Earlier in the week, a fairly well-known blogger (@RBPundit) wrote two opinion pieces for a slightly less well-known blog (The Right Sphere) entitled “The End Game”. In the first, he pissed and moaned about the ‘fiscal cliff’, that Obama wants to leap off of it, that Republicans will be blamed for it, and about the ensuing ‘civil war’ within the GOP. In the second, which he posted a mere 4 hours later, he made some less than bold prediction about the near future and attempted to make the case that conservatives shouldn’t be bashing the ‘establishment’ or ‘mounting primary challenges’ against said establishment. I followed up with a hearty chuckle.
Ordinarily, I would engage a typical misguided neocon blogger on Twitter, where I was introduced to this garbage, but RB has long since blocked me. He made a few good points on the surface, but overall, is very off-target. (If, indeed, his target is a strong and prosperous America that is governed within the confines of the Constitution.)
Republicans have “lost the public relations battle” on the ‘fiscal cliff’ nonsense. That much is absolutely true. Republicans loose virtually EVERY PR battle. This is not rocket science.
Obama wants to go over the fiscal cliff. Again, one doesn’t need a high school diploma to figure this out. Personally, I don’t think he really cares one way or the other about some imaginary cliff, so long as he maintains control over the electorate. To a narcissistic tyrant, all that matters is the result, not how it’s achieved.
We’re going over the cliff, the GOP gets blamed, and then middle class taxes will be lowered early next year. A very logical prediction.
It doesn’t take a blog to make those points.
But then these articles take a sad turn. (Sad turns are common when you’re running in circles.) The overall tone, of both pieces, is one of “Party First”. Phrases like “avoid the civil war within the GOP…”, “bashing John Boehner and attacking the establishment…” are a “waste of time…”, and “instead of mounting primary challenges…” only serve to cement that. And then he jumps on the Marco Rubio bandwagon. Great.
I beg your pardon, WHAT?! The Republican Party NEEDS a civil war, as it were. At least if it wants to be anything besides a slightly less bad version of the Democrat’s version of progressivism and socialism. Right now, you’ve got old-school Republicans who want nothing more than to stay elected. And you’ve got conservatives. You know, the average Joe who respects the Constitution and desires a free and prosperous country for his kids and grandkids to grow up in. Also, there are the Libertarians, most of whom have become so disgusted with Republican progressivism that they fight the GOP just as hard as the Democrats do. Ladies and gentlemen of the establishment, you are fighting a losing battle.
And what’s this nonsense about not challenging the mushy squishes of Republicans who were sent to Washington to oppose progressivism? Not push some watered-down version of the same bullshit? Every single elected official needs to be held accountable, and the most effective way (only way?) of doing that is by removing them from office, either in the primary or the general elections. As it is, we are far more likely to see a conservative challenger in the primaries than in the generals. Similarly, term limits. Since the likelihood of Congress imposing term limits on itself, that onus is on ‘we the people’. When we keep voting for the same ineffective failures, we become ‘sheeple’ rather than people.
For the record, we won’t go over the imaginary fiscal cliff. The GOP establishment will cave, I suppose with the hope of not being seen as the bad guys, and a deal will be made, most likely before Christmas. And every single congressman who supports this deal deserves to be harassed until they can give a reasoned answer as to why they abandoned their constituents. And then they’ll have at least two years to attempt to redeem themselves (depending on when they’re up for re-election), and if they continue with their Democrat Lite bullshit, they deserve to be removed from office. Congress’ job is easy: budget the nation’s expenses in such a manner that they align with federal revenue, and only pass laws that are clearly within the constraints of the Constitution. If they can’t do that, they can go find another job. The Wendy’s down the street from me is looking for kitchen help.
Ah, Labor Day. The unofficial end of summer. A three day weekend with cookouts, pool parties, retail sales, and political campaigns kicking into high gear. To most Americans, that’s all there is to it. But why do we have a federal holiday with the designation ‘Labor Day’? Essentially, we have three people to thank (blame?) for this extended weekend.
Way back in the late 1800’s, labor unions were fairly important, influential groups in American society and politics. Virtually any skilled trade had a national organization with local chapters, from carpenters to ironworkers to engineers. Even some unskilled workers had organized unions, such as the American Railway Union, or ARU. The ARU included most any sort of railway worker, but the majority of members were unskilled workers.
Just outside of Chicago was the planned community of Pullman. The town was essentially owned by George M. Pullman, who also was the owner/president of Pullman Palace Car Company, maker of railroad cars. Pullman built the town for his factory workers, and charged them rent. However, following the Panic of 1893, Pullman cut the wages of his employees by as much as 25%. The workers’ rents stayed the same, however. The ARU had recently struck, successfully, against the Great Northern Railway for similar wage cuts, and decided to strike against Pullman. At first, the workers did not have the full support of the ARU, so on May 11, 1984, they launched a wildcat strike, ceasing to pull or service any trains with a Pullman car on it. The wildcat worked, as the rest of the ARU quickly joined in, led by union president Eugene V. Debs.
Now, I could dedicate an entire post just to Mr. Debs, but that will have to wait. Briefly though, Debs was born to French immigrants who were no stranger to wealth, owning both a meat market and a textile mill. He dropped out of high school at 14, and began his railroad career as a painter, car cleaner, and later a locomotive fireman. He attended business school and became heavily involved with unions by the age of 20. He held various positions of rank within the Brotherhood of Locomotive Fireman before eventually running, successfully, for 2 terms as city clerk in his home town, and later one term on the Indiana General Assembly as a Democrat.
Debs originally opposed the Pullman Strike, but quickly relented as it spread beyond Chicago, and eventually, all the way to California. The strike, referred to in that time as “Deb’s Rebellion”, crippled the national railroad infrastructure, including U.S. Mail deliveries. It was at this point that President Grover Cleveland stepped in, ordering an injunction against Debs and the ARU, calling for the strike to end. Once it was clear that he had been ignored, Cleveland ordered military intervention to break the strike and set the mail cars back to work. In the process of breaking the striking, an estimated $80 million in damages and vandalism occurred, and at least 30 people were killed. Debs and the rest of the Board for the ARU were arrested for ignoring a federal injunction and interfering with U.S. Mail deliveries. While in prison, Debs immersed himself in the works of Karl Marx, and later ran for President as a Socialist 6 consecutive times, starting in 1900.
