My letter to the editor (thoughts on the recent bond election)

This letter appears in the 11.11.2010 McGregor Mirror:

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Kevin Houchin for his efforts related to the bond election.  Kevin, you did everything you could to educate the community about the issues facing our school district.

You did an excellent job explaining that we have one of the lowest school tax rates in the area.  You clearly articulated that anyone over the age of 65 would have seen no tax increase. You helped everyone understand that the average tax increase would only be about $12 per month.  You did everything you could do.  Unfortunately, you could not make enough people in this town care. That isn’t your fault.

I would also like to thank the school board and the advisory committee for the time spent on this issue.  You did an excellent job.  Again, the outcome was not your fault.  You cannot force a town to want something better for the next generation.  I’ve heard the argument that what we have is “good enough”.  As a town, we have to wake up to the fact that “good enough” is not what we want for our children or our town.  “Good enough” doesn’t cut it.

I’ve heard grumbling from people about how it was bad timing to put down turf at the football field and then call for a bond election.  Besides the fact that turf actually makes sense and many schools in the area are going this route, that issue is nothing more than a red herring.  I strongly believe that it is simply an excuse that the dissenters are using to ease their consciences.  They know that they tied the hands of our administration and hurt the school district and are using this pretext as a salve for that inner voice that is telling them that they should have voted “yes”.  It is a way of justifying a questionable decision.  But make no mistake: it is specious reasoning.

I believe fear ruled the day.  That is the only conclusion that I can draw.  People are uncertain about the future, and it makes them fearful of spending money—even if it is only $12 per month.  As a community, we failed to do the right thing because many of us were afraid.  If $12 per month is a deal breaker for you, then God bless you.  You did what you had to do to keep your household afloat.  You certainly do not need my approval, but I completely understand and agree with your decision.  For the rest of you, I think you made a mistake.  This is not like federal or even county taxes.  This money is used in OUR community–all of it.  Investing in our town’s school district is never frivolous or a waste of money.

The school district has done wonders on a shoestring budget.  Just like the good servant in the parable of the talents, our school leaders have done much with little and I think it was the right time to give them more to work with.  Unfortunately, it may be that our administrators are a victim of their own success.  They have been able to accomplish many good things without raising taxes.  I think we’ve been spoiled by that, but we have to realize that major projects cannot be done in this fashion.  That is why the bond election was so crucial.

Citizens, if we aren’t pushing forward as a community then we are moving backward.  I am proud to be a citizen of McGregor, but I am ashamed and embarrassed by this resounding defeat of the bond election.  I’d like to think that this is not characteristic of our town and our citizens.  I’d like to think we are more forward-looking than that.  We need to be, or this community will not thrive.  Do we want our community and schools to prosper and flourish, or do we only want them to be “good enough”?

David Taylor (david@davidtaylorfamily.com)
MHS Class of 1990

Truer words were never spoken…

…too bad he basically reversed course on everything he said.  Does the presidency turn every man who holds it into a liar?  If your memory doesn’t stretch back 8 years, watch a little of this in light of everything that has gone on.  It will really blow you away.

A perfect example of disingenuous political rhetoric

My rant du jour…

This is a perfect example of why I find most political rhetoric so disingenuous:

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2008/11/03/081103taco_talk_hertzberg?printable=true

Pay special attention to the last couple of paragraphs.  McCain-Palin like to whip people up into a frenzy with accusations of “socialism” but look at what their words and actions have shown in the past.  They only bring it up because it is politically expedient to do so.  It looks to me like they secretly agree with the same principles they are vilifying.

Here are the last few paragraphs of the article, and what I find to be the most interesting.  The emphases are mine:

Of course, all taxes are redistributive, in that they redistribute private resources for public purposes. But the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support. McCain himself probably shares this belief, and there was a time when he was willing to say so. During the 2000 campaign, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a young woman asked him why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” The exchange continued:

YOUNG WOMAN: Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism and stuff?. . .
MCCAIN: Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.

For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.

10/29/08 Update: Here’s another really good commentary on this subject.

11/3/08 Update: The Waco Tribune-Herald published a shortened version of this that I sent in as a letter to the editor.

