Common Sense & An Open Mind

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    "You must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision." T. Jefferson

Archive for the ‘election’ Category

We Need $1.2 Trillion More

Posted by Free to Think on December 29, 2011

Treasury officials said Tuesday that the White House plans to request another $1.2 trillion in borrowing authority on Friday.

In August, Congress and the Obama administration raised the borrowing limit by $2.1 trillion. Three days after the agreement was signed into law, long-term U.S. debt was downgraded by credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, an ominous warning about the level of our debt. Yet just four months later, the federal government has nearly reached its borrowing limit once again and wants more.

In November, a bipartisan panel failed to meet a deadline in which they were to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. This came as little surprise: neither party wants to budge on feeding their own special interests.

“I would love nothing more than to see Congress act so aggressively that I can’t campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress,” Obama told reporters back in October. People “don’t get a sense that folks in this town are looking out for their interests.”

Quite true, Mr. President. According to a Pew Poll, only 22 percent of Americans surveyed say they trust government in Washington “almost always or most of the time,” among the lowest measure in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.

However, “Do-nothing Congress” a phrase appropriated from Harry Truman, seems to be a misnomer here. Congress is doing plenty, just way too much of the wrong things. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives have passed 326 bills, and the Democratic-controlled Senate has passed 368 measures. In 2011 alone. And this is low by recent standards.

One must wonder how congressmen have time to closely read and analyze all this legislation, considering many bills are often hundreds of pages long. Apparently this left them little time to trim the budget. Though the Fed continues to print more money, Congress only narrowly avoided a government shutdown and a default on the national debt this year.

In April, Congress did manage to pass a measure cutting a meager $38.5 billion in federal spending. Even this measure was misleading however, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis revealed that only a small fraction of the cuts would take effect in the current fiscal year.

“Total nonsense,” House Speaker John Boehner said in response to criticism. “A cut is a cut.”

Isn’t there any leader out there willing to discuss meaningful,l specific, across-the-board spending cuts? Only one presidential candidate fits that bill: Ron Paul. He proposes, among other things, to impose a spending freeze on most federal departments, eliminate other departments altogether, cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, and end all foreign wars.

According to the same Pew Poll mentioned above, an increasing number, almost 1 of every 3 Americans say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in.

“The public,” Pew Center Director Andrew Kohut tells NPR, “wants a less activist government.”

Now if we could only find representatives who feel the same.

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, election, Intrusive government, obama, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who is Ron Paul?

Posted by Free to Think on November 11, 2011

My dear Common Sense followers,

Five months ago I walked away from my blog, feeling disheartened and hopeless.

The more I researched, the more evidence I found that our country is shifting at an exponential pace from its foundations. Not only have checks, balances, inalienable rights, and constitutional, limited government become things of the past, but so have public concern and the objective, watchful eye of the free press. I began to feel that expressing a critical view was simply futile.

I admit I don’t have the time or heart to continue producing the in-depth posts I have in the past. At least not consistently enough to fill a blog. But I am still reading and learning. I hope that more and more people begin to understand some of the causes of the crises that our nation is now facing. Problems are coming to a head, and one can only hope there’s a positive side to that. When things are relatively good, it’s easy to be complacent about irresponsible government spending, trampling of personal rights and unconstitutional laws.

I’d like to do my part by using this venue to pass along some pieces worth thinking about. I’ll start with the wisdom of Jon Stewart.

To me, a very pressing and troubling issue  is the media’s determination to shun Republican candidate Ron Paul, the only person running for President who has something unique to say. While our Titanic of a nation sinks, every other politician is busy declaring how they’d rearrange the deck chairs, while Paul has spelled out exactly how he’d plug up the hole.

Last week Paul came in first in the Illinois straw poll. In fact, he won 52% of the vote, more than Romney, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Bachman, Huntsman and Santorum combined. Wow, big news? Hardly. Paul’s notable victory was promptly buried by the mainstream press. Meanwhile there’s been a plethora of airtime about Herman Cain’s irrelevant personal debacles. The obvious and intentional snubbing of Ron Paul by the media was well summed up in a hilarious piece by Jon Stewart back in August.

In addition to the silence of the press on his grassroots campaign, Ron Paul’s airtime during the Republican debates have been glaringly inequitable. One blogger went to the trouble of doing the math for one of the debates and found that Paul was 8th in speaking opportunities, though at the time he was 3rd in the polls (were you aware that he was third in the polls?) Yet, as evidenced by the Illinois survey, Ron Paul’s popularity has continued to grow.

Whether or not you like Ron Paul’s message, a burning issue is why the press has gone from purveyors of the truth to outlets for their own personal agendas.

In a side note: it has been so long since I last wrote that I didn’t remember what my last post was about. It was interesting to see that it was an argument against sending American troops into Libya. I was disputing the position that the Libyan people needed us to intervene in their civil war to escape being crushed by government-backed forces.  As it turns out, the Libyan people were able to oust strongman Moammar Qaddafi in short order without the help of a U.S. ground war. This averted the deaths of American servicemen and likely saved our nation hundreds of millions of dollars. But perhaps most importantly, by limiting America’s role in another nation’s conflict there will be less potential for our enemies’ animosity: Qaddafi was killed by his own people, not by an”invading U.S. force.”

