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.)  

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

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

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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

Exit Your Echo Chamber To Make a Difference

Exit Your Echo Chamber To Make a Difference

exit-your-echo-chamber-to-make-a-difference

Have you ever found yourself in a deep cavern or in a valley surrounded by mountains? If so, you’ve probably played the echo game, where you shout loudly and hear your returning echo. We’ve all done it. And what we hear back is exactly what we yelled.

Nothing new. Nothing extraordinary. Just the same message we uttered moments earlier.

Imagine for a minute though that listening to your echo was the only form of communication in which you engaged. Not only would your subject matter be limited and grow redundant over time, but you would never learn anything new.  The content of your echo would be limited to the extent of your own knowledge and understanding.  Soon your mind would begin to atrophy from the lack of new knowledge or truths.  I call this the Echo Chamber syndrome.  

As I observe our society, and have pondered my own behavior at times, I have seen Echo Chambers dominating our culture, often amplified on social media.  They are formed based on one’s ideological, political or religious views.  Our nation has become so divided that we have segregated ourselves into subgroups whose values, views and perspectives are seldom at odds with our own.  

This Echo Chamber syndrome reveals several truths which are not only alarming, but are contributing to an increasingly divided and hostile culture.

1.  Echo Chambers eliminate the potential for any outside ideas or solutions.  We already know that yelling in a cavern returns the precise message as the one you uttered.  So if you’re looking for new ideas or solutions to the problems you are facing, you will get none.  Instead, the solutions within your Echo Chamber will be limited by your own ideological perspectives. Perhaps you’re ok with that, thinking that those outside your little tribe couldn’t possibly offer anything of value.  But if you possess that view, then you have just validated the next truth about Echo Chambers.

2.  Echo Chambers are elitist in nature and pose the ultimate example of arrogance and superiority.  As I’ve engaged with folks on both sides of the ideological fence, including conservatives and liberals. I’ve found that they share very similar attitudes.  First, they believe their perspectives are superior to all others.  Period.  No other view counts.  Second, folks on both sides of the ideological fence view anyone outside their belief system with skepticism and disdain.  Third, they posit that those who are outside the confines of their little chamber are inferior and not even worth getting to know.  It’s as if the other side has a contagious disease and we must not have any contact with them, at least not in the context of an engaging dialogue. But that attitude leads to the next truth about Echo Chambers.

3.  Echo Chambers reject the idea that we can “reason together” and find areas of common ground.  Individuals who spend their lives in an Echo Chamber indirectly affirm the idea that sharing time with those who have differing views is hazardous to one’s own ideology.  They believe that there is no common ground with millions of individuals on the “other side.”  Period.  So why waste one’s time even attempting to do so?  But embracing this flawed thinking leads to another sad truth of Echo Chambers.

4.  Echo Chambers discourage the forging of new relationships with those outside our little network.  If conversations foster relationships, which in turn grow trust, there is no wonder that our nation is so divided.  The mistrust is at an alarming level.  And yet, there is a rather simple solution to breaking down those walls of distrust.  Conversations.  And no I’m not talking about everyone holding hands and singing Kumbaya.  Conversations can oftentimes expose areas of absolute disagreement, but, if done in a respectful manner, simply having the dialogues can increase respect for each other.  As that occurs, relationships begin to form.  But without relationships, this next reality of an Echo Chamber, perhaps the saddest, will prevail.   

5.  Echo Chambers are completely ineffective for sharing truth to those without the truth.  If you believe you have the truth, whether it is the political ideology you embrace, or even the spiritual faith you practice, there is no greater way to hide that truth than to remain in an Echo Chamber.  Those in your little chamber already have the truth as you see it.  And so to remain in your little tribe results in many others never coming to know the truth.  This verse in Scripture reminds me of this reality: “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:15)  If you want your truth to be heard, then get outside your Echo Chamber and share it with those who have yet to hear or understand it.

I can already hear some saying, “yeah but the ideas of the other side are not only wrong, they are dangerous.”  For a moment let’s assume that is correct.  The “other side” is no doubt comprised of a few leaders and many followers.  It’s likely that the leaders are incapable of changing their dogma.  But the followers are less assured and may be willing to entertain sound arguments, particularly if they are presented in a safe and engaging dialogue, that is shared within a growing relationship.  Those followers will never hear your truth if you regurgitate your message in your little Echo Chamber. 

So for the sake of expanding your understanding of truth, and your own mental growth, I encourage you to exit your Echo Chamber.  Begin making a difference by developing relationships that are based on mutual respect and honest dialogue.  As you do this, I believe it can break down the walls that have served to divide us all.  And who knows, you may even find that your perspectives were not so flawless after all.

