2 Kings 17:21-23
21 For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king; and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin.
22 For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them;
23 Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.
We must never fall into the trap of believing that the person who is in charge of the country doesn't matter to God. Rulers should never fall into the trap of believing that they can do anything that seems good to them without God caring.
So where does this all fall out in the political landscape today? At this point, we have essentially two candidates who will in all likelihood be competing for the office of President of the United States in 2012. President Obama, already holding the office, is the presumptive Democratic candidate. Mr. Romney is the presumptive candidate for the Republicans, although I still hold out hope for Rep. Ron Paul on the Republican side on a second ballot.
I could spend a great deal of time citing the problems with each leading contender. In reality, it doesn't matter which one of the two candidates who are likely to be nominated actually wins in 2012. You really won't be able to tell the difference four years from now regardless of the outcome. If the (R) wins, then the government will end up spending more on defense and reducing taxes for the privileged. If the (D) wins, then the government will end up spending more on social programs and reducing taxes for the privileged. The only difference will be in the way the federal government inflates itself over the next four years.
You can be sure that neither party will take any serious steps to reduce the federal government unless Rep. Ron Paul is elected. In addition to continued government bloat and intrusion on Constitutional liberties, there is likely to be little substantive effort made to get government finances under control in the short term. There will also be little long term planning past the next election cycle. This basic inability to govern effectively appears to hold true when a particular party holds executive and legislative branches in their control, and is especially true when the government is split.
The increase in size and scope of the federal government must stop and neither Pres. Obama, nor Mr. Romney, has any concrete plan or desire to do so. The debt that we are accumulating is huge, and the biggest buyer of the debt in recent months has been the Federal Reserve system. It is the second largest holder behind the Social Security system. China ranks third, but has significantly curtailed its purchases as have other countries. Why would they want their money locked up at a low interest rate percentage when it could be doing more good in their own country? Makes you wonder why Mr. Paul stopped actively campaigning after his breakfast meeting with the Fed.
The debt itself, it could be argued, is not significant at this point in time because the interest rates are low. That is true. If the stimulus and QE money had been used to fund useful long term infrastructure instead of being distributed as it was, it might not have been a bad thing. Various large scale programs of the past provided dams for flood control and power generation, highways, electrification, and other large public works projects that actually amounted to something. QE spent a little bit here, and a little bit there, doled out by the politicians to be spent largely by the people in ways that they will never really notice 10 years from now - if they even remember next week. If you look at the funding breakdown, it was frittered away as a few more bucks in the paycheck each week (while simultaneously eroding Social Security), tax credits, help to state budgets, or things like high speed rail that still haven't happened yet even though it is listed as a recipient of funds.
The problem with the debt will occur when interest rates, which are being held low by the Federal Reserve to try to do what it can to boost the economy, start to rise. Then all the money that we have borrowed to fight all the wars and try to dig out of the hole created by the housing bubble and collapse of the lightly regulated financial system will really start to bite. Just ask the citizens of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, or Spain, collectively known as the PIIGS. None of their people like the austerity measures being imposed on them. The interest rates they have to pay to finance their debt are vastly higher than ours. Nobody likes austerity, including the Americans. That's why we keep voting for politicians who say they won't touch their own particular sacred cows but will sock it to someone else - the 1% in the (D) group or the recipients of entitlements and welfare in the case of the (R) group.
So how do we fix the problem? The primary issue is in state and federal congressional bodies. They're the ones who pass the laws, collect the taxes, and spend the money. Federal tends to be more important than state, since in our upside down system of federal overreach, blackmail, and coercion to get the states to conform to their wishes, they force many state actions. What the talking heads of the (D) and (R) spout forth in their debates are just words for the masses. Neither of them will make legislation and their budgets will be declared "dead on arrival". They won't do much to even influence legislation.
They might make changes in the executive side of things, but can't do much on the fiscal side. You simply must fix Congress as that is where the problem is at. The House of Representatives deals with money issues first - when they do anything at all - so start there. In these uncertain economic times, you can't go in with a light saber and just wipe out all spending. What must happen is that our elected leaders must start being accountable for how they spend the people's money.
They must fund projects that mean something for the long term good of the people of the country and not just keep frittering away the people's money. And most importantly, they must get a long term plan that is legislated in such a way that the next Congress can't just use a pre-written loophole to do whatever it wants. That's probably a fantasy the way Congress writes bills, but it's a target to shoot for. There are too many "well this is an emergency" so "that doesn't count right now" clauses that leave each Congress free to do whatever it wants simply by declaring something to be an emergency and therefore outside the spending limits their predecessors set.
