings attention to the UN’s twisted supposition that abortions are on the same critical level as “food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation.” It is a rebuke to the UN not seen from a world leader like the United States in some time. 

The letter states that unity can be found if the controversial abortion funding is avoided, and the “sexual and reproductive health services” provisions as part of the COVID-19 response are removed.

Furthermore, the USAID letter calls attention to what is “most egregious”: the Global HRP call “for the widespread distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies, and for the promotion of abortion in local country settings.”

Abortion inducing drugs, like the abortion pill, are extremely dangerous, yet they are the go-to method universally for abortion advocates. As we pointed out here, the global abortion industry favors the abortion pill especially in areas they deem as “low-resource settings.” This means that the industry expects women to self-manage her own abortion by self-administering pills and expelling the child in her own home. The abortion pill regimen has been known to cause severe hemorrhaging that requires blood transfusions and incomplete abortions that can incur severe infections and the need for follow up surgery. Many women have died.

Sadly, just this month, a 32-year-old woman in India died at her home after suffering severe blood loss from taking abortion pills. During the police investigation, they seized a bloodstained bedsheet, abortion-inducing pills, and painkillers.

She is survived by her one-year-old daughter.

How this could ever be described as “humanitarian aid,” no one with a conscience will ever know. What we do know is that the U.S. is becoming more watchful and is giving teeth to the values we claim to have by being consistent with them around the world.

This is quite noteworthy and displays the seriousness of the Trump administration’s intention of being the leader in protecting the sanctity of life, at home and aboard. This follows the Trump administration’s success in restoring integrity back to the domestic Title X family planning funds where abortion will no longer be considered a method of family planning, expanding the Mexico City policy in what is now known as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (where U.S. funds will be restricted from supplementing oversees abortions), and defunding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which actively contributes to international abortions.

As an active partner of the UN and the leading contributor of humanitarian aid, we are confidently displaying continuity in our pro-life policies, thereby encouraging other sovereign nations to do the same.

Congressional Support for Communities of Faith Pays off for Churches

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

May 12, 2020

Congressional programs designed to help the faith community rarely work as intended. But the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), one of the signature policies in the CARES Act, appears to be one of those rare successes.

The PPP was created to provide financial relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations (with fewer than 500 employees) whose finances have been strained by the economic fallout of the coronavirus. With most in-person church services temporarily suspended due to social distancing requirements, 40 percent of pastors report decreased giving, and 18 percent say donations have been cut in half. But now, thanks to the PPP, many churches—as well as small businesses and other nonprofit organizations—are able to keep the lights on and employees paid.

Initially, there was some concern that existing small business loan regulations (which excluded religious-based organizations) would render churches ineligible for the PPP. Thankfully, a bipartisan group of members of Congress led by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) sent a letter to the Departments of Treasury and Labor and the Small Business Administration (SBA), clarifying that Congress intended to allow churches and religious nonprofits access to these loans. Subsequently, SBA issued guidance to ensure that lenders would not discriminate against the loan applications of faith-based organizations. The guidance also clarifies that churches would not be sacrificing their autonomy or First Amendment-protected religious freedom by accepting government funds.

Shortly after the PPP’s second round of funding commenced, it was discovered that thousands of churches had applied for and received these loans. Out of the roughly 12,000 Catholic parishes that applied for the PPP loans, an estimated 9,000 received funds. In a recent LifeWay survey, two in five Protestant pastors said they applied for loans, and approximately 59 percent of them were approved. Additionally, the Jewish Federations of America announced that 573 Jewish organizations, including 219 synagogues, received loans.

The efforts by members of Congress and the Trump administration to ensure churches have access to essential financial assistance—thereby saving some of them from laying off employees or closing altogether—should not be overlooked. When crafting the largest economic relief package in American history, instead of forgetting about churches or actively trying to exclude them from economic relief, these political leaders prioritized faith-based organizations. They realized that churches, in addition to running religious services, often employ staff to operate schools, food banks, and other services that play a vital role in American society, especially during a crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic.

