('76 Contributor) Little did I know that, years after being in a parachuting accident during a year at Oxford, I would meet Gen. James C. “Jim” Hall, USAF (Ret.), one of the greatest parachutists of all time, and then plan a recent celebration of his many professional and personal achievements.
Gen. Hall is an American hero who has played a significant role in the history of aviation.
As Lt. Col. John Buckley, USAF (Ret.), who spent 24 years as an Air Force officer, said, “Many of the most important parachute developments done for the USAF in its first 30 years came from Jim Hall. He truly was a USAF pioneer.”
Among the general’s many accomplishments: he created the premier parachuting program for the U.S. Air Force Academy, which still today trains 600 cadets annually and ranks first in the world. He also created new techniques to make parachuting safer; wrote story lines and did stunt work in Hollywood; and was the recipient of many of the most prestigious medals in his field.
I first met Hall at the historic Brown Palace Hotel while working on a congressional campaign for a Navy F-14 pilot.
Soon after meeting Gen. Hall, I realized that he was unlike any other person I’d ever met – he was the stuff of John Wayne movies. With a razor sharp memory and dry sense of humor, and endless courage and common sense, he is “true grit” brought to life.
Gen. Hall introduced me and the candidate to everyone he knew, including then-Cong. Bob Beauprez and then-Secretary of State Mike Coffman. He even became co-chairman of the campaign, along with Brig. Gen. “Ace” Steve Ritchie, and was available around the clock to fill my mind with wisdom and my rolodex with valuable contacts. The friendships he helped foster outlasted the campaign, and he, like many of my new friends, remained a key ally on many projects.
In 2010, I became agent and publicist for Tenor Anthony Kearns, a great talent who was a founding member of the popular group, The Irish Tenors. While doing research, I discovered that Anthony had a distant cousin in Colorado named Capt. Michael Kearns, USAF (Ret.). Upon meeting Capt. Kearns, I learned he was a Master Parachutist – the first man to parachute on all seven continents. I introduced Capt. Kearns to Gen. Hall, and the two became fast friends.
Gen. Hall said, “It’s a match made in heaven.” (The two parachutists even have the same birthday—April 14.) Kearns has been instrumental in preparing Hall’s parachuting exhibit for the United States Air Force Academy.
On March 24, Gen. Hall’s family and friends gathered to celebrate his life and achievements at the Glenmoor Country Club in Denver. Some say you can tell a man’s character by the company he keeps. This is true of Gen. Hall, as many of Colorado’s top echelon were in attendance, including those already mentioned as well as former Gov. Bill Owens and Secretary of State Scott Gessler, Mort and Edie Marks, and many others.
Dressed in fine military attire and impressive medals, Gen. Hall sat in the front row, surrounded by friends and family, including Dr. Hai P. Bui and Michelle Bui, and others from the Vietnamese community —which he has helped foster in Denver.
One by one, leaders from Colorado’s military and political sectors mentioned in their remarks that Gen. Hall continues to be an inspiration to them, and a mentor, who prefers to “get things done” than to take credit for them.
The evening’s entertainer, Anthony Kearns, was at his absolute best. During his performance, he sang classics from the ages, in a rich tenor voice that enthralled the crowd. He also sang Ave Maria, which he frequently dedicates to the military wounded, and the Irish classic, Danny Boy – a song that reminds Gen. Hall of his coal-mining father from Pennsylvania. While his father’s life was tough, tougher than most of us will ever face, Gen. Hall said his father never missed a day of work. Eventually, says Gen. Hall, “The coal mines killed him, at age 54.” Gen. Hall said his father, with roots in Ireland’s soil, would have been honored – as he is – to celebrate such a special night with a “world-great, Irish Tenor like Anthony Kearns.”
By the end of the night, the room was heavy with emotion. Just a few days before, Mr. Kearns – and his longtime accompanist Patrick Healy – performed for the President of the United States, House Speaker John Boehner, the Prime Minister of Ireland, and a hundred members of Congress and foreign dignitaries. Therefore, it seemed fitting that one of his next stops be for a great American hero, Gen. Hall, and his guests.
The tribute was even more poignant because it was a benefit for Gen. Hall’s son, James C. “Eagle” Hall, Jr., a Special Olympics athlete.
As the general said in his remarks, “My family – they are the wind beneath my wings.”
When he said that, I was reminded of Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
The tribute was a rare moment to celebrate a living legend in our midst, one whom we hope to cherish for many years to come. Rest assured, Gen. Hall’s legacy of fearless courage, friendship, patriotism, and “can-do American attitude” – where nothing, nothing, is impossible – will endure. His legacy will continue to soar with the eagles in our skies, and he will continue to be the wings of inspiration for generations ahead.
(Denver Post, Feb. 24) When a prominent man says he is stepping down to spend more time with his family, it’s usually a fib. He invokes the family as a fig leaf for failure, embarrassed to admit the horse bucked him off.
