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The Party of “Lower Taxes” Raised Taxes in Tennessee

The Party of “Lower Taxes” Raised Taxes in Tennessee

Tennessee Republicans, from the party that boasts it is for lower taxes, just raised taxes in the Volunteer state as they wound down this year’s legislative session.  The party which enjoys a dominant super majority, controlling the House, Senate and Governorship, raised the Gas Tax on every Tennessean.  Note that even if you don’t drive, the gas tax will apply to you since prices on anything delivered by trucks will most definitely increase.  And those increased transportation costs will be passed on to you, the consumer.  It’s as if legislators just pick-pocketed Tennessee taxpayers.

But here’s what’s even more astonishing about the haste by legislators to raise the gas tax.  Tennessee enjoyed a $2 Billion surplus this last budget year.  And this coming year, the state of Tennessee projects another $1 billion surplus, as well as in subsequent years.  

Because a government’s primary source of receipts is through taxes and fees, a surplus suggests that citizens are being overtaxed.  But rather than reduce the state’s tax rate, Governor Haslam and dozens of other Republicans chose to keep taxes at their current levels, thus continuing the state’s surplus.  So not only were Republicans content with overtaxing Tennesseans, but they compounded the matter by increasing the Gas Tax as well.

I have held cordial and pleasant relationships with most of my local area Republican representatives.  But being friends on a political or even social level, does not mean that one should turn a blind eye, or censor one’s comments.  The fact is that when those professing to be fiscal conservatives while campaigning, violate fiscal conservatism when elected, it’s incumbent in our form of government to call these individuals to account.  The full list of legislators who voted for and against the Gas Tax is here.

Sadly, every single legislator in Hamilton & Bradley County, TN voted FOR the Gas Tax.  And out of the list below, only one is a Democrat:

Representatives:
Gerald McCormick-R, 26
Patsy Hazlewood-R, 27
JoAnne Favors-D, 28
Mike Carter-R, 29
Marc Gravitt-R, 30
Dan Howell-R, 22
Kevin Brooks-R, 24

Senators:
Mike Bell-R, 9
Todd Gardenhire-R, 10
Bo Watson-R, 11

I acknowledge that many of Tennessee’s roads and bridges are in need of repair.  And to be clear, those of us who opposed the gas tax are NOT against increasing the amount that our state allocates towards our road budget.  Rather, our opposition has always been that the default answer by most Republicans was to raise taxes when there are multi-billion dollar surpluses that are available to fund every penny of the Governor’s proposed road budget increase.

What is inexplicable about the whole gas tax matter though, is that every initiative that was proposed that sought to avoid tax increases in favor of using surpluses to fund road repairs was met with intense opposition by the governor and Republican legislators.  It was clear they would not take NO for an answer to their gas tax increase.  And why they were stuck on a gas tax increase is something we may never know.

During the course of the debate over the gas tax increase, many pro-tax Tennessee Republicans were quick to embrace the following  quote from Ronald Reagan:

“The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”

But here’s the problem with “tax & spend” legislators using this quote.  In every relationship there are negotiables and non-negotiables.  Consider the most fundamental relationship: marriage.

If a husband picks up his clothes 80% of the time, but fails to do so every so often, he is not a traitor, deserving of a firing squad.  Rather, he just needs some grace from his wife, and she will likely agree he is “a friend and an ally.”

But if that same husband is faithful to his wife 80% of the time and carouses around “just” 20% of the time, he is a 100% traitor to his wife and vows, and he shouldn’t be surprised when an attorney delivers the divorce papers.

Obviously, all matters are not equal.  So when a Republican legislator professes that he/she is a fiscal conservative, then a non-negotiable should be the matter of raising taxes when there are better alternatives.  Utilizing a multi-billion dollar surplus would seem to be a better alternative than raising taxes.

So don’t buy this distortion of Reagan’s quote.  The very legislators who rush to Reagan for cover are the same ones who are unfaithful to the values that Reagan espoused and lived, at least in the area of raising taxes in 2017 in Tennessee.

So I wonder what’s next from these legislators?  Your guess is as good as mine, but betting on the fact that they’ll stand firm against tax increases is no longer a given.

