Posted on | September 20, 2013 | No Comments
Two weeks ago I began a new chapter in my life with the addition of a new job. Instead of just reading, thinking, and talking about politics, I am now actually working actively to change and improve the political landscape in Texas. I am proud to join the Todd Staples Campaign for Lieutenant Governor, and know that he is the right man for the job. In addition to continuing to sell Real Estate, I will be serving as their East Texas Field Representative, traveling all across East Texas to visit with folks about the future of our state and the importance of choosing conservative, Godly leaders like Todd Staples. Staples has served Texas well as a City Councilman, a State Representative, State Senator, and currently as our Commissioner of Agriculture. He serves with conviction and purpose, and always has Texans’ best interests at heart. I encourage you to visit his website – http://toddstaples.com - to learn more about the Commissioner and his commitment to the future of Texas.
Posted on | September 2, 2013 | No Comments
“Every tax rise provides new sinews to subjugate citizens. Citizens who wish to be free must pay strict attention to all exactions politicians impose. Ending politicians’ unlimited taxing power is the first step towards liberating the citizenry. The current tax code is a monument to the bad faith presidents and congresses have long shown towards the American people. A good tax system will provide sufficient revenue and nothing else – no inside lane on everyone’s personal lives, no pretext to penalize scores of millions of people for inadvertent errors, and no hash of regulations to empower every would-be bureaucratic tyrant. There is no way for any tax system that raises as much revenue as does that of the federal government to be “fair,” because government can in no way render equivalent benefits to the average taxpayer.”
- From James Bovard’s Freedom in Chains
Posted on | August 25, 2013 | No Comments
As a Wall Street Journal subscriber for the last four years, I firmly believe that most young people would be better off if they had skipped their college education entirely and if they or their parents would have purchased them lifetime subscriptions to the Journal instead. And it’s articles such as these, in which the author (a Ms. Finley) interacts with Dr. Richard Vedder, that convince me of this strategy.
In order to whet your appetite and keep you longing for more, I’ll just include a few choice quotes from this excellent article and critique of America’s pathetic system of higher education. We desperately need to recognize what we’re doing wrong and how we’re bankrupting our lives and the lives of our children.
- “College costs have continued to explode despite 50 years of ostensibly benevolent government interventions, according to Mr. Vedder, and the president’s new plan could exacerbate the trend. By Mr. Vedder’s lights, the cost conundrum started with the Higher Education Act of 1965, a Great Society program that created federal scholarships and low-interest loans aimed at making college more accessible.
In 1964, federal student aid was a mere $231 million. By 1981, the feds were spending $7 billion on loans alone, an amount that doubled during the 1980s and nearly tripled in each of the following two decades, and is about $105 billion today. Taxpayers now stand behind nearly $1 trillion in student loans.
Meanwhile, grants have increased to $49 billion from $6.4 billion in 1981. By expanding eligibility and boosting the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350, the 2009 stimulus bill accelerated higher ed’s evolution into a middle-class entitlement. Fewer than 2% of Pell Grant recipients came from families making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in 2007. Now roughly 18% do.”
- “Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall (paid for in part with a $30 million tax-deductible donation by Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman). The dorm’s cost approached $300,000 per bed.
Universities, Mr. Vedder says, “are in the housing business, the entertainment business; they’re in the lodging business; they’re in the food business. Hell, my university runs a travel agency which ordinary people off the street can use.”
Meanwhile, university endowments don’t pay taxes on their income. Harvard’s $31 billion endowment, which has been financed by tax-deductible donations, may be America’s largest tax shelter.”
- “Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee (who resigned in June after making defamatory remarks about Catholics) earned nearly $2 million in compensation last year while living in a 9,630 square-foot Tudor mansion on a 1.3-acre estate. The Columbus Camelot includes $673,000 in art decor and a $532 shower curtain in a guest bathroom. Ohio State also paid roughly $23,000 per month for Mr. Gee’s soirees and half a million for him to travel the country on a private jet. Such taxpayer-funded extravagance has not made its way into Mr. Obama’s speeches.
