Government


It is not often that I am impressed with a politician.  On both sides of the aisle at all levels of government, they strive to convince us that we can indeed get something for nothing if we just give them all the power.  So New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s recent budget speech filled me with warm-fuzzies.

It has lots of shrink government, anti-tax rhetoric to make me happy.  And one has to love a politician willing to call out the public empoyees unions.

[M]ake no mistake about it, pensions and benefits are the major driver of our spending increases at all levels of government—state, county, municipal and school board. Also, don’t believe our citizens don’t know it and demand, finally, from their government real action and meaningful reform. The special interests have already begun to scream their favorite word, which, coincidentally, is my nine year old son’s favorite word when we are making him do something he knows is right but does not want to do—“unfair.”

Let’s tell our citizens the truth—today—right now—about what failing to do strong reforms costs them.

One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him?  $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits — a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment.   Is that fair?

A retired teacher paid $62,000 towards her pension and nothing, yes nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her?  $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime. Is it “fair” for all of us and our children to have to pay for this excess?

But Christie impressed me most with the specific details and lack of double-speak.  He didn’t point to nebluous efficiency savings that will somehow emerge from who knows where, and he didn’t make vague promises about reducing the budget that actually mean not growing the budget by quite as much.  Instead, he set out a specific plan for actual spending cuts.

Read the whole thing, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.  I hope he actually gets it done.

People increasingly need to prove themselves victims in order to achieve any kind of equity.  This demeaning demonstration creates nothing less than a nation of powerless petitioners and petty litigants appealing to an unresponsive paternalism.  It creates the very class which voted for brute fascism, permitted the Holocaust and a World War, because it believed that social stability was something easily achieved by a few simple, mindless actions, by violence, by “strong leaders”, by “discipline”.

— Michael Moorcock, Introduction to Von Bek

The federal government has been shut down for a week now.  It strikes me that if we don’t need them for a week, maybe we don’t need them at all.

Of course all 230,000 of them are still getting paid to play in the snow, unlike those of us whose clients pay our salaries voluntarily.

(Thanks for the photo Catherine.  Feel free to sue me for copyright infringement.)

Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false.  . . .  And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy.  If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual.  But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of the state or civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 74-75

Berlin-WallTwenty years ago today, I sat in front of the TV with my dad, watching the Berlin Wall fall.  It was one of the defining moments of my youth.  He had served in the U.S. Army in West Germany in the early ’70s and had walked along the wall, seeing first hand the division it represented.  That night, we sat watching the events unfold, and both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks.  Seeing my father’s reaction more than anything else impressed on me the enormity of the changes unfolding in Eastern Europe.  I hope we never forget that we defeated a real enemy in that war, not just a philosophical paper tiger.

It took the courage and insight of an entire generation to defeat that evil.  While the war may not have been as obvious, these heroic men and women defeated an evil just as nefarious as the Naziism defeated a generation earlier.

It is a tribute to Reagan’s moral and strategic determination, as it was to everyone else who played their part in bringing down the Wall, that they could see through the sophistries of Soviet propagandists, their Western fellow travelers, and the legions of moral equivocators and diplomatic finessers and simply look at the Wall.

Why the Berlin Wall Fell, WSJ.com (Nov. 9, 2009)

My children likely will not understand.  It will be just so much ancient history—like Vietnam, WWII, the British Empire, Rome and the Pharaohs.  Already the memory is fading.  But, in case anyone needs reminding, communism is not merely an alternative political lifestyle, it is evil.

Considering the enormity of what it commemorates, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, dedicated by President Bush yesterday, is striking for its modest proportions: a 10-foot female figure raising a torch at a busy intersection in Washington, D.C. That’s a fitting rebuke to an ideology that made a fetish of statuary, and murder, on a monumental scale.

The numbers are almost beyond reckoning. Mao Zedong was responsible for 70 million peacetime murders, according to his biographer Jung Chang. The middle estimate of Stalin’s victims is 40 millionPol Pot slaughtered nearly three million fellow Cambodians in only four years. Ethiopia’s Mengistu killed some 1.5 million opponents in the late 1970s, and contributed to the death by starvation of a million others in the 1980s.

Throughout these and other horrors, Communists always managed to find high-profile apologists among the bourgeois intellectuals: Jean-Paul Sartre for Stalin, Noam Chomsky for Pol Pot, and so on. Some, like Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler and Whittaker Chambers, repented, but most did not. They may not have been witting accomplices to the butchery, quite. But they are the reason why the West was almost fatally late in recognizing the depth of evil it faced in its communist enemy.

Not by coincidence, yesterday’s dedication took place on the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, calling on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” Back then, the smart set (and some of his own advisers) said he was a fool for seeking to bring the communist nightmare to an end. Inasmuch as he led the free world in doing so, the memorial is also, inescapably, a tribute to him.

— On the dedication of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Wall Street journal – June 13, 2007.

America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement. The idea of novelty is there indissolubly connected with the idea of amelioration. No natural boundary seems to be set to the efforts of man; and in his eyes what is not yet done is only what he has not yet attempted to do.

This perpetual change which goes on in the United States, these frequent vicissitudes of fortune, these unforeseen fluctuations in private and public wealth, serve to keep the minds of the people in a perpetual feverish agitation, which admirably invigorates their exertions and keeps them, so to speak, above the ordinary level of humanity. The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance, a revolutionary crisis, or a battle. As the same causes are continually in operation throughout the country, they ultimately impart an irresistible impulse to the national character.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Book I, Chapter XVIII

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