Cruz v Sanders: The Debate America Needs

“May you live in interesting times.”  This apocryphal saying sums up the state of politics in America in 2016.  It is a time of upheaval, and as Tocqueville reminds us, the most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform.  Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, elucidates our circumstances succinctly when he states that, “Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are not the disease, and they’re not a symptom of the disease.  They’re the beta test of a cure from the perspective of the people.”  While Trump represents the outlier on the right, he is not the ideological antithesis of self-described Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.  That honor belongs to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

History is peppered with pivotal moments like these, but it is often difficult to recognize their gravity until they have faded into our collective rearview mirror.  In 1858, on the eve of America’s Civil War, we had the Lincoln-Douglas debates in which a young upstart Republican challenged an incumbent Democrat Senator on a subject of great import; slavery in America.  At issue was whether a country founded on the principle that “all men are created equal” could continue to promote or even accept the subjugation of certain men in seeming contravention to that principle.  Lincoln lost to Douglas in that election, but his nomination as the Republican standard bearer in the Presidential election in 1860 was the catalyst that set in motion a most bloody resolution to that question five years later.

In 1940, Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes debated the much drier but equally important subject of state intervention in the economies of nations upon the roof of the chapel of Kings College London during the Blitz.  Keynes generally believed that the animal spirits of capitalism should be restrained by government central planning to protect citizens.  Hayek believed that such government intervention inevitably led to the very fascism that the allies had been forced to confront in World War II.  In the aftermath of the war, this dynamic shaped the new world order as the capitalist west faced off against the collectivist Soviet Union for the next half century.  We know which idea eventually won the day.

In 1968, conservative stalwart William F. Buckley and liberal firebrand Gore Vidal held televised debates during the Presidential nominating conventions that were the embodiment of the political tumult of the time.  On substance, the debates touched on the Vietnam War, free speech, police brutality, and the rise of the counter-culture.  But they were best known for the very obvious and deeply personal hatred each had for the other which was a microcosm of the violence and strife occurring throughout the late 60s and early 70s.  Nixon and the Republicans came out on top.

These were all pitched battles in the continuing war of ideals which seems to flare up every few generations.  In 2016, we again face such a moment.  As I’ve written previously, while I do not discount Donald Trump’s rise or the legitimate rage of his supporters, he is an unserious candidate.  He is the dog that caught the car, a caricature of what every liberal believes every conservative to be.  He does not represent conservative ideology any more than a person who occasionally abstains from eating meat can profess to be a vegan.  Ted Cruz, by contrast, wears his ideology on his sleeve, as does his counterpart on the left, Bernie Sanders.

I will state publicly that I have a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders.  Contrary to Hillary Clinton, the pantsuit-wearing weather vane that has about as much principle as an interest-only loan, Mr. Sanders unapologetically believes in his ideas, and that genuineness is at the heart of his tremendous base of support.  But alas, history and economics bear out that his ideas are not only unworkable, but contrary to the identity of our country.

Given the leftward jolt America has experienced under Barack Obama, hope and change has given way to entropy and rage.  It’s time for the battle of ideas to be fought once again; a trial by intellectual combat.  Senator Cruz and Senator Sanders represent the reddest and bluest ends of the political spectrum, who better to articulate the fundamental ideals of their respective parties.

It has been said that a lie travels around the world before the truth can get its pants on, a phenomenon undoubtedly amplified by the advent of social media.  Perhaps this is why the timeless truth of the benefits of liberty has been lost in the noise.  However, I am confident that same interconnectedness can also be harnessed to proliferate the ideals of our founders with such unparalleled rapidity, focus, and reach, that the resurgent specter of statism can be slain once and for all.  The global microphone has been built, we need only the right messengers.  Let the pretenders be cast aside.  Let our champions be Senator Cruz and Senator Sanders.  And let the fate of our Republic be decided in one fell swoop.  No pressure, Ted.

Take these huddled masses…or else

“That’s not American.  That’s not who we are.”  President Obama dismissing GOP scrutiny of Syrian refugees

We are committed to increasing the number of refugees we take…” Secretary of State Kerry

“Germany is a strong country–we will manage.”–German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“New York City is a proud immigrant city and we will not turn our back on that history.”  NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio

Noting the above, a question remains:  Who is this “we”?  My father would rhetorically ask this question whenever he heard a politician bloviating and answer it himself wryly, “unless you have a gremlin in your pocket, all I see is you.”  A warning to be wary of silver-tongued demagogues, no doubt.  Speaking on behalf of an entire nation, or group, or city, is a tried and true political tactic used by the ruling class to confer legitimacy of action when pushing a particular agenda.  Except it is fraudulent.  No single person can know the thoughts and feelings of hundreds of thousands of people any more than a single central authority can plan and manage the actions of millions of people in a diverse economy (see collapse of the Soviet Union).