Colleges have also used the gusher of taxpayer dollars to hire more administrators to manage their bloated bureaucracies and proliferating multicultural programs. The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in just its president’s office.”
- “Mr. Vedder notes that, by contrast, “you don’t have to worry about this at the University of Phoenix. One thing about the for-profits is that they are laser-like devoted to instruction.” Although for-profits like the University of Phoenix and DeVry spend more money on marketing, they don’t contain as much administrative overhead.
‘The Obama administration has been beating up on [for-profits] pretty hard for the past two to three years,” Mr. Vedder says. “It’s true that drop-out rates are disproportionately higher at the for-profits, but it’s also true that the for-profits are reaching the exact audience that Obama wants to reach”—low-income minorities, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college.
Today, only about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce. All the government subsidies intended to make college more accessible haven’t done much for this population, says Mr. Vedder. They also haven’t much improved student outcomes or graduation rates, which are around 55% at most universities (over six years).”
- “Nor is the president addressing what Mr. Vedder believes is a fundamental problem: too many kids going to college. “Thirty-percent of the adult population has college degrees,” he notes. “The Department of Labor tells us that only 20% or so of jobs require college degrees. We have 115,520 janitors in the United States with bachelor’s degrees or more. Why are we encouraging more kids to go to college?”
Mr. Vedder sees similarities between the government’s higher education and housing policies, which created a bubble and precipitated the last financial crisis. “In housing, we had artificially low interest rates. The government encouraged people with low qualifications to buy a house. Today, we have low interest rates on student loans. The government is encouraging kids to go to school who are unqualified just as it encouraged people to buy a home who are unqualified.”
The higher-ed bubble, he says, is “already in the process of bursting,” which is reflected by all of the “unemployed or underemployed college graduates with big debts.” The average student loan debt is $26,000, but many graduates, especially those with professional degrees, have six-figure balances.”
Posted on | June 24, 2013 | No Comments
I had, up until this afternoon, kept silent regarding the actions of Edward Snowden, the now famous/infamous NSA whistleblower. The reason being, I was not at all surprised by the information disclosed via his leaks and I also questioned his motives and actions. Earlier today I decided to post a bit on Facebook suggesting that while whistleblowers do a great service by making citizens aware of certain “secret” wrongs, the way in which Snowden went about his whistle blowing was inappropriate and wrong. As I expected, I got a great deal of disagreement and argument in response, ranging from comments comparing the NSA to Nazi Germany to suggestions that Snowden had absolutely no alternative.
In the aftermath, I realized that much of the confusion lay both in what standards we’re using to hold entities and people accountable as well as the way in which a whistleblower, well, you know … tweets.
But before I really get going, let me qualify a couple of my thoughts. I have never worked for a government agency, and as a result do not know how much of “real life” agency work compares to what you see in movies. Because I don’t think it’s quite as dramatized as Hollywood makes it out to be, my suspicion is that there are likely other options available than the dramatic one, which as I see it, is the one that Snowden did in fact take. But then again, that’s just my suspicion. The other proviso is that while I believe that most of the men and women in leadership in our country are quite misguided and ill-informed, I do not believe most of them are evil and out to destroy the free, “American” way of life. And yes, some of them have really jumped off the deep end, but I’m assuming that’s because they have been fed a steady diet of the liberal kool-aid and incapable of thinking an independent thought. This means that I assume a basic “good”-ness in many of these bad, tyrannic people that we’re fed up with.
But on to the issue at hand.
First, on the topic of standards. As I see it, we can either judge both the NSA and Snowden according to the law of the land and the Constitution, or according to Biblical Law. If we judge the NSA according to the first (human law), then we should immediately see where we, and they, went wrong. As I pointed out in various comments, even though we the people granted our government the authority to provide some measure of surveillance and extra-protection, we weren’t okay with them going as far as they did. Granted, we were rather vague about how far they were allowed to go, so along came the NSA and their programs. Yes, it’s easy to see where they were stretching it, and we can all agree that our constitutional rights have been violated.