Assembly Lines, Government Schools & the Loss of Our Republic

Assembly Lines, Government Schools & the Loss of Our Republic

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart” is a verse from Proverbs that is often repeated in Christian circles.

The fact is, most of my life I have subscribed to the hope this verse offers in raising one’s children.  Of course, I have considered the truth of this verse from the vantage point of the values that I believe to be true and worthy of living. But it dawned on me recently, as I was meditating on this passage, that this truth applies equally to those who do not share a conservative ideology or values.

So a child, trained up in values that are the antithesis of conservative, Judeo-Christian values, which I will refer to as liberal progressive values, will also generally not depart from those values when he or she moves into adulthood.

Assembly Lines

In a factory, assembly lines are used to create a product.  At the start of the assembly line, what commences as a heap of parts with little recognizable form, begins to take shape the further they travel down the conveyor belt.  Along the way, various assemblers interact with the parts as they pass through their stations. Each encounter leaves an indelible mark on the product being formed.  Ultimately, when the parts reaches the end of the assembly line, the predetermined process yields the desired result and the finished product has the marks of its assemblers, as programmed by the designer, embedded into its “DNA.” 

Progressives understand the concept of an assembly line and they’ve mastered it to perfection, beginning many decades ago, as it relates to the education system in America.

Our government-run educational institutions in America, more aptly referred to as “government schools,” is one of the greatest outward manifestations in our nation of the truth of the verse, “train up a child…”  For years now, a liberal progressive mindset that opposes traditional Judeo-Christian ethics, has dominated not only K-12 but also higher education as well.  The most obvious instance of the demarcation of this anti-biblical philosophy came when both the Bible and prayer were removed from our public schools in the early 1960’s.  

According to a study by David Barton entitled America: To Pray or Not to Pray, the removal of an absolute moral standard by which our children were educated for the first 150+ years of our nation, has led to a deterioration in a host of categories including the number of single parent households, divorce rates, violent crime, SAT scores, premarital sex, pregnancies for unwed girls, STD’s, and more.  

The statistics are a damning indictment of the liberal progressive philosophy that has permeated our educational system.  And the extensive degeneration of our culture, morals, family, respect for one another, and more, is largely attributable to the relativistic, amoral philosophy that has been ingrained into the minds and hearts of multiple generations.  As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out” and there is no doubt that the liberal progressive philosophy that removes God from the equation, can only be described as garbage, or better yet, poison.

The Loss of our Republic

Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of a proper education in the maintaining of our Republic and Liberty itself.  But their views were at odds with not only an errant 1960’s Supreme Court that banned prayer and Bible reading in government schools, but also with liberal progressives who have been intent on undermining the foundational values upon which our nation was built.  Our Founding Fathers spoke extensively about the impact religion and morals have on the individual and the ultimate survival of our Republic, but here are just three examples:

“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion.  Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.  Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”  Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration of Independence)

“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 (signer of Declaration of Independence and 2nd President)

“The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government, and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”  Noah Webster (author of first Dictionary and American Speller, a book that taught children on subjects of morality and American government)

Celebrating Donald Trump

While half of America is hopeful and celebrating the election of Donald Trump, the other half is hopeless, frustrated, angry and in some instances even revolting against Trump’s Presidency.  But regardless of your view of Trump, there is a larger truth hanging in the balance.  Unless there is a change in the philosophy driving the conveyor belt that continues to churn out a secular humanist product, year after year, from our government schools, our Republic faces little hope.  Remember, the liberal progressive ideology is controlling the young fertile minds of our future voters for a minimum of twelve years.  And as our verse reminds us, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart.”

Control the children, control the future.  So unless those controlling the assembly line and the ideology training our children are changed, there is little hope for our Republic and Liberty itself.

Refugee Resettlement: Here’s What No One is Saying

Refugee Resettlement: Here’s What No One is Saying

This week, with the talk of many in our nation focusing on Trump’s latest Executive Order, which temporarily halts refugee resettlement, liberals and their funded activists are up in arms and taking to the streets.  Even some Republicans are raising concerns over both the content of the EO’s and the way in which they were implemented.

