Tag archives: Government

Hard But Necessary Choices in 2012

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 22, 2011

It is human nature to want to avoid hard choices, and to get angry with those who would compel us to make them.

In a new piece in Forbes, Bill Frezza wisely observes that the era of what he calls “both/and” is drawing to a crashing close: “The era of both/and was a magical time when the elected representatives running city, state, and national governments never had to make hard choices. To be sure, partisanship wasnt eliminated, but political compromise could always be found. This allowed incumbent politicians from both parties to deliver enough goodies to their constituents to assure themselves reelection.”

Whenever a politician suggests that people be allowed to invest some of their Social Security Trust Fund money into private accounts, or that private sector solutions to health care might be preferable to federally-directed ones (which solve nothing, ultimately, except the unemployment of eager bureaucrats), or that Washingtons menagerie of departments, programs, agencies, and line items be streamlined into some form of reasonable coherence, he is vilified as heartless, a tool of big business, a mendacious and reactionary primitive.

Re-election is a politicians stock in trade. To be a statesman, one must have an ample quantity of moral courage and the wisdom to know when to act boldly. Thus, given that few politicians have the strength and insight to behave in a statesmanlike way, we can anticipate that desirable change will be at best incremental. And, despite our protestations, we want it that way.

We want governments benefits without its costs. We want its protections without its intrusions. We want its presence in our need and its exclusion in our perceived abundance. We are kidding ourselves, which is to say we are human.

As Frezza argues, we are now at the beginning of an era in which refusing to make hard choices is no longer possible:

… in bad economic times tax revenue craters, leaving massive shortfalls as government spending not only fails to decline alongside revenues, but goes up to pay for safety net expenses, which more people tap into as they are left out of work. This has happened both in California and at the federal level. Even more threatening than these oscillations is the fact that the underlying trend line in federal revenue has gone flat as federal spending entered an unprecedented period of exponential growth. To top it off, the Baby Boomer generation has started its massive wave of retirements, calling in the chits on those unfunded entitlement liabilities. And just when you thought things couldnt get any worse, GDP growth hit its deepest and broadest rut since the 1930s, where it remains mired for the foreseeable future.

We resent it when policymakers, speaking to us like adults, offer necessary and painful choices about policy priorities. Thats why we have long lived in an era of self-delusion and rewarded those who have given it to us.

We cannot abort our progeny and anticipate economic growth. We cannot experience liberty, in its fullness, if we disavow a willingness to fail. We cannot corrode the family unit through divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, and homosexual unions and say we care about our childrens future. We cannot secularize our society without destroying the unspoken Judeo-Christian moral consensus that always has been the firm foundation of our republic.

It doesnt take a Ph.D. in economics to understand that borrowing from the future will increasingly become not just inadvisable but outright impossible. The future has arrived, and it isnt pretty, Frezza says. He is right.

Americans have long been a brave people. We like to talk about the heroic conduct of our armed forces, and well we should. But just as our men and women in uniform show courage in their sphere, can we show it in ours? It is now time for us to see if we can still summon the personal virtue and political courage without which no economy, or nation, can long endure.

This will mean hard choices. Let us steel ourselves to them, with the concurrent commitment that through the non-governmental institutions of family, church, synagogue, not-for-profit charities, professional associations and small and large corporate enterprise, we will address the needs our sagging Leviathan cannot.

At the FDR Memorial: Diluted? Or Deluded?

by Robert Morrison

November 4, 2011

The comparisons between Barack Obama and Franklin D. Roosevelt began even before our 44th president had taken the oath. In late 2008, TIME magazine portrayed president-elect Obama as FDR on its cover. The wish was father to the thought. Mr. Obama encouraged such dreams from his political father. He did not look to Bill Clinton as a model. And certainly no one would take Jimmy Carter as a mentor. No one, that is, who wanted to have a successful presidency.

Barack Obama might have wanted to offer Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson as a role model. At least, Johnsons signing of historic Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation could be commended. But LBJ led us into the morass of Vietnam. After four bloody years in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Johnson could give no convincing reasons why the U.S. should prevail there. Hey! Hey, LBJ! How many kids have you killed today, chanted anti-war protesters then. The parents of todays Occupy Wall Streeters drove Johnson from office in defeat and disgrace. Scratch Johnson.

That leaves John F. Kennedy as the Democratic hero to whom Barack Obama might look for inspiration. Well, maybe not. JFK said we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Oops! Thats not the kind of martial music Obamas Peace Caucus-goers could march to. And JFK took us to the Moon. President Obamas NASA chief thinks his Mission One is to make Muslims feel good about themselves. Also, Jack Kennedy cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, arguing that a rising tide lifts all boats. That wouldnt do for a socialist program of spreading the wealth around.

Pursuing far-left policies in office has left Obamas partisans with no role model except FDR. Roosevelt, to be sure, was the longest-serving, most influential political figure the left has ever produced. But even here, and especially here, Mr. Obama comes up short. The Weekly Standard lampooned TIMEs worshipful treatment with a stunning caricature of the 44th president rather shrunken in the shadow of our 32nd.