Congress, as a whole, has to suck up their guts, if they can find them, and do something about the entitlement programs we have and their commitments. They don't like to touch any of these things because older people are more likely to actually vote. But the reality is that the money that could have gone to fund the entitlements has been frittered away on wars that really didn't matter to the US's security or a host of other things and now is just a bunch of IOUs that future tax payers will have to cover - if they can - or the promises of the entitlements will be worthless anyway. It wasn't entirely the government's fault that the US demographic population mix changed and people stopped growing the base of the pyramid. But they did. To not adjust the promised benefits to reflect reality is just wrong. Were they wrong to over-promise? Of course they were. Were they wrong to spend the trust fund money on wars and leave behind bonds that will have to be redeemed by the future taxpayers? Yes.
But just because things went badly for them in the past doesn't mean they can't try to correct it. A first step would be auditing the entire Social Security, Medicare, and other programs that are going to doom us and see how many people have gotten out everything that was contributed by them or for them, with an acceptable rate of return. For any of the people who fall in this category, apply means testing for benefits. You can continue to apply means testing until they reach some threshold where they need assistance again.
The Health Care Debacle
I wish there was some way to fix the medical issues we face as a nation. The reality is that the medical, pharmaceutical, hospital, and insurance / legal industries are a mess and there really isn't any easy way to switch from what we have to what certain other countries have without significant disruptions and people's livelihoods being really hurt. At the same time, to continue as we are is madness. The future costs are crippling. So what to do?
At the Federal level
At this point, I don't see a legal way out at the federal level. The current attempt in trying to force the creation of commerce in order to provide cover for regulating it doesn't pass muster. There simply isn't any constitutional item which covers nationalization of the health industry. They thought to add rules for creating post offices and roads, military, and a few other things that they deemed essential, but nothing else. Clearly the framers didn't understand how expensive life support and extension would become as medicine advanced. So the only real option is to add another amendment addressing health care, and that will take some time at the federal level to accomplish if it is even possible. Nobody at the federal level wants to open up a constitutional convention for fear of what would come out of it and getting enough votes everywhere else to pass a single amendment would be daunting.
At the States level
Given that, perhaps we should look at the states and see if something could be done there. The thing is, all the states would have to play along equally or there will end up being no medical services offered in a particular state. The doctors and hospitals would cease doing business or would have to charge so much for services that nobody could afford to use them.
So what can states agree on? Revamping the lawsuit happy country would help, simply by limiting awards for pain and suffering and the like. Getting all citizens on board, and eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps for major medical problems were a few of the good parts of the latest plan. The private insurance industry, rightly, won't accept a system where anyone can join when something goes wrong and the insurance company will be forced to pay forever without spreading the cost out over a larger base of people.
If the federal government can't get involved, then let's remove the anti-trust and monopoly restrictions for insurance companies, force them to all join together with suitable payouts to their owners and stockholders, and create a single payer non-profit organization so everyone has to deal with the same paperwork, forms, limitations and exclusions. Roll Medicare into it and out of the federal government as the basis for the interface to the industry as the industry already has to deal with its bureaucracy. The new un-nationalized Medicare++ can be a private system. It just needs to have a mandate to cover everyone and be allowed to bill everyone for providing the specified insured services that are common to all. Come up with a standard insurance product that everyone can have that is acceptable to all states.
Strictly limit the overhead costs that are tolerated by state mandates and eliminate all the overhead of all the different billing systems, review boards, and the like that each company has. Many of the former industry employees would be rolled over into the new Medicare++ so unemployment in the insurance side of the industry wouldn't go nuts.
For the consumers
Coverage of the major medical issues that people face and allowing the individuals to handle the rest would be the cheapest option. There was a great brouhaha over the contraceptive costs that were to be covered in the federal plan. But really, these are pretty minor costs that aren't a burden to bear yourself if your insurance premium isn't going up 30% a year.
Dental, eye costs, and routine child care and other routine annual exams and tests are other items that can be either covered or not. But really, although having all these things covered would be very nice, if the total medical and insurance costs we faced as families were lower with a bit more of the standard stuff covered out of pocket, we'd be happy. It's the major medical things like pregnancies, broken limbs, surgeries, cancer treatments, and nursing home care and the like that bankrupt you if you aren't insured. It isn't the cost of eyeglasses that do that (although in our case we have spent the equivalent of a medium priced car on eyeglasses, contacts, and appointments over our and our kid's lives.)
