A Biblical Approach to Government Debt

us_capitol_buildingIn God’s covenant with Israel, he commanded the ancient nation to abstain from incurring debt. “For the Lord your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you” (Deuteronomy 15:6, NKJV). If Israel obeyed the law of God, they would be blessed. Conversely, if they diverged from the path revealed to them, they would face judgments, among which included the loss of sovereignty that results from the burden and obligations of indebtedness: “The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail” (Deuteronomy 28:43-44, NKJV).

Over 3,400 years after the covenant renewal recorded by Moses in Deuteronomy, the United States of America faces one of the greatest threats to its future. America’s national debt currently exceeds $19,000,000,000,000. Since President Obama assumed office in 2009, the national debt has nearly doubled. Not counting state and local debts, interest payments, and the estimated $120 trillion in unfunded liabilities – namely, Social Security, Medicare, and federal employee and veterans’ benefits – every American family of four owes approximately $250,000 to America’s creditors.

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant [other translations use ‘slave’] to the lender” (KJV). Writing about this verse, the renowned seventeenth century biblical commentator Matthew Henry astutely observed, “Some sell their liberty to gratify their luxury.” Creditors, using their liberality as leverage, often place onerous demands on their debtors. Additionally, those who are laden with debt must repay their loans before they can provide for their own needs. Nations that become burdened with debt lose their financial freedom and self-determination.

Our nation’s founding fathers held a deep understanding of this biblical truth. Thomas Jefferson, believing that “the laws of the Creator” prohibited every generation from leaving its debt to be repaid by the next, wrote to his friend John Taylor, “[T]he principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

We are, in effect, borrowing money on behalf of future generations, thereby robbing them of their future earnings. No loving, reasonable parents would open a credit card in their son or daughter’s name, spend until they hit the credit limit, and then stick their child with the bill. Yet that is precisely the generational theft that Americans are perpetrating against their posterity. To finance their unprecedented appetite for government services, the American public is stealing from the prosperity of future generations.

Every American child is born into this world already owing $60,000 to our nation’s creditors. These children never consented to the bill we are leaving them. Nevertheless, they will be metaphorical slaves, laboring not for their own needs, but rather to repay the debts of their ancestors.

Instead of raising taxes when the people’s appetite for government services exceeds tax revenue, governments incur debt.  At some point in the future, taxpayers must repay the debt plus interest. There are only two means of reducing debt: raise taxes or significantly cut spending and use the savings to pay down the debt.

Which of these is the most effective method of reducing debt? The Laffer Curve, which refers to an economic phenomenon popularized by economist Arthur Laffer, explains the relationship between tax rates and tax revenues. Most people falsely assume that governments raise more tax revenue by increasing tax rates. However, the opposite is often true. Governments often obtain higher tax revenues by lowering tax rates. When taxes are high, there is less incentive to work and invest; people either decide to work less, or they engage in tax avoidance or evasion, to avoid paying confiscatory tax rates. The Laffer Curve explains why tax revenues soared following each of the Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush tax cuts. Increasing taxes will not bring about the desired result. Therefore, it is clear that we must make considerable cuts to the national budget, implement meaningful reforms to reduce unfunded liabilities, and get serious about paying off the national debt.

Experience shows us that we embark on the road to poverty and ruin when we disregard the biblical principles of economics. Worse yet, we doom our children to a lower standard of living than we enjoyed. It is time for us to elect leaders that will begin to reverse our country’s decades-long unbiblical practice of incurring increasingly more debt.

This column was originally published in the June/July 2016 issue of the Baptists for Liberty Newsletter: http://baptistsforliberty.weebly.com/uploads/1/1/9/8/11989443/bfl-june_and_july_2016.pdf.

Supreme Court Disregards its Own Standard in Abortion Ruling

In a devastating 5-3 loss for pro-life advocates, the Supreme Court just overturned two provisions of Texas’ HB 2 law that placed restrictions on abortion providers. The law was designed to improve the safety of women by requiring abortion providers to meet surgical center health and safety standards and maintain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down both of the law’s provisions, saying they placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to have an abortion.

In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the “decision exemplifies the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue,’” quoting the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Texas legislators had been careful to ensure that their law conformed to the ‘undue burden standard’ proposed by the Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). According to a summary by Public Discourse, the undue burden standard allows legislators to “regulate pre-viability abortions for the health and safety of the woman, provided the regulation does not create a substantial obstacle to the abortion right.”

