I Took the Challenge Yesterday

I took the Ice Bucket Challenge yesterday. This viral phenomenon has raised $94 million for ALS research. ( http://www.alsa.org/ ) Social media, generous people, and a good cause can work wonders. I challenged Bill Jungbauer , Kelly Fenton , and Joe Atkins. By the way – It was cold. Tags: ‪#‎icebucketchallenge‬, ‪#‎alsicebucketchallenge‬, and ‪#‎strikeoutals‬

Video:  http://youtu.be/fT5HwsG2uss

What About the Cost

The Cost

The PPACA (Obamacare) is going to be a big issue, not only in this election, but for many years to come. I wrote this piece for the Pioneer Press and it was published today:

http://www.twincities.com/Opinion/Letters/ci_26375705/What-about-the-cost

For any policy or program, it’s not enough to tout any benefits it might have, you have to count the costs. Anything else is foolish.

Tried and True Themes

Washington

I happened to read one of my fundraising letters from the 2010 campaign today, and was surprised how little has changed in 4 years. In part:

I have often said that leadership is everyone’s job, and it is time that I took my own advice.

My campaign is built on confidence that a few basic ideas are widely shared:

  • Government exists to  provide a framework of laws that apply equally to us all, and protect our rights and property.
  • We all want to live as proud, free, responsible, taxpaying citizens.
  • Government cannot and should not fix EVERY problem.
  • Bigger government means bigger taxes.
  • Laws that are too complex and too numerous make criminals of us all.
  • We all want a “level playing field”, and understand that that is impossible when government picks the winners and losers.
  • Nothing in life is without cost.  If someone provides for us, that same someone chooses for us.  There is no “free lunch”.

I have always been passionate about freedom.  Our founders wrote our constitution to ensure that our God-given rights and freedoms would not be taken from us by overweening government.  It is time to defend those ideas and re-awaken people to the dangers of the pursuit of the “free lunch”.

This is why I am running. ….

The issues in 2014 are the same as 2010. The candidates come and go. The issues stay the same.

These were the same issues that animated our founders, and drove them to start a seemingly hopeless revolution against the world’s most powerful military power in 1776.

Our founders gave us the Rule of Law, limited, enumerated powers, and charged us with “keeping” the Republic.

They won. It took a while, and a lot of sacrifice, but they won.

Keep the faith.

Playing with Fire

censoring speech

Most people strongly support two simple ideas that are in unavoidable conflict.

The first is freedom of speech. Government should not be censoring speech. Censorship is unacceptable. We rely on the marketplace of ideas.

The second idea is that government should be in the business of regulating the “finance” of speech.

The conflict between these two ideas is highlighted by the story of the FFRF pushing the IRS to enforce laws forcing preachers to refrain from “politics”. This article from the NYT and another one here tell the story.

First amendment rights are fundamental. We recoil at the idea of government censors dictating what we may or may not say. This is especially true on moral issues.

Our law is based on our ideas of right and wrong. Churches speak out constantly on moral issues – honesty, charity, envy, avarice, and justice. That’s what they do. Churches are the source of these ideas for most of us. Even those who reject the role of faith in law substitute their own ideas of what is “just” and “right”. We all accept the idea that the law should be based on some idea of justice and righteousness. The importance of free speech on moral issues is even more important than in politics.

Churches enjoy tax exemption on the same basis as other non-profit organizations. Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, CFACT and OFA are all tax exempt.

Given that politics is inseparable from our ideas of right and wrong, how can we possibly separate moral admonitions from political speech? It is illogical and unthinkable to tell our churches that they cannot  speak out on moral issues, but that is precisely what the FFRF wants churches to do to keep their tax exemption.

Once given the power to decide what is politics and what is not, how do we ensure that officials given this power would not abuse it? Would a future president use the IRS lever to silence Planned Parenthood by threatening their tax exempt status? How about the Sierra club? Both of these speak out on their own issues, but are clearly political. By what rule would they be exempt? The furor around the IRS and Lois Lerner should be instructive. When a power exists, abuse is almost inevitable.

Once officials have the power to decide what speech is acceptable, and what is not, their jobs will be to attempt to separate one kind of speech from another, and decide what may be said.  These powerful officials are called censors.

It is hard to accept that regulations on “political activity” and “campaign finance” lead inevitably to this problem, but they do. Government officials charged with deciding what is “politics” and what is not have no choice but to end up being censors. When those they censor are the churches, the outrageous nature of the censorship becomes obvious, but in all cases, we are playing with fire.

Personal Responsibility

Obama on south lawn

President Obama has shocked me in recent days. It is difficult to imagine the man who made his name on opposing the Iraq war, and beat the drum ceaselessly about withdrawing troops from Iraq would claim that withdrawing our troops is somehow not his responsibility. In a recent interview: (see video here)

Q: Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq?  And does it give you pause as the U.S. — is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?

THE PRESIDENT: What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision…

This is more than a man and a dodge. President Obama’s agenda is full of Big Promises with the costs ignored or denied. It is quite a shock to see a president shirk responsibility for policies he so loudly and consistently advocated.

Personal responsibility means taking the heat for decisions you made, and as a leader, taking the fall when things go wrong. This president either cannot, or will not understand this. I have yet to hear him “man up” and take the blame for any decision he or his subordinates have made. The constant refrain is that it is always someone else’s fault.

Personal responsibility should be well understood. When you make a mistake, you generally suffer the consequences. That’s physics. In leadership, you are responsible for everything that happens “on your watch”. The captain of the ship is responsible for everything that happens on that ship. No evasions. No excuses. To dodge this responsibility is shameful.

The worst part of this story is that our president, as a leader, gives cover to others to do the same. If the president does it, it must be OK. Bad behavior in a leader becomes acceptable, even respectable.

It is time for President Obama to take personal responsibility for his policies and their effects. It is his watch. The example he sets will be followed. We, the people must demand that it is a good one.

100 Words

There are many interest groups who are keenly interested in getting the attention of candidates for office in the hopes that those who win are then either their friends, or have made commitments to them. (such as the “pledges” on their issues)

Many of these pledges are firm promises to vote one way or another on certain legislative issues. Many are worded as explicit promises to vote for or against legislation that has not yet been written, much less debated and vetted.

I have chosen to refuse all requests to commit to un-written legislation. I have a standard response that I do not commit to legislation I have not yet seen. Many of these groups “rate” you poorly if you refuse to make their requested commitments.

The latest interest group is the River Heights Chamber of Commerce, and they came up with a novel request. They wanted a 100 word or less response to the question: “Why do you want to be voted into public office as an elected official?”

This is what I wrote (100 words!):

I am running to restore pride in our nation and in basic American principles – private property, limited government and personal responsibility. Our ideals are admired throughout the world. Our entrepreneurs build their success on this foundation.

Our founders rejected the right of kings to rule us. They dared to say we should govern ourselves. I agree. The growing thicket of taxes and red tape in St. Paul is a threat to self-government and our prosperity.

We have a bright future if we stand strong on our principles, rule ourselves, and stop trying to rule each other through the legislature.

It is a pleasure to respond to a group that poses a thoughtful challenge to clarity rather than a hard commitment to their issues.

I look forward to working with the River Heights Chamber.