Was Jesus a wealth-distributing socialist?

Jesus: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor…”

  • Was Jesus a wealth-redistributing socialist as the Democrats are charged with being?
  • Are we willing to do that?
  • While this is spoken to an individual, can we really argue against social programs that help the poor?  I’ve hated on those programs in the past, but I’m re-thinking things…
  • Do Republicans have it right in that it should be left up to private donors to decide how to redistribute their own wealth or do Democrats have it right that the government needs to help out the unfortunate more?

Jesus: “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

  • The call seems clear. Help those that are less fortunate.
  • While we cannot just count on government to do this, is it wrong for “Caesar” to be a part of the solution?  I don’t know.  I do know that it is wrong to count on government to be the entire solution.
  • Could government’s involvement serve de-motivate individuals and churches (both in respect to giving to others and to helping themselves)?

I don’t have any conclusions…just ramblings…and trying to be an open book.  Sometimes thinking out loud helps me and the others around me.  I don’t know if anyone else wrestles with these things or if it is more black and white than I am making it out to be–I just look and see LOTS of gray.

Here’s the irony of it all: before I was really walking with the Lord I was much more inclined to vote Republican exclusively.  I was of the opinion that what’s mine is mine–don’t take it from me. Let others help themselves.  Don’t penalize my success, etc.  It is not an attitude I am proud of.  However, now that I am trying to look at the election through a more spiritual lens, I feel myself less compelled to vote for the party most consider to be “God’s Party.”  Crazy.  As I said, there is a lot of gray out there for me.

These are just some of the things I’ve been pondering as I think about how to vote this election year.  If you’ve got answers for me, I’m all ears…

America’s Credibility is Slipping Further

First we lost our credibility when it comes to aggression against other nations.  See my post here:
https://thedavid.wordpress.com/2008/08/14/hypocritical/

Now it seems we’ve lost our credibility when it comes to the economy.  This thought has been knocking around my head for the last week and there is an article in today’s Washington Post that says a lot of what I’ve been thinking.  It is definitely worth the read:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/09/AR2008100903425.html?hpid=topnews

“People around the world once admired us for our economy, and we told them if you wanted to be like us, here’s what you have to do — hand over power to the market,” said Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University. “The point now is that no one has respect for that kind of model anymore given this crisis. And of course it raises questions about our credibility. Everyone feels they are suffering now because of us.”

Unsurprisingly, anti-American leaders like Hugo Chavez are all too quick to point out the irony (see http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/53611.html):

“If the Venezuelan government, for example, approves a law to protect consumers, they say, ‘Take notice, Chavez is a tyrant!'” Chavez said in one of his recent weekly television shows.

“Or they say, ‘Chavez is regulating prices. He is violating the laws of the marketplace.’ How many times have they criticized me for nationalizing the phone company? They say, ‘The state shouldn’t get involved in that.’ But now they don’t criticize Bush for having nationalize . . . the biggest banks in the world. Comrade Bush, how are you?”

Do not hear me saying that I support Chavez and his ilk–I most certainly do not.  He is a tyrant despite this rhetoric.  The fact that he can even draw these comparisons is what bothers me.  Once again, we have lost our moral high ground.

President Bush, the buck stops with you.   You have damaged our great country.  You led us into Iraq.  You led congress into passing the bailout package.  Thanks a whole helluva lot.

Scary

OK everyone.  Read the following article from 4 years ago and ponder it in light of today’s financial crises.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/11/01/binladen.tape/

This quote (from Osama Bin Laden himself) sums up the point of the article: “We [al Qaeda] are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

Regardless of your politics, it really makes you stop and think.

The Faith of Barack Obama

It is probably not a book I would have purchased myself, but a co-worker told me about an offer in which the publisher would send a complimentary copy of The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield to any blogger willing to write about it.  I don’t really consider myself a blogger per se, but I do have a blog so I figured I’d give it a shot.  The publisher, Thomas Nelson, is the same publisher that puts out my favorite Bible (The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible) so I had a good impression of them already.

