What do we need to do to get America back on track?

Most people believe America is on the wrong track. But, although that is an opinion shared by most Americans, the solutions people offer are almost as varied as the number of people offering them.

Some say: “The government should do more to keep us safe from terrorists!” and at the same time, others say: “The government should do more to protect our privacy!”

We hear: “Some are too rich, so the government should take from the rich and give to the poor.” and we also hear: “How can any of us prosper if the government penalizes anyone who succeeds?”

And some will tell you America is failing because we have lost God’s blessing because of our immoral behavior. I can’t disagree with that verdict. Our government has been caught doing some pretty immoral things. And yet, we can’t even agree on what is or isn’t moral.

The United States may still be united under one government, but its people are not united in one cause. The problem is not a lack of morality; it is a lack of majority! We will not be a nation that appears to enjoy “God’s blessings” until we find a way to agree.

But with so many different opinions, where do we start?

What we need is a blueprint – an outline that gives us some general principles that we can agree on that will guide us in making good decisions. About 237 years ago, some pretty smart people created exactly that! It’s called the Constitution.

Now, some say it’s outdated. Well, the language does seem kind of archaic, but the principles contained in it will never go out of style. If you haven’t read it lately, maybe you should. America became the greatest nation on Earth – “A shining beacon on a hill” – by following those principles.

People from all around the globe migrated to America because that blueprint created a land of opportunity for those who were willing to work hard. It provided for a government strong enough to protect its citizens, but limited the powers of government so that it would not stifle the creativity of its citizens. People came here to escape the sort of governments that the Constitution guaranteed America would never have.

But, somewhere along the way, things changed.

The Federal government has usurped the rights and responsibilities of the States, Counties and Cities. At the local level, democracy works far better. People can be more aware of how their local taxes are spent. And, because they are spent locally, they are more likely to serve the interests of the citizenry. The people in Kentucky might not have the same interests as people in New York City, and they don’t always share the same concerns with people in Oregon. In fact, it seems like the people in Washington, D.C. don’t have ANY of the same interests as anyone else in the nation!

The Constitution grants the responsibility for national defense to the Federal government. It says nothing about police, fire, education or roads. As is stands, the IRS collects money from all across the nation and the Congress distributes it in accordance with the wishes of…Congressmen. So your income taxes are spent on things that may not be very important to you, personally. Things like the Philadelphia Father’s Day Rally Committee, the American Sailing Training Association, the Lobster Institute, the National Wild Turkey Institute (these are real items that were “earmarked” in recent funding bills, and are called “off-budget expenses”).

No, the problem isn’t socialism. The problem is a bloated Federal government that is not concerned with the needs of the people. Our taxes should not be used to police the world, providing defense for nations that should be responsible for their own defense. No wonder so much of the world thinks we are Imperialists. We should not be spending billions in foreign aid for nations that aren’t even our allies! Everyone knows you can’t buy friendship.

The Federal government should be pared down and limited to the functions explicitly defined by the Constitution. If the People want the services now provided by the Feds, they will petition their local governments to provide those services. Smaller governments are more likely to be attentive to the needs of their citizens. Is there corruption in local government? Of course, but because they are closer to the people, local elected officials must listen to their constituents in order to get reelected.

How much government should we have? The Constitution spells that out very clearly, but about half the people in the US have chosen to ignore the blueprint, thinking they could write a better script.

There are essentially two schools of thought: Let’s call them “A” and “B”, so as to avoid offending anyone. People seem to get offended easily these days.

“A” says the responsibility of government is to protect the life, liberty and property of the individual. It is upon this principle that the US was formed. The Founders were careful to NOT form a strong central government, preferring a union with limited powers (All powers not vested in the central government were retained by the states and the people).

“B” prefers a strong central government, capable of providing complete security for its citizenry – even at the expense of individual liberties. This concept is based on the assumption that government knows best, while the individual does not. This form of government is responsible for mandating warning labels such as the one on hair dryers that says, “WARNING: Do not use while showering!”

Now, I am going to make some generalizations – realizing fully that by doing so, I risk offending the sensibilities of any number of people – but, here goes….

The sort of person who favors “A” takes responsibility for his/her own actions, realizing that he/she is capable of creating the type of life they want to live. No one’s plans will always turn out as they had hoped, but when the outcome is undesirable this person looks inward for the reason and makes a course correction, and tries again. Government’s responsibility is to guarantee opportunity, but it is left to the individual to seize those opportunities and make what he/she can of them.

Contrasting this, the person who favors “B” does not feel in control. He/she still makes plans, but when those plans fail this person looks outward for someone to blame. Believing him/herself to be a victim of the actions of others, he/she demands that someone make it right. For this person, the government’s responsibility is to fix all the things that don’t go as he/she would like them to be. There must be laws to punish anyone/everyone who doesn’t guarantee his/her happiness, and the legal right to sue the offenders. (Offenders are defined as anyone the offended deems to be offenders. With this definition, it is impossible to know if you may be an offender until the offended tells you that you are).

I could go on, but I think I see an angry mob preparing to call their attorneys, so I’d better move on to another topic.

What about America’s moral fiber? Isn’t that an issue deserving attention? Certainly, but…

America has been a great nation because its people have been free to create a moral society, secure in the knowledge that they would have food and shelter in exchange for a fair day’s labor. People who are warm, dry and well-fed can accomplish great things. But, when we cannot meet our basic needs, we cannot be our best.