Even after the strike was over, and the town of Pullman was incorporated into Chicago, public opinion generally was still a resentment of the ARU for the strike, and of Debs for leading the charge. The (then unbiased) New York Times declared him “a lawbreaker at large, an enemy of the human race.” Nevertheless, Cleveland and the great majority of Congress feared for their political careers and passed legislation declaring the first Monday of September a federal holiday: Labor Day. The bill was signed into law a whopping 6 days after the strike was broken. Talk about a union stranglehold.
Various labor organization had proposed a similar holiday as early as 10 years prior to the Pullman Strike, and some states had even begun observing such a holiday on a state level. But, thanks to the grossly immoral business practices of George Pullman, the aggressive tactics of democrat-turned-socialist (not much of a turn, I know) Eugene Debs, and the fear of losing union support by Grover Cleveland, we now have a National Labor Day. To celebrate and honor American workers! And the Unions that control them! But the first Monday of September? That’s a bit arbitrary. Well, that was because the politicians had to find a balance between placating the unions, who wanted to use May Day (a communist workers’ holiday), and the American population, who were put off by communism and all of it’s wares.
So in summary, as you enjoy cold beers, swimming pools, and cookouts today, remember this: were it not for the crippling stranglehold that unions have over politicians, you’d be at work today. That is, of course, if your not one of the 23 + million unemployed. Enjoy!!
Over the past several months, there has been a lot of drama in the conservative circles on Twitter. If I had to pinpoint a timeframe, I’d say it all began when the news of Brett Kimberlin using SWATting and law fare against conservatives broke. You can read up on that story here: http://theothermccain.com/category/neutral-objective-journalism/the-kimberlin-files/ However, over the past month or so, sh*t has really hit the fan.
A lot of the sh*t being lobbed is aimed at one Brooks Bayne (@brooksbayne), his website, www.thetrenches.us, and his known “associates”. Why? A quick google of this man produces a mixed bag, if you will, of blogs by and about him. What we can gather is that he has been rather consistent with everything he blogs about and tweets about. He assisted in organizing the first Tea Parties and has been extremely vocal for quite some time in defense of America’s founding principles. Public perception, especially as seen by those who don’t know Brooks or haven’t interacted with him in any way, is that he comes off as “boorish”. But that’s hardly an excuse for intentional smears and defamation of him, his endeavors, and his associates.
People are out there in the twitter-verse ‘taking sides’, ‘defending’ so-and-so, ‘threatening’, ‘smearing’, etc., As for me, I am on the side of American Liberty, I am defending the truth and those so brave as to tell it plainly, threatening no one, and certainly not smearing anyone. It is not my intention to drag anyone’s name through the mud that has been slung from all corners. But I find it only fair, only appropriate, to make an attempt at clearing up some things that a lot of people seem unaware of or misinformed about.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Mr. Bayne founded this website, but no longer has any affiliation with it whatsoever, save for still being on a rarely-used email group. He did not ask me to write this. He has never paid me for anything I’ve written, nor has he had a direct hand in any of my content.
Let’s start with the website. Thetrenches.us has been up and running for less than a year. (I really don’t know exactly for how long. You know, because I’m not involved with it.) The staff at The Trenches has covered topics ranging from #twittergulag to Brett Kimberlin and Neal Rauhauser to exposing some ties that certain people have with certain other radical people. And for the most part, the group received no animosity for their hard work and diligence in holding people accountable. But when they posted this: http://thetrenches.us/2012/06/breitbarts-last-night-wherein-he-prepared-for-war-in-the-trenches-against-neal-rauhauser/ all Hell seemed to break loose. “Ooh! Did you see that?!” “What do they know about Andrew Breitbart?” “How DARE they mention Breitbart?!” And so on. That was the tipping point for a great many conservatives. This post, not even written by Brooks, ended up pissing a lot of people off. And for what? The point that was made was that Breitbart, despite everything else on his plate, was ready to combat the crazies behind the SWATtings.
Brooks Bayne, the individual, regardless of where he posts his blogs, has taken a lot of flack for far too long. The first instance that I can remember him taking any major “friendly-fire” for was his article on this site connecting Sandra Fluke to some pretty radical leftists who just happen to be big-time supporter of President Obama, and who also happen to be Jewish. And Socialist. Some Jews on ‘our side’ took great offense to the fact that there are other Jews out there who support and endorse socialism. And so Brooks became an anti-Semite overnight. I defended Brooks against those charges, and was subsequently blocked by @keder and @kesgardner, among others, I’m sure. I thought the conservatives were the tolerant ones? Sadly, Brooks seems to face a barrage of hatred from ‘conservatives’ on an almost daily basis. But when he defends himself, he’s the crazy, irrelevant, Twitter-terrorizing, anti-Semitic asshole.
Everyone associated with Trenches, or anyone who is even considered friendly with them, has been subject to varying forms of harassment, incivility, smears, and vitriol. Myself included, lately. I tried to avoid the sh*t-throwing at first. I’d chime in when someone told a blatant lie, but otherwise, focused on my own endeavors. I even went on a Twitter rant (#flbr) one day calling on ALL PARTIES involved to just walk away. Take a chill pill and call me in the morning, ya know? I have interacted, on and off Twitter, with several members over at The Trenches, and I am willing to vouch for their credibility and their characters. And so there came a point in time where I had simply seen enough.
Two people in particular have focused way too much time on smearing Brooks, The Trenches organization, and anyone who dare attempt to stand in the middle: Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) and Stevie J. West (@steviejwest). Both have gone so far as to to post libelous smears of Greg Howard, a United States Marine veteran, whose life was turned upside down a few years ago by none other than Neal Rauhauser and his ‘beandogs’.
