December 21, 2014

You did not build that. God did.

The right wing’s Horatio Alger myth and rugged individualism worldview is incorrect.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans are wrong. They did NOT build their businesses by themselves. They had to deliver their goods and get their employees to work on roads paid for by the taxpayers. Have you ever tried starting a business in Somalia or Bangledesh? I have done some mission work in developing countries. Americans take infrastructure investments and law and order for granted. We have a government and law enforcement agencies who enforce the rule of law and make the country safe for business. This is paid for by the taxpayers, not by the businessmen themselves alone.

It takes two to tango. I do not know of any businessman who did not have a good mentor to coach them on the best practices of their trade. I do not know of any businessman who became successful living on an island without interacting and working with colleagues in the industry. I do not know of any businessman who became wildly successful without leveraging his time and talents through quality, reliable employees. I do not know of any businessman who lasted in business for long who did not have clients and customers who trusted them in order to purchase their products and services. Every successful businessman I know, despite their rhetoric of “building it themselves,” reflects on and thanks the numerous individuals who impacted his or her life in a meaningful way to allow them to be successful themselves. They did not wake up one day on an island with all the knowledge in the world and make money.

You did NOT build that.

President Obama is actually right. His worldview is accurate. Unfortunately, many on the far left in my political party promote policies that are quite antithetical to business. I don’t mind paying taxes to enjoy the benefits of living in a civilized society. However, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to tax hustling (income tax) in order to fund the government. We should be taxing the crass consumerism of our culture that has led to the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, but I digress.

God made this world and “every good and perfect gift comes from above.” That money you just made, ultimately is not yours. I concur with the right wing that the money does not belong to the government, but it does not quite belong to the individual either. It belongs to God. God gave you the talent and opportunity to succeed. God also blessed you through the work of others who made your success possible. You did not physically build that store, stocked those shelves, made all those products, set up that security system, paved those roads, supplied electricity, and physically take part in all five vertical phases of production from resource extraction to final sale. You sell diamonds? Did you go to Congo and mine those diamonds yourself under the sweltering hot sun? I think not. No man is an island. You did not build that.

The only thing you can take full credit for as a human being is your sin (Credit to Reverend Monsignor Charles Pope of Washington, DC for this thought). God had no part in that. That sin was all you, baby.

Thank all those you work with and learned from who made you who you are today. Humble yourselves and acknowledge that you need God’s help directly and through others for your success. Give it all back in the end because you can either store up your treasures on this Earth or store up your treasures in heaven. Where your treasures are, there you will be.

“You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” Listen to the sermon that inspired my thoughts here.

Washington Times: Putin says leaders should unite to end anti-Christian persecution

Vladimir PutinWhodathunk that in 2013, there would be a role reversal between the historically religious United States and the once militantly secular Russia, the former head state of the communist Soviet Union? Russian President Vladimir Putin is a believer in Jesus Christ and practicing Russian Orthodox Christian who underwent a born again experience in the 1990s following life-threatening events he and his wife experienced and survived.

The Western World, including the United States, is mired in political correctness and is eager to push Christianity out of the public square and into a closet in the interest of “democratic ideals” (read: secular) right at the time militant Islam continues to be a worldwide threat. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is now the leading world figure to take action to end anti-Christian persecution and reverse decades of secularism in Russia that has led to unhappy lives and breakdowns of traditional institutions that maintained peace and the survival of the nation.

The evangelical Christian community that still identifies Russia with communism, Cold War tensions and the brutality of Stalinism is in for a shock if Putin follows through on his comments. They underscore that the world has changed. In the wake of the “war on terror,” the U.S. is no longer seen as a guardian of justice and liberty. Now one of her traditional enemies is poised to defend ideals that America no longer cherishes.

In Iran, Christian pastors like Saeed Abedini and Youcef Nadarkhani have been beaten and tortured over the past two years, and have been threatened with execution. In a recent interview with CBN, Eritrean torture survivor “Philip” shared graphic stories of his own experience in torture camps in the Sinai desert. “In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians,” he said. “I was hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”

These stories are nothing new. Horrific persecution of Christians has been widespread since new converts were fed to the lions in the Roman Empire. What is surprising is that these are the kinds of stories that were coming out of Russia not long ago, when atheism was the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and twenty-year-old Ivan Moiseyev was beaten to death in the Red Army.

What’s changed since then? Putin hinted at it when he said the church in Russia had been a “moral compass” to many who were looking for help, hinting at the recent century of misery and struggle that the Russian people have endured. He also acknowledged the role that the church has played in “culture and education,” adding, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland.”

