Thoughts on the Election

These are my unscientific thoughts about the election this week. I think that the American public moved from being concerned with questions of terrorism after 9-11 to economic concerns in 2006. Also, the way that we were railroaded into going to war with Iraq rankled many people and the perpetual duration and costs of the wars made people sick. [note that we don’t see any anti-war protests now that the Democrats are in charge of the nation]

We had the dot com blowup followed by the Enron scandals and 9-11, but the economy seemed to normalize only to see the housing bubble collapse starting in 2005 and reaching full force in 2008. Rather than rein in government spending or do anything like reduce the scope of government, President Bush expanded government massively via things like the Homeland Security Agency and new intelligence directorates all over the place. Spending skyrocketed and the wars seemed endless and hopeless. Home equity was plunging and people felt despair. Despite all of this, McCain was neck and neck with Obama until the Lehman Brothers collapse and the panic it induced. People voted for a cipher – President Obama – in hopes that he would end the wars, fix the economy, somehow make Washington a paragon of openness and virtue, stop global warming and other magical and wonderful things. The voters rejected the Republicans as hypocrites and took out their vengeance for bad economic times on them. What they did not do, by and large, was endorse the Democratic agenda of a large welfare state, unlimited abortion and other radical notions. Many GOP voters probably stayed home in 2008 out of anger or disgust.

The Democrats, however, interpreted the results as a sweeping wave that affirmed their agenda and was ushering in a new Rooseveltian or Great Society vision of the country. As George Will wrote, all they were in 2008 was “not George Bush.” The Democrats assumptions of generational and demographic realignment were wrong.

Now it is 2010. The economy is still in tatters, the wars continue, Washington is the same as it ever was and housing is still a shambles. Additionally, we have had trillions of dollars in debt added to our system and many feel that we teeter on the edge of a total financial collapse in the next decade or two. So, voters put a lot of the insiders out on their ear and shook things up again. Republicans should not interpret this as the nation turning to Constitutional originalism, small government, Laffer-curve, pro-life policies. I see it more as inchoate rage and frustration, coupled with the idea on the part of many middle class and lower class whites that the government is growing beyond control and that the Christian values of our past are forcibly derided on the part of the overclass. I don’t know how blacks and Hispanics feel about the government, but I surmise that many blacks expected something from President Obama and haven’t seen it.

Until the economy improves and uncertainty fades, I don’t see either party lasting in power for long periods of time. Fundamentally, our economic pattern of massive debt, fiat currency and unfunded entitlements seems doomed. Defense spending cannot be sustained at its current levels. The morals of our institutions are out of whack with what many profess to believe. This will make for continual turmoil in our nation as far as I can tell, and I also don’t expect the new wave of GOP legislators to achieve much.

My two cents.

The Dictatorship of Moral Relativism

My favorite author and painter, Michael O’Brien, writes of his trip to Poland:

In a meeting with a very highly placed journalist and ministry official, I was told by her that freedom of the press in Poland has shrunk drastically in a very short time, since all secular media is now heavily influenced by vested interests and a resurgent secret police, many of whom are old Communists/new Eurocrats. Only Radio Maria and smaller Catholic journals continue to report the objective truth in the country, and thus the mainstream press continues a constant barrage of propaganda against both the Church and Catholic media. This was a shocking statement, but it was repeated by responsible observers of the situation many times during my travels. The dictatorship of moral relativism (as Pope Benedict calls it) has many faces, but its most deceptive mask is that of the “enlightened” liberalism. Beneath such liberalism there is an agenda that is very much allied with the culture of death, with power and with private wealth. In North America and most other Western nations the same dynamic is a work in various guises.

I like how he points out the links between enlightened liberalism, private wealth, power and the culture of death.