We dont need to approve of FDRs New Deal. Many if not most aspects of that Big Government solution worsened the Great Depression. Harold Ickes, the left-wing Republican who served the Squire of Hyde Park as Interior Secretary shot back at Republican criticisms of his day: Tax and Spend, Tax and Spend, Elect and Elect.

Ickes was right about that much. In those heady days of liberalism, it seemed you could prime the pump with confiscatory taxes without the pump ever going dry.

Ronald Reagan never criticized FDR. In Reagans day, there were simply too many millions of voters who had voted for that Man four times. Reagan was one of them.

So, its not surprising that we get an unrecognizable FDR for todays generation. Barack Obamas representatives testified recently on Capitol Hill. The administration opposes the suggestion by World War II veterans to include Roosevelts D-Day Prayer in his memorial. Dont dilute the FDR Memorial, they say. Dilute? They dont want to water down the rest of his stirring rhetoric.

Watering down? Is this administration really so anti-prayer as that? President Roosevelts nationally broadcast prayer spoke of faith in our united crusade against the evils of Nazidom. FDR addressed the American people on June 6, 1944. My friend Bill Bennett plays the D-Day prayer on his radio program every June 6th. Good for him.

Those who think a Roosevelt prayer diluting dont know FDR. When Roosevelt first met Prime Minister Winston Churchill, seventy years ago last summer for the first summit, the presidents son Elliott made a point of telling the British leader my father is a very religious man. Churchill had already learned that. He had studied the American leader and had chosen those great hymns most likely to tug at Roosevelts heartstrings. More than 5,000 young British and American sailors joined heartily to sing the words of O God Our Help in Ages Past, Onward Christian Soldiers, and Eternal Father Strong to Save.

Heres a compromise we can offer to avoid diluting the FDR Memorial:

Lets take that statue of Roosevelt on his wheel chair and ship it off to the Bill Clinton Library. As president, Clinton made it his business to tell us all that Americans were lied to about FDRs crippling condition of polio. Expert as he was in lying, Bill Clinton got that totally wrong. Readers of TIME and every other journal of the 1940s read every year that the president was going to Warm Springs, Georgia, for treatment for his polio-stricken legs. The president publicly raised funds for the March of Dimes, a group then dedicated to polio research. And, Mr. Clinton, guess whose picture is on the dime?

It was President Roosevelt who requested that no pictures of him in his wheel chair be shown. Thats the real reason only two of more than 14,000 photographs of President Roosevelt show him in his chair. To claim otherwise, as Clinton does, is to delude Americans.

If we transfer the wheelchair statue that FDR would have hated, we can avoid diluting the FDR Memorial. We can stop deluding Americans. We will have plenty of room to display Roosevelts eloquent D-Day Prayer. Then, we can remind ourselves that we truly are One Nation Under God.

Americas First Peacetime Flag

by Robert Morrison

September 8, 2011

My friend, Dick Libby, is a vexillologist. He studies flags. Dick worked for years to correct the version of the Shaw flag that flies over the heads of thousands of schoolchildren and tourists in our old State House in Annapolis, Maryland. I call this handsome banner the Shaw-Libby flag, since Dick Libby spent more time getting it right than even the redoubtable Col. Shaw did.

As we await the presidents speech to Congress this week, its worth thinking of that Shaw-Libby flag again. As Dick points out, this flag was Americas first peacetime flag.

How so? It was flown in Annapolis when Congress met there in late 1783. It was the flag that Gen. George Washington saw when he came to this historic town to resign his commission. He wanted to make a great symbolic gesture by returning his power to the source of his authority: the representatives of a free and peaceful people.

Today, our presidents approval rating is sinking. The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration which began with such high hopes is finding it harder to sustain those hopes. Congress can take little comfort from the presidents failing numbers. Americans tell pollsters they like Congress even less.

Its worth considering what things were like in 1783. Gen. Washington had just had to face down an incipient mutiny in the Continental Armys winter headquarters in Newburg, New York. The officers and men of the army had gone without pay, without promised lands, for years. They were restive. Some of their number wanted to march on Congress and demand that body keep its commitments. At the point of a bayonet.

Gen. Washington had come into their discontented ranks uninvited. He moved dramatically to the front of the hall and addressed the grumbling officers. This time, he could see that his appeals for good order and discipline were not calming the troubled waters. Washington had never considered himself a powerful orator, like Patrick Henry, like John Adams.

So he fished in his pockets for a letter, a message from a sympathetic Member of Congress which he said would put the case better. Opening the letter, he found he could not read it. As the men shuffled their feet, His Excellency searched for his eyeglasses.

Most of his officers had never seen their Commanding General wear spectacles before.

Washington, noting their murmurings said simply: Gentlemen: You will excuse me, for I have grown not only gray, but nearly blind in the service of our country.

