Monday, January 15, 2018

Standing Up

The MLK Memorial in Washington, DC,
viewed from near the Jefferson Memorial

I had my flag out for Martin Luther King’s Birthday today. I keep thinking we’d do better to have school and other ways to educate his message on this day than just having a long weekend. So, to that end, here are some thoughts from and about a man who stood up when it took bravery and strength to do that.


“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”—Martin Luther King, Jr. (quoting 19th Century abolitionist Theodore Parker)


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.—Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”
 
The stone marking where MLK gave his
"I Have a Dream" speech,
in front of the Lincoln Memorial

In 2013 I wrote this in honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday:

MLK, like Gandhi, valued non-violence as a strategy toward change. He stood up for what he believed and was willing to spend time in jail to show his seriousness. That willingness to stand up for principle no matter the unpleasant consequences is something to admire.
MLK was a conservative in many ways that I am. Our Constitution says it guarantees the rights God has given to all human beings. It was not the Constitution that was wrong, but the people in the country who hadn’t opened their eyes to the validity of human rights for all races. So the Constitution was worth conserving. MLK was a Republican, because that party was (and has been, since Lincoln or before) the party ideologically aligned with applying the Constitution to all citizens. Conservatives, half a century ago as well as today, look at MLK’s words, and find resonating truth.

Last year I shared Martin Luther King’s Ten Commandments for those joining him in the nonviolent movement, which bear repeating: 


1.       MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2.       REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.
3.       WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.
4.       PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5.       SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
6.       OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7.       SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8.       REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9.       STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10.   FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

It was an advantage that this man was willing to stand, and also had the talent of speaking words that persuaded good people to stand with him. Here are a few more beautiful words from MLK:


There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.


Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light 
can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: 
only love can do that.



Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.


The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

On the wall of the MLK Memorial in Washington, DC





Thursday, January 11, 2018

Security Limits Opportunity

Real life is an untidy, somewhat chaotic thing. And economics is part of real life.

For example, we’re a couple of weeks since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In the wake of that, many companies have offered bonuses to the employees and other investments in the business. Among them, Walmart this week announced raising their starting wage to $11 an hour, which is more than $3 above the national minimum wage.

No law was required to force them to do this. The free market did it. Entry workers are in short supply, so much so that they need to offer more money to entice the workers of the level they want. That’s a good thing for every entry-level worker willing to do the work Walmart wants done.

One of the Sam's Club locations closed in Houston
image from KHOU

But then, this morning, without prior warning, the Walmart corporation closed about 100 Sam’s Club 
locations across the country. Sam’s Club, if you’re not familiar, is the big box store branch of Walmart. It requires a membership fee, and quantities and sizes of products tend to be large. But prices are typically better than you can get elsewhere. Three of these closed stores were in and near Houston.

When I heard the news, I immediately went to the internet to find out if our nearby store was among them, and breathed a sigh of relief. The closed ones are far away enough that I’ve never been to them.
But employees weren’t even given a heads up. The announcement apparently went out overnight. The company explains,

After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.
The suddenness seems harsh. But employees will get pay for next 60 days and are eligible to apply for transfers to other Sam’s Club locations or Walmart stores.

If you see the sudden upheaval that these employees face —the untidy chaos—as a problem that needs to be solved, you might forget that the free market solves this “problem” better than government or any other way.

In France there are guarantees that you can’t lose your job for life. That’s security. But there are steep costs for that, in money and freedom. I met an exchange student during recent travels. She was studying here to avoid, or postpone, some requirements from her high school in France. She was expected, by age 16, to have decided on her life’s work. From that point on, all education and opportunities would be limited to that decision—assuming she qualified for her choice. She would have a job waiting for her after graduation, but no opportunity to change her career once she realized, at age 19 or 23, that what she loved at 16 didn’t still interest her or fit who she grew up to be.

That kind of limitation might work for people who are raised from birth to believe job security is everything, and choice and flexibility are overrated. But here in America, that kind of control over life choices bristles with tyranny. And we won’t stand for it.