This is one more item on the ever-growing list of actions the Trump administration has taken to promote religious freedom.

How Federal Coronavirus Legislation Will Impact Your Family (Part 2)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

March 23, 2020

Things are moving rapidly in our nation’s capital as our government attempts to respond to the coronavirus. On March 18th, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is the second phase of coronavirus response legislation. Here is a look at how this legislation will impact you and your family.

Testing: One of the main legislative requests, both from President Trump and Congress, was to speed up testing across the country. This bill directly addresses that need by appropriating $1.2 billion to help cover the costs of coronavirus testing. With this new funding, access to coronavirus tests will increase dramatically while costs will come down to zero. If you are experiencing symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, consult the CDC website to see testing protocols.

Food Assistance: The second piece to this bill is providing necessary food assistance to those affected most by this virus, mainly schoolchildren and senior citizens. This package includes an additional $500 million to the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is a critical program that helps low-income women and their children access healthy and nutritious food. The bill also sets aside funding to ensure that children from low-income families can receive a meal from the school lunch program if their school is closed longer than five days due to the coronavirus. State agencies will be responsible for administering these meals to schoolchildren.

This bill also contains $200 million for senior nutrition programs, including extra money for home delivered-meals and meals at senior centers. Since the elderly are most at risk of dying from the coronavirus, it is important that the government provides specific funding to ensure that the elderly can still access food in this difficult time.

Medical and Sick Leave Expansion: The major point of contention in H.R. 6201 was how to tackle medical and sick leave requirements.

First, H.R. 6201 expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to require employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide family leave for those needing time off to care for a child because their school or childcare provider closed due to the coronavirus. The legislation mandates 10 days of unpaid leave, and any remaining leave after 10 days must be paid. There are caps to limit paid leave to $200 a day, and these requirements do not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees.

Second, this legislation requires all employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to any employee who has been advised to self-quarantine, is recovering from symptoms of the coronavirus, or is caring for a family member who has symptoms of the coronavirus. Paid leave is capped at $511 a day, and this coverage includes part-time and hourly employees. To ensure that small businesses are not disproportionately affected by this mandate, the Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt certain small businesses if this requirement would jeopardize the viability of the business. There are also tax breaks to help employers cover the cost of this paid leave requirement.

These increased sick leave requirements are prudent measures to help workers affected by the virus. However, in the original bill and throughout negotiations, Democrats made several attempts to include controversial language that radically expands access to leave benefits in a way that alters longstanding social policy and weakens the family.

The term “domestic partnership” was inserted in several places throughout this bill, including in the definition of the word “spouse,” which should be reserved strictly for marriage. The injection of this term into federal statute in this manner takes advantage of our emergency posture and is unnecessary now that marriage has been redefined by the Supreme Court to include same-sex couples. It also further erodes marriage and family, the foundation of society, by equating a “domestic partnership” with the time-tested social building block of marriage.

Domestic partnership” is also defined here to include a “committed relationship.” While we have nothing against the idea of “committed relationships” in general, the way that term was defined here—to include those 18 years or older who “share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare”—would expand the benefits under this bill in a way that waters down the significance of the family structure and renders it virtually meaningless. The rushed nature with which these serious changes to family structure were considered for codification into federal law was further cause for concern for us.

The FRC team identified this problematic language and worked with key negotiators to make sure it was removed from the House-passed bill. However, removing this language did not sit well with the Democrat leaders, so when the bill was considered on the Senate floor, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) offered an amendment to re-insert this dramatic expansion into the medical and sick leave provisions. Our team alerted key senators about the damaging effects of this amendment, and fortunately, it was defeated by a vote of 47-51. H.R. 6201 passed absent the anti-family provisions, and was signed into law by President Trump on March 18th.

The federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been swift, and for good reason. As these large spending packages continue to move through Congress, the FRC team will continue to remain vigilant and work to ensure they support faith, family, and freedom.

