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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Have You Thanked a Veteran Today?

There are holy days on the American Calendar; however, like living simultaneously in the best and worst of times they are neither the Lord’s Day nor the Sabbath. One of those holy days is Veterans Day. Veterans Day is the day that has been set aside for Americans to give thanks to all men and women who have served this country during wartime and peacetime, and it gives us an opportunity to show our appreciation for their distinguished service.

It is easy for Americans to take for granted that our liberty is guaranteed, not only by the Constitution, but also by the brave men and women who are willing to risk their lives for the welfare of us all. It is amazing to me that the military can take young men, many of whom have never seen a bad automobile accident, and mold them into one of the greatest war machines the world has ever seen. Journalist Tom Brokaw described the men who grew up during the Depression and went on to bravely fight World War II; the Greatest Generation.

Because I understand the great sacrifice that our veterans have made in defense of Freedom, Veterans Day is a day that I lead my family in a day of commemoration and thanks. Our way of honoring the fine men and women who have served this nation was to look at the greatest war movie in cinematic history: Saving Private Ryan. Saving Private Ryan is a forceful look at what goes on in War. Prior to this movie, which was directed by Steven Spielberg, war films had an almost sterile look. Spielberg brought the battlefield, with its blood and guts, into our living rooms for the first time.

As I write this article, I am recalling the opening scene, when the infantry landed at Normandy on D-Day. As one of the more than 5,000 ships is landing on the French shores, the infantry became target practice for German soldiers who were held up on the beach. One particularly intense moment in the battle, has a young man running up the shore line, getting his right arm blown off, and then reaching back as if he dropped something. He picks up his shattered arm and continues to run in absolute shock. This was a dramatic scene of the real world that has been shielded from most Americans…thanks to our Veterans.

There was a time in American history that war meant sacrifice, not only for the soldiers, but for the citizens of our nation; whether it was; sugar rations, rubber rations, no new automobiles, curfews, etc. However, during the Vietnam War, combat became transparent to the American citizen. Notwithstanding the brutality of the campaign in Southeast Asia, most Americans were oblivious to its toll on the citizens of South and North Vietnam and the collective damage that it perpetrated on many of the men who returned. Unfortunately, this is one of the consequences of this country’s ability to wage war efficiently.

No matter your opinion or suspicion of the current wars – War on Terror and the Iraq War – America is in a conflict with a foreign enemy. Recognizing this fact, how often do we as a nation take time out of our day to consider, with a moment of silence or a word of prayer, the brave men and women who are risking their lives for an ideal that has been handed down to them by men wearing neckties and sitting in plush, leather armchairs? I lament because Americans have been desensitized to the ravages of the outside world. We post the casualty numbers of the Americans fighting in the Middle East and rightfully so, but we have forgotten about the nearly 100,000 innocent Iraqi/Afghan men, women and children that have been killed during these wars. Don’t their lives count for something? Perhaps not. And I say this with the deepest regret, but as a nation, if we are more concerned with discovering cures for erectile dysfunction than on providing childhood immunizations for the poorest nations of the world, then maybe we're not concerned at all about their lives during a time of war either. What a sad commentary.

Despite our…some would say hubris, but I say narcissistic, me-only attitude, more than 230 years and many wars later, America still stands as the beacon of hope for a lost world; and for that you can thank a Veteran!

God Bless those who have served our country and defended the principles of freedom and self determination; the characteristics that have, in many respects, made the United States the envy of the world.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

God bless America, My home sweet home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stealing from the Working Class

Americans who are older than 30 years of age witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Communism throughout Eastern Europe. (I use the term “Communism” loosely here, because the Former Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites were more properly socialist societies. In fact, the former Soviet Union’s name betrayed its communist label – the USSR or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.) When the Berlin Wall fell, it was a breathtaking moment in American history as commentators and politicians extolled the greatness of the United States and eventually tagged it as the only superpower; notwithstanding China and its 5 million-man army.

