[This is the final installment in a 5 part series]
Abject Moral Decay
[ From: The Stalwart Enterprise. Author: Phil Zieber] Of all the reasons that I’ve cited for the demise of American civilization, this will be the one that gets the most mail. It is THE subject – that of which we dare not speak. It conjures truths about us we cannot defend, challenges our id and ego, and if faced squarely, changes the personal image we have worked so hard to build. We dodge questions of morality by indignant professions that it’s nobody’s individual right to judge; but I believe that misses the point. Morality is a byproduct of how we judge ourselves, and the standards that we keep. It is the abstract essence of how we have dealt with hard choices, and sometimes, the personalization of man vs. himself.
It has long been touted that the fall of the Roman Empire had much to do with declining moral paradigms. When a society loses social discipline and begins to rationalize transgressions of valid archetypes as “the new normal,” it foretells the corrosion of its structure. Soon, most any law is challengeable or dispensable, based on this or that collective opinion, and the ability to govern by reasonable intent is upended. When nothing is sacred, a sort of malleable public opinion becomes fertile opportunity for hostile, political confederacies to elicit the collapse of society for the advance of some “new” ideal. (Sound at all familiar?)
Our story from the beginning, and the ultimate tribute to our success as a nation, held that America was the moral leader of the world. Alexis De Tocqueville, after observing our new nation, spoke and wrote widely of our national propensity for kindness and morality. While cultures in Europe slowly turned their backs on religion and sensible propriety, and Asian cultures spoke of virtue yet practiced anything but, the United States was the last civilization on earth with a demonstrated code of ethics. Although we have never been perfect, our country once bore the pain of our trespasses in virtually every household, with an inner resolve to do what was good and just. We no longer carry that mantle.
There is a “Me” sentiment out there that has gone pervasive. No more of God and Country. Calculations are developed, alliances and allegiances formed, relationships and marriages fostered, careers and contracts oriented, based solely on a “what-can-you-do-for-me?” expectation. Yes, the new normal is all about one person, and the rest of us can go to hell.
We are not the nation we were at our founding, nor are we that same caliber of people. Our legacy will be the creation of phrases like, “moral relativism,” and, “social justice,” yet we know little about true morality or justice. Character traits that were once honored are now held in humorous contempt and their antithesis, the preferred alternative. We have become a people who know less who they are and more of how much they WANT.
Greed, power-lust, vacant national standards, economic absurdity and anemic moral principles are now our code of conduct. Instead of fleeing these aberrations we have embraced them. If we stand a chance of preventing this tragedy, the decline and fall of the United States of America, we must turn against all of this. Unfortunately, that is now counter to our collective nature.
(From: The Stalwart Enterprise. Author: Phil Zieber) For those unfamiliar with the adage: A frog and a scorpion are at a river’s edge and want to get to the other side. The scorpion, recognizing his dilemma, entreats the frog to allow him to ride upon the frog’s back because he cannot swim. The frog says, “I can’t agree to that. You’re a scorpion and will surely sting me as I swim; and then I will drown.” But the scorpion reasons that it would be ridiculous for him to sting the frog because, in this case, they would both drown. After some chiding, the frog relents and the two begin their voyage across the river. About midway, the scorpion stings the frog and before they both descend the frog pleads, “You said you wouldn’t sting me?” To which the scorpion replies, “But, I’m a scorpion. It’s who I am.”
There are those who believe that fully implemented Obamacare will bring about a renaissance in American healthcare; it will be somehow more accessible, more humane and better for all concerned. As the components of this impending mandate reveal themselves with time, the American public is about to discover what a nefarious usurpation of power they have agreed to, and what a tragic mess it will make of the most envied healthcare product in the world.
According to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Attending Physician at NYU and Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, we’ve only seen subtle changes thus far, but very soon (strategically delayed until post 2012 Presidential election cycle) many of us are about to get a stark lesson in indirect taxation.
By 2014, according to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the states will be mandated to set up a marketplace where people can purchase government approved healthcare plans. These state exchanges will likely offer only three choices, a bronze, silver and gold plan, but the difference will not be in the thoroughness of coverage provided. The extent of care will be the same among the three, but a bronze plan will have a higher co-pay and higher out-of-pocket cost to the consumer, thus a gold plan will be lower on co-pay and lower on the out-of-pocket costs.