How Federal Coronavirus Legislation Will Impact Your Family (Part 1)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

March 20, 2020

As the coronavirus has spread across the nation, our federal government has responded in a number of ways to address the damage inflicted by it. Part of that response has been legislative. This series will examine the different coronavirus response bills coming out of Congress, and how FRC has worked to advance faith, family, and freedom in this process.

On March 6th, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the first in what has become a series of measures addressing the growing coronavirus crisis. This bill’s $8.3 billion price tag might seem steep, but it is the first major step in increasing funding for critical health care services and developing a vaccine. 

The largest pot of money, $3.1 billion, was appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for testing and treatments for those affected by the virus. It also invests in vaccine development so that scientists can develop a good vaccine in a shorter amount of time. Of this funding, $100 million will be directed to Community Health Centers (CHC). CHCs are critical components of our health care system, specifically designed to care for low-income families. These centers receive federal funding that cannot go toward abortions and therefore are an excellent pro-life alternative to Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities.

H.R. 6074 also directly provides $950 million to state and local governments to help slow the spread of this virus and treat those in need. A key provision states that half of these funds must be allocated within 30 days. There can be lots of requirements that slow the use of funds transferred from the federal government to the states, so this 30-day provision is critically important. As we have seen, the ways to effectively respond to this virus change so rapidly that states and local governments must be equipped to provide the necessary health care needs to combat this virus. The more the federal government can assist and bolster local and state response, the better. Governors and mayors will have the best insight into how the coronavirus has affected their local community and how additional funding can be used to stop the spread of this virus.

Lastly, H.R. 6074 includes a provision that allows HHS Secretary Alex Azar to make any vaccine that is developed or purchased with these funds affordable for all Americans. With a coronavirus vaccine in such high demand, there is a concern that the developer could price the vaccine in such a way that it is unaffordable for the average American. This provision ensures that no matter your family’s economic situation, you will have access to this potentially life-saving treatment.

As the federal government continues to act quickly in response to the spread of the coronavirus, the FRC team will continue to track and monitor legislation related to this rapidly-shifting threat to ensure that human life and dignity are valued, the family is supported, and religious liberty is protected.

Be Not Afraid”: How Christians and Church Leaders Can Respond to the Coronavirus

by David Closson

March 19, 2020

At Family Research Council, our mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. This mission guides all our work, including our advocacy for religious liberty, life, and biblical values. It also informs our response to the coronavirus, which, as we are well aware, is now a pandemic.

President Trump has declared a national emergency and released new guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, including avoiding discretionary travel, discouraging eating out at restaurants, bars, and food courts, practicing good hygiene, and limiting social gatherings to 10 people or less. We believe if the steps recommended by the CDC and the White House are followed, there is a good chance we can “flatten the curve” and lessen the impact of the spreading virus on our health care system.

Over the past week, Christians from around the country have asked important questions about how to respond faithfully to the threat posed by the coronavirus. Specifically, many are wondering how churches should respond to the ongoing crisis. We believe there are a few appropriate responses to all of this.

First, Christians must pray. On Sunday, March 15, President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer in response to the calls of evangelical leaders. We must continue praying that God’s grace and mercy would fall upon us and that we would turn our eyes toward Him in this time of great need. To guide our prayer (which should be ongoing), FRC’s President Tony Perkins outlined several ways we can pray for the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead. We encourage everyone to read these prayer points and use them to guide your own prayers.

Specifically, Christians should commit to frequently praying for the following leaders:

  • President Trump
  • Vice President Pence
  • Secretary Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Congressional leadership
  • Governors and mayors across the country
  • Other officials in the administration and those at all levels of government who are dealing with this crisis
  • All health care workers and public health officials

Second, we should comply with mandates and recommendations from those in authority. Under normal conditions, it would be impermissible under our laws and the Constitution for the government to tell a church when it can or cannot meet. But certain emergencies, such as natural disasters and pandemics, do present temporary but substantial risks to public health and safety. As long as the government is not singling out and targeting religious gatherings for restriction (while permitting non-religious gatherings to take place), it is allowed to enact policies restricting all gatherings of a certain size in cases like this.

