Tag Archives: big government

The Religious Right Grows Up

Two weekends ago, over 3,100 Americans from 49 states descended on Washington, DC for the sixth annual Values Voter Summit. As expected, the media conjured up controversy from the event—centered around the seven presidential candidates who addressed the summit—yet a larger narrative was at play.

All the major presidential candidates addressed the 2011 Values Voter Summit

While summit attendees came from all walks of life and a cross-section of generations, they held certain core values in common. Marriage and family are to be protected. Each human life is sacred. Families (and nations) should live within their means. Religious freedom and the ideas of the Constitution are to be upheld.

These truths animate life everyday for values voters. But how do these values illuminate a vision for public policy and government?

We saw it in how Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, wisely addressed the controversy surrounding Mormonism. When a Dallas-area pastor commented on Governor Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, reporters took it out of context to show a “split” among values voters.

“We clearly recognize the fact that Mormon theology includes doctrines that are distinct from Evangelical theology and Catholic theology. At the same time, the goal of the values voter movement is not to build a ‘National Church,’” Perkins wrote after the event.

“Our goal is to build a national coalition based on shared values… And when we successfully work together with those who share our values, we are preserving and strengthening our religious liberty, so that we can freely share the truth of the gospel with everyone.”

Perkins’ vision for coming together around common ideals borrows from coalition-builder Grover Norquist. Longtime head of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist authored a book tellingly titled Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives.

Drawing on his decades of experience rallying diverse groups to a common cause, Norquist contrasts America’s coalitions of the right and left.

Conservative ideology is driven by liberty. Home-schooling families desire to teach their children without interference. Small business owners need freedom from excessive regulation to create wealth. Hunters want to exercise their right to bear arms. Churches and religious organizations pray they can freely hire God-fearing people, without Uncle Sam (in the name of “employment non-discrimination”) mandating church staff consist of people who do not share their values.

All these parties are not asking for a piece of the pie, for a special handout from the government. Their driving interest is freedom from Washington control.

The right’s hands-off stance to government contrasts starkly with the left, which delights in trying to “correct” the problems of society and free markets with social engineering. Their “takings coalition” has been on full display in recent years.

Environmental activists want your tax money for windmills and solar subsidies (see: Solyndra). Powerful labor unions can only solidify their influence with public funding (see: UAW bailout). And Planned Parenthood, which has snuffed out over 5 million lives since it began practicing abortion the day it became legal in 1970 in New York, can only keep its murderous mission going with taxpayer support.

Values voters are waking up. Clearly our national budget is tightly linked to the expression of our values in public policy. Why does the left constantly advocate for taxes, even when it’s unpopular as during an election season? Because they must dole out public funding to an ever-increasing cast of shady characters.

I only know of three effective ways to combat this dominant coalition. First, sunlight is a powerful disinfectant. Fearless, truth-telling reporters do a world of good in exposing corruption. Many now work at state think tanks and local watchdog blogs as some newspapers close up shop. Second, we can starve the beast by lowering taxes where possible.

A third vital strategy is encapsulated by Benjamin Franklin: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” In the world of policy and activism, I have met people—even leaders—whose personality, political emphasis and theology are different than my own. While I may not look up to them in every respect, I choose to stay focused on the goals we have in common: life, liberty, limited government and the freedom to pursue happiness.

Politics is rough sport. The key to getting things done is building a solid team, and many candidates will be vying for your support in the coming months. By no means should you get on-board without discernment: examining past votes, knowing present positions, considering future policies.

I would encourage you not to swear off the good guys due to a secondary or tertiary issue. Your voice in the process matters. Your vote matters. Don’t let small differences keep you from making a real impact.

Cross-posted at The Oracle

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Path to the Presidency: Principle Over Personality

Five debates down, ten to go. Deciding on the best candidate to match up against President Obama will continue to be a long, winding road over the next several months. It’s an exciting time, when all manner of center-right ideologies are jockeying for position.

Yet debates are inherently problematic, as the Nixon/Kennedy face-off famously proved; looking good on TV is all about style, not substance. It’s part of our civic duty to look past the personalities and one-liners, instead searching for signals of how this man or woman will set priorities, make decisions and lead our nation.

Year after year, certain issues emerge as debate fodder: stuff too complex to fully explain in two minutes, but easy to throw rhetorical bombs at if your opponent has clearly defined a position. Now I’m a simple guy, so this will only be a fly-over view of one such issue. The goal here is to distinguish between a grand vision for America, and just grandstanding.

