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Party, Principle or Pragmatism? What Drives the Tea Party?

Party, Principle or Pragmatism? What Drives the Tea Party?

With the inauguration of our new President just hours away, our nation is approaching new, unchartered water.  Of course, the same could be said of the era we were entering eight years ago. But just as there were troubling reasons why Obama was elected then, so there are gnawing explanations as to why Trump was elected in November.  

As George W. Bush was quick to sacrifice many of the values that historically characterized conservative orthodoxy, his popularity plummeted and contributed to the election of the most “progressive” President to ever lead our nation. And with the election of Barack Obama, the political polarization that gained steam during the Bush years skyrocketed under Obama.  

But as Republicans over the last eight years continued to say one thing and do another, particularly when they controlled both houses of Congress, voters grew more and more frustrated with the Party of Lincoln.  Consider that while there were 17 Republican candidates for President, ultimately the 16 “Party-faithful” candidates were rejected in favor of Trump, someone whose political credentials were questioned by many.  One could ask then whether the victory in November was that of a Party or a personality?  And will the coming Trump era see Party, Principle or Pragmatism prevail?

As someone who has consistently voted for Republican candidates, I have always favored principle over party.  So in 2009, as the tea party movement was launched, I took an active role, with millions of other Americans, in expressing my grievances with both parties. Since then, while certainly much of our movement’s protests were focused on Obama’s policies, a considerable amount of our ire was directed towards Republicans as well. The party of conservatism had, for the most part, lost its compass. 

But then Trump appeared.  

And everything changed…

The truth is there is little evidence that Trump is a conservative Republican, in the purest definition.  Not only does his multi-decade track record affirm this reality, but many of the policies he campaigned on are at odds with long-standing Republican positions and orthodoxy.  I won’t take the time to recite the myriad of examples but these articles here and here reference several of his most glaring departures. 

What we do know about Trump though, is that since his Presidential announcement in June 2015, the billionaire candidate attracted:  1) Republicans disgusted with the Republican Party, even though they had consistently supported the GOP, and
2) Democrats tired of the failed policies of the Democratic Party, for which they had voted for in prior elections.

So with Trump’s rise to the Presidency we witnessed a powerful new constituency, the Pragmatic voter. No longer was Party the driving factor for many. Nor was Principle the overriding variable for others. Rather, Pragmatism ruled the day. 

But with the election now over, and Trump stepping forward to lead, versus merely tweet, his words will soon morph into policies, laws and regulations. As this occurs, it will be telling to see if the millions of voters who supported Donald Trump will remain enamored, enthused and engaged.  

More specifically though, I am eager to see how tea party members will respond to our new President. As a movement that has for the most part been known for its allegiance to Principle and the Constitution, will its members continue to overlook Trump’s policies that might violate both?  Will the tea party devolve into simply a pragmatic political force?  Or will the movement that became the rallying cry and impetus for one of the greatest political victories in the modern era, embrace the spirit of the original Tea Party in 1773, standing on principle first and foremost?

On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”  Thomas Jefferson

The National Debt: How America’s Festering Cancer Will Affect You

The National Debt: How America’s Festering Cancer Will Affect You

the-national-debt

With the election of Donald Trump, roughly half of Americans are hopeful, while the other half are dejected, if not alarmed and angry.   While that may be a slight overgeneralization, we can probably all agree that the campaign leading up to the Presidential election was one of the nastiest in recent history, characterized by intense personal attacks, with little attention given to the many challenges our nation is facing.  One such challenge is our exploding national debt and its dire implications for you and me.

As someone who has been a fiscal conservative all of my adult life, I was sorely disappointed to see such little attention given to the financial welfare of our nation.  With our nation approaching $20 trillion in current debt, it should come as no surprise to anyone that a financial storm, like none we have seen, is likely in our future.  Yet, neither Trump nor Clinton spoke much of our debt.  When it was mentioned, it was simply noted in passing, with no plan by either candidate to halt, much less reverse, the current course we are on.

While it’s understandable that neither candidate was interested in tackling America’s festering cancer, what is alarming is the fact that many of the organizations who have typically decry our national debit, remained silent during the campaign.  As the founder of the Chattanooga Tea Party, our organization locally, along with the national tea party movement, has consistently focused on fiscal issues over the last seven years.  Likewise, the Republican Party has historically been the party of fiscal responsibility, if not in action, at least in words.  