This is better for the patients, since regardless of where they are in the country, Medicare++ covers them for their covered costs and they're responsible for the rest - just like at home. Nobody is "out of network" anywhere. Everyone is covered so everyone can receive the same care, regardless of location. Get rid of pre-authorization for covered expenses, and the patients will be even happier.
There is the potential for price controls and power of the many in drug purchases and the like that could be had as well. in a single payer environment. If we could avoid the "Usual and Customary Charge" garbage at the same time by simply averaging the costs over the whole country when the insurance bills are made and then paying the charges of the hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies without any fuss, everyone would be happier. Some pricier places to live would have an advantage as the cheaper areas would be subsidizing them, but if the UCC went away, everyone who ever had to deal with an insurance company would rejoice, along with the providers. If we can adjust the bills each year based on the costs actually incurred with reasonable estimations of the next years increases due to inflation and an aging population, and if enough basic stuff was covered to cause people to go to primary care doctors instead of ERs, we might be in even better shape and end up with lower total bills to pay.
For the providers
On the provider side, states would need to regulate the profit margins that providers can have in their business. There would have to be some regulation on this end or the insurance bills would simply go through the roof like college costs have in the last 30 years. Treat the providers - whether hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, or other like a utility. None of them should have to give their services away, but they should be willing to give something in return for their new certainties. Only make the state's combined public service commissions a little better so that they don't just approve each new fantasy charge the industry decides it needs to create to stay in business. Make it a uniform commission across all states to keep costs for each state down and make sure that Medicare++ has one entity to deal with.
It's better for the hospitals and doctors as they only have one payer. They would now be getting substantially more of their cost of doing business covered due to single payer and universal coverage. People might well be seeking more of their services, particularly at the family doctor level where problems could be found early depending on the actual terms of the insurance. They would no longer have to write anything off to charity since everyone is covered. The only possible write off would be a foreign national and they could be required to pay in advance or billed. The providers would have little risk that their bill would go partially or largely unpaid due to UCC limits that are frequently irrational. They should be willing to accept some control over their profit margins in return for that.
There would also need to be better controls than what the current Medicare system seems to have to prevent fraudulent billing for services and drugs not actually performed or given. This should also be coordinated across the states to prevent deserts of health care.
I personally like the Mayo system where doctors are salaried employees. I think that that lends itself to better care as there is no incentive to pursue tests that are of questionable value just because you've bought the equipment and have to pay it off. But the transition to that sort of system will be much longer than that of the payers. The payer side is largely government or private companies who can all be bought out at some suitable rate of return on their investment. The provider side has large private sunk costs in offices, equipment, training and education, and the like with an expectation of a payback over many, many years and eventually a better life for their risk and effort. Finding an equitable solution there is much harder since it involves so many individuals and institutions - medical schools, pharmacies, medical device manufacturers, hospitals, and individual offices, doctors, nurses, lab workers, and all the rest who make it all work.
There is a great discord on the issue of immigration today. I try to keep two things in mind when thinking about this question:
First, everyone in North, South, or Central America today is either an immigrant or a descendant of an immigrant. The only difference is how long they have been in any particular portion of it. My ancestors came from Iceland and Europe many decades ago. They were immigrants. Some of our ancestors may have come across on the land bridge between Asia and Alaska a very long time ago. Some of our ancestors may have come to this hemisphere or moved around on it in the last generation. Even the bluest of the blue bloods on the east coast only have a couple of centuries of history in our country. But the one thing that all non-vacationing individuals have in common is we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants.
The second thing that I like to keep in mind is what happened in WWII. The Nazis went to war on their civilian population, targeting predominantly Jews but also other groups. Many of these people tried to come to the United States, but were denied entry visas. Millions died who should not have died, simply because our quota system kept the majority of these people from coming here.
We need to strike a balance. First, it is reasonable to have some controls on access to the country. Espionage and terrorism are realities and an unrestricted entry policy would simplify these drastically especially considering the ease of movement within the country.
Second, no country wants to be the recipient of the unwanted dregs of another country - yet Australia comes to mind as a continent and country that developed a thriving and stable economy while starting out as a penal colony (at least from a first world perspective). You can never be sure what any outcome is going to be. Given enough time, things seem to work out.