In its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court has now disregarded its own undue burden standard. According to Justice Thomas, the scrutiny applied by the majority to the Texas law “bears little resemblance to the undue-burden test the Court articulated” in Casey.

Since Texas law requires physicians performing surgical births like caesarean sections to maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals, applying this standard to physicians that perform abortions should not be controversial. Even the prochoice National Abortion Federation (NAF) recommends that “[i]n the case of emergency, the doctor [performing the abortion] should be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital (no more than 20 minutes away).” HB2 mandated doctors to have hospital admitting privileges at hospitals no more than 30 minutes away – a standard even lower than the one advocated by NAF.

By overturning the health and operating standards required by HB2, the Supreme Court has not only overruled the will of the Texas legislature, but it has also made abortion less safe for women.

An estimated 3,180 women were hospitalized for complications resulting from an abortion in 2011. Requiring abortion clinics to comply with the same medical standards for other forms of surgeries ensures that women will receive necessary medical care when complications arise.

“Our main concern is the safety of Texas women. We will continue to stand for women to keep them safe so they are not maimed or die in abortion clinics,” Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, said in a statement.

The plaintiff in the case, abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, had repeatedly been cited for safety and health violations in its clinics. In its yearly inspections of Whole Woman’s Health clinics, the Texas Department of State Health Services noted reoccurring safety violations, including the staff’s failure to maintain sterile surgical instruments, expired supplies and medication, rusty machines used on patients, dilapidated facilities, and concerns of rodents. It concluded that “the facility failed to provide a safe and sanitary environment,” remarking that the staff, which had not been trained in CPR, “did not know what a sterilization indicator was” and did not know how to properly use equipment.

Whole Woman’s Health’s terrible record of unsanitary and unsafe conditions demonstrates the importance of laws like HB2. Unfortunately, by siding with unscrupulous abortion providers, the Supreme Court disregarded the best interests of women.

Women deserve better.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/27/opinion-supreme-court-disregards-own-standards-in-abortion-ruling/.

 

Delaying Marriage Hurts Men and Families

Two Platinum or Silver Rings - Reflected CandlesNot only are married men healthier and happier than their single peers, but statistics show they are also more financially successful.

“Becoming a husband means growing up, making a transition from prolonged semi-adolescence to true male adulthood,” says Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

Holding other variables constant, men earn 0.9 percent higher wages for each year they are married.  After being married for ten years, husbands earn 17 to 20 percent more than unmarried peers with the same characteristics.

These statistics reveal an economic phenomenon that economists have termed the marriage premium. Entering into marriage causes men to be more productive and receive higher earnings, after controlling for variables such as the unemployment rate, age, race/ethnicity, education, and mother’s characteristics.

Men who delay or forgo marriage lose out on the marriage premium. For each year that a man resists tying the knot, he falls further behind his married peers financially, sacrificing the significant bump in wages and productivity that he would have otherwise received.

The effect of the marriage premium on a man’s financial condition becomes more pronounced over time. After decades of receiving a 0.9 percent annual increase in wages that is caused by entering into marriage, married men are often making tens of thousands of dollars more per year than their single peers.

Even less-educated men benefit from the marriage premium. The marriage premium among married men with a high school diploma or less is at least $17,000. Understanding the marriage premium allows us to better understand why researchers from the Brookings Institution found getting married is more effective in preventing and reducing poverty than getting more education.

Many millennials want to wed but are delaying getting married until they have achieved financial security. This paradigm is challenged by the marriage premium, which seems to indicate that marriage allows for the financial security millennials are seeking.

Marriage also has a strong effect upon poverty. A 2003 study released by the Brookings Institution found that the poverty rate would be reduced from 13 to 9.5 percent if the marriage rate among families had remained unchanged from 1970 to 2001.

Why does the marriage premium exist? Married men are healthier and happier. They tend to live more stable lives, move less, and demonstrate more responsibility. Their wives provide them with emotional support and professional advice, as well as support around the house. All of these characteristics make for better employees that are more productive at work and highly valued by employers.

When society promotes the idea that young adults should pursue financial stability before getting married, it increases the likelihood of poverty and makes it more difficult for men to achieve financial success.  The marriage rate among millennials is significantly lower than previous generations, and fewer young adults are getting married than ever before. As long as this trend continues, men will continue to suffer from missing out on the marriage premium.

