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This is a rewrite of a previous article, “Will You Raise My Credit Limit Please?”

First, A backdrop of some basic principles of personal finance:

We all live with certain financial realities in our individual or household economies or “budgets”.  We earn money to pay for our necessities and depending on the differential between our income and living expenses, we have either a surplus or deficit.  If we have a budget surplus we may spend some or all the balance on recreation, entertainment, travel –some extras we could categorize as luxuries.  Others may tuck the surplus away into rainy day/savings accounts or investments or they may spend their surplus (“blow it”), which means they no longer have a surplus.  We all want a surplus of money of course.  When we have a surplus or break even, we call this a balanced budget.

On the other hand, the total earned income of some individuals or households is less than the cost of the basic necessities.  They just are unable to make ends meet.  People in this circumstance are running a budget deficit.  Therefore, they may choose to borrow money in the form of a loan and thereby incur a debt.  For large purchases, they may not have the cash to buy a home or a car so they secure a loan to defer the cost and spread it out over a fixed period time, usually with fixed, equal, monthly payments.  This is done by people with a surplus also.  This means that debt can be a good thing despite the fact that it usually comes with a fee called interest, typically compounded monthly.  Compounded interest means we pay interest upon the principal (original loan amount) as well as paying interest on the accumulating interest every month (which is why it is called “compounding” interest).  Mortgage loans to purchase a home we can afford (with monthly payments) are a necessity due to the high cost of houses, and for most people the same is usually true with a car.  By deferring some of the cost, we incur this debt with the promise we will make ‘annuity payments’  each month until the balance (including the principal and interest) are paid off.  Until we pay this debt off, the lender holds some form of a “note” or contract.

This is where it gets juicy.  Still, some people run a deficit even if they defer the costs like homes and cars because they still just don’t have enough income to meet these obligations.  One very risky or flawed option is to borrow money for simple day-to-day costs.  The desperate borrower might use something they own of value, or the equity in their home or a car as collateral (assuming they have equity) to secure a cash loan, again with an interest fee.  The danger is that if you fail to pay them back, they take your collateral (e.g. your house or car).  A common form of borrowing almost all of us use is to have an open line of credit with a bank via a credit card.  It comes with a “credit limit” or debt ceiling.  Most large retail companies also offer these revolving credit cards to customers to “buy now, pay later” for use in their stores.  Either way, credit cards issuers often lure you in with “zero interest” IF you pay it off at the end of the monthly payment cycle, but they know a certain percentage will not do it despite our good intentions.  We can use this room under the credit limit or debt ceiling on necessities or luxuries but there is a cap and a big penalty if the card holder exceeds it.  In fact, the bank or credit lender will freeze the credit card account once it hits the credit limit (debt ceiling) and may charge a penalty and increase the interest rate.  These types of borrowing on credit can be a very slippery slope indeed, because people who are running a deficit will use these credit accounts in desperation, even though they wont have the means to pay it off and thus lose their collateral or be sued in collections.  These people are also forced to pay higher rates of interest as a penalty for exceeding limits or paying late. Stay with me, folks, this is key! People who pay late, exceed their credit limit/debt ceiling, run with deficits or have excessive debt (high debt ratios), will pay more interest, as high as 24.99%.  It all can add up and eventually it will collapse on itself because it just isn’t sustainable. The interest compounding combined with the borrower’s limited, or low-income may force them to make “minimum payments”, often late, with penalties so the amount paid in fees will sometimes exceed the principle amount of the loan.  That means the balance of the card is going up despite minimum monthly payments because the monthly interest fee and penalties may be larger than the minimum payment.  Such a person will pay thousands of dollars for a thousand dollar loan or credit charge.  Therefore they will never be able to pay it off or it will take most of a lifetime or longer.  This amounts to financial bondage. What then?

 

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”

Use of that sort of debt is a vicious cycle that often leads to financial collapse or credit “default”.  People in this situation often use a provision in the law we all know as bankruptcy.  The most serious form of personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7), allows them to legally be freed from any obligation for the debts and may even be able to keep some non-luxury items (necessities) if they are not extravagant.  The cost of these defaults are passed on to other consumers in the form of higher prices for products and services because NOTHING IS FREE, because someone somewhere has to exert labor or pay money to produce goods and services.  This means that consumers who effectively manage their finances with a balanced budget (surplus or break even), are absorbing the cost of those who default.  In fairness, not all default is due to irresponsibility or mismanagement.

I will reiterate that debt can be a good thing in moderation and when the interest rates are low.  Some financing is occasionally available without a fee, but this is not the norm.  It is great only if you use conservative, fiscal discipline. because if you pay late, they can now charge interest retroactively. That means they back charge interest as if you had been charged interest all along!  Ouch!  Government subsidized student loans for college are not interest free but they offer very low-interest rates that do not start compounding interest until after the borrower has left college for a period of six months.  This is a good deal because it defers the accrual of any interest until after the student has left college, hopefully with a degree and opportunity for employment to repay the loan.

That, my friends is personal finance at a fundamental level.  Let’s review a list of the key terms:

  • Income
  • Expense
  • Balanced Budget
  • Budget Surplus
  • Budget Deficit
  • Debt & Compounded Interest & Retroactive Interest
  • Credit limit/Debt Ceiling
  • Deferral
  • Default & Bankruptcy

Here is the point:

 

What’s good for the goose –Is it good for the gander?  

A scene from “Debt Limit – A Guide To American Federal Debt Made Easy”

You and I (a goose), are bound by these economic principles of personal finance.  Let us apply this to the U.S. Government (the gander).  We all should recall the war in Washington D.C. over raising the “debt ceiling” (that term should sound familiar).  During that war of words and tumult of opinions, the terms “debt ceiling” and “budget deficit” were thrown around and seemed to be used interchangeably.  Since I have laid the groundwork for these terms above, we know debt and deficit are different.  Debt is a tool used to leverage or defer expenses to keep budgets in balance so they don’t run a deficit.  If a deficit runs too long it is likely to lead to default or bankruptcy.  Debt can be good, but deficits are never desirable.  We were told effectively, that the sky would fall if we didn’t raise the debt ceiling, and that is only partially true.

Big spenders from both parties.

Our federal government is responsible to approve an annual  budget and authorize expenses.  The process of pre-determining  expenses and allocating money is referred to as “appropriations”. For ourselves we call it a budget, decision or spending plan.  The federal government uses the personal income tax code/law as the primary means to raise money (income) to fund expenses.  The federal government is also responsible to determine the expenses necessary (remember “necessities”?), to fund operations and programs such as national defense (e.g. military, NSA, homeland defense), regulatory enforcement, the IRS, salaries of federal employees, infrastructure support, social programs (e.g Social Security, Food Stamps, Planned Parenthood, Affordable Healthcare/Obama-care etc.).  Note: This is not a discussion about which programs are appropriate and at what levels they should be funded.   Both revenue collection (income), and appropriations (spending or expense allocation) are part of the federal budget.  It may surprise some of us that the federal government is not mandated by law to have a balanced budget. This means they can repeatedly run a federal budget deficit without any legal consequences to themselves.  Sadly, this is what our federal government continually has done and it has consequences, but  they are consequences for you and me (probably more for you younger people).  Politicians and bureaucrats warn us that we need to fund all these important programs and warn us of dire consequences if we don’t fund or expand them.  I have not touched on monetary policy as a tool for influencing economic growth but it is a key ingredient so click here to learn more about monetary policy.

 

Tightening the belt with “cuts” to balance the budget: 

Activists protesting budget "cuts" to programs that affect them

Activists protesting budget “cuts” to programs that affect them

One thing we ought to be aware of is a political term (or trick), that politicians use to throw us off.  They will often say they have “cut” spending.  In reality they are usually not really cutting spending, especially if the cut is less that the rate of inflation.  So then, funding/spending increased but they reduced the rate at which it increased.  They call that a cut.  Try not to laugh.  But we have been getting duped for decades by that trickery.  Let me illustrate with an example.  Let’s say a government program’s cost increases 10% annually.  Let’s say it was appropriated $100 million dollars in year one.  The next year it increased 10% or $10 million, to a budget of $110 million, then another 10% increase to $121 million the next year.  In year 4 they only increase the budget by 9% (UP to about $131.8 million) instead of 10% ($133.1 million), so they call it a budget cut.  The Presidents or Congress may call this a cut but we certainly don’t, because spending still went up from $121 million to $131.8 million.  This is especially so if our national income is not increasing at, or above the rate spending is increasing (such as our hypothetical 10% or even 9% example). We know that an actual cut would be (for example), going from $121 million down to $119 million.

