Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Meaning of Christmas

Christmas has long become a season of shopping with scarce regard to the true meaning behind the holiday.  Recently, the American Atheists group in New York displayed a billboard sign in Times Square that read, “Who Needs Christ During Christmas?  Nobody.”  The American Atheists might find it acceptable to celebrate Christ’s birth without Christ but some in America still believe having a party for someone without that person present is absurdity at its best.

On Christmas Eve, I was fortunate enough to meet one such person.  Parked in front of the courthouse in the city, a red pick-up truck displayed a beautiful nativity scene.  Lit by power provided by the truck, sounds of glorious Christmas music floated in the crisp night air.  76-year-old Jack Ruckel stood outside in chilly 17 degrees, handing out candy canes and waving to people driving by in their cars.  When I spoke with him, Ruckel told me that he had displayed his manger scene every Christmas for the last 15 years since the commissioners decided not to allow nativity scene displays at the courthouse lawn in 1999.  Despite having knee surgeries, an open-heart surgery, and the explicit instructions from his wife to give up the display, Ruckel continues to appear every Christmas-making his nativity scene a local tradition enjoyed by many.

Although Christmas has become highly commercialized, it is heartwarming to see that people, such as Ruckel, still know that Christmas is about much more than another day for a shopping spree.  Indeed, Christmas is not about the gifts you receive under a tree but about the birth of the One who gave us the ultimate gift:  His life.  Unfortunately, those celebrating Christmas without Christ completely miss this point.  For the rest of us, Christ shall remain in the center of this wonderful holiday because without Him, there is no Christmas.   


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ryan-Murray Budget Deal and the American Soldier

The budget bill negotiated between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate is a complete and utter disgrace.  Perhaps the worst aspect of the “bi-partisan” budget deal is the cuts made to the benefits owed to disabled veterans.  Most troubling is the knowledge that politicians could have avoided these cuts.  Indeed, both at the House and Senate levels, there were opportunities to improve the budget deal but politicians opted for a plan that ultimately hurts our nation’s disabled veterans.

Earlier this week, Matthew Boyle reported in Breitbart News “An original talking point in the document claimed the plan’s cuts to military pensions for wounded warriors, or service members who retired as a result of disability or injury, would not be affected.”  Curiously, the final version of the budget deal that passed the House did not exempt disabled veterans as pointed out by the Free Beacon.  Notably, before the bill even reached the Senate, House members could have ensured that disabled veterans – many disabled while serving our nation - would not suffer but have an exemption from the budgetary cuts.  Yet, the bill passed the Republican controlled House by a vote of 332-94.  Precisely how many members of the House knew about the change from the original draft to the final version of the bill remains an unanswered question.

In the Senate, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), offered an amendment to secure benefits for veterans before the voting process.  The amendment proposed to cut the “tax welfare loophole for illegal filers” who receive IRS payments through the Additional Child Tax Credit instead of cutting the benefits of disabled veterans.  Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), quickly blocked the proposed amendment.  Instead, members of the Senate, including nine Republicans, voted in favor of the Ryan-Murray deal.  These nine Senate Republicans include:  Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Rob Portman (R-OH).  The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 64-36

Those blaming Democrats for the passage of this atrocious bill are looking at only part of the problem.  Lest we forget, Ryan’s pen brought this bill to life.  Murray negotiated and the Democrats supported the bill but as did the Republicans – both in the House and in the Senate.  The thought that politicians from both parties voted in favor of supporting privileges for illegal aliens over supporting the rights of disabled American taxpaying veterans offers a fantastic insight to our current political dilemma in the nation.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lost American Values under Obamacare

"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." – President Ronald Reagan.

Obamacare supporters insist the law helps us but in reality, it shall control our lives.  Indeed, Obamacare is the latest instrument used to attack the core of America’s foundation.  Under Obamacare, America, a nation that once encouraged entrepreneurship, creativity, and a strong work ethic is steadfastly aligning itself with a government-sanctioned lifestyle for its people.  The law is already having dire consequences for Americans with hardly an end in sight. 

Chris Jacobs’s report for the Heritage Foundation emphasizes four categories in Obamacare that hurts American taxpayers.  According to Jacobs, “Obamacare undermines American values because it discourages work, penalizes marriage, places citizens at a disadvantage compared with non-citizens, and prioritizes coverage for able-bodied adults over services and support for the disabled.”  For example, Obamacare discourages work because individuals and families that make more money could “lose thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies.”  For many Americans struggling in a stagnant economy, the better alternative is to work less or remain unemployed.  Thus, Obamacare encourages people to work less and depend on the government for provisions more. 