New Candidate Tackles an Old Problem

Since joining the field of candidates in the past month, the Governor of Texas has ignited peoples’ passions—both for and against him. While the left sees another George Bush, the right finds his nuanced immigration views challenging… and some corporate connections troubling. Yet what’s undeniable about Governor Rick Perry is his penchant for putting the national debt in stark terms while other candidates are, by and large, spouting talking points.

Our nation’s $14 trillion debt is actually easy to understand. President Obama recently proposed a budget for 2012 that has one category eating up 58% of the total amount: entitlement programs, known popularly as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

The first two I listed are the biggies, offering health care and retirement benefits to seniors who have paid into the system. Because Americans are living a lot longer than in the 1930’s when Social Security was started, the finances of that program simply do not add up today.

“We have not had the courage to stand up and look Americans in the face, young mid-career professionals or kids that are my children’s age, and say, ‘Listen, this is a broken system,'” says Perry. “It has been called a Ponzi scheme by many people long before me. We’re going to fix it so that young Americans going out into the workforce today will know without a doubt that there were some people who came along that didn’t lie to them and told them the truth.”

By the way, that 58% for entitlement programs contrasts rather starkly with the national defense spending category (19%) and foreign aid (2%). When anyone asserts we can fix the debt and avoid a fiscal crisis like Greece without dealing extensively with entitlement reform, ask to see the numbers. Because they don’t exist.

It’s true that seniors are a powerful voting bloc and it scares some of them to hear we must reform these programs. But we can do it and still ensure a strong safety net for those who need the vital support these programs offer. For a real plan with real numbers behind it, check out SavingTheDream.org

Perry v. Romney

Lately Perry has clashed with Governor Mitt Romney. Admittedly the former Governor of Massachusetts has strengths as a candidate, notably his private and public sector management experience.

On this issue he tries to use Perry’s boldness against him. “The term ‘Ponzi scheme’ I think is over the top, unnecessary and frightful to many people,” Romney says. He then proceeds to insinuate that Perry’s reform proposals for these programs will hurt seniors.

Truth is, it will take strong words and even stronger political courage to make real changes to the drivers of our national debt. Which makes this an ideal way to determine if a candidate is a pathfinder on the biggest factor weighing down our economy, or if one is just posturing.

Cross-posted on ORU Oracle

Seven Questions with Bob Moffit, Co-Author of Why Obamacare Is Wrong for America

Released this past Tuesday, the important new book Why Obamacare Is Wrong for America has gotten noticed by Fox News, NPR, Town Hall, National Review, and readers nationwide, who keep it climbing up the Amazon bestseller charts. The Foundry interviewed Heritage’s Bob Moffit—one of the four co-authors—who reveals how the book came together and why it matters.

Josh Shepherd: Other laws passed in the last two years also have their critics. Why devote a whole book to just this one new law?

Bob Moffit: Because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”) is historically unique. Never before has Congress enacted a comprehensive overhaul of one-sixth of the American economy, affecting all 300 million Americans, in one giant bill over 2,700 pages in length. Never before has Congress enacted major social legislation on a narrowly partisan basis in the teeth of popular opposition. Never before have 28 regionally diverse states united in challenging Washington in the federal courts. Health policy dominated the last election; it will play a major role in the next election. And the outcome of this national debate will shape the life of every person reading these lines.

JS: When did you, Grace-Marie Turner, and the other co-authors first discuss writing a book together about Obamacare?

Moffit: Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, called me during the summer of 2010. After the mass protests and the demonstrations and the backlash from the previous summer’s town hall meetings fresh in their minds, congressional leaders were clearly on the defensive over what they had done in March. Turner pointed out to me that ordinary people, from all walks of life, were desperate to learn as much as they could about what was in the law and how it would affect them, and we needed to make the law accessible to them in plain English, devoid of the jargon that routinely accompanies health policy discussions. She also suggested asking Tom Miller of the American Enterprise Institute and James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. I agreed that they would be terrific collaborators on a project like this.

JS: Tell us about the writing process. How did you all collaborate and still ensure that the book has one voice?