The collapse of the former Soviet Union was not only a colossal moment in U.S. history, but it will be written as one of the great surprises of the 20th Century. No one predicted Russia’s fall. It was sitting on an arsenal of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, and it had a brainwashed public who were conditioned to believe that if they worked just a little harder for a little longer, they would finally get their piece of the pie. Despite the fact that Russia’s demise surprised the world, a 10-minute discussion with a room of businessmen, politicians and economists should have revealed to them that an economy that provides no incentive for superior effort, will eventually fail.

Is the United States not juxtaposed in a similar place in history as the former Soviet Union? Just as 10 minutes thought back in the late 1980s should have made it clear that the USSR would not sustain itself much longer, less thought than that should make it equally and painfully clear that enormous budget deficits will be the ruin of this great nation, arguably the greatest ever. I mean, anyone who has successfully completed Economics 101 should recognize that America is on a crash course with bankruptcy. This country cannot continue to accrue massive debts and expect to survive.

To place our spending in perspective, the U.S. debt was about $5.5 trillion when Bill Clinton left office, and eight years later President Obama has inherited a deficit that is twice that much. So President George W. Bush accrued a deficit in eight years equal to what it took the country to accrue over a 224 year period. Now that’s a masterpiece of reckless spending. If George Bush’s eight years’ of deficits were seconds, they would be 174,883 years, and if they were dollar bills touching end-to-end, the distance would make nearly three round trips from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the sun.

These are enormous sums of money that one cannot count without the aid of a computer. President Obama’s 2010 budget request has a projected $1.2 trillion deficit without considering any emergency funding that is bound to take place before the end of that fiscal year. Although Obama inherited most of this financial problem, I still must ask, “Where is the creativity of leadership?” For Pete’s sake, anyone can fling money at a financial problem, but is saddling our descendants’ financial future with this enormous debt load going to solve the problem? And even if it does, will it create a new problem for them?

I would venture to say that if seven people who may be reading this article each invited the most brilliant economic mind that they know to go on a three-day retreat and develop a financial bail-out plan, what they create would probably be more creative than what we see under the Obama Administration. I mean where is the leadership that J.P. Morgan demonstrated to save the country's gold reserves in 1893? Or that Lee Iacocca demonstrated to save Chrysler in the late 1970s? What frightens me is that it appears we may be witnessing what the wisest man to ever live said about a nation that lacks vision – Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18a).

By the time the 2010 budget is enacted, America will be nearly $13 trillion in debt. Thirteen trillion! How do our current leaders propose that we are going to pay this back or do they expect us to ever pay it back?

The brilliance of the men who established this country was that they provided a procedure that future generations could employ to change constitutional provisions that weren’t applicable to them or that the majority of the country’s state and federal leadership thought should be altered. It is not easy, but an amendment to our Constitution must be ratified by ¾ of the state legislatures or by constitutional conventions specifically elected in each state before it can take effect. There are significant challenges to altering a Constitutional law, but it can be done. However, this nation’s forefathers did not provide any procedures that I am aware of that makes the national, elected leadership liable for the debt they incur while in office. Consequently, this means that our current presidential and congressional leadership is placing a financial albatross around the throats of our grandchildren’s children. Our descendants will be burdened with trillions of dollars in debt before they are conceived.

The generations that come behind us will be literally taxed to death!

Please do not let Obama’s talk of a tax cut for the majority of the middle class fool you into thinking that you will have additional, discretionary money available. I suspect that he will enact a tax cut; however, when the government brings in less revenue it will cut services and other obligations to the states, including allocations to health and human services, safety, education, transportation, etc. Consequently, we will see a tax cut on the one hand, but the state you live in will surely begin to furtively increase taxes to make up for its revenue shortfalls. Maryland, the state where I reside, recently increased its sales tax by 20 percent, and it also increased three additional taxes with the prospect of additional tax increases.

You ever wonder why you can never get ahead? Because a hidden hand is ever-present to steal from the working class and give to the AIGs, the Citigroups and the Wall Streets of the world.