With respect to the current refugee crisis overwhelming Europe, progressives the world over tell us that “we” should fling open the gates and let in countless hordes of foreigners.  If anyone questions the method, speed, or wisdom of such action, they are labeled heartless or racist and that their behavior is shameful.  While I do empathize with the plight of the refugees, our political leaders should be making decisions based on logic, not on feelings.  When was the last time you made an emotionally charged decision that worked out well?  Rarely, mostly because emotion clouds judgment.

First off, I am for the free movement of labor and capital across borders–in theory.  However, when you have a welfare state, as most western countries now do, even the perception that new arrivals will take advantage of it will cause social strife.  The “huddled masses” crowd forgets that when that poem was written, America promised opportunity for a better life and a system of government that (mostly) left you alone to reap the fruits of your labor–and nothing more.  In Europe, with indigenous youth unemployment anywhere from 15-30%, is it logical to believe that a young Syrian, with cultural and language hurdles, will be able to land a job over a citizen of that particular country?  No, they will be on the dole, overwhelming a welfare system that can barely sustain itself as it is and thus hastening its demise.

Next, our leaders would have you believe rigorous security measures will be put in place to “vet” refugees, but that is a total fabrication.  One need only watch the countless videos of people literally pouring over barricades and through checkpoints as authorities feebly attempt to hold them back, not to mention the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino and lockdown in Belgium that were traced back to the shores of Greece or shoddy visa investigations to see that such claims are bald-faced lies.

Then, our leaders tell us that the refugees will assimilate and become productive members of western society, citing previous migration of Eastern Europeans to the West after the fall of communism.  Wrong again.  Most of that involved populations of people with cultural, linguistic, religious and many times, familial ties.  It also occurred over many years and under more strict border controls than exist today, as it was prior to the Schengen Agreement that eliminated border controls within most of Europe.

Even when there has been ample time for assimilation, it has not gone well.  Look no further than the banlieues, or suburbs, of major French cities.  Three generations of Moroccans, Algerians, and other Africans have still yet to assimilate in France, despite being granted citizenship, and have created their own “city-states” within the country that are essentially “no -go” zones for French authorities.  Turkish integration into Germany has fared slightly better, but integration of fairly secular Muslims over decades still had its share of problems.  With the Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans now arriving, we’re talking about profoundly different cultures with very different values being dropped into the heart of Europe to the tune of 1M people in less than a year.

At the very least, there should be some basic questions asked here.  Why are the rich Gulf countries taking zero refugees?  If living under Islamic rule is so great, why are millions running the other way?  When did the rights of taxpaying citizens of any of these countries become subordinate to the rights of refugees?  Why are conservatives terrible people for asking these questions?

Bottom line, this is the left-wing modus operandi.  It’s about power.  It’s about being magnanimous…with other people’s money and resources.  It’s about foisting their vision of the world upon you, because they don’t have to deal with the real world ramifications of their policies.  They live cloistered lives in gilded extravagance, send their kids to private schools, have armed security details.  You have to go into town for groceries past the new refugee camp that is rife with violence and crime.  You have to send your kid to an overwhelmed state school where the ability to learn and general safety is now greatly diminished.  You have to try to protect your family and property without so much as a pop gun.  These “leaders” are so eager feed their own ego and blinded by building their legacy by bringing these people in, they never bother to ask “then what?”

Want a reasonable solution?  Look to Canada.  They have a system of private sponsorship of refugees, whereby community organizations, churches, and minority groups pool private funds to pay for refugees to resettle in Canada and find work.  A study actually showed that privately sponsored refugees become self-sufficient more quickly than those supported by the government.  Further, they will now only accept whole families or lone women and children; unaccompanied men will be turned away.

Sadly, it’s too late to implement this in Europe.  Here in America, why not have a popular referendum?  Rather than tell us how many refugees we must take, why doesn’t the President ask who among us would personally sponsor a refugee, tally up that number, subtract single and military age males, then get out of the way?  Then we’ll see who “we” are as a nation.  Then, and only then, will it truly be a solution that “we” can live with.

