Politics Gets in the Way

10009830_10206373929203035_7507572490564070816_nThis blog post is in memory of the nine people who died in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week. While we fume and fuss about flags and statues, and while we debate about statues and plaques, the families of these innocent people are in the throes of mourning.

Allow me to honor the dead by listing their names. They were our fellow citizens, fellow human beings, Christians gathered in their own house of worship to study scripture. They were praying. They were the kind of people we need more of in this country, and their killer snuffed out their lights in an instant. They were the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.

I wish we could grieve for them without all the debate and argumentation. I wish there were some self-imposed moratorium on the political wrangling so that the extinguishing of their lives could fully be recognized as the evil that it is. These, our fellow citizens, were worth more than any flag on any poll, and the immediate turn from their deaths to debate about the past and the symbols of the past seems disrespectful to me. It’s disrespectful to them and to their memories. As they lie among the dead, I feel unclean and lousy using this time to engage in political debate.

Yet this is where we find ourselves. I regret it because I believe it detracts from the honor we should give to the dead. This debate over symbols will divide us just when we should be united in grief and in a commitment to teach our children why racism and violence are wrong. What political pressures are being exerted? What social agendas are at work? What parts of history are being overlooked? Who is being demonized and painted as an outcast? Who will die next?

Go back to the list. Look at their names. Read them aloud and remember that each was a person with plans, dreams, and hopes. Read those names again. Honor the dead. Debate the politics of the day if you must, but remember what is most important.

“What does the Lord require? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Every Bubble Bursts

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Paper money (“fiat money”) endorsed by John Law. Photograph is in the public domain.

I grew up in south Mississippi as a twelve-year student of the Ocean Springs School District. I’m grateful for the excellent education given to me there. As early as third grade I was required to study a foreign language (I chose Spanish); at some point I was also introduced to the formal study of Mississippi history, which fascinated me. There I learned one of my earliest lessons in economics–in addition to those being taught to me at home by my father who was a banker. I remember to this day the lessons learned in history class while studying an event known as “the Mississippi Bubble.”

With the arrival in “Biloxey” (now spelled “Biloxi“) of the explorer Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville in 1699, the French laid claim to a massive amount of land in what would one day be called the United States of America. It stretched from Louisiana to Newfoundland and included territory on both sides of the Mississippi River. You don’t need much creativity to imagine the financial steam that this discovery brought to France. Powerful people with connections to the French monarchy were quick to line up for a piece of the economic pie. You see, some things in history are fairly constant. One of those constants is the sycophancy of influential people who make a better-than-average living from their relations with powerful people in government.

It’s an incredible tale that includes many of the same elements being debated today: fiat paper money, greed, monopolies, Keynesian economics, powerful government, and little benefit to most citizens. If you want to read all the interesting details for yourself (and I certainly recommend that you do so), read the 2012 article by Forbes economist Jesse Colombo, located HERE.

To keep the story to essentials, let me give you a quick review. It seems that a powerful Frenchman of the early 18th century was in dire need of cash. To remedy the situation he turned to a Scottish financier then visiting France, a man named John Law, who introduced the French to a new concept. Rather than trading with precious metals like gold and silver, he suggested to them that a bank should be established by royal decree and that this bank should issue money made of paper. The paper, of course, was of no value except for the promise it carried to its bearer. We now know such money by the name of “fiat” currency, from the Latin word fiat, meaning “let it be done” (the “it” in this case is the assignment of monetary value to something that has no such value except by way of promise and expectation).

A tremendous rush of money began as people sought to capitalize on land in the New World. Law became amazingly wealthy, in cash and in power. He had the power to mint coinage and collect taxes. He had the trust of some of Europe’s most powerful people. He purchased an ailing institution known as the Mississippi Company, gave it a new name and sold shares that expanded in price at an unsustainable rate. The French crown pumped money into his scheme and so many people profited that the French term millionnaire came into vogue.

Eventually, cooler minds began to wonder about the wisdom of investments that skyrocket at such impressive levels while fueled by government-approved fiat money. Confidence faded. Investors demanded gold rather than paper and the entire scheme began to collapse. Company shares were drastically reduced and the millions earned became millions lost. The so-called “bubble” (Colombo says it’s better described as a series of “failed monetary policies“) was a product of excessive monetary growth. In other words, there was an explosion of money but not necessarily of value. In the end, the value of the money declined and inflation set it.

