Tag Archives: economy

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

Interview with author Joel Vaughan

Joel Vaughan, author of The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition, served with the Christian Coalition for ten years in addition to his experience in political campaigns and organizations. He currently is Special Assistant to the President of Focus on the Family. [Full disclosure: he’s also a good friend, and his wife was my manager when I worked at Focus.]

Josh Shepherd & Joel Vaughan at Values Voter Summit 2009

The Civil Roar: Your book has a provocative title. But you start out saying that you disapprove of “tell-all” exposés. So why did you write The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition?
Joel Vaughan: Well, this isn’t a “tell all” book. It’s a “tell most” book. It’s PG-13 rated at worst. But a history of that great organization deserved to exist, so I wrote one.

TCR: Today the Christian Right finds its voice at Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, as well as other organizations not as religiously motivated (The Heritage Foundation, etc.) Is the message getting out to the culture as effectively as in the glory days of Christian Coalition?
Vaughan: The difference, the gap we face now, is that no one is working in the trenches, to identify voters and organize precincts. That’s what set Christian Coalition apart.

TCR: What do you think of Ralph Reed’s new organization, Faith & Freedom Coalition?
Vaughan: I think it’s much needed, although faces an uphill battle. But if anyone can make it happen, Ralph can, provided he doesn’t get distracted with other things, such as another run for office.

TCR: Who are the current voices in the conservative movement you listen to closely – in media, politics or elsewhere?
Vaughan: Well, you can’t avoid Rush. He’s everywhere – at lunchtime in the car. But he’s as much entertainment for me than informational. I also like Hannity. Glenn Beck is a little scary to me. He’s so convinced that the nation will crash – and maybe it will – but it’s a little much to hear every day. Jim Daly at Focus is a fresh voice who believes in reaching out to those we disagree with in order to present a Christian approach, rather than opening fire on every opponent.

Jim Daly, Juli Slattery, John Fuller

TCR: There are many parallels between present-day politics and the 1994 conservative Republican victory – which Christian Coalition played a big role in winning. How can everyday conservatives help achieve that goal again?

Vaughan: There really needs to be a national organization to motivate, train and activate the workers. I hope Faith & Freedom Coalition can do that, but it remains to be seen. But the parallels are there, no question. November ’94 would have happened even without the CC, I believe, so likely it will again. But after being elected, the conservatives must also govern, which the Republicans who won in ’94 failed miserably at.

TCR: What is the TEA Party movement doing well (or not) as they rally for change?
Vaughan: I really don’t know much about it. But they resent what’s happening to the country, for certain. They need to organize and focus on precincts and voter identification. That’s the key.

TCR: Can economic and social conservatives work together effectively?
Vaughan: If James Carville and Mary Matalin can live together, anything can happen. The econs have to accept the socials as bonafide Republicans, not treat them like unwanted guests at the party, and the socials have to stop ruling out another Republican simply because he’s wrong on one or two issues. It’s a big tent and we all have to work together against a common enemy: liberalism. Having said that, we can fight it out within the party, but be unified in November.

The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition: The Inside Story is available from Amazon and direct from the publisherOnce you’ve read the review here, see more over at the book’s blog. You can become a fan of the book or a friend of Joel’s on Facebook.

It All Comes Down to Your Vote

In the interest of going on the record – and making Colorado voters aware of some important issues – I have scanned and posted my 2008 ballot on Facebook.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=56235&l=ffb95&id=725045775

You can print the ballot easier at this El Paso County link.

There are few surprises. Sources to check out include the Colorado Blue Book and the El Paso County supplement, which provide detailed Pros and Cons for every ballot issue.

I even stooped so low as to read the Colorado Springs Independent‘s 2008 Election Endorsements. Then chose the opposite. Good ol’ Colorado Springs Gazette does not have any endorsements up yet, despite an informative Election News section that covers local and national issues.

Here’s a listing of how my ballot differs a bit from the others…

President and Vice President: John McCain and Sarah Palin

In the coming week or so, I hope to post something comprehensive on the leadership and vision I see that compel me to choose McCain/Palin.

Congressman: Doug Lamborn

I know he sends out way too much mail to voters. But Lamborn voted against the Bailout, and all Coloradans should recognize his responsibility on that issue.