According to Gottlieb, to assist in the purchase of these plans, the government will provide a consumer subsidy based on a person’s income (Here we go.). If you have a family of four and make about $40,000 a year, you’ll receive $12,000 toward the purchase of healthcare that costs roughly $14,500 in the state exchanges (state costs will vary due to population and demographics). The catch is, that above an income level of $60,000 per year, the subsidy payment begins to drop rather dramatically. In excess of $90,000, there will be NO subsidy and the consumer will pay for mandated healthcare outright. For those who were once covered by employer sponsored health plans, and perhaps paid a portion with pre-tax earnings, many will find themselves paying for new health plans, with after-tax earnings, completely unsubsidized. How about a $1000 dollar a month, veritable tax increase to make you appreciate “hope and change?”
Where quality is concerned, Gottlieb contends that reimbursement rates for physicians will settle at or below current Medicaid levels which may degrade services and availability. Doctors will have a financial incentive to economize care for certain conditions because of minimal compensation. Age marks instituted by bureaucrats may make early testing for certain conditions like prostate cancer or alzheimers unqualified for compensation, and thus the cost burden will fall entirely upon the consumer. This is a good deal for whom?
Obamacare is the perfect disguise for left-wing designs on power, wealth redistribution and personal liberty. We stand at the river’s edge about to take on hazardous cargo. Consumer beware — It’s who they are.
Turning Away From Capitalism
[This is Part 4 of a 5 Part Series.]
(From: The Stalwart Enterprise. Author: Phil Zieber) There is nothing more inexorably wrapped in the fabric of the American Dream than vigorous capitalism. It is the only economic system that esteems the advancement of the individual and, therefore, the only fiscal policy that can be paired with a free society; to the exclusion of all others. You may favor socialism, but, ultimately, socialists are economic slaves to the State and not hardly free. You may lean communist, sold on recycled pledges of social utopia, but those of us with a little gray in our hair remember watching those who braved salivating dogs, machine-gunners, barbed wire and mine fields to escape it. We know, all too well, that communism becomes totalitarian almost overnight. It’s simply axiomatic; if an organized society is to be free, it must be capitalist.
The premise behind W. Cleon Skousen’s bestseller “The 5000 Year Leap” is that it took the advent of American Capitalism to significantly alter and advance human destiny. Consider that jealous protection of knowledge, wealth and power by overbearing bureaucracies hindered the development of civilization for thousands of years prior to our founding. Before the establishment of a nation where people were free to pursue their own happiness, man still warmed himself by an open fire, lit the darkness by naked flame, wrote with parchment and quill, and travelled by domesticated beast. Two hundred twenty-three years since the Constitutional Convention and the world has brought to market technological wonders like the personal computer, human heart transplantation and manned spaceflight. In essence the sum of our achievements since mankind was introduced to personal freedom constitutes (roughly) a 5000 year leap of technological advancements. Every personal opportunity, amenity and convenience can be linked to the existence of the free market and capitalism.
Somehow, we’ve lost our appreciation for any of this; for the effort it takes to succeed; the sacrifice; the risk; the challenge. This could be due, in large part, because most of us don’t endeavor to take risks anymore. In the 1860’s, fully half of the American workforce was self-employed. We knew what it meant to build a life without a safety net. We were intrepid, self-inspired and competent. Our current self-employment rate is roughly 7%, and with that conversion has gone our self-reliance, and our national pride.
Americans have lost the ability to mind their own business. We now disdain success and achievement as if it were a public offense. Right now, frothing, clueless pawns of hostile organizations are camped in the streets of most every major city, defecating in alleys and preaching to the rest of us about being socially unaware. We set our eyes on somebody else’s income and prejudicially evaluate their right to it, as if WE had any moral claim to take it. We imply that a person should be LIMITED as to how much income one can make, and then turn the rest over to a government who squanders money without blinking. We have strayed so far from the original precepts of free-market capitalism that the example we have left is unrecognizable and nearly indefensible.
If the social-cryers and union soldiers succeed in collapsing our economy and institute some form of ready-made government “change” (Read: Communism under some other name), we will surely cease to be free and we will no longer be the United States of America.