But nothing like that is the case, I believe, with Ken Salazar’s return to Colorado after serving as a senator and secretary of the interior. The veteran Democrat’s words rang sweet and true to this Republican's ear when he spoke of living up to “my highest moral responsibility… helping my family.” If there were a medal of honor for unsung homefront heroism, give one to Ken.
Our society, however, does not heap honors on fathers and mothers and kids and kin who quietly do right by each other and, in so doing, build the future. It’s a pity, because the institution of the American family is disintegrating before our eyes. The household has literally become a homefront, a battlefield – and the me-first forces are winning everywhere you look.
According to the 2010 census, fewer than six in ten babies are now born to a married mom and dad. For Hispanic children, it’s fewer than five in ten. For blacks, fewer than three in ten. Getting married before getting pregnant is the best single anti-poverty strategy for a woman and her kids. Yet public policy, social signals, and the cultural climate are massively aligned against it. A soft suicide is in progress.
You probably didn’t notice the recent celebration of National Marriage Week. Meager funding and elite indifference doomed it. Most of our tax dollars, philanthropic dollars, advertising dollars, and entertainment dollars pour into America’s selfishness machine. Kids and adults alike are encouraged to believe that people are my instrument, love is my wish list, and sex is my plaything. Me, me, me.
Contrarian groups that work to build a marriage culture through classes and seminars, relying on the best science with a non-religious, non-judgmental tone – such as the Center for Relationship Education under Joneen McKenzie and Friends First under Elycia Cook, to name two of my local favorites – have to scrap for budgetary leftovers as they stand against the flood of money propagandizing for value-free lifestyles.
The collapsing family in our time represents a generational betrayal with few precedents in history. With shameless hedonism, we are abdicating the trust our children and grandchildren ought to be able to place in us. Families are qualitatively ever more dysfunctional and quantitatively ever smaller. A new book by Jonathan V. Last, “What to Expect when No One’s Expecting,” runs the numbers, and they are scary.
What’s to be done? Top-down policy solutions are the smallest part. Attitudes have to change from the bottom up. My family has vowed to do three things. One, respect the long run. Two, stop the selfishness machine. Three, help build the ark.
“In the long run, we’re all dead,” Lord Keynes’ cynical crack, has done worse moral harm in the world than all the harm of his economic theories. We must secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity as well as ourselves, the Founders taught. That means recognizing the far-flung ill effects of modernity’s selfishness machine, calling them out, and resisting them.
And because things may get worse before they get better, we’ll need a vessel of rescue. Every simple word and act that affirms family and fidelity, relationships and self-giving, is another plank in the ark that will float us above the coming flood. Our house has joined the builders. Will yours?
The Salazars of San Luis have a great story. But so do countless other Colorado families. Just putting them on record and praising them is a start. What’s your family story, or a family hero you admire? Email me with nominations. Let’s be the change.
President Obama insists that America is not exceptional. Yet for his flawed economic policies to work, he must rely on an amazing degree of exceptionalness.
Like any nation, we are not exempt from the consequences of ill-considered choices. We have the advantage of observing the outcome that decades of overspending and social profligacy have caused in Europe -- welfare dependency, oppressive taxation and insurmountable debt. And riots.
America is indeed exceptional in many important ways: freedom, innovation, opportunity, honor. But bloated government outlays and intrusive, business-thwarting regulations bring economic collapse, even here.
('76 Editor) The other day I had got an unusual email from a young student whom I don't know. Nor do I know how she happened to write me. The email said this:
"My name is Margaret and I'm a 7th grader at [name omitted] middle school in Ohio. I am doing a research project on violent protests in ancient Rome, versus our world today. I would like to ask for your [thoughts] on four things I had questions about.
1- Are people protesting violently against tax raises on the middle class?
2- Is political correctness becoming a big enough issue in our country to spark a protest, or some kind of strike?
3- Are state and local government doing anything to keep protests from happening in their areas? If so, do you know what they are doing?
4- How big of an issue is religion becoming?
My answer went this way:
Margaret, I hope I can be of some help. There are a number of troubling analogies between Rome in the period 50 BC -400 AD and America today.
In both countries the erosion of civic virtue weakened the republican form of government where free citizens actually chose their leaders and rule of law operated to restrain the impulse that might makes right. Rome degraded from a republic into imperial rule and ultimately fell to its enemies.
Americans still have it in our power to prevent that, but we have to rise up and do much better than we are at present. My generation (that of your grandparents) and my children's generation (that of your parents) have not done our part. It will be up to your generation to help save our beloved country - and an important first step is for you to get a good education through assignments like this one.
With that introduction, I answer your 4 questions as follows:
1- Taxes on the middle class are somewhat heavier, but not a lot heavier, because so much of what government now spends is paid for with borrowed money, not tax revenues. But there is a sense of alarm among the middle class even so, fearing the country will either go broke or reduce benefits on which so many people have come to depend.. Since 2009 this alarm has taken form in protest movements from the right (Tea Party) and the left (Occupy Wall Street), but with almost no violence.