Yet nationally, both the Tea Party and the Republican Party said very little about the silence of both Hillary and Trump concerning our fiscal nightmare.

With reference to our national debt though, the old adage, ignorance is bliss, does not apply.  In fact, choosing to ignore what is certain to cause calamitous events in the not too distant future, is akin to knowing one has cancer, yet discussion of the illness is avoided, hoping it will somehow go away.

So just how bad is our fiscal cancer?  

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, the following three charts illustrate the magnitude of our $19.5 trillion debt. To be certain the terms are understood, deficits are the annual differences between what our government takes in versus what it pays out, or spends.  The gross debt is the cumulative sum of those annual deficits.

 Chart #1: The Gross Public Debt from 1980 – 2016
chart-1-gross-public-debt-1980-2016-bar

Chart #2: The Federal Deficit from 1980 – 2016
chart-2-federal-deficit-1980-2016-bar

Chart #3:  Trillion Dollar Deficits Return by 2024
chart-3-cbo-crfb-projected-deficits

As the charts depict, for decades our nation has been spending well beyond its means.  In fact, during the last two Presidential administrations, the US incurred an approximate $15 trillion of new debt, with nearly two-thirds of that amount being added during the Obama era.  

According to an article at Visual Capitalist, our national debt is:

  • Larger than the 500 largest public companies in America.

  • Larger than all the assets managed by the world’s top seven money managers.

  • 25x larger that all the global oil exports in 2015.

  • 155x larger than all the gold mined globally in a year.

  • Larger than the sum of the world’s physical currency, gold, silver, and bitcoin combined.

But as troubling as this should be to any American, the future looks even worse according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, as presented by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  CRFB is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact. 

To quote CRFB, “under CBO’s current law baseline, annual deficits will return to trillion-dollar levels by 2024. Under a more pessimistic Alternative Fiscal Scenario in which policymakers fail to pay for new spending and extended tax cuts, trillion-dollar deficits return to 2021 and reach $1.5 trillion — a nominal-dollar record — by 2026.”

Despite the magnitude of our debt, there have been some who have suggested that our soaring debt is no big deal.  Rather, they have asserted that debt is good, particularly when interest rates are at historical lows.    

In contrast to that view though is that of Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in 2011 stated,

“the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt, so I also believe we have every responsibility to help eliminate that threat.  A nation with our current levels of unsustainable debt… cannot hope to sustain for very long its superiority from a military perspective, or its influence in world affairs.”

Every budget is finite, even one as large as our federal government’s, which is now approaching $4 trillion per year.  So as certain components of that budget increase, they either crowd out other line items or they demand greater borrowings to meet the shortfall caused by deficit spending.  

Our nation has enjoyed historically low interest rates for a number of years.  But when those interest rates invariably rise, so will interest costs.  In fact, the CBO projects that those rising interest rates over the next ten years will increase the federal interest costs from $223 billion in 2015 to $839 billion in 2026.  This will lead to fewer dollars available for other essential government programs, including the military, Medicare, Social Security, infrastructure and more.  

Chart 4: Projected net interest expense, in billions of dollars & as a % of total outlays 
projected-net-interest-expense-in-billions-of-dollars-and-as-a-percentage-of-total-federal-outlays-2015-2026

So just how does a government that has an insatiable appetite for spending, and has shown no restraint to borrowing funds, affect ordinary citizens like you and me?  Here are just a few of the ways:

  1. Economic growth is threatened as national debt increases.

  2. Wages are depressed and the availability of jobs is minimized.

  3. The stability of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid is jeopardized.

  4. Personal costs of living increase as interest rates on individual credit ratchet up.

  5. Burden for repayment of nation’s overspending today will be heaped on our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

  6. As debt increases and spending accelerates, likelihood of another financial crisis increases, endangering personal wages, jobs, and investments.

As I mentioned at the outset, half of Americans are hopeful and even optimistic about what a Trump Presidency portends for the days ahead.  But with great opportunity comes great responsibility.  So as Republicans maintain control of both houses and gain the White House in January, how will they behave?  Will they move the country forward in a manner that acknowledges the threat of our growing debt?  Will Republicans guide our government and nation back in the direction of fiscal solvency?  Or will their new found status in Washington reveal what they have done for too long now, campaign on grandiose promises that fall short on delivery?