 

Or Raise the debt ceiling debate instead:

National Debt Clock, Real Time

National Debt Clock, Real Time

 

You may recall when our “government shutdown” occurred, and the political parties were posturing and were pointing the finger of blame at one another. In reality both parties were at fault.   Let me go out on a limb and say, that to a large extent, WE are at fault because we continue to let them have our national credit card and run deficits and sink us further into debt and raise the credit limit (debt ceiling).  Imagine if you left your credit card with an older child while you are gone on a trip, so they can take care of some basic necessities but when you return, you realize the “blew the budget” or exceeded the credit limit and ran a deficit.  Next trip, will you do the same or will you employ some restraints?   You may have seen the national debt clock.  It is a real-time, live representation of our national debt and deficit levels.  After you look at it, make a note of the dollar amount, leave it open and come back to it at the end of the article.  Click on the Debt Clock image (above) or click here.

Try to make sense of these numbers. It is a bit confusing because we just don’t relate to money at such large quantities.  What if we shrunk the actual federal, debt, deficit, cuts, expenses, income etc. down to the proportional size of the average (median) household budget?  That I can relate to because the numbers mean something to me in that context so I can wrap my brain around it.  That is exactly what the very entertaining and funny, satirical video short, “Debt Limit – A Guide To American Federal Debt Made Easy” (below) does.  Many politicians were adamant that we raise the Debt Ceiling during the “crisis”.  That would be equivalent to the man in this video who is asking to have his credit limit extended or raised so he can borrow more money.  Remember his crisis?  Amazing, isn’t it!?  How did you like the little kid at the end signing the note?  Was that a representation of you, the younger generations?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion – Buckle up boys & girls:

No doubt we are in a pickle.  We baby boomers have mortgaged our future and our children’s future.  We have funded pie in the sky programs that make us feel good or give us “free stuff”.  But is it free?  Our children will not think so when they get the bill (remember the child in the video you just watched).  But heck, we baby boomers may be dead and gone by then so spend on!  Well, you younger generations can decide if we can we afford to buy everyone healthcare, homes, food etc.?  Can we continue to fund wars that don’t have clear objectives that are satisfied?  Do you think our ongoing deficits are sustainable?  Is there bankruptcy court for our government?  If the U.S. does financially implode (default on its debt), what then?  There is always a cost!  NOTHING is ever free. Unlike you and me, who have limits and are forced by lenders to meet our obligations, the federal government is not being held accountable.  Politicians who want to be reelected don’t want to anger us voters so they kill us with the poison we ask for –more “free” stuff.  The cost may be hidden or “deferred”, but it is NEVER free.  Before you vote for representatives in government, think hard.  You now have some great questions to ask them so you and I can choose someone who will tell us that nothing is free and the note will  actually come due.  Or we can let you generation  Y or X and Millennials deal with it, or your kids if our fiscal tightrope will last that long.  You  younger people decide soon, because you will own it.  I may be dead and gone when it comes to a head. We are at a precipice.

 

The video short, U.S. Debt Crisis Explained puts it in a nutshell and the destination of our current path is crystal clear.  At the time this video was created (about two or three years ago), the U.S. National Debt was about $14 Trillion.  It is now over $18 Trillion dollars as indicated the U.S. National Debt Clock.

 

One more video to get you thinking. 

 To learn more about the Federal Reserve (or The Fed), watch this 14 minute video.

 

 

Recently there was a news report of Metropolitan State University professor in Colorado who makes students recite an “Anti-American’ Pledge of Allegiance”.  I carefully watched two different reports of the story both on Fox’s national cable news.  In America we have a Constitution which also includes the Bill of Rights.  Our founding Fathers included these as fundamental rights that are granted to every citizen. Among these rights are the right to free speech.  I am a strong advocate of free speech. In fact I am a strong advocate of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution from the perspective of the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Do our “rights have limits?  Do we ever have the right to infringe upon the rights of another? The short answer is yes.  When the basic rights of others are infringed by the actions of another, the person infringing upon another’s rights can and should be limited.  At the risk of over simplifying I will use this example.  Suppose I feel like fire is a form of speech or artistic expression and I feel at liberty to express my feelings through the beauty of the flames by burning things, including the property of others.  The right to have a fire as an artistic or personal expression may be protected but once, that person begins burning the property of others without consent, he has exceeded the limitation of his rights.  So long as he does not force another to suffer a loss or violate their rights, including the right of their free speech or right to think and believe or pledge allegiances, that is protected.

However, Professor Charles Angeletti reportedly academically punishes students who disagree with him on social or political terms.  According to one news report, students reported on www.RateMyProfessors.com  that Professor Angeletti academically punishes students who refuse to cite his ‘anti-pledge’ by giving them a lower score as well as those who differ with him in politics.  This strikes at the very heart of the issue of rights and infringement of rights. The founders went so far as to specify in the case of religion, that no one can be forced by the federal government to believe or practice a religion.  States can establish a religion (and one did for a time), but free speech and free religion are cornerstones of the Bill of Rights. Although, the founders were mostly very religious men, they didn’t want religion to be compelled.

So what about political allegiances?  They didn’t specifically state it as they did on the issue of religion but the right to political freedom and allegiance is clearly protected. For example it does directly infer that right in that it is unlawful to compel any person to disclose their political preference in the voting booth. It is strictly a private matter and can only be divulged voluntarily, and only by the voter. This is an easy call. Professor Angeletti should be reprimanded by Metropolitan State University. The state and even the federal government through the U.S. Attorney General’s office should pursue a legal remedy of some sort.  It may be satisfactory that he be only suspended without pay for a time and issue an apology to the students and parents who paid for the course he taught and wherein he abused his students by exceeding his legal and moral authority.

Citizens of Colorado!  Citizens of the United States! Do we realize the seriousness of this precedent?  No one may have been physically harmed and in the end, perhaps only a little illegal academic damage may have been incurred.  What is equally or much more bothersome, is the precedent it sets for this sort of infringement of a fundamental human right clearly spelled out in our Constitution.  What you decide to say or do, or how you decide to act or not act is your “right”.  But if you don’t –or if we collectively don’t protect those rights, they will slip away until they eventually fall out of our reach.  If so, enjoy those rights while you have them, for that are not guaranteed by the government. They can only be guaranteed by an informed citizenry that holds its government responsible.  This is a government university funded by Coloradan’s and Americans.  This isn’t as small as it may appear on the surface.  We must respond and defend our basic human rights. If we don’t, who will!?  Otherwise America as we know it will die and America is too young to die!

Michael Brown (a black man), and Eric Garner (also a black man) were killed during their arrests or attempted arrests.  I proceed with the assumption that you, the reader, are aware of the controversy surrounding these two events and the racial ire it has provoked in the national discussion.  I begin by saying that I very strongly oppose the excessive use of force in arrests or any interaction between law officers and the public.  At no time should any officer cause unnecessary harm or suffering to a person.

By the same token, I (a person that most would label a “conservative”), abhor the notion of a “police state” or government that feels empowered to use unjustified and unnecessary force. Yet I am a military veteran and have a number of friends and associations in law enforcement for whom I hold deep respect on a personal level as well as for the fact that they stand between me and the dangerous criminal element of our society.

My objective today is not to argue which “side” is right or wrong.  I have not been a police officer and can only imagine the aggravation they must experience dealing with some people who are extremely rude, uncooperative or insulting.  However, I have been a volunteer official to referee basketball games in the community, and that trying experience gives me a very small glimpse into how I might feel if I were an officer charged with the duty to enforce the “rules” of law.