So, why would these two have such animosity for Brooks and his pals? Well, both are former writers for The Trenches, for starters. I don’t know much about Lee’s departure, but I’ve heard that it was kind of messy, at least for him. As for Ms. West’s departure, she wasn’t happy with certain aspects of the organization, but she left on perceived good terms. She received well-wishes from all of the major writers there. It has always been The Trenches policy that writers may come and go as they please, barring the sharing of confidential information received during ‘employment’. Lee is a ‘former’ leftist while Stevie, as far as I know, has always been a conservative. No connection there. Maybe there is no connection between the two, and it’s just a coincidence that both have engaged in similar smear tactics after severing ties with The Trenches. We may never know.
Lee’s insidious behavior has been well documented, and you can see it here: http://thetrenches.us/2012/07/the-chronicles-of-strandedhan-part-1-of-n/ and here: http://thetrenches.us/2012/07/the-chronicles-of-strandedhan-part-2-of-infinity-the-dark-side/, so I won’t waste time rehashing that psycho.
For some reason, Ms. West found it necessary to to make it very public about her break-up with The Trenches. She tweeted it to public domain, and then began to play the victim card for some reason.
Now, Brooks and his pals at The Trenches were all under the impression that the break-up was mutual. She didn’t want to participate with them any longer, and they weren’t going to try to force here to stay. So, needless to say, they were completely taken aback when they saw her smears, as was I. I always had viewed her a strong independent woman who would not hesitate to school the Marxist lefties, so this was odd behavior. She began (as far as I know, this was the beginning) with accusing @foolishreporter of “bringing her kids into it”. Foolish is a father of one, and is expecting another, so he would know better than to stoop that low, right? Well, Ms. West is apparently so vain, so obsessed with her own popularity, that she assumed that this was about her, and lashed out because someone was “bringing her kids into it”.
Foolish naturally defended himself, and several others backed him up as well. But Stevie is unrelenting (just like Lee), and still holds to this day that he started it by even mentioning her kids, nevermind that as a father, he sympathized with her about what she was going through at the time.
Even an innocent observer understood what was going on.
Her attacks and smears have only escalated since. Anytime one of her followers asks, she is happy to drag every single one of these patriots through the mud. She has even stooped so low as to share a beandog-produced video with her followers, warning them to avoid Greg Howard. Greg’s only connection to the Trenches is that they have been ardent defenders of him when he is attacked by the Left, and now, even by some on the Right.
What could cause someone to carry such a grudge? Why the axe to grind, Stevie? Why do you continue to pursue this sick vendetta of yours? I asked Stevie to email me her side of the story over a week ago, before I even considered writing this. To date, she has made no effort to contact me, only to double-down on her malicious smears. It’s sad, really. I’ve always liked her. Truly sad.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the REPUBLIC for which it stands; one nation, under GOD, indivisible, with LIBERTY and justice for all.”
Last month, I posted a cartoon to my Facebook page. It depicts a classroom full of students standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. One kid, refusing to stand, props his feet up on his desk. The teacher acknowledged that right, but introduced a wheelchair-bound Marine. The teacher informs the brat that he has the right not to stand because of the Marine’s bravery and sacrifice.
For some reason, this cartoon created somewhat of a stir for one commenter. He complained, like Michelle Obama, that it’s “just a flag”. well, I beg to differ. To me, the flag is symbolic of everything exceptional about America, and I take the pledge very seriously.
I love my country, and everything she stands for. People forget sometimes, or take for granted, all of the rights that we enjoy here. But isn’t it even more important to show respect for the reasons we have those rights? Our founders, our military, and us.
Yes, us. We as Americans, especially those of us with a solid grasp of the Constitution, have a duty to defend those rights. And as Calvin Coolidge reminds us, “duty is not collective; it is personal.” Each of us, individually, has a responsibility to every single patriot who has come before us, and to every one that will follow us, to show respect to the reasons that we have all of our freedoms.
Last month, The Supreme Court determined that Congress has the right to tax citizens for not buying something. Naturally, I disagree. In handing down this ruling, The Court demonstrated a blatant lack of respect for the citizens of America, the Founders, and the Constitution. Chief Justice Roberts attempted to walk a very fine line between rights and respect, and he failed.
Much has been said about this ruling already, so I’m not going to rehash it. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past month, the Court ruled that ObamaCare is Constitutional because the penalty for not buying insurance is tax, not a penalty. Pundits from both sides of the aisle have attempted to spin the ruling to suit their agendas, to the point that liberals and conservative alike are both praising Roberts and condemning him.
Similarly, a bunch of conservatives on Twitter have forgotten about rights and respect, and how they intertwine. In the aftermath of the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, some people were insinuating that the federal government, notably the FBI, may have had some sort of connection to the planning or implementing of the shooting. Theories have ranged from a mole supplied the shooter with the artillery to claiming outright that the FBI was involved every step of the way.
Now, regardless of your opinions on the theories that these people have come up with, we can at least all agree that they have a right to voice them. One of the people presenting the theory that the government may have have been involved was Greg Howard (@GregWHoward). Greg is a Marine veteran, ardent conservative, and one of the true warriors in the fight for freedom. After seeing some of what he had to say, some big-name ‘conservatives’ took it upon themselves to focus their attacks not on the left, but on Mr. Howard. Divide and conquer, much? Fellow ‘conservatives’ from Michelle Malkin to alleged leftist convert Lee Stranahan http://leestranahan.com/plant
began attacking Mr. Howard on Twitter and on their blogs. They called him crazy and paranoid, and Lee even accused him of threatening to make his own bomb. If you read Mr. Howard’s timeline, he clearly states that he is speculating; just throwing some ideas out for thoughtful discussion. But, for some, thoughtful discussion is not allowed if the conversation sways from the narrative.