Finally, you are immigrating to the United States of America. You are presumably doing that because you think we have something to offer you in terms of what our government stands for (since many high paying jobs are now elsewhere and the cost of living is very high). So you need to try to assimilate into our culture. Nobody wants you to give up what makes you unique, but we are a melting pot and that big black cast iron pot doesn't change its shape easily. Nobody wants to give up what makes the United States a unique country just because we have accepted a large number of immigrants.
Families who are now here should be able to stay as long as they pose no threat to the United States. In addition, families should be able to be joined together more easily. People who have skills we need should be allowed to enter provided they agree to stay and not take our knowledge and intellectual property back to their home country when they leave. All should be sponsored to be sure they don't become a burden on the United States - but I keep in mind that most who are already here pay the same taxes that we do - they just can't say they are legally citizens because they are not.
Surely compassion can weigh in on this and get over the difficulties we now face as a nation over the immigration issue. We are a huge country. Granted, many areas of it don't have enough natural resources in terms of water or infrastructure to handle many more people and other portions are devoted to agriculture and can't be developed. Nobody wants to see the national parks developed for condos and all of the other insane predictions that people make come about. But it wouldn't drastically affect us as a nation to simply grant a green card to everyone who would eventually qualify after enough years and enough quotas were met. They are already here. They are already our neighbors and co-workers. Do it without warning to prevent a mass influx of people who are expecting it to happen and be done with it. Give them a simple path to citizenship.
Then enforce the borders - while making it easier for everyone who would eventually be allowed access in the absence of the existing quotas - to enter legally and join their families. God doesn't want families split across the world. We're becoming a service economy as more and more manufacturing moves overseas. I'd like to see that change and the next section will deal with some means how that might come about - but more people living here will increase the demand for services, housing, and all of the other things that we have left. It shouldn't be an undue burden.
It cannot be accomplished without changes to both the tax structure and the entitlement structure - but these are broken already. If we enforce a cost and benefit structure equally on everyone, then it shouldn't matter if there are more of us. If we limit benefits more closely to what you have paid into the system or your employers have paid in for you with suitable rates of return and amortize the costs of health care over everyone then there is less of a rational reason to exclude people due to cost. Each person who comes here would know that until they contributed to the system they wouldn't get much out and they would be expected to pay just like everyone else which would be an incentive to be sponsored, get a productive job, and contribute.
Is a general amnesty fair to those who went through the system to get their green card? No. There is no solution that will seem particularly fair to those who have gone through all the hoops. But maybe those who have gone through all the hoops will be able to be reunited with their families which might make the sacrifice worth it. Is it fair to the person born in this country to have a larger number of citizens? Your representation will be reduced in Congress and possibly in states, but hopefully your tax burdens if reformed will also drop and your health taxes if reformed will be less. Everybody can gain.
When thinking of this issue, picture yourself in a Nazi concentration camp, or one of the communist death camps where even more died, or the killing fields of Cambodia, or more recently Rwanda. Think of being related to one of those people and living in the US. Is immigration really so bad? Before dismissing this as history, remember that there are many Mexican's who have come to this country due to economic hardships in their own country, but the recent news is full of drug wars in large portions of Mexico and countries further south. Those drugs are being purchased largely by Americans. So you can't say we have no responsibility for their problems.
You were lucky you were born in this country. Be a Christian and love a little. Open up on the immigration issue. Really - we're a big enough country for that - aren't we?
The Taxes We Pay
Congress needs to overhaul the tax system completely. Taxes need to be simpler for everyone. No matter how hard you try to do everything right, you don't know what is in the code nor how it applies to you. You are at the mercy of either the people who prepare the written instructions in the government or the companies and programmers who prepare the software you use or your accountant. According to Political Calculations the 1913 tax code for everyone could have fit in a single 400 page book. That's still too complex, but potentially understandable by the average man. After WWII, it jumped from 504 pages to 8,200 pages. The estimate for 2012 is roughly 75,000 pages (although some of this repeals or changes previous portions). That is just at the federal level. If you have state taxes it is even worse. There is no way that an individual can begin to understand or comply with that level of complexity. All you can hope for is that the people writing the software do a good job and try to point out the really important changes and that you understand exactly what that means to you.
Why does this happen? There are too many special interests who get Congress to give them their own special loopholes, the people want more and more deductions - but don't want the rich to enjoy the same deductions, and the code is filled with social engineering. This takes the form of deductions to encourage the purchase of more efficient automobiles, to making it less expensive to have kids, to home ownership, to supporting charity, to encouraging investing, to --- whatever you can think of it's probably in there someplace or somebody has tried to put it in there. 75,000 pages is a lot of words.