However, lost in all the turmoil is one aspect of our nation’s refugee program that is seldom discussed but should be of great concern to anyone who has ever worked through a budget, whether in your family or business.  Here’s one thing we can all agree on.  If your budget doesn’t have a surplus or at least balance, then you look closely at the line items of your spending, with an eye towards either reducing your expenses and/or increasing your revenue.  

So I thought it might be helpful to understand the fiscal impact of our refugee resettlement program on our nation’s budget.  As we look at that cost, we should remember the points made in my previous article about The National Debt.  Specifically, our nation’s spending is creating over a half-trillion dollar deficit every year.  Additionally, in another of my articles, $10 Trillion New Debt, we are projected to average nearly a trillion dollars in deficits every year over the next decade.  

Given these alarming multi-trillion dollar deficits, it’s safe to say that America has no excess funds to allocate.  PERIOD.  This fact should be weighing heavy on the minds of our political leaders.  But the truth is that you never, ever, hear them speaking of the fiscal impact of the 85,000 refugees that were brought into our country last year; or the 50,000 that Trump’s policies would continue to bring in annually.  

The Fiscal Impact

There are several reports that I’ve studied about the cost of the refugee program. But the report from Center for Immigration Studies is in my view the most complete, and the excerpted facts below reveal the disturbing fiscal impact of our nation’s refugee program:

America’s Generosity

America has a long tradition of caring about those beyond our own shores.  Whether it’s sacrificing our own young men and women to bring freedoms to some distant land, or offering aid and relief to those less fortunate than us in remote areas of the world, our actions reveal our heart.  And ours is a generous one.

But there is a fundamental principle of charity or generosity, and it is that one can only give from what one has.  In order to give, one must possess.  And to possess, one must be fiscally wise, if not conservative.  For too long America has not only been fiscally liberal, but worse, we have been irresponsible and foolish.  We have feigned generosity to those less fortunate, both here and abroad.  But that “generosity” has come at the expense of enslaving our children, grandchildren and future generations with an indebtedness beyond a level ever known to any prior society throughout history.

Consider for just a moment the example of a family of great wealth.  The resources the parents own and manage are significant.  But despite their assets and current income, their outflow far exceeds their inflow.  But to subsidize their obsessive spending, they begin to mortgage their assets, rather than scrutinizing their spending.  This continues over the course of many years.  Soon, the amount of indebtedness surpasses their own income, future income and even the value of their assets themselves.  What was once presented as a tremendous opportunity to pass on a legacy of wealth and good to their children has become a matter of horror and great indebtedness.  And why?  Because the leaders of this family were unwilling to face the reality that their spending spree over the course of many years completely depleted their resources and enslaved those they loved the most.

America is like the family above.  And those “parents” are our political leaders as well as those of us who continue to give those same leaders the reins of our nation, election cycle after election cycle.  On this one issue, refugee resettlement, what is meant for good by many, is in fact contributing to a reckless cycle, year after year, of mounting more and more debt, to the point that someday it will all come crumbling down.  And those refugees that we intended to help will be enslaved along with our own children, to an indebtedness that will burden their lives in such a drastic and oppressive manner.  

Were Americans of all political persuasion thinking through this matter logically and without their political biases, these numbers would cause our populace to take to the streets to demand our political leaders put our fiscal house back in order.  But I don’t expect such sanity to prevail, given the highly fractured and partisan age we live in along with the apathetic attitude of citizens.

But at least now YOU know that there is another aspect to the refugee crisis that no one is mentioning.  And it’s greater than the humanitarian aspect, or at least it should be, given our own fiscal crisis that few are willing to confront.  

The only question now is will you care?  Will you demand of your elected officials that they rein in our spending, both in the refugee resettlement program and across all areas of our government?  And will you share these facts with others?

The Utter Selfishness of Radical Feminists

The Utter Selfishness of Radical Feminists

This last weekend, as tens of thousands of radical feminists marched in cities around the nation, their vulgar and “nasty” remarks received prime coverage by a media eager to feature their heinous and godless tirades. Their despicable comments were beamed to homes and mobile devices everywhere.

