Tag Archives: entitlement

As We Approach 237

As we approach Independence Day 2013, this might be a good time to take stock on the American experience: where we are, where we came from, what we are supposed to be and what we have become, collectively, as a country. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the United States of America has become something other than what our Founders and Framers would have envisioned. In fact, it could be argued that the “old white guys in wigs” would not only be shocked for what we have become, but for our apathy in allowing our country to become what it is.

Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

Today, the United States federal government is so large and so intrusive that it not only employs 4.4 million people, but holds a national debt of over $16.8 trillion dollars. This does not address a $124.6 trillion unfunded liabilities mandate. These numbers appear shocking because they are shocking. And when one takes into consideration that each year the US federal government operates “in the red,” even though they glean $2.902 trillion in revenue from various sources (individual income tax being the primary source at $1.359 trillion), one can only conclude that the federal government has taken on the role of the arrogant spendthrift, and one that disavows Benjamin Franklin’s sentiment, “When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.”

But perhaps the whole of our modern American experience can be summed up in the end state of this quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“A departure from principle becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of society is reduced to mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering…And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.”

Taxation
In the formative days of our Great American Experiment, the Founders and Framers set up a federal government limited in its authority and scope. In fact, in the early days of our Republic the federal government operated almost completely on revenues gleaned from tariffs and trade. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that the “income tax” would come to be and even then, until the passage of the 19th Amendment, the constitutionality of the income tax was held in question.

Today, thanks to an inequitable tax system – the Progressive tax system – we have a populace that is purposefully divided into factions: one that pays federal taxes, another that avoids paying federal taxes, and yet another that believes the taxes collected are due them. In a land where everyone is supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law (read: government), we have allowed those who we elect to office to literally create a class system, through which they manipulate the citizenry for political gain and the retention of power.

Religion
To say that the United States of America was founded on deep-rooted desire for the individual to be free to practice the religion of his or her choosing is to understate the importance of the issue. Truth be told, the issue of religious freedom delivered pilgrims to American shores centuries before. The Founders and Framers, being deeply reverent men – much to the opposite of claims by the secularists of today – understood all too well the importance of not only freedom of religion (the natural law right to worship in the dogma of choice) but the idea of recognizing something larger than self where government was concerned. As our founding documents – the Charters of Freedom – are predicated on the understanding and acknowledgment of Natural Law (the acknowledgement of a Higher Power), it is only the intellectually dishonest who argue religion did not (and does not) play a significant role in the government of our Republic.

To wit, The Declaration of Independence states:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“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…” (emphasis added)

Yet, today, military chaplains are forbidden from even displaying a Bible on their government issued desks for the ignorance of history served up at the hands of Progressive and secular activists.

Today, because of an activist Judicial Branch (and at the urging of Progressive and secular activists), the innocent notion of a separation of Church and State, which in its original intent was meant to reassure one denomination that another would not be placed above it in an establishment of a “national religion,” i.e. the Church of England, has been grotesquely distorted to require the ever-increasing banishment of all religious symbols from the public square. And at the same time, the federal government – in the form of ever-expanding entitlements – seeks to replace the Creator as the Alpha and the Omega for the American citizenry.

Law
At our country’s inception, the Judiciary – the Judicial Branch and all federal courts in its charge – was to administer federal law in the context of constitutionality. Was it constitutional or what is not? Or was the question reserved for the States and the judiciaries of those States, per the 10th Amendment?

Today, our entire legal system – federal as well as the lessers – is held hostage to a system of precedent law; Stare decisis et non quieta movere, a Latin term meaning “to stand by decisions and not disturb the undisturbed.” This is understood to mean that courts should abide by decided precedent and not disturb settled matters, regardless of whether the decision was born of activism. If the judiciary produced judgments and opinions that had fidelity to the Constitution – as the Constitution mandates, then the notion of stare decisis would be a good thing. But those who serve in the Judiciary are equally subject to human intellectual infirmities as are those who serve in the Executive and Legislative Branches. Truth is, one decision based on ideologically; one activist decision, forever moves law away from the Constitution.

As Steven G. Calabresi, a professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law and a visiting professor at Brown University, opined in a paper titled, Text vs. Precedent in Constitutional Law, published the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy:

“The argument…is that the doctrinalists are wrong in arguing for a strong theory of stare decisis for three reasons. First, there is nothing in the text, history, or original meaning of the Constitution that supports the doctrinalists’ strong theory of stare decisis. Second, the actual practice of the US Supreme Court is to not follow precedent, especially in important cases. In other words, precedent itself counsels against following precedent. And, third, a strong theory of stare decisis is a bad idea for policy reasons…

“Both textualism and originalism supply arguments as to why following precedent is wrong. As for the text, it is striking that there is not a word in the Constitution that says in any way that precedent trumps the text.”

