Saturday, January 26, 2013

Essay Contest Submission by Reg Anderson

"How do Conservative principles impact the happiness and prosperity of all Americans?"

by Reg Anderson

To answer this question, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the terms “Conservative Principles” , “Happiness” and “Prosperity” and to realize that they may have different meanings to different people. Let me share what they mean to me beyond dictionary definitions.

Generally, Conservative is defined as tending to preserve established traditions or institutions and to resist change. By this definition, the actions of the founding fathers of our country would be considered radical and even traitorous. They came from the English Monarchy where one man had ultimate power and people lived in a strict social hierarchy or the equivalent of a “Caste System”.

The Conservative Principles that I believe in are eloquently expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The cardinal moral truths as stated in the Declaration are:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness-that to Secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Governed”

The notion that being Conservative means that nothing changes has never been true in our country and certainly many needed changes have been made including:

1.         The abolition of Slavery

2.         Women’s right to vote

The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution including 27 Amendments to ensure things like freedom of religion and the right to bear arms. This foundation makes it possible for each of us to pursue the goals of Happiness and Prosperity.

Happiness to me means pursuing and achieving things which have meaning to you. This may include things like having a family and friends, a meaningful career and helping others. I believe that a system of moral principles and values is fundamental to happiness. For many this is based on a religious faith and an understanding of the purpose of life. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, he said , “I believe that most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

The philosophy of “Moral Relativism” which is being taught in many of our universities today can lead to widespread misery. Essentially it says that there are no truths and that there is no right or wrong. This contributes to narcissism and self absorption. The book “Generation Me” by Jean Twenge is a clear illustration of what can happen.

Prosperity is often perceived as having lots of wealth and the more the better. After several years in an engineering related career and starting and running a business, I spent 15 years as a financial advisor and I came to realize that a successful retirement is having what you need and retiring to something you enjoy. To me, prosperity is having good health, a home, family, and friends. It is not lavish or ostentatious.
I believe that Conservative Principles mean that each of us has equal rights and freedom. We are guaranteed equal opportunities based on our work and abilities but we are not guaranteed equal results.
After the 2012 presidential election, I sat down to document my hopes and concerns for our country under the new leadership as follows:

Obama 2013-2016: My Hopes & Concerns as of 11/16/12

1. Constitution & Freedoms- I sincerely hope that the Obama administration will uphold the individual freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution including free speech, the right to bear arms, term limits on the presidency, freedom of religion and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To the degree that the government must oversee large nationwide things like highway construction, national defense, Social Security, Medicare and the markets to prevent abuse, we already have a large dose of socialism in our political system. I hope that we do not try to expand the degree of socialism that we already have by continued expansion of the Federal Government.

2. I hope that the use of “Class warfare” for political gain can be stopped and that the power of small business to bring prosperity and to create real jobs can be encouraged. The United States has become the world’s model for success because individuals have been given the chance to create and build businesses. Our ancestors came here seeking freedom from oppression in their old countries and the opportunity to build better lives for themselves and their families. Socialism can destroy those opportunities by ensuring that those who don’t work or who are unwilling to take a chance are rewarded equally with those who do the hard work and take the risks to build a business. Look at the history of socialism; it has never succeeded in the long run. As Winston Churchill said “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal distribution of blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal distribution of misery”. We can make sure that the pie is divided exactly equally or we can make more pie. Of course we must maintain a safety net for those who need assistance, but most importantly we must ensure that they have an equal opportunity to advance themselves and their families. Good education is essential.

