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It Pays To Be A Pelican

It Pays To Be A Pelican

As the BP oil spill unfolds in the Gulf and in our living rooms through our television screens, the coverage has focused on two major problems that it has created.  One is the flat-out brutal images of oil soaked pelicans; the other is the crisis of the Gulf fishermen who have been forced out of work.  One thing is clear, if you had to choose between being a pelican or a fish your choice is an easy one.  At the same time everyone is rightfully heartbroken about the pelicans, we can’t wait for the fishermen to get back in the water and cast their nets to catch and kill as many fish as possible.  While I am not by any stretch a PETA guy and I grant the fact that this is largely because we don’t eat pelicans, the point it makes is that we constantly draw large subliminal differences between things.  In this case, though both are “wildlife,” we subconsciously dismiss the plight of the fish while granting a level of sympathy to the pelicans that compels some of us to set about capturing them and hand rubbing them with Dawn dish detergent.  The same point could be made by asking the questions:  Why do we eat turkeys and chickens but not pelicans; why cows and not horses?  Why are mice disgusting but gerbils and hamsters cute?  In large part the answer is:  that’s just the way it is.

I suppose you might be asking yourself a question right about now—how does this relate to politics?  While I’m quite certain that indeed everything relates to politics, the specific answer is the power of the mentally presumed.  The United States is now and has always been a relatively conservative country.  Our Constitution, laws, and values, as well as every poll ever taken on the subject, prove this.  The problem for Liberals is that well . . . they are not.  This presents a huge political task for them.  In order to get the Country they envision, Liberals have to change a large number of long entrenched status quos, and over time they have developed a strategy and the tools to potentially get the job done.

In politics success in the long-view can be defined as a fight for the subconscious.  Winning this fight takes time and, what I consider to be Liberal’s most effective tool, patience.  Sacrificing in the short term for future benefit is counter to human nature, but seems to be an ability they have developed in spades.  Having entered into every professional sphere for over 50 years, they have been undertaking the unscrupulous duty of chipping away at religion, the courts, the military, our school system, and our moral standards.  They have a big task, big ideas, and an even bigger amount of gall in the way that they have gone about this business.

Your message entering the mainstream is not just the Holy Grail for marketers, but for obvious reasons, is also priceless if you happen to be a political movement attempting to transform a society.  It is for this reason that the vast majority of lawyers, teachers, and reporters lean hard to the left.  They have correctly determined that this is the surest way to achieve the political equivalent of a tissue being referred to as a Kleenex, a bandage being called a Band-Aid, or gelatin being Jell-O.  In advertising lingo, achieving this is called an eponym; in politics I guess you would just call it “shrewd”—disingenuous but shrewd.

There is no need to win the legislative argument if you can turn a carefully crafted and well directed lawsuit into law.  There is no need to win the moral argument on social issues such as gay marriage if you can impart it as the norm to a generation in Sex-Ed classes starting at the age of seven.  There is no need to win the philosophical argument of the role on government if you can marginalize the Constitution in a college lecture hall and then have the issues pitched to the people by the media as questions of “empathy.”  This level of subversion and the distance it creates from the substantive political debates that we should be having, debates that make this Country better, is infuriating and flat out scary.

Interestingly, this battle for the subconscious is one that Liberals have been fighting with no active resistance, and the reason for this is simple.  The status quo has been held and assumed by conservative leanings for years.  Past generations of Democrats, while certainly having political differences with Republicans, were at least in part buoyed by similar values and constraints as their political opposition.  Not since 1933 has the Right been opposed by such a widespread and transformative-minded group as today’s Liberal Democratic leadership.  Republicans have in essence been playing with the lead, and the scoreboard is starting to reflect it.  Though alarming the question that this begs for some is, might it be time for the Conservative movement to counter by beginning to engage in these types of fronts?

For my part the answer is no.  While I think it is important to be aware that this effort is afoot, publicly expose it and defend traditional realities and values, there is far too much relativism being employed by both political parties as it is.  Any actions based on this are indefensible, as what is at stake is the moral high ground.  Joining Progressive Liberals by wading into the oily waters of politically-motivated education, biased journalism, and judicial activism is not only unnatural but is dirty, dirty business.  Come to think of it—it’s about as dirty as an oil-soaked pelican.

