Mark Sanford and Bobby Jindal refuse bailout funds

Governor Mark Sanford
Governor Mark Sanford

I noticed some posts at the Maritime Sentry about Governor Mark Sanford. If Bobby Jindal can’t save us in 2012, then Mark Sanford is my second choice. Everybody knows that Jindal is turning down bailout funds. Here is Bobby Jindal on the Hugh Hewitt show explaining why he is refusing the bailout funds, on how he intends to deal with the economic downturn in his state budget. Dynamite!

But Maritime Sentry has the story on Mark Sanford’s refusal to take bailout funds. Here, they link to this Forbes article, entitled “Why Mark Sanford Matters: Small-government conservatives have found their champion.”

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Sanford’s opposition to President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and in particular his insistence on using up to a fourth of his state’s stimulus funds to pay down debt or refusing it outright, has fast made him a folk hero to conservatives.

I am a little concerned by his opposition to the Iraq war, because I feel that it was a successful action against terrorism with strategic gains that far outweighed the costs. I approve of his small government stand, though. The National Taxpayer’s Union also approves:

The 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has applauded South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) for their decisions this week to refuse part of the federal stimulus package earmarked for their respective states. Sanford will accept $700 million only if the President allows him to use it to pay down debts rather than create new spending obligations. Perry has refused outright $555 million for expansion of state unemployment benefits.

Maritime Sentry also links to this 5-minute video, in which Sanford explains why he is turning down the bailout money. He doesn’t want Obama to be able to impose taxes on his state later, if he takes the bailout money today.

The Democrats doesn’t like federalism much. The DNC is even running ads in South Carolina against Sanford for refusing to take the money, and the attached strings. I found a statement about these DNC ads over at his blog. Jindal is also taking heat from unions and other economically-illiterate left-wing groups in his state.

UPDATE 1: Here is the transcript of Bobby Jindal’s interview on the Hugh Hewitt show. (H/T Binky @ Free Canuckistan!)

UPDATE 2: Here is the first part of an interview with Mark Sanford conducted by the Acton Institute, which specializes in free market capitalism and its relationship to religious liberty. (H/T Binky @ Free Canuckistan!)

Obama’s federal budget: thinking beyond stage one

House Republican Leader John Boehner
House Republican Leader John Boehner

Everyone who reads Thomas Sowell knows that the most important question to ask when talking about any economic proposal is “And Then What Happens?” That was the point of his one-two punch of introductory books on economics, “Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy” and “Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One”. Don’t examine the intentions of the proposal. Examine the incentives it creates.

But this idea goes back even earlier to Henry Hazlitt, who wrote about it in “Economics in One Lesson”. (The link goes to a statement of the “one lesson”)

…the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Well, what are the long-term effects of Obama’s federal budget, for all groups?

Congressman John Boehner has a breakdown of some of the budget numbers on his blog.

The President’s budget calls for $1.4 trillion in new taxes that will affect every American.  There’s a $646 billion “cap and trade” energy tax; a $636 billion tax on income and small businesses; new  taxes on investors by raising capital gains and dividend rates; a resurrection of the death tax; and a reduction in charitable deductions which will result in $4 billion less in donations each year to charities across America.

But it’s worse than that. A while back, I wrote about how Obama wanted to discriminate against religious schools by denying them renovation funds. In the budget, he continues his anti-religious trend by de-funding private charities. This is the part that Christians who voted for Obama need to pay attention to, because this matters to us.

Boehner notes:

The proposed reduction in charitable deductions is especially troubling, since it would hurt charities at a time when American families are struggling and in need of assistance.

But remember, when government expands, the state becomes more secular. The capabilities and influence of private religious groups decreases as the state de-funds them and takes over their duties. Instead of people depending on their neighbors’ charity, they now depend on the state. Instead of letting workers decide where to give charity, workers are forced to fund secular government programs.

Boehner cites this Wall Street Journal piece:

According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, total itemized contributions from the highest income households would have dropped 4.8% — or $3.87 billion — in 2006 if the Obama policy had been in place.  That year, Americans gave $186.6 billion to charity, more than 40% from those in the highest tax bracket.  A back of the envelope calculation by the Tax Policy Center, a left-of-center think tank, estimates the Obama plan will reduce annual giving by 2%, or some $9 billion.

Before Obama’s budget, you might have given charity to a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Now that money could be spent by the government on coerced abortions abroad. Before Obama’s budget, you might have given charity to support William Lane Craig’s web site Reasonable Faith. Now that money could be spent destroying human embryos. Elections matter.