We need to do better.
All taxing authorities should end corporate taxes. In corporate America, federal, state, county and local taxes are just an expense line item. If they made a profit, then they didn't actually pay any taxes. They made less profit than if they had no taxes to pay, certainly. But the people or companies which bought their goods or services actually provided the money that paid the tax. Eventually, that ends up being an individual.
Every cent we paid to them that they paid out as taxes was marked up by every single advertiser, retailer, transportation company, middleman, packager, manufacturer, miner, oil producer, et cetera along the way that had any hand in the making, selling, or transportation of the product or service. That propagates down to every component at every point in the design, production, sale, or delivery process at all, to cover its overhead and profit margin. Taxing corporations is massively inefficient. If you raise the taxes on a particular industry, they just raise the prices they charge to the companies or individuals who purchase their goods or services till their profit is back up where they want it.
To cut out corporate taxes would take some interesting unwinding of pricing, but in the end competition would drive down the cost of our goods making them more competitive in the world market and less expensive for us. It would eliminate a vast amount of bureaucracy in government that is useless. It would eliminate a tremendous source of political graft and corruption at all levels since there wouldn't need to be nearly as much bidding for congressional or local favors on the part of companies. The whole issue of "free speech" for companies might disappear as companies may find they no longer care which political candidate wins as the new face in the political office wouldn't have to be bought in the first place.
As a balance, cut out all grants to private industry. Let them stand or fall on their own. The federal government will always be a purchaser of products and services of private industry, but few industries really need a hand out to develop a product. Getting rid of the doling out of favors would also help eliminate corruption.
A big benefit of this would be a return of jobs to America. Many industries operate on a very narrow margin. The furniture industry, for example, moved a lot of manufacturing overseas only to bring it back to a certain extent solely due to the rise in fuel costs to transport their goods to market. If we increase their profit by building and manufacturing here, it will bring some jobs back over time. They may have to wait till their factory is outmoded in another country and they're trying to decide where to build their next big plant, but lower cost here should not be discounted as a driver in the marketplace. Eliminating an inefficient and cumbersome tax system is a great incentive.
When the change is made, we could allow them to pull money back that was earned overseas and put it to work here. A double bonus. To triple down on the incentive, you could continue to tax their overseas profits and make the corporate gift of no taxes apply only to work done or services provided in the United States.
Individual taxes need reformed as well. I would personally prefer a flat tax, applied equally to everyone. If you want the government to reform itself, you need to share the pain equally. There is currently no pressure on Congress to change because around half the people don't pay any federal taxes anyway. Most people don't vote either, because who is in power doesn't really matter to them. If everyone had equal skin in the game, state and federal government would change almost overnight or there would be another American Revolution. All of a sudden, everyone would be voting and actually trying to find out the best candidate rather than punching the party (R/D) button.
Next, pay the bills in one chunk so it's painful and you notice it. Give people a three month advance notice for city and county bills. Give people a six month notice for state and federal bills. Pay your city tax bills in January in one payment. The city bill is generally the smallest so I picked the first quarter for it to make Christmas bills easier. Pay the federal bill in April in one payment to stick with tradition. Pay the county bill in July in one lump sum to give yourselves some time to recover from the federal bill. Pay the state bill in October, so it will be fresh in your mind as you cast your ballots in November. Stop paying them over the course of a year - pay them all at once, and equally. You can prorate the state, county, and local taxes based on the time spent living in each location for people with houses in multiple states or who work for extended periods in other states.
Why pay equally? There isn't any reason why billionaires should have to pay more than retired elderly people to support their government. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the tony city suburbs where many dwell cost far less for the government than the decaying housing projects anyway. Just to be clear, I'm not a billionaire and unless I'm laying up some treasures in heaven with a great interest rate there, I don't ever expect to be one. I also don't run a company that helps people manage their money to hide it from taxes so I don't have any incentive to try to increase everyone's (or rich people's) taxes.
I do feel that all stock options and the like should be banned and everyone should be paid in cash equivalents (wages or salary). I have never been convinced that tying a CEO or star performer's salary to stock performance via stock options ever really altered their work ethic or performance. CEOs with the board's pay oversight committees have the ability to manipulate when income is recorded in their companies or partnerships to a great enough extent that they always seem to meet their goals to get their options anyway. If the economy tanks then the targets get adjusted lower for a few years till they've exceeded their goals and made up what the lost if they didn't happen to reach a particular year's goals. Sometimes they pick a different set of companies to compare themselves to in order to make them look better. It's never their fault.
