Category: Opinion

Opinion

SOTU: a welcome change, changes 2020 election set up (Opinion)

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address. As I read the transcript after the fact, I was shocked and surprised. I was shocked at how much cross party appeal there was and how much he applauded the work of not only his administration but also the work of Congress.

I know this is widely known, but it has to be said: Trump lied in his speech. Most of his lies were simply him making facts seem better than they were or something along similar lines. For example, Trump said that the American economy is considered “far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.” This is just downright false. The American economy only expanded by 3.5% in the third quarter of 2018. Latvia, Poland, India, and China all had higher economic growth than America. That is one example of many other lies.

However, as I finished reading the transcript of his speech, I couldn’t help but wonder where the normal Trump was. The words I read seemed, for the most part, to be more focused on bringing the country together. This was a drastic change in his normal divisive rhetoric. While there certainly were things I don’t necessarily support, his speech was a welcome change from his normal rhetoric.

In the days to come, I’m sure we will hear several politicians and political pundits give their takes on his speech. I’m sure more reports will come out about things he wasn’t fully truthful on. However, what we cannot forget moving forward is how he was asking for bipartisan efforts.

If Trump continues with this type of unifying rhetoric and he actually passes a lot of things he says he wants to that have wide cross-party appeal, meaning not the wall, then I think he could very easily be reelected in 2020. How he handles himself and his administration in the months to come and what the Mueller probe does or does not reveal will drastically shape this coming election. Until then, we cannot know how it will turn out.

Overall, his speech tonight was a welcome change. I hope he continues with this language, but I fear his twitter in the coming days will prove my hopes to be in vain. Not only do I hope that this language continues, but that he actually gets serious about working with Democrats to pass meaningful legislation that will help America.

I hope both parties can put aside their political blinders and work across the aisle. I continue to urge all Christians to pray for our leaders and that they ultimately will do the right thing for our nation.

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Opinion: It’s time to listen to one another

We are just coming out of the longest government shutdown in the history of our nation. We are already preparing for an election that is 21 months away. One need not look too far for hints of strong division already spewing from the candidates’ mouths. As of October 2018, 53 percent of Americans polled by the PEW Research center said it was “stressful and frustrating” to talk about politics with those who disagreed with them, which is up seven percent from March 2016. I’m not going to say Trump is the sole cause of all of this hate and division, but it would be hard to deny he is a factor.

It’s not hard to look at his twitter feed and see where he has been hateful and just downright rude. As I write this during the morning of the day of the State of the Union, Trump is already taking to twitter to bash Democrats and the media, two of his favorite targets. Hear me on this: Trump has the right to say these things, but we as Americans have an obligation and a duty to our great republic not to fall to his level. Especially those of us in the Church who have been called to something better than petty name calling and all of this hateful talk. It would be naive of me to say that I have been perfect at this. Those who know me know that I have been hateful and divisive with my own speech from time to time. However, lately it has been on my heart to change the words I use and exchange words of hate and divisiveness for love and unity. One of the key ways we all can become better at this is by listening to one another.

I’m talking to you, liberal, and to you, conservative. Instead of yelling at each other and saying that the other’s opinion shouldn’t be heard because you disagree or someone might be offended, why don’t you sit down and listen? You can order some pizza and peacefully discuss your opinion and honestly listen to each other. But don’t waste the opportunity. Earnestly try to understand where the other is coming from.

I’m talking to you, Christian, and to you, Muslim. You both have your own belief system. This is what we want in an open society like ours, but instead of bringing up various scriptures and doctrines to hurl back and forth at each other, why don’t you pull up a table next to the liberal and the conservative? Get yourself a slice of pizza, and civilly discuss your viewpoints and beliefs. I think you’ll learn more from each other than if you had been screaming back and forth for a couple of hours.

And, yes, I’m talking to you, President Trump, and I’m talking to you, everyone who disagrees with him. I personally see where you both come from (whether I agree or not with you is another matter). Are we hearing one another and debating or are we just sending angry tweets back and forth and screaming at each other without solving the problem? While you might need a slightly bigger table, pull up some chairs. Keep the pizza coming and LISTEN to each other. We cannot spend the next two years in the lead up to an important election in this state of disarray and division.

We cannot afford to spend anymore time running further away from each other. As Paul once wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Make every effort.

So, put away the executive orders for a second, lower the protest signs for just a little bit, and give one another a chance to present their arguments as to why they think what they are doing is right. Listen to each other and figure out how we, as the people and government of the United States of America, can live in peace and harmony with one another.

The time for this unnecessary violence, bigotry and division is over. It’s time to come together, everyone.

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Opinion: Christians should be advocates in government

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the 2018 midterm elections took place. At the end of the night, the Republicans maintained control of the Senate and the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.