Obamacare also penalizes married Americans.  For instance, low and moderate-income families are eligible for benefits “based on federal poverty level [FPL] guidelines” and since the FPL “is less than twice that for a single person”, married people are “at an inherent disadvantage.”  Furthermore, for higher income households, “the tax threshold for [married] couples is less than twice the threshold for single individuals.”  Obamacare negatively affects married couples the most when compared to unmarried people.  In this regard, the law encourages Americans to remain single instead of getting married.                 

Obamacare also has “special provisions that allow many legal, non-citizens to qualify for federally subsidized insurance.”  Hence, Obamacare gives them better coverage than what is available to American citizens.  Jacobs notes that some “American citizens of modest means will qualify for Medicaid or many may not receive health insurance at all.”  Moreover, by expanding Medicaid, Obamacare focuses more on offering coverage to “able-bodied adults than the disabled populations that Medicaid was originally intended to serve.”  The fate of disabled Americans who are unable to qualify for Medicaid or any other form of medical insurance is indeed troubling. 

By promoting programs that encourage (or force) people to rely more on the government, laws such as Obamacare, kill the American spirit.  Although government dependency may be unsurprising in our society today where getting “freebies” is not only acceptable but also encouraged, for those who still believe in the spirit of American exceptionalism, Obamacare presents a grave future for our nation.  When people begin to rely on government instead of their own abilities, the problems do not disappear but exacerbate.  Unfortunately, these problems are bound to arise again and the next time they do it shall be much worse for all of us.  Unless we actively remain engaged in a dialogue with our leaders and demand a complete recall of this unconstitutional law, the spirit of America that once promoted self-reliance shall soon become a distant memory.  Undoubtedly, under Obamacare, for the next generation of Americans, the change has already begun.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Obamacare and Minimum Wage

Minimum wage workers are often also unskilled workers.  James Sherk and Patrick Tyrrell’s report for the Heritage Foundation shows that under Obamacare, the government has already raised the minimum wage without any advantages for the employees.  By forcing businesses to contend with an unwarranted wage hike, the government has subverted the natural order of free markets causing unnecessary friction.  As well intentioned as Obama may have been, the high regulations under his policy are detrimental to our economy and ultimately hurt the most vulnerable of all Americans.

According to Obamacare, businesses with 50 or more employees must provide workers with health coverage that meet “minimum standards” or pay a $2000 penalty per full time employee.  Sherk and Tyrrell point out that beginning in 2015, full time employees must produce at a minimum of $10.30 per hour otherwise, “employers will lose money….”  If Obama’s proposal to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 succeeds, the total cost to employers shall become $12.71 per hour to cover full time employees.  That amount includes the unemployment insurance and the employer’s share of payroll taxes that every employer must pay.  Herein is one of the big problems with Obamacare.  If employers are unable to lower the pay below minimum wage and if paying $12.71 per hour to 50 or more full time workers is detrimental to a business, aside from shutting down the business altogether, what else can employers do? 

In many cases, businesses have stopped hiring new workers.  A close look at the steady unemployment rate in the country bears witness to this fact.  Additionally, some businesses have started the process to lay off workers or reduced their hours from full time to part time to avoid the heavy penalty under the law.   

Obama made many claims as he pushed his Affordable Healthcare Act on the American people.  Much of the rhetoric was about how the new healthcare law would help Americans.  Unfortunately, many Americans have lost their health insurance and experienced job loss or the unwanted transition from full time work to part time work under Obamacare.  As we grapple with the reality of this nightmare, the government continues to push Obamacare upon us.  Yet, no proposed “fixes” for a law that has already proven to be broken can answer a few basic questions for Americans.  For instance, how is Obamacare affordable for people who are now without jobs?  How is Obamacare affordable for people who now have to work two or more part time jobs just to make ends meet?  How is Obamacare affordable for millions of people who no longer have health insurance?   In the aftermath of the Obamacare fiasco, the government has no answers for millions of Americans who are now suffering from the results of a well-intentioned idea.  Ironically, the government continues to function and grow even as it destroys the livelihood of precisely those it claims to be helping.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Piecemeal Approach to Immigration Reform

On Monday, Obama gave a speech in San Francisco where he indicated that House Speaker, John Boehner, was open to negotiating on immigration reform.  Apparently, Boehner is willing to discuss immigration reform with one caveat:  he shall not go to conference over the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate earlier this year.  Instead, Boehner and some House Republicans favor a piecemeal approach towards immigration reform.

The piecemeal approach shall allow Republicans to discuss the various issues that were part of the Senate Bill individually and vote only on those issues that benefit our nation.  At least, that is what they want Americans to believe.  It is highly debatable if this approach shall bring different results than the comprehensive Senate Bill. 