Moffit: We all shared the same basic approach to the subject, and, despite some differences over the significance of items in the law, we all shared the same approach to health policy. We all agreed to write each chapter in the second person. The target of every thought, every sentence, every paragraph was to be: you. This was to make the narrative appealing to the reader and encourage clarity and simplicity in the language. We agreed among ourselves to write chapters on different areas of the law and its impact on different classes of Americans. The writing started over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and continued non-stop until mid-February. Beyond the assigned chapters, we would each review all the draft chapters. Grace-Marie Turner was the project leader. Not only was she the lead writer, but she and her team at the Galen Institute edited and integrated the authors’ different styles into a seamless book. Our editor, Adam Bellow at HarperCollins/Broadside Books in New York City, really helped shape the book and organize the approach that we took in the book. The authors also had sessions where we would meet in person and go over the chapters, sometimes line by line, making corrections and offering suggestions. All the while, the team at the Galen Institute were proofreading, fact-checking, and working to get the book completed on a very tight deadline.

JS: What strengths does each co-author bring to the table?

Moffit: One of the great advantages of our collaboration is that we have known each other for years, and we were familiar with each other’s work in the media and professional journals. But health care is the domestic policy equivalent of China. While I brought to the table a strong background in Medicare based on my duties at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Reagan Administration, Turner had focused heavily on health insurance, the impact on vulnerable Americans, and federal tax policy governing health insurance. Capretta, a former top official at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget during the Bush Administration, was a nationally recognized expert on health-related tax and budgetary issues. And Miller, a lawyer by training, had closely followed the legal controversies, including the court cases and the regulatory issues flowing from the enactment of the law as well as on the impact of business. All of us worked together on the overview of the law and on what we should do instead.

JS: The book gives the facts in clear language, yet there’s a lot to get through. Why should busy American families care about a complex law passed in far-away Washington?

Moffit: This law guarantees that Washington is not far away at all but deeply involved in your personal life. The law will dictate what kind of health plan you have, what medical benefits and treatments you will have, what you will pay in new taxes, what it will mean for your employer and your compensation, and what it will mean for your doctor in his medical practice. Moreover, many decisions that will affect you and your family will be made not by Members of Congress but by bureaucrats you will never know and never meet.

JS: Since last year, Americans have consistently told pollsters that repealing this law is the best route. But could Obamacare be fixed?

Moffit: Repeal is the only answer. You cannot rebuild a health care system based on personal freedom and market competition on bureaucracy and central planning. The poisonous tree yields bad fruit.

JS: What should we do instead to get health care reform right?

Moffit: We have a chapter in our book about what we should do instead, moving to a system that puts consumers in charge of choices, provides new incentives for a properly-functioning market, and fixes policy flaws at the root of many of the problems in our health sector. Just this week, Nina Owcharenko, director of Heritage’s Center for Health Policy Studies, has recently outlined the roadmap for reform in “Restarting Health Care Reform: A New Agenda.” There are a large number of specific policy changes that need to be made. Broadly speaking, if you want to fix the health care system, you need to make tax policy fair and rational, give individual tax relief to persons to buy the private coverage of their choice, promote competition in the health insurance markets (including the right to buy health coverage anywhere in the country), fix the broken entitlements (Medicare and Medicaid) and introduce market forces into those programs to control cost and secure higher quality of care, and encourage state innovation—including health insurance market reform and medical malpractice reform.

Learn more about Why Obamacare Is Wrong for America (a publication of HarperCollins/Broadside Books) at WrongForAmericaBook.com; you can get your copy today at Amazon.com or in bookstores nationwide.

Cross-posted at The Foundry

Get Up 40 Minutes Early on a Tuesday

Originally published by New Man eMagazine

As Americans, we are blessed to be living in the richest country in the history of the world. Undeniably, one of the key reasons for our prosperity is our many freedoms – notably, the liberty to vote for our leaders.

And in my experience, all it takes to exercise this freedom is to get up 40 minutes early on a Tuesday morning, get to a local polling place, maybe stand in a line for a bit*… and make a decision that will directly impact the budget, policies and personalities who will direct government for at least two years. What a country! Our representative democracy is a unique and powerful system, the first of its kind you could say – only existing today thanks to the blood and sacrifice of America’s finest.

In light of this, it always shocks me when I run into people who proclaim, even proudly: “I don’t vote.” Really? So you’re part of those 40% of American citizens who banter and complain about political leaders or parties or “the system” like everyone else, but can’t take 40 minutes to do the one thing you can do constructively to make a difference? Unbelievable.

Now I know cynicism stops many people from voting. I’ve felt that too. Having moved from Texas to Washington, DC in the past year, it’s actually been heartening to find many talented, visionary people working in politics… but even more discouraging to see their good ideas trampled by the Big Government parade.