While there are still a few races waiting to be called, it is clear that America will have a divided government. In the past when there has been a divided government, it has taken people on both sides of the aisle to compromise so that laws could get passed. Now many fear that in the current political climate politicians won’t work together.

Another thing Christians need to keep in mind is whether or not this government is going to be one that supports Christian ideals. To illustrate this point, I’ll use Deuteronomy 27:19 to compare and contrast a few Christian ideals with current politics.

Deuteronomy 27:19 says, “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”

So let’s start by talking about the sojourner. First, it’s probably going to be easier to talk about the sojourner in terms we use today. Let’s call them an “immigrant”. Second, when you say that, depending on your political leaning, you’re going to have two different reactions. However, we as Christians cannot ignore the teachings throughout the Bible that say to care for the immigrant. We have to care for them and we cannot care for them if we don’t let them into our country. The idea of building a wall along the border is idiotic. However, if you are a firm believer in the idea that we shouldn’t let immigrants into this country, then what can we do to help them? We cannot, as Christians, sit idly by and watch them be poor in their home countries and do nothing. We are called to be active in our faith and that means taking an active role in helping those that we can.

Now let’s talk about the fatherless, also known as the “orphan”. In modern political talk, this can transition to the discussion of welfare. Many Republicans want to cut welfare or put more regulations on it, while many Democrats want to expand it. Which of these two options sounds more like it “perverts the justice of the fatherless?” As Christians, we should try and support the fatherless as best we can, which also means we need to support governmental policies that help them.

Lastly, let’s talk about the widow. At the time Deuteronomy was written, widows couldn’t provide for themselves because women weren’t allowed to work or own land in most cases. In modern terms, this means that we need to support policies that help care for those who can’t provide for themselves. This means doing things that help those who are temporarily unemployed, the elderly, etc. Republicans often times want to cut spending in those areas.

Neither side is perfect. While Democrats typically are a little bit better at supporting policies that help the immigrant, the widowed, or the orphan as mentioned earlier, there are a lot of policies they do support that go against Christian ideals (e.g. their support of abortion or same sex marriage). However, one cannot be too quick to just say, “Well since Republicans are pro-life and anti-same sex marriage they’re the party I’ll support.” Republicans often want to cut programs, such as welfare or healthcare, that help the immigrant, the widow or the orphan. Neither party is perfect, but as Christians we must take an active role in our societies, which yes, does include our various governments, and try to use them as an instrument of good to the best of our ability. 

So, as the 116th Congress prepares to gavel in let us pray for them all, and more specifically, let’s pray that they are able to put their partisan blinders down and work across the aisle to do good for our country.

 

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Opinion: Exercise Your Right to Vote

About 250 years ago, a bunch of spunky farmers and shop owners decided that they were done with living under British imperial rule. In 1775, those farmers and shop owners fired “the shot heard around the world” and after a few more years of fighting, America won its independence.

Now that’s a story all of us have heard a million times in school, on the 4th of July, and several other times throughout our lives. However, it is worth repeating because it teaches us an important lesson: our basic human rights are important. And one of those rights is the right to have our voice be heard.

After the revolution ended, the founding fathers of our nation got together and over the course of a few years came to eventually draft the Constitution. Within that august document is the right for white men to vote. Once our society eventually came to its senses we finally gave everyone the right to vote. This key part of our republic has been used countless times throughout history to effect change in our nation. Countless men and women have died protecting the right for everyone to vote as well.

Fast forward to modern days. Since 1920 women have been allowed to vote. The percentage of the population that is eligible to vote who actually did vote has hovered around 50 to 60 percent. That is a huge problem! That means that only about half the population takes the time to get out on election day and exercise one of their fundamental rights and responsibilities. A right in which countless thousands have died for over the years. This is just wrong.

For years now, whenever I walk around or scroll through social media, all I’ve heard is people complaining about all factions of government. Now hear me on this: it’s more than okay to give your opinion on what the government is or should be doing, but don’t complain unless you’re willing to do something about it. The easiest thing you can do is get out and vote on election day. Do you like how your Congressman or Senator is representing you in Congress? Great, go vote for them. Do you absolutely despise your Congressman or Senator and want someone else in office? Great, go vote for that other candidate. A lot of people think that one vote can’t make a difference and that’s one reason they stay home on election day, but imagine if everyone who thought that way got out and voted. There would be thousands of new votes which could drastically change the system.

Now I understand that trying to get the poll between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M. can be hard especially for those who work or have kids. Lucky for you, the system has created a solution for you to get your vote in without having to wait in line on election day. Also, most of us college kids here at JU won’t be in our home counties on election day. This solution works for us too. Allow me to introduce you to the absentee ballot.