Does that mean we don’t care about workers at Sam’s Club who just lost their jobs? Of course we care. But the solution is in the market. We know—and it’s also evidenced by Walmart’s raise in wages—that there’s something of a shortage of workers right now (at last). So those workers will be in demand elsewhere.

It’s a general rule of thumb that, the lower the pay rate, the quicker a worker can find a job. Over a certain level, you add a month of searching for every $10,000 in annual pay. Except for management, most of the laid off workers are in the under $20,000 a year range; that means they’re very likely to find new work within the two months of their severance pay. If they get work very quickly with a different company, that severance is actually a bonus.

Lack of control, and that sense of insecurity, may feel uncomfortable while you’re in a moment of upheaval. But this is America, where opportunities abound when government gets out of the way. There’s always a good chance that change will lead to something better. There’s a reason we still talk about the American Dream.

Monday, January 8, 2018

What Is This Spherical Model?

The Spherical Model is an alternative way of looking at political ideas, rather than right and left. There have been so many errors attached to the right/left model that it’s hard to have a conversation about ideas related to politics, economics, and culture.

Why is that needed? Take a look at this post from Louder with Crowder today:

The article he links to is here.


In case you can't read the fine print at the top that I’d like you to notice, it's this:

A super comprehensive post about the many, MANY, ways Hitler was a socialist liberal. So stop calling him “right-wing” already.
A favorite tactic employed by leftists is to describe the Nazis as “right wing,” with Adolf Hitler, their leader, as the grand champion of this “right wing” movement.
But thanks to this nifty thing called “history” in combination with “the internet” we can bust this myth once and for all. Thoroughly. Or until a leftist insists on ignoring it. Then we’ll hold them down and tape their eyes open. Just kidding, that’s only what a leftist would do….


It makes zero sense to talk about the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the National Socialist Party (Nazi) as opposites on a political spectrum. They are at best slightly different flavors of the exact same type of tyranny. But people ignore that and throw the Nazi or Hitler epithet against those who disagree with them. There has to be a better way, certainly, than left and right—especially when abiding by the US Constitution gets called right-wing extremism.

So, yes, the Spherical Model is a better way. On the Spherical Model, tyranny is opposite of freedom, so if a form of government, or a policy, doesn’t follow the principles required for freedom, then it’s in the southern hemisphere, where you find tyranny of all kinds. Where exactly depends on whether the type of tyranny is statist or anarchic. If you’ve got two forms of statist tyranny, they will be very close together on the sphere. It’s easily visible.
 
Overlap of Fascism, Socialism, and Communism
from this post



I’ve written well over 800 posts, starting March 2011, all under the heading of Spherical Model, with the subheading “Commentary on the interrelationships of the political, economic, and social spheres.” The blog is where we talk about how to apply the Spherical Model to what’s happening in our world. The three spheres interrelate, and that often becomes evident in the real world.

But I’m not really about commenting on world, national, and local politics. There are plenty of people doing that. I do political philosophy [I define that here and more here], rather than political commentary. So every now and then I review what the Spherical Model is.

The long version is on the website, SphericalModel.com, divided into sections for the three overlapping spheres: political, economic, and social. It’s about 50 pages of reading. 

The short version is what I summarized at the end of 2014: “ThePolitical Sphere Is Round.” The political sphere explains the value of using a sphere, rather than a spectrum line, most obviously, so we start with that sphere. 

There’s also a short video (9 minutes), explaining it visually, which, when you’re dealing with three dimensions, is helpful—even though it’s about the lowest budget video on the internet. 

A year ago, in a post like this one, to clarify what the Spherical Model is, I summarized the principles for each of the three spheres. 

The Spherical Model is what I call the world’s smallest think tank. It’s made up of me, and any input I get from my three adult children, who happen to have interests and abilities that coincide with the three spheres, so I refer to them as Political Sphere, Economic Sphere, and Social Sphere. A few times I’ve had Political Sphere write a guest post. I keep hoping he’ll do more of that. Mr. Spherical Model supports the effort by providing for the website.