Notably, Obama has already indicated that Republicans can use the piecemeal approach as long as a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens is part of the reform.  Similarly, Harry Reid, Luis Gutierrez, and Chuck Schumer have all stated previously that a pathway to citizenship must be a part of any final immigration reform.  Therefore, if pathway to citizenship is the ultimate goal for politicians, does it truly matter whether they reform our nation’s immigration laws in a piecemeal approach or sign off, as the Senate did, on a comprehensive bill destined to change the future of our country?  Boehner wants us to believe that the piecemeal approach is better but if the Democrats are unwilling to consider anything less than pathway to citizenship, does the piecemeal approach truly work for America? 

Lest we get too excited that politicians are finally working for us, it would behoove us to remember the tragedy of another “reform” pushed on American taxpayers.  Obamacare has led to massive losses in health insurance and jobs for Americans throughout the nation.  The unfolding of Obamacare has brought forth disastrous consequences for struggling Americans and the damage is hardly over.  The results of the Obamacare fiasco are in front of us and we should take a moment to think about whether our nation can handle yet another law, justified as reform, which shall change the dynamics of our nation forever.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Border Patrol Agents: Our First Line of Defense

As progressive politicians in Washington debate and discuss “comprehensive immigration reform” with a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, American border patrol agents continue to place their lives in harm’s way to protect our borders.   Despite the assurances of politicians that our borders are practically militarized, the ongoing murders of border patrol agents and the latest information on drug trafficking present a different story.  Yet, for politicians and their elite friends, amnesty for illegal aliens with pathway to citizenship remains the top priority for reforming the broken immigration system.

The idea that comprehensive reform is the right answer for our nation’s immigration system bears serious consideration.  After all, have we learned anything from Obamacare about what can happen when politicians make back room deals in the name of comprehensive reform?  The law was supposed to provide affordable healthcare for everyone and help improve the economy.  Unfortunately, each day brings a new set of problems with Obamacare.  Whether these issues shall ever be resolved is anyone’s guess.  The important question is that if our healthcare system was in desperate need of reform, why did the legislators not work on only those areas of the healthcare system that actually needed the reform?  Did we truly need an overhaul of the entire system? 

Similarly, does our immigration system need a comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens?  Why does our government not focus on providing our border patrol agents with adequate equipment, protection, and assistance to secure our borders?  Why is it more urgent for the government to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that rewards lawbreakers instead?  More important, how can the government claim that the immigration system does not work when they hardly enforce existing laws?  Why should any tax paying American have faith in an overgrown government that has repeatedly proven that it cannot be trusted?    

If politicians are truly interested in reforming the current immigration system, they should begin with securing our borders.  To make this happen, they should enable border patrol agents with the necessary and proper support that is required.  If the focus of immigration reform remains on amnesty and pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens instead of securing our borders, a lack of border protection shall be the least of our problems.     

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Obama-Care 'Unmasked'

“We all had better wake up.”  – David Limbaugh.

David Limbaugh correctly has his finger on the pulse of the nation as he points out that Obamacare is “Obama unmasked.”  Indeed, the Obamacare fiasco that is unfolding before us now, with millions of Americans losing health insurance, is only a symptom of a bigger problem.  Yet, people blindly continue to support Obamacare.  Why is that?

As Limbaugh points out, “he has the unqualified support of the entire liberal media apparatus, the Democratic Party in lock step, millions of people purchased with government money and/or indoctrinated in liberal universities, and the cudgels of racial shaming and white guilt….”  Those who disagree may call Limbaugh a racist or partisan for his statement but to those of us who are aware of what is happening in the country, his statement represents an ugly truth present today in America.

President Ronald Reagan once said, “A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.”  Look around, is the government  using “force and coercion” to achieve its purpose of forcing people to enlist in Obamacare? 

Aside from providing all Americans with a fantastic health insurance plan, Obamacare was supposed to boost America’s economy as well.  Therefore, let us consider America’s economy today.  The latest polls show that the October 2013 unemployment rate is stuck at 7.3%, a jump of .1% since September.  Compare this to the lowest unemployment rate in the past 10 years, which occurred in October 2006 at a rate of 4.4%.  Moreover, if we consider the overlooked Labor Force Participation Rate, the plight of young unemployed Americans in particular becomes even more dramatic.  Yet, politicians want us to believe that the economy is gaining steam and unemployment is shrinking.  Indeed, politicians are working hard to pass other comprehensive laws, much the same as Obamacare, to “help” America’s economy. 

Limbaugh notes that, “Obamacare has always been nothing less than the linchpin in Obama’s bigger dream to fundamentally change America into a nation he could like instead of resent — a socialist utopia rather than the land of the free, of the brave and of equal opportunity.”  As a legal immigrant to the United States from a country ruled by Socialism under the guise of Democracy, I can assure you, Limbaugh’s point is terrific.  Having experienced socialized medicine, rationing of food, forced uniformity of an educational system, I am astounded to see how easily Americans are willing to give up their liberty and freedom to an out of control government. 