Representative Mike Pence
Representative Mike Pence

Congressman Mike Pence goes over the budget numbers on his blog.

The following is a summary of the Administration’s plans to increase taxes by $1.4 trillion over the next ten years.

Taxing Small Businesses: In 2010, the President’s budget will increase taxes on all taxpayers that earn more than $250,000. The majority of the burden for this $637 billion tax increase will be borne by small businesses that pay taxes as individuals. Small businesses create 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs in America. These new taxes will stifle job creation and economic growth in the midst of a recession.

Taxing Energy Consumers: The budget also proposes to raise taxes by $646 billion on consumers of oil, coal, and natural gas through a complicated “cap and tax” program that will increase the cost of energy for every American. These carbon-based fuels provide about 85% of all energy output in the U.S. This new tax will increase the cost of energy by up to $3,128 per household annually, taking more money out of the pockets of hard working families struggling to pay their bills each month.

Taxing Investors Part I: Under the President’s budget, taxes on capital gains and dividends would increase from 15 to 20 percent, increasing taxes on investors by $338 billion over ten years. These taxes would directly affect investors and shareholders, including many 401k holders and pension funds, most impacted by the declining stock market and would further discourage investments during a time when new investments are essential to jumpstarting our economy.

Taxing Charitable Giving: The budget also caps the value of itemized deductions at 28% for those with an income over $250,000 (married) and $200,000 (single), which will reduce charitable giving by $9 billion a year. The current economic crisis has severely damaged charitable organization’s ability to provide for people who are most affected by the recession, and the budget would leave these charities with at least a $9 billion deficit.

Taxing Death: The budget reinstates the death tax scheduled to be fully repealed in 2010. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the death tax has “broad economic effects” and one study has found that the death tax is responsible for lowering overall employment by 1.5 million jobs.

Taxing Investors Part II: The budget would more than double taxes on carried interest, increasing taxes up from the capital gains rate (15%) to the income tax rate (35%). Carried interest is interest gained on profits from investments and is generally used to pay investment fund managers based on the fund’s performance for investors. This tax hike is yet another attack on profit, private equities, and investments in the middle of a recession.

High taxes and big spending is not good for business, and therefore not good for job growth. I predict double-digit unemployment (around 12%) by year’s end as a result of this socialist budget.

Already, Gateway Pundit is reporting that Caterpillar has laid off 2,454 employees, with more layoffs on the way. Hot Air has video on the layoffs here: Obama saying that his bailout will reduce layoffs, and the CEO saying that the bailout will not prevent layoffs.

Ooops.

Evan Sayet explains why progressives believe what they believe

One of the tragedies of being an active blogger is that you don’t get to visit all the blogs you used to visit before you started blogging. Well, since Ace linked to my notice about the upcoming debate of the century between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig, I figured: now is the time. So I went over there and scrolled around, catching up on who is drinking Valu-Rite vodka, and who is polishing LauraW’s hump.

And I noticed that the brilliant Jewish comedian Evan Sayet, a 9/11 Democrat, has given another speech at my favorite think tank, the Heritage Foundation. If you missed Evan’s first brilliant speech, (brilliant because you learn TONS of stuff that you’ve never heard before!), don’t miss it now. But do not even think about watching this speech if you are a thin-skinned special-interest leftist. You can’t handle it.

Here is the link to his FIRST speech for the Heritage Foundation  if you missed it:

Here is the audio (MP3) and video of the second speech.

Topics of the second video include:

  • What progressives believe: postmodern skepticism, moral equivalence, creative anti-realism
  • How progressives side with evil instead of good so that everyone will be equal
  • How progressives believe that failure is never an individual’s responsibility, but always the fault of some group of oppressors
  • How progressives believe that success can only achieved by oppressing others
  • Why progressives believe in redistribution of wealth and zero-sum game economics
  • and more

I really like listening to this guy, and so will you! Listen to both of his speeches. You are never going to hear direct truth, as from a fire hydrant, like you will by listening to Evan Sayet. Pay attention to what he says at the end of the second speech. Our hope lies in our individual willingness to speak out intelligently to our neighbors about what we believe and why we believe it.

Everything I know about the problems of evil and suffering in a 4 page essay

I just wanted to draw your attention to this 4 page essay by Joe Manzari, which is the best darn summary of the state of the art on the problems of evil and suffering I have seen. The problem of evil is an objection to the existence of God based on the presence of evil or suffering in the world. The arguments basically infer that if God is all-good and all-powerful, then there should not be any evil or suffering.