State of Colorado Initiative: YES on Amendment 48

Even if you don’t care about the rest of the initiatives, vote for this one. It’s a life-or-death issue. http://www.ColoradoForEqualRights.com/

State of Colorado Initiatives: NO on Amendments 53, 55, 56 & 57

Due to a last-minute deal between labor unions and Colorado’s business community, these four amendments have been withdrawn. A “yes” or “no” won’t matter either way. The Wall Street Journal notes, “Taken together, these measures would have turned business-friendly Colorado into one of the most inhospitable work environments in the nation.”

State of Colorado Initiative: NO on Amendment 52

This is about allocating existing $$ to either roads (yes) or water projects (no). Not to get all environmentalist **shudder** but Colorado clearly needs to stay focused on the state water supply.

State of Colorado Issue: NO on Referendum O

There are a ridiculous number of issues for Colorado voters to decide this year: 15, not counting the judges, local issues or the four withdrawn amendments. It would be nice to cut down on the number of ballot issues. But you can’t argue with this: “Big interests would just buy more signatures, so only the volunteer, grassroots efforts will suffer.”

El Paso County Issue: YES on Question 1A

This was a hard one. I believe 100% in being fiscally conservative – do we really need a 1% sales tax increase in this tough economy? First, I respect the county for not jacking up fees or trying to get around the Taxpayer Bill of Rights using other means.

Douglas Bruce almost had me with some of his arguments. But frankly, it’s clear 1A is needed.

All the debates, the spin, the competing ideas… come down to your decision.

How will you vote?

Breakdown of Legitimacy: How the Disastrous Bailout Passed

I do not profess to know much on economics, especially not an economy as complex as our nation’s. But I do have a brain, along with a few years in business school. And for the past two weeks since this “financial crisis” has been looming, I’ve devoted many hours to researching this plan. Neither the mainstream nor conservative media has been much help.

Americans must realize what role the 24/7 news cycle has played in this debacle. For the past year or so, the words “credit”, “housing” and “financial” could not be said on-air without being followed by the word “crisis.”

Is that really an accurate way to view the world? Or have all these sectors gone up-and-down over the past many decades? Does the market inevitably have cycles?

We live in a world where TV commentators report on a story one day, then in the “follow-up” tomorrow want the issue solved. It’s more entertaining that way, and today the news industry plays the ratings race perhaps more so than dramatic TV.

TV is not alone in thinking only short-term, ultimately trying to build public support for this big-government solution. Here’s my recent letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Examining the role of media in the recent $700 billion bailout provides a missing understanding of how the events transpired. Though I have long been an avid reader of The Wall Street Journal, it is apparent that this “big tent” of conservative thought has excluded other viewpoints on this risky, highly controversial handout to Wall Street.

On any issue of the day–regarding education, government regulation, corporate policies, technology, health care, military, climate change, gun rights, and many others–I have counted on WSJ for robust debate and a discovery of facts that other media missed. So it was that I visited WSJ.com’s Wall Street in Crisis section trying to understand the pros and cons of the bailout.

Story after story, blog after blog, op-ed after op-ed in this section preached only the benefits and urgency of the bailout. This perspective even seeped into front page news stories. On Monday, September 29, as more Americans than ever were reading The Wall Street Journal trying to understand what was going on, the paper referred to Lehman Brothers as a “158 year-old” financial institution whose collapse meant certain “crisis.”

“Wow, Honey, maybe this financial stuff really is serious if a bank that old is going down?” The problem is, this article said nothing about Lehman Bros. being essentially a shingle for American Express, which spun off this unit in 1994. It said nothing about the 2003 investigation into the company’s shady investment practices.

We were just supposed to think that Lehman was as legitimate a bank as say Wells Fargo, backed with solid collateral but now going under. This was simply not true. Clearly The Wall Street Journal had a dog in this fight, and the editors made sure it ended up winning.

Not only has the financial sector suffered a breakdown of legitimacy in the past weeks–so has the media, even conservative-leaning media previously thought to be trustworthy. Media junkies beware: no news outlet is, in fact, “fair and balanced.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The last reference is, of course, to Fox News. It’s notable that Bill O’Reilly bought the Treasury’s arguments early on, and espoused those views for the two-week public debate on the bailout.

From what I could tell, O’Reilly’s stand with President Bush convinced Sean Hannity and others to back down on their hard line against the bailout. Interesting audio clip from Bill here:

Bill O\’Reilly audio clip from The Laura Ingraham Show

So where do we go from here?

For starters, don’t buy the pointless commentary espoused on TV: “We’re concerned about what the market’s going to do tomorrow.” The markets will go up and down. It would’ve gone down if the bailout failed, and that’s natural. We’re likely looking at a worse crash in 2009 due to this bailout; watch Cato.org for the best analysis I’ve seen.

