Today we celebrate American Independence. Do you want to know what I’m thinking today? I don’t often use this page for my political points of view, but I will today and many of you who are not interested are free to ignore it. I have never been more concerned for the present and future of our country. The noble ideal of a country founded on equal rights and equal justice under the law has seriously eroded in recent decades. Just because I don’t often write about that, doesn’t mean I don’t care about what’s being done with the American Promise. I care deeply and as a responsible citizen I speak up in whatever venues I think will be helpful for our country’s future. At the same time, however, my hope is not in humanity or politics. While essential for the public order, governments over time always tend toward rewarding a powerful elite, corruptly so, in hopes that the masses will feel powerless to stop it and quietly go along. We stand at such a crossroads today.
As much as I celebrate the ideal of freedom, I also mourn it’s passing. In 1776 our country threw off the restraints of a distant king who saw fit to tax the populace whenever he saw fit to increase his personal wealth. Our forefathers found the rule of royalty so onerous and unfair that at great personal risk to their lives and fortune, they announced their independence and risked their lives on the battlefield to win it. They established a country based on the idea that all of us are created equal and that government should seek a greater common good with justice for all and not create a ruling class of powerful or wealthy citizens with special benefits.
The last eight years has made it clear that a new royalty has emerged in America. No, it isn’t a royal family, but an incestuous relationship between Wall Street bankers and Washington politicians who consider themselves above the rest of us and thus entitled to great wealth and privilege. In the past two administrations we saw that both Democrat and Republican officials were willing to give billions of dollars to reward those who fraudulently caused the financial crisis, while ignoring those who were victims of it. How many politicians go to Washington hoping to make a difference and instead become part of the problem, while their personal wealth grows exponentially? Even those who go of modest means, soon become multimillionaires and then trade their government contacts for careers as lobbyists when their time is up. Public service has lost its meaning. Washington and New York have become an extravagant culture to themselves with little concern for the problems of middle America. Instead of seeking a common good for all, our politicians continue to manipulate the process for their own power, prestige and fortune. State governments are not exempt from this as well, and perhaps California is the worst of all in bankrupting our state to push for their own gain.
People decry the entitlement culture where people are made more dependent on the state, rather than accepting responsibility for their own lives. But our mushrooming entitlement culture certainly doesn’t begin with the poor, but the wealthy ruling class, who consider themselves entitled to special government protection and perks while their fellow-citizens suffer. They continue to vote benefits for themselves and their cronies while they defraud the American public.
We are no longer a nation of laws that seeks to treat all citizens fairly, but a nation of lawyers, some of whom have helped to rig a political and legal system that rewards the rich and well-connected. The new enemies of the state in my view are those politicians, authors, news pundits, and “news analysts” who trade on polarizing the public by lying about the opposition as well as their own ambitions. Until the American people demand better of their politicians and turn off their 24-hour news channels it will be impossible to rebuild a civil political discourse that actually tackles the large and significant problems that confront our country. It may well take a new third party that ignores those on the far left and far right and works to construct a fair and just society for us all. I have more confidence that most conscientious citizens understand common sense and fair play better than anyone in the upper echelons of our political process.
But I will still vote in the upcoming election and make my voice heard, however small. The only way it will matter is if others also reject the current players in our system and move demand that future elected officials change the climate in Washington and the realities of political service. If America is going to change it will happen because voters are less gullible to the manipulations of our political process and seek out statesmen and stateswomen to send to Washington and our state houses to clean up the mess of our current generation of corrupt politicians. Here’s what I’m looking for:
- People who tell me why I should vote for them and what they are going to do, and not telling me why I shouldn’t vote for their opponent. I don’t need to be told what I want to hear, I want to be told what they really believe. I want to hear real policies on the economy, immigration reform, tax policy, the use of our military in the world, and what the will practically do to move beyond partisan gridlock.
- People who are willing to make the difficult decisions to bring our spending in line with our income and not put the burden of our indulgences on the next generation. If my father’s generation was The Greatest Generation for their self-sacrifice in World War II and beyond, the Baby Boomers could be known as the Indulgent Generation for not only consuming the vast wealth of this nation, but stealing from the future of our children and grandchildren as well.
- People who seriously want to change how business is done in Washington. Both of our last Presidents promised to do that and yet governed as despicable, partisan hacks. Everyone says we need it, but no one will do it, because solving problems is not in either party’s self interest.
- A Congress that does not exempt itself from laws they pass for the rest of us. How dare they vote laws for us that they do not apply to themselves! That is the height of arrogance and flies in the face of our ideal that all are created equal. They need to be part of social security and not their own pension system. We need a return to citizen politicians who go to Washington to serve the public not garner benefits for themselves, nor come out and work as lobbyists. All Congressional and executive branch officials should be prevented from working for lobbying firms for ten years after hold office.
- A simplified tax code a child could understand that does not reward special interests nor create special tax shelters for the wealthy.
- True campaign and governance reform to limit the influence of special interest money that results in corrupt politicians, and special privileges for a few. It is not just politicians that our corrupt, our very system corrupts those who get involved with it.
- An end to Presidential pensions when former presidents command speaking fees upwards of a quarter of a million dollars and book contracts in millions.
Will any of these things happen in my lifetime? That is up to the voter, of course, and it will take many election cycles, not just this one. Will we just continue to fall in line with the pandering of both political parties, or will we demand that they change or create a new part with better ideals? Time will tell. If we just keep sending the same kind of people to Washington that we’ve been sending for the past 30 years, we cannot expect anything to change.
But as I said when I started this, my hope in life or in America’s future is not in politics. God’s work is going to continue to go forward in the world even if our society spends itself into bankruptcy and bondage. God does some of his best work in people in times of scarcity and crisis, than he is able to do in times of prosperity and bliss. So while I lament the corruption of our political process and the distortion of our founding ideals, I nonetheless am overjoyed that I am part of a kingdom that is not founded on human greed, but on the love and power of God. That kingdom cannot be shaken no matter what happens in our world.
Note from Roger and Gerri: We could not agree more with Wayne.