2 - Political correctness is a severe and worsening obstacle to a) clear, honest learning and questioning in our schools and colleges, b) accurate reporting and analysis in our news media, c) freedom of expression in our political debates, and d) freedom of religion in the spiritual life of our people. But because it operates so subtly and gradually, and because it imposes a self-censoring climate against those trying to disagree with political correctness itself, there is now, and likely will not be, any significant protest activity opposing it. It's like a fatal disease in the body politic that few Americans even know we have.
3- The main reason protests in America today are almost never disruptive or violent is that our form of government - federal, state, and local - is generally so open to criticism and disagreement and so responsive to citizens' demand for change via peaceful mass movements, lobbying of public officials, and replacement of public officials via elections. But as noted under #2, political correctness - sometimes called "group think" - is one very dangerous drag on this overall climate of openness and responsiveness.
4- The religious convictions of many Americans - especially Christians and Jews - are a vital source of protection and renewal for our constitutional republican form of government and the democratic process. This is an advantage ancient Rome did not have as its civic virtue began to decline. But the threat to religious freedom from some people's desire to replace God with government - and from political correctness, which puts tolerance ahead of truth - is getting worse by the year. I don't see this leading to violence, but it could become horribly divisive as people of faith begin to feel more and more oppressed.
This too is a difficult challenge your generation will face in the next 10-20 years, maybe sooner. I hope that you personally, Margaret, are being taught as you grow up that God is real, the only true source of authority and happiness in our lives, and that it's God, not government, from whom our rights of life, liberty, and property originate.
Thanks for the opportunity to send you these thoughts. I hope they are helpful. May God bless you with success in this school assignment and in your entire education as a young American.
(Centennial Fellow) 2012 was filled with many surprises. The re-election of Barack Obama surprised so many because of the poor economic environment that historically escorts presiding Presidents out of office. The US Supreme Court, using twisted logic, decided in favor of Obamacare. Superstorm Sandy claimed 125 lives and exacted a toll over $62 billion. Horrific slaughters in Colorado and Connecticut reminded us that our elementary schools and movie theaters are not safe from evil. A US ambassador was brutally killed for the first time in over 30 years by Islamic terrorists on 9-11-12. Congressional Republicans voted to raise taxes in a last minute collapse to avert a "fiscal cliff." 2012 was characterized by natural, emotional, and political disasters. Will 2013 bring more of the same or will it bring exciting new surprises that restore stability and opportunity to the world's greatest nation?
Herewith is a modest, and altogether dangerous, attempt to predict key trends for 2013. This forecast emphasizes three themes; ongoing economic hardship, continued moral decline, and an array of international crises.
I. Economic Hardship
Slow GDP growth. The consensus forecast for 2013 GDP growth hovers around 2%. The growth in the deficit is growing faster resulting in a higher debt burden on the economy. Higher debt burdens impede growth, increase unemployment, and produce a lower standard of living. Increased regulatory action, e.g., the ongoing march of the EPA, etc. will further suppress economic growth.
Higher public debt. Increasing public debt obligations represented by unfunded liabilities from entitlements to bloated public employee pensions assures that more taxpayer bailouts (or broken promises) is one step closer to reality. The USPS, state of California, and city of Detroit are but a few examples of increasing 2013 distressed economic problems.
Higher unemployment. Unemployment will begin ticking upward as businesses close or cutback due to increased regulations, taxes, and government involvement. The Obamacare implementation accelerates in the second half of 2013, producing uncertainty and frustration as the reality is worse than the expectation.
Lower labor participation rate. The labor participation rate will drop to below 60%, a historic low in the modern era, as millions more leave the workforce due to coercive departure or "early" retirement.
Increased government dependence. Food stamp recipients will exceed 50 million for the first time in US history. Obamaworld is characterized by increased dependence on the state for the declining middle class and increased tax burden on the "rich", a term that will be defined downward in years to come.
Trickle down taxation. Most people have heard of trickle-down economics, usually a pejorative term that characterizes Republicans as wanting to help the rich so as to benefit those who are downstream in income. The reality is that "trickle-down" taxation means that all those who vote to tax the rich will see increased taxation on themselves, both from the government sector as well as reduced growth that attends increased government participation in the economy. In 1911, the total government percentage of US GDP was 8%, fifty years later it was 25% and in 2013 it will exceed 40%. The Lorenz curve, a measure of income distribution will show the gap widening between rich and poor in 2013, in contradistinction to the demagoguery promulgated by the Obama administration. The increase in the payroll tax will also represent a drag on consumer expenditures.
Municipal and state financial challenges particularly in "blue" states. The states that are reforming their labor laws, rejecting the development of insurance exchanges required of Obamacare, and are focused on controlling spending, will emerge as healthier economies. The "blue" states will continue to focus on increased taxation and devotion to government largess, resulting in slow growth and debt burdened economies. In the end, free market economies always outperform government controlled economies.