 

Liberals and Tradition

I wanted to point out this compelling post at What’s Wrong with the World: Liberals: Guardians of Tradition? Jeff Culbreath writes:

As the father of five very musical children, I find myself in the company of classical musicians and teachers with some regularity. One would be hard pressed to find a more reflexively liberal demographic than that of classical musicians. Their brand of liberalism, though fairly radical, is genteel and seldom confrontational. In a superficial way, I actually enjoy the company of these people and can usually find enough common ground to have an interesting conversation. Indeed I am more socially “comfortable” around them than I am around most people in the great middle class. Yes, this does seem to be a class phenomenon. We have similar levels of education. We think about the same kinds of things – they on one side, me on the other. They read books. They have decent manners. They don’t mind putting on a coat and tie, or a long skirt.

And they are liberals. Let me clear: these are people who adhere to an evil, destructive ideology that is responsible for plunging our civilization into barbarism. On the other hand – and this is what confuses me – they seem to be the only people interested in preserving the treasures of western civilization, apart from a few cranky Catholics and other traditionalist malcontents of negligible influence. America’s “conservatives” – at least our middle class conservatives – couldn’t care less about classical music, literature, philosophy, or the arts. Make no mistake: if we turned culture completely over to them, we would lose the best of our cultural patrimony. I don’t like admitting this, but reality is what it is.

I used to chalk this up to the desecrating impulse of liberalism. For example, anyone paying attention to America’s big cities is familiar with the phenomenon of sodomite hordes buying and restoring beautiful Victorian homes in the oldest neighborhoods, as if to defy and defeat the values of those who built them. Similarly, modernist desecrators proudly possess all the grandest old churches – buildings designed specifically and exclusively for traditional liturgy and piety. Local historical societies are most often dominated by liberals: that way they can dispense local history to local citizens through their own ideological interpretations.

I have to say that this strikes me as exactly correct. Outside of a few pockets of resistance such as New St. Andrews in Moscow, Idaho and various Catholic groups, most Christians do not care one whit about our cultural heritage, other than to play it lip service. “Conservative” in America is generally as enslaved to the prevailing wasteland of modern culture as is liberalism in America [me included]. And most folks I know who are into preserving our history ARE liberals, for whatever odd reason. I believe this points out the flawed assumptions that lie beneath much of our thinking. These assumptions are not examined much at the popular level and will probably not change.

Subsidies for the World’s Most Expensive Healthcare

Writing a market analysis for Citigroup’s weekly Portfolio Strategist newsletter, Steven Wieting outlines a dire future for America’s government debt. Note that this is far from a partisan magazine, it is a real-world analysis of possible scenarios for investors. An extensive excerpt follows:

§ Markets may still be overestimating the short-term vulnerability of the U.S. economy amid a strengthening and self-sustaining cyclical recovery. At the same time, the risks to U.S. economic performance in the long term have actually never seemed more dire.

§ Far from hoarding labor (unlike others), the U.S. has just endured the deepest two year decline in employment of the post war period. Signs abound that production, employment and investment declines have been unnecessarily severe, an overshoot. Friday’s data surprised with three consecutive months of private employment gains, with some confirmation in the separate survey of households.

§ But few had ever contemplated entering a well-advertised period of demographic weakening and higher dependency levels with a U.S. budget deficit so large as a starting condition.

§ The structural budget deficit looks potentially unmanageable even five years from now, when employment is assumed to be “full” and the financial supports of the recent crisis are paid back as fully as they ever will be.

§ Higher taxes have always seemed necessary to cover elder-care entitlements in the period ahead. But as a start, taxes are being raised instead to cover expanding entitlements further and can’t be used again for initial deficit reduction or offsets to future large increases in spending programs in place.

§ With the presumed passage of expanded subsidized healthcare coverage for nearly all in need, U.S. consumers, taxpayers and employers will have to buy more of the same healthcare goods and services sourced at the highest observable cost per unit in the world.

Unusual Digression in Short and Long View

On visits to clients across different parts of the world in recent weeks, we have continued to sense at least a worrying complacency with the long-term outlook for the U.S., against residual fears that the economy is incapable of cyclical recovery. In essence, many investors seem to overestimate cyclical vulnerability, while underestimating structural economic risks for the U.S. over the long run, in our view.

Far from hoarding labor (unlike others), the U.S. has just endured the deepest two year decline in employment of the post war period. Signs abound that production, employment and investment declines have been unnecessarily severe, an overshoot.