But what about minorities (we’ll focus just on blacks here today), who are sometimes profiled by police or other others in our society? What about the stereotypes and prejudice they feel is cast upon them, regardless of the extent of how warranted it may be?  I have been profiled and prejudged as a person of a minority faith and treated with rudeness and contempt. It was painful.  My point is that I am empathetic to both “sides” in this scenario. I can genuinely relate to the frustration by law enforcement as well as by blacks.

I want a law-abiding citizenry and responsible law enforcement to work together in a cooperative effort to maintain the peace and reestablish it when it is disrupted. What has been happening in the national discussion and notably within mainstream media has been counter productive to that aim. It has been anything but sensitive to the ideal of establishing peace and finding solutions to this problem in a cooperative effort.  Too often the media has been provocative and acted with inflammatory self-interest (generally speaking). Perhaps inflaming the situation makes good news and may even help with promoting political agendas.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  The mainstream media is largely very supportive of liberal/Democrat agenda.  Some political operatives even become hosts on TV programs like Mr. George Stephanopoulos on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America” news program as a “Journalist.” He was also a U.S. Democratic Party political adviser, notably in the Clinton Administration. The lines between Journalist and Political Operative is very blurry nowadays. I have always seen the free press protection in the U.S. Constitution as being an informal check and balance system between the government and the people.  I have concluded that the media should be a watchdog for the people –all the people, not just one class or party.  I have concluded that they fail to consistently use that protection afforded them by our constitution in a responsible manner.  Inciting acrimony between the police and blacks appears suspicious at best. At the same time politicians and celebrity community leaders outside of government have seemed to be in collusion with liberal politicians and the mainstream media.

NFL player Benjamin Watson posted a personal response to the situation on social media which went viral.  I could identify with Watson and apparently many can.  It isn’t about power and political opportunity. It should be about healing and helping each other come to some conclusions as to how to SOLVE this problem and others like it. Instead, it appears too often many of these political operatives in the media, the government and community are amping up the rhetoric or fueling the fire. Dividing us isn’t the solution!  A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about our nation in that context but in very general in general terms.  Divide and Conquer was an article that suggests we need to realize that we are in the middle of a feud of sorts between parties seeking power. I contest that will benefit if we step back and approach it from a non-political or non-partisan perspective. This current controversy is just one more example in a string of many that illustrate just how easily we as people are manipulated and divided.  In this one, we are being divided by race. Who gains in these situations. Find the answer to that and you find the problem.

It is my genuine hope that somehow we can alert enough people to the reality that we CAN work together but we need to step back and change our perspective.  We cannot continue to let these smooth operators manipulate us in this way.  We need to lock arms and start looking at them!  They are as much, or more a part of the problem than police officers and uncooperative citizens.  We have to do it or this nation will not endure.  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Abraham Lincoln, see full text).

The Reverend Doctor, Martin Luther King Jr. said, ““Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

Tim Lebbon makes this profound statement, “Hate misleads, fear distorts and love blinds.” Does blind party loyalty or “love” blind us?  Does our fear, “distort” our perspectives?  We surely can agree that hate misleads us.

I like what Musician Eden Ahbez said on the subject about as much as any, “Some white people hate black people, and some white people love black people, some black people hate white people, and some black people love white people. So you see it’s not an issue of black and white, it’s an issue of Lovers and Haters.”

Well, that is profound!  May God bless us.  May we have the ability to turn to Him and forgive, to heal, to love.  Only when we do that can we “heal” as a nation.  We must or we as a nation will die. And America is too young to die!

Separation of church and state, and freedom of religion. Are they compatible? I argue that it is not possible to shield everyone from exposure all the opinions and feelings in a diverse society. As such, I further contend that it is not the intent of the founding fathers, through the instrumentality of the U.S. Constitution to protect everyone from exposure to all the ideas and beliefs of others. In very deed, it may be the contrary. Said Thomas Jefferson, “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

Many contemporary so-called civil libertarians are anything but “libertarian”.  Rather, in this context they are tyrant-arians, or subjugation-arians or (hold your breath) anti-libertarians! Doesn’t a rational person have to acknowledge that it is virtually impossible to protect all people from exposure to ideas they find objectionable?  I am not suggesting that we should not consider at least some degree of censorship, both as a society, and most certainly as individuals.  But to consider their efforts as censorship is quite ironic if you consider the fact that the so-called “civil libertarians” want to censor anything! These impostors give real libertarians (with a lower case L), a bad name.

Jefferson suggests we should “question [or consider] with boldness”. This seems far afield from what latter-day “civil libertarians” advocate. The irony is dumbfounding. Yes my friends, we are at a tipping point. We are at a place in our brief history where large numbers of us are actually suggesting that considering ideas is dangerous, or at least, certain ideas are. Who decides? Then what? It turns into majority rule or democracy, A.K.A. mob rule! So there you have it. The founders didn’t even support the notion of a majority rule or democracy. They didn’t even give us a democracy. “What!?” you say? That is correct, this brief video excerpt explains.

Now we know not only that our Founding Fathers did not give us a “democracy” but that they “loathed” democracy and saw it as an enemy to individual freedom and liberty. This discussion of freedom of religion (one of the most fundamental rights the Founders gave us in the Bill of Rights), underscores,boldens and highlights the danger of using majority or mob rule to establish “law” for our society. Instead, they inform us that we should eschew the majority’s ability to impinge on the rights of a minority simply by virtue of their majority, perceived or real. Instead, the supreme law of the land (theU.S. Constitution) protects us from democracy or majority rule. The law rules supreme. I insert a side note that I don’t believe for one minute that the so-called “civil libertarians” are a majority by any stretch of the imagination.  They have however, shamed or bullied enough people or institutions to give the illusion of a majority.

On October 26th, 2014 the Deseret News (pronounced dez-er-ette), located in Salt Lake City, Utah published an editorial piece on this topic. Click here for the full text. This editorial piece makes some interesting and useful observations.  Firstly, they point out that “Almost invariably, the focus in such controversy has been on how to keep the church out of the state, not the other way around.”  Oh King George, you must be laughing in your grave. Did we forget why our Founders issued the Declaration of Independence in the first place?  Certainly religious freedom, or the freedom to choose one’s own religious course and to publicly do so without interference from the state or from other citizens was a significant factor or impetus behind that declaration.  Surely, no true “libertarian” would object to that because a bedrock of libertarianism is free will.

Sharing one example cited in the editorial, there were five pastors in Houston (A.K.A. The Houston Five), who were ordered by subpoena to furnish the text of all their sermons touching upon the subject of homosexuality. All this was done under the Houston’s “Equal Rights” ordinance. Ultimately this was reversed after the Houston Five secured legal representation and counter filed. That, and a strong public outcry of a relatively few number of citizens successfully persuaded the mayor to abandon her design, at least temporarily. The fact that the rogue Mayor even felt emboldened enough to attempt such a breach of constitutional law is disturbing! This wasn’t an isolated case. The editorial cites other mind-boggling breeches of the U.S. Constitution. The third amendment specifically, states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The main thrust of the Deseret News editorial piece is that until now, “Almost invariably, the focus in such controversy has been on how to keep the church out of the state, not the other way around.” While it is good to see these examples where people are resisting these gross breeches of liberty, it should be equally, or more disconcerting that there is an overactive element of our society infiltrating our law making halls and seats of government as well as judgment seats in the courts. Unless we stand up collectively and let the secularists know that democracy or mob rule will not be tolerated, we are in jeopardy of losing our personal protections. Not just religious liberty, but any and all liberties that some elements of our society may at any time deem “dangerous” or harmful on a whim. The right of some or all of us to vote, have free speech, the right to bear arms, and a host of other rights will be fodder for the so-called civil libertarians.

The time for us to extricate ourselves from our places of comfort or our political apathy is now. The threat is real and the people behind it are determined and unprincipled. It isn’t necessarily about just freedom of religion. It is about freedom and liberty period!  Once we yield our right to prohibit the government or a majority (or minority) from arbitrarily deeming what we can and cannot believe or as Jefferson puts it “question with boldness”, we are not better off.  Perhaps we will be worse off than our founders and forefathers were under the scepter of England’s King George. The time to act is now.  Who will be our Paul Revere to sound the cry? Will we answer the call? Does it matter how fashionable it will be, or un-trendy to be a patriot?  That is not really the question.  The question is, what power will you have to change it after the fact once those God-given rights are absconded? At that point, what will be the price to restore them? I pray that all citizens within the sound of this and other warning voices do answer that call or America as we know her will die, and America, you are too young to die!

