Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Urgent message from Focus on the Family

I don't agree with everything James Dobson says, but this is right on. I urge you to read it and share it with anyone else who cares about our nation's economic future.

Dear Friends:

In recent months, I've become friends with Glenn Beck, one of the few conservative commentators on CNN who also hosts his own national radio talk show. You may have heard me discuss current events with Mr. Beck on a few occasions in the past. I appreciate his firm grasp of the values we hold dear and his ability to use humor to address some very serious issues.
One of those concerns is our national budget, a subject on which Mr. Beck offered some insightful commentary during his CNN program on March 26th. A transcript of those remarks, edited for clarity, is included below. (Brace yourself, because he opened with a scary but phony news story.)

"Right now, we are getting word from my newsroom that says scientists are tracking a large asteroid that appears to be heading towards Earth. Information is coming in right now. Initial reports say the impact will be around the year 2019 and the consequences could be 'catastrophic.'

The president has just released a statement. He will be speaking here in just a few minutes. Apparently his message is, 'The threat is real, it is dire, and we have decided to let the next administration figure it out.'

'Let me ask you something--first of all, there's no asteroid headed our way. If that were real, would you be sharpening the end of your pitchfork and driving to Washington [to demand action from our leaders]? Yes, of course you would. We're going to let the next administration figure it out?

If there was an asteroid [coming our way], we would take care of it. And there is an economic asteroid, and no one seems to care. The Social Security and Medicare trustees--and I use that term loosely because it has the word 'trust' in the center--released their annual report yesterday. The news isn't really good.

This year, 2008, Medicare will pay out more in benefits than it takes in from taxes. Got it? The same thing happens to Social Security in 2017. That's when the government will have to start paying back all the money it has stolen from the people from the Social Security "lock box" [that doesn't exist] over the years, something that could be a little dicey considering the fact--you might have heard this--we're out of money!

By 2019, Medicare becomes completely insolvent. And by 2041, Social Security runs dry.

Great. By most estimates, this is a $53 trillion asteroid.

Now, you find one person--if you can find them, I'll pay you--that's credible on either side of the aisle that disputes the size of this threat or how quickly it's coming. In fact, most would say the dates and the figures I just gave you are conservative.

So, why is it no one's doing anything about it? If there were a real asteroid, do you think we'd allow our leaders to keep passing the next buck to the next administration until we could actually see the flying rock in the sky?

We're not only letting [our leaders] get away with that, we're letting them do something worse. We're letting them actually go out into space, and they're [asking] 'I wonder if we could make the asteroid bigger?'

I mean, they're putting prescription drugs on. We've got billions in bailouts and rebate checks. I'm sorry, this is criminal negligence.

I don't know who people think are going to swoop in and save us from this disaster ... I've got news for you, it's not going to be Congress ... The president is not going to do
it. And believe me, Bruce Willis and Tommy Lee Jones, are going to be a little too old. They'll be on that non-existent Social Security system by then.

Like always, we have to save ourselves. And we have to start right now... "

Glenn Beck is absolutely right. Our political leaders are spending us into oblivion, and guess what? They plan to raise our taxes exponentially so they can waste even more.

One of my personal heroes, Winston Churchill, once said that "for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."1 He was, of course, talking about the economic situation in Great Britain many decades ago. But his words have striking relevance to the United States today and to the scenario described by Glenn Beck on CNN. If you're like most Americans, you filed your income taxes this month. And as you realized just how much of your hard-earned money will go to support the bloated bureaucracy and to an ever growing catalog of entitlements, you may have felt as helpless as a man in a bucket trying to lift himself up--or a scientist watching an asteroid hurtling towards earth while the government leaders did nothing to prepare.

Last month, our Congress passed its proposed $3 trillion national budget for 2009.2 While the headlines of the day focused on the presidential race and the latest Hollywood starlet to enter rehab, the budget received surprisingly little attention. It has frightening implications for all of us.

Thanks to the efforts of liberals in the Senate and the House, you will almost certainly be paying even more taxes next year than you did in 2008. Voices on the Left have long decried President Bush's tax cuts, which they claim favor the "wealthy." But by their reckoning, "wealthy" Americans include those who are barely making enough to scrape by. The Associated Press reported that the Senate's budget would "allow income tax rates to go up on individuals making as little as $31,850 and couples earning $63,700 or more."3 In other words, congressional liberals are coming after middle-class families with a vengeance.

The budget passed by the House of Representatives is even more damaging, as it effectively eliminates all of President Bush's tax cuts, including the 50 percent reduction that citizens in the bottom tax bracket received when he cut the rate from 15 percent to 10 percent. The House budget also ensures that the "marriage penalty" tax will return, saddling 50 million married couples with an average of an additional $3,000 in taxes for the coming year while those living together without benefit of marriage will pay less. How ridiculous is that? Even more outrageous is the fact that the per-child tax credit will be cut in half, from $1,000 down to $500.4 This is an outrageous assault on the well-being of the nation's families. It is shameful to require moms and dads to pay for useless pork and it should bring howls of protests down on the heads of our elected officials. Instead, liberals in Congress are proposing up to $683 billion in new taxes over the next five years.5 Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the House's budget for 2009 is not that it will increase taxes, but that it will weaken the financial stability of families.

