June 30, 2011


I'm not a cynic, but I play one on TV

The U.S. is in the midst of yet another national debt brouhaha. It's a common situation - the country has experienced federal debt since its founding (BTW - happy birthday), with war being a consistent culprit. Currently the U.S. is in the highest spike of the percentage of its total debt to GDP (2010 = 96.3%) ratio since World War II. But the debt sunk quickly in the prosperous post-war years, while today financial wonks in public accounting agencies and private sector economists are in lock-step agreement as to the path of sustainability the country is on, or more accurately flying wildly off of.

Is it coincidence that the U.S. is experiencing some of the highest federal debt during a half-century low of its marginal tax rates? Could there be some kind of correlation between tax rates and tax revenue? In the parlance of the new GOP math, of course, "lower taxes increase revenue."

I'm seriously thinking of adopting this method, as surely it would help my personal budget in a manner similar to the government's current faux fortune. Yeah, that's it - if I spend more than I make, I'll just work less hours to make up for it.

Labels: ,

June 23, 2011


I don't pledge OF allegiance

Recently there was a dust-up caused by NBC when, as part of its coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament, the network twice omitted the words “under God” from a clip of students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Of course, Pious America gave the move the thumbs down, and while I understand why they would, I’m still not buying what they’re selling (something that’s become a tradition for me). Frankly, ever since I was old enough to give it some thought I’ve found the Pledge to be rather hollow. We recited it daily in grade school, but I don’t recall ever being taught the meaning. Young students simply memorizing a pledge is less about patriotism and liberty than it is about obedience. The latter is not an undesirable teaching, but aren’t supporters of the pledge missing the irony of a nation built on the principles of freedom of thought and the right to dissent requiring its youngest citizens to pledge allegiance to it? They don’t understand most of the pledge they are taking nor by any of our laws are they qualified to give their consent.

Before I continue with my main theme, some background is essential. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy (avowed socialist and inventor of the Bellamy Salute shown here - a particularly ironic choice of deference that was 86'd by FDR after the U.S. entered WWII). It was published in the popular children’s magazine The Youth’s Companion as part of a campaign to instill the idea of American nationalism by selling flags to public schools and magazines to students (In cash we trust, no?).

The original Pledge read as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The phrase “under God” was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance by a Joint Resolution of Congress and signed by President Eisenhower (raised a Jehovah’s Witness - see below) on June 14, 1954. From the outset objections were raised, mostly on grounds that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects one’s right to refrain from speaking or standing. Ironically, decades before any Atheists were led to challenge the Pledge legally, prominent lawsuits were brought in the 1950s by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian sect whose beliefs preclude swearing loyalty to any power other than God, and who objected to policies in public schools requiring students to swear an oath to the flag. They objected on the grounds that their rights to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment were being violated by such requirements.

In the last decade lower courts have ruled both for and against reciting the Pledge or the inclusion of the “under God” phrase, but the Supreme Court won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. In 2004 the SCOTUS cited a technicality to duck a ruling on the merits, and on June 13, 2011 it denied an appeal against a lower court’s upholding of the God phrase.

There is a very prevalent misconception in the United States that lends to my distaste for religion (which here, of course, pretty much means Christianity) - that the government is a democracy and in a democracy the majority rules. The first point is erroneous because the government is a democratic republic (thus, “and to the republic, for which it stands”) with representative governance. Pure democracy is direct governance by the people where policies are decided through town hall meetings, referendums, etc. In a democracy majority indeed rules, but in a republic the officials can vote according to their knowledge, wisdom, ignorance, and/or campaign donor list.

Indeed, the majority of the U.S. citizenry identifies as Christian (with tens of thousands of denominations over a massively wide spectrum of doctrines - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations), but does that make it a “Christian” nation? To say that the U.S. was founded on Christian principles is quite true, but there is a great chasm between the principles of Jesus’ teachings and the doctrine and dogma that too often rule the day in the average fervent follower’s perceptions. The core group of the framers of our government was undoubtedly influenced by Christianity, but split about evenly between fervent bible readers and those who espoused a deistic philosophy (Thomas Jefferson called the book of Revelation the rantings of a madman). All, however, realized that the establishment of a state religion would be anathema to the new republic.

Though not in our Constitution (as is often believed), Jefferson’s proclamation of there being a “wall of separation between church and state” is an effective metaphor. I don’t see any current infringement on Christians' free exercise within the walls of their churches and rarely in the surrounding community, especially here in the Baptist Belt where the right wing has refashioned the classic three Estates of the Realm (clergy, nobility, and commoners) into a single bastardized one. When exceptions are voiced against public exercise it is always on the grounds of being inappropriately foisted upon mixed public company (think Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe cheerleaders with religious signs, Ten Commandments in the courthouse, etc.) and not against any peaceable assembly exclusively made up of believers. Unfortunately the courts have not always held that “inappropriate” equals an unconstitutional establishment (dare I say endorsement) of religion.

Though I have eschewed revealed religion in my life, I don’t disagree that there is often intolerance of Christianity on the part of staunch Atheists with chips on their shoulders (works both ways, that), but I believe we should all pledge to love our enemies and not scream back at them.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?