Financial managers don't recommend that people keep company stock in their retirement plans since if the company has problems they might be out of work and the company stock could also tank. There is no reason to favor those who are well off or high ranking in the company with stock either. Just pay them a salary and let the stockholders judge whether they are worth it or not. If they like their own stock, they can buy it on the market like the rest of us. Regardless of their salary, they don't benefit from government any more than the lowliest grounds keeper or janitor who works at their company. They should all be treated the same for tax purposes.
If that is too equal for you, then at least we should all switch to a flat tax rate treating all income identically. The only income that I could see getting any break at all would be income that went directly into a new business and stayed there for a time period since there is substantial risk involved in starting or funding new businesses. Treat everything else the same.
I'd be perfectly willing to have the tax code written to switch from an equal tax to a flat tax rate any time the Congress ran a surplus and reduced the country's debt for two sequential years or the debt was reduced to an insignificant amount. If the Congress started spending more than it was taking in and the debt started going back up significantly then it should switch back to an equal tax. Unfortunately, that is the only approach that I see that has any hope of actually getting people to put pressure on Congress to reign in their free spending ways.
Other tax details
When going to a single payment for each major taxing entity, also get rid of all of the other itty bitty taxes at the same time. No more sales taxes. No more property taxes. No more gas taxes. No more estate taxes. Just one bill from each of the four major taxing groups once per year. If you had to add in a few deductions to get it to pass, fine. But keep the types of deductions small. Interest on a first house - maybe. Charitable deductions - maybe. For medical - see above. It's hard to say what to keep or throw out. Just treat them the same at all levels of government. Remember that every deduction that is added makes somebody's tax bill higher. It's better to spread the pain out equally over everyone.
If a particular branch of the government doesn't take in enough one year to cover some unexpected cost, increase everyone's bill next year to get back in the black. That will put an end to going to war and getting nothing in return from allies or the places we fight. If we run a surplus, pay down the respective debt or decrease everyone's bill next year to give some back. This can be applied at every government level. I can't think of a quicker way to see if the people really want all of the government they are actually currently getting than to start charging everyone to cover its cost.
You could keep the constitutionally mandated taxes like tariffs or duties and or some excise taxes on tobacco or alcohol to try to keep people from killing themselves. You could keep severance taxes on minerals if you wanted. Scrap everything else and just go back to a simple head tax like the founding fathers envisioned (although much larger). Impose it on everyone living in the country, citizen or not. It's really the only way to get Congress and state governments under control on the spending side. As it is, too few pay anything at all for federal taxes, pay low state taxes, and really only get stuck with sales taxes. Those who do pay really don't pay much unless you are really well off. The only way to start to make a dent in how government works and the debt we have is to spread the pain out broadly. Nothing else will change the way of doing business at all levels of government.
For the record, this would be a much higher tax bill for me due to my family size and legal deductions. I'm not trying to make everyone else pay a greater share of the burden. Yes, there is a line item where you can give money to the government to pay down the debt if you think you aren't paying enough. I'm not sure what drugs the person who had that idea was on, but very few people want to voluntarily give the government money to spend. We all try to pay the least we are legally required to pay.
The Primary Process
The primary process is getting more and more difficult to handle. It is time to come up with a new system. The original system was meant to weed out the bad candidates by a long campaign process. It certainly succeeds in this.
Near the end of the national process, the party rules allowed each state convention to pick a final candidate to support from among all those left running that they felt was the best candidate to represent them. This allowed a check and balance where someone who did well early on could be replaced by a better man when it was closer to time to move to the national level. It allowed a change in case some bad things had been discovered in the intervening time about the candidate supported at the local level across the state.
The Republican party this year has turned that elegant concept into a farce. It could just as easily have been the Democrats, but it was the Republicans who took the honors this election cycle. At the state level, young people have consistently followed the rules to support the candidate they thought was best at this point in the race at their state conventions. When that didn't produce the outcome that the party elite wanted, the party elite has acted like two year old children. They have not followed their own rules, changed meeting times and venues without much notice - which impacts the young working delegates more than older retired delegates, put up new restrictions and deadlines, split off to form a "new" pure state Republican party, and hired security to intimidate and coerce the state delegates to bow to their will. That's just a partial list of what has been reported in the news.