[…]

At the same time, the risks to U.S. economic performance in the long-term have actually never seemed more dire.

A demographic bulge in the dependency ratio has always loomed beginning in the early- to mid 2010s. That “bulge” worsens gradually for the following 25 years.

Few had ever contemplated entering this period with a U.S. budget deficit so large as a starting condition. This structural budget deficit looks potentially unmanageable even five years from now, when employment is assumed to be “full” and the financial supports of the recent crisis are paid back as fully as they ever will be.

Higher taxes have always seemed necessary to cover elder-care entitlements in the period ahead. But as a start, taxes are now being raised instead to cover expanding entitlements further and can’t be used again for initial deficit reduction or offsets to future large increases in spending programs already in place.

Following the recent political debate, many Americans might have come away with the notion that health insurance companies “charge too much” for healthcare. Perhaps the insurers need to hire their own cheaper doctors and build their own cheaper hospitals to compete with the existing supply of them. Assuming otherwise, they will still need to pay the same amounts for hospital stays, procedures and medicines as before, at the highest observable cost per unit in the world. But now, with the presumed passage of expanded subsidized coverage for nearly all in need, U.S. consumers, taxpayers and employers will have to buy more of those same goods and services, sourced from the same supply base.

Aside from small experimental steps to develop competitive exchanges for individual insurance coverage, never before have we seen a U.S. policy solution seem so detached from the underlying problem it purports to address. Americans want more healthcare, and will need more as the population ages. But the existing system fails in almost every way to match economic benefits with costs, obscuring them instead.

And while the latest reform effort purports deficit reduction over ten years, it does so on roughly six years of expenditures and 10 years of tax increases. More importantly, medical entitlements have never been “overpriced” into budget outlooks allowing for positive cost surprises (see Figure 11). The healthcare overhaul achieves the bulk of its purported spending cuts through limiting Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, cuts that Congress has failed to pass through repeatedly since 2003, instead opting for more spending. Private insurers, meanwhile, would see some ostensible limits to their pricing, but generally would need to expand coverage, and purchases of healthcare services and goods.

In two places in the developing and developed world, laypeople mentioned to us that healthcare in the U.S. would now properly come for “free” for those unable to pay for it. If only that was true. Instead, future tax payers will have to come to grips with the costs of a system that for now is neither disciplined by competitive market forces nor rationed like other public welfare programs.

But if not in healthcare, rationing will take place in other places. Public education outlays for the future taxpayers have reportedly been a target of near-term budget constraints. While never free from waste, these are human resource investments that contribute to the future economic output. There are investments in the individuals who will carry the larger future tax burdens of the dependency bulge of coming decades.

We have been concerned for some time that a greater, unsustainable share of future entitlement outlays will end up deficit financed, with costs simply put off further into the future. At least that may be attempted. But among other concerns, lenders to the U.S. may feel less than certain about that stream of future income and output if incentives are so skewed against those who will need to provide it.

What to do after the Healthcare Defeat?