Biblically, Romans 13 reminds us that God instituted the governing authorities whom we should obey so long as they do not require us to disobey God. And while gathering for regular worship is not an optional part of the Christian life (Hebrews 10:25), FRC does not believe it is wrong to temporarily suspend corporate in-person meetings if the authorities believe it is in the community’s best interest. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses and Aaron detailed instructions about quarantines in cases of infectious disease (Leviticus 13-14). When there were outbreaks of disease, the priests served as public health officials and imposed guidelines for quarantining people, infected garments, and even houses. In the New Testament, Jesus called us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and we believe in a case like this, the best way to practice neighborly love is by following the guidance of health and public safety experts.

The church can still meet and gather together in different ways. While not every church need adopt all these practices, there are ways we can still “gather” in the days ahead while ensuring we don’t contribute to the spread of the virus:

  • Encourage church members to drive to a parking lot, but stay in their cars and tune into shortwave radios used to broadcast church services.
  • Meet in small groups instead of one large gathering.
  • Suspend larger gatherings but keep the church office open.
  • Livestream services or other church gatherings and use texting or online chat groups to stay connected (churches with more advanced technological assets such as teleconferencing capabilities or other established systems to livestream events may partner with other churches to help them stay connected to their congregants).

Here are some ways churches can think about serving in the current times:

  • Offer benevolent funds to those facing financial hardship.
  • Provide housing for students who are being required to vacate school housing.
  • If possible, keep food pantries well stocked and include cleaning and sanitizing products.
  • Think of creative ways to serve older members, such as picking up groceries and prescriptions. Establish a way to check in on those who may be living alone, the elderly, or other vulnerable people.

Here are some practical tips that churches can implement, and educate their members on, to help prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Provide and require members to use hand-sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol while on church property.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Thoroughly and repeatedly clean high-contact surfaces and objects.
  • Encourage sick or at-risk members to stay home and seek medical care.
  • Minimize panic by educating members and preparing for disruptions in service.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also released a list of Recommended Preventative Practices for faith-based and community leaders, which we encourage you to read.

We also encourage you not to neglect your regular financial offering to your place of worship. The church as an institution is always crucial to society, but at times like these, its care for communities in need is especially needed. Your financial support helps do that. If you don’t have electronic banking, most church offices remain open, so please drop your contribution off with your church so that ministry can continue.

Finally, followers of Jesus should maintain a posture of trust while taking appropriate precautions. In times like these, when anxiety, misinformation, and uncertainty abound, it is tempting to become fearful. But while it is important to take all precautions and follow the latest updates from the authorities, Christians should not panic. During this time of increased fear, we must remember that we have been given a “spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).

Our God is sovereign. The coronavirus did not take Him by surprise. He is still governing and sustaining the world (Col. 1:17). Human tendencies naturally pull society’s discussion of all this in the direction of panic and fear. But the Scriptures are clear: “Be not afraid.” Bible-believing Christians can model a spirit of trust as they remind each other of God’s promises and character. This grounding will enable us to care for and serve those around us.

Congressmen Defend Federal Role in Blocking D.C. Marijuana Legalization

by Nick Frase

December 17, 2014

Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) has been blacklisted from a local Washington D.C. bike shop, at least according to the sign in their window reading “Andy Harris Not Welcome.” For those planning to visit who want to avoid a similar fate, the cautionary tale here is don’t expect to uphold federal marijuana laws in the District if you want to get your derailleur adjusted.

Earlier this month, Rep. Harris successfully attached bipartisan language to the omnibus spending deal designed to block enactment of a marijuana legalization initiative that the District passed in November. Pot activists have decried the action as an example of an outsider meddling in local affairs. “You don’t serve us, we don’t serve you” is the tagline to their blacklist sign, a reference to the fact that Rep. Harris’ district is in Maryland and not in D.C.

