The Elephant in the Living Room

I used to get frustrated with our political system, our political parties, our political process, even the individual politicians.  “What a mess!” I would say.  Then, to see if perhaps I was missing something, I made it my mission to get smart on the issues.  Initially that didn’t help, the more I discovered about the issues, the messier our political discourse seemed.  You see, I had yet to see the Elephant in the Living Room.

I would look at issues affecting our nation, I would see the common sense solution, and then I would wonder why our politicians couldn’t come together to implement the proper answer.  Politicians would push to lower income taxes – and it seemed some were always pushing to lower taxes, even when the economy was up and our debt monstrous, a time when we should pay our bills, these politicians would still be looking to cut taxes.  I would ask, “Why?  Do they really think that lowering taxes and going more in debt right now is the proper answer for us?”  It seemed like an honest question and a valid criticism at the time.   I would look into Keynesian Economics, listen to experts, and try to form a proper opinion.  “If anything, we need to raise income taxes and pay our bills at this juncture.  We can’t push this debt onto our children!” I would say… but I had yet to see the Elephant in the Living Room.

When Congress would argue over who should pay the brunt of our tax bill and many would argue for an elimination of tiered income tax and a shift to a flat or sales tax – I would ask, “What?  Do they really think that putting the same tax burden on everyone is good for us as a whole?  99%-1%, is that what they really think is the right answer for America?”  My heart was with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the plight of our hard-working and struggling Americans.  I didn’t realize that the 1%er’s heart was also with them, but that they had acknowledged that there was an Elephant in our Living Room.  Somehow, I still had yet to see the Elephant.

And, after the financial debacle of 2008 demonstrated that we obviously needed better regulation of our banking industry and Richard Cordray was thankfully selected to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – as politicians fought to prevent his appointment – I would ask “Why?  Do they really think that less government regulation of the banking industry is what is needed to prevent these bubbles?”  It made no sense to me – for I still hadn’t noticed the Elephant.  My fellow Americans, my fellow Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, I now see the Elephant in the Living Room… and now all of it, all of you, every single bit of it, makes perfect sense.  I understand the Truth:  We need to get rid of the Elephant, and then we can once again address our nation’s issues.

“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” – Thomas Jefferson

With crystal clear clarity, I now see not only where our nation is, but I see how we got here, I see what we must do to break free, and I see why we will wander around aimlessly until we do so.  I see why we used to be united as one country, and I see why we are bitterly divided today – I see the Elephant.  I realize what we did wrong, and I understand that today’s political result is simply a reaction to that erroneous heading.  We have discovered so many things:

– That Democracy, Liberalism, and Freedom of Religion are paramount to any society

– That our tax burden should be accorded as envisioned by our 16th Amendment

– That our Government has a duty to better regulate the banking industry, a lesson we have learned multiple times, particularly in 1907, 1929, late 1980s, and 2008

– That government regulations and policy should seek to promote a strong middle class and that a large wealth gap is not in our collective self-interest

But I also see the Elephant now, the place where we got it completely wrong, and I see why, without confronting this Elephant, none of our other issues can be effectively addressed.  You see, we once believed that government’s role to promote the general welfare should be limited to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Then we expanded government so as to play an active role in ensuring that our nation had no homeless, no poor, and no hungry – we decided to test the theory of “Limited Government” envisioned by our founders.

“A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.” – Thomas Jefferson

Now that I see the Elephant called Government Welfare, now that I understand that, in many ways, the political maneuvering is only about the Elephant, our entire political process takes form.  The drive to shift the tax burden away from our wealthy to a “fair” tax is a reaction from the workers who see their monies given to the non-workers.  The steadfast determination to prevent universal healthcare is a reaction from those who understand that government is already too involved and are fearful of more government intervention, even if this time it is in the right place.  The push to eliminate inheritance tax is a reaction by our successful to become their own stewards to help society, as they see the government is ineffective and bureaucratic.  The vast flows of money into our political process, the Tea Party’s insistence on keeping taxes low, the reluctance to balance the budget and “lock in” this wrong answer, the Occupy Wall Street’s reaction to the 1%ers, the filibusters, all of it, are simply reactions to the Elephant – they are what naturally occurs when our nation strays off track.

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill

We cannot attempt to compromise, debate, evaluate, criticize, or accommodate until we first acknowledge and address the Elephant in the Living Room.  The political stalemate, the unimaginable debt of 15 trillion dollars, the impending bankruptcy on the horizon – they are not the root cause of our problems, they are symptoms and reactions to it.  If We, as one People, are ever going to proceed on our proper course to prosperity, We must address the Elephant in the Living Room.  We must acknowledge and admit that Government Welfare is a philosophy destined for failure… and reject it summarily from our Vision.

“The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” – Margaret Thatcher

My fellow Americans, we must acknowledge this Truth and re-chart our course.  We were One nation under Franklin D. Roosevelt and FDR was the initiator of the “New Deal” – but I submit to you that FDR would never advocate our present heading.  His “New Deal” was meant to be a temporary heading change to get us through the Great Depression, not a permanent course to get us to our destiny.  His Vision for America was never this, I assure you.  If FDR had known his “New Deal” would usher in an “Unconditional War on Poverty,” would be the impetus for the creation of government programs intent on creating a “Great Society,” and if he could see the Elephant that is in our Living Room today, he would be leading the charge to kill the beast.

“It isn’t sufficient just to want – you’ve got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My fellow Americans, I believe it’s time to admit that we’ve taken a wrong turn.

“Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” – Thomas Jefferson

The “War on Poverty,” the experiment of government intervention to create a “Great Society” – these were noble and inspiring quests, and we were right to try them.  But the experiment of government intervention is just that, an experiment.  We aren’t supposed to blindly assume that, because we tried it, they must be sacred truths that are forever a part of our DNA.  Not even FDR, the initiator of the “New Deal,” had that in mind.

“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment… If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.” – Franklin D Roosevelt

I implore you America, for the sake of all of US, let us now examine the results.  We continually evaluate the results of our “War on Terror” and rightly question choices and directions to see if we are indeed marching toward our desired end state.  We look at the facts surrounding the “War on Drugs” including our enforcement methods, penalties, drug usage numbers, monies to cartels, monies spent on enforcement – all in an effort to see if we are achieving our goals.  We are able to see through labels like the “Patriot Act” and “Jobs Bill” and instead, examine the legislation on its merit.  Can we now do the same of our “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” experiments?

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

For too long now, our political discourse has discouraged the honest evaluation of our system.  Instead of answering questions and engaging in an honest search for the Truth, we put words in the questioners’ mouths, make assumptions about what they believe, call them names for “believing” the assumptions we made about them, and move on to the next topic.  The advocates for a policy shout out the answer, say “yes it’s true,” call the nay-sayers names like bigot, racist, or idiot, and then tell them to tune into the other network.  But my fellow Americans, this will never get us to our rightful destiny.  For us to move forward, we must not label those who question our immigration policies as “racists,” those who question whether or not we should have higher tax rates on wealthier Americans as “class warriors,” those who want to alter the pledge of allegiance as “Godless,” nor those who question government intervention into welfare programs as “heartless.”  This kind of labeling is counterproductive and insulting, not to mention often times flat out wrong about the individuals posing the questions.  We must pursue the Truth.

“I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.” – Thomas Jefferson

So now let us ask ourselves, has it turned out right or do we need to change course?  It’s been more than 40 years that we have been engaged in our “unconditional war on poverty,” and it is high time we reviewed our tactics.  With a debt of 15 trillion dollars, we owe it to ourselves and our children to ask, “How is it going?”  It’s time to put Government Welfare Programs – Social Security, Food Stamps, Section 8 Housing, Unemployment Insurance, etc. on the table, shine the light on their results, and knowing what we now know, honestly ask ourselves:  “In what environment does Man best excel?  Is it an environment where the person is forced to ask for help and a community responds?  Or is it an environment where the community is taxed and the recipient files with the government to receive his or her payment?”

“Take a method and try it.  If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My fellow Americans, I submit to you that Government Welfare Programs for able-bodied Americans are not in the best interest of our society and must be terminated.  I am not heartless, nor does such an opinion mean I advocate the Republican platform – I do not.  It is simply the discovery that is revealed as I take an honest assessment of the last 40 years’ “War on Poverty.”  Please do not label me and shut down at this point, we need to be better than that.  Like you, I believe we need to help those in our community who are struggling, so let me make a case without immediately labeling me as some rich guy who doesn’t care about our less fortunate, for that would be untrue.  I work every day just to pay my bills, and I do care about those less fortunate than me.  I just whole-heartedly believe that America is on the wrong course in her efforts to “help” them.  I believe our refusal to talk about this, to even acknowledge this Elephant in the Living Room, is creating disastrous ripple effects throughout our society.  I believe we need to stop the experiment, we need to see the Elephant for what it is, so that we can once again resume our journey of discovering what policies truly create the “Great Society” we all seek.

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The fact is that poverty rates have not gone down as a result of our “War on Poverty.”  Poverty rates in 2007, at our “low” just prior to our economic collapse, were 12.5% – whereas 30 years earlier they were 11.6% (  This is not some fluke 30 year look back – the answer of “no benefit” is consistent as you examine the data.  There was an initial decrease in poverty rates as the Civil Rights Movement finally gave us equal rights and opportunities, and the Labor Movement gave us better pay and managed to shrink our vast wealth gap.  These were great advances to be sure, but these were, and still are, our only advances toward eliminating poverty.

The empiric result of all of our government programs, the spoils of our “War on Poverty,” is not a decrease in poverty at all.  If anything, the result is an increase of it.  Please, those of you who argue that government welfare programs are good additions to our country’s Vision, present me the metric you use to reach your conclusion.  Defend your position with something other than “I care about the less fortunate” because so do I, and I think we help them much better through private charities, non-profit organizations, and community outreach programs.  I don’t think government welfare programs are helping us – quite the inverse, they are slowly and systematically destroying us.

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” – Thomas Jefferson

Tell me how many Americans died of hunger in 1963, before our “War on Poverty” began, and I will tell you how many Americans who are currently enrolled in our food stamp program died this year due to diabetes and obesity.  Please America, I implore you, ask yourself the honest question, “Are our government programs accomplishing their intended purpose?”  There is no shame in answering a question truthfully.

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” – Abraham Lincoln

My fellow Americans, if we can but see and acknowledge this Truth, if we can kill the Elephant in our Living Room, we can once again set course for our destiny.  We can set out to limit our government to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – Healthcare, Military, and Education.  If we can but remove Government Welfare Programs from our Vision, I believe we can also find unity in raising income taxes to balance the budget, implementing universal Healthcare for all citizens, and improving our Education system for our children.  If we can learn to, once again, serve our needy at the local level (where they are best served) by non-profit organizations (who best serve them), we can begin to heal as a society.  We can once again embrace a common vision for a better America and a better World.

Yours in Faith.