It Pays To Be A Pelican

Hitting A Moving Target

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The two major forms of Republicanism each have a doctrine that is tied to actual documents. Religious social conservatives have The Bible, while fiscal and Constitutional conservatives have the Constitution. It is safe to say that the vast majority of Republicans have their political tenants supplied by one, if not both, of these documents. This type of textual anchor is a positive philosophically and morally but in a strictly political sense can be a liability. The resulting positives are what tend to be deep, time-tested convictions, stability, certainty and, when used, an effective measuring stick for candidates in primaries. However, in our current event driven and largely politically uninformed society the negative is that this rigidness makes it nearly impossible to adapt positions to individual situations and use current events for maximum political gain.

This is a problem that the modern day liberal Democrat will not have anytime soon. They indeed stand in the starkest of contrast. Having left the Constitution behind decades ago, they move forward with no defined doctrine. No set of black and white documents that create, inform, or guide their ideology (and don’t even try to give me the party platform). This creates a situation in which changing party leadership sets an evolving standard as to what defines a Democrat. This not only allows them to easily tailor their political message to what they perceive to be popular at the moment, but grants them the option of playing the role of “lifeguard” and coming to the citizenry’s rescue with politically crafted legislation.

This, in tandem with the current perception that this is indeed the role of government, is extremely effective but thankfully also comes with disadvantages. First, the party can more easily be driven to the fringes as their lack of rigid philosophical boundaries allows a handful in the leadership of a given generation to rather rapidly change their party’s principles. A quick look at their current leadership and the top three finishers in the last two Presidential primaries reveal not a single, even remotely, moderate candidate and safely proves this point. Second, though both unfortunate and ironic, their biggest roadblock is that given our current level of debt the Government simply can not sustain an ever increasing financial role. As long as our citizens are concerned with the debt, and according to the most recent polling all but 24% are, their “lifeguard” advantage will be minimized. Though these points make it likely that due to their intensely progressive ideology they will drive themselves off a cliff, in the short term this chameleon like flexibility to adapt to changing realities is a net advantage and one that must be tactically dealt with. What has been created here is the political equivalent of a moving target and the challenge facing Republicans is developing a sound defensive strategy. Sounds strange to say, but the question is: how does one turn the political disadvantage of having and following defined ideological principles and a narrow view of the Federal government’s role into an advantage?

What should be done from a focus standpoint, and what is currently working, is a continued, exhaustive fixation on deficit spending and our National debt. What should be added is further concentration on the ineffectiveness of the Stimulus Package, especially considering the Democrats just quietly tried to procure another $50 billion in borrowed money to funnel to the States. The Recovery Act is not only recent, relatively uncomplicated, and directly tied to the current Liberal leadership, but proves rather blatantly that even with a trillion dollars the Federal Government is not capable, nor was it designed to, “fix” these types of problems. Simply put Republicans can not afford such an expensive and unnecessary tragedy to occur without it being politically fatal to the Democrats.

Legislatively two things come to mind. First, the already passed PayGo legislation needs to be hammered on and strictly followed by Republicans no matter the circumstance. In many ways this was a gift given by the Democrats, as it fits the Republican message, while almost certainly being a check written for political reasons to the American people that Liberalism will not allow them to cash. Along with this is what should be a unified, party-wide push for an Enumerated Powers Amendment. In my view this is the Republicans single best chance to not only start reigning Government back in, but also to maintain the energy of the Tea Party movement by proving that motion in their direction is both possible and something besides lip service. While the actual passage of such an amendment is an impossibility given the Republican’s current minority status, and I concede likely a long shot even with complete control of the Legislative branch, forcing the Democrats to vote down or ignore this concept would pay huge dividends now and in the future.

While any marksmen will tell you the only way to hit a moving target is to aim in front, in this case the surest place to aim is behind, and more specifically about 234 years behind. While it is certainly frustrating to watch the opposition bend and mold their positions to gain short term political support, and though it may be true in this day and age that strictly adhering to principles of limited government may at times seem like a burden, we must as Republicans resist the convenience of straying. We must be strengthened by the knowledge that in the long run, being principled and following the Constitution’s principles is always the correct answer. In those times that the temptation to deviate presents itself we can remember the Italians’ have an old saying for just such a quandary, “A burden that is chosen is not felt.”