Why is the Russian leadership suddenly recognizing the priceless value to their nation of the Christian virtues they condemned for so many years? It’s simple. The Russian people have learned the hard way about the cultural devastation and decline that results from the rejection of the happy principles that have bolstered the western world for so many centuries.

Vladimir Putin is the only leader in the world right now with a spine. I guess George W. Bush was right when he said this about Putin.

“I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship,” – President George W. Bush, 2001

Conservatives for Trayvon Martin

My thoughts exactly.

Stupid Party, Indeed

So Republicans just gave away $195 million in corporate welfare to agribusiness while cutting food stamps. The Republican Party is robbing entitlements to the poor to give government handouts to the rich. How is this supposed to jive with Christian values? Oh wait, the GOP doesn’t even want to talk about social issues anymore because they think that is an electoral loser. Fiscal issues only. Why let Christian values of compassion and charity get in the way of greedy, crony capitalism and socialism (corporate welfare) for the rich?

Here is the zinger.

Eisenhower was a conservative and frugal president who insisted on balancing the budget. He put a lid on Pentagon spending. He defended Social Security and labor laws, while building the interstate highways and funding the national education defense act. He was re-elected in a landslide.

Now it looks like the “stupid” wing of the Republican Party has taken over. Our nation suffers as a result. And Republicans are likely to pay the price for that.

Read more of Katrina vanden Heuvel’s scathing piece here.

Sarah Palin for U.S. Senate 2014?

Sarah Palin recently said on Sean Hannity’s show that she is considering running for U.S. Senate in 2014. Few people remember that Sarah Palin almost became a U.S. Senator in 2002, but was passed over on the short list by then Governor Frank Murkowski as he appointed his daughter Lisa to fill his unexpired U.S. Senate term he vacated to become Governor. This move by Frank Murkowski caused an uproar and resulted in a referendum that stripped the Governor of Alaska of the power to appoint U.S. Senators to fill unexpired terms. Frank Murkowski would later be defeated by Sarah Palin in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary.

The history lesson here is not the point however. The following is the point.

Many Republicans I know have gotten on social media to call on Sarah to “go away” and have never forgiven her for the gaffes she made in 2008 and blame her for McCain’s loss. Never mind that Joe Biden’s frequent gaffes over a longer period are more weird and that Sarah Palin was the only reason why the McCain campaign was revitalized with a huge influx of volunteers and money for the final two months of the campaign.

These Republicans I know who never forgave Sarah for her gaffes are the same Republicans who forgave and supported… Mark Sanford. Some even knocked on doors for Mark Sanford.

So there you have it folks. Republicans in Washington, DC will never forgive you if you fumble a question inarticulately on national television. However, these same Republicans will forgive you if you like to get freaky with your mistress on taxpayer dollars as long as you never vote for a tax increase.

Just ask Mark Sanford.

The Secularization of the GOP

Let’s clear a few things first. I am a theologically small-o orthodox Christian – the term “conservative Christian” is loaded with improper connotations. I am a social conservative.

I also believe that the Religious Right has done untold damage to conservative Christianity and has actually sped up the secularization of America. In my unscientific estimation, for every 1 new convert the Religious Right wins over from secular America or liberalized, watered-down, mainline denominations, the Religious Right’s coarse rhetoric, the greedy hypocrisy of the Religious Right’s leaders, and its use of big government right-wing social engineering*** has driven away and radicalized 1.5 new secularists.

(***Side note: “Marriage incentives.” Remember that plank on the GOP? What a way to disrespect unlucky single people on the dating scene. The idea that tax breaks and government entitlements will help a man find a wife is ludicrous.)

The Religious Right consisting of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, along with its political mouthpieces in Jesse Helms, Tom Delay, and others of that ilk, has been an abject failure to Christianity. I don’t care about what they did to tarnish the GOP brand so much because I care about Christianity above all, but because the Religious Right used the power of the state vis-a-vis the GOP to create a Dominionist-Dispensationalist Christian world, the Religious Right took down the GOP as they destroyed the public image of Christianity.

In the 1970s, the Religious Right drove out the Neslon Rockefeller Republicans – and I hate Nelson Rockefeller Republicans! But the enemy of my enemy is…my enemy.

With that said, it should be of no surprise to see non-profit social conservative advocacy groups on the ropes after the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA. Despite their steely resolve to save an America they “no longer recognize,” they are on their last legs.

It is a sad state of affairs for the public image of Christianity when most secular people don’t connect Christianity to Bishop Fulton Sheen. They connect Christianity to the flame-throwing Bishop E.W. Jackson.