Men do better when culture promotes marriage. Families are more resilient when men are healthy, happy, and professionally successful – and marriage is the ideal first step.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/13/statistics-show-delaying-marriage-hurts-families-incomes/.

Why Schools Aren’t The Place to Learn About Gender Identity

classroomWashington State’s new health and physical education standards have provoked a strong backlash from parents and citizens who are outraged that children will be taught about gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation in elementary school. For example, children in third grade will now be taught that they can choose their own gender. Their fourth grade peers will learn about the spectrum of sexual orientation.

Astonished by what their children will be taught under the new standards, parents are left wondering whether public schools are the appropriate forum for dialogue about gender identity and sexual orientation – especially in elementary and middle school.

Parents should be concerned. The latest science supports what we used to regard as commonsense – that teaching very young students about gender identity and alternative sexual lifestyles could be a confusing and harmful experience for them.

The American College of Pediatricians warns against parents, doctors, and teachers encouraging children to undergo gender transition.  “Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies, will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to ‘gender clinics’ where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs.” The American College of Pediatricians likens the normalizing of transgenderism among children to “child abuse.”

Despite this, Washington’s public education system stands firmly behind its decision to push gender identity and gender expression on students as young as five years old, despite strong warnings from the medical community.

The vast majority of children who struggle with gender identity will eventually outgrow their confusion and accept their biological sex. According to statistics provided on page 455 of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, as many as 98% of boys and 88% of girls who struggle with gender dysphoria as children will no longer identify as the other gender after finishing puberty.

Gender transition, which is promoted as the solution to gender dysphoria, is also dangerous. Cross-sex hormones present unsafe health risks for the individual undergoing transition. These hormone treatments increase the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and cancer. When children undergo cross-sex hormone therapy, their growth is often inhibited and their fertility is often irreversibly impaired.  The suicide rate among those who have undergone sex reassignment is twenty times higher than that of the general population.

Teaching gender identity and sexual orientation in schools normalizes the behavior. Once the behavior is normalized and students are told they can choose their own gender, we will undoubtedly see an increase in children pursuing harmful hormone therapies and irreversible gender reassignment surgeries.

If public schools rationalize gender dysphoria to young students, why are we to assume that more children won’t be subjected to the associated risks, as the statement by the pediatricians’ association suggests?  Children who would have otherwise never “struggled” with gender dysphoria may now be taught to question their own identity.

Teachers are rarely equipped to teach about topics relating to gender identity and sexual orientation.  Requiring them to teach this information may also cause them to violate their own beliefs.  Additionally, how can parents be sure that their convictions and values will not be undermined by what their children are being taught in school?

Schools should heed the warnings from doctors and researchers. Children are harmed when they are taught that alternative gender identities and sexual orientations are normal. Conversations with children about gender identity and sexual orientation should be left to parents and doctors, not schools.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/07/opinion-why-schools-arent-the-place-to-learn-about-transgenderism/.

Me Before You, Disabilities, and Suicide

21deffa3036682dc425a1e7d830d7fedMe Before You, a recently released film adaptation of a book by the same name, is garnering attention for promoting the notion that disabilities so greatly encumber life that physician-assisted suicide is a brave and reasonable solution to be celebrated.

The fictional book from which the film takes its story was written by English author Jojo Moyes.  The movie, which was released to theaters on June 3, is produced and distributed by Hollywood production giants MGM and Warner Brothers.

The story centers around Will, a young man from a wealthy family who had been injured in a motorcycle accident, and his caregiver Louisa, whose lack of ambition and humble lifestyle prevented her from experiencing all that life had to offer.

Though the two eventually fell in love, Will, who had attempted suicide months before, decides that life as a quadriplegic is not worth living. He receives a lethal dose of medication from a Swedish suicide clinic and leaves Louisa an inheritance to pursue her dreams.

Disability rights advocates believe that the movie’s ending, which celebrates the death of Will so that Lou might boldly live life with the inheritance he had left for her, implies that caring for Will would have been too great a burden on Louisa to make her life worthwhile.

“We are not ‘burdens’ whose best option is to commit suicide,” said John Kelly, regional director of Not Dead Yet, a national organization that opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia. “No one’s suicide should be treated as noble and inspirational. Our suicides should be viewed as tragedies like anyone else’s.”