The arrogance of government will produce further cracks in the nation's foundation. We see some of those cracks regarding slower growth and increased unemployment. We will see additional cracks imposed by economic judgment. This judgment will take the form of an additional credit downgrade, bond wariness attending debt monetization (pressuring interest rates) and may stimulate a renewed interest within the Obama administration to use some parts of private 401(k) and IRA accounts for supporting bond market purchases. Argentina has used this tool in the past. Herb Stein's law states, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." Obamworld is a place where politicians believe reckless spending and increased taxation never hurts and never ends. Stein's law will threaten Obamaworld in 2013.
More storms, earthquakes, and drought conditions leading to increased distressed responses. There is not enough public money available to compensate those who live in high risk areas, whether due to fires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, or earthquakes. Citizens of Obamaworld will discover what moral hazard means from "privatizing the gain and socializing the loss." Moral hazards yield unintended consequences that invoke insurance risk, often taking the form of higher costs than anticipated and lower ability to honor those requests.
II. Increased Moral Decay
2013 will see an increased focus on social justice issues with an emphasis on income redistribution, the hallmark of socialism. This gets reflected in less freedom, fewer property protections, increased taxation, declining opportunities, and elevates the moral problems of envy, discord, and theft.
Emphasis on same sex marriage/ civil unions/ gay rights. The attack on traditional marriage will increase by the media (symbolized by the efforts of multibillionaire and media mogul David Geffen) education, the judiciary, and the government.
Emphasis on gun control. The horrific tragedies seen in our schools, workplace, and private lives will increase the advocacy for gun control despite the irony exemplified in Chicago (where rigorous gun control laws are operative) yet violent crime is exploding. The deceptions will increase regarding what the founding fathers intended in the Second Amendment.
Increased neglect of public financial responsibilities. Debt is, at its root, a moral issue. The federal government is leading the march into debtors hell, with many states and municipalities following. The end of the road is either oppressive taxation or broken promises. Both result in reduced freedoms.
Increased hostility toward affluent Americans. 2013 will not be a time to celebrate wealth. The wealthy have rapidly become the targets of scorn, derision, envy, and contempt. These are attributes of a declining society no longer desirous of freedom, opportunity, rewarding risk takers, and courage.
Privacy issues favor the state. Look forward to elevated domestic surveillance controversies (drones, renewed effort at the next generation REAL ID, and increased preference for security over liberty.) L-1 Identity Solutions, the provider of almost every drivers license, passport, and passport card in the US (now called MorphoTrust USA) is in the process of completing the sale of itself to Safran, a French company that is 30% owned by the French government. L-1 had agreed last year (with the World Bank) to provide biometric identification cards to meet international standards. The international sale of a US company providing critical US citizen information that is 30% controlled by a government (now led by an avowed socialist) has escaped the attention of an increasingly dull American population.
III. International crisis
We are likely to see an increasingly destabilized Syria present foreign policy challenges, accompanied by increased Russian meddling from a leader who is anticipating greater "flexibility" from the American president. 2012 brought some notable international miscues on the part of the Obama administration, most notably the inability to see trouble in the Islamic world., e.g., Egypt Syria, and Libya. We will continue to see foreign policy amateurs struggling to understand reality.
There will be ongoing Middle East unrest with Iran possibly crossing the "red line" (expressed by PM Netanyahu) in 2H13. Iran is a wild card scenario whose dangerous leadership exploits America's leadership weakness. This administration does not understand radical Islam. This blind spot bodes poorly for successfully dealing with the world as it is, not what they want it to be. Benghazi is the hallmark of administration incompetence. This incompetence will certainly appear throughout 2013.
2013 will bring increased pressure on Jordanian stability, a key ally.
2013 will bring increased cyber war including "country on country." Economic cyber war is an "iceberg" issue that more people may come to appreciate as an imminent danger.
Financial instability in Eurozone markets (Spain, Portugal, etc.) will increase, bringing additional unrest and may result in food riots and more demonstrations. The Eurozone still has Germany to stabilize their volatility. America is philosophically following Europe but has no backstop as the Eurozone does. It is hard to believe that America is pursuing a path of self-destruction on purpose.
These predictions do not inspire optimism. Economic hardship, moral decay, and international crises do not make for pleasant outcomes. Any additional shift in power, e.g., a new Supreme Court appointee, could be equally disastrous for freedom in America. The last two attorneys who became President (who were also elected to a second term) were impeached in their second term. Let us hope that President Obama does not follow this trend as this could be highly destabilizing to an already fragile nation.
Despite the foregoing somber reflections, there are several counterweights to this downbeat forecast. American ingenuity historically beats the odds. Despite obstacles, America is still the strongest country in the world. Continued good news regarding energy production and healthy corporate balance sheets can mitigate some of the foregoing challenges. However, a Republican party strategically adrift with no real leader and not much courage needs circumstantial change to re-energize itself before the 2014 elections. America needs a second national voice. This will likely come from Republican governors who know how to run their states effectively without federal intervention. These governors will likely cause an increased rift with the federal government in 2013 while delivering superior results in their individual economies. 2013 will likely produce "redder" red states and "bluer" blue states thereby creating deeper divisions in the American landscape. Although the Obama administration continues its relentless assault on the Judeo-Christian worldview, free market capitalism, and the constitutional republic, it is these same three forces that has produced American exceptionalism. No one can ever count America out when these three make their presence known. Let us hope that these three forces, battered and bruised as they have been over the past four years, return with a vengeance to claim victory come 2014.