Of course, the negative connections go all the way back to Jerry Falwell whose ideological adherents like Jesse Helms and Tom Delay made people believe that narrow-minded, hypocritical, power-hungry Christianity = GOP. Worse, it made people believe that narrow-mindedness, hypocrisy, and power hunger = Christianity.

The Religious Right will go the way of the dinosaurs. Pun intended. Thank goodness, but we are not going to see an intellectual, historical Christian revival take place despite my hope. This is because young Republicans are the most secular Republicans we have seen since, well, the Nelson Rockefeller Republicans.

Young Republicans are growing up in an America that competes with Western Europe for the most secular society in the Western world. The South is the last region in the U.S. where people talk about religion casually like they talk about the weather, but even its religious culture is slowly giving way to secularization. On any college campus, College Republicans are almost as likely as College Democrats to be non-church going people. I guarantee you that many College Republicans are just as sexually libertine as College Democrats, probably even worse!

Yet, the reason why the GOP will continue to be relevant is because it has a pipeline of new adherents in the schools. The unifying factor is fiscal conservatism. One look at the ferocious dedication of Ron Paul followers and you will realize that this is a new GOP. Gone are the socially liberal, elitist, urban-industrialist Rockefeller Republicans (ahem, crony capitalist). Gone are the rural, backwoods, fire-breathing Religious Right that married fiscal conservatism to gain power. In are the new Ayn Rand secular objectivists.

Margaret Hoover documented this well in her book, “American Individualism.” The typical young Republican supports fiscal conservatism, limited government, marijuana legalization, sexual freedom, and gay marriage. For many young people, it is all about prioritizing the last three, but the unifier is that the typical young Republican wants the government to get out of his life so he can start a business, keep more of his money, blaze that chronic, fornicate, and respect other people’s living styles equally.

It is an image that is repulsive to Republicans over 70 years old, who grew up in the romanticized, male-dominated 1950s (think Leave It To Beaver). Some young Republicans are like their elders, but their numbers are small.

Even though the record is mixed (ex: losses in 2009, victories in 2012), Democrats continue to campaign on social issues because they are listening to young people. They are hearing on the college campuses that new fiscal conservatives are also secular and that they place their social liberalism on a higher priority than fiscal conservatism. In due time, this strategy will prove wildly successful in demolishing the GOP if trends continue.

Social conservative activists will argue that trends will not continue. They argue that young people have always fallen away from church and stats prove that by the time they are in their 40s, they return to church and become more socially conservative. The activists leave out a crucial detail. The studies were done on people who grew up in church. Today’s generation of young Republicans did not grow up in strong church settings and Christian culture. So we don’t have research numbers for this generation of young Republicans that are still in their 20s. I surmise that it will be harder to evangelize these young Republicans in significant numbers given their distaste for the Religious Right which I explained did a ton of damage to the Christian brand.

So brace yourselves. In about ten years time, America will be a Western Europe type of secular society. Secular progressives will battle it out with secular conservatives in politics. Low taxes, limited government, and a strict Constitutional adherence might very well win the day, but the churches will be empty.

Kelly Ayotte – Marsha Blackburn ’16

Amidst the never ending rumors, speculations, and posturing involved in the 2016 Presidential race, I am registering my pick right now. No, I am not siding with Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, or Ted Cruz.

Everybody knows that Governor Sarah Palin is the primary reason why I am still working in politics when I should have retired long ago to pursue my real interests elsewhere. Should she run for President, I would support her in principle and as a measure of gratitude for the priceless experiences and friendships I have made and the real impact I have made in advancing the women’s movement since 2009. This is all due to my continued involvement in politics after being inspired by Governor Palin to stay persistent in a game in which I have grown disillusioned and disinterested. Yet, I think her window of opportunity to run for President has passed.

That said, I said it here and I said it first. For the Republican Presidential ticket in 2016, I want to see U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn carrying the banner for free markets and free people. Let’s make it happen.

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R - NH)

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R – NH)

U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R - TN)

U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R – TN)

Governor Sarah Palin (R - AK)

Governor Sarah Palin (R – AK)

Sarah Palin's endorsement of Kelly Ayotte in 2010 propelled Ayotte to victory in a hard fought U.S. Senate race.

Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Kelly Ayotte in 2010 propelled Ayotte to victory in a hard fought U.S. Senate race.

Megyn Kelly destroys sexist, conservative, Fox News males

Note to Fox News males: If it wasn’t for the intelligent and attractive Fox News women, your ratings would drop precipitously.