On a Muslim President: Carson, Cruz, and Paul are all right

Over the past few days, Presidential candidate Ben Carson has caught a lot of heat for comments he made during an interview where he stated that he would not support a Muslim as President.  Never mind that this “nontroversy” is a complete hypothetical ginned up by the mainstream media as “gotcha” journalism and distracts from the actual issues facing this country.  Most of us that pay attention are used to the Left using the Alinsky-esque dog whistle of divisiveness whenever their policies come into question because they don’t stand up to the scrutiny of logic and reason.  But it also represents how low some will slither in order to try to destroy a decent man.

The discussion in the Democrat strategy room likely went something like this; “How can we attack the soft-spoken, black, Republican, pediatric neurosurgeon without looking like racists?  I know!!  Make HIM racist!!”  So off they marched, set-up in hand, to try to discredit this man.  Except it may have backfired because they didn’t think that someone that had spent 22 hours straight surgically separating the brains of conjoined twins could be articulate.  Todd Akin this was not.

I happen to agree with Dr. Carson that Islam, in its most rigid form, is incompatible with our constitutional republic for the very simple reason that ours is a system that holds dearly the separation of church and state, where in Islam, church IS state.  As someone who has spent a decade traipsing through the region, I’ve seen varying degrees of religious rigidity as law, from straight up Shari’a in Saudi Arabia to iron-fisted strongmen using state power to co-opt the sermons of imams at Friday prayer and keep the masses in line (i.e., angry at the west and not at their own despotic rulers for their dire lot in life).

Because Islam is viewed by Muslims as version 3.0 of the Abrahamic religions (seen as an improvement over Judaism and Christianity but borrowing heavily from both), it is a deeply entrenched part of daily life.  It doesn’t just give broad guidelines on how to live your life like the  ten commandments and let the details get sorted separately.  It specifically outlines everything from doing your banking, disciplining your wife, what foods to eat, how to treat those of different faiths, how many times a day to pray, etc—all clearly outlined as directives from Allah.  I believe that this specificity/inflexibility is part of the conundrum of Islam and how it can be expected to coexist with our democratic system.  In short, laws of man can be changed; laws of God cannot.

Dr. Carson is also right that the Constitution is, and should be, the supreme law of our land.  Our founders, mostly Christians of varying flavors, created a secular Constitution mirroring the Christian fundamentals by which they lived.  Further, they were mainly familiar with Christianity and the harmless animism of the Native Americans at the time.  Thomas Jefferson may have owned a Qur’an, but had he spent any time in today’s Middle East, he would have found Islam profoundly antithetical to the idea of liberty and the individual rights espoused in our founding documents.

Enter Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the two most constitutionally literate candidates in this election, who pointed out that Article 6 of the Constitution states that there shall be no religious test for office.  They are also right.  There should be no test precluding anyone from office based on religion.  However, once elected, should this hypothetical Muslim President begin doing things in contravention to the Constitution, that’s where we can use the built-in remedy in our system called impeachment.

In sum, I don’t have a problem with a Muslim President, provided he or she respects the primacy of our Constitution over the Qur’an.  If one does not or cannot, don’t run for the office.  I believe Dr. Carson’s wariness is well founded though.  If a spineless Congress cannot assert itself against the unconstitutional actions of our current Executive, one wonders if they ever will.


Godwin’s law states that in an argument, the first party to bring up Nazis as hyperbole loses the debate.  At the risk of losing before starting, I’m willing to go there and let the reader decide if the analogies I draw hold any merit.

Let me begin by stating I am not a social issues conservative.  What I mean by that is that my conservatism has been primarily driven by economic, fiscal, and monetary issues, the desire for a much smaller government, and unwavering support for the protections afforded us in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

If homosexuals want to get married and be miserable like the rest of us, good on them.  If people want to identify as a different race, or gender, or species, or a stalk of celery, I don’t care, so long as I am not forced to pay anything to validate it nor punished for saying that I think those people are silly.  After all, as Jefferson said, “rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”  I have often said that we can bicker about social issues, but if we’re doing it in a bread line because the economy fell apart, it is of little consequence.  Prioritize, I told my socially conservative friends.

Then I watched the planned parenthood videos.  I was immediately reminded of my trip to Germany and the concentration camp at Dachau a few years ago.  As my wife and I explored downtown Munich, I remember spontaneously weeping at the sound of a street musician playing his violin in the Marienplatz, Mozart echoing through the stone archways and porticos.  I was overcome with emotion at the thought that such a culturally and technologically advanced society capable of producing such breathtaking beauty was equally capable of committing such vile acts of human depravity as the Holocaust.