('76 Contributor) During the Civil War, when the union's preservation and slavery's abolition were in doubt, President Lincoln roused the nation with his dream “of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” In rekindling our founders' vision, Lincoln helped assure that America would become the freest and most prosperous nation on earth, a status that successive U.S. presidents have dutifully maintained, or they were cast aside by voters.As Americans Think Again about President Obama, consider that no president has won re-election amid such economic stagnation, declining incomes, high gas prices and business pessimism. Living astonishingly beyond our means and more indebted than any other nation in history, Americans face a reduced standard of living, diminished opportunities for our children and a weakened capacity to secure our national interests in a menacing world. After trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, the 39-month-old economic recovery has one-seventh the gross domestic product growth rate of the Reagan recovery, in which double-digit inflation and interest rates also were slain. With 261,000 fewer jobs today than January 2009 (despite population growth of 9 million), exploding poverty, government dependency and income inequality imperil Lincoln's dream. During the economic turmoil of 2008, Obama sounded Lincoln-esque, promising to “provide good jobs to the jobless, … secure our nation and restore our image as the last best hope on earth.” But unlike Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton, who understood the benefits of economic-growth policies — more and better jobs, larger paychecks, growing tax revenues without tax-rate increases, and deficit and debt mitigation — Obama doubled down on government-centric and budget-busting policies. Having inherited a government moving in the wrong direction on bailouts, spending, deficits and debt accumulation, Obama floored the gas. Though critical of Bush's $4 trillion in accumulated debt and vowing to halve the annual deficit by now, Obama has run $4 trillion deficits — each nearly triple Bush's average — while increasing debt nearly $6 trillion to a sum ($16.1 trillion) that exceeds the U.S. economy. Historically, America's economy has grown more quickly than its debt — until Obama, under whom debt is growing $2.50 for every dollar of GDP growth.With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs are exploding, consuming more annually than the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and TARP bailouts. Rather than address the looming entitlement crisis, Obama's budget projects massive deficits and $20 trillion in debt by the end of his second term. It's so fiscally irresponsible that not a single member of Congress has voted to approve either of Obama's two most recent annual budgets. Meanwhile, with Democrats in complete control of Congress through January 2011, Obama's signature legislative “reforms” — Obamacare and Dodd-Frank — ignored Republican solutions and imposed thousands of complex regulations and new taxes on the private economy, nearly paralyzing job creation and economic growth. Though sold as “Wall Street reform,” Dodd-Frank makes bailouts more likely by designating selected banks “too big to fail” and failing to reform the financial crisis' real culprits — housing-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With smaller banks competitively disadvantaged, lending is down, consumer prices are up, and expensive consultants, such as the former chiefs of staff to both Dodd and Frank, are in demand. Neither is Obamacare meeting its promises. Insurance premiums are up $2,500, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare will cost nearly twice its original estimate, leave 30 million Americans uninsured and cause 20 million people to lose their employer-provided health insurance. Additionally, it imposes 20 new taxes on families and small businesses and incentivizes employers to hire part-time instead of full-time workers. Thanks to recent technological breakthroughs, America is now the most energy-endowed nation in the world. Allowing the responsible development of our resources would generate millions of jobs while turbocharging the economy and revitalizing distressed communities. Yet despite promising an “all-of-the-above” energy policy while investing $90 billion in noncompetitive green-energy companies, Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced drilling permits on public lands by 36 percent, compared with increases of 116 and 58 percent under Bush and Clinton, respectively. Meanwhile, GDP growth slumped to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, but Obama proposes to increase tax rates on “millionaires and billionaires” (individuals and small businesses making more than $250,000) to promote fairness after opposing them in 2010, when the economy was growing at twice its current rate. But how can it be fair to implement a policy that the CBO considers economically injurious and would yield only enough revenue to fund 8.5 days of government spending? Given Obama's track record, how could another four years of the same policies result in enough economic growth to overcome our economic challenges? Mindful of these challenges and eager to defuse the debt bomb while preserving entitlement programs for future generations, Mitt Romney proposes to expand the private economy with spending, regulatory, tax and entitlement reforms reminiscent of those enacted by Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton — modern America's most successful economic stewards. Romney proposes to cut tax rates by 20 percent for all Americans while maintaining the same share of taxes paid by the wealthy. But unlike Bush, he'll pay for them by eliminating expensive loopholes accessible only to wealthy individuals and companies such as GE. Divided as we were during the Civil War, Americans long to be unified by a leader, like Lincoln, committed to expanding liberty and increasing individual opportunity — the source of human flourishing and America's promise. Think Again — only by restoring these cultural bulwarks can we pass our children a strong America and remain the last best hope of earth.Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. Her column runs every other Thursday in the Aspen Times. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. Melanie welcomes comments at email@example.com.