Mark

If You Reject Hillary & Trump Here are Some Options

If You Reject Hillary & Trump Here are Some Options

reject-hillary-trump-options-final

In my post earlier this week, I attempted to make the case for what happens when one votes for the lesser evil and how that ultimately results in a continued race to the bottom of the barrel.  If this year’s election proves anything, it should affirm that truth, with a couple of candidates who may be amongst the most depraved and immoral ones in our nation’s history. 

In the same article, I also attempted to lay the groundwork for why the Bible affirms that when confronted with evil, of any kind or in any setting, the Christian is called to reject it, have no fellowship with it, and to even expose it.  I often hear the response, “well, we’re not electing a pastor in chief” to which I respond, “ok, but where in scripture does it limit our rejection of evil to simply when we are selecting a pastor?

That said, if you’re reading this post, then I assume you may either 1) be curious about more of my rants and ramblings,  2) you truly are interested in exploring your options because you find both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton unfit to serve as President of the United States, or 3) you want to see just how crazy I am.

Consider these statistics about the feelings of Americans:

  • 57% of Americans believe a 3rd Party is needed (up from 46% in 2012) and 51% of Republicans agree, according to Gallup.
  • 33% of Americans believe Hillary Clinton would be a good/great President while 25% believe the same about Donald Trump.  Gallup
  • Trust in political leaders is at an all time low, with just 42% of Americans having a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust.  Gallup

Given these numbers, it’s highly likely that we will see a record number of voters either stay home, vote only the down ballot, or vote third party or independent.  

So in the chart at the bottom of this post, I have attempted to layout just a few of the other “credible” alternatives that are available for those interested.   While I started with a larger slate, as I continued my research I narrowed it greatly.  I have presented the positions on key issues from these final candidates primarily from their websites and/or platforms.  But in a case or two I have gone to the internet to quote their positions from interviews they have given.  If you want to see the more than 400 Presidential candidates, you can find them here.  

Wasting Your Vote

I am told by some that voting for a candidate other than the Republican or Democrat means you just wasted your vote.  There are several responses to that perspective but first, if you follow that logic, then voting for any loser was a wasted vote.  So if my vote for a candidate who did not win is a waste, then it must stand to reason if you vote for Trump and he loses then your vote is a waste as well.  Furthermore, under that line of reasoning, if you voted for Romney four years ago, or even your local dog catcher (if he lost), you wasted your vote as well.  That hardly makes sense. 

I would never assert your vote is a waste, regardless of who you voted for.  I may disagree, but it’s rather presumptuous of me to assert that your vote, cast from your personal values and beliefs, is a waste.  That’s the height of mocking and belittling someone’s deeply held convictions and a very arrogant attitude to assert that someone else must vote as you believe.  In fact, it may border on the kind of elections that Saddam Hussein would have expected you to participate in.  Vote as he demands or else!

But let me move to a different angle.  While as Americans we are conditioned to win, voting should not be about just winning.  Fundamentally it should be about expressing your values.  Where those values can align with a candidate and actually win, that is the best outcome for you and your values.  But when one wholeheartedly sacrifices those values, particularly when those values are deep, fundamental and non-negotiable, one’s character is diminished, and ultimately the character of the nation devolves.  Many of our founding fathers spoke about voting and I think their views are worth being reminded of.  I’ve included a few below:

Founding Fathers on Voting

Noah Webster

In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate.  Look to his character. When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.”

Samuel Adams

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men.

John Witherspoon

Those who wish well to the State ought to choose to places of trust men of inward principle, justified by exemplary conversation. . . .And the people in general ought to have regard to the moral character of those whom they invest with authority either in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches.

James Garfield

Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. . . . If the next centennial does not find us a great nation . . . it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

Frederick Douglass

I have one great political idea. .  .  That idea is an old one. It is widely and generally assented to; nevertheless, it is very generally trampled upon and disregarded. The best expression of it, I have found in the Bible. It is in substance, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; sin is a reproach to any people” [Proverbs 14:34]. This constitutes my politics – the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics. . . . I feel it my duty to do all in my power to infuse this idea into the public mind, that it may speedily be recognized and practiced upon by our people.

What’s at Stake

I am fully aware of what is at stake in this election.  As someone who has been on the front lines of the battle for our Constitutional Republic politically and culturally for the last decade, I can recite very succinctly the threats that are posed to you, me and our nation.  The loss of religious liberty.  The loss of the second amendment.  The loss of free speech.  The further encroachment on civil liberties and property rights. The increasing attack on Life and Marriage.  The further opening of our borders and national sovereignty.  Increasing terrorism.  And more and more.  