I’ll leave it to my dear readers to discover parallels to today’s world. In the last few months there has been an increase of voices reminding us that all bubbles eventually burst. And economic bubbles always rise higher and faster when inflated with easy government money. Time will tell.

The Liberty Professor Returns

ID-100325327The Liberty Professor has decided to return from more than a year of self-imposed exile from writing.  Stay tuned for more of the honest political and social analysis that you have come to expect from this blog. It all comes with a new, fresh look for the blog website.

As Memorial Day approaches, remember those who have given the highest of all sacrifices. When you see a service member in public, please don’t be shy about offering a word of thanks.

Many of my regular readers have inquired of the reasons for my recent silence. It came from a misguided attempt to avoid causing offense to those whom I feel called to serve in ministry and education. But, as I say, that was misguided. The fact is that we humans are meaning-makers (“hermeneuts” as theologians and philosophers prefer to call us). In our task of making meaning of life we often find ourselves in disagreement. Perhaps this is as it should be, given the heavy responsibility we bear as people driven to find life’s purpose.

As we each find our way we are bound to disagree! Why must we shy from disagreement since it is such an obvious part of human life? I have decided not to retreat from it any further, but to return to passionate and respectful debate of the political and social issues of our time. Please join me. Let us be positive role models to our society of just what it can mean when mature adults argue their convictions with passion, but with respect as well.

Avoiding argumentation is futile of one realizes that the goal of arguing is to discover the truth. As I have pointed out before, the root of our word “argue” is the Latin word arguere, meaning “to make clear.” We owe it to one another to be able to argue respectfully. Staying silent cannot bring us closer to that goal.

With so much at stake in the current political climate, I have decided that silence is deadly. Join me in the debate!

Image courtesy of holohololand at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Liberty Professor Endorses Chris McDaniel for US Senate

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

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

Yet discovering yourself is the first challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama’s Audacity: Using the Shutdown to Punish Some, Reward Others

immigration_rally_national_mall_APBarack Obama is nothing if not audacious. The title of his now-famous book seems to confirm it–The Audacity of Hope. His style of political campaigning confirms it, and although he did his best to hide the most extreme portions of his agenda, hints of it emerged during his original presidential campaign. He and Michelle want to leave a vastly different America in their wake when they leave the White House. “We’re going to have to move into a new place as a nation,” Michelle Obama promised. “We’re going to have to change our history, our traditions.”

When your agenda is that audacious, you have to destroy anyone who gets in the way. What better way is there for an community organizer to do that than to agitate all those who agree with him so that his political opponents are demonized? Let’s look at how community organizers do their work. Three methods are particularly effective: they inform their constituents of the government assistance to which they are entitled, they get them fired up and energetic about securing those entitlements while clamoring for more, and then they scapegoat any politician or political group that stands in their way.

This is exactly what Barack Obama and the Democrat party are doing at this moment with the government shutdown. Of course, “shutdown” is too strong a word. About 17% of the government has been turned off, and in some cases even furloughed workers are having to put in extra time to put up signs and ticket those brave citizens who dare trespass upon federal lands during a shutdown. It’s a selective shutdown.

The Obama administration is engaged in a calculated effort to punish some while rewarding others. As long as the political payoff is estimated to help the Democrat cause, it doesn’t matter who is harmed or what victims are made to suffer. Exemptions are gladly given, however, to those groups that support the cause.

Families of our military who have died in war since the shutdown began have been denied the death and burial benefits promised them. Chaplains have been threated with punitive action if they offer religious services to their congregations. Cancer trials for children have been halted. Parks, turnarounds, and scenic vistas–some of them nothing more than a patch of grass or concrete–have unnecessarily been blocked in order to make a point. In one case, a jogger was ticketed for being on federal land while it was declared to be closed. Private businesses that receive no federal funds are forced to close needlessly, simply because they are on federally-controlled land.

Is the average citizen so dangerous that he or she cannot even be present on federal property without supervision? Supposedly, the federal government maintains these lands on our behalf. Then why do we cower in fear when we imagine taking a stroll on “our” property?