Yet, decisions on issues from voting rights to life-ending procedures, social issues to mandatory health insurance are continuously based on precedent law, or stare decisis. And with each decision that bows to stare decisis, we move further away from fidelity to the Constitution.

Self-Reliance
At the founding of our nation, our citizenry was comprised on those who wanted the freedom to build, to create, to glean the benefits of their labors based on the effort with which they sought success. Pride was not the product of artificially installed self-esteem, but a humble condition of dignity, arrived at through determination, education – sometimes, or most times autodidactic – and perseverance. The United States was a nation of strong individuals, determined to embrace the freedom – the liberty, that the New World afforded them; a nation of people with a commonality based on self-reliance and a brotherhood born of the love of liberty and justice for all, not just the oligarchic few.

Today, our country has devolved into a socialistic nanny-state, complete with an entitlement faction that will very soon not only outnumber Ayn Rand’s “producers” but a faction that celebrates its gluttony; its piggish appetite for entitlement, even as they scheme to avoid the responsibility of maintaining the Republic; even as they demand more from a government whose seemingly sole purpose is to concoct new ways to extract wealth from those who produce. Today, 47% of the nation’s people do not pay federal income taxes. Today, 23 million households are dependent on food stamps. Today, nearly 49 percent of the citizenry lives in a household where at least one member receives a direct benefit from the federal government.

That those duly elected to office exploit this societal malady for purposes of maintaining power is tantamount to a betrayal of the very principles held by those who gifted us the exquisite beauty of liberty. I wonder, if the Founders and Framers could confront the elitist oligarchs of today’s American ruling class, would they be strong enough to do so with temperance?

On this, the 237th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, we would be wise to self-examine our national condition. Do we really want to be a nanny-state? Do we really want to admire a legal system that moves further away for the very basis for our freedom with each decision? Do we really want to support a government that increasingly steals from the producers to give to the dependent class of their own creation, and for purely ideological and politically motivated purposes? Do we want to be a nation that stands arrogantly in its belief that We the People – or They the Government – are the highest power to which we must answer, therefore abandoning our God-given right to acknowledge Natural Law?

In 1964, future president Ronald Reagan gave a speech titled, A Time for Choosing, in which he said:

“We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right….

“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

Today, my fellow Americans is Independence Day. Please, think about it.

Rage Against the Liberal Machine

My epiphany regarding the liberal-arts education model came to me in one definitive moment when I was a senior at Regis University. It was during an evening lecture of The Morality & Psychology of War. My professors, one a doctor of philosophy who reminded me of Herbert from Family Guy and the other a whiny social worker who said “Umm” more than a teenage girl says “Like”, were discussing Machiavelli’s The Prince. Part-way through the lecture though, the social worker stood up and said:

“My apologies for interrupting, but sometimes I think it’s appropriate for a professor to profess. I would just like to say that I went down to Occupy Denver earlier this week and was truly inspired by what I witnessed…” In that nasally voice of his, the social worker dedicated well over a half-hour to the Occupy movements and how it made him feel so good inside to see citizens – young and old – standing up to a system that was “oppressive, prejudiced and generally unfair”. He spoke about how ridiculous it was that we, college students, would soon be buried in student loan debt so great that we’d have no chance at paying it off. He stated how wrong it was that we wouldn’t be able to find jobs in our respective fields of study – philosophy, psychology, sociology and communications. But most importantly, he discussed how utterly shattered the economy was and how protests like Occupy Wall Street were the only way to incite change in our country. “Look at what the people in Egypt did,” he said at one point. “YOU guys can do that too!”

My classmates, too naïve to have opinions of their own or too frightened to stand up for the opinions they did have, cheered as if our professor hit a walk-off homerun in Game 7 of the World Series. I, on the other hand, did the only thing sensibility allowed – grabbed my stuff and walked out of the classroom.

It was in this moment that I realized how deep in the belly of the liberal beast I truly was. I went to Regis to escape the radically liberal ideology of Columbia and the University of Colorado. Unbeknownst to me though, the ideology was being pumped into my system like carbon monoxide, quietly killing me and my fellow students.

You’re probably thinking that this is an isolated incident though, that the professed ideology varied just as the liberal-arts model said it should. I’m sad to say that the above anecdote is one of many though. During another course, Punishment & Corrections, I was fed a steady diet of the Prison-Industrial Complex, the theory that states that the United States prison system is nothing more than a way to exploit the imprisoned – mainly minorities – for their free labor. Or American Literature & Ecocriticism, a course dedicated to the promotion of environmentalism and alternative energy production. Not enough for you? By university standards, all students are required to take two courses in Religious Studies. No argument with this, after all it’s a Catholic institution. The problem is that nearly all of the courses offered to fulfill this core requirement engage non-Christian religions. In fact, most of the religions covered at this Catholic university are nontheistic ones. While there is a course dedicated entirely to the Islamic religion, there isn’t one for Judaism or Mormonism. The university is covered with crucifixes and religious figures; yet, the heart of its curriculum is as secular as any state school.