Yes, our nation hangs in the balance.  But as bad as that is, or perhaps because it is so bad, I must turn to God and His Word for instruction and direction.  And if one is willing to study, search and dig, it’s not only amazing, but encouraging to find how much is in the Word of God that speaks to the very issues we are facing.  Truthfully, doing so will give you peace in the midst of this Cat 4 storm we appear to be in.

One story in the Old Testament stands out in particular, that is no doubt familiar to you.  Recall the three Hebrew young men, millennials perhaps, living in the Babylonian empire as captives.  They were faced with a dire choice.  That choice was not on par with losing their right to bear arms, or their freedom of speech, or even simply religious liberty.  It was actually much, much worse.  They were threatened with the loss of their very lives in a fiery furnace if they refused to obey the king.  And yet, read their response:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

While these exemplary young men knew their God could save them, they also understood He might not.  But they trusted Him with their lives nonetheless.  And God delivered them.

So this is the question I ponder:  Is it to much for me to do something lesser and trust God with my nation? 

Biblical References

Let me close with some references from the ultimate source for me, God’s Word.  For right or wrong, my default is to seek God’s views on all matters of life. Given that He created it all, and we are navigating through His world, I subscribe to the notion that one should look to the owners manual for instruction.  For me, that owners manual is the Bible.  As you read the passages below, I encourage you to continue to seek God in prayer, asking Him to make your decision clear.  He promises to do so, if we will ask, and when He does, you will gain a supernatural peace.

“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness…”  Exodus 18:21

“And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”  Daniel 2:21

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, have a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  2 Peter 3:1-5

“Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”  I Thessalonians 5:21-22

“And why not say, Let us do evil that good may come?”  Romans 3:8

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  I Corinthians 10:31

“The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”  Proverbs 29:25

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

My Vote

I have had a number of readers ask me about who I plan to vote for so I will share that openly.  While I am in agreement with many of the positions for each of the candidates below, I have some non-negotiable values as well.  And given those non-negotiables, two of the candidates disqualified themselves for me.  So the individual I plan to cast my vote for, barring any other “new information” that might come to light, is Darrell Castle with the Constitution Party.  The Party’s website is extensive with a strong and very detailed description of their views on all of the salient issues of our day.  And while there are a couple I may not agree with wholeheartedly, on the fundamentals for me, the Constitution Party is solid.  (In Tennessee where I live I will have to write-in the name Darrell Castle as may be the case in your state as well.)

Finally, consider the down ballot as you go to the polls, regardless of your Presidential pick.  At the end of the day, the many lesser positions can have a profound impact on our lives as well, particularly in your local community.  So I encourage you to apply the same standard to those other choices as you diligently and prayerfully make your selections.

As indicated in my previous article, I welcome your thoughts, critiques, and feedback. This continues to be a learning and growth process for me so your perspective is always valued and respected.

Mark

NOTE:  Chart below works best on computer or to view on your phone click here.

America: The Point of No Return?

America: The Point of No Return?

america-the-point-of-no-return

Over the last decade, I have interacted with hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Americans, as we have shared our grave concerns over the direction of our nation.  There is no doubt that the land of the free and home of the brave is on a course that threatens our future and the very survival of our nation.  So we must ask ourselves this question.

Have we reached the point of no return?

Some may brush off such concerns, believing that America is too big to fail, and asserting that as the world’s superpower, our future remains secure.  They reject the voices that continue to warn our leaders, citizens and neighbors that something is seriously wrong, and that never before has a nation ignored and rejected so many warnings and foundational principles, and survived.   

One only needs to shuffle through history to recognize that nation after nation has ultimately stumbled and fallen when it turned its back on the basic building blocks of any exceptional civilization.  Today, I would like to briefly touch on a few of the key foundation stones.

Economically

If there is one thing that dominates the hearts and minds of Americans it’s the almighty dollar.  The economy consistently scores at the top of issues that concern Americans.  In fact, the phrase, “it’s the economy stupid” became an often used slogan during the Clinton-Bush presidential campaign in 1992.  

But with our nation’s current debt at $19,500,000,000,000 (that’s trillion) and its unfunded liabilities exceeding another $100 trillion, many would say that this issue alone has already taken us past the point of no return.  Regardless of who is elected in November, both Clinton and Trump’s plans will continue to increase the national debt, at alarming rates.

However, it may surprise you to know that according to a recent study by Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, our nation’s federal debt would fare far worse under Trump with the debt in 2026 soaring to $39.5 Trillion, double the current debt.  Under a Clinton administration, the national debt would rise to $29.6 Trillion.  While $10 Trillion less than Trump, both candidates’ plans would put the final nail in the fiscal coffin of our nation.