Time will tell.  But one thing is for certain, the longer our fiscal cancer is ignored, the more likely the ultimate diagnosis will be one from which we may never recover.  If you care to weigh-in on this matter, be sure to let your Congressman and Senator know that you expect them to support plans that will move away from deficit spending and toward a balance budget.  While it cannot be done overnight, the road back to fiscal responsibility must begin in 2017 under a Trump administration.

Addendum:  While this article focused on the current portion of our national debt, there is a much larger amount that receives very little attention, referred to as the nation’s “unfunded liabilities.”  These amounts total in excess of $100 trillion and represent the sum of the various obligations that will come due over the next several decades, predominantly made up of Medicare and Social Security, as the demographics of our nation continue to age out and draw more heavily on these programs.  To find out more about this avalanche of debt, google “unfunded liabilities.”

Mark

White-Out: Obama’s Response to Islamic Terrorism

White-Out: Obama’s Response to Islamic Terrorism

White-Out

This week, in the wake of the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history, President Obama’s Department of Justice, via US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, released an excerpt of the transcript between Omar Mateen, the Islamic terrorist, and a 911 operator.  However, the excerpt provided was scrubbed to exclude references to “ISIS” and ISIS leader “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” It was as if Obama and Lynch chose to use White-Out to cover up after another Islamic terrorist attack.

Thankfully, following an overwhelming outcry from American citizens, Attorney General Lynch reversed course in less than 24 hours and released the full transcript of the 911 calls.  It’s extremely troubling though, to say the least, that anyone in our government would think that omitting such relevant info is appropriate.

This is how the scrubbed transcript was initially released:

Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD): Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

Shooter (OM): In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What’s your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].

OD: Ok, What’s your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]

Imagine for just a moment, how this kind of approach might have read on December 8, 1941 when President Franklin Roosevelt responded to the deliberate attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor:

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of [omitted].  I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by [omitted] on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the [omitted] empire.”

Looking back in history now, we would see such a response from the POTUS as not only ludicrous and naive but more importantly, mortally dangerous.  Thankfully, President Roosevelt understood the existential threat posed by Japan and he not only named them as the enemy, but he responded with these words:  “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.  There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.”

Fast forward seventy-five years though, and we see an administration that is either so stooped in political correctness that it cannot bring itself to allow the words of the actual terrorist to be disclosed, or worse, it naively believes that there really is no threat posed by ISIS and its Islamic soldiers, who walk among us.  Based on the actions and words of Obama and his administration over the last seven years, there is no question that the President seeks to provide cover for Islam.

As noted, because of political pressure, Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynn acquiesced.  But her initial willingness to “white-out” the facts that are perhaps the most relevant to explaining the motive behind the worst mass shooting in our history, is extremely telling.  And it’s not unprecedented for the Obama administration.  There have been other instances when words were changed to deemphasize the role Islamic terrorism has played in other attacks.

If you’ve ever used the product White Out to cover up a word, you know that while the product’s white smudge hides the mistake, the original word is still underneath.  Likewise, while Obama and his underlings may attempt to white-out Islamic terrorism, the grave threat this 1400 year old ideology poses remains.  And as Obama continues to employ this white-out strategy, American lives will continue to hang in the balance, just as they did in Los Angeles, Little Rock, Ft. Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando, and more.

The question we must ask ourselves is what role has Obama’s failed and dangerous strategy played in the loss of American lives?  And how many more lives will we continue to lose between now and January 20, 2017, Obama’s last day in office?  No one knows.  But one thing is for certain, there is no chance that Obama will reverse course at this point. 

But there are at least three steps you and I can take to counter Obama’s dangerous white-out policy:

  1. Individually we must remain vigilant.  All muslims are not terrorists and they do not all pose a threat.  But nearly all terrorists over the last couple decades have come from the Islamic faith, interpreting its doctrine and teachings in keeping with their founder, Muhammed.  So be aware of this truth.  If you see something or someone that appears suspicious, inform your local law enforcement.

  2. Inform your friends, family and neighbors of the the reality of the threat of Islamic terrorism.  Forward this article to others.  Make sure they are provided with news from sources other than ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and even FoxNews.  There are many unfiltered and non-politically correct sites that can provide you and others with the true nature and scope of the threat posed by Islamic terrorism.  Three which I consider very credible are Center for Security Policy, Political Islam, and Act for America.  