I’ve done some “best of” and other collections:

·         Best of Spherical Model, in 3 parts starting June 10, 2013 
·         More of the Best, in 4 parts starting March 2, 2015 
·         Motherhood Collection, May 11, 2017 
·         Defense of Marriage Collection, July 1, 2013 
·         Education Collection, July 24, 2013 

I’ll add a few “bests” from 2017

·         Defending Religious Freedom, January 1, 2017 
·         Another Nail, February 2, 2017 
·         Love and Other L Words, June 29, 2017 
·         What a Minimum Wage Should Be, July 13, 2017 
·         Worse Than We Imagined, in 2 parts starting July 21, 2017 
·         What Makes You Think That? September 28, 2017 
·         Family Isn’t Extinct, October 12, 2017 
·         Communism’s 100 Year War on Civilization, November 9, 2017  
·         Socialism is Selfish, November 13, 2017  




Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Person to Be Loved

I had gone to bed Tuesday night without getting on my computer one last time. So it wasn’t until after I was up Wednesday morning that my husband gave me the news that our beloved Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, had passed away late Tuesday night. He was 90, and the last couple of years have seemed like a bonus—more time than we had a right to expect. What a life he lived!

Pres. Thomas S. Monson, center, when called as Prophet, 2008
photo from newsroom.lds.org 

There’s a description of a leader in the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni, that I think applies well to President Monson, so I’ll, respectfully, replace his name in the verse, Alma 48:17:

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [Thomas Spencer Monson], behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
The words that came to mind as I listened to news of his passing were “love” and “delight.” He was so loving—so outgoing and friendly, and able to connect to each individual. He had a sense of timing, and a twinkle in his eye, that allowed you to laugh with him.

He was a storyteller, as a way to teach, often using stories from his childhood, or young adulthood. One of the stories from childhood had to do with setting a fire that got way out of hand. His delivery adds so much to the humor. I recommend watching this video; the story is from 3:35-8:45. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the Twelve Apostles, shared this depiction of Pres. Monson three years ago:

The image of him I will cherish until I die is of him flying home from then–economically devastated East Germany in his house slippers because he had given away, not only his second suit and his extra shirts, but the very shoes from off his feet. More than any man I know, President Monson has “done all he could” for the widow and the fatherless, the poor and the oppressed.[i]
Pres. Monson with Boy Scouts
photo found at KSL.com
Thomas S. Monson was a champion for the Boy Scouts for many decades--the longest-serving member of the Scout national BSA board. At a ceremony in West Virginia, in which a building was named to honor him, he spoke to the Scouts:

As you continue to participate in this fine program, your abilities to think, to plan and to achieve will be heightened. This along with your personal integrity and spirituality will help guide you and keep you on the right path as you journey through life. If ever there were a time when the principles of Scouting were vitally needed, that time is now.[ii]

I could probably do several posts of collected President Monson quotes, but I’ll share just a few.
This is his code for life:

Never let a problem to be solved be more important than a person to be loved.[iii]

I’ve had this one in a file for many decades. I don’t know whether he originally said it or quoted it, but I heard it from him:

Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won’t

Good advice:

Choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.

Don’t limit yourself, and don’t let others convince you that you are limited in what you can do. Believe in yourself and then live so as to reach your possibilities. You can achieve what you believe you can. Trust and believe and have faith.

We must develop the capacity to see men not as they are at present but as they may become.[iv]


Fill your mind with truth;
Fill your heart with love;
Fill your life with service.[v]


This is essential Thomas S. Monson:

The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it, and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer, or someone’s need. And I always want the Lord to know that, if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him.

There have been several tributes in media the past couple of days. This one from KSL News in Salt Lake City, is good, with plenty of photos and videos. This article from LDS Living offers a nice list of memories, many with video clips. 

The video tribute below, from the Mormon Newsroom, [     ] touched me. In it, President Monson offers several of my favorite quotes:





[iii] Pres. Monson said this in “Joy in the Journey” (Brigham Young University Women’s Conference, May 2, 2008), http://ce.byu.edu/cw/womensconference/archive/transcripts.cfm . The statement “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved” has been attributed to Barbara Johnson (see “Quotable Quotes,” Reader’s Digest, Jan. 1997, 161).

