Saturday, September 12, 2009

4 Problems That Could Sink America ... Really?

Rick Newman of the U.S. News and World Report has written an article about four threats to America's future prosperity. In the article the four threats he outlines are: 1. We don't like to work, 2. Nobody wants to sacrifice, 3. We're uniformed, and 4. Selfishness (the iCulture) . Here is my critique on his four reasons.

1. We Don't Like to Work

Summary: Newman basically sums up that we are just too darn lazy. He gives the example of an entrepreneur who works 16-hour days and says not to complain about money if you only want to work 8 hours a day. So, again, if we all just work harder!

My Take: As usual, another half-sided, poorly thought out idea by a journalist out of touch with at least 50% of the real world. The state of our country today is NOT because we don't work enough. The housing crisis was not a result of people not working hard - that roofer who wanted a $500,000 house probably worked harder than the average Wall Street broker. The real problem is this: people make poor life decisions. The roofer made a poor life decision by buying more house than could be afforded, and probably needed. The mortgage company made a poor life decision, for the business, when it decided to loan the money. It doesn't matter how hard people work if they squander whatever they earn, regardless of how much or little.

The article also quotes an economist (one of the most clueless and overrated of professions) as saying: "Instead of buying stuff at the mall, spend the money on evening classes. Learn a language or skills you don't have." So learning Spanish or Mandarin is going to help that roofer pay his mortgage? Too bad he can hardly handle English.

Oh yeah, and 16 hour days? If most people did that, who is going to raise the children? Our society now has as many, if not more women in the work force as men. We would have to return to a far more traditional way of life that allow for at least one parent to stay home in order for that to work. The problem with that however, what's the point of being married to someone who works 16 hours a day? How on earth do you find someone to marry if you're working 16 hours a day. I hope that entrepreneur is already married, or not. I'm not sure. Also, "regressing" society to one working parent in a home would take a HEAP of production out of the economy. I thought the idea was to produce more, not less.

Despite the obvious flaws with this first reason, Newman did get it half right, many of us do not work hard enough - FOR WHAT WE HAVE. Too many make their living off the efforts of others with no respect or appreciation for those efforts. I don't have a problem with someone who doesn't want work - that's just more opportunities for those that do. The problem I have is with the government that forces me to support those who refuse to work. Now that's a reason worth investigating!

2. Nobody wants to Sacrifice

Summary: One statement from the article sums is up - "It would just be too uncomfortable to tell the middle class that if they want something, they need to earn it themselves." On the face of it, it looks like a statement I would actually agree with. But look a little more closely and we will see that it falls flat on its face. The key words that destroys the validity of the state it are "the middle class". Actually, at last check it was the middle class that was working the hardest and earning the most from their OWN efforts. The correct statement would read like this:
"It would just be too uncomfortable to tell AMERICANS that if they want something, they need to earn it themselves." Why does he exclude the lower and upper classes from his statement? Something is seriously amiss with his thinking.

He also makes a comment about the government providing "expanded health care". This is important to note as I expose his utter hypocrisy in a few moments.

3. We're Uninformed

Summary: We are just too ignorant. Newman says, "The health care smackdown -- sorry, "debate" -- is Exhibits A, B and C. The soaring cost of health care is a problem that affects most Americans. It's shrinking paychecks, squeezing small businesses, bankrupting families and swelling the national debt."

My Take: Newman is just too ignorant. Not about the cost of healthcare, but about the idea that the government paying for healthcare is somehow supposed to prevent all of the things he stated the cost of healthcare is causing.

Tell me this, how is it that the government spending MORE money, by providing universal healthcare, supposed to make the national debt LESS? If he thinks the cost of healthcare is shrinking paychecks, wait until the 50%-60% tax rate the government imposes to pay for healthcare "reform" hits the fan.

Also, did Newman not just say something about a problem with the cost of the government providing "expanded healthcare"? So now he is criticizing people for opposing it, FOR THE SAME REASON HE JUST STATED IT WAS A PROBELM? Wow. (That's all I better say about that.)

4. iCulture

Summary: Everyone wants the best of everything for the least effort. Newman says, "Rationing is a dirty word, so we can't have a system that officially rations something as vital as health care or education. Instead, we have unacknowledged, de facto rationing that directs the most resources to those with the best connections, the most money or the savvy to game the system."

What?! No rationing? But, but, what about all of the hard work and sacrifice he was just talking about? Is not rationing a major form of sacrifice? The fact that healthcare and education is involved doesn't change the need to sacrifice, despite the fantasy world Newman lives in. That's why I don't have a Master's degree. I have kids. Whatever money and time I have is primarily spent on them. Therefore, I sacrifice my desire to obtain more education. Same thing with healthcare. If I hire a personal trainer and cook, that would be far less money for my children. The fact that a personal trainer and cook would do more to improve my health than any doctor or medicine on the planet is irrelevant. That's what is known as sacrifice.

Newman also makes a half-true, whole lie of a statement in saying "Americans still believe they deserve the best of everything -- the best job, the best health care, the best education for our kids. And we want it at a discount -- or better yet, free -- which brings us back to the usual disconnect between what we want and what we're willing to pay for". No Mr. Newman, only those that are not willing to ration, um, sacrfice, believe that. I, and many like me do NOT believe that. Newman uses a general term when he should use a specific term, and a specific term when he should use a general term. According to Newman, when it comes to working, only the middle class is involved. But when it comes to sacrifice, everyone is involved? Unless of course, you don't work hard, and therefore have nothing to sacrifice. In that case, the government is supposed to force someone else to pay for it. Right, Newman?