Second, it pains me that President Bush’s legacy is The Republican who Stood for Big Government. Even apart from defense spending, you cannot deny that Bush has bloated the government beyond what any true conservative would ever stand for. He may be the strongest Christian evangelical the White House has seen in a long time, but that’s no excuse for his poor economic policies.

It should be noted, though, that the state of the economy isn’t all Bush’s fault–that’s a really dumb view propagated by the far left. A lot of people are at fault.

Third, the election. I’ve noticed an editorial tilt even in the Wall Street Journal that hopes for an Obama administration. Opinion columns are showing both views, sure, but regular coverage is giving more space to pro-Obama voices. Despite the fact that WSJ has traditionally been against big government, which is exactly what Obama/Biden mandate.

Maybe The Wall Street Journal, clearly in the tank for corporate fat cats, is scared that McCain/Palin would deliver on their promise to affect the financial sector in favor of the American people (to the extent that the Executive branch can, which may be negligible). And WSJ wants nothing of it. This is just my view, though, and less fact-based the rest of the commentary presented here.

Your thoughts?

Hatchet vs. Scalpel (Recap of the First 2008 Presidential Debate)

Watch the full video now:

“Build the defense with wisdom and efficiency. We must achieve both security and solvency. In fact, the foundation of military strength is economic strength. A bankrupt America is more the Soviet goal than an America conquered on the field of battle.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

With this quote, the First Presidential Debate between Senators McCain and Obama began. By all appearances there was no clear winner: both stumbled at times, both got the crowd to laugh, neither seemed too bloviating or bold.

If anyone was strange, it was host Jim Lehrer who kept egging the candidates on: “Say that directly to your opponent, Senator… look into his eyes.” Creepy.

Essentially it came down to the two issues Eisenhower raised: the economy and defense.

The economy. This lead-off discussion revealed only a few differences in the two candidates, but they are major. Both expressed support for the bailout, somewhat surprising. Senator Obama said that “$700 billion is potentially a lot of money.” Yeah, potentially it is.

McCain then let loose with his views on earmarks, aka pork or wasteful government spending. He’s been called the Sheriff of the Senate, with little support in fighting “the biggest budget increases since the Great Society” (under Democrat President LBJ, 1964).

Citizens Against Government Waste catalogs the crazy spending happening currently in Congress, I encourage you to read their reports and sign up for CAGW e-mails. You should know where your money is going.

When McCain mentioned the possibility of a federal spending freeze, excepting a few categories, Obama had had enough. “You’re using a hatchet when you need a scalpel.”

Wait… the federal budget is slated to be $1 TRILLION OVER BUDGET; keep in mind that budget itself is $3.2 TRILLION. I don’t think a scalpel–used for arts, crafts and dentistry–is going to do the trick on this budget. It needs a hatchet.

Though pressed for what he would cut, Obama only brought up that he plans to bring government-funded broadband internet to rural areas. Nice use of the “scalpel” there.

Fact check: Obama said that “effectively, the U.S. has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world.”

False. The accounting firm KPMG analyzed global tax rates in 106 countries, finding that the U.S. is ranked one of the highest — with 40% of corporate funds going towards taxes.

Fact check: McCain said the United States is the largest exporter in the world.

False. Germany is, according to The World Factbook. The U.S. is ranked third.

Defense. To say this was heated is a gross understatement. Both sides scored points along the way, with Obama’s mention of the $600 billion spent in Iraq raising eyebrows while McCain’s stand behind General Petraeus’ strategy showed his military understanding.

Side note: it was around this point that Obama stopped referring to McCain as “John” and began calling him “Senator McCain.” McCain got off a couple zingers here, including “It’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left” and “I don’t even have a seal yet” (a reference to Obama’s presidential seal which many find presumptive.)

Fact check: “Admiral Mullen suggests that Senator Obama’s plan is dangerous,” said McCain. “That’s not the case,” Obama interjected.

McCain is correct. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, actually called Obama’s plan “very dangerous” when appearing on Fox News Sunday.

Despite the negativity surrounding Iraq, it was crystal clear that McCain has a much better grasp on foreign affairs. He talked through his 20 years of experience. He knew the current troop counts in Afghanistan from memory. And McCain forced Obama to frequently resort to “Me too” responses on several major policy questions.

Favorite quote, following McCain’s story of a young hero he remembers by wearing the soldier’s bracelet:

“Let me just make a point: I have a bracelet too.”

– Senator Obama, then glances at his wrist to remember the name