Archive for September, 2011

Government And Benevolence

Our constitutional form of government was well defined by our founders as a republic. James Madison, considered the father of our Constitution wrote the Federalists Papers to assist subsequent generations better understand this vital document. In Federalists Paper Number 45 he explained the intended limits of the Constitution as: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined….(to) be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.”

Our federal government in recent years has drifted far beyond these bounds and is engaging in conduct not authorized by the Constitution. There is no Constitutional basis for most of our entitlement programs. Yet, approximately two-thirds of our federal budget is spent on “objects of benevolence.”

Charity and benevolence are expedient and highly commendable. Worthy persons and causes are deserving of help.

Madison further stressed the intent of the Constitution when in 1794 it was proposed that Congress appropriate funds for French refugees from what is now Haiti, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which grants a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” He who in large part wrote the Constitution said there is no authority therein granted to benevolence. Again, I want to say benevolence is admirable but the government is not empowered to practice it.

At about the same time Representative William Giles of Virginia opposed a bill that would have provided relief for fire victims saying Congress had no right to “attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require.”

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Pennsylvania Representative Albert Gallatin, stated, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

Congressman Davy Crockett (yes that Davy) opposed a bill that would have provided support for the widow of a naval officer asserting, “I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of public money.

“I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more that the bill asks.”

At about the time the 13 states adopted their new Constitution, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish professor at the University of Edinborough, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of gover nment. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time the voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”

Violation of this Constitutional restraint helps explain our current federal financial dilemma.

Persistance – Walter Payton

Take a break from all the news and engage in a bit of introspection.

Some years ago a major computer company had as their promotion one single word “THINK.” With all that is swirling in our busy worlds the concept of taking time out to think is challenged. This is an encouragement to call a personal time out and evaluate your life and where it is headed. Face reality if it is pleasant or painful. Be realistic as you engage in self-analysis.

“Grow not weary in well doing” is an exhortation which if followed will result in a productive life.

Here is a question for you to get alone and answer: “For what do you want to be remembered?”

Once you have your answer dedicate yourself to becoming the person who embodies that ideal.

You can be assured there will be obstacles to becoming that person. Overcoming those obstacles will help you become that person.

Walter Payton was an outstanding running back for the Chicago Bears. Trudy and I had breakfast with Walter. Sitting there two thoughts came to mind almost simultaneously: “Here is a man who gained nearly nine miles as a running back in the NFL —- and he did it with someone knocking him down every 4.6 yards.”

On any one of those tackles he could have quit. Getting up and continuing is what made Payton great.

Don’t get hung up on where you are, but on where you want to go. Introspection is the starting point, not the terminal. Envision the potential you and realistically what you can do to become that person.

I love Cajun humor because Cajuns are among the few people who enjoy telling good stories on themselves and can actually laugh at themselves. That is a lost art. Against that background I share that Brossette (isn’t it good to hear a Cajun name other that Boudreaux) and Saucier were sitting at the bus stop when a truck load of rolled up sod went by. Brossette said to Saucier, “Das what I gonna do when I win de loddry.” “What ju gonna do when you win the loddry?, ” ask Saucier. Replied Brossette, “Send the lawn out to have it mowed.”

The moral of that story is don’t dream the unrealistic. In challenging yourself be ambitious but practical. Consider the ultimate you as represented by an epitaph on your tombstone. Then set some incremental goals to reach in order to become that person. Aspire to live up to your optimum. Write it down. Bringing a bit of realty into personal planning is Parker J. Palmer, co-founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal, who wrote, “Each of us is a master at something, a part of becoming fully alive is to discover and develop our birthright competence.”

As you consider your competence there are secular essentials to be considered and materialistic reality to be faced. We live in a real world. However, preoccupation with such issues can cause a person to overlook the fact there is a spiritual component to life. When infused into life it can enhance and enable all other aspects.

Oh, back to not growing weary in well doing. That Bible fact concludes, “in due time you shall reap.” Get ready for the harvest “in due time.”

The Government And Prayer

Texas Governor Rick Perry called for August 6, 2011 to be a Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God’s guidance and wisdom in addressing the issues facing our communities, states, and nation. It raised a protest. In part his proclamation said:

“Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting.” He continued, “I urge all Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities, and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force.”

In an effort to insure no good deed goes unpunished, the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit challenging the governor’s proclamation.
Consider these proclamations by his predecessors.

“WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…..’”

George Washington, First President of the United States in a National Declaration November 3, 1789.

“I have therefore thought it fit to recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens…offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies….”

John Adams, Second President of the United States in a National Declaration on March 23, 1789.

“Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses, have signified a request, that a day may be recommended, to be observed by the People of the Unit ed Sates in a National Day of Humiliation, and Prayer….”

James Madison, Fourth President of the United States in a National Declaration on July 9, 1812.

“It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the THIRTEENTH day of DECEMBER next, to be religiously observed as a day of THANKSGIVING and PRAYER; that all the people may assemble on that day with grateful hearts to celebrate the praises of our glorious Benefactor, to confess our manifold sins….” Thomas McKean, President of Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, November 26, 1781.