Monday, January 1, 2018

Upward after the Darkest Hour

I’d been looking forward to the movie Darkest Hour for some time. Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, and Churchill scholar and author of Churchill’s Trail: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government, talked about it on radio with Hugh Hewitt a time or two.

Winston Churchill
image from Wikipedia


I also went through the online Hillsdale course about Churchill a year or so ago. And in December, the Imprimis newsletter was by Larry Arnn about Churchill. So, in addition to doing a bit of a movie review, I’ll also quote Dr. Arnn here and there. The movie is a portrayal of history, so I hope you don’t consider this piece as spoilers, but if you’re worried about that, see the movie first.

The movie was about the time in Britain when the mollifying foreign policy of Neville Chamberlain was seen for what it was, and a vote of no confidence removed him as Prime Minister of England, opening up the position for an unpopular but determined Winston Churchill.

Almost immediately after his acceptance, Churchill finds the country in the unacceptable position of having nearly its entire army—about 300,000 soldiers—stranded on the northern French beach of Dunkirk following Hitler’s swift sweep across France. If you saw the recent movie Dunkirk, things will start to fit into place. It was about to be an unmitigated disaster. Churchill was the one who ordered the civilian boats to be recruited to cross the channel to rescue the soldiers. The heroic “win” at Dunkirk was the rescue, against great odds, that allowed Britain to fight another day.

movie poster
from AMC


Churchill was under tremendous pressure, including from his own party. Chamberlain and his ally, Lord Halifax, maneuver against Churchill; they seem to think diplomacy at all costs is the answer, and if they can prove Churchill isn’t open to that option, they can step down from the war council Churchill has appointed them to, leading to a no confidence vote again—possibly opening the position for Halifax.

King George VI—the father of Queen Elizabeth, who was portrayed in the movie The King’s Speech—had been a longtime friend of Chamberlain and Halifax. It was distasteful to him to be forced to work with Churchill. But there’s a turning point. And it comes on a very good question.

The King is wondering whether he will need to flee, with his family, to Canada, and live out his reign in exile, because it is assumed by so many that, if the Germans invade the Isle of Britain, they could conquer. Halifax and Chamberlain are saying, wouldn’t it be better to get the best terms possible, by negotiating through Mussolini, than risk a bloody war they might lose?

But Churchill, feeling the heavy weight of his people on his shoulders, can’t imagine any terms with Hitler that would mean anything but complete subjugation to that monster.

It is a discussion with the King, and then a discussion with some everyday common folk that, according to the movie, lead to Churchill’s decisive speech—which in the process gains full support of Parliament and the British people, and outmaneuvers Halifax and Chamberlain. I’ll leave out the details because, though I really don’t like political maneuvering in literature (or in real life), it’s the crux of the story here. It's hard to imagine a movie about leading up to a speech being all that interesting, but it is.

Here are a couple of memorable passages from that speech, often called “We shall fight on the beaches”:

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."  …
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be….
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
That kind of frank determination against tyranny will always be needed.

bust of Churchill
in the US Capitol building
If there’s something I didn’t like in the movie, it is how much drinking Churchill does—and possibly more importantly, how often they point it out. He probably did drink quite a lot, but there was never any evidence it was affecting his mind—which was determined and sharp up to age 90 when he died. He was both quick and sharp witted.

One of my favorite Churchill quotes, from the English major world, has to do with grammar. A woman commented to him that he had incorrectly ended a sentence with a proposition. He retorted, “Madam, that is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.” It makes me laugh; maybe you have to be a word person.

Churchill was a word person. He wrote some 50 books in his lifetime, about battles in war—colorfully told. About political philosophy, history. and more. He had a prodigious mind, and a flair for being able to say what was on it.

There’s talk of Gary Oldman getting an Oscar for his performance; I’d be agreeable to that. He captured the swiftness, the push forward nature, the energy. And also made the force of nature that was Churchill seem human.

Also good in the movie was Lily James (who played Cinderella beautifully a couple of years ago), portraying his personal secretary, Elizabeth Layton. Churchill’s wife, Clemmie, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, was also good for humanizing him—she corrects him for scaring off the secretary in her first hour (she returns), and tells him to better behave himself, so that people can think well of him, as she does.