Responding to criticism, Thea Sharrock, the film’s director, said, “This is a brave ending. It’s too easy to do it the other way. But this way… this is the more interesting way.” The movie, according to Sharrock, is “about how important the right to choose is.”

Thankfully, under Washington law, Will would have been unable to pursue the doctor-assisted suicide that he received in the film. Though Washington voters decided in favor of the Washington Death with Dignity Act (Initiative 1000) in 2008, the law requires that those seeking to end their life must be terminally ill patients with less than six months to live.

That a major Hollywood film is celebrating the suicide of a disabled man speaks loudly about the deteriorating moral condition of American culture. Generations ago, political philosophers like John Locke and William Blackstone, both of whom greatly influenced the philosophical ideas of the American founding, argued that suicide violated natural law and should therefore be illegal.

In his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke wrote,

“We are all the property of him who made us, and he made us to last as long as he chooses, not as long as we choose.”

Regarding the unnatural and illegal nature of suicide, William Blackstone wrote in his legal Commentaries,

“[N]o man has a power to destroy life, but by commission from God, the author of it: and, as the suicide is guilty of a double offense; one spiritual, in invading the prerogative of the Almighty, and rushing into his immediate presence uncalled for; the other temporal, against the king, who has an interest in the preservation of all his subjects; the law has therefore ranked this among the highest, crimes, making it a peculiar species of felony, a felony committed on oneself.”

Until the last few decades, most states, influenced by the philosophy of Locke and Blackstone, classified the act of suicide as a felony.

How have things changed since then. By the end of this year, five states (Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, and Vermont) will allow some form of doctor-assisted suicide. According to Washington state records, in 2014 there were 176 “participants” who received medication from doctors to end their lives under the authority of the Washington Death with Dignity Act.

Contrary to what the Me Before You director says, suicide is anything but “brave.” Every single person, regardless of the disabilities and challenges they face, has inherent value and is created in the image of their Creator. Suicide, even when assisted by doctors, robs society of the incredible potential for good offered by each of its victims.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/06/new-movie-celebrates-suicide-insults-disabled/

School Districts Should Kiss Federal Education Funding Goodbye

300px-harritonThe federal government is threatening to withhold federal education funding from local school districts that disobey the recent Obama administration bathroom directive.

The directive, issued via letter from the Departments of Education and Justice, mandates that public schools affirm a student’s chosen gender identity by allowing the student to use whichever showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms correspond to his or her chosen internal gender identity, regardless of his or her biological sex.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called the federal government’s threat “blackmail,” saying that the president “can keep his 30 pieces of silver.”

Texas and officials from ten other states recently filed a lawsuit against federal agencies and administration officials, asking a federal court to overturn the directive, which was handed down by the executive branch without any congressional vote. The plaintiffs claim that the directive exceeds the executive branch’s authority and violates the tenth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution.

As states count the risk of losing federal education funding, it is important to understand how that funding is used.

Here in Washington, just 8 percent of a local school district’s budget comes from the federal government. Most of that money comes in the form of categorical grants that fund programs for disadvantaged students, such as special education, school lunches, Head Start, transportation services, and others.

It is unconscionable that a presidential administration would bully local school districts by threatening to withhold funding for programs aimed at low income and disadvantaged students unless they adopt the agenda of social experimentation foisted upon them by federal bureaucrats.  Local school districts should consider responding by using this as an opportunity to finally liberate their budgets from federal education funding and the strings that come with it.

The burdensome mandates that accompany federal funding give federal officials significant control over the affairs of local schools. It is estimated that the regulations that accompany federal education funding saddle states and local school districts with 7.8 million hours of administrative work, costing local schools $235 million annually and converting them into bureaucracies that must do the bidding of the federal government for fear of losing their federal funding.

Federal mandates also hinder innovation and experimentation by creating a one-size-fits-all regulatory scheme. The good news is that states and local school districts can escape many of these obligations by choosing to refuse federal education funding.

Students benefit when local communities – not distant, unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. – retain control over their schools. Maintaining local control over education allows schools to be more responsive to the unique needs of students in their communities. Because of this, Washington schools and students will be in a better position if state and local education officials use this opportunity to rid themselves of federal education funding and the onerous regulations that accompany it.

This post was published by the Family Policy Alliance: http://familypolicyalliance.com/issues/2016/05/31/opinion-school-districts-kiss-federal-education-funding-goodbye/