(Denver Post, Oct. 28) Have you voted yet? Our state’s nine electoral votes could hand the presidency to Romney or Obama -- and the Colorado outcome in 2012 could turn on a few hundred ballots, much like the Florida outcome in 2000.
Within months of achieving statehood in 1876, Colorado tipped the presidential election for Rutherford B. Hayes, as historian Tom Noel noted recently in these pages. Yet the dominant issue of that era, equal rights for former black slaves, wasn’t settled by the election. It troubled the American conscience for almost another century.
So in battling over the high stakes to be decided between the candidates next week, we need to recognize how much this election will NOT settle. It’s folly to assume that the Nov. 6 verdict ties a ribbon around everything. “Keeping the republic,” our task as free citizens in Benjamin Franklin’s words, is a marathon not a sprint.
Whether your ticket wins or loses, we’ll all wake up in the same America as before. It’s an America where neither Republicans nor Democrats have yet shown the backbone to keep our deficits and debt from worsening to the level of Greece -- with broke California, no longer the Golden State, leading the way. Think that will suddenly change in 2013?
An AP profile on Xi Jingping, soon to be president of China, says he will assume power confident in “Beijing’s belief that its chief rival Washington is in decline.” Osama bin Laden’s taunt that America is a “weak horse” echoes from beyond the grave, emboldening al Qaeda in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the mullahs in Tehran.
Much as I favor the GOP, one party’s victory won’t instantly dispel those doubts. For they arise from what a smart investor or a winning coach calls the fundamentals. Those who are short-selling the USA take note of the actuarial tables for the rise and fall of great nations – which predict a lifespan of about 250 years – and the indicators of slackness in our national character.
They look at what has been called the Tytler cycle, whereby a people climbs up from bondage through faith and courage to liberty and abundance, but then slides down through complacency and apathy into dependency and finally into bondage again. Detractors see America in the late afternoon of our greatness, with darkness coming on. Can we prove them wrong? Absolutely, but it will take more than campaign slogans.
The worst deficit our country faces, looking beyond election 2012, isn’t in jobs, budgets, pensions, or infrastructure. It’s not in energy, health, education, or national security. It is the deficit of personal responsibility. In our enjoyment of liberty and abundance, we’re in danger of forgetting that the price of both is responsibility and self-discipline. Our experiment in freedom on the cheap is running out of time.
A president who constantly ducks responsibility and blames others is but a symptom of this. We elected him with our eyes wide open. Voters took a chance – in hindsight, an irresponsible gamble – on the hip young community organizer over the crusty old war hero. The Obama phenomenon merely shows how far the celebrity culture has gone in swamping principled self-government.
Media elites didn’t care when Obama flew to Vegas for a fundraiser the day Ambassador Stevens was assassinated in an act of war. They shrugged when the former drug dealer Jay-Z threw a party for him. But few noticed either when Kid Rock, whose songs were too dirty for radio, opened for Romney in Denver the other day. Chill out, man.
I hope Mitt wins. He’ll do our country proud. But the rebirth of responsibility America needs, if we’re to survive, isn’t up to him or any politician. It’s up to the person in the mirror: you and me.
John Andrews is director of the Centennial Institute, former president of the Colorado Senate, and the author of Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen’s Guide to the Next American Century (Denali Press, 2011).
('76 Contributor) We have been privileged. We have lived in the most abundant and powerful country in the history of mankind. But we are also experiencing developing conditions that imperil our nation. In the span of 50 years, many still living have seen our country at the peak of its ascent among nations. But now we are witnessing the accelerating descent of the United States. Although America still enjoys the greatest material prosperity and has the most powerful military on earth, our society has been on unsustainable cultural and economic paths for decades that threaten our future. Most Americans have not lived as adults over the past 50 years and therefore many do not perceive the descent from where we once were as a society.
Our nation has been on an experimental journey for about the past half century. The experiment involved an abrupt departure from the cultural standards that had evolved and sustained not only the United States but also other advanced human societies of the world since ancient times. These standards developed from the accumulated wisdom of mankind over thousands of years concerning the moral environment and human obligations that past societies regarded as essential to pass on the to the following generations of youth. But a perception has arisen and become dominant in modern society that each generation should discover its own “truths” with little regard for the accumulation of knowledge over millennia and which has advanced human affairs over hundreds of generations.
Among these emerging “truths” perceived by modern societies have been those that resulted in the trivialization of marriage and historical cultural norms of the past to protect families along with values that were once highly honored. For example, a PEW Research Center survey published in 2010 revealed that 39% of Americans said marriage is obsolete and 34% said the growing variety of family living arrangements is good for our society. However, for the sake of survival virtually all of the past great societies have deemed it necessary to establish customs and laws to guard against such perceptions that undermine the past norms to protect the permanence of families based on one man, one woman marriages. Most societies throughout history and worldwide that thrived and endured have fostered such standards, regardless of the philosophical or religious roots of their cultures. The fall of great nations has usually been accompanied by the previous weakening of the family structure or a general failure of families to pass on the morality and customs that made the nation great.