My alma mater, like the rest of the liberal-arts universities, has been hijacked by radical leftists and used as a blow horn from which they spew their dangerous rhetoric.

 

The Liberal-Arts Model

Coined by Martianus Capella in the 5th Century A.D., the liberal arts were seven areas that were essential for citizens to be professionally and civically productive members of society. The seven liberal arts were grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. As time passed and disciplines evolved, the liberal arts came to encompass literacy, mathematics, philosophy, the arts, political & social sciences, and the natural sciences. Today, every liberal-arts curriculum includes all of the aforementioned disciplines to arm graduates with an intellectual foundation that enables them to consider all opinions before coming to conclusions on their own. Essentially, the liberal-arts model teaches us to think in a mature, unbiased manner.

How then have we reached the quandary we currently face? How was the liberal-arts model hijacked by radical liberals?

Every complicated problem has an equally complicated cause; however, certain events throughout the course of history contributed to the corruption of the liberal-arts model. The first of these, of course, is the Second World War.

The Second World War was perhaps the most atrocious and diabolic war in the history of mankind. Set on two separate stages, the war far exceeded imperialistic greed and aggressively broached the sanctuary of God-given liberties. Put simply, World War II was the first war of the modern era in which one ethno-racial group was so deliberately targeted for annihilation on the bigoted basis of hatred. Hitler and Nazi Germany’s goal was not just to acquire living space for Germans – Lebensraum – it was also to exterminate a race of people that was viewed as subhuman and undesirable. This historical event, more than any other before it, brought the issue of civil rights to the forefront.

Ten years later, the Civil Rights Movement began in the United States. For the next decade, the country was set ablaze with social unrest and revolution. African-Americans, inspired by the awareness of civil liberties that were so grossly violated during the Second World War, united to extend the phrase “All men are created equal” to include them. With the aid of monumental figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, oppressive Jim Crow Laws were abolished and all Americans, regardless of race, were considered equal.

Dovetailing the Civil Rights Movement was the Vietnam War and more importantly, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. If World War II was the spark for the corruption of the liberal-arts model, LBJ’s Great Society was the gasoline that fueled it. The Great Society introduced arguably the worst legislation in the history of the United States, a social welfare package even more debilitating than FDR’s New Deal. Like so many liberal policies, the Great Society had a marvelous and noble intention: help those who couldn’t help themselves. The problem though was that the Great Society did not just aid people caught in difficult circumstances, it made them wholly dependent on social welfare programs. To use the adage of “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for life”, The Great Society not only gave that man a fish, The Great Society also cooked that fish for him, chewed it for him, and pushed it down his throat for him. The Great Society brought the word entitlement to the conservative vocabulary, and ever since the 1970’s, we’ve been battling this cultural sense of privilege and right.

Despite the tremendous efforts and policies of conservative leaders in the 80’s and 90’s, this sense of entitlement grew at fever pitch. Liberal educators preached about civil liberties and how life, liberty and happiness were our natural-born (NOT God-given) rights. All coherent American citizens can recognize the gross distortion of this teaching though –

 

“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.”

                                                                              -The Declaration of Independence-

 

Pursuit – a key to this affirmation’s meaning. Our founding fathers built this country on the basis of three unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere in that statement does it say that happiness is guaranteed, and yet, that is precisely what is being taught in our schools and universities. No wonder Generation Y has become the Entitlement Generation.

But even this doesn’t fully explain the hijacking of the liberal-arts education model. After all, the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t a bad thing – it was a terrific step for our country!

Let us introduce the next culprit – Affirmative Action – again, a social program with great intentions but horrific applications. Although Affirmative Action assisted those in the minority population with achieving an education and landing a quality job, it has created a monster to which conservative commentators refer as “White Guilt”. Essentially, Affirmative Action is an apologetic policy that begs for the forgiveness of the African-American population for the sin of slavery. Fine and dandy, right? Wrong. Affirmative Action had two effects: it encouraged the entitlement mentality in the African-American population and it perpetuated (not alleviated) the guilt of slavery felt by American whites. Now, more than ever before, whites feel the insatiable need to help the African-American population. It has caused us to lower education enrollment standards for African-Americans, it has caused us to hire workers on a basis of race and not qualification, and – believe it or not – it caused us to elect a president who is wholly incompetent! What’s worse though – racially-focused programs like Affirmative Action have caused us to hate America.