(Edited November 28th, 2014)

 George Washington was our first President.  Of course you knew that.  I do suspect however, that very few of us know that he could have been our King.  That is an incredible thing to consider.  Not only because we are now a representative republic (though we are often falsely labeled a democracy), but also because in that day and age, there was the prevailing belief in the “divine right of kings” of which the Princeton University website provides this description.

“The divine right of kings is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including (in the view of some, especially in Protestant countries) the Church. According to this doctrine, since only God can judge an unjust king, the king can do no wrong. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute sacrilegious act.” (emphasis added)

Bob Dotson (USA Today), points out that if Washington had become King, we would have an alternate history.  He writes,

“George and his wife, Martha, had no children. After he died, the succession would have passed to the descendants of his two brothers, Augustine and Samuel. Sam married five times. Today he and his brother have more than 8,000 descendants. Fewer than 200 still bear Washington’s name.” (full text)

Okay, so let’s be happy we aren’t living in the Kingdom of America, thanks to Washington’s love for individual freedom and exceptionalism.  Although, the fact that I am 9th cousin, 10 times removed does make it seem a bit appealing.  Okay, seriously, all people have the right and privilege to “the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence). Arguably, this rugged free spirit, this insurrection against the flawed philosophy of the divine right of kings, and against the tyranny of kings (to wit, England’s King George) is what has made America the most incredible sociopolitical and socio-religious global influence in world history.  Finally, the common man could have a stake in the wealth of nations.  It wasn’t just the land Lords and Nobles that owned property.  Feudalism and the divine right of kings are closely tied.  Not all kings were selfish tyrants who ruled with a ruthless zeal.  Some were good.  It was all luck of the draw.  The quality of the people’s lives was almost fully dependent on the extent to which their King or Queen was benevolent.

I can only imagine what it would be like to have any member or former members of our federal government today, sitting on a throne issuing royal decrees.  Okay, here’s the hook.  We are closer to that than many of us may think.  The form of government our founders (including George Washington), gave us in the historic and groundbreaking constitution set up a system of checks and balances.  It protects the people of the United States (to the extent it is possible), from being subject to the royal decrees of a king, or even a President from acting like a king.

For decades, our Presidents have used Executive Orders.  The good news, they are permissible under the constitution, provided they do not extend beyond the executive or administrative branch of government.  In other words, the President has the power as executive to issue orders within his branch of government to direct that branch.  The powers of the President are then a check against an overpowering legislative branch or judicial branch and they in turn check the executive branch.  What our Founding Fathers gave us is a thing of beauty.

It seems laughable, downright ludicrous to think we might ever have a monarchy (or oligarchy) here in the good ole’ U.S. of A.  Yet we are far closer to that reality than almost all of us realize.  We are at a precipice of history yet again.  Who is our George Washington today?  Who will be offered the opportunity to be King, and will he or she defer to THE PEOPLE to empower the people as did the venerable George Washington?  It was within his reach to seize power and yet in humility, he deferred to the people to do what he believed was the will of God.  A free people who (although not equal in all things), would have an equal opportunity toward the pursuit of happiness, unhampered by royal decrees or Lords and Nobles.

President Obama has expressed his intent to issue an Executive order to put into place “legally” enforceable policies to manage and organize the nation’s immigration system (Click here to watch this video excerpt of a Constitutional Attorney from George Washington University discussing the President’s intent). The President claims his reason is that the congress (the legislative branch), is uncooperative and incompetent and so he alone will solve the problem by what I will call Executive Decree.  This flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution and the original intent of the Founding Fathers, not the least of which was George Washington who set an example of humility and deference to the people that I call on President Obama to follow.

He literally has no constitutional authority to issue orders or “decrees” outside of the executive branch. He is effectively doing an end-around the other branches of government just because he wills it as what liberal constitutional lawyer Johnathan Turley called “…a majority of one.”  The problem may also be that the executive branch has adopted agencies and powers that should not rightfully belong to the executive branch.  I am not an expert in that area but it suffices to say, this is a precarious precedent that will be established if this sitting President does this and we do not begin impeachment proceedings.  It is a far easier thing to deny a person the power of kings than to later attempt to take it back.

My fellow Americans, I love America and the dreams that have been realized under her protective liberty.  I love that my grandmother immigrated here with her parents and forged a good life here.  I owe them a debt of gratitude.  It would be preposterous for me to eschew immigration to America.  I am for it. I just don’t think sneaking under fences or through tunnels or in the trunk of a car is the way.  There are many other considerations I will not address here because my intent here today isn’t to solve the immigration problem (but we must).  It is to consider something even more foreboding.  Can we agree that WE all, not HE alone need to solve our nation’s problems of immigration among others.  We the people need to deny the president those monarchical powers.  We don’t want a monarch or at least I hope we don’t!  Let us raise our voice and shout from the roof tops, “We will be free!”  We will not have a king or anything that resembles it!  Whether I like this President or not is irrelevant.  Why? I may like his ideas but the next president I may loathe his/hers.  Once we give the office that power, we give it to every person who thereafter occupies that office.  Let us stand against it now while the price is not heavy.

(Edited November 19th, 2014)

There was a time when pornography was widely rejected and almost universally regarded as inappropriate fare for child and adult.  As time marches on our society descends deeper into the abyss of immorality. Is there a correlation between the rise of sex crimes, sexual abuse of children, divorce, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases etc. and pornography?  These are all among the standard topics of concern as it relates to that correlation to pornography.  But one article a friend posted to social media recently caught my eye and at first raised my eyebrow.  Could it be that pornography impeded the academic performance teenage boys?

In his article “Boys, Porn and Education”, Sean Fitzpatrick writes,

The headmaster of the all-boys boarding school I attended when I was a teenager was always wary of admitting students to the academy that had been exposed to pornography. Among his reasons for this was that boys who had carnal knowledge—even on the level that pornography affords—very often found it an impediment in the process of their education.

Now, I must admit that sound a bit like a throwback to the ignorance of days gone by when well-meaning headmasters wielded an unopposed power to make unfounded claims and implement remedies at will.  Fitzpatrick goes on to explain,

Though reports abound analyzing what percentage of the web is devoted to smut, or what the addictive properties of online porn are, or what it is doing to relationships, or how it is affecting bodies and brains, one thing is certain without scientific data or social studies: Internet pornography is damaging the lives and minds of possibly every single boy in this country, impeding his ability to be drawn to virtue and wisdom—in other words, impeding his education.

This is a bold claim.  For porn peddlers, the reaction would be an obvious mocking of such claims and use the argument that crept into my mind at first glance –This is a throwback to the naivety and overzealous and unchecked power of ‘the church’.  But IS it? What would be naïve is to presume that “even boys from good families” says Fitzpatrick, are not exposed to pornography.  We can make a comparison between the tobacco and pornography industries.  That comparison is that we learn from the tobacco industry that some enterprises that are harmful to society will be lied about, facts concealed, truth sequestered and money made –LOTS of it!  So let us at least agree that nothing that flows from the filthy mouths of these peddlers of pornography is credible and cannot be accepted at face value.

The author finally makes this profound argument, and I have agreed with it as a matter of faith alone.  At least until now.  He says,

The reason pornography hinders a boy’s ability to accept and enjoy education is because pornography creates a barrier to wonder by numbing the sense of wonder. Without wonder, education is a crippled thing at best. Socrates taught that wonder is the beginning of wisdom, the very occasion of education, and pornography wounds the ability to wonder through the voyeuristic, shameless stripping of one of the most sacred sources of wonder. It creates desensitization to beauty, robbing boys of their innocence through the elimination of the mysteries of the heart, severely impairing their ability to be awed or find pleasure in the beautiful. Jaded spirits are not very susceptible to formation. Cynicism quickly develops as a defense. Boys are finally lost to apathy in a world that fails to titillate. The fantasy, or blasphemy, of reality results in a loss of desire for reality, which is the foundation of any education. This latter principle of teaching through exposure to reality is a particularly powerful tool in educating young men, as boys tend to be highly sensory and active, and the experience of the world and its mysteries is an arena for wonder. Pornography eradicates mystery, and without mystery, boys will lose their ability to wonder, and in a large part, their ability to become wise—which is the work of education.

