Monday, March 8, 2010

To Thrive Or Not To Thrive

America (the United States) is at the cusp of a great decision. This generation will choose whether to decline…in every possible way…or thrive, continuing the general trajectory of the history of our republic. Will we step into the long night of diminution, or will we elect to continue as “the last, best hope for humanity”? “To live, or not to live?”, that is the question, and we cannot avoid taking that decision. The times have thrust it upon us, as have the mistakes of our predecessors and our own ignorance, ambivalence, and selfishness.

In the interests of full disclosure, allow me to state a few predicates to the ideas that follow. First, I am a radical. Not the bomb-throwing or wild-eyed crazy form of radical that most of us think of when we hear that term. I am a radical in the sense that I seek to go to the root (radis is Latin for “root”, the root of the word “radical”) of any problem.

Second, I am decidedly a hopeful person. I would say “optimist”, but that term is sometimes associated with people who are deluded in their thinking by reading reality too positively. I hope I am not delusional in any significant sense of that term. I like reality. I choose to deal with it on its own terms, and I try diligently to insist on it in my thinking.

I believe it is generally recognized by the vast majority of my fellow citizens that we cannot allow the Obama vision of America to become our future without also accepting that vision means we will be an America in decline. “Unsustainable” seems to be the watch-word of the hour, as it certainly should be.

Some, like President Obama himself, apparently look on a declining America as no bad thing. Perhaps they see it as our proper place in the panoply of nations and history. They are the heirs of Howard Zinn, the “historian” and hater who has so poisoned the view of American youth with his People’s History that many hold us the worst offender culture in both time and space. The view of American exceptionalism held by most of us (“that shining city on the hill’) is the opposite of Mr. Obama and his supporters.

If we accept the spending Mr. Obama prescribes in his budget, we are literally doomed to also accept a lower standard of living, the inevitable bequest of a grinding burden of debt to our children and grandchildren, and the certainty of becoming a nation incapable of charting our own future, or having any hope of defending our own way of life or extending it’s benefits to others.

If we accept the notion that our Federal government can, and should, deform our economy…our individual lives…in order to micromanage climate (while admitting that NOTHING would change under Cap and Trade), or to assure us that we will have some level of health care (a level that we all know cannot be the level we otherwise would enjoy) by forcing us to purchase health insurance of its own design, then we accept that there are no limits as to what our central government can do. That notion is completely different than the obvious (and sometimes hated) design of our founding…that central government was to be effectively limited as to its power.

If we accept the Obama formula for dealing with an existential threat to not only our nation, but western culture itself, we have to become complicit in a suicide pact that we are told is consistent with “our best values”. We are being told that we are at war, while also being told that the terrorist soldiers and commanders of our foes are to be treated to rights never before extended to even the uniformed forces of nations at war, the same rights American citizens accused of shop-lifting are afforded.

So I assert that we have, in this moment, the clearest choice any generation of Americans have ever been offered since Independence. Live or die. Fast or slow.

I propose we live, and live hard. Several fine minds have suggested new “Contracts For America”, and I now offer my own modest ideas.

1. Balanced budget—As has been noted by many wise people, balancing the Federal budget by taxing the vitality out of America is not a desirable goal. Rather, laws that would restrict Federal spending to some set percentage of GDP are what we need, and must demand. There can be exceptions for war and other extremities, but they have to be few, jealously guarded, and enforcement has to have real, viable teeth.

2. Federalism—The rights of individual states relative to the Federal government have to be reinstituted, allowing the states to be the prime movers in government action outside the very limited functions of central government under the Constitution. This would foster the flourishing of fifty laboratories of government that would provide demonstrable results that could be adopted, adapted, or abjured by other states.

3. National security—The United States must be a nation that can defend itself and maintain its own integrity. That is not…never has it been…a mutually exclusive mandate. We can fight any enemy (as we have fought in the past) both effectively and while being who we are as a nation of rights and laws. This includes the issue of maintaining our own borders and deciding who may enter here and on what terms.

Terrorists are not American citizens, nor are they even mere criminals. There is no essential reason they cannot be treated under a system of military justice, and kept off of American soil, consistent with our history.

It is time we gave our European and other friends “tough love” by exposing them to the reality of self-defense. We need to bring our troops not so much home, as into formations and deployments that foster our interests and force the rest of the world into reality.

4. Economics—On the Federal level especially, the rights of property and choice have to be re-established. There are few (some would assert very few or no) areas of regulation that need to be imposed by our central government, or have been demonstrated to actually do what they pretend. Generally, every scheme of regulation and every intrusion into market economics should be reviewed on a set schedule (i.e., sunsetted). If it is not demonstrably showing the intended results on a strict cost/benefit analysis, it must be scrapped. Again, real, effective teeth have to be included, allowing the courts to enforce what Congress may not.

Any Federal spending on price supports, fostering business, bail-outs, subsidies, or research that could be funded by the private sector should be abolished. Any ownership of, or activity in, business (including Amtrak) should be halted as quickly as possible. Strict laws should prohibit such activity in the future.

Bankruptcy should be the assured end of bad business practices by any American firm, regardless of their scale, or how politically connected they may be. This must be without exception.

5. Term limits and recall—No “public servant” in elective or judicial office should be allowed to hold a life-time sinecure. Let the periods of office a person may hold be set where the people decide to set them, but let them be set for all members of the House, Senate, and the Federal bench. On certain, specific conditions, voters of any state should be able to recall their Federal office-holders, and should be able to rid themselves of Federal judges.

6. Representative ratios—As now stands, our Congress is woefully too small to begin to be truly representative of our population. We need more people in Congress to assure that we have some meaningful access to Washington law-makers. A ratio of congress members to population needs to be instituted.

7. National integrity—The United States should be what it is, and what its people decide it should be. That does not include judges or justices taking smatterings or globs of foreign law and bastardizing our legal structure with it. That does not include presidents or others adopting treaties at odds with our own founding documents without first seeking and obtaining the mandate of the people.

The United States should shift its international relationship from the U.N. toward another body, yet to be formed, composed of nations with values like our own. In any body, it should be one member among all members, with no greater burden either in contributions to the body or in obligations made under any initiative the body undertakes. In no event should Americans be taxed to support any international fund or program, though they are always free to subscribe by contributions.

8. Tax policy—Federal tax policy should be to have a single rate for all taxes paid by individuals, whether that be some form of income tax or some form of consumption tax. No voting American should benefit by government to which they make no contribution. No voting American should pay for the government of other Americans.

Taxes should be for one…and only one…purpose: revenue generation. They should be immediately struck down if they have any other purpose or effect. Likewise, if they fall disproportionately on one class of citizen, they must be abolished.

Taxes on business should be abolished altogether, as they are inherently a fraud on the people and a drag on American competitiveness in the world economy.
These are a good start toward an American Renaissance that would bring new vitality, across the board, to our nation. Would any of them be without cost, without displacement and sacrifice? No, but nothing about life, in reality, can be. Death and decline are always the easy way. As my generation has heard many times from our cultural sirens, “Suicide is painless…”.

I choose reality and life, and the rigor of living and thriving. I hope and expect you will join me.

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