Many Christians are asking what is to be done in light of our latest defeat and the expansion of the Messianic State. Conservatives have lost every single battle of my adult lifetime and are forever retreating, even when in power. Back in the 1980‘s in an essay called “Rebellion, Tyranny, and Dominion in the Book of Genesis” from the book “Tactics of Christian Resistance”, James Jordan exegetes Genesis and its implications for Christian politics. His bottom-line is that right now we are in a situation where we must wait with patient faith, mature, and achieve power only in the distant future. Note that you should probably read the whole essay and understand his exegesis to understand his conclusions. An extended quote follows; Jordan writes:
 Is the “New Right” really “ready to lead”? I doubt it. The New Right has not yet figured out the message of the book of Genesis. It continues to think that reformation will come through the acquisition of political power. By looking to the state, New Rightists (and old conservatives as well) make themselves statist. […]
Many conservative Roman Catholics thought that John Kennedy would help turn things around. They were disappointed; Mr. Kennedy apparently spent too much time doing other things to ask what he could do for his country. Mainline conservatives then trusted Richard Nixon, a man knowledgeable in international affairs, to turn things around. They were disappointed; Mr. Nixon’s conscience was not sufficiently seared to permit him to act like a Democratic Party politician, guilt-free. Bible believing Christians had high hopes for Jimmy Carter. Need we add that they were disappointed by the decisions made by Mr. Carter’s mother, sister, and wife? And then the whole New Right got behind Ronald Reagan, who by his appointments betrayed them before he even took office, and has now signed a bill, updating social security, which directly taxes the churches.
[We could add the two George Bushes, New Gingrich and Sarah Palin to this list, we never learn. – Joel]
[…]
Frankly, I believe that in all of this God has, as always, been gracious to us. Are Christians in this country ready to take charge? Heaven forbid! Virtually none of them knows the first thing about the law of God, by which they are called to govern. Most of them do not even acknowledge the sovereignty of God. Few have any experience in governing, since their churches have no courts, being at best mere preaching points (where they have not degenerated into spas and literal circuses). The most powerful New Christian Right people are personality-cult oriented, one-man shows (and by shows I mean shows: radio shows, television shows, and the putting on of shows).
[…]
This is not to despise the New Christian Right, or to argue that we should not exercise our (remaining) liberties as Americans to pressure the larger governments toward more Godly actions. We need to remember, however, that there is only so much time and energy alloted to each of us, and essentially that time is far better spent acquiring dominion through service than in power politics.
We may contrast three different approaches, which are not mutually exclusive, but which are of varying value at present. First, there is the effort to change laws by getting people elected to office. That has not been very successful so far, and the reason is that the vast majority of Americans essentially like things the way they are. That’s why things are the way they are – it is what the people want, and it is what they deserve, and so it is what God gives them…
Second, there is the effort to go about our business as quietly as possible. We submit to the “powers that be,” not to any law that such powers may happen to enact. We do not recognize their right to make laws, for to do so would be to grant them absolute power; but we recognize that God has given them power, and we are not to contest that power as such. We practice deception where morally necessary, and that includes preserving our capital, protecting our households, and rearing our children, as Genesis makes clear. If we are taken to court, we fight in that arena for the right to conduct Christian lives, as Paul did in the book of Acts.
Third, there is the effort to develop a Christian subculture, building up the churches as true courts and sanctuaries, developing Christian arbitration and reconciliation commissions, Christian schools, Christian medical facilities, and the like. These latter two methods are the primary ones for our times. […]
When we are ready, God will give the robe to us. That He has not done so proves that we are not ready. Asserting our readiness will not fool Him. Let us pray that He does not crush us by giving us such authority before we are ready for it. Let us plan for our great-grandchildren to be ready for it. Let us go about our business, acquiring wisdom in family, church, state, and business, and avoiding confrontations with the powers that be. Let us learn to be skillful in deceiving them and in preserving our assets for our great-grand-children. For as sure as Christ is risen from the grave and is ascended to regal glory on high, so sure it is that his saints will inherit the kingdom and rule in His name, when the time is right.

John Edwards and Abortion

It should not be surprising to us that politicians, particularly Democrats, support killing babies in the womb if this interview with Rielle Hunter is any kind of guide to their thinking. When “Johnny” Edwards impregnated her, he seemed to hope and suggest that she get an abortion, witness:

And what was his reaction?
He was always very gracious about it. And always said that he would support whatever decision I made. But I believe on some level he was hoping I would get an abortion. Because he didn’t—he wasn’t happy about the timing. Which is understandable. [laughs] He was married and running for president.

So he was gracious, really? There were no fights about it?

No, there were no fights. He was very gracious, but I always felt the underlying discontent in his graciousness. I remember one time in Miami—or was it Orlando? [laughs] I traveled a lot to see him. But he said to me, he was like, “There’s just nothing I can say to make you change your mind about this.” and I said, “Nope.” he said, “Guess I’m just gonna have to accept it.” very teasing and sweet.

