Have you ever been in a Church meeting where someone, a speaker in sacrament meeting, or a teacher or student in Sunday School, Priesthood, or Relief Society, makes a blatant political statement? Perhaps it was only a facetious but degrading comment about a particular Obama Administration policy. If it occurred a few years ago, it may have been a statement of support for President Bush or the Iraq war. Too often, I've heard people make political comments in Church meetings, usually denigrating Democratic politicians and policies while supporting Republican politicians and policies. I have even heard people make disparaging comments in Church meetings about Church members who happen to be Democrats. Political statements, regardless of whether they are conservative, liberal, or moderate, do not belong in our sacred Church meetings. It is incredibly inappropriate and unchristian to denigrate someone because of their political beliefs, particularly while attending a Christian church! Numerous statements from the First Presidency and other General Authorities have made it clear that our church meetings are for discussing sacred gospel topics and not for politics (If you want to read more about the Church's stance of political neutrality, click here).Read more
Less than two weeks after I wrote a post praising Mitt Romney (and Jon Huntsman) for their admirable stances supporting science's position on climate change, Romney changed his position! In June, Romney stated the following to an audience in New Hampshire, affirming the existence of global warming:Read more
During the last Presidential election season, I wrote the following letter to the editor, which was printed in a prominent newspaper:
Lost amid the hype about Mitt Romney's religion speech and Mike Huckabee's surge is a story about a church that, unlike most contemporary Christian organizations, does not participate in partisan politics. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church, has stated for years that it does not "endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms." The Mormon Church also does not allow its church buildings to be used for partisan political purposes; nor does it tell its members whom to vote for.Read more
When many evangelical leaders are eager to blur the line between church and state by endorsing candidates and tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) telling their followers whom to vote for, and when many churches allow candidates to use their pulpits, it is refreshing to know that at least one church is honoring a principle established by the Founding Fathers by keeping religion out of politics. As a practicing Mormon, I am a product of this political neutrality. (By the way, I will not be voting for Mr. Romney.)
This August was a crazy time for American politics. The debt ceiling debate (or debacle) along with the "compromise" bill where the Democrats essentially gave in to nearly all of the GOP's demands, followed by the stock market's precipitous drop and frightening volatility have resulted in hysteria among some of the political talking heads. One thing that annoyed me a bit was constant criticism of President Obama for taking a vacation after the debt ceiling crisis was finally solved. It seems to me that every time Barack Obama and his family take some vacation time, they are subject to relentless attacks by the right-wing media. Conservative pundits on FOX News and elsewhere assaulted the President for taking vacation during such distressing economic times. Of course after the debt ceiling compromise bill was passed, Congress took a three-week recess, and there isn't much the President can do about the economy without Congress. Even if the President recalled Congress, everyone should know by now that there is little chance the two parties could come to an agreement on measures to stimulate economic growth and fight unemployment anytime soon.
In hearing all of this criticism of the President and his vacation-taking, I wondered how he compared with his predecessors regarding the amount of vacation days he's taken. Fortunately, there are folks in the media who have nothing better to do than track Presidential vacation days.
CBS Radio's Mark Knoller observed the following in August:
So far, President Obama has taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office. At this point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had spent 180 days at his ranch where his staff often joined him for meetings. And Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days at his ranch. Among recent presidents, Bill Clinton took the least time off — 28 days.
Would FOX News care to publicize that comparison during their prime time shows?
No, Speaker Boehner did not invite me out for drinks in his corporate box at this weekend's Phoenix Open. But he was kind enough to let me snap off this picture. With politicking never ceasing, he shook every outstretched hand and stood somewhat attentive for every iPhone camera.
Although Speaker Boehner and I view the political landscape very differently, I do enjoy seeing our leadership out from behind the constructed backdrop created from the Nation's partisan divide. Enjoy the Open Mr. Speaker -- tomorrow you are back in Washington trying to explain how cutting $100B in discretionary spending impacts the $3.4T budget, how repealing the healthcare bill improves our society, and how crazy lady Michele Bachmann and the pony express can help the Republican Party.
So far, it appears that the person who targeted Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona for assassination, in Saturday's shooting rampage that left 6 people dead and many others seriously wounded, was not directly inspired by the virulent and violent political rhetoric that has been dominating the public discourse over the past 2 years and beyond. And in this post, I am not trying to assign blame for the shooting rampage to anyone aside from the deranged, homicidal gunman, Jared Lee Loughner. But this national tragedy has provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the type of political conversation we engage in both in public and in private. Last March, I posted about some of the recent violence and violent rhetoric. In the aftermath of the passage of the health care reform bill, many prominent opponents of the bill used inappropriate and irresponsible rhetoric that included implicit violent and hateful messages.Read more
During the most recent LDS General Conference, we heard yet another call for civility in our public dialogue. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “many in this world are afraid and angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. I invite each one of us individually to recognize that how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. Violence and vandalism are not the answer to our disagreements.”Read more
I was asked to critique why Barack Obama's Speech on Race was good/great - March 18, 2008
Where we should start is the assumption that this speech is good/great. I guess the issue I have always had comes not with the content (I think the content is remarkable) but the timing. I remember quite clearly the context that drove these remarks (and even more problematic for Obama were the comments that came after). This entire speech was a deflection and a political maneuver around Rev. Wright’s salacious comments. Does the context then taint the content?
In this speech, Obama is masterful at playing both sides of the race argument, from society's grind on minorities, to reverse discrimination found in programs like affirmative action. He is amazing at positioning himself somewhere in the middle as you would expect a pragmatist would. His speech intends to unify, not divide, and he delivers the remarks from a vantage point where one would not question his experiences or his positioning.
