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Can God Balance the U.S. Budget?

September 18, 2011 2 comments

Can God balance the U.S. budget? Yes, He can do miracles. Then why hasn’t He? Considering the budget hasn’t been balanced since Andrew Jackson was president it seems that God sure is taking His time. Then again, His timeline is quite a bit longer than yours or mine. In actuality, the question of whether or not God can balance the U.S. budget is more rhetorical than serious. You see, yesterday I attended a meeting of the Cape Girardeau County Tea Party. The meeting, for the most part, was moving along quite smoothly until the question and answer session, where the matter of God came up. There was a man who wanted to know what the goal of the local tea party was, and whether people of differing religious viewpoints – including non-believers – were welcome. His question was never, in my opinion, answered to the man’s satisfaction. Which leads me to the larger question of what the appropriate role of religion is within the tea party, and whether or not focusing on religion enhances or detracts from the tea party’s political effectiveness.

One popular line of reasoning espoused by those who support a wider role for religion within the tea party is that the United States was founded by Christians. This line of reasoning would tend to support the idea that God intervened in creating this nation, allowing the United States a certain position of power and moral authority so long as we followed His will. However, I am not sure whether or not there is evidence for this or not. Moreover, I’m not sure, if upon close examination of the Bible, whether there exists evidence that God specifically favored any people or nation except for Israel. Even so, assuming that those who believe the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, upon a foundation of Judeo-Christian beliefs are correct, why then do the founding documents of our country speak in general terms of a Creator rather than God or Jesus? If, as many believe, a Christian nation is one, if not the only form of nation-state, tolerant of other religions, didn’t the Founders establish Christianity as the state religion?

Assuming, again, that the United States was indeed founded as a Christian nation, does that materially change the original intent of the Constitution in any way? Would, or should, our common understanding of what the Constitution means and how it is supposed to constrain the government change at all? If we all agreed that our nation was founded by Christians and as such was a Christian nation, would this change how the Supreme Court and lower courts rule on matters of constitutional law? Would this alter the behavior of Congress and the president? Would this change anything? 

Advancing this line of reasoning that our nation is a Christian nation a bit further – what about the fallen nature of man? Probably one of the best known stories in the Bible is that of Adam and Eve and how the Serpent tempted them with the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The story is indicative of the human condition. We are sinners. We tend to try and put ourselves on the same level as God, substituting our judgment for His. We are disobedient and so on. If, as Christians, we believe this story, then we would likely conclude that human beings are imperfect. We sin. God expects us to do certain things and has given us free will to obey or not. Quite often we choose to disobey. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the institutions that men create are filled with imperfect people. No matter how close to perfectly constructed our institutions are, imperfect humans will always find ways to circumvent the limits imposed by the Constitution, laws, regulations, oaths, etc. We started with paradise. We ended up with Washington, D.C.

Something interesting, and troubling, from the whole discussion of religion at the Cape Girardeau Tea Party, was than no one made any attempt (at least that I remember) to frame the issues of the day in terms of Christian morality. For instance, how is it moral for government to burden future generations with debt that effectively make them debt slaves? Not a single person who made the case for this being a Christian nation mentioned our debt-based monetary system and how it has not only undermined our constitutional system of government but how it also transfers vast sums of money from the people to banking interests. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but I hear few, if any, Christians argue that our current system of central banking under which we must pay interest for the privilege of banks issuing the peoples’ money is morally unjust and economically unfeasible. Andrew Jackson well understood that bank’s love of money was the root of much evil and did everything within his power to fight it. 

In the end, I believe it will be difficult – if not impossible – for the tea party to grow and achieve meaningful success if it doesn’t welcome people of differing religious beliefs. If the root cause of our nation’s problems is disobeying God’s will, then it would seem most fitting that churches and individuals reach out to their fellow man and attempt to bring those who stray back into the fold. I’m not sure that the tea party can, or should, be both a political organization and push forward a specific religious viewpoint at the same time. This doesn’t mean that anyone has to change their beliefs. However, promoting one religious point of view will result in many rejecting the tea party. There are many people currently unhappy with our current politics. Many progressives are extremely unhappy with the Federal Reserve specifically, and central banks in general, and could be political allies on the issue of monetary reform. However, this would require a tea party focused more on issues of political, monetary, and economic reform. God may well have established this government. But, it would seem that accepting that belief logically leads to the conclusion that He has established all of the rest. In the end, God’s plan is so vast that the mind of man may never comprehend it. In a time of past tax protests Jesus said:

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s

We’re still debating exactly what Jesus meant today. We’ll probably be debating what He meant until the end of time. I think Jesus would want us to pay the debt that we owe. At the same time, I think He would not want us to incur further debt. Jesus had a penchant for hanging out with the “wrong crowd”. Jesus threw open the doors of the kingdom of Heaven. He answered many tough questions with questions of His own. Today, we are faced with a similar situation. We have many questions. What do we owe to the state? What kind of government do we want? Where does the authority for our government come from? Who deserves the protection of the state? What is the role of church in society? What is our moral obligation to others? These are the questions we continue to struggle with. Even within the Cape Girardeau Tea Party I would expect many different answer to those questions. That’s OK. I don’t expect we’ll know those answers for sure today or tomorrow – if ever in our lifetimes. However, I think the tea party can help bring those questions, and more, back to the center of public life. But associating only with like-minded individuals won’t yield results. Only by including many others, with different backgrounds and beliefs, will the effort bear fruit. I am not so arrogant as to claim I know the mind of God, but I think Jesus provided ample examples for us to follow if only we have the courage to do so.

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Cape Girardeau: Stuck Between St. Louis and Memphis

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I live near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, so frequently am subjected to advertising from local businesses. Many of these advertisers, as a source of pride, remark that they are the biggest (fill in the blank) between St. Louis and Memphis. To me these ads are indicative of one or more of the following:

  • Many Cape Girardeau businesses have a narrow view of what success means – believing that being the largest or most successful business in their field, between St. Louis and Memphis is a major accomplishment.
  • These businesses are modern-day subscribers to something akin to the flat earth theory. Their world is bounded at one pole by St. Louis and at the other pole by Memphis. Nothing exists outside of these two poles, except for – perhaps – Cape Girardeau in the middle.
  • Local businesses lack ambition – satisfied to be the big fish in a little pond.
  • The businesses lack self-confidence, happy to live in the shadows of their more accomplished “siblings” in St. Louis and Memphis.
  • We’re mediocre and proud of it. We’re not as good as the businesses in St. Louis and Memphis. We hope locals can’t afford the extra gas money to drive to St. Louis and Memphis to check out our competitors. If they do, we’re screwed.
Yes, I am exaggerating for effect, but I find the whole meme of being the best business between St. Louis and Memphis to be both puzzling and troubling. The Internet has become a great leveler, allowing businesses to become competitive on a national and international basis. 

One of the problems I have noticed with many businesses in Cape Girardeau is that their customer service is lacking. Although I think this has improved somewhat since the economic downturn, many still do not compare to the level of service delivered by their competitors in St. Louis.

As an example, my wife and I recently purchased a new vehicle. We first went to a local dealer, found the vehicle we wanted, and really liked the sales representative. However, his boss, who we had to dicker with over the vehicle price was obnoxious, rude and very high pressure – all the things we hate about the whole buying a vehicle experience.

So, we decided to look online for a vehicle. We found a dealer in St. Louis who offered the same price we were offered for the vehicle in Cape Girardeau, but for the next step up in model. This dealer had an Internet sales department. They sent us a video of the vehicle created for us and sent via email. When we went to the dealership they put very little pressure on us to buy. The offered us a discounted Internet price and gave us near the maximum trade-in value for my old, beat up van. The Cape Girardeau dealer wasn’t even serious competition for the St. Louis dealer despite their being the biggest between St. Louis and Memphis. Sadly, not only did they lose on price – but they were destroyed on the basis of customer service and professionalism.

But, I think the whole idea of Cape Girardeau being stuck between St. Louis and Memphis is indicative of a much larger failure of vision for the city. Cape Girardeau has any number of themes which have been used to sell the city to tourists: “City of Roses”, “Where the river turns a thousand tales”, and “Cape Girardeau: We’re Number 1 Between St. Louis and Memphis”. OK, I just made that last one up. I have yet to see any significant concentration of roses anywhere in Cape Girardeau. I have never heard the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau tell one single tale. These slogans are just empty marketing. The slogan might just well be: “Your town sucks, come to Cape Girardeau where at least we have a mall and restaurants.” 

Recently Cape Girardeau did manage to win a casino project. This casino project largely came about because a few individuals had a larger vision for what they hoped Cape Girardeau would be.

Growing up I lived in Twisp, Washington – a sleepy little town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Near Twisp is Winthrop – an even smaller town. However, unlike Twisp, Winthrop was a major tourist trap as it had themed its town an on old west town. I have often wondered why Cape Girardeau didn’t theme the old downtown area with an old riverboat town theme. Or, instead, Cape Girardeau could take a page out of the Victoria, B.C. playbook and make the City of Roses theme real by placing roses around the city. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, and having visited Victoria, B.C. as a child, I can tell you that their hanging baskets are gorgeous and a major part of the tourism draw.

