Political Sentiments

I was out for a morning walk a few days ago and came across this yard sign:

It is on the road side of a beach front home that is for sale for $3.2 million on the New Jersey coast .

I wonder what this sign means. I looked up the text and only found tee shirts for sale.

I did find references to “check your privilege” which college age people apparently say to those who say things that indicate they are “privileged,” like being in college I presume.

So, what am I being asked to do here? How exactly do I “fight for those without my privilege?”

I know I am privileged because I live in a republic that protects personal freedom and asks for personal responsibility in exchange.

I know I am privileged because my parents loved me and worked hard to provide the best possible education and opportunities for their family.

How do I identify those who do not have “my privilege” so I can “fight” for them? Will they contact me and tell me what I can do for them? What does “fight” mean in a tangible sense?

Are the people who own the $3.2 million beach front house going to give the proceeds of the sale to a charity that is going to “fight for those without their privilege?” Will they then have lost “their privilege” and ask others to “fight” for them?

Is this anything more than a political sentiment designed to help communicate feelings of moral superiority?

Please educate me.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Charities of Freedom

William P. Barr’s speech at Notre Dame on October 11, 2019 begins a critical discussion.

People of faith, whether or not participants in an organized religion, need to be respected at all levels of government if we are to avoid a national tyranny where government determines and coerces what it believes to be acceptable moral beliefs and behavior. Stated another way, our freedom depends on government getting out of the business of telling us how to think and what to believe.

One approach to getting off the government morality train is to make all government social programs subject to specific taxpayer support. Two thirds of the Federal budget is spent supporting charity approved by party politics, not by the voters (food stamps, medicaid, Social Security and Medicare, and many other programs such as subsidized housing and loans). We can stop the government morality train by restructuring the scope of Federal government support for social programs as follows:

  • Establish a requirement that every taxpayer contribute 67% of their taxable income to 501(c)(3) charities in place of all current Federal social program funding.
  • Convert all Federal social programs to independent 501(c)(3) charities with independent Boards of Directors.
  • Each taxpayer specifies those 501(c)(3) charities they want their taxable income to support.
  • The IRS distributes the funds according to taxpayer designations.
  • Phase this in over 10 years by accumulating 6.7% of taxable income per year going to designated 501(c)(3) charities.

While many details need to be worked out, consequences of such an approach will contribute significantly to maintaining high quality charitable programs while restoring our personal freedom.

  • Each social program will be funded by individually designated contributions, ending political battles about program funding (abortion for example).
  • The Federal government will shrink while tax revenues remain constant presuming no changes in rates.
  • Annual changes in charitable funding will be tied directly to national income.
  • Each social program will have to prove its worth to the taxpayers in a competitive environment, improving both quality and efficiency.
  • Current overlapping social programs will naturally consolidate, improving both quality and efficiency.
  • Spending power will transfer from a national bureaucracy to the individual taxpayer.
  • Questions about the morality of particular beliefs and behaviors are resolved by individuals voting with their own money.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Politician vs. Public Servant

A politician is any person who enjoys exercising power for the purpose of imposing their values on those who disagree with them.

A pubic servant is any person who enjoys exercising power for the purpose of serving the interests of their constituents.

A politician wants to spend your money on priorities they value.

A public servant wants to spend your money on priorities that serve the larger interests of their constituents.

A politician uses the law to impose their priorities on you.

A public servant uses the law to protect your freedom to pursue your own priorities.

Feel free to expand this list by commenting.

Regards, Pete Weldon

A Helpful Cacophony of Claptrap

The phrase “cacophony of claptrap” means a loud harsh or strident noise constituting pretentious nonsense. This phrase captures the reality of 21st century “news.”

But why is this helpful?

News is first and foremost a business focused on attracting eyeballs for the purpose of selling advertising. Switch between various news Web sites and television programs and it becomes immediately apparent that the focus is on feeding a self selecting audience what they want to hear and see.

Web sites are an easy place to experience the inherent audience expectation and thus source bias. Review any subset of news Web sites over several weeks and distinguish each based on the issues they tell you are “news” and how long they beat on a particular issue.

Here are a few sites to review as examples:

The evidence is clear that the survival instinct (selling advertising to make payroll) too often dominates even a pretense of journalistic integrity.

The good news is that a broad spectrum of news sources keep beating their particular drum, providing the interested observer opportunity to study bias, seek alternative sources of information, and make up their own mind about the importance or relevance of any particular issue.