Mr. Fitzpatrick is now the headmaster at that same school.  He is confronted with class of boys most, if not all of which have been exposed to the mind damning and insidious filth at least to some extent. He is convinced this is real and it is an impediment to the development of young boys. The implications of this claim are incalculable, perhaps in ways we have not even considered.  It is a scourge in our society.

Those who are familiar with my writing know I have often referred to one, Antonio Gramsci.  Let me pain you with the reiteration of his ‘theory’.   I will simply recount one my writings about him and education. 

Gramsci (22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937), was the founding member and at one point, the leader of the Italian Communist Party.  Writer David L. Goetsch says of Gramsci, ‘Most Americans have heard of Karl Marx and his plan for overthrowing democratic governments through armed revolts of the workers.  But few Americans have heard of Antonio Gramsci.  This is too bad because Gramsci is the communist philosopher who developed a theory specifically for overthrowing America.  Gramsci thought that overthrowing the United States through an armed revolt of indigenous workers was unrealistic.  He theorized that a better approach would be to undermine the culture and morality of America so that our country would destroy itself from within.”  (Goetsch, 2012; see full text of article here).

If you subscribe as I do to the idea that there has long been a covert operation underway to undermine America’s values as a means to subjugate our nation, to usurp our liberties and our peace, all for the purpose of supplanting it with tyranny, then you will not have a difficult time connecting the dots.  If we are to heal our land, education must reign supreme as I argued in “Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy”.  Whether or not it was Gramsci that commenced with the plan or not it is crystal clear that pornography is a scourge to freedom and peace.  It will enforce ignorance and leave us vulnerable to the will of evil and conspiring men and women who would love to supplant our inspired and revolutionary (for its day), form of self-government.  Not only does it damage people spiritually, it corrodes and decomposes our intellectual, social and moral senses.

If we want to heal our land, the time to act is now, because America, you’re too young to die.

(Edited November 11th,  2015)

Today we observe the annual Veterans Day holiday.  I share a very personal experience here but first lets get a few facts out in front of us.

Veterans_Disabled son pushing dad

Random photo of a Soldier

The Veterans Administration reports that on any given night, approximately 300,000 veterans are homeless.  300 thousand!  That is roughly three-fifths (60%), of the entire Regular Army strength.  I am a veteran and I am grateful to have a home.  I retired in 2008.  Since my retirement, I had the misfortune of having met the criteria of being a homeless veteran.  I had been through a sudden and unexpected divorce.  I retired earlier than expected because my former wife and I agreed I would lead a startup, business venture. Her financial resources made that plan a possibility so she could support the family during the transition of the launch. With that in mind, I retired and we moved to a new state to start afresh.  But things weren’t quite right in our family and major problems came to a boil and so I delayed moving forward with the start-up or other options to try to address my family situation.  Then it happened.  After a conflict arose, a crisis ensued and she filed for divorce.  I was deeply and profoundly affected.  I had fully committed myself to my family. I never even dreamed of, or considered that possibility.  My son had just returned from Eastern Europe where he had been serving as a missionary. He fully expected that my wife (his step-mother) and I would make good on our promise to pay for his education.  With only a few weeks until school and a tuition bill due, we finagled a a way to get him in and pay the tuition.  He too had been hit by a virtual bus.  It was like a bomb had blown up our lives.

There I was, homeless and I had children to care for.  What’s worse, I had just retired early from a successful career in the Army.  I had been an esteemed Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army.  All I had now was a pension and some VA benefits.  I was caught totally unprepared.  The train wreck continues.  My former wife decided not to provide any resources to enable me and my 3 children from my previous marriage to settle into a place to live.  I petitioned for financial remedy with the court which fell on deaf ears.  Maybe it looked like exploitation.  At the same time I hoped it would cause her to reconsider the decision, but to no avail.  I was homeless. I had two daughters ages 12 & 15 and a 7-year-old boy with Down Syndrome to think about.  Thank heaven, I had extended family.  Notwithstanding, it was my children that served as the catalyst for my determination to press ahead, to keep my head above water and not sink and abandon myself to ruin.  I had a lifeline and it was my kids.  For most fathers in that situation, it is not the norm to be the single custodial parent.  But I was and I had to do something.

My extended family provided a place for us to live, off and on, for a couple years as we bounced around.  They say, “Timing is everything.” This had all happened on the heels of the 2008 economic meltdown.  People were losing their homes, companies were laying off and jobs were not easy to find in January, 2009.  I had spent 24 years of my 28 years in the Army as a Human Resources Specialist/NCO.  I knew the HR realities.  I knew the jobs weren’t there.  I decided to enroll in an HR certification prep class and for several looooong months I studied, and I studied, and then I studied some more.  I had essentially memorized that entire text-book.  When the time came, I made the decision to take the more rigorous exam, the one that would lead to my being credentialed as a “Senior Professional of Human Resources” (SPHR).  It would have been easier just to go for my PHR but I wanted to give myself a competitive edge in that dismal job market.  I then took the HR Certification exam and I passed it on my first attempt!  I was so overcome!  I remember screaming for joy repeatedly in the car on the way to my parents where we were living.  But still the economy wasn’t recovering.  I realized I was going to have to figure something else out.

Labor force increasing at nearly the same rate as Labor Force

I decided I would go to college using my GI Bill so I  was admitted and registered at the local community College as a full-time student.  I realized later that I actually earned a little housing allowance from my GI Bill that served as a form of supplemental income and I was able to rent an apartment and it was helpful.  Then my landlord pulled the plug unexpectedly some time after the lease expired.  It had morphed into a month-to-month lease. She explained that she sold the house she lived in and needed to move into the duplex she was leasing to me.  I had a month to find a home so we moved back in with relatives and sent one of my daughters off to college.  About 2 years ago I completed my associate degree in Business Management with straight A’s and next month I will complete my bachelors degree in Business Administration.  Earned a 3.9+ GPA with my associates degree.  I continue now with honors at my university.  I have worked like a Soldier is trained to work.  I study hard for my college courses as I had for my HR certification as an SPHR.

My friends.  The homeless people you see in the streets are not far removed from me –One out of 4 is a Veteran!  They served. They answered the call.  Like me, some figurative bomb burst their bubble of security and they were not prepared, just as I was not prepared.  I needed a hand up!  I turned to my family and I thank God for them!  I am blessed.  I cannot look upon a homeless Veteran or any homeless person without asking myself or wondering, “What if?”  What if I hadn’t had my kids depending on me.  What if I didn’t have extended family who were available and willing to help? What if I didn’t have the GI Bill.  What if…
“There but for the grace of God, go I” -and my children.

Veterans_Homeless 300k

 

I conclude with this plea.  Please celebrate your Veterans day by reaching out to a Veteran in need.  Give what your heart requires, great or small, but give.  In the Army we live by the motto, “Never leave a fallen Soldier behind!”  I ask all to join me and finding a veteran in need and helping them with as much or little as you have of your time and resources.  By doing that, I am certain you will have a very Happy Veterans Day!

P.S.  I am remarried and living in New Hampshire where my wife is an elementary school teacher and where we live in very home she was raised in.  I am a senior at Plymouth State University majoring in Business Administration.  I just celebrated the arrival of my fifth grandchild, and my second daughter (3rd of 4 children), will be leaving for college, out west at the beginning of the new-year.