Perhaps, the best part of Limbaugh’s article is in his conclusion where he asks Obama supporters, “Is your appetite for denial unbounded?”  Without missing a beat, he then addresses the opposition, “Those on the right who insist on continuing to pull their punches instead of calling it like it is will also eventually have America’s blood on their hands.”  Limbaugh is correct; the fight against an overreaching government is a fight for all Americans.  Indeed, extremism on both sides of the political spectrum produces the same results:  slavery.  Reagan said, “Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”  In 1964, Reagan fought the idea of socialized medicine for Americans.  Today, we have socialized medicine in America through Obamacare.  The question then is no longer how far removed we are from our founding principles, enslaved to an ideology, but how do we revert to a historically proven system that once made America great.  It seems, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.”  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Discovered: The Leonard da Vinci Mural

Self Portrait - Leonardo Da Vinci -

Restoration workers recently discovered one of Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable murals.  Hidden beneath “17 layers of paint” at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, the delicate markings of da Vinci’s mural was a wonder to behold.  Workers used both traditional methods and modern technology to find the rare beauty that da Vinci painted in 1498.  Further information will become available to the public once the research is complete.  For now, you can watch the video that shows the discovery process at TheBlaze.   

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Desensitized Americans?

News and events that unfolded recently reveal a shocking disregard for civilized behavior in our society.  In the last few days, there were reports of people raiding Wal-Mart stores in Louisiana when their EBT cards malfunctioned because of a glitch that allowed them limitless funds for purchases.  In another incident, as fellow students stood by, someone allegedly sexually assaulted a young woman during Ohio University’s homecoming weekend celebrations.  In both incidents, onlookers were more interested in taking pictures and videos to post on their social media accounts instead of offering help to the victims.  Have Americans become so inhumane and desensitized to reality that they are unwilling to stop wrongdoing even when it happens right before their eyes? 

The common thread in both these incidents seems to be people’s interest in scoring points on social media.  Social media is an excellent tool to convey information, create networks with others, and communicate with friends and family.  The unfortunate part is when people become so engrossed in virtual reality, that actual reality becomes distant and blurred from their daily lives.  How many of those onlookers who were taking pictures of the chaos at the Wal-Mart stores took the time to help the personnel?  How many were willing to stop the mayhem?  How many of those students at the Ohio University homecoming bash stood by as someone assaulted their helpless fellow student?  How many of them felt compelled to intervene and stop the assault?  How many of them thought about calling the police? 

Some may find all this amusing and others may shrug their shoulders but the coldness of the individuals participating in these incidents ought to shock us all.  Yet, before we begin blaming social media or others for our societal problems, we may want to evaluate our own position in life.  The true fight remains within our own hearts and minds.  It is within our homes.  It is what we learn and teach our children.  It begins with looking at the plank in our own eyes before pointing out the speck in those of others.*

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Brush with History

Sorting through a series of articles in The New Criterion, I came across one that was a dedication to the great historian, Edmund Sears Morgan (1916-2013).  In the article, Professor Marc M. Arkin noted Morgan’s background as a professor at Yale University and his contributions to the study of American history, more specifically the American Revolutionary Era.  As I read the article, I remembered my personal experience with Professor Morgan and the magnificence of this incredible man.

In 2009, as an undergraduate student at Columbia College, I was taking a course on the American Revolution.  One of our required texts for the class was Morgan’s The Birth of the Republic.  Unfortunately, I could only find a 1959 version of the book and used it for my class assignments.  As I read the book, I discovered an error where Morgan argued that prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution, every state constitution had a bill of rights.  I compared this to my research on Alexander Hamilton’s argument in the Federalist Paper, No. 84 where he stated that a bill of rights was absent from the New York state constitution (amongst others).  I decided to write to Morgan to find out how he had reached the conclusion for his book because it was in direct contrast to Hamilton’s assertions.

I half expected Morgan to receive my letter and thought a reply from him was unlikely.  Imagine my surprise when he not only wrote back but also chose to do so in old-fashioned style:  pen to paper.  Indeed, he graciously acknowledged my letter and after complimenting me, admitted his error in concluding that all states had a bill of rights prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution.  Morgan mentioned that he had corrected the error in later editions of the book but asserted that even with those corrections he had taken some liberties.

For an historian of his repute to respond to my letter, accept his error, and offer encouragement was a refreshing experience.  I found Morgan’s thoughtfulness and humility most charming.  The Birth of the Republic and Morgan’s letter are two of my most cherished possessions as an American historian.  They are a constant reminder to me of my brief but significant brush with a great historian and an incredible man.    

* You can read The New Criterion article here.  