The way the absentee ballot works is you apply to get the ballot, it gets mailed to you and you mail it back. It’s literally that simple. JU students, you can buy an envelope and a stamp in the campus bookstore for around 50 cents and drop it off in the slot right by the mailroom. Each state has its own policy for how to get an absentee ballot, but lucky for you we live in the age of the internet and a simple google search will tell you what you need to do.

Voting is your civic duty; however, do your best to be an informed voter. Don’t just vote blindly for a party. Vet the candidates and make sure you know who you’re voting for. Almost every single candidate will have a website with some of their core beliefs on it. Look at the issues that are important to you, choose which candidate you prefer, and then go vote. If you don’t like any candidate, write somebody in. Don’t throw away your chance to affect change in your city council, state legislature, or even in Congress.

One of the best ways to have your voice be heard in this country is to vote. There are several other ways too and I’ll probably touch on those at some point in the coming weeks as well, but for now go get your absentee ballot because election day is less than a month away! Get your ballot, get informed, and then go exercise your basic fundamental right to have your voice be heard in this country.

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Opinion: The Balanced Budget Amendment is a Bad Idea

Does Sept. 17 mean anything to you? Maybe it’s your birthday or your anniversary, but it’s also the day in 1787 that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia got together for the last time and signed the new United States Constitution. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t think about it being Constitution Day myself when the day came and passed.

The original Constitution contains several different articles that divide it up and lay out the rules and responsibilities of the various branches of government. So you might think to yourself, “Well, there are three branches of government, so there are three articles right?” Actually, there are seven articles in total and one of them could lead to some interesting times in America. Let me introduce you to our little friend, Article Five.

Article Five lays out how the Constitution can be amended. The most popular way for an amendment to be added is for two-thirds of each chamber of Congress to approve it, and then for three-fourths of the states to approve it. In fact, this method is so popular that it’s how all 27 amendments have been proposed and ratified. However, Article Five does lay out another way an amendment can be added. It says that, “or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States,” which means that if two-thirds of the states agree to hold a convention and work out an amendment and it is then approved by three-fourths of the states, it would be added as an amendment.

When you look back at the frame of mind of the founding fathers this makes sense. They were afraid of a central government that could potentially fall away to a strong executive. They included this measure to provide the states a way to protect themselves should this happen. Well, in the 231 years since the Constitution was signed, the states have never called for such a convention…but it could be happening soon.

Now I’m no math expert, but I can tell you that two-thirds of fifty is 34. That means that all it takes is 34 states agreeing to hold a convention and one would have to be called. The convention can propose anything it wants but their proposal would still have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, which is 38. While the convention can be called for any reason, most of the advocates for a convention are calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). If the BBA was enacted, the federal government would no longer be allowed to spend more than its income, which primarily comes from taxes on their own people. The BBA sounds like a good idea considering the national debt is currently over $21 trillion. However, if the BBA was enacted, there would be new, enormous problems that would plague our country.

For example, let’s say the BBA is enacted and the federal government can no longer spend more than it makes. One solution seems simple then: just don’t spend more than we make. It sounds easy enough, but it’s actually impossible. When someone says “government spending”, the first things that a lot people think of are welfare, military, and social security, among many other things. The problem is that only about 25 percent of U.S. government spending is discretionary spending, meaning that the government can choose how to spend the money. About 75 percent of it goes to paying off interest on our loans, social security, and several other mandatory things the government has to pay. So you can kiss any kind of discretionary spending goodbye. Don’t worry though, because it only means they would have to stop funding the military, healthcare, welfare, and just a few other small trivial things like federal college loans, disaster relief funds for natural tragedies, you know, nothing big at all. And since that still wouldn’t be enough to balance the budget, taxes would have to drastically be increased as well. Have I made my point? This would be a disaster for the United States and all its people.

So, the other solution is to have a drastic tax increase. By no means does anybody want to have their taxes raised, but it would mean that we would have a balanced budget and get to keep vital government services. The only problem is that we wouldn’t have a whole lot of money to spend ourselves on what we personally need or want. The late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” Taxes are a necessity in the U.S., but the government must be careful on how much it taxes its citizens.

“The balanced-budget amendment should be a no-brainer,” said former Congressman Chris Chocola. “Forty-nine of the 50 states are required to balance their budgets. Every family has to balance its budget. There is no argument against a balanced-budget amendment unless you are interested in spending more money and going deeper into debt — precisely where we find ourselves right now.”

While the former congressman has a point that families have to operate off a budget, comparing the simplicity of a family to the complexity of the budget of an international superpower is a dangerous, irresponsible comparison to make. Advocates for the BBA should instead urge the federal government to slowly find a healthy balance between spending cuts and tax increases. However, the government would have to take on massive reforms that would require them to take down their partisan blinders and work across the aisle to reform social security, military spending, and several other government programs. I strongly urge all of us to keep an active eye out for more states calling for the convention and urge their representatives to fight for spending reforms.