Once some of these big-name Twitter heroes started pointing at Mr. Howard, their followers jumped right on the bandwagon. I mean, when you’ve got the premier twitter popularity website http://twitchy.com/2012/07/21/cuckoo-of-the-day-fbi-staged-aurora-shooting-to-pave-way-for-gun-grab/ posting about you, it’s only a matter of time before the echo chamber kids come after you, trying to get their tweets noticed by their heroes. Because some people obviously hold personalities in higher regard than principles.
What both of these example have in common is a very blurry line between rights and respect. The Supreme Court disrespected us and the Constitution in an attempt to create a ‘right’ to health insurance. The echo chambers on Twitter ignored the right of Free Speech, and in the process, disrespected a fellow conservative. http://thetrenches.us/2012/07/principles-not-personalities/
I long for the day, hopefully soon after the election, that common sense makes a comeback and we recognize and respect each others rights. But I’m not holding my breath. Because it’s not just a matter of calling out the crazies. Crazy or not, we still need to respect the rights of others. Because when you loose the ability to do that, you become an irrelevant fascist pig. Don’t be an irrelevant fascist pig.
I am not a speech watcher, and I am certainly not a speech writer. But Monday night, I took notes on two speeches. And this is what I was able to take away from speeches by President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
President Obama addressed the nation to talk about the crisis in Washington D.C. that has been coming to head. It took him less than one minute (60 seconds) to blame his predecessor, George W. Bush. The President claimed that he inherited a bad economy, and he did. But that is where the truth-telling stopped. The President said “the recession meant that less money was coming in, so we had to spend more money”. Only in a Marxist fairytale does that make sense.
He continued to rehash the same lines that he’s been using for months. President Obama used the phrase “balanced approach” no less than seven times in his 15 minute speech. I stopped counting after the seventh one. He promised once again that families earning less than $250,000 per year will not see any increase in taxes. Obama compared himself to Ronald Reagan a few times, and even had the audacity to quote him. He yet again bemoaned millionaires, billionaires, corporate jet owners, and big businesses for not being taxed enough; for not paying their “fair share”. The president reiterated that the Republican Party is the ‘Party of ‘No’’. He criticized a short term plan released this morning by Boehner as “kicking the can”. President Obama again turned to fear tactics and class warfare by threatening Social Security and Medicaid checks. He said the Republicans refuse to compromise, refuse to increase revenue, demand deep spending cuts and are “holding the economy captive”.
The entire speech was spent trying to eviscerate the Republicans for being partisan, ideological, and stubborn. But the President was able to sprinkle in a few other tidbits that many people might not pick up on or focus on. Mr. Obama mentioned that most Americans were just starting to ‘tune in’ to the stalemate, and that outside of Washington, most people “have no idea what the debt ceiling means.” Was I the only one offended by that? This is the age of the Internet, Mr. President. If someone hears a term or word that they are not familiar with, all they have to do is “Google it”. In fact, in all my discussions and rants over the past month on this topic, the only person who needed an explanation of the debt ceiling was my nine-year-old son! Mr. President, Americans are not stupid. President Obama, after explaining the debt ceiling in layman’s terms, also said that an increase in the debt ceiling does not mean an increase in spending, it will just be to pay our bills. Really? When I call my credit card company to ask for an increase, it’s so that I can spend more (borrowed) money.
On top of the lies and the insults to the American people, President Obama was even brave and brazen enough to contradict himself within his own speech. After demagoguing the Republicans for fifteen solid minutes, he told us that we “need to put politics aside and make progress”. He scolded Speaker Boehner for kicking the can down the road with his short term (6 month) plan, and then praised the plan from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s long term (16 month) plan. Harry Reid is just better at kicking that can, I guess. The president repeated over and over again that we need a balanced approach, but failed to mention that Reid’s plan has no tax increases. With so much double-talk, I wonder if the President may suffer from multiple personality disorder.
Shortly after the president signed off, House Speaker John Boehner offered a brief rebuttal. I specifically chose the word rebuttal, not response, because I think he did a good job of refuting the major points that Obama tried to make. John Boehner introduced himself as the “Speaker of the Whole House”, and as a former small business owner in Ohio. You see? instantly bi-partisan and appeal to the average person. The speaker noted the sharp contrast between running a business and making tough choices versus the “spend all the problems away” mentality he encountered in Washington, D.C. He accused the president of wanting another “routine increase in the deficit”, and for wanting a ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase, both of which were denied by Congress.
Speaker Boehner, unlike the President who refused to offer any details, got into some specifics. He said that President Obama created “this atmosphere of crisis” in part with his rhetoric, as well as the Patient Protection and affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and all of the stimulus spending. He stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no increase in the debt ceiling without real spending cuts and meaningful reforms. He reminded everyone that the House passed a plan called Cut, Cap and Balance, but that the President threatened to veto it before it was passed.
Mr. Boehner stated that he put forth a “sincere effort” in negotiations with President Obama, but that just when he thought that they had found something to agree on, Obama demanded more, and said the President would not “take yes for an answer”. The Speaker summed it all up in plain English by saying that “If we’re spending more than we’re taking in, we need to spend less.”
The fact that we are here debating to raise the debt limit shows a failure in leadership. Yes, that is what Senator Obama said five years ago, and that is the only area where I agree with him. After that, he loses me. But Speaker Boehner is no messiah either. If the president wants a balanced approach, why hasn’t he proposed one? He emphasized cuts to domestic programs (which ones? your guess is as good as mine) and to defense spending. But why not balance that with cuts to international spending? Speaker Boehner wants no new taxes, but why does Ethanol get a subsidy instead of coal? President Obama refuses to look at any plan in “phases”, but Republicans need to compromise.
Everyone keeps talking about default. If you default on your car, it is because you didn’t make the payments, and the lending bank repossesses your car. And the same with your mortgage. If you don’t write that monthly check, you’ll get evicted sooner or later. If America ‘defaults’ on its debt, does China get to take over? I don’t think so. The truth is, America will not default. The monthly payment, America’s ‘mortgage’, if you will, amounts to about 10% of it’s income, or tax revenue. And my next-door neighbors will get their Social Security check next month, because that column accounts for only roughly 35% of monthly tax revenue. Default will not happen, but a shutdown might. Personally, that might not be so bad.