For too many years, both political parties have promised us more than they could deliver, bringing a once-great nation to its knees. Most of us have contributed to the problem by asking government to solve all of our problems. Some have asked to be taken care of from cradle to grave, with no risks and no need for personal responsibility when things don’t go smoothly. Others have asked government to ensure that everyone will act as we think they should, both within the US and across the globe.

Like Santa Claus, our elected officials have responded to the will of the people, by granting almost everyone’s wishes in exchange for our votes, ensuring their continued power to promise even more. But there is not enough money in the world to grant all of our wishes, so the federal government “expanded” the amount of money in circulation with no regard for what that would do to the value of the dollar.

The official position is that there is no inflation. But we know better. We see inflation when we shop for groceries, or fill up our gas tank, or buy just about anything at today’s prices. Real estate prices crashed from the ridiculously high prices of a few years ago, but even at today’s “bargain” prices a home costs about ten times what it cost fifty years ago.

How did that happen? When our money was backed by gold or silver, there was a limit to how many dollars could be printed. Each dollar was worth a specific amount of gold or silver, and the Treasury couldn’t issue more dollars than it could pay for with the metal it had to back it up. In order to satisfy the desires of all the people, the government needed to create more dollars. Now, the dollar isn’t backed by reserves of precious metals, but by the “full faith and security of the United States Government” – a government that is more than 16 trillion dollars in debt!

As a result, there are a lot more dollars in circulation and for awhile, most of us thought we were wealthier than we were before. But the problem it created is really simple. See, if you bake an apple pie, the entire pie has a certain number of apples in it. If you cut the pie into more pieces, it doesn’t increase the amount of apples, but it takes more pieces to satisfy your hunger. It certainly takes more dollars to feed our families. A dollar doesn’t buy as many apples as it used to.

Our government has a legal and a moral obligation to provide us with sound money. In order to trade, we need to know what our money is worth. In order to buy the things we need, we must be assured that the dollars we worked hard for will have value. And in order to live out our lives in relative comfort once we retire, we must be able to rely on the value of the money we set aside all of our lives so that we won’t be a burden on our children or on our neighbors when we are no longer able to work.

People will never agree on every detail. That’s good! We need people who will think of ways to make this nation even better, and we need a free society that allows for civil discussions of our different opinions. That’s how democracy works. But while it’s healthy to have these discussions, we must find a way to agree on the basics – the outline that keeps us on track. We must demand that our elected officials honor and defend the Constitution. Every US President and every member of Congress has sworn to do so.

It’s time to demand they live up to their promises.

The immoral results of Morality Laws

Fourteen states have passed laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within a specified distance from schools. The distances vary from state to state, depending upon the severity of the perceived threat that sex offenders may pose to our children. Since we still do not feel safe, some have suggested that the distances should be increased.

Most people think of sex offenders as a threat to our children, because when most people think of sex offenders they think of pedophiles. Wanting to protect our children from this horrible aberrant behavior is only natural. Are all sex offenders pedophiles? Are they all a threat to children?

Can you imagine an eighteen-year-old male having sex with his seventeen-year-old girlfriend? You may not approve of such behavior, but if you live in the real world you should not be surprised to hear that it happens. The eighteen-year-old is legally an adult, while his girlfriend is legally a minor. Since he is an adult who had sex with a minor, whom the law says cannot legally consent, he can be prosecuted for statutory rape and labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life. Because she is legally a child and he is legally an adult, he also fits the definition of a pedophile.

Now fast-forward ten years. He is twenty-eight, his wife is twenty-seven and they have two children. It is not likely that their children will be molested by their father, who showed a predilection to have sex with someone merely one year younger than he was.

And yet, these children will have to be bused to school each day, because they will be prohibited from living within walking distance of their school as long as they reside with their parents!

Will our children be made safer by penalizing the children of an alleged sex offender? How will those children be treated by their peers and their parents? Who will explain all this to them?

Of course, not all sex offenders are pedophiles. Some are convicted rapists, whose victims were other adults. They never posed a threat to children. In fact, if they were convicted of “date rape” in their youth, they may not pose a threat to anyone! And, although they may live the rest of their lives as morally upstanding pillars of the community, their children will still be prohibited from living in the same neighborhood with their classmates.

Every action has consequences. For that reason, it may be morally justifiable to punish those who commit crimes. The punishment should fit the crime, not last a lifetime – and, more importantly – it should not be passed on to future generations!

Driven by fear, we elect people who offer to protect us from every conceivable threat. Laws are passed to provide us with greater security. As a result, there seems to be an increase in convictions for sex related crimes, but are the crimes increasing, or is it our definitions of the crimes that have increased? Are we really safer, or just more paranoid?

Years ago, a major educational campaign was launched to protect our children by making them aware of “stranger-danger”. The frequency of child molestations did not diminish. The dirty little secret is that most child molestations are perpetrated by relatives and friends, not by strangers. We still cling to the belief that we must protect our children from strangers because we don’t want to acknowledge the fact that the danger is so close to home. It is more comforting to believe that the danger posed is from outside our inner circle. It is easier to blame them.

If someone has been shown to be a threat to children, keeping them a certain number of feet away from a school is not enough. If the threat is real, there is no safe distance, period! As long as they pose a threat, it is up to the courts to prevent them from re-entering society. If they have been released from prison, having served their time, it should be presumed that they are no longer dangerous and are able to live a normal life.

Not all sex offenders pose a threat to children. We must be willing to make that distinction, regardless of our distaste for their crimes. Paranoia does not make us safer.