Divide and Conquer

 

Edited 1/6/2014

We sure live in an angry world, filled with hate and malice.  In my native state the bitter rivalry between the top two college athletics programs has been the impetus for my developing an allegorical metaphor.  I will use that metaphor to frame a darker side of humanity.  Like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, hate and feud has become so innate and inbred in sports and other contextual subcultures, that we scarcely even remember why we started hating our enemy in first place.  It’s just who we are (or who they are) and what we do.  After all, they are the McCoy’s!  In the arena sports, fans vandalize or desecrate the objects of their opponent’s affection, annihilate effigies or anything held sacred by the opposing “side”. Brawls break out at sporting events between fans, parents, and officials.  In Brazil there was even the beheading of a soccer referee.
It is disturbing.  It is a culture where slander and smear or “talking trash” is esteemed, and the extent to which a person can destroy the other “side” is the measure of that person’s veracity.  Then we rationalize it with, “everyone does it”,  “they are messed up or wrong”, thats just sports and nobody takes it that serious, it’s funny”.  We are a hate infested culture.  Some of these people are rather impressed by themselves.  They strut about figuratively (sometimes literally) beating on their chests and a few fools revere them.  I must emphasize that I am an avid sports fan and understand the highly charged emotional state a person can get worked into.  This is not an indictment of all sport fans.  We are fallible, but we do have the power of reason.  Many of us do use reason, and temper our responses to highly charged situations.
But this article isn’t just about rational thinking humans.  Hence, the metaphor I referred to:

Perhaps like me, you too have seen reports of primates at zoo exhibits that have engaged in a similar and rather primitive behavior such as I have just described.  In this example a chimpanzee is flinging bodily excrement at bystanders.

The behavior of “haters” and “trash talkers” is akin to that of a chimp inside the primate enclosure at the zoo, throwing their bodily excrement at the observant zoo-goers. These primates really think they are something, laughing, screeching and beating on their chest in an apparent display of their supposed superiority. They really appear to be impressed with themselves. No doubt, within their subculture they are very impressive because that’s how it works at their level. Meanwhile, human beings watch the primitive, primate behavior in utter amazement, amusement and perhaps contempt. There are two completely different perspectives that are illustrated here.  There are those of the onlookers, which are rational and objective, then there are abhorrent, hateful and emotionally driven primates.  Naturally, we can agree with Brazilian Novelist, Paulo Coelho that,

“It’s more intelligent to be constructive.”

I shift now to another subculture/group similar to the fanatic sport fans, which is the object of my attention here.  These are they who figuratively roam in this primitive “enclosure” in the political partisan culture. Contemplating that sphere of thought, conjures up the images I have illustrated with the preceding metaphor.

The attitudes and behavior of partisan, political zealots have turned what should be a civil realm where rational thought rules, into a symbolic zoo enclosure where verbal insults and thoughtless, vile rants are flung about like excrement, often with glee.  Self-examination are out the window and critical thought for the good of the whole take a deferential seat at the back of that bus.  With partisans, it is all tolerable if it is for the good of the party.  It may be good for the political party, but it isn’t always going to be good for the country.  The late Carroll O’Connor well said,

“Nations have come under the control of haters and fools.”

I don’t think he is merely saying that haters have been known to become the majority.  I interpret his meaning to be,  It is possible to subjugate a nation through hate, and those that permit it by espousing hate and blind loyalty are fools.  Hate divides a people.  Alliances struck in the realm of hate are fragile –loosely bound by the impotent glue of fleeting self-interest and an ever-shifting vacillation of values, trumped by emotion.  Talk about vacillation.  Let’s not forget that the Republican Party is “the party of Lincoln”, the President who helped stop slavery in the United States and the Democrat party was the preferred party of rank and file members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Neither of those party attributes are considered contemporary.  Self-interest and political expediency, devoid of principled intrinsic values, are a model of unpredictability, unreliability and ephemerality.  We often refer to this as political expediency.

As for me, I will not be joining these primitives in their figurative enclosure.  Party affiliation is not in and of itself a bad thing.  I am affiliated with a political party as most Americans are, but my loyalties are first to the common good in the long term.  In fact, we can and should listen to the partisan (among others), to test our ideas and beliefs.  If they cannot stand that test, they are dross.  We already in essence have bought cups that don’t hold water.  Businessman Rob Manuel , recognizes this saying,

“There’s a certain logic to avoiding the haters, but as a strategy, it’s utterly flawed. When you turn off the feedback, you lose the benefits as well as the drawbacks. It’s like having a sore finger and cutting off your arm.”

“The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is used as a case study of whistleblowing and organizational behavior including groupthink.” Wikipedia.com

So, rigorous testing is essential, especially when much is at stake.  That said, there is a difference between rigorous testing against rational opposition versus inflammatory, diatribes of venomous hate and deceptive rhetoric. Blind party loyalty leads to group-think.  Groupthink, like poisoned Kool-Aid, kills organizations and societies, and our nation is not immune. Until we recognize the damage that the rhetoric of political partisanship, along with blind loyalty has done by dividing us, we will continue to go adrift as a nation.  Put the Kool-Aid down put your arms in the air and back away from the ballot box!  That “put the party first” mentality is, and ever will be a major contributor to our undoing.  To expand on the issue of hate being divisive –We have been divided on race, income/class war (remember the 1%?), gender, nationality, religion and social issues, to name a few.  Party loyalty focuses on these divisions.  Rational thought turns our mind to solving problems and to candidates who are in possession of the ideas that coincide with our principles and ideals irrespective of party.  Musician Eden Ahbez said something so profound,

 

“Some white people hate black people, and some white people love black people, some black people hate white people, and some black people love white people. So you see it’s not an issue of black and white, it’s an issue of Lovers and Haters.”

This is a profound statement.  It turns the whole socio-political spectrum on its ear.  It would be a major paradigm shift if we as a nation embraced that “principle”.  It really is a truism when someone coined the phrase, “principle before party”.
Our nation’s future hangs in the balance because our enemies, foreign and domestic have seen a way to “divide and conquer”.  We are a nation divided in many different ways.  Through the instrumentality of blind, party loyalty, we are divided “seven ways to Sunday”.  At some point we must step back from our political positions and re-evaluate our position on issues from a new paradigm.  Have we challenged our own thinking or are we just too busy drinking the Kool-Aid and flinging our excrement, like bullets, at the Hatfield’s?  Let us shake the chains of intellectual bondage and re-think everything.  Consider that which we have not considered.  Try that which we have not tried.  We must collectively and individually ask ourselves first, what are the ideals and core principles the define us?  Do they line up with historical facts?  Time is of the essence.  We must reevaluate everything or we will implode and die as a nation, because America, you are too young to die.

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.,

Christmas sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, 1957

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Hate misleads, fear distorts and love blinds.”

TIM LEBBON, Face

~*~*~*~*~*~

“I think that hate is a thing, a feeling, that can only exist where there is no understanding.”

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, Forward to Sweet Bird of Youth

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Hatred makes us all ugly.”

LAURELL K. HAMILTON, Burnt Offerings

~*~*~*~*~*~

“The worst enemy is one whose doctrines are founded in hate and are thus beyond debate.”

TOBSHA LEARNER, The Witch of Cologne

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Hatred is the atmosphere of hell.”

MARTIN FARQUHAR TUPPER, Proverbial Philosophy

~*~*~*~*~*~

“My hands tend to be full enough dealing with people who hate me for who I am. Concentrate too hard on the millions of people who hate you for what you are and you’re likely to turn into one of those unkempt, sloppy dressers who sag beneath the weight of the two hundred political buttons they wear pinned to their coats and knapsacks.

DAVID SEDARIS, Naked

James Madison – “Father” of the U.S. Constitution

Said James Madison, in a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822, A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American Founding Father.  Well after he helped draw the U.S. Constitution, a service for which he is often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution” because of his extensive influence and work in its drafting, he served as the fourth President of the United States beginning in 1809 for eight years.  He was a primary contributor to the Bill of Rights and was instrumental in the writing of the Federalist Papers.  Madison is far more than early American intellectual.  If you use a search engine to find quotes by James Madison, on the subject alone, of education or knowledge, you are in for a treat.  Surprisingly, he is a much less recognizable figure by name than the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Adams to name a few.  It puzzles me that it is so considering the contributions he made.  He and Jefferson could be termed the backbone or impetus of the founding documents.

Why would Madison in effect say, America as we know it has been playing out the “prologue to a tragedy”?  Madison is not alone by any stretch in his condemnation of ignorance.  The term “low information voter” has been popularized by talk Radio mogul, Rush Limbaugh.  You can see my theme developing here.  I propose that American is in the middle of an intellectual crisis.