Abandoned National Identity
( From: The Stalwart Enterprise. Author: Phil Zieber ) Once upon a time we knew who we were. That is not to say we have EVER been altogether alike, but we, as Americans, once shared a national identity that was generally cohesive and discernible to the rest of the world. At one time we held independence in high esteem, we spoke of liberty as if it was ours to own, and throughout the rest of the planet when people thought of freedom, they thought of America. These days we can’t get two people in any crowd to agree on what we really stand for. We seem to have lost our collective identity and I’m not sure, as of late, if we’ll ever get it back.
In the last hundred years we have grown apathetic to veritably every structural pillar of our society, presiding over the corrosion of the things that once made us exemplary. We have allowed radical academics and a legion of useful idiots to obfuscate our founding documents, our traditions, and the essence of our history, to the point where clarity about original intent has become, not a matter of inheritance, but an issue of subjective interpretation.
We can’t look at the phrase, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof …” and project the difference between that and a high school football team saying a pre-game prayer. We can’t abide by enhanced interrogation techniques on captured terrorists, nor support their indefinite incarceration, but we can do our damnedest to wither away the Constitutional right of our citizens to bear arms for their own protection. We consider it enlightened to turn the wholesale slaughter of millions of unborn children into a cottage industry catering, mostly, to personal convenience, but feign outrage when a convicted cop-killer gets the needle after years of appeal.
There are several components that are working to obliterate any remaining vestige of American identity, and we can’t agree on most them.
Here are only a few: Sanctioned (via government disregard of established law), unlawful immigration occasions a farcical interpretation of the U.S. Code by citizen and alien, alike. Indulgent multi-culturalism, in many cases, supersedes foundational allegiance to the United States. Class warfare, exhilarated by proponents of adversarial cultures (i.e. communists, socialists, islamists, anarchists), turns us against one another and renders success contemptible. Racial barkers keep the fires of antagonism lit making confluence and compromise difficult, if not impossible. Men and women are vehement competitors in every arena, blurring important familial roles, boosting an abysmal divorce statistic, and impacting national birth rates.
The sum of our abandoned ideals has produced a country so divided, so culturally separated, so ideologically divergent, that we are literally tearing our nation apart from the inside. Lincoln once proclaimed that a fall from within would be the only mechanism by which our nation would reach its end. I’m pretty sure he had it right.
( Part II of a five part series. )
(From: TheStalwartEnterprise.com. Author: Phil Zieber) When our founders set the example, in the early years of the republic, serving one’s country was a considerable burden. It meant dedicating a particular portion of a person’s life, arranging to vacate one’s trade or business, tabling issues of family and farm; in essence, putting one’s life on hold. It was the personification of the word sacrifice. Servitude was the willful act of submission, of reverence, to a cause worthy of such an act.
Benjamin Franklin said of our early politicians: “They have no profitable appointments, but a mere payment of daily wages, such as are scarcely equivalent to their expenses; so that, having no chance for great places, and enormous salaries or pensions, as in some countries, there is no canvassing or bribing for elections.”
Franklin knew that when political ambition met with reliable financial advantage, there would be wide scale entrenchment and corruption. He, of course, was indisputably correct.
Money and autocratic power are the lures to political “service” in modern America. When our politicians make office they wade in an egomaniacal pool with dynastic names like: Kennedy, Bush and Clinton. They learn the rules of the game, not from the Constitution, but from the guardians of political coronation in the My-Distinguished-Colleague club. Soon the servant becomes a master, tending less to the will of the people and more to the machinations of party and personal philosophy. It is almost their goal to make government too big to be understood so that the prevailing sentiments among the electorate acquiesce to the notion that only our leaders know what’s best.
Joe Biden – 39 years in federal government; John Boehner – 21 years; Nancy Pelosi – 24 years; Harry Reid – 28 years; Mitch McConnell – 29 years; Ted Kennedy (deceased) – 46 years; Richard Lugar – 35 years; Patrick Leahy – 38 years, Daniel Inouye – 48 years…We have populated our legislative branch with people who haven’t seen a private job in their entire professional existence. This is not service, it’s homesteading.
There are several re-election campaigns tied up in just these examples, but if we were to contemplate the entire Congress, the level of time expended toward ensuring one more term would be stunning.