The profane shouts and signs of these self-oppressed radicals, declared their bodies were their own, and that government should keep its hands and policies off of their sacred reproductive organs.  With clenched fists to the sky, these women affirmed to the world, and even to God Himself, that their bodies were sacrosanct, and that NO ONE, could, should, or would diminish their “women’s rights!”

But what struck me was the utter selfishness of these radical feminists.  It was on full display for anyone honest enough to acknowledge their despicable self-absorption. As a godless media deified them, these radicals felt no shame in their self-exaltation. 

Lost in all the rancor, protests, profanity and threats though, were the feminists’ lies. Also missing was one glaring truth.

The radical feminist’s message could not be more aptly illustrated than with these tragic feminists’ attitudes (where “My” is the feminist and “her” is the innocent child in the womb):

    “My body supersedes her life…”

            “My career displaces her future…”

                    “My freedom destroys her existence…”

This selfish, morally debased, and evil philosophy is what permeates the radical feminist movement.  These feminists’ rabid torrents of anger are the antithesis of what God designed and ordained in the beginning.

Sadly, the vile beliefs of these rabid feminists assault the tender sweetness of those that are disparaged in the debate.  The innocence of these children emanate from:  

The smoothness of her soft, untainted features and delicate skin.
The sweet sounds of his new lungs as he inhales the breath of life for the first time.
The tenderness of her astonished cries as she leaves the warmth and security of her mother’s womb.
The fragility of that little child, who only desires the love and care of the one who chose to conceive him.
The very image of God, implanted in her DNA.

But tragically, the little ones whom Jesus blessed as “the least of these” are the very ones that tens of thousands of angry, abusive, blustering feminists will continue to condemn to a trash bag, incinerator or some Frankenstein-type “health-care experiment.”

What has been merely a “choice” to millions over the last 34 years since Roe vs Wade, has been a tragic death sentence for more than 55 million innocent children.  It is a scourge of a nation that has turned its back on what God loves.

As Jesus hung on the cross, presenting His innocent life as a sacrifice for all, His death was the ultimate example of selflessness. He gave His perfect, sinless life in death, in order to offer life to all of sinful mankind.  

Tragically though, the polar opposite of that selfless sacrifice by Jesus, is the abhorrent selfishness that is exemplified by radical feminists. In the name of choice, they will continue to demand “reproductive rights” and “equality”— their unacknowledged code words for snuffing out the lives of those they deem unworthy of life.  

Over the course of one week, the despicable acts and philosophy of the pro-death feminists will be juxtaposed with the peaceful and loving throngs of pro-life supporters, who will march this Friday, seeking merely to bring an end to the murderous act that was legalized by Roe v Wade in 1973.  There could be no greater contrast in the messages of these two groups than the feminists versus those who are pro-life. 

And there is no greater disparity between life and death, as God reminds all of mankind:

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

May our nation, and our people come to our senses and move diligently to protect the most innocent and fragile, and in so doing, may we find the mercy and grace that only a sovereign and forgiving God can extend.  

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

Is $10 Trillion in New Debt Coming as Republicans Take Control?

Is $10 Trillion in New Debt Coming as Republicans Take Control?

As Donald Trump readies to take the oath of office next week, he will not only assume charge of the most powerful nation in the world, but he will also oversee the world’s largest economy.  And Trump will be aided in his oversight of our economy by a Congress controlled by a Republican Senate and Republican House. 

It’s been ten years since our nation was led by a Republican-controlled trifecta (Presidency, Senate & House). The last time this occurred George W. Bush was President.  When the “conservative” Bush left office in 2009, with Republicans having controlled the Senate and House for half of Bush’s eight years in office, our 43rd President had doubled the national debt to just over $10 trillion with his deficit spending policies. 

Eight years later though, as Barack Obama is leaving office, our published national debt is on the verge of surpassing $20 trillion. (I say “published” debt since our unfunded liabilities exceed $100 trillion, a topic that I discussed in my previous article, American: The Point of No Return?)  If ever there was a financial house that is spinning out of control, it is ours.  