The idea that we can continue to spend into oblivion with no consequences whatsoever is one sign that a nation is on the path to ultimate collapse.

trump-clintonc-gross-debt-crfb

Politically

There have certainly been periods of political dysfunction and turmoil over our 240 year history as a nation.  And I suppose that occurs when men seek and desire power, often above all else.  But as we see the magnitude of the problems facing our nation increasing exponentially, the prolonged polarization we are experiencing represents an existential threat to America.  Good men and women can disagree, but at the end of the day, opposite sides of an issue must find some common ground if they are to solve problems in a republic, the system chosen by our founders.  Of course, this also assumes that both sides are honest players in their desire to solve our problems, which is no longer the case. 

Without our political leaders seeking the best for our nation, it’s unquestionable that the course we are on is headed for a ruinous conclusion.

Ethically

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” — the bedrock values of our nation.  In selecting these words, our founding fathers sought to affirm the fundamental rights granted to man by God.  By doing so they established the ground rules upon which we would live with each other.  These rules, or sacred rights, would be the basis for all future interactions between the hundreds of millions of Americans that would follow them.  

But in this era, no longer is Life revered and protected.  Liberty is being handcuffed and under constant assault.  And the Happiness one was once free to pursue is subject to approval, or disapproval, by the state.

As all of these founding rights have come under attack, corruption within our government and businesses has skyrocketed. Politicians use government as their own private wrecking ball in destroying those citizens, groups and states with whom they disagree.  Businessmen use their enterprises to achieve personal gain, irrespective of the customers they manipulate, prey on, or defraud.  Consequently, it’s only fitting that the two candidates for President exemplify the worst this nation has to offer, when it comes to candidates of high ethical standing.

We see then that as a nation’s ethics plummet and it removes the foundations of truth, the structure upon which it was built begins to sway and will ultimately topple.  

Morally

Morals, the system by which we determine good and bad, is absolutely crucial in directing the ultimate destination of one’s life, enterprise and even nation.  Morals are impacted and greatly influenced by the culture and society.  Yet all morals are not equal. 

Consider that under the teachings of Muhammed, the founder of Islam, it is appropriate to lie to advance the cause of Islam.  It is also valid to subjugate non-Muslims, since they are deemed to be inferior people, referred to as kafirs.  In contrast, the teachings of Jesus Christ instruct humanity to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the golden rule.  And Christ also taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Clearly, these two ideologies, Islam and Christianity, are at two extremes in defining their morals, what is good and bad.  

Over the last half century or so, our culture has radically redefined our morals.  What was good 50 years ago is now bad, and what was bad then is now good.  I could spend the next several paragraphs providing examples, but if you’re awake, you know how what was considered evil just a few decades ago, is now embraced, celebrated and promoted.

Morals, like ideas, matter.  When a nation rejects good and elevates evil, and when that same nation punishes those who embrace good, and it codifies that which is bad, there can be no doubt that such nation is on a short path to collapse.

Spiritually 

For America, perhaps this is the seminal issue upon which the ones above all rest.  A skyscraper is only as sturdy and secure as the foundation upon which it rests.  Likewise, the American experiment over these last 240 years has been an extraordinary success because of the Judeo-Christian values upon which it rested.  But as those values have not only been attacked, but ultimately replaced over the last few decades with secularism, it’s clear that the experiment has begun to falter.  And as it falters, we will have reached the point of no return.

We read in Scripture this promise, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”  But we also read that “A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order.”  Could there be any more fitting description of the condition of our nation today?  And if God is the same yesterday, today and forever, as He declares, then we must certainly expect the coming extreme judgment of a Holy God as He has shown in so many other examples over the millenniums.

Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, while imperfect, exemplified the values of our founders and sought to redirect the trajectory of our nation.  The course we were on was taking us to the point of no return but Reagan’s commitment to revitalize our economy, politics, ethics and morals, while elevating the spiritual, slowed our nation’s arrival at the edge of the cliff.  

In one of Reagan’s most famous speeches entitled “A Time For Choosing,” first delivered in 1964, Reagan exposed the threat to peace by the Soviet Union.  But his comments then are likewise applicable to my discussion today.  In his closing remarks, Reagan stated:

“Someday… our surrender will be voluntary because by that time, we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally and economically… You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.  We’ll preserve for our children this the last best hope of man on earth or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”

Our rendezvous with destiny is upon us.  By our choices and priorities over these last 50 years, we have established that destiny.  And while our national destiny is perhaps past the point of no return, individually we can and must establish our own personal destiny, which does not have to mirror that of America’s.  I pray you will embark on a plan to secure your destiny, economically, morally and spiritually.

To find out how, check out this previous article I wrote providing some specific and practical steps that we can all take.

Mark