I was then reminded of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers that told of the liberation of a concentration camp in Bavaria by the 101st Airborne Division.  The Germans in the nearby towns claimed to know nothing of the camp even though the stench of death hung in the air; they weren’t Nazis, they exclaimed.  They had done nothing wrong, merely bystanders, innocent civilians.  It wasn’t until the American troops dragged them by the scruffs of their necks to the camp and forced them to clean up what they claimed they were oblivious to, did they blubberingly acknowledge the abject horror of what they, by their inaction, acquiescence, or complicity, had allowed to happen.  That “out of sight, out of mind” mentality had allowed them to ignore their conscience and separate themselves from their own humanity.

Never again?  The mainstream media has kept virtually silent on the issue or pushed a different narrative in an act of collusion that would make Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels blush.  The callousness with which these purveyors of “health services” described the procedures by which they were killing unborn babies over wine and cheese was reminiscent of the sterile language used in the medical reports on file at the Holocaust museum.  Planned parenthood hired a PR firm to highlight the “good” they do.  How nice, mammograms and STD tests.  But that argument didn’t absolve Bayer (the German drugs firm) from their use of Jews as slave labor and their connections to the development of the gas used in gas chambers just so we could have faster-acting aspirin.  The ends do not justify the means.

Now we have Democrats in the Senate blocking a bill to defund planned parenthood while admitting that they had not seen the videos and were relying on second-hand (false) claims that the videos were doctored.  Roe v. Wade is the law of land here in America, we’re told.  Well, Nazi Germany had hundreds of laws and regulations on the books at all levels of government persecuting Jews and other “undesirables.”  History screams that just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

I shook as I watched the videos and wept just as I did in that square in Munich because I realized I was just as guilty as those townsfolk who denied the reality of what was going on.  Worse yet, I wept because I realized that we as Americans in 2015 have the same capacity for turning a blind eye to the systematic extermination of life…and that we’ve been doing it for much longer.

Perhaps those folks in Congress on record supporting this organization with your tax dollars should be grabbed by the scruff of their necks and forced to watch the video in front of everyone on the floor of the House and Senate, then vote.

That said, I am a realist.  I understand that abortions are going to happen regardless of what laws are on the books.  The difference here is who is complicit in them.  A patient and doctor acting alone must, in the end, answer to their respective gods for their actions.  But tax revenue forcibly taken by the government to pay for this makes unwilling accomplices of us all.  The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.  The only question now is what will you do?

Eisenhower’s Lament: On the Military-Industrial Complex

A Treatise on How the Military-Industrial Complex is Undercutting It’s Own Future, and How to Save it from Itself

In the waning days of his presidency in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell address to the nation.  In it, he warned of the potential for undue influence by the military-industrial complex, to be read as the “iron triangle” of the armaments industry, government (Congress and the executive bureaucracy), and the various interlocking interests that perpetuate its growth.  Contrary to popular belief, his speech was not meant to be a cudgel with which to browbeat an industry.  He acknowledged the need for a robust defense establishment in light of the threat of communism, stating that “our arms must be mighty and ready for instant action, such that no potential aggressor might be tempted to risk his own destruction.”  However, he did want to ensure that American security policy and strategy were driven by national interest and not by the profit margins of the arms merchants.

His prescience was uncanny, but his warning has gone unheeded.  Since his speech, the defense industry has grown in size, scope, and political clout.  As he noted then, “the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields.”  This is even more true today.  The myriad small and diverse defense companies that in the past had provided everything from microchips to airplane parts to metal links for belt-fed ammunition have increasingly congealed under the umbrella of what is referred to as the “Big 6.”

These firms (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, BAE) collectively hold about 1/3 of all the defense contracts with the Pentagon.  Further, and rather adroitly, they have created a business model that spreads the work of these multi-billion dollar contracts across America and its many congressional districts to ensure maximum political leverage.

This is the main reason Congress continues to fund programs and platforms that the Pentagon has said it doesn’t want or need; no politician wants to be blamed for job losses in their district lest they lose their own.  As a result, we not only see national security policy subordinated to business interests, but we see the true enemies of free-market capitalism–monopoly and subsidy–take hold.