I am an independent voter who tends to lean to the right.  I am a Christian, but I don’t consider myself a Republican.  Of course, I do not consider myself a Democrat either.  I really enjoy looking at both candidates and at both sides of the issues.  In fact, the only thing that really upsets me with respect to politics are those people who steadfastly refuse to even educate themselves on the different sides of an issue.  Reading books you know you will agree with is somewhat pointless.  To truly challenge your assumptions and ideas you need to look at the beliefs held by people who come from different backgrounds and have differing perspectives.  You need to try to see the world through their eyes and then draw your conclusions.  You still may not agree with them, but the exercise of stepping into their shoes is never wasted effort.

Having said that, I went into this book expecting either a left-wing apologetic or a right-wing hatchet job.  What I got was a seemingly balanced book that raised more questions in my mind than it answered.  It collected and presented lots of existing information on Obama’s faith and organized it in one place.  However, it did not seem to dig any deeper.  It appears that the author had little or no personal access to Obama so was unable to go beyond what was already written about him.

I want to pick out some of the highlights that I took away from the book.  They are highlights for me because as someone who is undecided in the upcoming presidential election, I really want to know about Obama’s faith.

When he burst onto the scene during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he made no secret of his Christian faith saying “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States.”  But what brought him to that point?

The book talks about his upbringing in a non-Christian home and how he eventually–as an adult–gave his life to the Lord.  He describes his conversion as “a choice and not an epiphany.”  He goes on to say: “the questions I had did not magically disappear.  But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me.  I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”  In other interviews he refers to his “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” and he believes “in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Some may point to a quote in which he states that he did not “fall out”.  By this, he means that he wasn’t so overcome by the power of God that he could not stand.  People may point to this as him making light of the experience, but I have no issue with this.  My initial conversion experience was much the same.

One thing that really troubles me–and that I have a hard time reconciling–is Obama’s view on abortion.  This will be a make-or-break issue for many voters.  I’m not quite sure why he votes the way he does given his professed beliefs, but he doesn’t back away from the issue and does go to great lengths to explain himself.  He has recently said that “I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will.  I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”  He then goes on to say that “I don’t know anybody who is pro-abortion.”  From this explanation it seems that he has faith, but I’m not entirely certain that he believes he has the one true faith.  I can appreciate not wanting to force your views on someone else, but to not let your beliefs shape your policy is something I cannot understand.

In summary, the  book gives a balanced view but leaves many questions unanswered.  Of course, who really CAN answer all the questions about another man’s faith?  That is a pretty tall order.  In fact, as I said above the book raised at least as many questions in my mind as it answered.  Nevertheless, I feel that reading this book was worthwhile for me.  It challenged some of my assumptions about Barack Obama and did so in a way that was forthright and honest. It did not gloss over the difficult inconsistencies (or at last what I would consider inconsistencies) between his professed faith and his poltical agenda.  I can recommend this book for anyone who wants to know more about the man and about his faith, but I cannot guarantee that it will answer all of your questions.

Hypocritical?

Has anyone else seen this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal written by John McCain? As I read through it I was deeply troubled. Along with many others, I really feel like America has lost some of its credibility over the last few years. How could someone read this and not see hypocrisy?

Some examples:

“For anyone who thought that stark international aggression was a thing of the past, the last week must have come as a startling wake-up call.”

How can other nations NOT see our move against Iraq as international aggression?

“the Russian government stated that it was acting only to protect Ossetians. Yet regime change in Georgia appears to be the true Russian objective.”

Wait. Wasn’t regime change in Iraq our prime objective?

“Russian claims of humanitarian motives were further belied by a bombing campaign that encompassed the whole of Georgia, destroying military bases, apartment buildings and other infrastructure, and leaving innocent civilians wounded and killed.”

The civilian death count in Iraq is almost 100,000 right now and we’ve destroyed billions of dollars of their infrastructure.

“The world has learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked.”

They didn’t learn it from us.

As a nation, we have lost our moral high ground. How can we honestly lecture other countries about peace without drawing derision?

One more thing: I normally vote Republican. Don’t write me off as a left-wing liberal. I’m a guy who has voted Republican since Bob Dole for crying out loud!

Update (9/1/08):
I submitted this as a letter to the editor to the Waco Tribune-Herald and they printed it (albeit 2 weeks later!).