Disgusted by the charade, a park ranger in DC explained the end game: “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can.”

Yet it is not so for all. Just two days ago a massive immigration rally was held on the National Mall in Washington, DC. That mall is officially closed due to the shutdown. The reason is simple enough. The rally was sponsored by the AFL-CIO and SEIU, two important unions serving as intimate allies to the Obama agenda.

To put it bluntly, while blaming the Republicans for the shutdown, the Democrats are refusing to budge on the issue of funding Obamacare. As long as they believe they have the upper hand they will not blink. They will cause inconvenience and even suffering–perhaps to the point of death from cancer–just to stand their ideological ground.

Harry Reid has exposed this nasty agenda on at least two occasions. He recently refused to consider a continuing resolution to fund NIH cancer trials for kids, as covered in my blog post from earlier this week. In addition, when publicly harassed by the mayor of Washington, DC for refusing to vote for funds needed by that city, Reid was inadvertently caught by cameras as telling him to quiet down. “I’m on your side,” he warned Mayor Vincent Gray, “don’t screw it up.”

As a political gamble this strategy may work. But there are hints that it may backfire. Obama’s approval rating is down to 37%, the lowest yet of his presidency. His pals in the media won’t talk much about it–and when they do, they’ll hide it someplace innocuous. A recent article from the Associated Press was headed by the announcement that the GOP is getting the blame for the shutdown, while hiding Obama’s low approval rating in the body of the article. There’s not much objectivity to be found there, as you can see. For an interesting Canadian analysis, click HERE.

This is the same government that kills American citizens overseas without benefit of arrest and trial. It is the same government that illegally passes personal data from IRS to White House. It’s the same government that places a harmful tax on medical equipment, refuses to enforce immigration law, and told us that Obamacare penalties aren’t a tax–until it argued before the Supreme Court and said that they are a tax. This audacious government will say almost anything, blame almost anyone, and give breaks and benefits to its friends and cronies. While blaming capitalism for our nation’s economic woes it engages in the worst form of crony capitalism and favoritism. We who recognize it are labeled as angry extremists.

It’s time to be angry. It’s past time. Audacity is a two-way street.

Single Payer: Harry Reid Admits the Truth

congressmenWhy not start by scanning the attached photograph of prominent Democrat leadership? It includes from left to right, Pres. Barack Obama, Sen. Harry Reid, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi as they proclaim their commitment to “honest leadership and open government.” Now perhaps you’ll allow me to engage in some light-hearted, linguistic detective work.

According to the good folks at one popular online dictionary, the definition of “honest” includes not only the intention of being honorable, but also the practice of being genuine, sincere, and frank.  “Open” is defined, in part, as having interior intentions immediately accessible, free from obstruction.  I don’t intend to put words into the mouths of the online editors, but I believe it’s reasonable to suggest that “honest leadership and open government,” as a slogan, must clearly suggest that the leaders in question deal with the public in a way that is forthright: in other words, honest leaders speak truthfully. Listening to the electorate, they work in a way that is clear, without guile, and following a path that is not clouded by falsehoods and partial truths.  One might assume that “open government” means that voters can clearly see and understand the goals toward which governmental leaders are working.

To go one step further in our detective work, let’s take a look at the White House webpage concerning the so-called “Open Government Initiative.” That webpage is still accessible despite the government “shutdown.” Political regimes rarely shut down the organs of their propaganda, so while all sorts of other government websites have been curtailed at this time, mediums that pound the public with acceptable program messages continue to run. No use wasting a crisis, especially when it’s a crisis that has been manufactured for maximum political capital.

Note the emphasis on the said webpage dedicated to open government. According to the direct quotation from President Obama, we are in for quite a treat: nothing less than an “unprecedented level of openness in Government” (the capital “G” isn’t my idea–that’s how it’s done on the website, just like the capital “G” in “God”). The page is marked with another lovely idea about government: transparency.