Many who have fostered this experiment have envisioned a utopian future for humanity based on an assumption of the goodness of mankind that has been corrupted by the standards of the past. Thus they regard that the breaking of the bonds of past cultural norms to be important to achieve their expectations for the future. The success in American society of those who hold these views has been profound. In a period of a few decades following the 1950’s, the general consensus of moral standards changed from those that had evolved over thousands of years and prevailed to the highest degree in the United States for nearly two hundred years. Human moral attitudes and behaviors that previously had been considered extremely harmful to society initially became accepted and now are being fostered as human rights to be honored and defended. Moral attitudes and standards that had developed over thousands of years from the past were first suppressed as intolerant and now are being reviled as harmful to society. We seem to have embraced change for the sake of change without recognizing that for every path of change that brings benefits there are innumerable paths of harmful change, especially for a society which past culture has brought it to becoming the most prominent among nations.
The chasm between the past American cultural standards and the wide spread perceptions of the recent experiment is so wide that both cannot likely be simultaneously sustained indefinitely in our society. The experiment is coming to prevail in the allegiance of the citizens of our nation. Even the influence of Christianity that fostered the ascent of the United States as the most successful and enduring democracy since ancient times is being condemned by many influential persons in our society. Although not commonly perceived as such, this transition in our society is indeed a cultural experiment embarked upon without empirical data to provide reasonable confidence of success. Other societal experiments, such as those of Nazism and Communism based on utopian concepts to free man from perceived corruption by past standards have failed and brought extreme misery to societies that embraced them.
The timing of the abrupt transition to the new American experiment occurred in the decade of the 1960’s and coincided with transitions to abrupt increases in crime, drug usage, dishonesty, breakup of families, pornography, child abuse, and other harmful degradations in society. The changes in the moral, religious, and legal culture in the US that started then have increased to our day. Among the numerous signs of cultural and economic decline since the early 1960’s are the deterioration of American family life and the welfare of children. A child now conceived in the US has about a 22% chance of being terminated before birth by decision of his mother. If born, the child has more than a 40% prospect of having an unwed mother. If his parents are married at birth, there is nearly a 40% probability that his birth parents will not be married throughout his adolescence. Now in the 21st century the welfare of American children has declined compared to most advanced nations. A 2007 UNICEF study ranked the US next to the bottom of 21 developed nations in the overall well-being of children. The overall ranking involved five categories, and in not even one of these categories did the US place above 12th place among the 21 nations. In three categories (health and safety, family and peer relationships, behavior and risks), the US ranked either lowest or next to lowest. Our families are losing the ability to pass on to posterity their Christian beliefs, heritage, and morality that sustained America for nearly two centuries. In more recent years, as the youth who were raised under these conditions have become the majority of adults, we have seen major crises that threaten the future of our economy and which have been attributed to greed.
Are our major national problems merely an unrelated coincidence to our cultural experiment or is America headed for oblivion at our own hands because we have embraced this experiment? How did our society come to embrace this experiment which exhibits many beliefs and moral behaviors contrary to historical Christian morality of nearly 2000 years and virtues that prevailed for nearly two centuries in our nation? Even currently, approximately 80% of our population regards themselves as Christians. A US News and World Report article of May, 2002 concerning religious faith in America stated that there were more houses of worship per capita in the US than in any other country on Earth. The article indicated that 69% of Christian adults surveyed in a poll taken in that year said their religion was very important in their life and 52 % of them claimed they attend religious services at least once a week. But compared to all the other developed nations, the United States has the highest, or near highest, per capita rates of family breakup, abortions, unwed births, crime, prison population, use of illicit drugs, and other life choice related problems.
The human misery behind the sad statistics of America’s cultural and economic decline is not caused by invasion by foreign armies, catastrophes of nature, or plagues. The decline mostly results from the beliefs, decisions, and actions of the American people, most of whom identify themselves as Christians. These conditions and behaviors permeate to such a degree into our society that they cannot likely be attributed mainly to the one in five people who do not identify themselves as Christians. We cannot blame the decline of American society solely, or perhaps even predominantly, on non-Christians. Scientific polls by the George Barna organization have revealed that many cultural beliefs and behaviors counter to historical Christian morality are about as prevalent among professed Born Again Christians as those who claim no religion. For example, Barna polls have shown that the breakup of families of Born Again Christians to be slightly higher than the family breakup of those who profess no religion. Barna has commented that, “We rarely find substantial differences” between the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians. The new American experiment prevails in the attitudes and ways of life of most Americans, whether churched or not. Except in matters of charity, the Bible has nearly lost its societal significance in the United States, even though a substantial majority of Americans consider themselves to be Christians. More importantly, the Bible has nearly lost it societal significance in matters of morality, even among churched and Born Again Christians as a whole.