What are elected leaders doing with this additional money? Let's consider a few facts based on past trends:

  • Each year since 1969, Congress has spent more money than it brought in. The Treasury Department has to borrow money to meet Congress's appropriations. The national debt is now more than $9,000,000,000,000 (that's $9 trillion) and growing. Even when government officials claim to have a surplus, they still spend more than they get. You and I pay enormous interest on that huge debt. In fiscal year 2006, the U.S. government spent $406 billion of our money on interest payments to the holders of the national debt.6 Alarmingly, we are heavily in debt to the Chinese government, which could "recall the loan" at will and throw the U.S. economy into a tailspin.
  • The complete Internal Revenue Code is more than 21 megabytes in length and contains more than 7.8 million words. If printed 60 lines to a page, it would fill almost 16,000 letter-size pages. In reality, the exact number of tax laws and codes cannot be ascertained due to constant changes.7
  • The IRS sends out 8 billion pages of forms and instructions each year. Laid end to end, they would circle the earth 28 times! American taxpayers spend $200 billion and 5.4 billion hours working to comply with federal tax regulations each year--more than it takes to produce every car, truck and van in the United States.8
  • The IRS employs 114,000 people--twice as many as the CIA and five times more than the FBI. A full 60 percent of taxpayers must hire a professional to get through their own returns. Taxes consume 38.2 percent of the average family's income--more than for food, clothing and shelter combined.9

It's not that the government doesn't have enough money--it's that it's mishandling money and spending the lion's share of it in the wrong places. Of prime concern is the issue of "earmarking," which refers to provisions in legislation that direct federal funds to be spent on the politician's pet projects, often in his or her home district. It is called "bringing home the bacon" and is one of the ways they stay in office. Republicans and Democrats alike have been guilty of abusing this practice for years now. At the 11th hour, earmarks are quietly slipped into massive spending bills by members of Congress. Do you remember the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" fiasco? Congress tried to fund a $230 million bridge that led to an Alaskan town of 50 people.10 The funding was ultimately axed--but only after public outrage demanded it.


A few of the saner voices in Congress have called for a serious reform of the earmark system, or even for the elimination of earmarks altogether. But alas, during its budget proceedings, the Senate failed to implement even a temporary ban on this wasteful and irresponsible practice. It's worth noting that the three front-running presidential contenders did, in fact, vote for the temporary ban, perhaps because they are in the spotlight and know how unpopular pork-barrel spending is with the American public. Nevertheless, for the majority of Senators in both parties, earmarks are a sacred cow. Or is that a cash cow? Whatever the case, the effort to end earmarks went down in flames in a 29-to-71 vote.11 Alas, the asteroid is heading our way!

Clearly, our elected representatives do not represent us when it comes to their spending habits. The much-publicized economic stimulus checks that are being mailed out this year will, for all intents and purposes, be sent straight back to the government to help cover the $683 billion tax increase. Meanwhile, hard-working families will continue struggling to make ends meet. Our leaders in Congress continue to play fast-and-loose with our tax dollars because they are so out of touch with what it means to live on a limited income. A recent study from the Center for Responsive Politics found that the median net worth of a U.S. senator is nearly $2 million, while the median net worth of a member of the House of Representatives is more than $600,000.12 Rush Limbaugh has called Congress our "House of Lords," and it's not difficult to see why. And yet these same leaders have the audacity to suggest that people earning $31,000 a year are somehow "rich" citizens who owe the government a larger proportion of their income. Liberals call it "paying your fair share." What this really means is that the big spenders in Washington want to build their version of a "bridge to nowhere."

There is much more that could be said on this point, but I do not have the space to expand on the topic here. The role of the government is discussed in greater detail in Focus on the Family's The Truth Project® DVD curriculum, which offers a biblical view of the government as part of a larger discussion of what constitutes a biblical worldview. In particular, Dr. Del Tackett argues that in modern times, the government has endeavored to take over the role of the church. We believe that God did not institute governments to "save" people, especially in a manner that intrudes on every citizen's God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For a further exploration of this idea, visit thetruthproject.org.

I hope my comments this month haven't left you feeling depressed. I also don't want you to be gripped by fear. You've heard about the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles in which many listeners mistook a dramatic presentation of H.G. Wells' book, War of the Worlds, for an actual news report about an alien invasion. The public panic that ensued was of historic proportions--at least until listeners realized that the radio program was fictitious. Although the economic crisis we are facing is not fiction, it is no cause for panic, especially for those of us who find our peace and security in Jesus Christ. We must not be fearful, but we do need to respond to this impending crisis with concern and a sense of urgency.

Despite our government's flaws, we are still blessed to live in a country in which our voices can be heard and in which we have the right to choose the men and women who will represent us in the corridors of power. Indeed, our elected leaders often "get away" with so much because the rest of us aren't paying attention or holding them accountable. If nothing changes, politicians will grab more and more of your family's income. I hope you'll contact your representatives in Washington and let them know what you think. Tell them respectfully but passionately when you think they've gone too far. After all, they work for you and at your pleasure. When you've had enough, elect other representatives who will be more responsive to the nation's well-being.

Thanks for your continued interest in the ministry of Focus on the Family. I hope you'll let us know how we can serve you and your loved ones in the days ahead.

God's blessings to you.

Sincerely,

James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
April 2008

1 Comments:

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