True, both political parties are responsible for those spending increases, those new programs, those supposedly “good” things that only serve to part you with more of your hard-earned money. Now that I’m more aware of who’s calling the shots here in DC, I know that I know that I know we are all better off if you choose where your money is spent** – including what charities, places of worship, and good causes to support.

Putting a politician in charge of spending your money presents a scenario which has compromised the best of intentions. It means that some CEO came to Mr. Congressman and made a convincing case as to how to best send your money “back to our hometown.” Unfortunately, that CEO’s small-business competitor did not have the funds to come to Washington.

So the smaller company lost, it missed getting the advantage, and perhaps even shut its doors. Maybe a few dozen jobs were lost… which adds up when you think about 9,499 back room deals (earmarks) that were made in Congress just last year. What happens in Washington, DC really does impact America’s heartland.

This culture of earmarks, or “corporate welfare” as some call it, is not easy to change. But it’s possible. The current political climate has led some of America’s brightest minds in business, community outreach, medicine, the clergy, and even rocket science to seek voters’ support to represent them in Washington. These men and women know how to read a profit-and-loss statement, how to balance a checkbook… how to innovate when an organization has lost it way. Most of our current lawmakers don’t have the first clue about these basics.

I am inspired by many new leaders seeking office. It’s why I am spending my Saturdays lately walking door-to-door, talking to Virginians about who will be on the ballot. It’s why I am listening closely to what candidates are saying about the big issues of our time, from the national debt to the rise of China.

And it’s why I will get up 40 minutes early on Tuesday, November 2. What a great privilege paid for by the bravery of past generations – that in itself makes my vote count.

*Of course, American citizens must be registered to vote. Not sure if you’re registered? Go to the helpful website CanIVote.org for state-specific info.

**There is a small, Constitutionally-limited role for government to play. George Washington was perhaps the first patriot to realize that taxes are necessary for our freedoms to exist. Yet currently government is bloated beyond anything resembling the Constitution.

Channel Your Anger

Never before have I heard my brother so worked up about politics. The week of the health care vote, he’d just gotten back from Haiti—where he’d seen how billions in government aid made only a small difference (but that’s another story… or is it?)

All 2,409 pages of the final health reform bill

Now, returning home, he was mad. Every conversation led back to this 2,409-page health bill. “They really pulled one over on us,” my brother said of the powerful politicos who ignored Americans’ opinions about this bill. “I just feel helpless.”

I know the feeling. This monstrosity has hounded me since I arrived in Washington last year. As an intern in Congress, I scanned thousands of constituent letters on health care. When pro-life concerns began boiling up among both Republicans and Democrats, a letter of protest was drafted and I walked it around to get Representatives’ signatures.

The process was a disaster. The heroes were the “party of no” villains – men and women who fought tirelessly against a

Tom Coburn Nikki Haley Allen West Paul Ryan

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., Governor Nikki Haley, Rep. Allen West, Rep. Paul Ryan

powerful majority. Still the bill passed. Some of us despise how new programs will take our freedoms with new government mandates; some care most about the theft of more personal income via taxes; some rightfully fear how time and courtesy will be lost to greater bureaucracy; and, having dealt with Medicare, health care providers detest the bill for all of the above.

But we’re not helpless. Truth is, our nation has a grand tradition of changing and even repealing laws that do not work. We have a clear, Constitutionally-mandated ability to take away political power from irresponsible leaders: it’s called election day.

Some folks (like my brother) have been politically active for years. If Washington has motivated you to make a difference, here’s some ideas on how to be effective…

1. Vote Every Time. The value of your vote cannot be overstated. Considering all the money spent on election campaigns, lobbying and the costs of running Congress, your vote is easily worth hundreds of dollars. Casting your ballot is not only part of your wealth as an American citizen – it’s the right thing to do, every time. And never forget: the 2000 Presidential election was decided by just 537 votes in Florida.

2. Dialogue with Your Friends. It’s easier to talk about the weather and your health instead of politics and religion. Trust me, I know. Agreeing to disagree is common even among conservative allies, as a friend told me recently: “She knows what I think, and I know her side – we just don’t bring up those issues where we disagree.”

I find the best teachers are people I trust. Whether or not we agree, it’s revealing to ask: what do you believe on these big issues… and why? Through this practice, including plenty of lost debates among friends, mostly I’ve learned how much I have to learn. Which is good.

3. Support Candidates You Believe In. Traditional media is shocked at the effect Tea Partiers are already having on primary elections. Polls, conventional wisdom and even fundraising figures cannot explain how some candidates are coming “out of nowhere” to win races.