Friday, October 4, 2013

How Government Spends Taxpayer Money

With the recent government shutdown in full swing, it makes sense to consider how government spends American taxpayer money.  The Obama Administration has wasted scarce time in closing the World War II Memorial to Veterans, the Lincoln Memorial and privately funded historic sites such as Mount Vernon to the public but is any of it necessary?  What other areas could government possibly shutdown instead that would make a significant difference in curbing the excessive government spending that has brought our nation to almost $17trillion in debt?  In a 2009 study for The Heritage Foundation, Brian M. Riedl listed 50 examples of government waste.  Although the study is almost 4 years old, the information provided is still relative.
According to Riedl, there are six categories of wasteful spending in the federal government but two of them in particular are noteworthy.  These two categories are the “duplicative programs and inefficiency, management, and fraud.”  Indeed, many of the examples in Riedl’s research fit one or the other category perfectly.  Of the 50 examples of wasteful spending listed in his report, below are 15 (in random order) that are especially interesting:

1. The federal government made at least $72 billion in improper payments in 2008.

2.  Washington spends $92 billion on corporate welfare (excluding TARP) versus $71 billion on homeland security.

 3.  Washington will spend $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job.

4.  A GAO classified nearly half of all purchases on government credit cards as improper, fraudulent, or embezzled.  Examples of taxpayer-funded purchases include gambling, mortgage payments, liquor, lingerie, iPods, Xboxes, jewelry, Internet dating services, and Hawaiian vacations.

5. The Securities and Exchange Commission spent $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

6. The Pentagon recently spent $998,798 shipping two 19-cent washers from South Carolina to Texas and $293,451 sending an 89-cent washer from South Carolina to Florida.

7.  The refusal of many federal employees to fly coach costs taxpayers $146 million annually in flight upgrades.

8.  Members of Congress have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars supplying their offices with popcorn machines, plasma televisions, DVD equipment, ionic air fresheners, camcorders, and signature machines—plus $24,730 leasing a Lexus, $1,434 on a digital camera, and $84,000 on personalized calendars.

9.  Washington spends $60,000 per hour shooting Air Force One photo-ops in front of national landmarks.

10.  Taxpayers are funding paintings of high-ranking government officials at a cost of up to $50,000 apiece.

11.  Washington has spent $3billion re-sanding beaches—even as this new sand washes back into the ocean.

12.  Washington recently spent $1.8 million to help build a private golf course in Atlanta, Georgia.

13.  Congressional investigators were able to receive $55,000 in federal student loan funding for a fictional college they created to test the Department of Education.

14.  Government auditors spent the past five years examining all federal programs and found that 22 percent of them—costing taxpayers a total of $123 billion annually—fail to show any positive impact on the populations they serve.

15.  Washington spends $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties.

Riedl admits “wasteful spending is not easy” and much more is needed to “balance the budget” including reforming government programs.  Yet, before the government can "reform" other programs including creating Healthcare (to Obamacare) and Comprehensive Immigration, it ought to curb its excessive wasteful spending.  Riedl’s report offers a great place to begin the process of reformation.  For there to be true reform of any kind, the leaders of our nation must exhibit restraints on their own indulgences before oppressing the American people with programs that are bound to fail. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Standing Tall

Even before Senator Ted Cruz (TX) began his historical filibuster on the Senate floor debating Obamacare, critics appeared in droves to point out that he was fighting a losing battle.  The criticism did not only come from the mainstream media and the Democrats but also from the GOP.  One thing was certain, after remaining on his feet for over 20 hours (21 hours and 19 minutes to be exact), unbeknownst to his critics, Cruz had made a decisive victory.

New York Times (NYT) targeted Cruz by stating that he was nothing more than the “public face of the aimless and self-destructive Tea Party.”  Indeed, according to the NYT, Cruz’s stand was a show to gain “accolades” from the “Tea Party’s misguided faithful.”   NYT further blamed Cruz of projecting “nastiness” towards those in Washington.  Of course, we should all listen to the characterization of Cruz by a newspaper that prior to WWII claimed that Hitler was a “wiser man” and had convinced authorities that he was harmless.  

Fast on the heels of NYT was none other than Senator John McCain (AZ) who demanded that Cruz (and Americans) should “respect the outcome of the elections, which reflects the will of the people.”  McCain failed to mention that many Americans who voted for Obama in 2012 are now regretting their decision of supporting Obamacare.  For example, during the filibuster, Cruz read excerpts from a letter written by a major Obamacare supporter and union leader of International Brotherhood of Teamsters, James P. Hoffa.  The letter mentioned that even Hoffa and his friends admitted there were considerable problems with Obamacare that shall hurt middle class Americans.

Yet, none of this stopped Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, to put in an appearance on late Wednesday morning to tell Cruz that standing up for Americans was a “waste of time.”  Furthermore, Reid refused to acknowledge Cruz’s stand as a proper filibuster.  When Cruz asked for an open vote to allow both Republicans and Democrats to offer amendments to the bill, Reid dismissed the offer.  For all his concern for the average Americans, Reid’s unwillingness to accept Cruz’s offer to have an open vote on defunding Obamacare is most curious.   

