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.