However, if we judge Snowden by the same law, I’m finding it much more difficult to give him a clean bill of health, regardless of whether or not he had several good excuses. Americans have often had an affinity for the independent, libertarian flair, and I think that’s where many of us are getting tripped up. As such, many who lean libertarian have jumped out in defense of Snowden, even going so far as to proclaim him a hero. But in doing so, they seem to forget that we do have a government that does operate appropriate and necessary security measures. There is a certain amount of surveillance that is well and good (we can argue what the limit is some other time). As a result, there are such things as “classified documents,” and such documents deserve to remain classified, regardless of certain corruptions that are occurring through other surveillance measures. This is where I take great issue with Snowden. If his motives were the restricted liberties of the American people, then why didn’t he just take what applies to the American people? Why leak documents detailing US surveillance programs in China, where we already have a strained relationship? Oh, and then run for cover in China? I can grant a healthy reason to fear for his life, but running for safety to a country like China doesn’t look above board, nor does it look like he’s got the American people’s best interests at heart. All this to say – by breaking his oath of secrecy (which still applies even if there is corruption and over-surveillance), Snowden appears to be guilty of releasing sensitive material that might actually have Americans’ best interests at heart. He got to pick the material to run with; I’m not seeing a solitary desire and motive to free the American people of this oppression. I’m seeing some desire … and more.
Additionally, if we’re judging both parties according to Biblical Law, I’m not seeing adequate reason for Snowden to take authority in his own hands and deal with classified information as he sees fit. There’s certainly criminal activity that occurred in the NSA, and that was sanctioned by our government, but restricting the liberties of the American people isn’t so offensive that Christians should see it as revolt-worthy. Sure… freedom-loving, Constitution-toting Americans can get fired up about their liberties getting trampled, but we’re still supposed to, as Christians, respect those in authority over us. I don’t believe that the tyranny that is being perpetrated through government surveillance merits throwing all the normal rules out the window and acting in such an anarchistic fashion.
Now, I have repeatedly said that if there is information that hasn’t been offered up regarding Snowden’s change of heart and willingness to blow the whistle on the NSA that would help me see his situation in a better light, then I’m more than happy to hear and change my views of him. And this hits on my second point, regarding the way in which a fellow blows the whistle – as I see it, Snowden is a man who used unjust means to deal with what could be argued a greater injustice. And using unjust means to deal with injustice is not justice. I want the NSA and our tyrannical government to be held accountable. But I also want those who would use unjust means to bring them to “justice” also held accountable. As Christians, there is a right way and a wrong way of going about bringing justice. The right way does not include betrayal and leaking legitimately classified material. There was another way, and Snowden does not seem to have taken it.
My guess is that much more will come to light over the next weeks regarding both the NSA and Edward Snowden, but this much I can say for certain: our government has failed in providing Americans with greater security, and in its meager attempts to do so has trampled all over our privacy and liberty. I am as outraged as the next person about this. But I didn’t have to work for the NSA or read leaked, classified documents to figure this out. I used my God-given brain and saw the writing all over the walls. I’m eager to bring about justice in our land and take down those leaders who condone such surveillance methods, and will likely use the information that Snowden has illegally publicized as fuel for the fire. But the fire for justice has already been lit. And my fight for justice doesn’t include condoning the behavior of those who use unjust means to right our country’s wrongs.
Posted on | June 24, 2013 | No Comments
From Peggy Noonan:
- “The U.S. surveillance state as outlined and explained by Edward Snowden is not worth the price. Its size, scope and intrusiveness, its ability to target and monitor American citizens, its essential unaccountability—all these things are extreme.”
- “It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance, and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.”
From Niall Ferguson:
- Toward the end of “Democracy in America” he warned against the government becoming “an immense tutelary power . . . absolute, detailed, regular . . . cover[ing] [society's] surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way.”
- “Tocqueville also foresaw exactly how this regulatory state would suffocate the spirit of free enterprise: ‘It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.’”