To be sure, the mainstream media and career politicians have worked hard to make a mockery out of Cruz’s filibuster. Unfortunately, for them, in their haste to present a distorted image of Cruz, they failed to notice that Americans were also watching the proceedings.  Cruz made history this week by holding one of the longest filibusters in American history.  He displaced Senators William Proxmire (18 hours, 23 minutes: 1908) and Robert LaFollette Sr. (16 hours, 12 minutes: 1981) from their respective positions and attained the number 4 position in the historical lineup of recorded filibusters. 

Cruz did not stand for ideology, power, or show but for the American people.  He stood for the Constitution and our founding principles.  He stood for the American Dream.  He stood for an exceptional America.  Whether or not Reid and his colleagues call it a filibuster, the image of Cruz standing tall for America shall remain etched in the hearts and minds of Americans forever.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It’s Lonely on Top

Recently, actor Hugh Jackman stated that he felt sorry for Obama.  Jackman thought Obama was “lonely” and probably went “to bed alone thinking about the weight and burden” of the crisis in Syria.  Obama’s recent difficulties may arise from a lack of having a strong foreign policy when dealing with Syria but the troubles Americans must confront every day, under his leadership, are boundless.

Consider for example, millions of Americans who are (and have been) out of work for much of Obama’s presidency.  In 2007, the unemployment rate stood between 4.4 - 5.0 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate in America is stuck at 7.3 percent.  If we factor the labor force participation rate (LPR) with the current unemployment rate, the figure jumps up even more.  (I have written on LPR previously and you can read about it here). 

Additionally, under Obamacare, more Americans are losing their jobs.  Even for those who have jobs, many must transition from full time to part time status, which means less pay for workers.  Precisely how are Americans supposed to support their families?  Obama does not answer this question but continues to claim that Obamacare is best for America.

Furthermore, the United States Military also suffers under Obama’s leadership.  Under the guise of “budget restraints,” Obama has planned to shrink the US Military.  How gutting our military secures our nation is a great question especially under the present circumstances with Syria that may lead to troubles for America in the near future. 

After the unfortunate deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and the subsequent cover up that followed, how many military personnel feel secure about their lives under his authority?  What must go through the minds of men and women who must follow his command?  Do the families of those Americans who lost their lives and those Americans who put their lives on the line for our freedom also feel burdened? 

To be sure, Obama claims America is better off today than ever before but diminishing jobs, lack of national security, and Americans suffering from heartbreak over lost loved ones all show a different reality.  As with Jackman, I too feel sorry for Obama.  I feel sorry that Obama is incapable of leading our great nation.  More than anything else, I feel sorry for the millions of Americans who are jobless and need to find ways to support their families.  I feel sorry for the men and women who must protect us at the risk of their own lives under the command of a leader who could not care less.  Yes, I feel sorry for my country, once the greatest nation in the world, duped by the big rhetoric of an inordinately small man.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Importance of Labor Force Participation to Understanding Economic Recovery

Labor Economics Senior Policy Analyst, James Sherk, recently released a report for The Heritage Foundation that explains how the economy is not growing but shrinking.  Sherk notes that since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, the labor force participation rate (LPR) has fallen to historical lows.  Indeed, if we consider the LPR, along with the recorded unemployed Americans, the unemployment rate becomes much higher.

The LPR measures the number of working age adults in the labor market.  Sherk notes, “Since the recession began, the labor force participation rate---the proportion of adults either working or trying to find work---has fallen by 2.6 percentage points.”  When reporting the unemployment rate, the government only counts people who remain employed or are actively seeking employment.  Therefore, those individuals who have given up on their job search or left the labor market are missing from the unemployment rate.   As a result, the unemployment rate that makes the headlines is often only partially correct.

To be sure, many Americans are exiting the labor market because of retirement but this covers only a small fraction of the LPR.  Sherk notes that although some of the change is because of “demographic factors” it only accounts for “one-quarter of the decrease.”  Indeed, the “weak labor market” is primarily the reason that caused the “remaining three-fourths drop in labor force participation.”  Those who contributed to the drop include Americans, young and old, who have become dejected and given up looking for a job.

When considering the unemployment rate as a marker for economic growth and rejuvenation, it bears to keep in mind that the unemployment rate alone is hardly an accurate measure of our nation’s economic condition.  By counting only those individuals who are working (either full or part time), the unemployment rate dilutes the true state of the nation’s economy.  As Sherk’s report shows, the economy remains weak because there are few jobs and many more unemployed Americans.  Thereby, the actual economic state of our country is not a thriving economy but one where Americans remain unemployed and hopeless.   