If I were to have a conversation with Mr. Newman, I would direct him to the very ancient, very wise words of Ecclesiates 2, notice verse 11:

"Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."

What the scripture is saying is that everything we do as people is ultimately doomed to failure. Whatever we gain materially will have little spiritual value, and therefore fail to satisfy. If we work hard and yet are driven by vain desires with no spiritual guidance or purpose, we will likely end up losing whatever we do gain, or destroying ourselves and others in the process. That is the underlying reason why many of us don't want to work hard or sacrifice, and choose to be lazy and ignorant.

So, are we as Americans, as humans, doomed to failure. NO! Now read Ecclesiates 2:24-26:

"A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

Basically there is only one problem that will sink America: Life without God.

God Bless. Even you, Mr. Newman.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Love and Music

A lot of serious things are happening in the world right now, as always. However, it's all in God's hands anyway, and He has already finished the novel (read Revelation), so I thought I would write about something perhaps more enjoyable - love and music!

First, MUSIC!

Maxwell, whom I am a big fan of, recently released a new album. Of the nine songs I like all but two, Playing Possum and Phoenix Rising. Those two songs seem to have a disjointed harmony, actually making it difficult for me to listen to. Pretty Wings and Bad Habits both have the classic quality of thoughtful lyrics and and passionate melody that Maxwell is known for. "Cold" has a nice up tempo jazz feel. Also, the song count of 9 is a little low for the abilities of someone like Maxwell. With such a low song count, I think he should have dropped the last two, and worked on one more really solid piece. I rate it 3.5 out of 5.

Over the years, I have enjoyed the music of Lenny Kravitz. I recently checked out his new album, It is Time for a Love Revolution. Impressive. Classic retro sounds brilliantly put together. I especially like the energy of "Love Revolution", "Bring it On", and "If You Want It". The sincerity and heart break of "I'll Be Waiting" and "A Long and Sad Good Bye" are truly touching.
The only song I don't like is "Good Morning" - a little too cheery for my taste, maybe because I'm NOT a morning person. I rate it 4 out of 5.

The news is out that SADE (purposefully spelled in all caps) and her band are working on a new album to be released perhaps as early as November. Take your time your highness, it will be worth the wait. Eagerly looking forward to it.

Next, LOVE!

I was reading on Maxwell's Sony music site the following quote about the song, "Pretty Wings": "How you meet the person of your dreams but at the wrong time." There is a lot I have yet to learn in this life, but one thing I have strongly concluded is this: When it comes to love, THERE IS NO WRONG TIME. There is time, and love. Period. Seriously. Max, if you really met the love of your life, and she wasn't married, and you let her go, you messed up - BIG TIME (See Proverbs 31:10-12). That's one reason why the divorce rate is 50+ percent. People think it's the "right" time, but quickly find out, the "right" time is fleeting - the next year it often turns out to be the "wrong" time. That's also why some people can know each other for a week, get married, and celebrate their 50th anniversary. Other people can live with each other for 10 years, finally get married, and divorce the next year. Love is more than a feeling, it is a DECISION. You DECIDE to love someone, regardless of the time, right or wrong, good or bad. When it comes to love, hopefully that decision is based on true and genuine feelings along with much thought and honest reflection, but it is still a decision, nonetheless. When the times change or the feelings change, it is STILL a decision. I was watching an interview of James DeBarge talking about his marriage to Janet Jackson: "Right love at the wrong time". James, please, there was nothing wrong with the time, YOU were what was wrong. If James DeBarge was as sober as a choir boy when he married Janet, would 10 years later be the right time to be a crack head?

Think about this, what if God decided to stop loving us every time we did something REALLY stupid or evil? I shudder to think....

I would also like to reflect on Biblical examples of romantic love (we can talk about agape later). One of the most prominent examples, of course, is Song of Solomon. But there are also the examples of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and possibly my favorite couple, Jacob and Rachel. These examples demonstrate a passion and a purpose that is a model for us in our relationships today.

Song of Solomon - the epitome of passion and virtue. In my opinion, the defining example of romantic love as God meant it to be.

Abraham and Sarah - God gave them a baby when Sarah was 90 and Abraham was a 100, thousands of years before Viagra OR fertility treatments. God IS good.

Isaac and Rebekah - Their marriage was arranged before either set sight on the other. Talk about trust and faith in God! God is the tie that binds a marriage.

Jacob and Rachel - Moments after Jacob first saw Rachel, in front of other men, at that time and in that culture, he KISSES HER and weeps for joy. Then Jacob proceeds to work 14 YEARS for FREE, before he marries her! Imagine THAT wedding night!

On a personal note, I am missing my husband right now, as he is working out of town. So I have been thinking a lot about how people take their spouses for granted, and how special love really is - in spite of the work and monotony that tends to set in a marriage. I was listening to a sermon recently in which the pastor said that Jesus made love a verb. In other words, while love is definitely an emotion, just as importantly, it is something we must DO in order for it to become real in our lives. This applies to ALL kinds of love.

So remember, when it comes to love, JUST DO IT! Preferably in the presence of some good music, ;).

God Bless.