Many in America are hopeful with our new President about to take office.  Trump’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is attitude attracted tens of millions of voters to support him.  His willingness to say what many were thinking no doubt won him the election.  Further, Trump’s 50 year track record in business convinced many voters that he was the man to turn around our economy and create a thriving, fiscally sound America.

Donald Trump: The $10 Trillion Man?

But this last week, Senator Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to rail against his own Republican colleagues as seen in this powerful video.  According to Paul, under the plan to repeal Obamacare, Republicans will likely be voting in favor of a budget that would increase the nation’s debt by another $10 trillion over the next ten years, matching Obama’s own dismal performance.  This slide from Paul’s presentation illustrates the point the Senator was making.  

Senator Paul began his speech with the famous lines, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  And he could not be more accurate.  For all the talk of “draining the swamp” in Washington, what may stay the same, based on Republican’s track record, is the unwillingness of Republican politicians to stem the growth of our dangerous national debt.  (To be fair, some are suggesting that this “shell” budget will be replaced with a second one in the not too distant future, which will bring spending down and ultimately balance our nation’s budget.  But that remains to be seen and should be viewed with extreme skepticism.)

Republicans were fond of lobbing threats of government shutdowns, making incessant demands for balanced budgets and excoriating Obama and Democrats for their own deficit spending during the Obama era.  And rightly so.  But now that they are in the drivers seat, is it actually possible that Republicans will do no better?  Will they maintain the fiscally ruinous course upon which our nation is set?

Where are the Tea Party & Fiscal Conservatives?

Eerily silent as the Republicans take control of Washington, are the groups that heretofore have been the voices of fiscal reason, and have historically led the way in demanding that our elected officials spend no more than they collect in revenues.  And their silence is deafening.  

The tea party movement, of which I have been an active part since its founding in 2009, all but abandoned its defense of fiscal soundness, during the general campaign in 2016.  Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s preeminent coalition of tea party members and groups, and many other conservative watchdogs, said nothing about Trump’s calamitous economic plan.  This despite the fact the new President’s plan could add up to $20 trillion to our nation’s debt, according to a recent study by Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  Their report revealed that our nation’s federal debt would soar to $39.5 Trillion by 2026, double the current debt.  

But now the day has arrived and Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been handed Washington to them on a silver plater by frustrated and angry voters.  Those voters elected Trump because of their disdain for politicians who consistently promise one thing but deliver something altogether different.

A Call to Action

We’ve all been told, “it matters who governs.”  But it will only be true if grassroots Americans do more than simply vote.  They… or we must remain engaged.   Our voices must be heard in an unprecedented, unmistakable, and unambiguous manner!  Trump and our Senators and Representatives must know that they were not elected to maintain the fiscal status quo.  

The Tea Party, and all fiscally conservative Americans, must, like Rand Paul, call out Republicans and Donald Trump. We must warn them that they were not elected to put the final nail in our fiscal coffin.

Trump cares not about the media, the social elite, the Hollywood snobs, or the connected wealthy, as he once again reaffirmed this week in his most recent press conference and barrage of tweets.  But I do believe there is one demographic to whom Trump will listen: the grassroots, the blue collar workers, the forgotten middle class, and the traditional American, who still believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be rewarded.  

So it is incumbent on you and me to reach out… once again, to an elite ruling class.  It is necessary for us to remind them that we sent them to Washington to repudiate the status quo by restoring fiscal responsibility; honoring the Constitution; and empowering the free market.  Reestablishing these three pillars, which are the core values of the tea party movement, will enable our great ship of state to slowly but surely reset its course in the direction of real prosperity, the kind that our Founding Fathers envisioned.  But as we do the work to reshape our nation, let us never forget that fiscal prosperity will only flow from men and women of decent, moral character.  And we will only “Make America Great Again” if we first Make America Good Again, as I discussed in my previous article of the same title.  

So will you join me in engaging with our elected officials?  Will you pick up the phone and call, or fire off an email to Donald Trump, your Senators & Congressman to express your views about the upcoming budget battles?  I trust you will.  (Click on the highlighted links for their contact info.)