3. Debt- The Federal debt is now over 16.4 trillion dollars and growing rapidly. Tax increases are not going to reverse that trend because even if we take away all of the income of the wealthy, it will not stop the increase of the debt. We must decrease our spending and stimulate business to reverse the decline of our economy. The present rhetoric is to demonize those who have succeeded. A balanced budget is essential. If we continue to build our debt, national bankruptcy is likely and our currency will become worthless. The Fed is buying back government bonds, printing money to pay for the purchases and maintaining interest rates near zero. The advantage is that this provides cash in the marketplace and the debt is repaid at nearly no interest. The problem is that this is the very definition of inflation. We are creating money out of thin air. There is much talk about the imminent “Fiscal Cliff” which involves higher taxes and reduced spending. I am much more concerned about what I call the “Fiscal Abyss”, which involves the current massive deficit spending funded with borrowed money. When China and others decide that it is no longer prudent to loan money to us, we will be in the same situation as Greece, unable to pay our debts and attacked by those expecting entitlements that cannot be paid.  Obama called George Bush a traitor for increasing the National Debt by approximately $3 trillion dollars over eight years but then he increased the Debt by $5.4 trillion in three and one half years. In 2008 he promised to cut the deficit in half and to bring unemployment to 5% whereas it was 7.8% in January 2009 and as of September 2012 it was 8.3%. During the same time span, the median family income dropped from $54,983 to $50,964, a drop of $4,019 per family and the price of gas went from $1.84 to $3.82 per gallon. The budget deficit went from $458,500,000,000 to$1,290,000,000,000. (That’s $458.5Billion to $1.29 Trillion or 2.814 times as much). During the first Obama term we haven’t had a budget although federal law requires an annual budget.

We voted to continue these policies because the majority wants “Free Stuff” but I fear that we are racing toward national bankruptcy. I hope and pray that I’m wrong!!

4. Jobs- In the long run, the government does not create wealth or jobs. Government jobs are created using other people’s money and they are dependent on income in the business community. To recover and prosper, we must encourage small and large businesses and make opportunities for them to be profitable while controlling fraud and corruption.

5. Social Issues- To me, the most crucial social issue is the decline of the family in American culture. I recently heard a list of simple steps to ensure that young people avoid poverty. 1. Work hard and at least graduate from High School. 2. Marry before you have children. 3. Both parents stay together and share in child rearing. 4. Provide a set of positive values to children. 5. Avoid drugs and alcohol.  Obama has made a major case that abortion should be unrestricted in any way to give women total control of their bodies. A partial birth abortion means that a live child in the process of being born, may be killed by the attending physician by penetrating the skull or by denying it oxygen. Since we have decided that it’s ok for a woman to kill her children, maybe we should be practical and extend that privilege to say age 18. (not really) As you know, teenagers can be really difficult and inconvenient. There is a big effort to legalize recreational drugs in many states. A majority of abuse cases involve alcohol or drug abuse and my concern is that these crimes will increase as we legalize more drugs for fun. In our country, more than half of the children born today are born to unwed mothers. This places a great burden on the mother and condemns many children to a life of poverty. Dads need to step up and share responsibility for the children that they bring into the world.

6. International Relationships- First of all we should be a positive example to other countries. Especially Muslim cultures view us as a corrupt culture with our crime and dress standards. Of course, they have their own corruption in terms of lack of freedom and unjust, brutal law enforcement. We should provide help where we can to other countries but we need to be aware that we can’t change their cultures over night. We should realize that with all of our flaws, we are still the bastion of freedom in the world and that America is truly exceptional.

7. Defense- As an ancient philosopher said: “If you want peace, prepare for war”. We must avoid the unilateral disarmament that our government is discussing. For those of you who are too young to remember the Cold War, we survived confrontations with the Soviet Union by being armed and prepared and we won without war.

8. Immigration- We are a country of immigrants. Even the Native Americans migrated here at one time. The U.S. is unique in offering people from other countries the chance to become citizens. If you doubt that try to become a citizen of Mexico. We have more than one million legal immigrants each year but we must control illegal immigration. The steps that I would propose include: 1. Strictly control our borders to admit only those who have qualified. 2. Maintain and control our system to screen new immigrants to avoid admitting those who have criminal records or who intend to harm our country. 3. Provide a system whereby those who are currently here illegally can earn citizenship and deport those who refuse to qualify.

9. With the prevailing “Free Stuff” mentality I feel that we may be on the way to an economic decline with more unemployment and a reduced standard of living including recession and possible depression. Mitt Romney presented plausible ways to avoid this and to return to national greatness but he wasn’t “COOL”.
I hope & pray for wise decisions to maintain what is the Greatest Country in the World!

As Abraham Lincoln said: 

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

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