I apologize for disappearing.  I hope you’ll continue to be a loyal reader.

Posted in Debt, election, Freedom of Speech, Libya, Media bias, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why We Won’t Pick the Best Candidate Today.

Posted by Free to Think on November 2, 2010

We would all like to be proud of voting today. We would all like to vote wisely.

I don’t think that’s possible.

We’ve been warned that the future of our democracy will be shaped by whichever party we elect to office.

I disagree.

I believe that in today’s climate it’s impossible to make a truly informed decision about candidates. But I also believe it matters less where a representative stands personally on particular issues than how much they respect the Constitution and the rights of the individual.

 

Why can’t we make a well-informed decision?

We can’t point our fingers solely at the lazy voters who don’t take the time to find out more about candidates. Those of us who try to stay informed usually find that it’s nearly impossible to discover hard details about where candidates stand on issues. In a recent Hartford Courant article, columnist Rick Green explains that “voting isn’t necessarily about the issues, it’s about emotions, first impressions and whether the candidate could be a leader you want to follow.” This shouldn’t be the case. But even those who take the time to watch debates or go to candidates’ websites find them filled with fuzzy rhetoric and finger pointing at the other guy.

In today’s day and age, we shouldn’t need to take anyone’s word- each and every claim made by or about sitting politicians, candidates and their opponents can easily be documented by evidence on their website or on media websites.

While there are plenty of lobbyists protecting the interests of big business, us regular citizens don’t have a staff dedicated to keeping the government from encroaching on our liberties or our wages. Maintaining a free republic requires constant vigilance, and we as a society have not been attentive enough. The media should be the natural guardian of the people’s rights, but shallow political scandals have gotten the most readership, and most of the media seems to have little interest in digging into the hard issues of unrestrained government.

 

Why doesn’t it matter which party is in power?

Two years ago the people thought they could vote out the status quo. But their attempt at “change” amounted to deepening the existing problems of our wasteful, bloated, overreaching government. “Throw out the bums!” is a tempting solution, but it won’t help if you just replace them with other bums. Countless political candidates have paid lip service to turning things around, but nearly without fail, they end up perpetuating the system once they are in office.

I don’t really think our representatives in Washington are villains. I think the mess that we’re in has evolved from incremental exacerbation of bad practices, such as sticking earmarks into unrelated bills, and not reading bills thoroughly before passing them into law. The prevailing attitude of the legislative and executive branches has been that they’re our leaders rather than our representatives. This gives them the hubris to believe that their agenda is more important than protecting the integrity of the American government.

The thing is, when you can vote yourself money and power, it’s not too difficult to convince yourself that you’re pet project is worth taking just a few more tax dollars or curtailing some minor individual rights. When you’re a “Leader,” it’s easy to pass bills for a few more programs and a few more laws in order to create whatever utopian situation you happen to see fit. Over time, the causes our “Leaders” want to champion and the money they require to do so overshadows their role as the voice of the American principles of liberty.

We’ve lost sight of the original checks and balances in our Constitution, designed to protect the rights of the people and prevent the expansion of government’s mandates upon us. The role of our representatives is meant to be drastically limited by their constitutional responsibilities.

 

Solutions

It’s in the best interest of candidates to be deliberately vague about their intentions. There’s less for voters to disagree with when a candidate’s platform is simply filled with  hazy promises such as “helping the middle class,”  “cutting waste” and “making responsible fiscal decisions.”  This also gives politicians more leeway to vote however they wish once in office. But if we aren’t completely clear as to what they stand for, why should we voters give them our trust?

Our nation has difficult issues at hand to resolve. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we all must admit that lowering taxes, expanding programs and reducing the deficit cannot happen simultaneously. We can no longer afford our government, and the people drowning in inefficient government and bloated debt. It’s time to be frank about the hard choices that need to be made.

Republicans have campaigned on pledges to dramatically cut spending, but haven’t offered many details. Are they a better bet than Democrats? Obama has said deficit reduction will be a priority in 2011, but precisely how he intends to succeed at that while continuing to grow federal entitlement programs is pretty baffling to me.

We should be able to get specific details about each candidate’s agendas so we don’t have to guess or hope about their intentions. It doesn’t take a PhD to understand that big government requires big dollars. If you claim that you’re going to protect and grow entitlements, stimulus and services, let us know where you’re going to get the money. How much are you willing to borrow? How do you intend to pay it back? If you need to raise taxes, whose taxes will be raised and by how much? What concrete evidence are you using to back up your numbers?

But if I had a chance to ask every candidate one question, it would be this: do you believe in the constitutional limitations of American government?