A paradox underlies the new American experiment and the resulting changes in our society over the past half century. America has about the highest proportion of professed Christians and churched people compared to the other nations of the world. Why then do the American people as a whole live less according to historical and biblical morality than the people of the other advanced nations? Has some vital portion of the message of the Bible and Christianity that once sustained the welfare of America during most of our history now become lost or ignored in the teachings of the church?
Richard Wenglarz has held positions at two universities (University of Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) and Clemson University) and several large corporations (AT&T, General Motors, Westinghouse, Rolls-Royce). He has been awarded B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. degree from Stanford University. He has authored or coauthored over 70 publications in areas of advanced technologies. He lives in Seneca, SC. This essay is excerpted from his forthcoming book, "Call to the Falling Eagle,"
(Salem, Massachusetts) Weather allowing, Salem is a fairly short and pleasant sailing trip from Boston to the Bay State’s rocky North Shore. If a visitor has history on his mind, there is virtue in perusing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables or Jonathan Edwards fiery sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.While most Americans might vaguely associate Salem with the infamous “Witch Trials” of 1692 that episode is but a partial albeit compelling insight into the powerful religiosity of 17th century New England.William Bennett has thoughtfully described America’s “Culture War” as a clash between older more settled values and newer impulses whose adherents view the traditional vision as oppressive and restrictive of their personal liberties and lifestyle. To describe this conflict as “Puritans Versus Libertines” would be horribly simplistic but a sure guarantee of many a raucous argument.A far more riveting perspective is found in President John F. Kennedy’s famous 1961 Inaugural challenge to Americans to “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You, but rather What You Can Do for Your Country”.In the half century since Kennedy spoke Western society has evolved in a direction that goes far towards turning his challenge upside down. In Western Europe we see masses of citizens protesting- often violently- against governments that dared to even marginally reduce their lavish entitlements. Free education – pre-school through graduate school- is not uncommon. Thus individuals can remain students into their thirties and then retire on generous pensions before they are sixty (only the much maligned Germans must labor till age sixty-seven before retiring).In Europe even the political parties of the right are far to the left of America’s Democratic Party. There is an “All Party Consensus” in favor of the full blown Entitlement State. Elections are fierce contests over relatively small differences. The “Conservative” Sarkozy dared to lift France’s retirement age from 60 to 62 and thereby forfeited the Presidential election to the Socialist Hollande who promptly returned it to 60.
In the United States society and the political spectrum has moved in a direction similar to Europe but at a far slower pace.
Currently we are engaged in a Presidential election that partisans on both sides regard as a historic pivot point for the future of the country.
The party of the leftl and their candidate (Obama) has revealed its clear bias in favor of expanding the size, scope, and taxing authority of the Federal government and redefining “fairness”, who is “needy”, and the “proper” distribution of wealth.
The party of the right and their candidate (Romney) views Obama’s record and direction as economically disastrous and dangerous to liberty- nothing less than an outright attempt to impose European style Social Democracy in America.
A cynic might describe Obama as hoping to get re-elected by promising people “lots more stuff right away” and Romney countering with “maybe a little less stuff, but only somewhere down the road”.
In truth, however, these two candidates- unlike their Tweedledum, Tweedledee European counterparts- represent hugely different visions of what America is, and which direction we should be moving in the future.
Romney celebrates “American Exceptionalism” and the “glorious History” that produced it. Obama asserts American Exceptionalism is no different than that of any other nation and views our History as a deeply flawed record requiring repeated apology and the “transformation” he promised but carefully omitted to detail.
While the establishments of both parties maneuver, spend, and exhort in this slugfest of an election, there is discernible a non-establishment community that is usually less engaged politically, and generally quieter.
They are our immigrants. They are a diverse lot. Some people think they are predominantly Hispanic, but in the last ten years the largest group (36%) has been Asian.
They often work for wages most Americans would disdain, but they see as bountiful compared to those in their home countries. While many Americans feel cramped with three people in a six room house, they often happily stuff six people into a three room apartment.
With relatively rare exception they came to America not for an Entitlement, but for an Opportunity- a chance to get a job, get ahead and seek a better life for themselves and their families. They came here in pursuit of the American Dream- a phrase that seems quaint to some, a source of mockery to others. But to our immigrants it remains very real and shines with Promise.
In Lenin’s memorable phrase they “voted with their feet”, not for a political party, but for a Country- America. They don’t apologize for coming, they don’t fixate on the country’s admitted flaws, and they certainly don’t want America “transformed”. They want it preserved, and at a very deep level, they understand their vital stake in seeing that it shall be.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Human Events.
At the conclusion of the Washington Week trip I am left physically exhausted though intellectually and civically energized! Led by Professor Schaller, Dr. Krannawitter, and Dean Saxby, students visited think tanks, memorials, monuments, historical battlefields, renowned authors, museums, both chambers of Congress, the Becket Fund, and other influential D.C. individuals. We learned about foreign policy, education, our founding, the civil war and the ideas that led to the conflict, political persuasion, and many more issues facing our generation. [More]