Getting back to Larry Arnn’s Imprimis speech, he lists three lessons we learn from Churchill:
Dr. Larry Arnn
image from Imprimis


1.       It is not trends but choices that matter most at the key moments of history….  [Of that important speech] No one else on that day was either inclined to make or capable of making that speech, and Churchill had only become prime minister by a series of narrow chances. No story better illustrates one of Churchill’s favorite lessons—a lesson valuable for us to keep in mind: both chance and choice play a large part in human affairs.
2.       The second lesson concerns the limits of war, of politics, indeed of all human action. Churchill helped to save his country by his willingness to fight to the death and to inspire others to joining him. He also saved it by his reluctance to do that.
3.       Strategy must be rooted in the purposes of the nation: it aims to preserve the nation in pursuit of those purposes. This means that strategy is not confined, when it is pursued by the statesman, to war alone. Churchill wrote: “The distinction between politics and strategy diminishes as the point of view is raised. At the summit true politics and strategy are one.”
Dr. Arnn goes on to say (and note that “liberal society” means classical liberalism, or free society, not a democrat party that is exactly opposite to that),

Churchill lived, loved, and fought for the liberal society. Liberal societies protect the rights of their peoples; their right to make their livings, to raise their children, to speak their minds. These are the elements of a fully human life. Under a free and limited government, the right of all to pursue this life is recognized and defended. The justice of this kind of government is the reason that Churchill, the grandson of a duke, was not an aristocrat but a defender of democracy.

That’s a pretty good description of what we’re talking about in the northern hemisphere of the Spherical Model, up out of tyranny and into the freedom zone.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bring on 2018

It has been quite a year, this 2017!

Here in Houston we had a hurricane with an epic flood of 50+ inches of rain. That was the end of August, just days after a total eclipse across the continent (we only got a partial eclipse here, though). We’re still working on recovery from the flooding here, four months later. But in the meantime a couple more hurricanes made landfall, harming Florida, and then serious damage to Puerto Rico. And fires started burning in the West, everywhere from California to Montana.

Less disastrous for Houston was having the Astros win the World Series, and we had an actual snowstorm a couple of weeks ago. In Houston, that brings on a sort of spontaneous celebration.

In the larger nation, there has also been good news this year. We got a Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, who actually reads and understands the Constitution. We got a healthy number of other judges appointed that we think will adjudicate according to the law. (One third of all sitting circuit judges were Obama appointees, so there's a ways to go.) We have an ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who is standing up to that corrupt body of miscreants. ISIS has lost nearly all of its territory. Illegal immigration is down, even without a wall, which is at least an improvement. Unemployment is down, and incomes are beginning to rise.

I don’t know that we can credit President Trump with all of this, but having him in office makes all of those pieces of good news possible, whereas having a Democrat—any Democrat—in office this past year would have meant we would have none of that good news, and probably a lot more bad news that we don’t want to imagine.

A piece from American Thinker,Trump’s Momentous First Year,” lists Trump’s first year accomplishments, if you’d like something more complete. I’m sure there will be other similar lists as we approach the new year, or the anniversary of inauguration in a few weeks.

But the big good news lately has been about Congress finally passing a tax reform bill, officially called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 

Speaker Paul Ryan, after the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom, found here

News surrounding that—because news comes mostly through distorted sources—has been fear-mongering, at best. Nancy Pelosi called it Armageddon. Apparently, Democrats think people will be dying in the streets if they have a little more of their money in their own hands, instead of in government’s clutches. And it’s on the backs of the middle class, they claim. But almost everybody will be getting a tax cut. Those few that aren’t are all above the middle class.