It Pays To Be A Pelican

The Necessity of Consequence: The Pitfalls of the Givernment

Please welcome our newest contributor, Justin Arnold, a writer from Ankeny, Iowa. – Ed.

Gross Domestic Product, unemployment, consumer confidence, bond ratings — the state of a nation can be measured using a series of black and white numbers, and while these tell a large part of the story they leave out a great deal. Every country has in a sense its own unique collective personality built from the attitudes of its people and their shared traditions and history. The journey that this country has taken from its inception to its current greatness has been made possible not by good economic indicators, but by the traits we have carried with us along the way. Through both high points and hard times we have been bolstered by a certain toughness, resolve and indeed a stubbornness that is uniquely American. Regardless of generational ideological shifts it is the retaining of these traits that is paramount in securing our future. Increasingly it is becoming less true that “tough times make for tough people” and more accurately put “tough times make for weak and dependent people.” The Left wing in this country is on the verge of answering The Greatest Generation with the creation of The Glass Jaw Generation, unable to take a punch and become stronger for it. If this is allowed to occur, the final blow to the empire will have been dealt. So as Paul McCartney wrote and Ringo Starr once sang, “Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, and I’ll try not to sing out of key”.

While the following will not be out of key, it will certainly be at times ugly and displeasing. Just as the fields of Philosophy and Psychology have as a main tenant self-introspection, any useful political theory must be crafted only after a look in the mirror. Even the most country-loving and patriotic American should never shy away from the duty, or the results, of a brutally honest self-evaluation. Granting the fact that the positives here are left out of this snapshot, it is indeed a grim picture, particularly when looking at our younger generations. There are mind-blowing percentages of obesity, staggering high school drop out rates, flat-lined test scores, record levels of both teen promiscuity and teen pregnancy, rampant single parenting, and, new to the youngest generation, widespread debt courtesy of credit cards. It is my contention that the root cause of many of these social problems, as well as a great deal of our country’s fiscal problems, is what has been over the last five decades a destructive, systematic, and society-wide removal of consequence. This can be seen in nearly every corner of American life.

While a sliding moral standard in popular culture has unquestionably been on display for years, the lowering of the ethical standard has, to a shocking degree, crept into politics. Beginning with Bill Clinton who, after cheating on the First Lady (in the Oval Office mind you) and then lying about it under oath, was remarkably able to maintain not only his Presidency but a continuing position as a powerful and leading voice in the Democrat party. This precedent paved the way for current Democrats like Charlie Rangel and Chris Dodd (tax issues, sweetheart mortgages, and multiple ethics violations) as well as Republicans Mark Sanford and John Ensign (unstable emotional behavior, infidelity, lying, and cover-up cash payoffs). Amazingly all these men still hold their positions as our “Representatives” and illustrate the pathetic reality that the consequence for immoral and unethical behavior even by our elected “leaders” no longer includes the mere loss of their jobs.

Even in the area of society that one would generally expect to see the clearest cut cases of cause and effect, the criminal justice system, we have a level of diluted punishment that both undermines and largely de-fangs the entire branch. The vast majority of prosecutions are plead down with any resulting convictions almost never ending in a fully served prison term. The level to which this disregard for written law has become mainstream and infiltrated our government is perhaps best exemplified by one man. Luis V. Gutierrez is currently a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois’ 4th Congressional district. Mr. Gutierrez publicly threatened to vote against the recent Health Care bill on the grounds that it did not allow illegal aliens to buy health insurance with their own money. Money that they have illegally obtained by sneaking into this country and made either by stealing someone else’s Social Security Number or earned tax free under the table. This is a man who took the Congressional oath when seated to uphold the Constitution and Federal law, who in this current climate feels justified and comfortable enough to repeatedly, and on national television, undermine and effectively curb-stomp numerous laws of this country. Mr. Gutierrez, along with all our legislators, was elected and empowered to change laws that he disagrees with, not to ignore the ones he does not like. Taking this situation from bad to worse is that instead of being reprimanded he was appointed by his fellow Democrats to none other than a seat on last term’s Judiciary Committee. Scary. It is a mistake to think that any of the examples given above are insignificant, as what is being created is not only a flawed framework but one that is being seen and will no doubt be repeated by the next generation of our political leaders.