The fact of the matter is that politicians make lousy accountants, and serious reform in needed across the board. I’m no economist (heck, I barely have an A.A. degree), but here’s my plan. Fight for Cut, Cap and Balance. Call the Democrats’ bluff. Erick Erickson at redstate.com would say, “Hold the freaking line!” They will cave. Harry Reid practically has already, and Obama won’t let a default or a shutdown spoil his legacy. Let the Senate offer amendments if they want to, but stick to your principles. After you pass that, and it will pass, pass a truly balanced budget for FY2012. Go line by line and find everywhere possible to pinch pennies, not just political or social issues like Planned Parenthood and NPR. With a budget out of the way, go after the tax code. Start closing loopholes, eliminating deductions and banishing subsidies. And if you’re feeling extra frisky, reduce marginal rates. Once you prove that can reform the tax code, tackle the unsustainable ‘entitlements’. Create an ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ for Social Security. Give the states more power and control over Medicare and Medicaid. And that’s just for starters, before the 2012 elections. Yes, it is a lot of work, but it can be done. It must be done. Or a default will be the least of your concerns.
In this year’s General Assembly, Maryland lawmakers, much like their Washington, D.C. counterparts, chose again to ignore the voice of the voters and do what they thought would get them re-elected. Many, many votes this year defied the will of “we the people”, but I’m speaking primarily of Maryland’s version of the DREAM Act. The Act, passed in both chambers despite bipartisan dissent, and signed into law in a very public, campaign-style ceremony by Governor Martin O’Malley, would grant in-state tuition rates at Maryland public colleges and universities to students who are in America illegally, with very few guidelines or caveats.
The only surprising part of this news is that it took until now for Maryland to pass such a bill. After all, Maryland is the most Democratic-leaning state in the Union. According to the latest Gallup poll, Maryland Democrats have a state-side 22 percent advantage over Republicans. Both chambers of the state assembly have strong Democratic majorities, Maryland is represented by two of the bluest liberals in the U.S. Senate, and routinely sends a Democratic majority to the House. But when this bill was tabled for debate, it was met with fierce, all be it small and short-funded, opposition. The bill eventually passed, with only a few minor amendments.
No sooner was the final vote tallied, two conservative Delegates, Neil Parrott and Pat McDonough, were working tirelessly to have the law suspended and placed on the 2012 ballot as a referendum vote. They set up a website, MDPetitions.com, to drive for online petitions. Several volunteers including myself and Delegate Justin Ready, took to the streets to collect signatures in support of the referendum. And just as Maryland is known as a hot spot for liberals, the bluest state is equally dismissive of its rather small Tea Party influence.
However, on May 31, Delegate Parrott proudly announced that the petition drive had submitted over 60,000 signatures. By state law, in order to keep the petition alive, 18,579 valid signatures were required by that date, with the balance of 55,736 signatures due by June 30. With the Maryland Board of Elections charged with the task of verifying and validating the signatures, it is likely that some will be litigated out.
It is unclear as of yet how many of the submitted signatures will be accepted by the BoE, but a few things have become very clear. Maryland’s Tea Party movement is a force to be reckoned with. It is also obvious that despite her liberal tendencies, Maryland’s residents understand the rule of law; that illegal means against the law; and that they are tired of being taken to cleaners for the political gain of elected officials. In fact, several hard-core liberals not only signed the petition, but also offered to help circulate it.
Meanwhile, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was busy complaining that Republicans and conservatives think that illegal immigration “should in fact be a crime.” Governor O’Malley fought for this bill and signed it so that “new Americans” would have a fighting chance. Perhaps Miss Schultz and Mister O’Malley should get out of their offices and spend some time with the good people of Maryland, liberals and conservatives alike, and find out the majority of Americans, including the newly vocal Maryland Tea Party movement, do in fact think that illegal immigration is a crime.
As of this week, the Maryland BoE has validated 47,354 signatures for the referendum petition. That leaves just under 8,400 more valid signatures to effectively suspend the Maryland DREAM Act and let the citizens decide its fate next November. Twenty-seven percent of the validated signatures, by the way, are the names of registered Democrats, and twelve per cent are independents.
Far be it from me to predict the future, but I see at least one liberal, over-spending, over-reaching bill being transported from the I.C.U. to its end-of-life bed.
To many Americans, specifically those aligned with Tea Party values, the 2010 national elections were a referendum of sorts on Washington, D.C. Americans are tired of out-of-control spending, tax increases, government overreach, and ‘business as usual’ politics. Newly elected Republicans, primarily in the House of Representatives, believe that this is why they were elected: to reign in the out-of-control culture in the Capitol.
There has been a lot of media coverage of the current fiscal budget, 2011. Why was there not a budget in place? What took so long to compromise on $38.5 billion? But as the newly emboldened House Speaker John Boehner spent most of his time bickering back and forth with the president and with Senate Democrats, Rep. Paul Ryan has been working tirelessly to pen a budget proposal for fiscal year 2012. Ryan has dubbed his proposal the Path to Prosperity.
Ryan’s budget, which claims saving of more than $6 trillion over 10 years, is broken down into four major issues. The first area of government that the Path addresses is ‘efficient, effective and responsible government’, which is followed by reforms to Medicaid, and by reforms to Medicare and Social Security, and finally reforms to the tax code.
Since I’m no economist, I’ll spare you my interpretation of most of the numbers involved. Essentially, though, the Path avoids raising taxes in any way, as far as I can see. Rather, Rep. Ryan realizes the over-indulgent culture that is the Federal Government, and makes spending cuts in virtually every single federally funded program. He took the advice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and cut $178 billion from the Defense Department’s budget, reinvested $100 billion of it, and applied the remainder to deficit reduction. His Path calls for complete repeal and defunding of the healthcare reform bill passed last year, effectively leaving us no worse off than we were in that arena. The Path calls for the remainder of domestic spending to return to 2008 levels, and a 10 per cent reduction in the federal workforce, and retooling their generous pension programs. By following Ryan’s Path, he says, we will reach ‘primary balance’ in 2015; that is to say, the only red ink in the budget would be interest on the federal debt. According to the CBO, however, it would be 2040 before this plan would actually start to pay off the principle of the federal debt. Finally, Ryan makes a soft attempt at reforming the Tax Code for simplicity sake, and caps the nominal tax rates at 25 per cent. Not bad, Mr. Ryan.