If these people have become good at anything it’s garnering position and power, and the chief weapon in their arsenal is, once again, the government entitlement program. They dispense these like an aerosol narcotic, and the American populace falls for it every time. You can mess with home and hearth, but keep your filthy hands off my food stamps, my extended unemployment, and my “free” healthcare (ad infinitum). When election time rolls around it is only the suggested threat of ending a particular spending program that brings ‘em to the polls like sheep. That’s not about building people up, it’s about keeping people down.
Politics has always been passionate; it has always been smash-mouth and confrontational. But what used to link the majority of political disparates was a common belief in the uniqueness of our country, its values and foundational precepts. Our representatives were sworn to the Constitution, they believed in it, and they were tethered to the concepts of liberty, opportunity, and freedom.
The politics of our day has become a war of annihilation between partisan tribes. Gone is any respect for the traditions and paradigms that produced this nation’s initial success. Today a sitting president surrounds himself with self-avowed Socialists and Communists, bent on steering us away from our Constitutional principles, and there is no outrage from the people. Nothing is more corrosive to the soul of a free society.
As a collective, it seems that we don’t WANT the country that we inherited. We want a country where the confiscation of wealth is deemed honorable, but success by risk and reward is ironically judged as greed. We want a society that rewards the unambitious for casting a single vote, but enslaves the productive for being too efficient. We want to live in the narcotic fantasy that an omnipotent government will dispense fairness like a commodity and never abuse its power, even though that has NEVER happened in the history of human civilization. If this is the course we settle on; if our founding means nothing to us – the nation will not survive.
[In the interest of making this article digestible, this will be the first of a 5 part series]
(From The Stalwart Enterprise. Author: Phil Zieber.) Don’t get me wrong – I love this country. It is the land of my birth; where I’ve studied, applied my vocation, raised a family, served, and where I will surely die. I think it is a nation worth preserving; worth restoring. But, within my chest beats the heart of a realist. I’m a man who’s had his ass kicked enough to know something about the calculation of odds. There seems to be a woeful misconception floating about that our country is incapable of failure. History, of course, is cluttered with the remnants of civilizations that thought they were immune to catastrophe. We’re not only capable of failure, but if nothing is done to reform these five items, we’re damned likely to witness it within our lifetime.
1. Massive; Increasing; Out-of-Control Debt-Spending: Debt is not an unusual component of government finance, but it shouldn’t take an MBA to identify that unrestrained and unsustainable expenditure, beyond what can reasonably be funded, is fiscal suicide. Our national debt will soon exceed our gross domestic product and hasn’t even begun to decelerate.
Politicians consider a reduction in the amount of increase, a spending cut (at least, that’s how they sell it to you). This wouldn’t pass for simply stupid in any household. Base-line budgeting (basing future funding on top of existing spending levels) is what authorizes a department head to spend the entirety of their budget, whether it is necessary or not, in order to ensure that next year’s allotment will be equal or greater. This very concept compels an expansion of government. It also makes certain that the time will soon arrive, when even if entire incomes were taxed, we could not support the federal budget.
Here’s the doom in all of this. For decades, our leaders have known of impending budget disaster and have ignored all warnings. They’ve created ceaseless programs, complete with lumbering, expensive bureaucracies, in order to secure political power and bait large blocks of enchanted voter-beneficiaries. Like crack-crazed lemmings, the American populace became dependent (as designed) on entitlements, and now we just can’t seem to live without them. It has become the glue that binds those who are easily lead to those who would subjugate them. Threaten this or that program with demise or budget curtailment, and you’ll have a zombie war of epic proportion, lead by omnipotent politicians that shriek about injustice.
All rationality has abated. We can’t reform the Social Security system, Illegal Immigration, Education; hell, even The National Endowment for the Arts or Public Television, because somebody might have to give up a free ride. In the epitome of denial we pile on new ventures with insatiable lust – Obamacare, government take-over/bailouts of private businesses, bottomless stimulus packages that produce nothing, as if an ascending 16 trillion dollar national debt didn’t exist.
The fact is, we’re not serious about correcting America’s fiscal problems. We pretend to care sometimes, but like a spendthrift wife, we have no honest intention of altering our behavior. This will simply break us and contribute immensely to the end of a society that once prospered. On our current path, assume a total systematic financial collapse in the not-too-distant future (al la, present day Greece). Given the government’s new-found propensity for taking things over, expect a socio-communist aftermath which will end the free market and American liberty along with it.
~to be continued~