What’s going on, aren’t Republican’s for self-government and local control?

It’s a fair question to ask and one that Rep. Harris along with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) have addressed in a Washington Post op-ed. I won’t attempt to repeat it here but the thrust of the argument is: yes, Republicans are the party of self-government and local control, but they’re also the party of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law.

Federal law is explicit, under the Controlled Substances Act it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute or possess marijuana. Furthermore, Article I, § 8, cl. 17I of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” over the District of Columbia. The charge that Congress is somehow treating the District unfairly or in a way they would not treat another city ignores the fact that the District is unlike any other city.

Every year, the Appropriations Committee, on which Rep. Harris sits, provides federal payments to the tune of $500,000,000 to the District of Columbia for the cost of judges, court personnel and defendant representation. They provide payments for programs in areas like education and security. The Department of Justice provides payment for federal attorneys to prosecute local crimes and house prisoners. Federal taxpayers do not fund similar activities in any other city.

As Reps. Harris and Pitts rightly point out in their op-ed, if marijuana laws aren’t confusing enough, nearly a quarter of the District is federal park land and is policed by 26 different enforcement agencies—places and personnel that would still answer to federal law, not D.C. legalization.

Congress has a direct responsibility over the District of Columbia. One that apparently gets you kicked out of bike shops.

A Contract Job Worth Keeping

by Leanna Baumer

October 17, 2013

After a mad scramble to pass legislation resolving the government shut down and extending a cap on federal borrowing authority, the House quickly agreed to one additional resolution late last night. In a nod to a lingering shutdown-related question pertaining to the role certain contract ministers and religious services employees play in our military, the House agreed unanimously to an amended version of H. Con. Res.58. This concurrent resolution expresses the hope of Congress that the Department of Defense (DOD) will categorize contracted priests and religious services providers as necessary for maintaining troop welfare and morale during any lapse in federal funding.

Almost two weeks ago, news broke about believers, including many Catholics, within the military lacking access to traditional religious services, religious facilities, counseling, and the Sacraments. Though legislation enacted at the beginning of the shutdown saga (Pay Our Military Act, Public Law No: 113-39) had instructed the DOD to pay active duty military personnel and to ensure that all services necessary for troop support were made available, DOD did not designate contracted religious service providers as essential for those support services. Because many installations rely on contracted ministers to meet the Constitutional requirement of providing for the free exercise rights of troops, this lapse by DOD meant that some soldiers had no way to practice or adhere to the confessional obligations of their faith.

As others have pointed out, the DOD’s failure to recognize contracted religious personnel as important for troop welfare is troubling since it seems to ignore the role religion plays in the daily life of many soldiers— while elevating access to base leisure facilities and entertainment options as more significant for aiding troop morale.  In the high pressure environment of the military where unique stresses and challenges are faced on a daily basis, it’s critical that military personnel have access to the unique support structures of their faith. In fact, courts have held that in order to protect the First Amendment rights of military personnel to exercise their religion, chaplains must be furnished by the military. In cases where an active duty chaplain is not available, contracted religious staff help meet this obligation.

While last night’s reinstatement of federal funding has resolved the immediate issue of access to military installations for contract employees, a legal inquiry into the DOD’s designation may continue. What should guide lawmakers and Defense officials moving forward is a renewed commitment to protecting the totality of troop welfare and wellbeing—including safeguarding the ability of military personnel to live out their personal religious belief and practice by having continuous access to ministers, priests, and religious staff. 

Amid Capital Folly, Some Good News from Washington

by Robert Morrison

October 4, 2013

One of our friends teaches at a government institution. When the sequester came, some of the professors and staff were furloughed. Our friend said he could work around the sequester because all of his classes are on one day. He could take his furlough day on another day of the week, he volunteered. He was told, in no uncertain terms, you will now rearrange your schedule to work through this. This has got to hurt. Cancel all your classes and take a furlough.