Should we tell the publishers, editors, and commentators at news operations that their pretentious nonsense is performing a public service by exposing their comparative bias, or did they figure out on the morning of November 9, 2016 what their readers and viewers already knew?

Parsing Ginsburg

The Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling is of great interest in highlighting the moral value systems underlying opposing views of the Justices. Five justices affirm a closely held company’s right to behave in a manor consistent with their controlling owners’ religious belief that life begins at conception and should be protected. Four justices affirm the government’s right to compel companies to pay for products for their employees whose purpose is to terminate the viability of an egg (viewed in the owners’ religious context as terminating a life) through use of material financial penalty (almost $475,000,000 per year in Hobby Lobby’s case).

Justice Ginsburg’s 24 page dissent begins on page 60 of the ruling. Her strident dissent reveals an ambition to sit on the Supreme Court for the purpose of supporting government policy preferences with which she concurs, superior to an ambition to defend the US Constitution, at least as far as religious liberty is concerned.

According to Justice Ginsburg; “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The most liberal reading of the majority opinion does not even come close to supporting the breadth presumed by Ms. Ginsburg. On what basis does a Supreme Court Justice indulge in such hyperbole other than to give entirely inappropriate political sway to her dissent?

Justice Ginsburg notes somewhat snidely; “Compelling governmental interests in uniform compliance with the law, and disadvantages that religion-based opt-outs impose on others, hold no sway, the Court decides, at least when there is a ‘less restrictive alternative.’ And such an alternative, the Court suggests, there always will be whenever, in lieu of tolling an enterprise claiming a religion-based exemption, the government, i.e., the general public, can pick up the tab.” But, the purpose of the entire ACA is to impose regulation that requires everyone to pick up the tab for everyone else. The very purpose is to socialize health care, a purpose which in other context within her dissent Ms. Ginsburg strongly concurs.

Justice Ginsberg notes with sweeping generalization; “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would override significant interests of the corporations’ employees and covered dependents. It would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage that the ACA would otherwise secure.” For perspective, nonexempt employers are generally required under HSS regulations to provide coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the 4 that may have the effect of preventing an egg from developing by preventing fertilization or inhibiting attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus. Hobby Lobby only sought and won the right not to pay for the 4 abortifacients included in the 20 approved contraceptive methods. The 4 abortifacients include “morning after pills” that cost between $35 to $60 USD (single dose per event), implants such as Implanton which cost between $450 to $550 USD and last up to three years, and various IUD’s which cost between $500 to $1,000 USD and are effective for 5 to 10 years. Ms. Ginsburg is blowing smoke. No employees are being denied anything. If an employer does not pay for these 4 products under the majority ruling, employees are free to acquire abortifacients at a reasonable cost and the government is free to provide direct financial support to such employees for such products through other means.

Justice Ginsburg further notes; “The ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement applies generally, it is “otherwise valid,” it trains on women’s well being, not on the exercise of religion, and any effect it has on such exercise is incidental.” But, the entire case is being heard because the owners of Hobby Lobby with sincerely held religious beliefs about the sanctity of life DO NOT BELIEVE THE COMPULSION IS INCIDENTAL. “Incidental” means of minor or casual or subordinate in significance or nature or occurring as a chance concomitant or consequence. That is, in Ms. Ginsburg’s mind, temporal regulation promulgated and enforced by Federal staff, that is, the religion of government, takes precedence over sincere religious practice accepted over thousands of years.

The writing is clear. Justice Ginsburg, and those justices concurring with her, believe it appropriate to compel owners of closely held businesses to comply with Federal regulations requiring behavior clearly in conflict with essential religious beliefs concerning the sanctity of human life. The majority, however, find that such circumstances allow for tolerance and freedom of religious expression. As Justice Kennedy notes; “In our constitutional tradition, freedom means that all persons have the right to believe or strive to believe in a divine creator and a divine law. For those who choose this course, free exercise is essential in preserving their own dignity and in striving for a self-definition shaped by their religious precepts. Free exercise in this sense implicates more than just freedom of belief. It means, too, the right to express those beliefs and to establish one’s religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community.”

The ruling of the majority is correct. However, it should be concerning to all Americans that four of nine Supreme Court Justices believe the compulsion of government regulations is more important than religious liberty in matters involving human life. What further extent of legal rationalization awaits us if one more justice chooses to prefer government regulation over religious liberty? What Constitutional protections await destruction in the name of government tyranny endorsed by a Supreme Court of the United States of America dominated by the likes of Justice Ginsburg?

Regards, Pete Weldon