There are two kinds of problem of evil.

The Logical/Deductive Problem of Evil:

The first kind is called “the deductive problem of evil” or “the logical problem of evil”. An exampel of evil would be Saddam Hussein murdering some journalist who told the truth about him. This version of the problem of evil tries to introduce a logical contradiction between the attributes of God and the presence of evil, like this:

(1) God exists.
(2) God is omnipotent.
(3) God is omniscient.
(4) God is omni-benevolent.
(5) Evil exists.
(6) A good being always eliminates evil as far as it can.
(7) There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do.

In order to avoid a contradiction, we need to explain how there could still be evil, since the conclusion of this argument is that there should not be any evil!So how are we going to get out of this mess? The solution is to attack premises 6 and 7.

Premise 6 is false because in order to eliminate human evil, you would have to eliminate free will. But eliminating free will is worse than allowing it, because good things like love are impossible without free will.

It is in response to this proposition that the Free Will Theodicy of G. W. Leibniz applies. God, valuing man’s freedom, decided to provide him with a will that was free to choose good over evil, rather than constraining his will, allowing him to choose only good.

Premise 7 is false because there are limits on what an omniscient being can do. God cannot perform contradictory things, because contradictory things are impossible. God cannot make a married bachelor. Similarly, God cannot force free creatures to do his will.

In the same manner that God cannot create a square circle, he cannot make someone freely choose to do something. Thus, if God grants people genuine freedom, then it is impossible for him to determine what they will do. All that God can do is create the circumstances in which a person can make free choices and then stand back and let them make the choices.

One last point. In order to solve the problem of natural evil for this argument, you can point out that free will requires predictable and regular natural laws in order to make free will meaningful. Natural laws mean that individuals can predict what will happen when they act, allowing for moral responsibility. More on that next time.

Inductive/Probabilistic Problem of Evil

There is a second version of the problem of evil, though, which is more dangerous than the first. This is the one you see being argued in debates, whereas the first version is not used because it has been defused as seen above. Here is the second one:

(1) If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist.
(2) Gratuitous evil exists.
(3) Therefore, God does not exist.

This argument tries to argue that while God may have some reason for allowing free will, there are other evils in the world that are not the result of human action that God has no reason for permitting. Theists usually like to argue that God has morally-sufficient reasons for allowing some evil in the world, in order to for the character of humans through suffering and endurance. But what about gratuitous evil, which doesn’t have any point?

Consider the case of a fawn running in the forest, who falls and breaks his leg. Ouch! Then a forest fire starts and the poor fawn suffocates to death in the smoke. Why would God allow this poor small animal suffer like that? And notice that there is no morally sufficient reason for allowing it, because no human knows about this and so no human’s character or relationship with God is impacted by it.

The solution to this problem is to deny premise 2. (You can also deny 1 if you want). The problem with premise 2 is that the atheist is claiming to know that some instance of evil really is gratuitous. But since they are making the claim to know, they have to be able to show that God’s permission of that evil achieves nothing. But how do they know 2 is true?

The problem with 2 is that the atheist is not in a position to know that the permission of some evil X really doesn’t achieve anything. This is because the atheist cannot look forward into the future, or see into other places, in order to know for certain that there is no morally sufficient reason for allowing God’s allowing evil X to occur. But since the atheist argues based on premise 2, he must be able to show that is more probable than not.

Manzari’s article also argues why apparently gratuitous evil is less problematic for Christians in particular, because of certain Christian doctrines. He lists four doctrines that make the apparently gratuitous evil we observer more compatible with an all-good, all-powerful God.

  1. The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.
    Some of the things that we experience may wreck our feelings of contentment, but we need to remember that God may be permitting those troubles in order to remind us not to get too comfortable with life on earth, and to think ahead to the after-life. And remember, even Jesus learned endurance through suffering. His suffering was not pointless and neither is ours.
  2. Mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and God’s purposes.
    Given that we humans seem to be on a dead run away from God, trying to keep our autonomy by knowing as little about him as possible. We should not be surprised that people would also reject his moral demands on them, which results in some of the evil we see.
  3. God’s purpose is not restricted to this life but spills over beyond the grave into eternity.
    Sometimes it seems as if our sufferings really are catastrophic, but when you realize that you are offered eternal life without any suffering after you die, the sufferings of this life are a lot less upsetting than they would be if this life was all we had.
  4. The knowledge of God is an incommensurable good.
    This one is the biggest for me. Knowing God and knowing his actual character by studying the historical Jesus is a wonderful counterbalance for all the problems and sufferings of this life. A little bit of historical study reveals that Jesus was not spared the worst kind of suffering in his life, making it is a lot easier for us to bear with whatever God allows us to face.