Conversely, President Obama’s original budget proposal for 2012 actually increases federal spending. However, the day following the release of the “Path to Prosperity”, President Obama gave a speech in which he outlined his own plan to reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion over the next 12 years. Obama staunchly defended only two key points on his plan: cuts to defense spending and tax increases. The president said he stands firm on letting the tax cuts for the ‘wealthy’, those earning in excess of $250,000, expire and not extending them. Aside from those talking points, sprinkled with some rather partisan rhetoric, President Obama shared very little as far as the details of his deficit reduction plan.
As of April 18, 2011, the United States’ National Debt is $14.284 trillion. That figure is a mere $10 billion and change shy of the Debt ceiling. Given the fact that America’s credit cards are effectively maxed-out, both of these plans do far too little, far too late. Keep in mind that the debt ceiling is the current maximum of total accumulated debt authorized by the same Congress that is now in a scramble debating the terms of increasing that ceiling. Had that Congress passed a budget last year, they would have known that this limit was approaching, and would have had several more months to work out a plan to address the issue. The fact that we have yet to see a serious, implementable balanced budget proposed for fiscal year 2012 is disheartening.
When my family budget starts to get tight, we sit down and figure out where we can save money and what we can do without. We clip coupons, we drive less when possible, we don’t eat out, etc. We might even look at ways to earn some extra money; work some overtime or do some side jobs. The same is true of any company or business. When Joe’s Cogs balance sheets are close to red ink, Joe spends a little less on advertising, he makes sure all the lights are turned off at the end of the day, and maybe he lays off the janitor and sweeps the floor himself. Depending on the market situation, he might even charge a few extra pennies for his product. But neither my family or Joe’s Cogs, upon realizing the possibility of a negative balance, decides to simply take out another loan or apply for another credit card.
But that is exactly what the federal government wants to do. And that is exactly what they’ve done for decades after decades. In fact, it has been over a decade since America ran an annual budget surplus. Can you imagine spending ten years digging a hole that your children would be born in? That is the exact scenario that has played out in Washington, D.C. over the past ten years. Rather than act like grown ups, the senators, representatives, and presidents that we have elected have become so addicted to power and the desire to be re-elected, that they have done nothing but placate people for the here and now. This debt is not a new problem, just a bigger one. America has had a ballooning debt since the late 1970’s, and each year that nothing is done, the problem is compounded.
Sadly, the politicians that we have charged with the responsibility of reducing this crushing debt either don’t understand how to do it, or would rather focus on re-election than do what they know is right. Since I have yet to hear a logical argument opposed to reducing the debt, I can only assume that the vast majority of Americans understand the gravity of the situation. Unfortunately, Republicans and Democrats can’t seem to get past the partisan name-calling and finger-pointing and do the adult thing. Both parties are to blame for America’s financial situation. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates a revenue total of about $2.6 trillion in fiscal year 2012. Maturity, prudence, and common sense would say that spending for the same year should not exceed that amount. Yes, a true balanced annual budget, what a novel idea. But neither Ryan’s plan nor Obama’s plan accomplishes that seemingly simple, common sense goal.
A true path to prosperity, a path that we can proudly lead our children and grandchildren down, involves some deep and painful cuts. There are literally countless programs that receive federal tax money that could easily survive without those funds, saving billions of dollars to the tax payers. Billions more can be saved by cracking down on waste and fraud in the disbursement of citizen money. Federal employees, especially politicians, are payed relatively large salaries and luxurious benefit and pension plans that could and should be considerably reduced. Foreign aid can be completely eliminated, at least until our debt is paid for. I don’t have a problem helping countries in need as long as we can afford to do it and those countries use the aid responsibly. The entitlement programs are probably the biggest leaches contributing to the debt, and they need to be reformed or eliminated at the federal level. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are unsustainable in their current forms. Food stamps, housing assistance and unemployment assistance should all be handled on a state and local level, with no federal funding for those programs at all. These common sense adjustments, and likely a few others that I missed, will put America back on track. But they will all be painful. It is likely that every single citizen will be effected by these changes, and prudence and a sense of responsibility will help to keep the pain to a minimum. But the pain is necessary. Our national debt is a cancer that has metastasized and must be removed as quickly as possible, or America will not be on a path to prosperity, but on a path to ruin.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America; and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, with Liberty and justice for all.” We all know this verse as our national pledge. We recite it at court, at school, and at various other gatherings. But how many of us truly understand the words and their import to our form of government?
The American form of government is commonly referenced as a democracy, both among it’s citizens and abroad. However, a true democracy has never existed for any length of time in the history of civilization, due largely to that fact that it requires the full participation of the people in all legislative and governmental processes. By nature, individuals will become too occupied with their own daily routines and obligations to make time to participate at the level required by a true democracy. The larger the population grows, the less likely it is to have the people’s full participation. The same is true as a society or nation grows in physical size, either through conquest or exploration.
In contrast, a Republic can support the growth of a nation in both size and numbers. One of America’s Founders, James Madison, defined a republic in this way: “… a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior.” Essentially, the people are grouped together based on population and geography to elect their governmental representatives, who then assemble with the other elected representatives to do the bidding of those whom elected them. In this representative form of government, the mass of the people have a direct voice in the public affairs while not needing to devote countless hours to the process.