Business Insider offers this estimate, showing what happens in 2018 (and it gets better in 2025): 
   
·         Bottom quintile (Incomes less than $25,000 a year): On average, this group would receive a tax break of $60, increasing after tax incomes by 0.4%. This would account for 1% of the federal tax change. 1.2% of tax units would see an increase in their tax burden, while 53.9% would receive a cut.
·         Middle quintile (Incomes from $49,000 to $86,000): On average, this group would receive a tax break of $930, increasing after-tax incomes by 2.9%. This would account for 11.2% of the federal tax change. 7.3% of tax units would see an increase in their tax burden, while 91.3% would receive a cut.
·         Top quintile (Income of $149,400 and above): On average, this group would receive a tax break of $7,640, increasing after-tax incomes by 1.6%. This would account for 65.3% of the federal tax change. 6.2% of tax units would see an increase in their tax burden, while 93.7% would receive a cut.
·         95th to 99th percentiles (Incomes from $308,000 to $733,000): On average, this group would receive a tax break of $13,480, increasing after-tax incomes by 4.1%. This would account for 22.1% of the federal tax change. 9.3% of tax units would see an increase in their tax burden, while 90.7% would receive a cut.
It’s hard to give tax cuts to people who aren’t paying taxes, so, naturally, people who are paying higher taxes are going to benefit more from a tax cut. Unless you’re really into coveting, that’s understandable and fine with everybody.

So, for the sake of those opposing tax cuts, and the media, and anyone else worried about lessening government’s stranglehold over people’s lives, maybe we need to do a little mini lesson on the related economics of tax cuts.

Taxes are money that the government confiscates by force from its citizens—preferably with the approval of the citizens, to be used for essential government services. Taxes, are, then, the people’s money that has been entrusted to government.

Government only spends money; it does not create wealth. Any “revenue” government generates is actually collecting taxes and tariffs—taking money from the people. So, when we’re talking about a budget, we want it large enough to cover the proper role of government—protecting life, liberty, and property—but not so large that our money is wasted. Early on it was assumed about $20 a year ought to do. Really.

I’ve written a number of times about government overspending [here and here]. We do not have a problem with not bringing in enough tax dollars; we have an overspending problem.

The Laffer Curve
from "The Laffer Curve: Past, Present, and Future," 2004
This tax bill doesn’t address that underlying problem. But cutting taxes is likely to raise government revenue. That’s because of a thing we call the Laffer Curve. [I wrote about it here and here.] According to Laffer’s theory, there’s a sweet spot for getting maximum revenue. Too high or too low and you don’t get that maximum amount. If revenue goes up after a tax cut, then you know taxes were too high.


In complete ignorance of the Laffer Curve, there’s this weird rule requiring any tax cuts to be offset, or “paid for.” The purpose is to keep from increasing the deficit, but it doesn’t really do that. And it’s a futile exercise, since we know from experience what happens when taxes are lowered. Here’s how Philip Bump at the WashingtonPost put it: 

[Speaker Paul] Ryan on Wednesday morning offered his nebulous assessment: “Nobody knows” if the cuts will pay for themselves. That’s true, given the uncertainty that surrounds the models. But that’s a bit like saying “nobody knows” if it’s going to rain when the forecasters say there’s a 90 percent chance: You still will probably grab an umbrella.
So even big government spenders ought to be in favor of lower taxes in order to increase revenue. It’s odd that they don’t; it makes it look like they would rather control larger portions of each individual’s money than have more money to work with.

It has been a rough week for Democrats, who stood against tax cuts for the American people. Afterward, what can they say? “We tried to save you from having more of your own money to spend as you see fit”? Well, they’ve been saying the tax cuts aren’t enough (even though they were against any at all). And they’re complaining that they’re not permanent (they sunset in 10 years, as the Bush tax cuts did, but only if Democrats are in power when the sunset comes).

Bernie Sanders, for example, admitted on CNN that tax cuts for nearly all middle-class American taxpayers “is a very good thing.” But then he added, “That’s why we should have made the tax cuts for the middle class permanent.” Of course, it was the refusal of Democrats to discuss any tax cuts at all that led to the ten-year sunset compromise. So Ted Cruz reached out to Bernie by Twitter, saying, 

I agree, @BernieSanders -- let's make the middle-class tax cuts permanent. Join me, we'll co-sponsor legislation (I've already got it drafted) that does exactly that, and we'll get it passed in January!
One happy detail in the tax cut bill is the elimination of the Obamacare mandate, which, we can hope, will lead to the demise of that monstrosity, hopefully before the demise of the health care sector of our economy.