With that being said he touches very little on the new race that divides our nation, and he focuses on areas that are safe. He ventures very little on the new Brown vs. Board of Education or the segregation developing in politics. The greatest divide we currently face in this nation, is not color or creed, but political affiliation. It’s hard to deny that Obama is a beneficiary of race, or his personal story places him in the persuasive middle of the color argument. This is why the race subject is safe for him. But the destructive forces of political posturing are overcoming this nation and dividing us from within.
Why have we come this far? Why does Obama’s name create sudden divide in the masses? Why do we venture to the point of routing for failure just to be right? Why do we fill the pockets of the egocentric individuals whose sole purpose is to divide this great nation? When will we arrive back to the point in time when compromise was the end solution and not a “my way or the highway” mentality? Obama starts his speech with an illustration concerning the Framers of our Constitution. He elicited memories of the first signing of the Constitution by individuals who were no more philosophically divided then the people are today. The difference? Compromise was sought in all matters. The original patriots were able to lock themselves in a room and work together to arrive at a common outcome. No 24 hour CSPAN to record what today would be perceived as weakness. No media filtration to paint a picture supporting their viewer’s perceptions. No posturing that would not be called out for what it really is. Obama has often said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. But selective sunlight creates flawed arguments and black marks on political discussions.
We all agree that healthcare needs to be fixed. We all agree that illegal immigration is a problem. We all agree that terrorism threatens our moral standards. We all agree that poverty can be corrected. And we agree that greed is overcoming our capitalistic roots. What we disagree on is government’s role regarding solutions to these issues. But disagreement is not foreign to our political dialogue. Do you think the conservative right was aligned with Reagan’s decision to provide amnesty to four million illegal immigrants? Or the liberal left was aligned to Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act? With 300+ million citizens disagreements will come. The problem we now face is our tolerance with reaching across the aisle to come to a unified agreement.
Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech details very little of this national crisis. Part of me believes that he was naive or miscalculated the political divide we now face. He misjudged the alarming influence the media has on steering opinions instead of presenting facts. Case in point: Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do while on the campaign trail. He passed a stimulus bill. He passed healthcare reform. He passed cap and trade legislation. He increased troops to Afghanistan. Yet his popularity has never been lower.
We as Americans have disingenuous dialogue based on differences not similarities. We seek opposition not unification. We are color coded, not by skin color, but by geography and ideology. We seek to stereotype, not by pedigree, but by affiliation.
The hard reality is that we have no one to blame but ourselves. We do not demand the serious conversation needed to repair the divide. We cater to entertainment instead of enlightenment. Our sources of information are limited to 45 second sound bites; hardly enough information needed for compromising and identifying. In Obama’s speech I remember distinctly his awareness of the success this great country afforded him. He stated that no other country could have vaulted a man from his background to the levels he has now ascertained. As fear and anger creep into our discussions I wonder if ideology becomes the new skin color, and party becomes the new religion. If there is one overarching theme I share with Obama’s speech, it’s that reality needs to drive our perceptions, not perceptions driving our reality.
(My favorite speech Obama has ever delivered was right after he lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton)
A couple points of response:
If any company takes taxpayer dollars, then by right of being a shareholder, taxpayers should have some say in how the company operates. I completely agree with you regarding the government's lack of industry expertise, but at the same time if the banking industry is going to benefit from my investment, as a stockholder, I have a right to their profits.
Same with the insurance companies. Medicaid and Medicare pay billions to insurance companies to regulate healthcare. What do we get in return? Larger premiums and poor coverage while the share holders rake in the profits. With government being the largest customer of private insurance companies, they have a right to demand better service, lower premiums, and higher quality of care. If an insurance company does not want to deal with the government's request, capitalism steps in. The insurance company needs to drop the government as a customer and the market will pick up the slack. However, insurance companies understand current legislation has been written in their favor. The government has legislated high barriers to entry and strict state to state competition laws. You and I have limited choices in what insurance companies we can purchase from, stifling competition. To make matters worse insurance companies are protected by anti-trust legislation making it harder to pin responsibility on price fixing and collusion.
Similar condition with with drug companies. Drug companies (with the help of Republicans) wrote price fixing laws into the 2003 Medicare bill making it illegal for the government to directly negotiate pricing. As a result the largest buyer of drugs pays the highest price. Capitalism or intervention? Drugs are cheaper in Mexico and Canada for the sheer reason of market forces. Now I wish the best for the pharma industry. I hope they make billions in profits. They should be rewarded for their innovation. However it’s a double edged sword to play the victim of legislation that encourages the use of free market concepts to drive down profits. The drug companies have been sucking the tax dollars from our wallets with no repercussions of the price gauging they have regulated.
Now, "Obamacare" fixes several of these issues. It protects consumers from being dropped when their health takes a turn for the worse. It reinstates the government’s power to negotiate drug prices. It creates an insurance exchange to allow small businesses to band together and negotiate like massive corporations. Several of these concepts are free market principles. Now, I am not sure how I feel about mandating every citizen to buy healthcare. Obviously cutting down on emergency room care through scale would be a huge cost saver, and one of the driving principles of this legislation. I am also not sure if regulating small businesses to provide healthcare is a wise market principle either. However, economics will teach you that there are vast economies of scale as competition increases and demand rises. This is exactly why we can cover more people, using market principles, at a lower cost per individual. Is the healthcare bill perfect? No. But it is definitely better then the legislation we currently have in place. The CBO, a non-partisan organization, has projected the bill will be covered by forecasted costs already in the system (I guess we should thank the Republicans for that – the Medicare 2003 bill was quite an expensive entitlement program!) and increasing payroll taxes on individuals making over $250,000.
To start the blog, I would like to link one of my favorite LDS General Conference talks from the past few years given by Elder Robert S. Wood of the First Quorum of the Seventy. In observing the political climate in 2006, Elder Wood noted:Read more