  3. We must encourage our political leaders and law enforcement to step up and fill-in the gap that Obama has created.  You’ve heard the old saying that “all politics is local.”  This same concept applies to law enforcement.  Your local sheriff is likely the most important individual who will either acknowledge the threat of Islamic terrorism or he will embrace the Obama “white-out” strategy.  Thankfully, my local Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has taken a strong stand against Islamic terrorism, following the Islamic attack in 2015 in Chattanooga that killed five servicemen.  And while his stand has brought great criticism by the naive apologists for Islam, Sheriff Hammond has remained steadfast in his understanding of the threat, and because of this, our community is safer as a result.

I close with the thoughts of two of our founders and the responsibility we all bear, for both our individual safety and our nation’s liberty.

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.”  Thomas Jefferson

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Thomas Paine

Mark

Her Today, Him Tomorrow: The Transgender Lie

Her Today, Him Tomorrow: The Transgender Lie

Her Today, Him Tomorrow

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”   John Adams

One would have to be asleep at the wheel these days to not recognize the all out assault on some of the most basic truths of life. One truth under such attack is that the two distinct sexes, male and female, are determined solely at conception.  Whether you arrive at this conclusion biologically, theologically, or both, this truth has been known and understood from the beginning of time.  But if you’re ever unsure, you need only undress in front of a mirror for self-validation. The evidence is indisputable.

The Lie

Transgenderism falsely challenges this truth.

Today we have reached a new era, or more accurately, we have fallen to a new low.  This low is one that rejects facts, both scientific and observable, preferring to embrace feelings, even when they contradict undeniable truths.  The transgender lie affirms that a “her” today may become a “him” tomorrow, or vice versa, simply by feeling such.  So a Bruce from birth can wake up one morning and assert he is now a she, change his name to Caitlyn, and begin a new life based on a lie.  And the cultural-elite affirm the lie, deny the truth, and disparage the truth-affirming “bigots.”

When we were growing up and we feared a boogie man under our bed, our parents would teach us to confront our fear because it was untrue.  There was no boogie man. It was merely a false feeling.  So obviously, a parent would reveal the fear for what it was — a lie and encourage the child to embrace the truth and reject the lie.  Doing anything else as a parent would not only be irresponsible, it would be hurtful to the child, and reveal the negligence of the parent.

Today though, we have men and women and even boys and girls who fear or reject what they were created to be from the moment of conception, either male or female.  But rejecting that truth, and feeling something other than the truth, does not change reality.  But what is most tragic isn’t the person who is struggling with whether to reject facts and embrace feelings.  The most tragic reality, that is even dangerous, is a society, culture, and politicians who wrongly affirm a person’s feelings, when those feelings are diametrically opposed to facts.  

Rather than affirming a lie, we should expose the lie.  And lovingly help that person whose mental processes have been short circuited from reality.

The Political Battle

On the political front though, our nation is facing a crossroads moment.  Will we cower as a tyrant continues to assert his fundamental transformation of our nation, or will we reject his latest edicts and refuse to comply with the lies he perpetrates as he leads our nation further and further into the abyss of moral confusion and depravity? 

The unconstitutional edict President Obama announced, via his Department of Education and Department of Justice, is that all public schools, “as a condition of receiving Federal funds” must now make decisions about their students based on their “gender identity” versus their biological sex.  So a male who now “feels” he is a female, will be entitled to enter and use the female restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and housing and overnight accommodations.  No longer will objective truth as affirmed on one’s birth certificate prevail.  Rather, subjective feelings that deny the truth will rule the day.  And while our nation will have furthered a lie of a very small minority of mentally troubled individuals, it will trample on the safety, privacy and dignity of millions of young students.

As mentioned, our nation is at a crossroad moment resulting from Obama’s dictator-type edict.  The crossroad we face is what will our response be to Obama’s latest “fundamental transformation?”  Will we stand up to our own 2016 version of “King George” and declare our independence from the tyranny of lies, thuggery and intimidation?  

This is one moment when “We the People” must rise up and beat back the tyranny of men.  But it will require our state Governors and legislators to assert a backbone that all too frequent is missing.  