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Forgotten

Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 election came from a massive turnout of black voters.  55.4 percent of blacks, ages 18-24 years and 64.0 percent of blacks, ages 25-44 years, voted for Obama in 2008.  In 2012, Obama had another victory with support from 93 percent of black voters who voted for him again.  The record shows that Obama has repeatedly won favor amongst blacks but how has his presidency affected the overall black community?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of July 2013, the unemployment rate in America hovers around 7.4 percent.  Of this percentage, the highest unemployment rate affects the black population with men over the age of 20 unemployed at a rate of 12.4 percent and women over the age of 20 slightly below at 11.3 percent.  Young men and women ages 16-19 years suffer the greatest blow with an unemployment rate of 42.9 percent. 

Furthermore, black homeownership is now at an 18 year low.  For many Americans, regardless of their ethnic background, owning a home is part of the American dream.  Yet, the historic low rate of home ownership especially for blacks today indicates that for many of them, the dream is far from reachable.

To be sure, the first black president of the United States has every desire to help dreamers.  Unfortunately, he is only interested in helping those who help him to sustain power.  In 2008 and 2012, it was the black community that helped him reach his goal.  Today, it is the Hispanic community.  Indeed, they are the new “dreamers” and the attention they receive from Obama and his administration, often at the expense of the black community (and other Americans), is a clear example of his priorities.     

Yet, despite these facts, it is impossible for those who follow Obama blindly to consider their situation worse.  After all, they are happy with free cell phones and that is just enough to keep them quiet.  They will gladly give up their freedom for the freebies.  Still many others are prone to following celebrities who have earnestly titled Obama their “lord and savior.”  Unfortunately, these individuals too remain unreachable. 

On the other hand, for the reasonable and intelligent individuals in the way of Benjamin Banneker, Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the circumstances affecting the black community need serious reflection.  President Ronald Reagan once suggested, “Ask yourself are you better off now than you were four years ago?”  The true answer to this simple question is worthy of attention not only by blacks but all Americans.  It is also a great place to begin finding solutions for our real problems.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cost of Amnesty

In their special report for the Heritage Foundation, The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer, Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, Ph.D. present a well-researched study on how any immigration “reform” that supports amnesty will affect Americans for years to come.  The report is extensive and covers direct benefits, means tested welfare benefits, public education, and population based services.  Although most of the information in the report is relevant, a few points are especially worthy of mention.
One important point the authors make is to show the difference between net tax contributors and net tax consumers.  For example, they state that, “well-educated households tend to be net tax contributors” where the taxes paid by these individuals “exceed the direct and means-tested benefits, education, and population-based services they receive.”  On the other hand, net tax consumers, receive benefits that “exceed the taxes they pay” and that “these households generate a ‘fiscal deficit’ that must be financed by taxes from other households or by government borrowing.”  In either case, that means American taxpayers have to pay more money to the government in the form of taxes to support the net tax consumer households.
Furthermore, the authors explain the significance of understanding the connection between net tax contributing households, amnesty and net tax consumer households that have a “high deficit.”  They point out that most individuals in the high deficit households are “poorly educated” and that “the typical unlawful immigrant has only a 10th-grade education.”  The idea that these individuals could create jobs for Americans or move up from being net tax consumer households to net tax contributing households seems farfetched.
Moreover, although illegal immigrants are unable to “access to means-tested welfare, Social Security, or Medicare” now, they still enjoy the benefits of hospitals; public education; parks and recreation; roads; police; and fire protection.  All of this including access to American jobs without having to pay taxes shows illegal immigrants are hardly in the “shadows” as many supporters of amnesty claim.  If anything, in many cases, illegal immigrants manage better through government plans when compared to their out of work American neighbors.
Consider for example, that an average American household receives “$31,600 in government benefits each year” but a household headed by “individuals with less than a high school degree gets $46,000.”  If the amnesty plan were successful, illegal immigrants would have access to “80 means-tested welfare programs, Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare.”  At a time when unemployment remains hovering at 7.4 percent are the pockets of American taxpayers truly that deep to support a surge of 11 million illegal immigrants with more to arrive in the future.
The authors present a solid study backed with research to support their claims.  They successfully manage to debunk any myths about illegal immigrants pushed by amnesty supporters.  Complete with charts, graphs, and extensive analysis, this report is worth inspecting for anyone interested in understanding how amnesty will financially affect Americans now and in the future.