That “nowhere” is a place called the heartland of America. We need hard- working average Joes to hold power in Congress, just as we need some current leaders to stay. Rather than complicate your voting decision, here’s a simple suggestion: examine the candidates’ positions and voting records carefully. Then vote for the one who is most consistent with your values. If you want to multiply your impact, volunteer for the campaign. You will not regret it.

On that final health care vote weekend, Washington became a circus of everyday Americans who descended on DC to raise their voices. I waited in a line of hundreds for the opportunity to sit in the House gallery and watch the debate firsthand. During a lull, I learned the folks seated next to me were activists from New Orleans.

“My first rally was outside the ACORN offices,” the man said. “A thousand people showed up to protest them. And I read the paper the next day, not a single mention of it! I knew something was up because even a few animal-rights protesters get front-page coverage. I’m from Nicaragua originally, so freedom is not something I take for granted. I saw how socialism starts small – then it takes over.”

If politics is making you steamed, join the party. Take action to truly make a difference.

It is very, very rare…

…that I agree with nearly everything an opinion journalist says in a wide-ranging 4,000-word interview. Charles Krauthammer has that sort of wisdom: I strongly encourage you to go read his recent interview with a popular German newspaper. Then comment here if you so desire.

Krauthammer touches briefly on President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I got a lot of flak for posting the following Facebook status when the Prize was announced: “When an African American man became leader of the free world, the dreams and aspirations for millions of kids worldwide changed. They began to think bigger. Though I disagree with the President’s policies – and have little regard for the Nobel Committee – I see no need to heap abuse on today’s news.”

My point may have been good, but in retrospect it was irrelevant to the Nobel Prize. It did get some interesting discussion going, so words well spent. Any thoughts on the Krauthammer interview?

In Praise of Government (1 of 3 branches, anyway)

Conservatives are discouraged right now. Both houses of Congress hold large Democrat majorities, and their left-leaning agenda is being aided by President Obama – who, even with an incomplete staff, has changed enough policies and made enough statements to set aflame an entirely new grassroots movement.

For all the talk of “government takeover,” there remains a third branch of government doing an admirable job of defending the Constitution: the Judiciary. Now I know the right wing loves to get worked up about activist judges, specifically the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California. In many cases, they have a point.

IMG_0158

To a casual observer like myself, the Supreme Court is a lean operation with a laser-sharp focus on its mission. Congress and the White House, with their bloated budgets and legions of staff members, could learn a thing or two from the highest court in our land. When I visited SCOTUS recently, I found the experience simple, educational and even somewhat boring (which a government building should be, right?)

Back to why the Court is important… Sitting on the Supreme Court are justices whom I trust more than most of our legislators. John Roberts and Clarence Thomas are two men with vastly different styles – though both possessing unquestionable wisdom and deep interest in staying true to America’s founding principles. Word has it we should also be applauding Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, whose opinions are consistently constructed on the Constitution.

C-SPAN has produced a new series called The Supreme Court, which includes hour-long interviews with each justice. Everything C-SPAN does is available online for free, so I definitely encourage you to check out this series.

In working my way through the C-SPAN series, including the Interviews (iTunes link here), I started with the Roberts and Thomas episodes:

Interview with Chief Justice John Roberts

Interview with Justice Clarence Thomas

At the same time, a discerning friend encouraged me to “immediately” go read the autobiography of Clarence Thomas. I’m glad I did – that story My Grandfather’s Son tells of a current-day American hero if ever there was one. More about this best-selling book soon.

Talk radio will keep yelling and of course there is room for some concern (justices Kennedy and Scalia may be nearing retirement age.) Looking at the big picture, the Supreme Court continues to be founded solidly on the rule-of-law and responsibility to America’s highest ideals.

From its inception, the Court was one of few government building programs to ever come in under budget. Today, that tradition continues under Chief Justice John Roberts – who has called for greater compensation for the Judicial branch while also implementing cost-saving measure throughout the court system.

It’s how you play the game, they say in sports. The Supreme Court makes winners and losers in every case. And on the Court we see both ultra-liberals and strong conservatives represented. What’s impressive is how they all stand together and respect each other, despite their difference. It’s how politics should be.

In-depthU.S. News and World Report ran an article in 2008 entitled “The Politics of Supreme Court Justices,” well worth reading. You may be interested in Alliance Defense Fund’s list of Supreme Court Victories or a similar list from the American Center for Law & Justice. If you’re looking for a highly readable blog that covers the Supreme Court, check out The Daily Writ – designed to make law easy enough for all of us to understand.