Isn’t that nice? There was nothing he could say to change her mind and get her to agree to killing the baby he had conceived and which was about to become a big inconvenience in his life of lies. So, he was sweet about it. “I support whatever decision you make” equals “you may kill or keep this baby alive, it’s up to you.”

So, one reason that will never be uttered in the Senate or House about why we need to keep abortion legal is so that politicians can have their mistress’s babies killed to cover up the cheating. Of course, they could probably fly them somewhere or pay enough to get it done even if it were illegal, but it’s so much easier on the conscience since it is legal.

Stanley Fish on Liberalism

Fish discusses the liberal Western order (not political liberalism) and observes:

If you persuade liberalism that its dismissive marginalizing of religious discourse is a violation of its own chief principle, all you will gain is the right to sit down at liberalism’s table where before you were denied an invitation; but it will still be liberalism’s table that you are sitting at, and the etiquette of the conversation will still be hers. That is, someone will now turn and ask, “Well, what does religion have to say about this question?” And when, as often will be the case, religion’s answer is doctrinaire (what else could it be?), the moderator (a title deeply revealing) will nod politely and turn to someone who is presumed to be more reasonable. To put the matter baldly, a person of religious conviction should not want to enter the marketplace of ideas but to shut it down, at least insofar as it presumes to determine matters that he believes have been determined by God and faith. The religious person should not seek an accommodation with liberalism; he should seek to rout it from the field, to extirpate it, root and branch.

How is it that he sees things so clearly and yet Christians are so blind?! He writes later:

That is what Marsden should want: not the inclusion of religious discourse in a debate no one is allowed to win, but the triumph of religious discourse and the silencing of its atheistic opponents. To invoke the criterion of intellectual validity and seek shelter under its umbrella is to surrender in advance to the enemy, to that liberal rationality whose inability even to recognize the claims of faith has been responsible for religion’s marginalization in the first place. Marsden wants to argue against that marginalization, but his suggestion for removing it is in fact a way of reinforcing it. He calls it “procedural rationality.” The procedure is to scrutinize religious viewpoints and distinguish between those that “honor some basic rules of evidence and argument” and those that “are presented so dogmatically and aggressively as not to be accommodated within the procedural rules of pluralistic academia.”
One could hardly imagine a better formula for subordinating the religious impulse to the demands of civil and secular order. Presumably it will not be religion that specifies what the rules of evidence and argument to be honored are; and it surely will not be religion that stigmatizes as dogma any assertion that does not conform to the requirements of those rules. Dogma, of course, is a word that once had a positive meaning: it meant the unqualified assertion of a priori truths and was indistinguishable from a truly strong religiosity. It is only under the liberal dispensation that dogma acquires the taint of obdurateness, of a culpable refusal to submit to the test of reasonableness as defined by the standards and norms of the civil establishment.

Fish sees the Van Tillian antithesis. The very notion that “religion” should “contribute” to a “public square” marginalizes the truth which is that all of reality is encompassed in the rule of the resurrected Messiah from Nazareth. I think such public square attempts are fine if they are recognized for what they are: tactics in the long war which will tide us over until the nation is baptized and under the reign of King Jesus.

A Note Regarding John Edwards

It took a couple years, but Edwards finally owned up to the truth that he cheated on his wife and fathered a child with his mistress. The only thing I want to point out is that the National Enquirer broke this story, and when they did a lot of the reaction was, “You’re going to believe a story from the National Enquirer?!! You can’t be serious!”

Well, yes, I am. The Enquirer also broke the Gary Hart story in 1987. And if not for them, we might never have found out about Edwards. Do you think CNN or the New York Times was going to stake out his hotel and chase him down the hall like the Enquirer did? They did the hard and dirty work that our prestigious outlets can’t stoop to in the case of a leading Democratic figure. I am thankful that the Enquirer is out there.

I’d also add that if anyone wants to know why no one trusts (or should trust) elected officials of either party, this is a great example. Yet another bald-faced liar who lies on TV interviews, in indignant press releases, and so on until the week before a book comes out nailing him to the wall. Just like Bill Clinton, just like Gary Hart, just like many others. Not only do they cheat on their spouses (Republicans too), but they lie and lie and lie until FORCED to tell the truth. So is there any reason to think they aren’t lying about all kinds of other things where they will never be forced to tell the truth? The presumption is that the always lie, unless forced to tell the truth.