Friday, August 23, 2013

True Immigration Reform

As an immigrant to America myself, I am in favor of legal immigration to our country but draw the line with illegal aliens.  We have to recognize that people enter our country for different reasons.  Many illegal immigrants come here to destroy our nation whether it is by becoming a burden to society financially or by attacking America by acts of terrorism. To suggest that all illegal immigrants are hard working, decent individuals who want to embrace America’s history and traditions is to present only the most favorable side of the issue.  Unfortunately, beneath the screams of equality for everyone coming from pro-amnesty groups, it becomes easy to forget that illegal immigrants are here by breaking the law.
To be sure, our federal government has done a horrific job of enforcing laws to protect our borders.  It is true also that we need to reform our immigration system.  Yet, is giving amnesty and a pathway to citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants in the country today the right answer?  The government seems to think so.  Indeed, the Immigration Reform Bill (S744) that passed the Senate in June would ensure amnesty for not only the 11million illegal aliens today (a jump from the 3.2 million in 1986) but also to any illegal aliens who come to our nation in the future. Although, there were suggestions to enforce “new” laws to protect the nation’s borders, S744 gave all the power to implement them to the Department of Homeland Security – an unconstitutional bureaucracy created by the federal government.  If our elected officials were truly interested in securing the nation’s borders, they should first implement the laws already in place completely instead of creating more regulations and giving more power to the federal government.
Furthermore, instead of demanding amnesty for the illegal aliens, our leaders need to end the welfare system that draws many illegal immigrants to our country in the first place.  A study done by the Center for Immigration Studies states, that in 2009, 71 percent of illegal immigrant households with children used at least one welfare program.  Moreover, a low-income household with at least one illegal immigrant was more likely to qualify for Food Stamps compared to a similarly low-income household where all family members were citizens.  Yet, instead of eliminating a source that pulls lawbreakers into our nation, the federal government wants to reward them for their actions by offering them access to welfare programs paid for by the American taxpayers.   
The right to vote is a privilege that is dear to American citizens. Most legal immigrants who come to our country follow our laws to get here and work methodically to become naturalized citizens.  Some of them have waited up to 15 years to come to America, meanwhile, 11 million illegal aliens are already here and partaking of our nation's opportunities and benefits.  Shocking as it may seem, legal immigrants make sacrifices to get here too but pro-amnesty supporters often conveniently forget this fact.  For all the noise about giving amnesty to illegal aliens to keep families together, what about the families of legal immigrants who are left behind?  Are we to believe that legal immigrants are incapable of missing their families and friends? 
To be sure, some illegal aliens work hard but legal immigrants are hard working people too.  Do they not contribute to our society as well?  Do they not bleed?  Do they not cry?  Do they not have dreams, ambitions, and hopes for a better future for themselves and their children?  Unfortunately, when it comes to immigration reform, legal immigrants make a poor political statement for the power hungry peddling politicians; therefore, their stories often remain untold.  
Additionally, at a time when 7.4 percent of Americans are unemployed, do we really need to give a blanket amnesty and pathway to citizenship to illegal aliens? Should the focus of our government be on serving illegal aliens or Americans? Should it be on allowing our stale economy to grow? When jobs are scarce, how is adding an influx of people to our country going to improve the nation's economy? S744 states illegal aliens would improve the economy by creating jobs for Americans.  Many illegal immigrants are low skilled workers, thereby; the idea that they would "create" jobs to grow the economy seems preposterous. The Senate bill also states that increasing immigration of high tech people would help the economy grow.  Yet, what would such an increase mean for high tech college graduates and Americans who are out of work?  The government is demanding too much from Americans who are already struggling. Jobs are scare or unstable, Obamacare looms above all and we are incapable of sustaining any more grand governmental schemes, especially those promoted under the guise of “reform.”    
If we are a land of immigrants, we are also a land of laws. Illegal immigrants have disregarded our laws and that should mean something to every American.  Not only is it our civic duty to protect our country for ourselves but also to ensure such protection for the next generation of Americans.  For if we are unwilling to defend our country and respect our laws, how can we expect others in the world to do so?  If our government refuses to enforce the laws by securing our borders then we must demand they do so.  If our government insists on giving amnesty and a pathway to citizenship to illegal invaders then we must hold our leaders accountable and deny them the privilege.  After all, how many other nations would gladly welcome illegal immigrants into their mix?  How many countries would provide for them often at the expense of their own citizenry?   How fair is it for our government to demand that we pay for these privileges for those who have no respect for our laws? 

If we are unwilling to tolerate an abusive relationship, why would we gladly tolerate a parasitic one?  Why should it be upon the American taxpayers to foot the bill for those who have chosen to come here illegally and live on subsistence provided by our tax dollars?  Lest we forget, it is the Americans who carry the load of not only providing for their own families but also supplying the demands of others, including, illegal aliens.  How much longer before the back of Americans finally breaks under the massive burden placed upon it by our government.
The Founders and Framers of this nation produced something wonderful.   They did so because they had the foresight to look beyond their years. They saw this moment in time and prepared for it---for us. Should we not try to do the same for our children?  The current immigration reform touted by many of our leaders gives too much power to the federal government.  It favors the demands of interest groups and yes, gives amnesty to illegal aliens. The people this reform affects most are the taxpaying Americans who will have to endure the brunt of this oppression that will inevitably follow the loss of our liberty.