First, monopoly.  While there is still some competition between firms for contracts, it has been dramatically reduced over the past few decades with the mergers of many smaller firms into these larger companies.  As this trend continues, the bargaining power of the Pentagon diminishes further.  Whether or not the US government could or should consider breaking up these larger firms along the lines of “Ma Bell” to ensure best value for the taxpayer in a strategically important industry is beyond the scope of this post.  However, it should be noted that the Department of Defense (DOD) has objected to further mergers by these large corporations specifically because of the challenges further consolidation would pose.

Second, subsidy.  In the wake of 9/11, Congress has heaped largesse on DOD in an effort to keep America safe, irrespective of cost.  Politically, to question defense spending was to invite accusations of a lack of patriotism, or worse, catcalls of treason.  So the defense budget grew to outlandish proportions, which in turn accounted to a huge, taxpayer-funded subsidy to the military-industrial complex for new weapons, capabilities, and research.  Economics shows that when you subsidize anything, you invariably raise its price because you are lowering the cost to the consumer and thus increasing demand.  In this case, the consumer of the subsidy is the defense industry.  Because they now have an open checkbook from the Pentagon (the source of the increased demand), there is no incentive to keep development costs down.  Any and every idea can now be funded and explored with the cost of doing so foisted back onto the Pentagon, i.e., the American taxpayer.

This has caused a spike in the cost of platforms/services and a lack of budgetary discipline.  Look no further than the F-35 and Littoral Combat Ship.  As a result, we have the development of platforms and capabilities that are so costly that no entity EXCEPT the US government can afford them.  This means that international customers which are eager to purchase US weaponry (and the maintenance, service contracts, and logistics tails that go along with it) are priced out of the market.

A good example is NATO’s Strategic Air Capability.  Ten NATO countries “share” C-17 cargo aircraft because exorbitant costs preclude the countries from purchasing and operating them singularly.  Concurrently, the fact that the US subsidizes the defense of NATO countries through its extensive security umbrella exacerbates the problem by allowing NATO countries to shirk their commitment via NATO’s charter to spend 4% of their GDP on defense; they spend those “savings” on generous welfare and healthcare systems instead.  Whether this policy has created a situation contrary to its intent (a weaker and lazier Europe unable to defend itself against a resurgent Russia) and whether this outcome was by design are points for another debate.  Bottom line with arms sales, as with any other product, the lower the price, the larger your customer base.  Conversely, the higher the price, the smaller the customer base.

To be clear, this is not a treatise against the defense industry, merely a critique of its business model.  It is a large and successful portion of the US economy.  A wise man once said, “no one ever went broke selling arms; and they never will.”  It contributes to tens of thousands of jobs of all kinds, from machinists and welders, logisticians and mathematicians, software developers, engineers, contractors and scientists.  Many technological advancements have come out of this sector and will continue to do so.  The ends to which these advancements are used is a moral question, not an economic one.  To deny the economic reality that this sector is one of great importance to American national power, prestige, and protection going forward would be foolish.

But if it continues to focus its efforts on securing open-ended contracts from the Pentagon for grandiose platforms that will be obsolete by the time they are fielded rather than platforms and capabilities that can fit the budgets of the international market, it will gradually lose market share to competitors such as China, Russia, France, Britain, and Israel until the only customer it has will be the US government.  This begs the question, what then?  The military-industrial complex will be forced to dig its claws even deeper into the Pentagon to secure contracts and maintain profits because the international market will have dried up.  This will require even more money for the Pentagon resulting in more expensive gear and more debt in a self-perpetuating cycle of military Keynesianism.

What of its effects on US policy?  Industry currently benefits from the era of prolonged conflicts so it stands to reason it would do what it could to help government “go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”  But what if public opinion were to suddenly shift against US adventurism?  It seems an unlikely event in the near term given the traditional anti-war party (Democrats) have one of their own in the White House prosecuting these wars.  But if Pentagon budgets were to dry up, we would see military aid budgets grow to help other nations prosecute their fights with the caveat that they spend the aid on gear from US defense contractors.  While this would involve other nations solving their own regional problems rather than the US policing the world, this is still US taxpayer money and we would invariably be subsidizing the national defense of other nations.  To quote James Madison, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

Perhaps it is best summarized by Eisenhower’s own words:

“In holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become captive of a scientific-technological elite.  It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system–ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

Awareness of the issue and the fortitude to tackle it are the best remedy to ensure that the animal spirits of the market do not co-opt and subsume one of the few legitimate writs of our federal government; that of national defense.