There is no room in any society for the kind of thinking perpetrated by Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs that says that men must be the dominant head of the household and primary breadwinner otherwise the nation will crumble.

Many of my friends and clients are married, conservative women with children who make more money than their husbands and are the heads of their households. America is better because of this. This is a societal trend that merits celebration and encouragement.

Alisyn Camerota

Alisyn Camerota

Patti Ann Browne

Patti Ann Browne

Ainsley Earhardt

Ainsley Earhardt

Dana Perino

Dana Perino

Gretchen Carlson

Gretchen Carlson

Marketplace (Un)Fairness Act

This is a direct response to this.

I really despise rent seekers. When these people can’t compete in the marketplace, instead of investing their resources into retooling their business model, they spend their money on lobbyists to force legislators to kill the competition. I am a member of the Congressional Federal Credit Union. I do not like it when banks try to push legislation to cripple the credit unions because they can’t compete with the credit unions’ business model as a nonprofit cooperative which allows them to offer better rates.

(Free advertising: If you do not qualify for credit union membership and need to go with a bank, be a member of McLean’s own Chain Bridge Bank. I am a member of Chain Bridge Bank in addition to the Congressional Federal Credit Union. Chain Bridge Bank offers the best rates, offers the best customer service that you would expect from a small community bank, and practice sound fiscal principles that garnered them recognition as one of America’s safest banks. Tell them Phil Tran sent you.)

Likewise, as a person who has not bought an item other than food from a brick-and-mortar store for ages, I do not like it when brick-and-mortar stores seek to tear down successful internet business models instead of stepping their game up. Things change. Change or die. Blockbuster, Circuit City, many movie theaters, and virtually every mall in America not named Pentagon City (Arlington, VA) or Tysons Corner Center/Tysons Galleria (Tysons Corner, VA) died because they thought the internet was a fad or were slow to react to change in the free market and the market passed them by.

I don’t miss the average American mall, Blockbuster, Circuit City, arcades, or other brick-and-mortar establishments. Internet shopping is a much better experience. Even with an internet tax to “level the playing field” and bring “fairness,” brick-and-mortar stores are still on the path to irrelevance. Public services have not fallen apart in the last decade because we did not capture sales tax revenues from internet transactions. If public services are indeed falling apart (and some are), they are falling apart due to mismanagement, not lack of funding. Cut spending.

These brick-and-mortar stores are acting like unions. When highly specialized entrepreneurs face hard times, they change course, learn new skills, and find creative ways to grow their business during an economic downturn. When highly specialized employees face hard times, instead of trying to change and adapt, some form a union to preserve the status quo against all reason and reality. During the industrial age, unions served a useful purpose because manufacturing was backbreaking work that can be made worse with abusive workplace practices. We live in the information age now without those problems and unions only serve to impede progress in an information age economy.

Here are two solutions.

1. Eliminate the sales taxes on brick-and-mortar stores if we really care about “fairness.” The brick-and-mortar stores are going to die anyway because the internet rules the day. More businesspeople today are looking at commercial real estate as an investment folly and would rather work from the friendly confines of home and keep more of the money they earn.

2. This is much better than #1 and is by far the best solution. Eliminate the income tax which is a tax on hustle and jack up the sales tax. This is proposed every year in Congress as the Fair Tax. Why is the prevailing culture in this nation vacuous, superficial, and materialistic? It is in part because we punish hustling through the income tax and reward consumption through low sales taxes. Do you want to be a maker (hustler) or do you want to be a taker (consumer)? Our public policies punish hustling and reward taking.

Beyond the battle between brick-and-mortar stores and internet businesses, this is a big business vs. small business battle. If we truly want to protect America’s stature as the land of opportunity, we need to support small business. In America, especially in today’s information age, the barriers to entry in business are so low that any aspiring person with a computer, a phone, an internet connection, a dream, and a lot of drive can start a self-sufficient, successful business from home. Do we really want that enthusiastic teenager, that ambitious recent graduate, that stay-at-home mother, or that stay-at-home father to have to comply with 9600 different tax districts when they mail a product? They say they can cure this with software. Well that means I would no longer need an accountant because I can simply use Turbo Tax, right? (Not!)

Finally, this is a battle between old America and new America. I stand with the future. Old America has romanticized memories of piling into the car, driving to the mall, shopping till they drop, hitting the food court, playing at the arcade, and catching a movie. As part of the Millenial Generation, I see this as wasting valuable business productivity being stuck in traffic, finding less selections in store as opposed to the world marketplace of the internet, unhealthy fast food, and blowing money on activities that come at a much lower cost today at home via the internet.