I’m reminded of the cynical view that H.L. Mencken took of democracy a hundred years ago. The man they called “The Sage of Baltimore” said democracy was the theory that the people should get what they want — and get it good and hard.

Such cynicism was clearly behind the decision to close down the National Mall at the time of the government shutdown. It is good to have knowledgeable guides from the Park Service to help interpret the monuments, to be sure, but many of us have led tours of the Mall ourselves and would be honored to pitch in. I know I will be happy to volunteer.

Closing the Mall was sparked by the same age-old tactic of entrenched bureaucrats called “Closing the Washington Monument.” That tactic says that whenever Congress fails to cough up as much dough as the bureaucrats want, they can respond by closing down the capital’s most popular tourist attraction. But now, of course, the Washington Monument is already closed. This is because of earthquake damage, not bureaucratic bloody-mindedness.

The White House, too, has been closed. President Obama’s administration made that decision for reasons that are hard to recall. We’re sure that his many guests and campaign donors will be able to access the historic halls of what Harry Truman called the People’s House.

My favorite tour guide for the National Mall was the man who starred in the first presidential inauguration to be held on the West Front of the Capitol. In Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981, he pointed to the vast expanse and the impressive monuments laid out before him and showed the country and the world what being American means.

I’m told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I’m deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inaugural Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.

This is the first time in our history that this ceremony has been held, as you’ve been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then, beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Hearing Washington thus described as a man of humility “who came to greatness reluctantly,” we are led to wonder how things have come to this sad day. We have been told that our current president is one who “hovers over the nations, like a sort of god.” (Newsweek editor Evan Thomas) He is, says presidential historian Michael Beschloss, the smartest man ever to occupy the White House. So how did we get in this mess?

With all the folly evident in Washington, D.C. these days, we can use some good news from George Washington. There’s at least one historic site is still open and welcoming Americans: George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. This stately mansion is about twenty miles from downtown Washington and it’s one of the best investments you will ever make.

The estate is the property of The Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union. It’s been privately owned for its entire existence. Several years ago, a new $187 million Visitors Center was opened that houses theaters, exhibits, gift shops and dining. Most recently, Mount Vernonadded a new feature, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. Now, scholars will be able to access old and new materials on the life and influence of George Washington. The George Washington Library cost $106 million — all privately funded. Another great feature is George Washington’s own handsome leather-bound copy of the Constitution with the Bill of Rights. In the margins of this 222-year old document you can see Washington’s neat, handwritten notes on the powers and the duties of the President. This volume cost $9.8 million at auction and was purchased for Mount Vernon, again using all private funds.

Another piece of good news from Washington is the forthcoming (Oct. 23-26) Hillsdale Hostel conference on “The Character and Statesmanship of George Washington.” With lectures, discussions, and presentations, Hillsdale College’s Alan J. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship will work to inform and inspire attendees about the life and work of our first president. I’m planning to attend this event and to report on it.

In 2009, The New Yorker published a most interesting cover portrait for President Obama’s First Inauguration.

It remains my favorite portrait of Barack Obama. It reminds us of the great promise and the greater responsibility that rests on the shoulders of every man who has stood in the place George Washington stood. It shows us how Washington was and remains the model for what a President of the United States should be. For liberals and conservatives, it’s a sobering thought.

What Would and Wouldn’t Shut Down

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 30, 2013

A “government shutdown” is a misnomer of gigantic proportion. In July, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a Congressional Research Service study that makes clear “a ‘government shutdown’ does not cause all government functions to cease.”

Our military will remain vigilant, our ships at sea and our planes ready to fly, and our service members will be paid. According to a study by the Congressional Research Service published last week, “Historically, individuals responsible for supporting the nation’s global security activities, public safety efforts, and foreign relations pursuits have been excepted from furloughs that accompany a government shutdown.”