I'd prefer a four week process where all candidates for the offices presented their cases on the same internet based forum followed by a country wide primary election run just like the national election on a single date. It is time to stop letting the media have so much influence in the elections by deciding who to cover and how much coverage they should get. It is time to stop letting those who are wealthy or who have wealthy friends who will give them money pick the candidates for election. Let all people in each party vote electronically on some secure system that has had its software independently verified by at least two separate groups of experts. Make sure people can verify that their votes have been recorded correctly and are still correct after the election if they so choose.
If companies can allow their stockholders to vote electronically over the Internet on corporate finances, surely there is some way to do it for the political process. When the voting day was done, you'd have your candidates for the general election. People complain that electronic voting can be manipulated. Well maybe it can be. But the process we have now can be manipulated just as well and with less verifiable means.
Money should not be a deciding factor in what candidate is able to run for office. Who has time to go from state to state should not be a factor in deciding who is able to run for office. Who is better connected to the party machine should not be a factor in deciding who is able to run for office. Put everyone on an equal basis in the primary process and let the entire country vote on the same day. Let the majority carry the election. Abandon this funky "winner takes all" or "proportional delegates" or "bound delegates" or "unbound delegates" thing that we have going now. The whole process we have now is rotten.
Reform the process so it is fair for all party members in all the states. What we have now massively favors early states in the voting process. Their records this year from coast to coast have been abysmal with reports of votes miscounted, lost, banned by "procedure" due to "weather related issues" when it would favor a particular candidate the elite wanted elected and more. Some states have had multiple winners as votes were recounted and then picked a different candidate at the state level.
Declaring winners early on has meaning to the process. It impacts how the party members vote later and many candidates give up if they don't do well early on. Parties would be up in arms if their voters were disenfranchised, yet the primary systems of both major parties guarantees this for states that are late in the process. Candidates that might have gotten their vote are routinely forced to leave the race because they don't have the funds or aren't favored in a few early states. Candidates who are wealthy have the advantage of being able to keep running. This needs to stop.
At the same time, abandon the party platform process altogether. The party platform that we say we believe in as a party member really doesn't reflect what everyone in the party believes anyway. People are fanatical about it, but generations of major party office holders show it bears little relationship to what their candidates do once they are elected to office anyway. Candidates can still present what they believe in to the party members in order to get nominated in the first place.
I'm a Republican, but from my views above, it is clear that my beliefs aren't 100% lined up with the party platform. They aren't lined up with the Democratic platform either. Yet I vote mostly Republican. If you're a Christian and really want to read a good party platform - read the Constitution Party platform. The nice thing is their candidates actually seem to believe it rather than rolling it out as a tool at convention time to sway the religious members of the Republican party to hold their noses and do the right thing.
The Election to Come
So what do we do now?
Rep. Ron Paul is feared by many people because of all the things he wishes he could change about the federal government. He's hated by the Rs and the Ds together because he votes constitutionally and doesn't toe a party line. But even he realizes that what he can do himself is limited to the operations of the Executive branch, and even that is sometimes interfered with by the laws of Congress. My biggest hope if he were elected would be simply this: For at least four years, there wouldn't be any unconstitutional bills signed by the President. He's one of the few congressmen or women who actually take that oath to uphold the fine old document seriously. Congress might go ahead and pass them over his veto, but that would be on them and not him. Considering how closely most votes in Congress go, they might not be able to get the majority they'd need to pass over a veto.
When it comes to the actual time of the election, pray and seek God's will for each office. Pray that as you read over what each candidate says about why they are running for office, their background, what they hope to do, what they care about and what current legislation they do or don't support, that God will open your eyes to a particular single person who you should vote for (or group of people if you're talking about school boards or commissioners or other offices with multiple people). God has an opinion and His is the only opinion that matters.
President Obama has made the claim of being a Christian and each person will have to evaluate what that means to them and compare it with what he has done while in office. Remember that a president must try to do what is best for the nation as a whole and that few bills that are passed or actions taken give a president the opportunity to demonstrate his Christianity. While Christianity is not based on works, it is all people can see to evaluate whether a persons words line up with their heart. Nobody is perfect all the time but we should all strive for that.
Mr. Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, which has the name of Jesus in its title. It is my personal opinion that their doctrine and beliefs don't line up with the Bible, regardless of the name of the denomination. You'll have to make your own judgment about whether he is a Christian or not. The definition is pretty simple - it isn't about works or rituals or your ancestors or proxy baptism. It's about accepting Christ as your Savior. The particular problem the Mormons have is who they think Christ was in the first place. We strongly disagree on that. Since who Christ was is the basis for salvation, there is a real division in Christian minds about whether they should be termed a Christian denomination.