The market will always move faster than the government. Young, ambitious entrepreneurs see the world they want to live in and make it a reality. Elected officials are old and obsolete from a bygone era. After serving in public office, they have lost their imagination and ingenuity and hold on to nostalgic, romanticized images of their younger days. These images shape the worldview in which these old politicians use to shape public policy. These old elected officials do not see what the young entrepreneurs see and do not craft the right public policies to allow creativity and innovation to flourish.

It is time to return public service to its part-time roots. Government was never intended to be a full-time job because the framers wanted elected officials to live in the real world so they can understand how to formulate effective public policy. Even the “part-time” state legislatures in America like the Virginia General Assembly are full-time jobs in reality because politics has now become a year-round sport. In addition to fighting unfair, backwards, dinosaur-era legislation like the “Marketplace Fairness Act” we need to severely cut down and restrict the time elected officials and challenger candidates spend “on the clock” in politics regardless of where they are so they can spend more time on the clock in the real world like the rest of us. Does this unconstitutionally restrict the movement of elected officials and challenger candidates throughout the year? Of course it does, but less freedom for the politicians to politic year-round means more freedom for the people.

Mark Sanford, Teflon Don (and the future of social conservatives in the GOP)

Let the record state that I believe in repentance and redemption. Some people we consider to be fine leaders and role models would have never gotten their chance if we never got past their indiscretions like drunkenness, fornication, and out of wedlock births. This could be anybody we know today, but I am thinking of Saint Augustine who was a known hedonist and had an out of wedlock child before he accepted Jesus Christ and cleaned up his life.

That said, there is very strong evidence today that, in light of concurrent sudden ideological shifts, the Republican Party is leapfrogging its way back to its socially liberal Rockefeller era with Mark Sanford’s primary runoff victory today for the South Carolina Congressional special election. Mark Sanford, who left the Governor’s office in embarrassment for lying to his constituents about running away with a mistress, has done the no longer unthinkable, but highly probable political comeback after a sordid sex scandal. Heck, if U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) can do some freaky thangs with some hoes and still win reelection with a purportedly socially conservative Republican base, Mark Sanford’s indiscretions are just small potatoes.

In fact, Sanford didn’t really need the social conservatives to cruise to victory. His primary runoff opponent had the entire family values movement behind him and lost the numbers game to the fiscal conservative-focused Sanford supporters. When you take this event and reflect on the fact that former Presidential candidate and Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), who is a socially conservative Baptist preacher, was criticized by Republicans for being a “liberal” because his thoughtful interpretation of the Bible led him to advocate some social justice issues in the economy, and reflect on the fact that in recent years, CPAC attendees prioritized fiscal conservatism over social conservatism and national security to the raw percentage of 70%+, the trends are very clear.

If these trends continue, we might see social issues completely off the table in 2016 as the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominees present their secular progressive and secular conservative visions for America – Western European style. If social conservatives leave the GOP as a result, could this provide the opportunity for Democrats to pick up a constituency they used to have from the 1920s through the early 1970s? Could Hillary Clinton, similar to Bill, try to speak the language in order to win back working class Catholics and Evangelical Protestants who have been reluctantly voting Republican if social issues are off the table in 2016?

Here are some of my hypotheses if the trends continue as stated.

– We will see a massive realignment in American party politics in 2016. The two major parties have realigned themselves in terms of issues and coalitions in America every 40 to 60 years. The Democratic Party in 1964 was not the Democratic Party from 1876. Who would have thought that a Democratic Party that had the support of the old Confederacy would embrace MLK? The Republican Party in 1980 was not the Republican Party from 1864. Would have thought that the party of Abraham Lincoln became the party of Jesse Helms? The Republican Party in 1928 was not the Republican Party of 1900. Few people are actually aware that there was a time period in which the Republican Party was a progressive party from the late 1800s to 1920 when it would become the fiscally conservative party. Will the Republican Party of 2016 be the party of Rand Paul? Will it go even farther and be the party of Mark Kirk?

– If social conservatives are dissatisfied with a secular conservative vision of America that could be presented by the Republican Party in 2016, and America remains equally split between secular progressivism and secular conservatism, could the Democrats exploit the opportunity to reconsolidate their power by giving social conservatives a seat a the table at minimum? The powers that be in the RNC are sorely mistaken if they believe that social conservatives are monolithic in economic matters and will be fiscally conservative as well. Social conservatives, ironically, will have an amplified voice and temporary bargaining power at least in 2016 if both political parties go secular.