The federal judiciary will be funded through mid-October. Veterans and recipients of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue receiving their benefits. You’ll still get your mail from the U.S. Postal Service.

There will be massive inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of civilian government employees who will be furloughed until a budget deal is reached. Mortgage loans will halt, although “the Office of Single Family Housing will ‘endorse new loans under current multi-year appropriation authority in order to support the health and stability of the U.S. mortgage market’.” Federal parks and zoos will close, but “Smithsonian and National Park employees responsible for protecting property and providing emergency care, including animal caretakers at the National Zoo, are exempt from the furlough.” And TSA employees and air traffic controllers will remain on the job.

National Institutes of Health employees would continue to treat current Clinical Center patients and provide animal care services, though new patients will be locked out of clinical research,” and federal disaster assistance will remain fully available. More than 40 million Americans would continue to get food stamps unabated.

As to the IRS, why should it be no surprise that “all payments would be processed?”

Perhaps the most serious problem will be “A lack of appropriations (that) will severely limit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ability to respond to outbreak investigations.”

The Food Safety and Inspection Service would continue all safety-related activities” and “the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration would continue inspections to the extent they’re paid by user fees.” However, the “inability to investigate alleged violations could hamper corrective action in the long term and could have an immediate impact on members of industry.” The FDA “would limit its activities but continue to monitor recalls and conduct investigations.”

Of perhaps particular note is that funding for the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will continue. “It’s looking more and more like Tuesday will be a split-screen day … Obamacare will open for business.”

The above is not an exhaustive explanation, and it is not intended to suggest that limiting government services is trivial. However, if Congress and the President fail to strike a deal, the sky will not fall, Mt. Rushmore will not crumble, and our union will retain all 50 of its states.

Concern is justified. Panic isn’t.

Sources:

Deficit Deception: Don’t Bank on Social Security: A Primer in the Manifest Phoniness of the Social Security System

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 12, 2011

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the fiscal year 2010 deficit was $1.3 trillion. If the roughly $700 billion from Social Security had been kept in its own so-called Trust Fund and, as a result, subtracted from federal general revenues, the deficit would have been more than $2 trillion.

Instead, as economics writer James Pethokoukis observes, monies supposedly dedicated to Social Security are used as part of a fiduciary shell game” to “mask the true depth of the budget deficit.

How can Social Security and the federal government get away with this?

To answer that, a few foundational facts are needed.

For one thing, there is no Social Security Trust Fund. The Fund is an accounting device that’s used to hide the true size of the federal deficit.

The monies collected from taxpayers are, in an act of accounting sleight-of-hand, put into the Trust Fund for about a millisecond and are then replaced by “special-issue securities,” Treasury notes that the Social Security Administration (SSA) itself admits are “available only to the trust funds.”

In other words, the federal government takes money out of Social Security to pay for all kinds of things, including payments to retirees. It issues itself Treasury bonds to repay its loan from the Social Security Trust Fund but they are bonds only Social Security itself can buy. This is known, in stuffy bureaucracy-speak, as an intragovernmental loan.

SSA itself clarifies, “Tax income is deposited on a daily basis and is invested in ‘special-issue’ securities. The cash exchanged for the securities goes into the general fund of the Treasury and is indistinguishable from other cash in the general fund.” Invested, indeed keep reading.

So, the money that the federal treasury siphons-out of the erstwhile “trust fund goes to cover general revenues of all kinds: From the common federal budget pot, the monies are used to pay for freeway projects in Iowa and aircraft carriers to U.S. Postal System delivery trucks. Oh, yes, and payments to Social Security recipients, or beneficiaries, as well.

Here’s how Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press explains it:

The money in the trust funds has been spent over the years to help fund other government programs. In return, the Treasury Department issued bonds to Social Security, which earn interest and are backed by the government, just like bonds sold in public debt markets. When Social Security runs a deficit, it redeems its bonds with the Treasury Department to cover the red ink. But Treasury gets the money to pay Social Security the same places the government gets all its money: either from taxes and other revenues or by borrowing it. Last year, the government borrowed 37 cents of every dollar it spent. This year it’s borrowing 43 cents of every dollar.”