The Founding Fathers were so emphatic in their belief that prayer was to be an integral part of daily public life and public service that by 1815 they had called the people to prayer 1,400 times! It is interesting to note originally Congress considered it was such a lawful and efficacious use of time they began every session with two continuous hours of prayer.

Could it be that is what is missing in W ashington today?

At a time when our government is allowing Muslims to set aside daily time for prayer in our institutions let’s not try to keep Christians and Jews from praying publicly.

The Economy

Fiscally and otherwise our beloved nation is in a mess. If we ever become resolute enough to try to get out of it there will be a bigger mess.

Financially the only way out is to cut federal spending. In doing so sooner or later entitlements must be cut. That sounds good until it is realized every government program has a constituency. Everyone wants cuts, but not to their area of interest. When all those constituents are combined there is a wall of opposition to cutting. In countries and areas of our country where cuts have been made people have flooded the streets in protest.

Puerto Rico is an example of the fact government can be brought under control. The current administration has made cuts and is bringing government spending under restraint. For example there was one department with 250 employees responsible for processing liquor licenses. The program was changed and now one persons handles all applications mostly by the Internet. That is good. However, t here are 249 unemployed who don’t think it was such a good idea.

As example think of discontinuing our Department of Education. That would mean a savings of millions, perhaps billions of dollars. Millions of citizens would celebrate. The employees put out of work would not be among the celebrants.

Cut enough programs that are not constitutionally authorized and the number of offended constituencies would form a vast army capable of a colossal protest.
Nationally we have a bigger challenge coming than we have known in decades.

A way of minimizing the reaction would be to do it like the little boy who cut off his dog’s tail an inch at the time so it wouldn’t hurt as bad.Programs would have to be cut over a period of time to avoid so many constituent groups merging in massive protests.

If we don’t bring our spending binge under control even greater dangers loom. There simply won’t be enough money to fund the unconstitutional entitlement programs and the beneficiaries would potentially demand “their money.” Again massive protests would result. Therefore, just going on like we are going until our economy implodes won’t work.

The situation is so grave even Congressman Charlie Rangel asked: “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD).

Jesus would doubtless subscribe to the basic stated in Deuteronomy 15:6: “…you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow….” That is a starting point. Jesus spoke generally about individual values and not government policies.

Summarily He taught us to live within our means. That would be a good government policy also.

In a difficult time a friend said, “Please pray about th is.” The reply was, “Is it that serious?” Unashamedly I ask you to please pray about this. It is that serious. Eight out of every ten Americans say they sometimes pray. If you are one of the eight please pray for America.

As with individuals so with governments:

Today’s Athletes

The American Football Association Foundation recently conducted a survey of NCAA football coaches as to what social issues they need help with as coaches. Ohio State, LSU, Miami, and North Carolina are but a few schools indicating help is needed. Four primary areas were identified. In order they are:

How to discipline today’s athletes. Often athletics is the only area of discipline in the life of some athletes. Even that breaks down off the field. Many of today’s athletes lack a father figure in their past. The coach becomes somewhat of a surrogate father.

Athletes need to be taught respect for authority, manners, and inter-personal skill. In general discipline is needed regarding respect in all areas of life not just sports. Often property rights are unknown.

Self-discipline is lacking. This explains why so many athletes playing for coaches who are really trying to teach them more than a sport appear to fail. It is the athlete who fails him or herself and mak es the coach look bad in spite of all of his or her efforts.

An expectation of entitlement is a second factor. Athletes feel entitled to perks, pluses, and praise. Most athletes developed in youth if not juvenile programs where they were rewarded regardless. Kid’s ask, “If I come to practice will I get ice cream,?” or “Do we get a trophy for being on the team?”

In college they feel entitled to special favors, recognition, and rewards. They rather expect boosters to covertly reward them. Just being able to participate isn’t gratification enough. This caries over in all of life for them. It is also a trait of non-athletes.

Our government and society in general trains youth to expect entitlements. A loving parent often gives a child an allowance. Ask the child why he or she gets an allowance. You will get an informed answer such as because I am a member of the family, or other kids get one. Instead of an allowance make a list of things needing to be done and the m onetary reward for each. Let them grow with a sense of earning what they get.

The third area in which help is felt to be needed is how to help athletes deal with drugs. Ten years ago this was the number one need. It is still a major need. The lack of self-discipline complicates this issue. The positive results are thought to be worth the risk. “Positive” results are they develop muscle mass or they make you feel good. They fail to realize the negative consequences of drug use which are many.

The fourth factor is abuse. Parents’ or guardians’ physical and/or verbal abuse is extensive. I worked with a group of college students this summer at a time they felt freedom to be transparent. It was a catharsis for many. The percentage of them having suffered abuse was astounding. Sexual abuse was prevalent. Relatives were often involved. All the victims spoke of feeling dirty, unworthy, devalued, and inferior. We were able to work through some of the issues for some and hel p restore self-esteem.

Coaches deal daily with these issues. If parents dealt with them more constructively coaches would not have to be surrogate parents.