I recall another core class my liberal-arts education forced me to endure: Roots of Racism. The class might as well have been called White Guilt, for it was a cesspool of anti-America sentiment and rhetoric. In this class, we devoted an entire month – one-third of the semester – to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. This text defiles the history of our nation by focusing solely on the mistreatment of minority groups, namely Native Americans and African-Americans. Our class discussions focused on how awful our founding fathers were and how much we should hate and feel guilty for how our country was conceived. You know the sad part of this – I was exposed to it so much that I started believing it! It was Joseph Goebbels who said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

This statement by one of the most diabolic figures in the planet’s history summarizes the state of the liberal-arts model wonderfully. The liberal-arts model – the model that history’s greatest minds created to mold citizens into educated and productive members of society – is now being used as a propaganda machine for radically liberal ideology. The curriculum, rather than focusing on exposure to numerous beliefs, now focuses on the liberal ideologies of entitlement, anti-Americanism, and anti-capitalism. Social science classes now only teach Marxist beliefs and political science classes now only teach liberal policies that are not only impractical but also corrosive to the integrity of our country’s values. Worst of all, though, is the hijacked liberal-arts model snuffs out any opposing beliefs and ideologies; it suppresses the freedom to express one’s opinion openly and without the fear of scorn.

Joseph Goebbels also said, “It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

They can call it what they’d like, but the fact of the matter is that the liberal-arts education model is nothing more than a propaganda machine that deliberately suppresses the truth. The Nazi’s of Germany did this, Communist Russia did this, and now, the United States of America is doing this.

An American Anthem

I recently assigned Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem to my freshman English students as a reading assignment. I’ve read this piece numerous times over the years, but this was the first time I had read it through someone else’s eyes – my students’. It also resonated with me differently this time because of the current entitlement crisis as represented by the Occupy movement.

Those who have not read Anthem, or are unfamiliar with Ayn Rand, might not know that the prevailing goal in her writing is to show the superiority of individualism to collectivism. In Anthem, she paints the picture of a society in which government provides everything for all and no individuals or traits of individuality are allowed to exist. Vocations and breeding partners are chosen by the government. Humans are not even permitted to have names. Instead, they are classified into groups and then given a number. The protagonist, for example, is referred to as Equality 7-2521. The words used to reference characters in the story are all collective in nature (“we,” “us” and “our”), even when it is clear to the reader that a speaker is simply referring to him or herself.

This notion is strangely reminiscent of the ways in which Americans have begun to categorize themselves. Take the popular practice of hyphenating cultural identities as an example. We are not individuals or even Americans in this country anymore. We are “African-Americans” or “Mexican-Americans.” Beyond our collective cultural labels, we are grouped according to our socio-economic status: “middle America,” “millionaires and billionaires,” or “the less fortunate.” One can quickly begin to see that the distinction between the fictional, government-imposed label “Equality 7-2521” and the self-imposed OWS label “We are the 99%!” is minor. In fact, it’s much more offensive that Americans would impose such collective ideals upon themselves.

The Occupy crowd argues that the government should provide health insurance, free college tuition, homes, and a job for everyone. This is precisely how it happens in Rand’s Anthem. Equality 7-2521 is relegated to the vocation of street sweeper. Though he is quite brilliant in math, he accepts this lesser position and views it as an unintentional consequence for his near-obsession with the illegal activity of knowledge acquisition. You see, he reads. Voraciously. Through the course of his reading activity, he eventually comes across the forbidden word “I,” and this is where Rand’s plot takes a hopeful turn. Upon recognition that he is an individual, his eyes open to possibilities, his mind to new perspectives. At one point, he finally “sees himself” when he looks into a pond and notices his reflection. As a result of these discoveries, he begins to rebel.

Those who are active in the Occupy movement already seem to have rebellious tendencies, so perhaps we can assume that they are just an ignorant bunch. Like Equality 7-2521 – who eventually assigns himself the name of Prometheus – perhaps each individual of the entitlement mindset should undertake the challenge of reading his or her way to self-discovery. Maybe each should also take a look in the mirror and decide whether or not he likes the reflection he sees. He should read Rand’s prediction of what life would be like if the government was the end all, be all. Considering she escaped the Bolshevik Revolution in Soviet Russia, Rand’s words bear the weight of experience and should not be discounted. She wrote Anthem – and subsequent novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged – because she saw signs decades ago that America was headed down the same Socialist path.

Perhaps the best lesson in reading this 100-page fictional story can be found in its nod to ancient myth. The mythological character on which Rand’s Prometheus is based is best known for stealing fire from Zeus and offering it to humankind so that humans could rely on themselves instead of the powerful overseer. It would be great to see these same principles applied to those who classify themselves as “less fortunate” or who think they are “entitled” to have someone else provide for them. These Occupiers need to see themselves as empowered and not entitled. Rand paints the dismal picture of what the world would look like if we relinquished all individual power and allowed ourselves to be grouped into categories, to be controlled by our government. She shows us what thinking of ourselves as part of the 99% really looks like, and it ain’t pretty.