So just what is it that we are so ignorant of, collectively speaking, that has elicited so much concern and if it is so, how did we get there?  I have observed that certain twentieth century enemies of our country didn’t want “the people” to KNOW the constitution.  Surely they recognized that ignorant people make bad choices and that reveals the motive to dumb us down.  Hence, with great effort, over many years’ time, in the 1950’s the enemy within was finally able to wield enough influence to essentially remove the comprehensive teaching of civics or the constitution and colonial American history from the public school curriculum.  This was done by shrinking the academic time spent by our students on this subject and in time, the teaching of the foundational principles and historical underpinnings would be reduced to preposterous levels.  With the concerted effort to discredit the Founding Fathers, and the practical removal of civics from the curriculum of our public schools, over time we became less and less educated in matters of self-government.  As we became more vulnerable intellectually, we were increasingly exposed to distortions, policies and changes to our constitution that have eroded our underpinnings.  We are as it were, a ship without a rudder.  We are blown by the winds of emotion and contemporary wisdom and self-interest.

Communist – Antonio Gramsci

Many intellectuals will dismiss such assertions as these and marginalize them or attribute them to the crazed, radical ravings of right wing radicals.  The ferocity and harshness of the attacks against those of us who cry foul are in and of themselves a revelation.  Why would they be so concerned if there is no credibility to it?

Unbeknownst to a dumbed-down American people, a strategy postulated by Antonio Gramsci to defeat America has in fact, long been underway.  Gramsci (22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937), was the founding member and at one point, the leader of the Italian Communist Party.  Writer David L. Goetsch says of Gramsci,

“Most Americans have heard of Karl Marx and his plan for overthrowing democratic governments through armed revolts of the workers.  But few Americans have heard of Antonio Gramsci.  This is too bad because Gramsci is the communist philosopher who developed a theory specifically for overthrowing America.  Gramsci thought that overthrowing the United States through an armed revolt of indigenous workers was unrealistic.  He theorized that a better approach would be to undermine the culture and morality of America so that our country would destroy itself from within.

His plan was for intellectual elites to take control of colleges, universities, public schools, and the government and to use their control to destroy the America of our Founders in the name of progressivism.  Sound familiar? Gramsci called his theory ‘cultural hegemony.”

Goetsch continues, “Another tenet of Gramsci’s theory was gradualism.  He knew how Americans would react to armed insurrection by indigenous workers or anyone else.  Consequently, Gramsci recommended a slow transition first to socialism and then to communism.  The transition to socialism would be done under the guise of saving jobs during times of economic recession.  The government would take control of businesses or even whole business sectors to rescue them from bankruptcy.” (Goetsch, 2012).  Read the full text here.

Anyone remotely familiar with current events can see this at work today.  And how better to implement such a plan than to take the child from the parents, in effect and make them students of the state.  By modifying the curriculum and a host of other actions, they have “gradually” helped Gramsci’s revolution unfold.

Possession of fundamental facts such as the basis for, and the motive of our founders giving us a republic is crucial to having an informed and educated citizenry/electorate.  Clearly, Madison and other the Founding Fathers deliberately advocated education as essential to safeguard our liberties and the unalienable rights granted by “[our] Creator” which our republic protects. Because the teaching of Civics and the U.S. Constitution was almost completely removed from the curriculum of public education in the 1950’s, it is incumbent upon those of us so informed, to dutifully help inform fellow Americans.

There are increasing numbers of Americans striving to reform this breech in the curriculum of public education.  Three generations of Americans, have passed through public schools with inadequate teaching of the constitution.  I am from the second generation.  Much of that which has been purveyed in public schools has been unflattering toward the constitution or the great men who penned it under the inspiration of God.  In very deed, at times their histories have been utter fabrications by the enemies of our constitution in an orchestrated effort to discredit the founders!  This has seriously weakened but not yet destroyed America’s underpinnings (our reverence for morality, the constitution, its authors and the God who inspired them).

It is my most sincere desire that Madison and the other father’s fears of an uninformed public mind, will not be realized.  However, considering the orchestrated effort to do so it will take more than a feeble few to turn the tide.  May we turn Madison’s prologue to a farce or a tragedy into a victory for Americans!  Jefferson said, Every generation needs a new revolution.  In our case it is to return to our roots, our bedrock but this revolution is not waged with guns or steel.  It is a battle for the minds and hearts of the American people through education.  It is a battle waged with ideas and knowledge.  In this revolution, “the pen is mightier than the sword”.  “Knowledge is power” and the enemies of the constitution and our unalienable rights know it, so consider how you can join the fight.  We need to be smart.  Let us not repel people with foolish zeal but inspire people and lead them to discover the truth for themselves.  The better we do that, the more likely we are to avert the spilling of blood as our forefathers did to usurp an oppressive government.  God forbid!  Armed with that power (knowledge), we can keep America alive, because America, you’re too young to die!

A backdrop of some basic principles of personal finance:

Please allow me lead into my subject by reviewing some fundamental principles of personal finance.  I do so at the risk that I may insult your intelligence so I ask you to bear with me just for a moment and my purpose will be come clear.  It’s good review for most, and hopefully news to almost no one.

We all live with certain financial realities in our individual or household economies or “budgets”.  We earn money to pay for our necessities and depending on the differential between our income and living expenses, we have either a surplus or deficit.  If we have a budget surplus we may spend some or all the balance on recreation, entertainment, travel –some extras we could categorize as luxuries.  Others may tuck the surplus away into rainy day/savings accounts or investments or they may spend their surplus, which means they no longer have a surplus.  A surplus is what I presume we all hope for.  When we have a surplus or break even, we call this a balanced budget.

On the other hand, the total earned income of some individuals or households is less than the cost of the basic necessities.  They just are unable to make ends meet.  People in this circumstance are running a budget deficit.  They have financial obligations they simply cannot satisfy.  They may choose to borrow money in the form of a loan and thereby incur a debt.  For large purchases, they may not have the cash to buy a home or a car so they secure a loan to defer the cost and spread it out over a fixed period time, usually with fixed, equal, monthly payments.  This is done by people with a surplus also.  So debt can be a good thing despite the fact that it usually comes with a fee called interest, usually compounded monthly.  Compounded interest means we pay interest upon the principal (original loan amount) as well as paying interest on the accumulating interest every month (which is why it is called “compounding” interest).  Mortgage loans to purchase a home we can afford (with monthly payments) are a necessity due to the high cost of houses, and for most people the same is usually true with a car.  By deferring some of the cost, we incur this debt with the promise we will make annuity payments each month until the balance, consisting of principal (sale price/loan amount), and interest (fee for borrowing), are paid off.  Until we pay this debt off, the lender holds some form of a “note” or contract.

Still, some people run a deficit even if they defer the costs like homes and cars because they still just don’t have enough income to meet these obligations.  One precarious option is to borrow money for simple day-to-day costs.  The desperate borrower might use something they own of value, or the equity in their home or a car as collateral to secure a cash loan, again with an interest fee (so if you fail to pay them back, they take your collateral).  Another form is to have an open line of credit with a bank credit card that comes with a “credit limit” or debt ceiling.  Most large retail companies also offer these revolving credit cards to customers to “buy now, pay later”.  They can spend it on necessities or luxuries but there is a cap and a big penalty if the cardholder exceeds it.  In fact, the bank or credit lender will freeze the credit card account once it hits the credit limit (debt ceiling) and may charge a penalty and increase the interest rate.  This type of borrowing on credit can be a very slippery slope indeed, because people who are running a deficit will use these credit accounts in desperation, even though they may not really have the means to pay it off.  These people are also forced to pay higher rates of interest as a penalty for exceeding limits or paying late.  People who pay late, exceed their credit limit/debt ceiling, run with deficits or have excessive debt (high debt ratios), will pay more interest, as high as 24.99%.  It all can add up and eventually it will collapse on itself because it just isn’t sustainable. The interest compounding combined with the borrower’s limited, or low-income may force them to make “minimum payments” so the amount paid in fees will sometimes exceed the principle amount of the loan.  That means the balance of the card is going up despite minimum monthly payments because the monthly interest fee may be larger (or just slightly smaller), for these borrowers than the minimum payment.  Therefore they it will never be able to pay it off or it will take most of a lifetime or longer.  This amounts to a financial ball and chain. Such a person will pay thousands of dollars for a thousand dollar loan or credit charge.