Over one hundred years ago, an ideological war was erupting in America, very similar to what can be seen occurring today. In the early 1900’s, the spread of socialism was approaching pandemic proportions across the globe. And in 1905, a group of about 100 people gathered together in New York and formed what they called the ISS, or Intercollegiate Socialist Society. This movement spread quickly across America, and soon had charters on over 60 college campuses from coast to coast. One of the ISS co-directors, Harry Laidler, claimed his group’s mission to be to “throw light on the world-wide movement of industrial democracy known as socialism.” Their slogan was “Production for use, not for profit.” However, in 1921, the USSR and the violence associated with their involvement in World War I, had given the word ‘socialism’ a sour taste, especially in America. It was for this reason that the ISS decided to change it’s name to ‘The League for Industrial Democracy’. But socialism is defined as government control of the means of production and distribution of goods, quite the opposite of the classical meaning of a democracy. The word ‘democracy’ was being misused to carry the idea that through the nationalization of production and distribution of goods, all of America’s resources would be the property of ‘the people’.
Several device were utilized in an effort to convey to the people the distinctions, in fact the sharp contrasts, between socialism and democracy, and republics, including a U.S. Army training manual. Despite these efforts, America continued to be identified as a ‘democracy’, primarily in the media and in school text books. President Woodrow Wilson didn’t help the matter when he declared The Great War to be our effort to “make the world safe for democracy.” Of course, Wilson had surrounded himself with many of the ISS’ early recruits, who likely encouraged this slogan.
Following World War II, as Americans were readjusting to a normal life, they also began to see the word ‘democracy’ in a new light. Throughout the war, the Communists, National Socialists of Germany, and other socialist across Europe had all blatantly abused the word democracy so much that had become virtuously synonymous with socialism. Additionally, socialism was beginning to look far less appealing to the everyday American. Between their reputation of violence and vitriol and their fully evident economic shortcomings, Socialist states around the world were proving to be utter failures, as far as Americans were concerned. With this came a very subtle adjustment to the American general way of thinking. Although they still referred to the United States as a democracy, mentally the word was being more and more equated with the traditional Constitutional Republic that America truly is.
Decades have passed since then, and many things have changed and evolved in American political culture. The rise and growth of the Progressive movement, for example, shares many similarities with the League of Industrial Democracy, simply under a new name. ‘Progress’ has taken the place of ‘democracy’ in a sense that those in the progressive movement who seek to bring about a socialistic change have realized that there is still a connection between socialism and democracy, and have elected to simply rename the same old story.
Sadly, one need only step foot outside America to realize that the words ‘democracy’ and ‘socialism’ are still very much intertwined elsewhere throughout the Earth. Many socialists, though they also refer to America as a democracy, believe that we are not “democratic enough”. Their definition of democracy very much mirrors that of the ISS, that by government control, possession then belongs to the people. There are even some in America that share these sentiments; that equate socialism to democracy, and therefore urge the socialization or nationalization of America.
President Barack Obama recently submitted his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 to Congress, while a new Republican-majority House threatens to slash it to pieces. Republicans have said that nothing is sacred; they will cut Medicare and Social Security funding if needed, they’ve said. But one aspect of the budget, although small in comparison to the $1.5 trillion total, has been almost invisibly from public scrutiny: the proposed High Speed Rail Project. In this year’s State of the Union Address, President Obama set a goal of connecting 80% of Americans via high speed rail in 25 years. Since then, Vice President Joe Biden announced $53 billion in proposed funding over the next six years.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the successes of the high speed rail in places like France, Japan, and more recently, China. Trains that travel in excess of 200 miles per hour. A fuel economy rating of 6600 miles per gallon. A single train line carrying the equivalent of a 10 lane highway. And perhaps you though that it sounded too good to be true. You were right.
First, let’s compare America’s current infrastructure and natural terrain to what is found in European and Asian countries where the high speed rail has been rather effective. America’s infrastructure, as a whole, was modeled on personal vehicle transportation. Roads and highways connect us to one another. Two-hundred years ago, when America was just coming into its own, the major form of transportation was horse and buggy. As the years passed, trains were used to connect towns and cities to one another, but as the automobile emerged in the early 1900’s, Americans took a strong liking to owning their own vehicle and being able to come and go as they pleased. The countries of Europe, most notably in the West, and Japan, are far smaller and more compact, geographically speaking, than America. Their cities have smaller streets and are closer to one another, and, aside from the Northeast Corridor, are more densely populated. And few countries anywhere in the world have as diverse a terrain as America. All of these facts lead to the discovery that the personal automobile as a means of daily transportation is far less practical in places like France, Germany, England, and Japan.
President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2012 has allotted $8.046 billion for discretionary spending by the Federal Railroad Administration. That’s more that triple the amount given to the FAA, and over nine times the budget for the NHTSA. Only the Federal Highway and Federal Transit Administrations have a larger budget than the FRA. After funding salaries for FRA employees, the vast majority of the budget is slated for planning and development for a high speed rail infrastructure. In fact, very little high speed rail is expected to be completed by 2015, and what is completed will only be upgrades and improvements to existing standard train lines, with no new construction before 2016. The state of Maryland alone has already received $60 million from the federal stimulus program for planning the repair of Amtrak’s B&P Tunnel, just south of Baltimore’s Penn Station. And Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is already lobbying Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for more.
While Maryland Governor O’Malley is pushing hard for more federal funds, along with governors of other traditionally blue states like California and Illinois, three republican governors have turned away federal funds for projects in their own states. The governors of Wisconsin, Ohio, and most recently, newly-elected Governor Rick Scott of Florida, have all declined federal funds for their states. Ironically, they all stated the same reasoning. Scott projects cost overruns of nearly $3 billion in Florida, money that taxpayers in his state would be liable for. John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin also foresee overruns nearly equal to the projected federal funding for their states. Individual studies in all three states found that the Federal Railroad Administration’s projected ridership was far greater than likely, and that ridership was unlikely to cover the operating expenses once the trains were running. That would leave the states on the hook for even more costs. Additionally, the plans presented to each states had another caveat: if the projects fail, the states would be required to return the federal funds. “The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” says Gov. Scott.