All it takes is a little vision and the confidence to step out of the shadows of St. Louis and Memphis. It’s a big world and a city, or town for that matter, if it chooses can be the best at something. Right now, I feel like Cape Girardeau has chosen to be the best at being stuck between St. Louis and Memphis. That, however, won’t help Cape Girardeau win the future. It’s time for Cape Girardeau to open its eyes and see that there is a larger world that exists outside the bounds of St. Louis and Memphis.
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Obama: Hell’s Soup Kitchen

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

How is it that President Obama and his family visit and volunteer in a soup kitchen in the nation’s capital, and none of the all-so-incisive journalists there question how such poverty can exist right underneath the spigot of so much government largess?

Plus, I thought that more government intervention was needed in the economy because “greedy corporations”, the “rich” and other “selfish” Americans wouldn’t take care of those in need. Didn’t we need a community organizer-in-chief to ensure that money could be funneled to those who needed it. I thought the idea of volunteering was antiquated. Certainly, central planners would be much better at directing money to those in need than I, as a mere individual, could ever be.

Certainly, the voluntary efforts and decisions of individuals couldn’t best central planners and organize a soup kitchen right in the heart of the nation’s capital. No, our leaders in Congress, the president, and a mountain of government agencies could never be out hustled by a bunch of non-experts. Wouldn’t it take an army of government experts to feed the hungry? Apparently not. The fact that poverty exists right underneath the noses of our brilliant central planners should tell you everything you need to know about their supposed brilliance. Now, just imagine these geniuses “executing” their plans in ever widening concentric circles further and further from the center of the nation’s decision-making apparatus. Yeah, that’s going to work. That’s why the president is volunteering in a soup kitchen right there in Hell, er Washington, D.C.
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I’m Frustrated With Obama. Does That Make me a Racist?

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Apparently, blacks are frustrated with Obama too. Welcome to the club. From what I have read progressives, environmentalists, conservatives, zombies, leprechauns, and the Keebler Elves are all frustrated with Obama. Pretty much everyone on either side of the hopey / changey not-so-great debate have a beef with Obama. 

I have a pretty active account on Twitter (@tkinder) and it used to be anytime I criticized Obama – even the slightest criticism – was met by an onslaught of opposing Tweets. My favorite Tweets were those that accused me of racism for daring to criticize the president. I guess I must have hated white people when I criticized the previous administration and Congress for enacting the stimulus too. Funny, but now when I criticize Obama on Twitter the response is usually crickets (silence). Seems like a good sign for Obama’s re-election chances.

Interestingly, black unemployment hasn’t been so high since that “evil conservative” Reagan was in office. It’s ironic that Obama, who so many attributed almost magical powers to, has left his main political supporters stranded high and dry. Reagan thought government was the problem while Obama looks at it as the solution. Seems like the government solution hasn’t worked out too well thus far.

As a side bar, the AP news story I referred to above consists of five very short paragraphs, but has two bylines (writers). Really? It takes two writers to write an article no longer than a short blog post? What, one writer did the heavy lifting of researching and writing while the other was responsible for writing? Or, perhaps, one did the writing while the other did the intensive background interviews needed for the article?

Anyhow, I’m getting pretty exhausted from writing such a long blog post since I’m not a professional writer working for the AP. If it wasn’t for my assistant editor Rocco, I don’t know how I’d ever finish a single blog post.
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2009 Flashback: Government Stimulus Won’t Help Economy

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Here is a little audio recording I made back in August of 2009 about how government stimulus wouldn’t help the economy.

Subjects covered:

* Cash for Clunkers
* First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit
* Federal Reserve Debt Monetization

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My Dog Rocco Catches a Frisbee

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

My dog Rocco, a half Jack Russell Terrier and half Cocker Spaniel mix just learned to catch a Frisbee the other day.

I tried to teach him how to do this a number of months ago, but at the time he was too scared of the Frisbee to catch it.

Recently, he learned how to catch a ball in mid-air, so I figured that maybe he could use the same skill to catch a Frisbee.

Unlike fetching a ball, however, Rocco won’t voluntarily let go of the Frisbee after catching it. With a ball he will retrieve it and either drop it, or almost throw it back to you. With the Frisbee you either have to pick him up so he will drop the Frisbee, grab hold of the Frisbee and drag him to the edge of the stairs, or get a second Frisbee so he will drop the first one.

So, needless to say, our Frisbee catching sessions are shorter than our sessions of fetching the ball. It gets a little tedious trying to pry the Frisbee out of his mouth.

Rocco also tends to get a little possessive of the flying disc as well. He has growled at me a few times when I attempted to get the Frisbee – something he doesn’t do (except in play) with the ball.
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Monty Python: Irritating Banks

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

While a little dated, I still think this Monty Python sketch on how banks are irritating.

I like the line where Cleese says that banks hours cater to the unemployed and bank robbers. But, of course, most of the bank robbers are just disgruntled customers trying to take their money out of the bank.

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