Remember that it's entirely possible that the person God wants in office didn't even want to run, so He may be forced to pick from among those who are left. But He still has an opinion and as a Christian it is up to you to seek out that opinion and vote accordingly. If possible, cut out just the question and answer sections from the paper and number them to match them up with candidates and offices and then read them without knowing who they are for. Concentrate primarily on what they say that actually applies to their duties in office. If their office doesn't pass legislation on or otherwise regulate a particular issue, then their thoughts on that issue (while perhaps useful for a character view) don't matter. When done, match up the cut out sections with the names and see who God has led you to vote for. Don't be distracted or prejudiced by party or person. Blind justice is considered fair and good. The same applies to politics.
When voting in the primaries or in November, make your goal to get sane people in your local government. They're the ones that directly affect you. Then concentrate at the state level. Then worry a lot about Congress. There are a few decent incumbents out of the entire motley crew at each level of government, but the chances are pretty high that your current representatives and senators aren't among them. So don't just vote them into office again. Pick the best candidate for each office and vote for them, even if they aren't your party, or even if they are - gasp - a third party candidate! If you don't like the options you have for presidential or congressional or state candidate, then write in your choice. Perhaps that will be a third party candidate if they don't meet the requirements to get on the ballot directly or perhaps it will be someone who dropped out of the race early. But pray about your decision and make an informed choice. Your country's future is at stake. A vote for a candidate you feel God wants you to vote for is never thrown away.
If you vote in a swing state which could go either way, then maybe you will have to hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. But if you live in a state whose electoral votes are not in doubt, then if you think a third party candidate or platform is really closer to what you believe your vote will not be wasted in voting for them. You won't affect the end results of the state's electoral votes, but you will help to push the state party platform your way. When everyone just goes along and votes for the lesser of two evils it reinforces the mindset of the people in control that the people really support their positions. They have no incentive to actually govern differently or change their positions because they think most of the people truly want that type of leadership. They don't have to worry about your state or care about your state because it is solidly in their camp. If a noticeable number of people vote their conscience and vote for a candidate who is unlikely to win but who truly represents their beliefs it will force the people in charge of either major party to question whether they are on the right path. This should be encouraged. If the only contact you have with your party is a letter asking for donations, it's a good sign you should vote for who you really believe in instead of toeing the party line. And don't worry - not enough people read this page to have any national consequences.
Personally, I think it likely that Pres. Obama will be re-elected. I felt more strongly about this before he came out for gay marriage. This will end up hurting him in votes, even though it helps him when it comes to donations. It's the reason I started with the scripture that I did. The people need to understand that God does care about righteousness at the top. Over and over again, in the Old Testament, the actions and attitudes of the kings were imprinted on the people and they ended up failing or succeeding as a nation based on that. We won't be judged at the great white throne judgment based on what our friends or neighbors thought was right and wrong. We'll be judged on what God has said is right and wrong.
I am personally really, really surprised that the Republicans even considered letting Mr. Romney run this year. Yes, it was "his" turn, but still - what were they thinking? He can't seem to maintain a position for any length of time or come up with any reasons that he believes his own spiel. He also hasn't given any concrete proposals as to how to fix any problems in the country. Every question is turned into "Obama is bad" without giving any real information about what he will do in the future to fix things.
He may have a chance at winning - especially if he can convince the voters he actually knows something about creating jobs instead of whatever he did at Bain, but the 99% versus 1% debate is going to weigh heavily against him as he's way up there in the 0.01% with last year's income. This is the year with "Occupy ....." movements all around the country, all targeting the well off, and he certainly qualifies both in absolute terms and in how he made his fortune. The sad thing is that he can't seem to go for more than a week or so without reminding everyone of just how well off he and the people he knows are. Most Presidents have been well off and I have nothing against them for that. But it isn't going to sell well this time around and he can't seem to connect without it seeming very forced.
Coming off a "little depression", that is going to be a very hard image to overcome. If you look at the votes he is winning, it is overwhelmingly from upper middle class and high income urban voters. There aren't enough of them to win a general election even though they are strong in the primaries. Many of the young are voting for Ron Paul. They're the ones Mr. Romney needs, and he isn't winning them. They're the ones that helped Pres. Obama last election, and may do so again this time. They are ever less likely to rally round the (R) as they did in the old days.
Remember to pray about your vote and to pray for those people who are elected after the fact. They need all the help they can get.