The interest earned is merely a designed percentage payment Uncle Sam adds onto the amount of the loan derived not from any kind of profitable investment itself, but from the printing presses of the federal treasury. The interest is merely added out of fiat-drenched thin air.

Why does the government do this? Very simply: If Social Security designated funds - the money that comes out of all of our paychecks to pay Social Security income to seniors were not used for general revenue, the deficit would be shown to be even more gigantic than it is, as noted above.

How much money are we talking about? As indicated in the first graph of this piece, the CBO says that Social Security contributed $706 billion to the federal budget in FY 2010. Thats about one-fifth of the total budget.

Some argue that since beneficiaries are getting paid, whats the big deal?

Last year, the pay-out total to retirees was $41 billion more than what was taken in through Social Security taxes. For the first time in roughly 30 years, the SSA ran a deficit one larger, in itself, that all but a handful of the countries in the world.

Second, the false assurance that the trust funds dollars are invested is a lie pure and simple. This investment is actually nothing more than a credit slip that says, in as many words, that the money will be put back in by the Treasury with a certain percentage of interest, interest not derived from anywhere but balance side of a phony federal ledger.

Third, were the money actually invested in interest-bearing accounts, using historic rates of return, the SSA would not be facing the historic crisis it faces in the next quarter-century. Consider: Over the course of its history, the stock market with all the dips, depressions, recessions, wars, etc. we have faced has had an inflation adjusted return of between six and seven percent.

Given the monies poured into the Social Security system since its inception in the 1930s, such a return would have prevented the current, and future, profound shortfalls we are facing.

Fourth, and perhaps most ominously, is the dearth of workers who pay into the system. That number has shrunk from 16 employees per beneficiary to slightly under 3 workers per beneficiary today. As Americas population ages, that ratio will shrink, to our profound fiscal danger, more and more.

Charles Krauthammer notes that should the debt continue to build like a throbbing volcano, the full faith and credit of the federal government wont mean much and not just Social Security, but the whole economy, will be at grave risk:

In judging the creditworthiness of the United States, the world doesnt care what the left hand owes the right. Its all one entity. It cares only what that one entity owes the world … (W)hat would happen to financial markets if the Treasury stopped honoring the special issue bonds in the Social Security trust fund? A lot of angry grumbling at home for sure. But externally? Nothing. This default would simply be the Treasury telling the Social Security Administration that henceforth it would have to fend for itself in covering its annual shortfall.

The other alternative: Treasury tells SSA no such thing and simply pays back, using not real assets but accredited and/or printed monies from Treasurys printing presses, what it owes SSA: The money will, at some point, stop holding much, if any, value. At that point, the world will care a lot, because it will indicate the Weimar-esque quality of the U.S. greenback.

There are a number of ways to correct the problem before Social Security runs completely out of money in about 26 years.

Former FRC scholar and current Howard Center director Alan Carlson argues convincingly, as Americans have more children, we will remedy at least much of the crisis by having more workers to pay into the Social Security system itself. House Speaker John Boehner and others argue for raising the full retirement age from 65 to, say 67 or even 70, which more accurately reflects growing longevity and work patterns and would save large amounts annually.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is among the leading advocates of allowing younger income-earners to invest at least a graduated/growing portion of their Social Security dollars into private retirement accounts, not unlike the federal employees Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

This could be done directly, from the employees paycheck, and be directed into one or more of several fund-types managed independently, just as TSP funds are.

What is clear is that the current system is neither sustainable nor honest. While no one expects President Obama to advance the reforms necessary, the next President should.

If Social Security is not just to survive but refrain from being a fiscal anvil around the national neck, the next President must.

Formerly chief of staff to two Members of Congress and a presidential appointee in the George W. Bush Administration, Schwarzwalder is senior vice-president of the Family Research Council.

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