In section 3, Manzari shows how you can also argue against this version of the problem by supplying evidence for God, such as from the big bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the origin of free will, the origin of the first living organism, the origin of the mind, the sudden emergence of phyla in the fossil record, molecular machines, irreducible complexity, the resurrection miracle, and the objective morality argument.

The argument goes like this:

(1) If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist.
(2) God exists.
(3) Therefore, gratuitous evil does not exist.

Just support 2 with some evidence, and you win, especially when they can’t support their claim to know that gratuitous evil exists.

The Argument for God from Evil

In the paper, Manzari actually makes an argument for God from evil. That’s right. Far from disproving God, the presence of evil (a departure from the way things out to be), actually affirms God’s existence. How?

(1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
(2) Evil exists.
(3) Therefore, objective moral values do exist.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

That’s right. If evil exists in any sense such that it is not a personal or cultural preference, then objective morality exists. If objective morality exists, then there is an objective moral lawgiver. Game over. If the atheist backtracks and says that the existence of evil is just his opinion or his cultural preference, then this standard does not apply to God, and you win again. Game over again. More on this argument for God’s existence from evil here.

So, although the problems of evil look pretty tough, they are actually easy. The toughest part of evil and suffering is the emotional problem. I could tell you stories about what I’ve been through… but then, that’s why the arguments matter. You can hold your position under tremendous fire when you have the arguments and evidence to ground you.

For more on the problem of evil, listen to this lecture by Douglas Geivett, professor of philosophy at Biola University. Then you must listen to this debate here between William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Another debate transcript is here, with William Lane Craig and Kai Nielsen. Here’s a book debate between William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, published by Oxford University Press, 2004.

Assessing Obama’s 5-point plan for education reform

Found this article on Mercator Net, an Australian site that is really getting my attention with the quality and scope of their articles. This is more than just politics, it’s policy analysis. Here’s Kevin Ryan’s article on Obama’s education plan.

The plan is composed of 5 points:

He promises his administration will promote five reforms in particular: major funding for early childhood education; increased funding for and emphasis on standards and assessment; new funding to recruit, educate and reward teachers; a substantial increase in the number of the country’s charter schools and new funding for programs to expanding life-long learning with a special emphasis on all American’s having another year of education.

Obama is obviously equating more spending with better student performance, an approach that I like to analogize as throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out. The rest of the article deals with the policy implications of the 5 points. The article contains a couple of examples.

Here’s one of the examples:

Historically, it is a very modern idea that money will buy a quality education. Our current experience with funding education hardly supports such a view. Arguably the worst school system in America, the Washington DC schools spends the most dollars per pupil, US$16,650. On the other hand, Utah schools, which relative to the rest of the nation, are outstanding schools spend a third, $5,700, of what is spent in the nation’s capital.

Here’s an excerpt from the analysis of the 5 points:

Every one of the President’s five-point plan means more jobs and influence for the teachers’ union. More early childhood means more teachers and administrators, even though the effects pre-kindergarten and day care are increasingly in doubt. (Finland, whose students recently earned the highest scores in international achievement tests, doesn’t send its children to school until they are seven years old) The Obama Plan ought perhaps be called the NEA’s Full Employment Plan.

Having every America spend an additional year in a classroom sounds wonderful. It will mean a staggering increase tax dollars to fund such an increase. On the other hand, the opportunity costs for an individual student staying away from meaningful salaried work will also be huge.

The article concludes its analysis of the plan with this observation about Obama’s personal life:

As a Chicago politician and now as president, he has exercised school choice for the education of his two daughters, while, de facto, denying it to those parents without his income. The fact of the President’s stonewalling parents’ efforts to get real educational choice, plus the picture of his daughters being driven out the their tony private school, passing the orange school busses delivering Washington’s children to those failing public schools, is the unstated message of his speech.

The article does not mention that Obama himself went to expensive private schools. As Michelle Malkin says, be skeptical that his education will help anyone but teacher’s unions.

I will be tracking the education and health care plans that Obama has proposed closely, to find out who really will benefit from his big government approach.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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