Nidal Hasan and Secular America

I have written in the past about the coexistence of Islam and Secularism; (here and here for example). According to the Washington Post, Islamic murderer Nidal Hasan gave a presentation to the Army about which the Post says:

Under the “Conclusions” page, Hasan wrote that “Fighting to establish an Islamic State to please God, even by force, is condoned by the Islam,” and that “Muslim Soldiers should not serve in any capacity that renders them at risk to hurting/killing believers unjustly — will vary!”

Yes, will vary.

The Ft. Hood massacre exposes once again the fissures in our society. It is patently obvious that Hasan wanted to inflict death on Americans rather than being forced to go overseas and fight against fellow Muslims. But our corporate, government and educational elites have enforced diversity and tolerance from the top-down for decades now and cannot admit that this level of violence is happening. The reactions to the event are tired and predictable. Expect to see religion blamed in the abstract as a problem, or access to guns, or the wars themselves, not Islam.

A plain reading of the Qur’an reveals that Bin Laden and Hasan are living in closer harmony with the will of Allah revealed in the text than are those Muslims who do not resist the infidels. The response of most in the West is to talk about “Islamism” and “radical Islam” as opposed to the “peaceful” Islam that is the majority view. Clinton, Bush and now Obama engaged in this game. [An aside – where is the ACLU screaming for separation of mosque and state when the President of the USA takes it upon himself to decide which version of Islam is orthodox and which is fringe? In making these pronouncements the leaders of the “free world” are choosing between the different sects of Islam and are acting as official interpreters of which sects are orthodox and which aren’t.]

The official policy of state “neutrality” in religion is a thin veneer of lies that masks the official endorsement of Enlightenment secularism as the de facto philosophy of western nations. There can be peace so long as religion makes no ultimate claims upon the Almighty State and so long as people don’t take religion too seriously. Americans are just fine with religion as long as you don’t get overly serious about God. If you do, at that point you become a fundamentalist, Bible-thumper, nut, or some other pejorative term and you are marginalized.

Any Muslim who gets serious about his religion and reads the Qur’an may resort to violence. God sanctions it and indeed favors it. Christians who take their faith seriously would instead follow the example of Paul who was a model citizen to the point of refusing to flee his Roman captors on two occasions when he could have. BUT, Christians also have absolute truth claims and a body of law that informs how a nation, city or county should run. In this respect we are similar to Muslims or any other religion. Secularism will have none of this. All must be equally powerless and silent in the public sphere, keep your religion to yourself, your church building and your home.

The same folks who bring us Tolerance and Diversity also welcome mass immigration. I believe that their underlying assumption is that such immigration will destroy any chance of Christian hegemony and remake the nation in their weird image. If you think that’s a stretch, you should read this. But what they don’t seem to grasp is that a Muslim America would not have gay marriage and queer courses in college, it would demand submission. Perhaps a miscalculation on their part.

But the way in which they want to change this is to do to the Qur’an what German scholars did to the Bible – that is impose higher criticism on it and deconstruct it. What many people would like to see at the end of this is an Islam that is peaceful, works within the framework of the secularism that upholds America, and has a text that is not trustworthy and does not have to be obeyed.

Time will tell if this approach is successful or not. But Christians should be cautious about cheering these efforts on. The same high-handed approach that wants to neuter Islam also wants to (and has) emasculated Christendom, removing any threat to the State from a modern day Constantine. We have entire schools of thought and churches within Christianity that are FOR the separation of Church and State!

The answer to Muslims who want to kill at the behest of Allah is not more secularism, pornography, drugs and tolerance. The answer for them is to repent and believe on Jesus the Messiah. This is what we should work for and pray for. Hasan’s murders expose the illogical nature of our settled political order and one would hope that people would begin to think seriously about who we are and what we believe as a people. However, we have had plenty of warnings and thus far the elites and their tired ideology show no sign of cracking.