December 16, 2012
Destructive ShepherdsBy James Arlandson
During this joyous Christmas season honoring the baby in the manger, angelic choirs, visiting Magi, and humble shepherds tending their flocks, it is time to take a closer look at those shepherds and their flocks.
But this ain't your normal Christmas piece. There are shepherds, and then there are shepherds.
Our Founders looked through Greek, Roman, and biblical authors to find general principles to guide them as they set up this nation and instilled in it a genetic code. So should we. Biblical images still speak to millions today, though the more secular types just don't get it.
One of these biblical principles is that shepherds are supposed guide people wisely.
15 Moses said to the LORD, 16 "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community 17to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd."(Numbers 27:15-17).
Here we're talking about a politician-shepherd and a nation of sheep. Joshua was appointed a successor to Moses. He was a good shepherd, for that time. Not all shepherds can say the same.
Shepherds can build up a nation, but they can also destroy it. "'Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!' declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:1). "'Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock!'" (Zechariah 11:17).They did not guide the nation for the good.
Which group of shepherds do we have nowadays? Are he headed towards destruction (so to speak) or a positive transformation?
I don't believe, as some hyper-conservatives do, that the Obama administration is deliberately and intentionally destroying this nation. Rather, Obama and his Brain Trust sincerely believe they're helping us sheep.
However, they're sincerely wrong about at least seven major issues.
1. The stimulus did not work.
The administration is still clamoring for more stimulus money, apparently believing that it worked the first time. In Southern California, on the 215 Freeway near where I live, there's a big orange sign that says the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2009 stimulus. How many men are sprucing up the freeway overpass? 25? 30? Regardless, in no way have their incomes have boosted the local economy to any measurable extent. The part of the Keynesian economic theory -- the so-called multiplier effect -- that says every dollar the government spends puts $1.50-2.50 back into the economy is an exaggeration and distortion.
But even if the number of workers were doubled or tripled, the local economy, not to mention the entire county, would not be stimulated. Too many people live in the area. Maybe the stimulus would have worked in my neck of the woods if there were, say, only 300 people in the whole county -- and they the relatives of the construction crew.
This living illustration -- real-life humans working on an overpass -- illustrates how deficient Keynesianism is. Motorists who bother to connect the dots can see it with their own eyes, no matter how many colorful line graphs intellectual Keynesians produce to prove their theory. Yes, build roads and bridges and so on if needed (the overpass looks nice), but don't use this as your policy to jump-start a huge economy.
Over-reliance on this theory explains, in a big way, why our economy is still limping along.
2. Our record-setting debt threatens the economic health of our nation.
You've heard it before, but it hasn't stopped being true. Our national income (GDP) is about $15 trillion, and now our debt is over $16 trillion. The Obama administration added between $5-6 trillion in four years, an historic record. No other president has done that in such a short time span (Bush added $4.9 trillion in eight years).
We're officially in trouble.
To date, I see no real effort to fix this mess. During the campaign Obama appeared on the Letterman show and did not clearly answer Letterman's sheepish question about the debt. No matter. Apparently, if you believe that a certain amount of deficit spending does not harm a nation, then any level of deficit spending becomes harmless. Maybe the administration doesn't seem to care because they adhere to extreme Keynesianism (see the first point).
But this administration has taken deficit spending too far, and now our nation is threatened, despite the yawning of certain defenders of deficit spending on steroids.
3. Overregulation hinders economic growth and personal liberty.
Heavy-handed regulations that have grown decade by decade, all imposed by a central bureaucracy, are bad for everyone but the central planners. The irony? We have to pay for the overregulation of our freedoms.
The Constitution is small, while the U.S. Code has grown over the decades. Think of the tax code managed by the IRS, another huge bureaucracy.
Examples include the law just passed in California denying reparative therapy for homosexuality for minors, thus censoring speech and knowledge.
Obamacare imposes penalties for noncompliance, courtesy of the IRS: "$695 per individual and up to three times that amount for a family or a percentage of income in excess of the filing threshold (2.5 percent of income)" (p. 3 footnote 5). Obamacare also attacks religious liberty.
4. Obamacare will degrade health care over time.
Under Medicare and Medicaid, doctors get paid a fraction for the work they put in. The same will happen under ObamaCare. When people don't get paid adequately, the quality of their work suffers over the long haul. The best and brightest would-be doctors won't sign up for med school when they figure out they won't get paid enough. Remember the recent replacement refs for the NFL? The NFL went downhill, and the sheep booed and demanded a change. Imagine replacement doctors in our health-care system.
Further, twenty-one ticking tax bombs are built into ObamaCare, all of which will slow down sectors of our economy.
Also, the Independent Payment Advisory Board's cost-cutting measures will ration medical care, which will involve life and death decisions at the end of the bureaucratic process. Elderly, go home and take a pill. Other sheep might be malnourished and euthanized. (This is happening now in the UK's National Health Service [NHS] under the charming rubric "Liverpool Care Pathway.")