Those quiet words were more moving to these veterans of many battles than any great orators ringing declamation. Many of the men wept openly. They had been through those battles with him and had seen him risk his life again and again.

So now, with peace assured, Gen. Washington rode into Annapolis to return his power to the source of that powerthe elected representatives of the sovereign American people. Then, as today, the U.S. economy was grinding to a halt. Then, as now, the republic was drowning in an ocean of debt. Then, as now, many people held Congress in contempt.

You mustnt give up power, your Excellency, some of his young aides pleaded. You must seize authority for the sake of our country. Washington firmly rejected this course.

I cannot act, he said sternly, the People must act.

But, sir, they protested, the People do not understand how close to collapse we are.

Unmoved, Washington answered: The People must feel an evil before they can see it.

Just in time, We the People acted. We fashioned a free republic through what young Alexander Hamilton called a miracle of reflection and choice. In time, too, we ratified a new Constitution and elected George Washington our first president.

Americans today arefeeling the evil. We feel the pain in the long lines unemployed. We pray for them, even as we are concerned we may be next in line. We feel the anguish of small business owners trapped in red tape who cannot freely hire new workers or offer new goods and services.

With all that bedevils us, all that threatens to disunite us, its important to reflect that we have come through hard, hard times before.

Today, there are journos who want to distract Americans by finding theos (theocrats) under every bed. They feel that if they can just frighten Americans with the theocrat scare, their side yet cling to power.

These journos might have been even more shocked had they read Gen. Washingtons orders to his army at the outset of the Revolution. With the British bearing down on them on Long Island in 1776, His Excellency wrote:

The fate of millions yet unborn will depend, under God, on the conduct of this army.

What? Talking about millions yet unborn? Talking about the army being under God?

How could we ever let such a theocrat lead us from that point of danger to that solemn ride under Americas first peacetime flag, the Shaw-Libby flag?

We did. By Gods grace we did. Let us pray we will yet be able to seek Gods aid in passing through our own distracted times. I thought of this when I flew the Shaw-Libby flag at my Annapolis home this week.

A Brave, if Misguided, Mayor

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 12, 2011

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is a brave man. Anyone doubting this should watch his 25-minute exhortation to the African-American community of his city.

Nutter, himself black, began his message with a moving call for all Americans to pray for our men and women in uniform. And then: “Now: I’m gonna say some things this morning that many of you from time to time may think, but may not say. It will not be PC.”

The mayor’s message was volcanic in intensity but targeted in its aim: In vivid terms, he described the results of the break-up of the black family. His evaluation is entirely consistent with the research done by FRCs Dr. Pat Fagan, who has found only 17% of African-American youth (less than one in five) live with both married parents. Given that children need parents, there should be little wonder that so many black youth are adrift and moving into lives of crime or promiscuity.

Mayor Nutter took a strong line on thwarting the immediate acts of crime, but spoke eloquently about the need for parents truly to parent their children. Speaking to the young people who are disrupting the city, he said: “If you want all of us — black, white or any other color — if you want us to respect you, if you want us to look at you in a different way, if you want us not to be afraid to walk down the same side of the street with you, if you want folks not to jump out of an elevator when you get on, if you want folks to stop following you around in stores when you’re out shopping, if you want someone to offer you a job or an internship somewhere, if you don’t want folks to be looking in or trying to go in a different direction when they see two or 20 of you coming down the street, then stop acting like idiots and fools out in the streets of the city of Philadelphia. Just cut it out.”

Sadly, the Mayor in April also launched “the Freedom Condom” initiative to combat sexually-transmitted diseases. “The Freedom Condom (is) a LifeStyles Ultra Thin Lubricated inside a blue city wrapper - (it) may be ordered free online at www.TakeControlPhilly.org, and also (is being) distributed at more than 100 locations around the city. (It is) easily found via iCondom Philly, the new GPS-enabled iPhone app.”

The Mayor is, no doubt, a sincere man. Yet, logically, he cannot campaign against that which he is subsidizing. The only guarantees against a sexually-transmitted disease are abstinence or, if married, fidelity to one’s husband or wife. Moreover, by distributing condoms to children as young as 11, he is encouraging behavior he knows is dangerous. The fact that some children will be promiscuous does not justify fostering such promiscuity through the distribution of free prophylactics. This is like saying that because some people will become drug addicts, government should provide free, hermetically-sealed bags of heroin on demand.

In addition, the evidence indicates that an increase in contraceptive use actually means a higher level of abortion and disease. Peer reviewed studies in three countries: Britain, Spain, and Sweden demonstrate that an increase in contraceptive use is matched by a rise in STDs and abortions. In a commensurate way, less contraceptive use correlates with fewer abortions. From 1995 to 2002, the rate of contraceptive use here in the U.S. decreased from 64 percent to 62 percent and abortion numbers decreased from about 1.36 million to roughly 1.29 million.

With all of that said, we can still applaud Mayor Nutter for calling on mothers, fathers and children to function as God intended as loving, responsible, respectful families.

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