The best news is that business taxes, which have been the highest in the developed world, were lowered from around 35% to 20%. That’s still quite a lot higher than Ireland (11%) or Russia (12%), where lower business taxes have spurred growth, and would have been a good example to follow, but it’s a good improvement.

There has been some concern that businesses won’t invest the money—that they’re already flush with cash that they’re not putting to use. That isn’t likely true. The Great Recession has gone on too long to keep holding onto money. But there is a hesitation to invest in business when there’s uncertainty—such as regulations being added on that they couldn’t have planned for. But regulatory reform is going pretty well under this administration, so there’s less uncertainty.

Ed Fuelner, at the Heritage Foundation, spread this good news: 

AT&T said it plans to give a $1000 bonus to more than 200,000 employees, and to invest $1 billion in the economy. Boeing announced a $300 million investment. FedEx said it’ll hire more workers, as did CVS—3,000, to be specific. Comcast reacted to the tax bill and to the repeal of net neutrality by saying that 100,000 of its employees will get a $1,000 bonus.
There were others—and more to come, you can be sure. “This is just the first wave of many such stories,” tax expert Adam Michel told The Daily Signal. “These announcements show that businesses across America will put their tax cut to good use.”
We’ll have to wait and see, to know for sure. But, instead of dread going into 2018, we might as well enjoy some hopeful anticipation for a change.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Holy Day

This year's Christmas card photo,
featuring two of my grandchildren

Merry Christmas!

We’re celebrating a holy day, to honor our Savior Jesus Christ. We’re asked to become more like Him.

So, what does that mean? What does a life look like, when following His example? We can get some of these qualities from scriptures, among them the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, and in I Corinthians 13, which defines His love:

·         Loving
·         Kind
·         Meek
·         Humble
·         Seeking righteousness
·         Merciful
·         Pure in heart (honest, integrity, without guile)
·         Peacemaker
·         Longsuffering
·         Without envy
·         Not easily provoked
·         Seeks truth
·         Avoids iniquity
·         Gentle
·         Self-sacrificing
And we could add a few extras that don’t come up as often:

·        He sees a person’s heart, always knowing what a person really means or intends, and works with that person, as a friend would, to encourage living better.
·        He always knows God’s will and makes that His own will.
·        He combines truth and kindness, but He doesn’t modify the truth to avoid offending.
·        He doesn’t mollify. He doesn’t accept evil, even when He deeply loves the person doing the evil.


Imagine if all the people on earth lived the way Jesus did—or at least were earnestly striving to. On the Spherical Model, Jesus Christ leads to way to Civilization. He moves us ever northward, toward Him.

One of my favorite speakers, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, says, 

Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement, I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way.[i]
Above all other lives, His birth, life, death, and resurrection, are most worth celebrating.

His birth story shows us beauty in humble circumstances. Many of my favorite Christmas carols tell the story. I’ll share just a few verses.

This is the final verse of the Alfred Burt carol, “We’ll Dress the House with Holly Bright”:

And ye who would the Christ Child greet,
    Your heart also adorn,
That it may be a dwelling meet
   For Him who now is born.
Let all unlovely things give place
To souls bedecked with heavenly grace,
That ye may view His holy face,
   With joy on Christmas morn.

Here’s another Alfred Burt carol, the ending of “Some Children See Him”:

O lay aside each earthly thing,
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King,
‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

I’m noticing endings of a lot of songs. This is the final verse of the Christina Rosetti poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter”:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

As a family, we’ve been retelling the nativity story as part of our Christmas Eve tradition for thirty years. We have a script. We dress up in costumes, and we all take part. Every time there’s a new baby, we use a real baby instead of a doll to be the baby Jesus.

My Christmas card is always a depiction of some part of the nativity story. This year we had my new granddaughter and her big brother play the parts of the baby Jesus and a shepherd (above).

Many of my Christmas decorations are depictions of the nativity. I like the goodies and presents and fun as much as the next person, but the real celebration is what is at the core of this holy day, and that is Christ.

If you want a beautiful visual retelling of the Christmas story, spend eight minutes on this video, produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:







[i] Jeffry R. Holland, “Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign, May 2006, p. 71.