We have seen a number of governors step up and announce they will categorically reject Obama’s edict.  But there are others, like my own Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who have issued weak, timid statements, as they have done on nearly every other constitutional assault by Obama.  If there is ever an issue where people across the entire political spectrum are in agreement, it is this.  No responsible Mom or Dad would accept the notion that their 13 year old daughter could be changing clothes or showering next to a boy who simply asserts he “feels” like he is a girl.  Rather, they are concerned about the safety, dignity, privacy, and decency of their child.  And while our nation has fallen a long way, I still believe those values are important to 99% of parents across this land.

So will our elected officials step forward and challenge Washington’s tyrant with their own line in the sand?  Feckless politicians will not.  And we have too many of them.  But principled leaders will, regardless of the threats from a tyrant, the screams of the political activists, or the maligning of a leftist media.  Because principle will stand in the face of the storm, understanding that if our Republic is to stand, human passions must be bridled by “morality and religion” and absent that, our constitution is “wholly inadequate” to govern such a people.

Trump Wins, Cruz Withdraws, America Loses

Trump Wins, Cruz Withdraws, America Loses

Trump Wins, Cruz Withdraws, America Loses

Trump Wins Indiana.  Cruz Withdraws.  And America Loses. 

While the nation’s Trumpsters celebrated Tuesday night, I’m reminded of another celebratory night in November 2008 and again in November 2012.  The cause for jubilation those two nights was another politician’s victory — the occasion of Barack Obama’s two elections to POTUS.   

But every win is not progress.  And every victory is not a cause for celebration.  

We have only to consider the years since Obama’s election in 2008 to understand that sometimes winning is losing.  And some victories can be defeats.  

Trump’s pending coronation as the Republican nominee for POTUS, is one such loss and one such defeat.  

It is a loss for the conservative cause as defined by Ronald Reagan’s three legged stool. 

It is a defeat for social conservatism.

It is a loss for fiscal conservatism.

It is a defeat for a strong national defense.

And as such, America loses with Trump’s win on Tuesday.

As we’ve all learned in life, sometimes good guys do finish last, at least in the short term.  And this week, Senator Ted Cruz was one such good guy.  For those of us who have honestly examined Ted’s character, we have found a man of great integrity, with an unquestionable track record of fighting evil, defending good and standing for truth.  Yet he lost. 

But did Ted really lose? If you measure one’s life simply based on popularity, votes and the affirmation of man, then I suppose so.   

But I know Ted, both from spending time with him and Heidi, as well as examining his record.  And by doing so I know that Ted has kept the faith, he has fought the good fight, and at this point, while he may have lost a battle, I have full confidence that he has not lost the war. 

So I am not discouraged.

You see, I’m a firm believer in the truth we find in Ephesians that informs us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Because of this we are reminded to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

So the real battle is not with the Republican Party, or Donald Trump, or even Donald Trump’s supporters (although they can certainly test our patience at times).  No, the real battle is a spiritual one, in which we are all engaged, whether we recognize it or not.  And sadly, that battle is being lost in our nation as a growing number of our neighbors, friends and citizens reject good men and women, choosing rather to embrace evil, corruption and depravity, on a larger and grander scale.  And as they do so, they call evil good and good evil.

Case in point: the embracing of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and so much more.

But while the values many of us hold dear and which were foundational to the forming of our nation are being lost, we can still win individually.  You see, real winning is not measured by a poll or in a voting booth or even having the last word in a heated Facebook discussion.  Rather, real winning according to God, is obedience to Him and His commands.  And a follower of Christ is not called to win politically (although we must certainly engage politically).  Rather we are called to reflect our love for God by simply obeying Him as Jesus instructed us to do when He said: “If you love me, keep my commandments.

So as Americans continue to reject God’s values on a greater scale, and our nation loses more and more, you and I can win by simply obeying.  But honestly, obedience to God is a lot more difficult than simply voting for POTUS every four years.  

But I would suggest that is where the real battle is, not in the political arena, but rather in our personal lives.  And if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably already know this.  The battles that are the toughest are not those I wage with a political opponent.  No, the toughest battles that you and I will ever face are those within our heart, mind and will.  And perhaps that’s why America is losing.  Because too many of us have lost too many battles in our own lives.  We’ve first failed to obey God individually.  And as this behavior becomes the norm, our nation loses.

Thankfully though, the answer is simple as we are instructed in 2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

And when we do that we can expect to hear those winning words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.

 

Mark