You may wonder why candidates would disclose this information, when some of it is sure to alienate voters. But they’d have to do so if the public demanded it. They’d do so if hard-nosed reporters wouldn’t settle for anything less than direct answers to specific questions.

If responsible government became our priority.

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, election, Intrusive government, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Should We Heed The Tea Party?

Posted by Free to Think on October 27, 2010

Is the Tea Party the Answer?

Americans have long been trained to believe that any political group outside the established two-party system are crackpots espousing extreme positions. Some members of the “Tea Party” haven’t done much to dispel that notion. Yet on the other hand, if you think like me, many of the Tea Party messages resonate with common sense.

Endorsing the Tea Party isn’t cut and dried, since the “party” is really just a hodge-podge of groups throughout the country without a defined spokesperson or a standard platform. The Tea Party can mean different things to different people. Because of this, there are some very commendable ‘Tea Party’ candidates in the November elections, while there are others who also champion nationalist, evangelistic, or other ideas that stray from the basic Tea Party ideas of Constitutionalism.

But, the Tea Party has served a significant purpose, bringing to the forefront vital issues that had been continually swept under the rug by the establishment. As a rule, they advocate levelheaded reforms that would help make this country more fiscally sound and take inordinate power out of the hands of the few.

Opponents may cast them as radical, but as Republican South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint states, Tea Party platforms are merely “common sense ideas of let’s don’t bankrupt our country.”

Generally these proposals include:

  • balancing the budget by matching federal expenditures with revenue (i.e. living within our means)
  • an end to raising taxes, printing and borrowing money to fuel an ever-growing federal bureaucracy
  • downsizing our government by restoring limited-government constitutionalism
  • ending the practice of wasteful earmarks, which allows Congressmen to add costly provisions for their district or pet projects to unrelated bills
  • establishing congressional term limits
  • ensuring that congressional bills are concise enough to be read and understood in full before they’re voted upon.

Will America listen?

The biggest problem with this agenda is that, obviously, the government would have a lot less money to spend. Politicians are smart enough to realize that slashing programs, even if they’re unconstitutional and unaffordable, won’t be easy. Every program, subsidy and service is relied upon by someone and, as it’s been demonstrated recently in Europe, those someones will be headed angrily to the streets if their programs are cut.

There’s no dispute that voters today are frustrated and disgruntled.  But Americans have been taught to ask for it all— big government programs and services along with low taxes and small government debt; free market prosperity along with micro-managing government regulations.  It’s easier to tell voters that you’re able to provide everything rather than admit that money and governmental jurisdiction is not limitless.

More than 43 cents of every dollar Washington spent last year was borrowed. The size and scale of today’s federal government is unprecedented: current nondefense spending (relative to GDP) is the highest level in U.S. history. In 2008 presidential candidate Barak Obama harshly criticized President Bush’s $300 billion average annual deficit. Yet Obama’s proposed budget will run a deficit averaging $600 billion even after the economy recovers and the troops return home from Iraq.

Government scope is expanding out of control, and our elected representatives routinely pass massive, wasteful and unconstitutional bills without even knowing what’s in them. Whether you consider yourself a Democrat or a Republican, this is a daunting message to digest. Most Americans have enough on their personal plates to deal with, who wants to think about the tough choices we must make in the face of the exponential rise in costs of all of our federal programs?

But deal with them we must, one way or another. The Tea Party has been successful at exposing these issues, but without continued public pressure to rectify them, the Demo-Republican machine is not going to change. Why would it? Typically, politicians aren’t eager to cede their own power, cut their own budgets, or lose the ability to promise everything to everyone as often as possible.

Does it really matter which party we vote for next month?

Perhaps more importantly than who wins the upcoming elections, is the message that we should be sending to our representatives: if they don’t follow through with reform they’ll get booted from office. It’s up to the American public to keep pressure on our politicians so that the trend of corrupted practices and expanding government does not continue.

So which candidates are serious about reform? It’s difficult to tell. Perhaps the establishment’s greatest weapon is to jump on the “responsibility” bandwagon, vaguely echoing Tea Party messages without any details on exactly how they intend to go about this.

Here are headlines from some of the recent mailings I received from both Democratic and Republican candidates, including incumbents:

“Stop Wasteful Spending and Higher Taxes”

“Elect a Different Kind of Senator”

“Our Independent Voice”

“Because more of the same never fixed anything”

“It is Time for a New Beginning”

“I’ll wake up every morning to help employers hire again and to stop the reckless overspending.”

Yes, I’m sure they all sound familiar. Suddenly, everyone is claiming that they’ve seen the light and have become fiscally responsible. The Tea Party presence is definitely being felt.

Now what we need are politicians brave enough to be brutally frank, and a public willing to listen to realistic messages. There are tradeoffs we must face: if we want to pay for all the programs and services that are tending to us cradle to grave then we must be willing to relinquish most of our wages to the government. Or are we willing to rethink what we are “entitled to” from the government, and what powers the government is entitled to possess, in order to trim our government and restore the fiscal health of our nation?

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, election, Intrusive government, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »