Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cutting the Federal Government Down to Size

Our federal government has continuously expanded since its inception under the governance of each and every political party.  It has now gotten to be so bloated as to contain fifteen separate departments, only twelve of which are actually needed to carry out its constitutionally delineated duties, in my estimation. 

Within those twelve departments are nestled 282 subordinate agencies.  Of those 282 agencies, over 100 of those could be cut resulting in a far greater positive rather than negative net impact to our country and its governance. 

Just the cost savings alone by slashing the amount of federal employees being paid through our federal tax dollars would be a significant step in the right direction, not to mention the huge savings our country and the economy would see by severely pruning the bureaucracy, red tape, redundantly functioned agencies, and inefficiencies that we could correct or alleviate by doing so. 

Indeed, three departments, all created within the last 50 years, could be administered, where required, far more efficiently on the state level. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was elevated to cabinet level in 1965, is the first department that can be eliminated.  This department’s elevation was a result of the Johnson administration’s attempt to fight the war on poverty and to stem the racial discrimination that was often present in obtaining housing.  Well, we have seemingly long since lost that war on poverty despite all of those well-meaning intentions.  The need for this behemoth and its thirteen subordinate agencies have not only NOT helped solve the problem of the poor in regards to their housing needs but have actually exacerbated it in many ways.  Where the various needs still exists for the functions of this department’s administration, they can be far more efficiently and effectively carried out on the state level by those states that deem it necessary.

The Department of Energy, which was created in 1977 under the Carter administration, had the intended purpose of helping curtail our national dependency on foreign sources of energy; oil, in other words.  Thirty-four years later we can all plainly see the results of this Department’s abject failure in weaning us off of these international sources of oil, while the only curtailment seems to have occurred in the development and exploitation of our own domestic sources of energy.  

Where needed, the functions of this department can also be rolled back to the state level.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission can be reinstituted under the command of the United States Navy, where it was originally developed and run with an excellent safety record under Admiral Rickover.

Next, The Department of Education has also proven to be less than stellar in improving the educational results of our nation’s children.  One-size-fits-all programs, like the No Child Left Behind Act, have shown to be ineffectual in improving the reading, math, and science skills of our nation’s students.  Again, these functions are all much better served on the state level where they can far better administer to the needs of individual school districts in a much more efficient and timely manner than can the huge and slowly responding federal bureaucracy of the Department of Education.

Many of the sub-agencies that fall under these fifteen federal departments can also be consolidated into fewer agencies or eliminated as un-necessary, redundant, or not fulfilling constitutional mandates accordingly.  Over a third of the 282 agencies meet this criteria, again in my estimation.

I realize that the hypothetical cutting of federal departments and agencies is not politically viable and will never happen, particularly with the big government Republicans and the progressive Democrats still wielding far too much power in congress, but when the federal government is the nation’s largest employer, even when not counting the military, then we have grown far too big in the number of people necessary to administer the constitutional functions of our federal government. 

Something needs to be done, in addition to some austerity cuts in spending, if we are to pull our nation back from the very brink of insolvency.  These cuts and the passing of a constitutional balanced budget amendment would go a long way towards rescuing us from that increasingly certain demise that we will otherwise encounter very shortly.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Five Things I Love About Christ: An Easter Meme

Matt over at the excellent site, St. Blogustine, has tagged me with a challenge that I will gladly accept.  He was similarly tagged with this “Lenten meme” which will hopefully now become an Easter meme for those that choose to participate.  The rules for this tagging are as follows:  Those tagged will share five reasons why they love Jesus or five things they love about Him.  Those tagged will then tag five other bloggers. Further, those tagged will provide a link in the comments section here with their name so that others can read them.

Here are my list of five reasons of why I love Christ:

1.)    Throughout history most religions’ gods required sacrifice on behalf of the worshiper before a quid pro quo was seemingly returned by the deity.  With Christ, He already made the glorious and terrible sacrifice for me.  I only need to acknowledge and accept His sacrifice for my sins to be forgiven in His Divine Mercy.  Christ is a God that has chosen to love a sinner like me, before I ever even knew Him.

2.)    Since my coming to Christ, my awe and sense of wonder with God’s creation and my fellow man, who are all children of God whether they acknowledge him or not, has been magnified from the tiniest of embers to a steady burning conflagration.  Indeed, through my studies of Christ and science, I continue to see myriads of places where the two are inextricably intertwined, which serves to astound me in reverence for Him and the glory of His ways all the more.

3.)    Though I often fall far short of doing my Lord’s will, being the indefatigable sinner that I seem to be, He is always there to accept me back into His grace with His forgiveness and love.

4.)    My desire to attempt to live as my Lord wills me to do has made me far less selfish and far more understanding and compassionate towards my fellow brothers and sisters.  When I follow Christ’s commandment to love my God with all of my heart and soul and love my neighbor as myself, I feel far more of a sense of purpose and profound meaning in my life and am so often rewarded with His love and grace accordingly.

5.)    I love Christ because he is not a remote and removed God but rather He is a loving God who cares and is the best part of my daily life.  My love and worship of him brings me joy and contentment.  Not unlike the woman at the well having drunk of the living water, my thirst has been forever quenched.  Not unlike the man born blind, my faith in Christ has opened my eyes with new sight.  And not unlike Lazarus, my Lord has restored my life.  While years ago I was dead and living an empty and meaningless existence for only myself, I now have His life within me, particularly as I partake of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and I have been greatly blessed daily by God because of this.

The difficult part of this meme for me was to list five bloggers that acknowledge Christ as God, let alone actually love him.  This is not meant as a slight against any of my fellow blog friends that occasionally frequent my site, but rather only an observation.  That being said, I will tag four wonderful folks that would likely continue this meme, and the one remaining individual will have to be done via private email.

My tagged five are:


May God bless you all with a joyous Easter!

Good Friday: He Makes All Things New Again

As we enter into Good Friday and the most solemn day of the year for most Christians, I wanted to share this beautiful and haunting music video.  It is sung by two of my favorite artists, Brad Paisley and Sara Evans, and they do a masterful job.  The video itself contains excerpts mainly from the Passion of the Christ film.  Please be warned that the film and the clip can be difficult to watch in parts for many folks due to the realistic and graphic portrayal of the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior.

Nevertheless, as Pope John Paul II was reported as having said upon seeing a private screening of the film upon its release, "It is as it was." 

Blessed be God forever!  Amen!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Reflections on Holy Thursday

As we enter into the Triduum of Holy Week today and celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass where Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist during his last supper with his disciples, I am overwhelmed with sorrow and joy.  The Paschal Mystery remains ever so to me.  The more I study and the more I learn about my Lord , the more unfathomable it becomes to me that my God suffered, died, and was buried so that my sins might be forgiven, despite my dreadful unworthiness.  This is why I choose to love the God who would love someone like me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Council of Nicaea and the Formation of the Nicene Creed

In June of the year 325 A.D. a council was called in the city of Nicaea for the delegates of the relatively new Christian religion to codify in writing the core dogmatic tenets of the Christian faith.  The need for this was due to an arising controversy created by Arius, a Libyan preacher, who had declared that Christ was indeed divine, but that God had actually created him and as such “there was when he was not”. 

This constituted Jesus as being less than the Father and therefore was contradictory to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  As the Arian teaching was becoming more wide-spread, the early church formed the council of Nicaea in order to emphatically state what constituted actual doctrines of the Christian faith as passed down through Holy tradition and teachings that originated from Christ himself and his apostles.

The result of this council that was convened to rebuke these heretical teachings was the Nicene Creed.  It is a profession of faith that is used to this very day in the Roman Catholic Church Masses on Sundays and various solemnities.  Further, this ancient statement of faith is also recognized as expressing the core doctrine and dogmas of not only the Catholic faith, but also that of the Lutheran, Anglican, and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches. 

Note that within the Nicene Creed is the phrase, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.”  Also note that the word “catholic” is not capitalized here.  This is because it is not referring to the specific denomination of Catholicism, but rather refers to the meaning of universalism that the word originally denoted, as the catholic church was indeed the true universal Christian Church and remained the only one up until the 16th Century.  It was at that time that Martin Luther began the Protestant reformation which ultimately resulted in the removal of seven of the books from the canon of the Bible, hence the differences between the original catholic Bible and those used by Protestant denominations to this day.

Following is the current translation of the Nicene Creed from the Catholic Missal used in Masses today:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

America Wins With The Congressional Budget Compromise

With less than two hours to go before an April 8th midnight deadline, congress finally was able to reach an agreement on the budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.  The Senate approved the stopgap measure by 11:20 last night and the House followed suit after midnight.  A memo was thus released saying that government operations were to continue normally and that a shut down had indeed been averted.

The money for funding the government for all of 2011 thus far has been accomplished by a series of continuing resolutions passed by congress as the Democratically-controlled House and Senate failed to pass a federal budget for 2011 last year, as per their constitutional obligations.  It has been reasonably speculated that a budget was not passed then because of the seeming inability of Democrats to refrain from placing excessive spending riders into the budget, and the corresponding political hay that the Republicans would make of their imprudence during the run-up to the 2010 mid-term elections last year.  Evidently, the Democrats might as well have gone for broke with the pork laden budget they wanted, as they lost in near historic levels in the House and also nearly gave up control of the Senate to boot due to angry voter turn-out that was captured with the rise of the Tea Party.

In the compromise reached last night between Speaker John Boehner’s House of Representatives and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s senate, $38 Billion will be cut from the remaining expenditures from the 2011 budget.  This is significantly less than the original $61 Billion wanted by the G.O.P. members of congress, but was substantially more than the original $6 Billion offered by Democrats.

In some of the major sticking points with the Democrats, the House Republicans had attached two additional riders to the budget bill calling for the elimination of certain Environmental Protection Agency powers regarding  the Clean Air Act.  The Republican members also restructured a budget rider that rather than cut all federal funds for Planned Parenthood, would take the money given to it and other family planning organizations and give it to state health departments to spread at their discretion. Presumably, states controlled by Republican legislatures would choose not to give that money to Planned Parenthood, in order to reduce federal tax-payer dollars being spent on abortions.  This rider was summarily scrapped in the compromise with Harry Reid and the Democrats.

The Republicans were, however, able to get passed the restriction of Washington D.C. taxpayer monies to no longer be used for abortion services within the district.  Further, and more significantly, the Republicans in their compromise were able to secure a promise from Harry Reid to allow and bring up a vote in the senate for the two failed riders to defund Planned Parenthood of federal tax payer dollars altogether, and to repeal funding for the inaccurately named Affordable Health Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.  These two items are huge, as Harry Reid had refused to even allow a vote in the senate on these items for fear of possible passage by Republican Senators and some of their fellow  nervous Democrat colleagues previously.

The next two big showdowns will come when the debate begins in putting together the federal budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins this October 1st, and the federal debt limit which the government will reach this summer, if congress fails to act.  Representative Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican and Budget Committee chairman, unveiled his party’s 2012 budget that would cut $5.8 trillion over the next decade by reshaping popular programs like Medicare.  This is sure to cause a gargantuan fight with congressional Democrats who are loathe to reduce spending this much and are sure to demonize Republicans as wanting to hurt the poor and minorities with such “extreme” cuts, as Senator Chuck Schumer has already instructed Democrats to use such rhetoric.

All in all, this seems to be a net win for the Republicans and most importantly for Americans.  No longer is the debate in congress about how much to spend, but rather on how much spending needs to be cut.  The terms of the fight have changed and we are moving in the right direction finally.  As the brilliant freshman Florida Representative Alan West said in an interview this morning, “it takes five miles to turn an aircraft carrier”.  He is right, and while things are moving slower than many of us conservatives and libertarians would like, the ship of state is indeed finally making that turn to head in the right direction!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Eat The Rich!

So, in order to help the poor, we want to punish the evil rich according to our progressive brothers and sisters, correct?  Well, this fascinating video shows just how to go about doing that by paying our national budget for this year on the backs of the evil rich and those diabolical corporations.  It also explains the results of what we would have left in doing so after destroying  all of our Fortune 500 companies, all those making over $250,000 a year, taking all of their assets and then just barely being able to pay for our federal budget for one year.  (Oh yeah, that is after each and every American still has to contribute $40.00 each to the cause.)  Then what do we do to pay for the budget the following year after we have already destroyed all of the wealth in this nation from which to tax?