 

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”

This sort of debt is a vicious cycle that often leads to financial collapse or credit “default”.  People in this situation often use a provision in the law we all know as bankruptcy.  The most serious form of personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7), allows them to legally be freed from any obligation for the debts and may even be able to keep some non-luxury items (necessities) if they are not extravagant.  The cost of these defaults are passed on to other consumers in the form of higher prices for products and services.  This means that consumers who effectively manage their finances with a balanced budget (surplus or break even), are absorbing the cost of those who default.  In fairness, not all default is due to irresponsibility.  For some it may be due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstance beyond their control, such as the death of a household income earner or extended job loss and unemployment.

I will reiterate that debt can be a good thing in moderation and when the interest rates are low.  Some financing is occasionally available without a fee, but this is not the norm.  I have found it useful for example, to only use my Home Depot revolving credit account to purchase high ticket items such as appliances when they offer “special financing” (0%interest) for periods of 6 months to 24 month depending on the purchase price.  I set it up with “auto-pay” (automatic payments), to pay my monthly payment on time and pay the balance off on time (e.g. 6 to 24 months), because if you miss payments or go beyond the 6-24 months, they charge interest retroactively. That means they back charge interest as if you had been charged interest all along!  Ouch!  Using credit in this way requires financial discipline.  It is a good example of the responsible deferral of expenses to even out a budget so I don’t run deficits or use up all my surplus one month on a single purchase.  Student loans for college are not as good but when they are U.S. government subsidized (guaranteed/insured), against default to protect the lender, so they can offer very low-interest rates (because the subsidization protects lenders from default or loss).  Subsidized student loans do not start compounding interest until after the borrower has left college for a period of six months and the interest is not retroactive.  This is a good deal because it defers the accrual of any interest until after the student has left college, hopefully with a degree and opportunity for employment to repay the loan.

That, my friends is personal finance a fundamental level.  Let’s review a list of the key terms:

  • Income
  • Expense
  • Balanced Budget
  • Budget Surplus
  • Budget Deficit
  • Debt & Compounded Interest & Retroactive Interest
  • Credit limit/Debt Ceiling
  • Deferral
  • Default & Bankruptcy

As I said at the outset, I have a point here so let me get right to it before I have you grabbing your torch and pitchfork for insulting your intelligence.  Here is the point:

 

What’s good for the goose –Is it good for the gander?

You and I (a goose), are bound by these economic principles of personal finance.  Let us apply this to the U.S. Government (the gander).  We all should recall the war in Washington D.C. over raising the “debt ceiling” (that term should sound familiar).  During that war of words and tumult of opinions, the terms debt and deficit were thrown around and seemed to be used interchangeably.  Since I have laid the groundwork for these terms above, we know debts and deficits are different.  Debt is a tool used to leverage or defer expenses to keep budgets in balance so they don’t run a deficit.  If a deficit runs too long it is likely to lead to default or bankruptcy.  Debt can be good, but deficits are never desirable.  We were told effectively, that the sky would fall if we didn’t raise the debt ceiling, and that is only partially true.

Big spenders from both parties.

Our federal government is responsible to approve an annual  budget and authorize expenses.  The process of pre-determining  expenses and allocating money is referred to as “appropriations”.  The federal government uses the personal income tax code/law as the primary means to raise money to fund expenses.  The federal government is also responsible to determine the expenses necessary (remember “necessities”?), to fund operations and programs such as national defense (e.g. military, NSA, homeland defense), regulatory enforcement, the IRS, salaries of federal employees, infrastructure support, social programs (e.g Social Security, Food Stamps, Planned Parenthood, Affordable Healthcare/Obama-care etc.).  Note: This is not a discussion about which programs are appropriate and at what levels they should be funded.   Both revenue collection (income), and appropriations (expense allocation) are part of the federal budget.  It may surprise some of us that the federal government is not mandated by law to have a balanced budget. This means they can repeatedly run a federal budget deficit without any legal consequence to themselves.  Sadly, this is what our federal government continually has done and it has consequences, but  they are consequences for you and me (probably more for you younger people).  Politicians and bureaucrats warn us that we need to fund all these important programs and warn us of dire consequences if we don’t fund or expand them.

One thing we ought to be aware of is a political term (or trick), that politicians use to throw us off.  They will often say they have “cut” spending.  In reality they are usually not really cutting spending.  It increased but they reduced the rate at which it increased.  They call that a cut.  Try not to laugh.  But we have been getting duped for decades by that trickery.  Let me illustrate with an example.  Let’s say a government program’s cost increases 10% annually.  Let’s say it was appropriated $100 million dollars in year one.  The next year it increased 10% or $10 million, to a budget of $110 million, then another 10% increase to $121 million the next year.  In year 4 they only increase the budget by 9% (UP to about $131.8 million) instead of 10% ($133.1 million), so they call it a budget cut.  The Presidents or Congress may call this a cut but we certainly don’t, because spending still went up from $121 million to $131.8 million.  This is especially so if our national income is not increasing at, or above the rate spending is increasing (such as our hypothetical 10% or even 9% example). We know an actual cut would be be going from $121 million down to $119 million.

 

Raise the debt ceiling debate:

You may recall when our “government shutdown” occurred, and the political parties were posturing and pointed the finger of blame at one another. In reality both parties were at fault.   Let me go out on a limb and say, that to a large extent, WE are at fault because we continue to let them have our national credit card and run deficits and sink us further into debt and raise the credit limit (debt ceiling).   You may have seen the national debt clock.  It is a real-time, live representation of our national debt and deficit levels.  Take a look here.  After you look at it in a separate window, leave it open and come back to it at the end of the article.

Try to make sense of these numbers. It is a bit confusing because we just don’t relate to money at such large quantities.  What if we shrunk the actual federal, debt, deficit, cuts, expenses, income etc. down to the proportional size of the average (median) household budget?  That I can relate to because the numbers mean something to me in that context so I can wrap my brain around it.  That is exactly what this very entertaining and funny, satirical video short, “Debt Limit – A Guide To American Federal Debt Made Easy” does (2012).  Many politicians were adamant that we raise the Debt Ceiling during the “crisis”.  That would be equivalent to the man in this video who is asking to have his credit limit extended or raised so he can borrow more money.  Remember his crisis?  Amazing, isn’t it!?  How did you like the little kid at the end signing the note?  Was that a representation of you, the younger generations?

Scene from “Debt Limit – A Guide To American Federal Debt Made Easy”

 

Conclusion – Buckle up boys & girls:

No doubt we are in a pickle.  We baby boomers have mortgaged our future and our children’s future.  We have funded pie in the sky programs that make us feel good or give us “free stuff”.  But is it free?  Our children will not think so when they get the bill (remember the child in the video you just watched).  But heck, we baby boomers may be dead and gone by then so spend on!  Well, you younger generations can decide if we can we afford to buy everyone healthcare, homes, food etc.?  Can we continue to fund wars that don’t have clear objectives that are satisfied?  Do you think our ongoing deficits are sustainable?  Is there bankruptcy court for our government?  If the U.S. does financially implode (default on its debt), what then?  There is always a cost!  NOTHING is ever free. Unlike you and me, who have limits and are forced by lenders to meet our obligations, the federal government is not being held accountable.  Politicians who want to be reelected don’t want to anger us voters so they kill us with the poison we ask for –more “free” stuff.  The cost may be hidden or “deferred”, but it is NEVER free.  Before you vote for representatives in government, think hard.  You now have some great questions to ask them so you and I can choose someone who will tell us that nothing is free and the note will  actually come due.  Or we can let you generation  Y or X and Millennials deal with it, or your kids if our fiscal tightrope will last that long.  You  younger people decide soon, because you will own it.  I may be dead and gone when it comes to a head. We are at a precipice.

The video short, U.S. Debt Crisis Explained puts it in a nutshell and the destination of our current path is crystal clear.

U.S. Debt Crisis Explained – 2014

 

One more video to get you thinking. 

United States Debt Limit Explained

The United States Debt Limit Explained, (Heritage Foundation)

 

 

 

 

 

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