I like the idea of honesty, openness, and transparency–especially in government. But I wonder what happened back in 2009 and 2010 when so many constitutionalists like me were engaged in debate with supporters of the so-called Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obamacare. From nearly the beginning, I argued that the intention of this law was to move us firmly and energetically toward a single-payer health system where the federal government is responsible for the healthcare of all citizens. To review my posts on the subject, click “Healthcare” on the categories list to the right. Those of us who pointed out this fact were called by the vilest of names. They said we were out of touch, we were misrepresenting the facts, we had no clue. When I and others insisted that the long-term intention of Obamacare was to so debilitate the free market so that the only remaining option would be single-payer, we were called conspiracy nuts and fringe lunatics.

Remember those days? I hope so, because Harry Reid has confirmed that we were correct. You haven’t heard about that in the “mainstream” press, have you? It happened in early August. Reid was back in his home state of Nevada during the congressional recess. As reported by the Las Vegas Sun, the shifty senator finally revealed the truth that inspired him and the Democrat majority during the debate over healthcare. Not surprisingly, he made his comments on a PBS program known as Nevada Week in Review. It must surely have delighted his viewers.

In the interview Reid made it clear that the new healthcare exchanges are only temporary. Like public opposition to the healthcare bill itself, the exchanges are something that he said “we must work our way past.”  As it presently exists, Obamacare is simply “a step in the right direction.” It won’t work forever, he said, so we’ll need something more. When questioned by a panelist on the PBS show about whether that meant the country must abandon the free-market health insurance model, Reid was emphatic: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.” He then went on to make it clear that he knew the single-payer system was too unpopular in 2009 and 2010. An intermediate step was necessary.

In others words, dear reader, the Democrat leadership, while falsely claiming to be “honest” and “open,” played loose with the truth. While calling everyone else liars they themselves engaged in a full-court press of misrepresentation and falsehood. In short, we’ve been had. And I’m sure they justified it to themselves by saying that they were giving us what’s best–even against our wills. Some of us saw it for what it was at the time. Now we are vindicated by none other than the two-tongued senior senator from Nevada.

What other misrepresentations were made knowingly? What other falsehoods were foisted upon us? How many other times were truth-tellers labeled as extremists and out-of-touch partisans? How much further will US politics deteriorate before we realize that the liars are the ones pointing out everyone else and accusing them of lying?

We were told in the healthcare debate that abortions would not be covered by taxpayer funding. To guarantee this, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was introduced but did not become part of the ACA when Pres. Obama promised an executive order to prevent such funding. Yet an accounting gimmick now makes it inevitable that abortions will be covered. You may remember that Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) was roundly condemned for yelling “You lie!” when Obama insisted that ACA funds would not be used for illegal immigrants. Now we learn that ACA funds are being targeted toward centers that routinely deal with migrant workers but those centers do not check immigration status. The list goes on and on. We were told that we will be able to keep our current coverage (Obamacare is quickly demonstrating the falsehood of that statement in more and more situations). We were told that the law would be universal in scope. Not so.  Obama is granting exemptions to businesses and the political class–but not to individuals.

In short, the Obamacare we have today is not the Obamacare that was passed in 2010. It’s a moving target with exemptions and changing provisions accomplished by way of excessive power entrusted to the US presidency. It’s a frightening reality that is about to hit the American people in their wallets and pocketbooks harder than any previous legislation in history. As fast as lies are exposed new ones are manufactured. It’s enough to dizzy a circus clown, or to make him cry.

If you want to know what healthcare is going to look like in America in the near future, chat with your friends who are doctors, insurance agents, and investors. Ask what they are doing to protect themselves, their careers, and their families. To pay for Obamacare (which will necessarily become even more expensive than expected because of its creeping scope), government will be reaching even further into our wallets. The talk among the liberal political class in DC already suggests that they are planning to go after retirement funds and even the cash value of life-insurance policies. And why not? We’ve turned our fears about health into a massive federal system that monitors our personal data, combines our bank accounts and health accounts with real-time government access and uses the Internal Revenue Service to enforce its requirements.

Government is a beast forever hungry. Like an addict who will say anything to get another fix, the elected elite continue to smile and to deny what we so often know to be their true intentions. With ruthless efficiency and the determined cooperation of the mainstream press, the Democrat party has raised this practice nearly to the level of art. Machiavelli or Rasputin would be proud. They are both laughing in their graves. I can hear their side-splitting cackles. Honest leadership? Open government? Sure thing … sure thing ….

The Startling Hypocrisy of Sen. Harry Reid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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