What should be of most concern to people however is the economic arena and the evolving role of our government into what I have coined a “Givernment.” The difference between the two is far more profound than the swapping of a vowel and represents the changing of our government from guaranteeing abstract things like freedom, rights, justice, and opportunity to providing actual things like food, housing, money, jobs, and healthcare. While many problems are created by this shift, the common current running through all is that they either lessen or eliminate all together the true result of people’s actions and behaviors.

In the legal system there is a concept known as Adverse Possession in which your rights as a property owner are forfeited if you, knowingly or not, allow someone to use your property for an extended period of time. For example you are a land owner and a neighbor begins to openly farm a portion of your land. You as the owner of said land have a duty to inspect, protect, and in general maintain a watchful eye on your property to avoid it being legally reassigned to another who has taken to using it. This absence of action by the property owner is known as “sleeping on your rights” and if you do so for a period of time, your legal remedy is gone–essentially, a statute of limitation. Applying this doctrine not to land, but rather to our tax dollars is exactly what has transpired to create the entitlement society that we now live in. We, as taxpayers, have “slept on our rights” long enough to concede possession of our resources to the receiver class through Adverse Possession.

The legal tenants that need to be met for a party to acquire through adverse possession are intent (you have to think it’s yours) and continuous “open and notorious use” for a statutory period of time, all of which have been met. Particularly when looking at programs like welfare, food stamps, government housing, and Title XIX (Medicaid), there has undoubtedly been a belief developed that these programs are rights that belong to people, rather than temporarily legislated benefits. The fact that these programs have been proven by both political parties to be untouchable by reform for so long is the final bit of evidence that possession has been established.

The problem created by this belief and the widespread overuse of these programs is that they simply remove the consequence of people’s actions, and it is this belief and overuse that are especially guilty in creating the inter-generational dependency that we now have upon us. If you are poor and are pregnant you have the baby delivered for free; if you can not afford to feed the baby or yourself you are provided food stamps and formula; if you can not provide health care for yourself or your children then it is provided; if you can not afford a place to live you are provided a home. If you choose not to work or to get pregnant again the whole cycle can, and does, get repeated. The fact that there is never a price tag or a cost extracted from the recipient to create a disincentive leads to yet more of the behavior.

Given the inescapable fact that there simply are not enough resources to sustain generations of Americans who are completely devoid of the ability, or even the concept of needing to, offset their own existence, changes must be made and solutions must be offered. While fleshing out specific proposals and dealing with their difficult political viability must be reserved for a future time, here is brief start. Nearly all Federal involvement in social welfare needs to be transferred to the state level, where 49 (all but Vermont) have at least some Constitutional language that requires a balanced budget. This would end the ability to kick the cost can down the road in the form of deficits as well as allow for the levels of benefits paid out, and therefore the amount of taxes collected, to be subject to the political will and economic realities of each state. Any remaining Federal programs should be outfitted with a hard cap and be gradually transitioned into having upwards of 80% of benefits being paid out as loans subject to re-payment plans and future wage garnishment. The choice to opt-out of Social Security needs to immediately be given to anyone under 35, with the goal of having it exist as an opt-in only program by 2035. There are those that will say these, and virtually any other, proposed solutions are too tough and would like nothing more than for us continue “sleeping on our rights.” Further absence of action is not only economically unfeasible but, as I fear most, will eventually result in the loss of our truly greatest commodity: Fortitude.

In my opinion the overarching philosophy that needs to underlie any future solution is a return of consequence back to the American culture. The removal of rightful cause and effect in our political, legal, and economic system not only results in a weakened society, but is the single biggest factor in producing cyclical dependency, which is unsustainable by a free people. As F.A. Hayek aptly wrote in the introduction to his classic book The Road to Serfdom, “If in the long run we are the makers of our own fate, in the short run we are the captives of the ideas we have created.” The ideas we have created, and which now hold us captive, are that we can unnaturally and systematically remove ramification. The solution lies in just the opposite: the return of consequence.

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