Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Presidency: A Fact Check

Poll after recent poll has reported that Americans are dissatisfied with the President's handling of the economy. Fact is, polls have rarely shown the American public approving of the way a President handles the economy. George W. Bush was routinely given low numbers on his handling of the economy. But, how much control does the President of the United States really have over our economy?

In 2008 a question was posed on Yahoo Answers asking, How exactly does a President affect the economy? The best answer chosen by voters was: The president doesn't take the blame entirely for the economy in any given era. People think that he has all this power and can do anything he wants but he doesn't. The Senate and Congress have to pass everything first and goes down the list. Personal responsibility is the key issue. As for wars, when you have a war debt and the Congress allows $64 Billion to be sent to Africa for the starving or whatever and $45 Million be sent to Alaska to reconstruct the Polar Bear habitats and the 900 other pork spending that went into the economy that could pay for the war irresponsibility is the cause!

Our economic engine is mainly fueled by the American people: 70% of our economy is spending by the people and the general consensus is that the President doesn't directly affect the economy because the fiscal responsibility of our government spending is in the hands of Congress. I hear people complaining about the President's budget when the truth is, the President doesn't make the budget, he merely offers a budget proposal to Congress who then passes a budget using or discarding elements from the President's requests.

In 2001 Lawrence W. Reed of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy wrote, Presidents don't create jobs; real people taking risks and investing their own money are the ones who actually do that. Nonetheless, the federal government is such a huge factor in our economy today that a President who is successful at shaping or shifting the government's policies can certainly have a great deal of impact. The President has influence over the course of the U.S. economy, but less than is generally supposed and certainly far less than Presidents themselves like to claim, especially when the economy is doing well.

Our Constitution sets up the powers that each branch of government holds and guess who holds the purse strings for the United States of America? It's not the President, the White House or the administration; it's the Senate and House of Representatives. The budget process was initially conceived by the Constitution, but Congress has also modified the process via The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 and other legislation. The Impoundment act came about because President Richard Nixon refused to spend funds Congress had allocated and Congress had no formal way to challenge him so they created the Congressional Budget Office, directing more control of the budget to the CBO and away from the President.

Per the Constitution and other legislation, the President must submit a budget to Congress each year between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. In that submission, the President details information on spending and revenue proposals along with policy proposals and initiatives with significant impact on the budget. Then the CBO and several budget Committees in Congress begin consideration of the proposal from the President and then appropriations committees make their proposals before the full House and Senate which then has to find common ground between the legislation being proposed in each respective house before finally approving a jointly agreed upon budget which then goes to the President for either his signature or his veto.

In the last 2 years we have all seen how well Congress does its job in the budgetary process; how many times has the government been within hours of a total shutdown due to the inability of the House and Senate to agree upon a budget? How many partial shutdowns have we endured in the past 10 years because of the squabbling and refusal of the two parties inside the two houses of Congress to agree on a budget? No matter the claims of the sitting President or the candidates, the truth of the matter is the economic handling falls most squarely in the laps of our Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen rather than in the Oval Office.

And yet, even with that, 70% of the economy is driven by the spending of the American people: that's you and I!! So, if the economy is tanking, should we really blame the President or the Congress? Even together they don't control the 30% of the economy not driven by the people. That 30% is driven by corporations, local and state governments, and other entities along with those in Washington. So we really should be giving ourselves the low marks for the handling of our economy because it truly is ourselves we have to blame when it tanks!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Judge & Jury

So, you're a Christian and there are issues facing our nation that you have very strong opinions on. You have a firm belief in what it is right and wrong and you have Biblical references to rely on. Great! You're standing up for what you believe in. However, I have to ask when God appointed you as judge and jury over those people who conduct their lives contrary to what you feel is appropriate?

I can just hear the collective gasp and the denials coming after people have read the first paragraph of this blog entry. The denials that anyone is acting as judge or jury or the justifications for acting as such are deafening even as I write this and before anyone has read it! Let me explain myself.

Let me state first, I am not offering up my stand on this issue so please do not try to take what I am saying and use it to judge me! On the issue of homosexuality, there are millions of Christian voices condemning the gay and lesbian community, their lifestyle and choices. In amongst that condemnation, the church has decided to pursue legal reforms which prevent those in the homosexual community from being able to participate in or benefit from the freedoms that heterosexuals enjoy, and they use the Bible as their justification for doing so. However, as previously stated, these people are judging those in a community for their behavior and actions and sentencing them to a life without participation in certain areas of freedoms and rights in this country.

The biggest excuse I hear from people over this issue is the old adage, "love the sinner, hate the sin." Fine! I get that, but the actions of the church today is not one of loving the people they have judged as being sinners. While their hatred of what they deem to be sin is quite evident, the hatred they are showing toward those they've labeled sinner is also showing through. Because they have decided these people are sinners, they have decided these people should be punished by refusing to allow them to do certain things or live certain ways.

And, the argument that this is a Christian nation falls on deaf ears when they speak to me because we do not live in a theocracy, which is what they want by proclaiming this a "Christian nation". They want a nation where each and every person in the country is forced to live by the Christian rules they believe in, however, we do not live in a theocracy, we live in a democratic republic. And by doing so we do not have the right to declare laws that prevent anyone from living their lives in any manner in which they see fit; whether that lines up with our interpretation of the Bible or not.

The thing is, if we devoted ourselves to living the Christian life Jesus and the apostles described for us in the New Testament Bible, we wouldn't have time to be worried about trying to force people to live the way we think they should, and I wouldn't be writing this blog post. We are each to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; there's nothing said about working out other people's salvation in any shape, form or fashion! And, we are told, repeatedly, that we are not to judge anyone! Jesus even stated that we cannot remove the speck from our brother's eye because we have a plank in our own! And, we are reminded repeatedly that Jesus is the judge! Even God said that He would not judge us, but rather He had given that responsibility to His Son!!

I am reminded of the scriptures that tell us that though many are called, few are chosen; that the way is narrow because few will be actually walking that path; that many on the day of judgment will say to Him, "Lord, Lord" but His reply will be, "depart from Me, I never knew you!"

How could it be that those who have believed and lived what they consider a Christian life will be told to depart, that Christ never knew them? Because though they've attended church and read the Bible, they haven't put the Truth into practice in their lives: partially because they've stood in judgment of others and worked diligently to deprive those whom they consider to be lost of compassion, grace and mercy. Though they've been given those things, they refuse to give them to those around them. The scripture says, "to them who have been given, much is required." We have been given grace, mercy and forgiveness and we will be required to show that we have given grace, mercy and forgiveness to those around us. Sadly, many will realize on that day as they stand before Jesus that they are lacking in the giving back what they've been given department.