Medicare and Medicaid are unfunded liabilities in the trillions of dollars when projected into the future. The same with ObamaCare, Democrat shepherds and Obama's voting sheep just imposed on the rest of the nation a third government insurance program that we can't afford. That's like a family who can't afford their two cars, so their solution is to buy a third one. Foolish sheep.
5. Welfare is now a trillion-dollar outlay.
This liability is simply too much for our budget, on top of the other entitlements. Nonetheless, millions live in poverty in the Obama economy, while millions join the food stamps program. But it won't do to kick them off now. Rather, we need a better shepherd to lead people off welfare, instead of herding them towards it. Oh wait... the American sheep, trusting in their "good shepherd," have spoken on November 6, 2012. We can't get a better shepherd until 2016.
6. Dependence on welfare destroys a nation's character.
Yes, we conservatives believe in a safety net. But it shouldn't turn into a hammock. Fifty percent of the sheep get federal benefits. Soon the worker sheep will no longer be able subsidize the non-worker sheep. That ratio threatens not only the free market economy, a system that is biblical, by the way, but this dependency also ruins our national character in the final analysis.
7. Same-sex marriage fundamentally redefines the essence of marriage.
There are many reasons to oppose redefining marriage, like restricting religious liberty. But this one predominates: if same-sex marriage is permitted, there is no logical reason why other people advocating nonconformist relationships can be denied marriage. For example, Islam permits polygamy by way of the Quran, traditions, and classical law. Google Islam and polygamy, and you discover all kinds of Islamic websites pushing for it. Specifically, in fatwa no.2134 at the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, this qualified Muslim scholar argues for the social utility or benefit of polygamy. If Muslim jurists can successfully make a case for it socially (and are we restricting his religious liberty?), then I ask the question again: how can you logically deny them marriage?
Therefore, same-sex marriage advocates need to compromise and be happy with civil unions and not open Pandora's Box. One man, one woman is best all around.
We will find out in July 2013 what the Supreme Court decides, though it is clear to all non-Constitutional law specialists like myself that the Court should let the people decide what marriage is for the entire nation. This issue goes higher than a panel of nine judges. This is one time when I'm willing to trust a bare majority of sheep.
This list could go on to include abortion rights somehow magically appearing in our eighteenth-century Constitution, and the Democratic Party rejecting God by a voice vote until outflanked by Chairman Villaraigosa.
On these and other major issues, our Democrat shepherds (and some sheepish Republicans) are leading us down the wrong path, deviating from what our Founders put into our national genetic code. Inch by inch our shepherds are leading the nation down dangerous, rocky ground toward the edge of a cliff.
We need solutions.
First, bad shepherds can be replaced with good ones. The bad ones, says this passage, fleece their sheep and eat them for food.
8 Because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them." (Ezekiel 34:8-10).
But today this wise solution may not always work. In a democracy sheep can vote, and they voted on November 6, 2012, for more of the same. Apparently certain American sheep can't recognize defective policies.
We need additional solutions that are bigger than mere policies and slogans.
Second, we must step up and educate the sheep. Conservatives who favor the Founders' values must assure that they are passed on. Even if we were to be motivated by self-interest because we're afraid our sheepish nation will eventually self-destruct and we'll go down with it, we must still redouble our efforts to fight the good fight against deception and bad policies. Discouraged conservatives, never give up! Economic reality is on our side, so we automatically have the better arguments and hold the trump card. Unfortunately, however, we may have to go through tough financial times before the sleepy sheep wake up.
Third, our Founders believed that religion was essential for liberty. Our nation was birthed in the Enlightenment and Great Awakenings, hand in hand. But the Enlightenment can go only so far. If sheep don't have moral restraint, rooted in religion, they tend to wander off.
So, during this Christmas season, this verse is fitting: "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel'" (Matthew 2:6). Our nation needs to turn back to God and the true Good Shepherd (John 10:11-14).
Finally, too many intellectual solutions and too much brainstorming and rationalism in overdrive can miss the obvious and simple (not simplistic) pathways.We can become "wise" beyond our own good.
The Founders often called the nation to pray. Benjamin Franklin did so during the Constitutional Convention, when things were deadlocked, though it is not clear that official prayers were offered up. But at least he requested prayer.
Following their lead, during this season that takes a closer look at shepherds who honored the new-born spiritual King, in my small way I humbly ask everyone, particularly churches of all creeds, to pray for our politician-shepherds, good or bad, for wisdom, in spite of their lack of it. We don't want the nation to be disfigured beyond recognition or perhaps even destroyed by foolish ideas and policies. I still have hope for the nation. There's still time to turn things around.
We deserve it, for although unwise, all of us sheep are still worth our weight in wool.
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