But what are the benefits of high speed passenger rail travel? For starters, oil. Or rather, a lack of oil. The high speed trains in other countries and the trains we would need in America are powered by electricity. it is true that if more people rode an electric train instead of driving that gas-guzzling SUV everyday, the U.S. would become less dependent on oil as an energy source. However, there are currently only two forms relatively efficient electricity production in high use in America: coal and nuclear power plants. And sadly, the current administration wants to see an early death to both of them. Which means we would see a lot more windmills and “farms” of giant solar panels in order to fuel these new trains. Not only do solar and wind farms rely on nature for their success, they also require much more real estate than a more traditional power plant. Add to that the almost complete lack of existing wind and solar farms, and you’ve got yourself another huge taxpayer funded federal program, being implemented and enforced to support the first program.
Building a national infrastructure of high speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs for Americans who want to work. Jobs would be created for building the infrastructure itself, for building the trains, for maintaining the trains and tracks, for training those entering the field, and so on. True, many jobs would be created under this program. But let’s assume that this program really catches on. As demand for work in the railroad industry grows, demand for work in the automotive industry would shrink. Mechanics would find themselves unemployed and changing careers. Parts suppliers for the auto industry would fall by the wayside. Salespeople and every other job at dealerships would have nowhere to go except back to school. Factories would close. Because a single high speed train can carry up to 600 passengers, there would be far fewer trains needed than automobiles needed. So for every train built and put into commission, as many as 200 to 300 cars would be scrapped, along with all of the jobs that helped put those cars into service.
“High speed rail is the most convenient and comfortable of transportation on earth,” touts the U.S. High Speed Rail Association on it’s website, www.ushsr.com. Let’s look at some of their examples. “High speed rail offers easy access to downtown areas.” This is a very true statement. But what happens when you get off the train and are still a mile and a half from your final destination? You could walk and be subjected to the elements of rain, snow, wind, blistering heat or bitter cold. Or you could wait for a taxi. Or perhaps you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the few American cities that has a decent existing light rail network. “There are little or no delays when traveling by train.” As long as your schedule coincides with the train’s schedule. And what if the unthinkable happens and a train derails or collides with another? Then you are left facing an hours-long delay, if not longer, before the trains are running again. Not to mention that most of the city-to-city train lines, outside of the largest corridors, in the current program are slated to be single-track lines, with only “extended passing sidetracks.” “Train stations will feature rapid boarding with no security lines.” O.k., for now. It would only be a matter of time before the TSA got their hands on the train stations. And then we would have to face everything we hate about flying every time we got on a train.
There are, however, some true advantages to traveling via high speed rail. You can text your little thumbs off on the train and not cause the train to wreck. You can have a beer or two before boarding your commuter train home without having to worry about swerving off the track. You can read the newspaper (what’s that), go over business notes, or download a new book for your Kindle, too. But at a total price tag estimated at somewhere between $1.5 and $2 trillion for a national infrastructure, at taxpayer expense, is it really worth it? Is “going green” more important than being able to go whenever you want to? Are France and China countries that you really want America to keep up with?
Do you own a big house? Drive a fancy car? Have a great job? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you probably think that you are living the American Dream. But what about the dreams of Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, and the rest of the Founding Fathers? Did George Washington think that building Mt. Vernon was his crowning achievement? Did John Adams view his presidency as his claim to fame? Did Benjamin Franklin die a satisfied man because he flew a kite in a thunderstorm?
Sadly, the “American Dream” has been morphed and distorted over the past several decades, to a point that the Fathers wouldn’t even recognize it. That nice job you have with the corner office and personal secretary? And the nice car you drive around in and the big house that you call home? They do not define whether a person is living the American Dream or not. Rather, they are the potential results of it. The original American Dream, the dream of the founding fathers, is far greater than all of these things.
This great country of ours was built not on the ability to attain notoriety or worldly possessions, but on principles. And those principles could then in turn lead to possessions and notoriety. In his essay “The American Dream”, found in the 1973 issue of the The Freeman, John E. Nestler observed, “Whereas the American Dream was once equated with certain principles of freedom, it is now equated with things. The American Dream has undergone a metamorphosis from principles to materialism…. When people are concerned more with the attainment of things than with the maintenance of principles, it is a sign of moral decay. And it is through such decay that loss of freedom occurs.”
We need to be reminded, as a nation, that the Founding Fathers gave up material wealth and substance for something that was far, far greater to them. In their minds, liberty – and all of the possible risks associated with liberty – was far more desirable than material things and prosperity, especially if that prosperity came with collectivism or despotism. They felt so strongly about this in fact, that they were willing to give up their wealth to ensure liberty and freedom for themselves and future generations. Material gain and public fame are only a fruit of freedom, not its root.
Liberty, above all things, was the dream that the Founding Fathers had for their new country. But it was more than a dream to them. Solomon once said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” To the founders, this was a vision. Behind everything that motivated them was their belief in equality and unalienable rights. From the Declaration of Independence, where they clearly declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. They believed that those rights came from their Heavenly God, and that the King and his government had encroached on those rights to the point that rebellion was the only option left for them. Samuel Adams declared at the signing of the Declaration, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
But we all know about this. It has been ingrained into us since elementary school. “We live in America: home of the free. We have freedom and liberty because we live in America.” But our freedom and liberty are slipping away. Tom Rose described it this way in his book, God, Gold and Civil Government: “Liberty is like a three-legged stool. It has three aspects, or legs: the Spiritual, the Economic, and the Political. Each leg must be carefully preserved. If one leg is shortened or cut off, the stability provided by the other two will be hampered or lost, and the ideal of Liberty will come tumbling down.” Today, only one of those legs remains strong: the Political. America is quickly losing sight of the spiritual aspect on which she was founded. And in recent years, our economic strength has atrophied.
If we as a nation are to persevere in our liberty and maintain our freedom, we must hold fast to the vision of the Founding Fathers. The vision that all men are created equal, that we have rights which can never be taken from us, and that America is the place where these beliefs are celebrated and embraced. Then, and only then, will we be living the American Dream.