Tuesday, September 8, 2009
National Debt Ceiling Rising to $13 TRILLION
Lost in the din of the national debate over health care reform comes news today that the Obama administration is asking for the Senate to go along with the House's already-granted approval to increase the national debt level to $13 Trillion!
The debt ceiling has already been raised three times in the last two years. And this is before we begin to absorb the cost of a nationalized health care program (the Congressional Budget Office estimate is as high as $1.5 Trillion).
The duplicity of the economic forecasts attempting to describe the impact of the inexorable escalation in debt levels is stunning. Reduced to their essence, there isn't a commentary I've read recently that doesn't contain two contradictory elements: 1) Raising the debt level must be done and is essential to keep the government running; and 2) continually raising the debt level is unsustainable as a long-term strategy.
This political double-speak is illustrated perfectly in the words of President Obama. When President Bush was in the White House, he was the junior Senator from Illinois in 2006. Senator Barack Obama was outraged at the thought of increasing the debt level. He rose on the Senate floor and indignantly decried: “Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.”
He joined en mass with his Democrat colleagues in protest and voted against the increase in debt levels then. Despite Democrats' outrage, the Republicans had the votes and the debt level was increased. Now the roles are reversed, and the outcome is likely not to change much.
I have come to the painful conclusion that there is really very little difference anymore between a Republican and a Democrat. The need to sustain the status quo is all either party seems concerned about. It's really just a matter of acquiring and holding on to power, then sustaining one's political position for as long as possible.
When the outrage of the citizenry is sufficient, then change comes.
Now, it seems, another change is in the offing in the mid-term Congressional elections looming in 2010. Every two years something magical happens under our form of government. One-third of the Senate is up for election and all 435 House seats are at stake. What Americans are slowly coming to realize is that they really do have the power at the voting booth to alter what always appears to be a default future over which they have little control. However, they are the only true agents of change that will be effective.
When he ran for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised "change we can believe in." There were 52% of Americans who believed him. One might argue now that wasn't exactly the change we were looking for. Knowing that two years is a painfully short window through which to push change, we have seen a breath-taking change agent at work. The speed with which the legislative agenda of Barack Obama has been moving through the House and Senate is unprecedented.
But, remember, it's only a two-year window.
The genius of the Constitution, it seems to me, is that the extreme swings in the political pendulum can be adjusted by the will of the governed, but only if they're up to it. Suddenly this summer people have been heard to shout out at their elected officials, "You work for us, we don't work for you!" Stunning. Amazing. Shocking. And exactly the way the framers of the Constitution envisioned it.
The polarizing debate over health care reform in recent months has framed the Constitutional genius in a new light for some. They've seen an illustration of what is possible. Town hall meetings have demonstrated just how volatile the inflamed electorate can become when their security is threatened.
Nobody believes in the inspired origins of the Constitution more ardently than the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I was reading this morning in D&C 101, a revelation given December 16, 1833, to Joseph Smith when he was living in Kirtland, Ohio. Great persecution was being heaped on the saints living in Missouri. Mobs with blackened faces were driving them from their homes in Jackson County, and persecution followed them incessantly into Van Buren County and Clay County. Threats of death against individuals in the Church were a daily occurrence. Members of the Church had lost household furniture, clothing, livestock, crops and other personal property to the mobs. Their homes were left in burning rubble behind them. Despite that backdrop, when all hope seemed lost, the Lord reassured the young Prophet Joseph:
Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance—
I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.
Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.
Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy.
I have sworn, and the decree hath gone forth by a former commandment which I have given unto you, that I would let fall the sword of mine indignation in behalf of my people; and even as I have said, it shall come to pass.
Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations; and this will I do when the cup of their iniquity is full.
And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.
And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.
And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.
And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.
Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion —
And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled. . .
And now, I will show unto you a parable, that you may know my will concerning the redemption of Zion.
A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive-trees;
And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive-trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take upon themselves the fruit of my vineyard.
Now, the servants of the nobleman went and did as their lord commanded them, and planted the olive-trees, and built a hedge round about, and set watchmen, and began to build a tower.
NOTE: [This reference in the parable to "a tower" is being used as a symbol for the temple designated for Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. I went looking for a picture of an ancient watchtower to illustrate today's blog, and found this accompanying picture of the Desert Watchtower with a view of the Grand Canyon and surrounding countryside for hundreds of miles in every direction. Built in 1932, it is the perfect symbol to suggest the need for us to see the enemy conspiring against the saints who are seeking to establish Zion in these last days].
And while they were yet laying the foundation thereof, they began to say among themselves: And what need hath my lord of this tower?
And consulted for a long time, saying among themselves: What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?
Might not this money be given to the exchangers? For there is no need of these things.
And while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.
And the enemy came by night, and broke down the hedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive-trees.
Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the vineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil?
Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and — after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof — built the tower also, and set a watchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?
And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer.
And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, my young men, and they that are of middle age also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry;
And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money.
Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen.
And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land.
And the servant said unto his lord: When shall these things be?
And he said unto his servant: When I will; go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you;
And this shall be my seal and blessing upon you — a faithful and wise steward in the midst of mine house, a ruler in my kingdom.
And his servant went straightway, and did all things whatsoever his lord commanded him; and after many days all things were fulfilled.
Again, verily I say unto you, I will show unto you wisdom in me concerning all the churches, inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation —
That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon holy places; for the time of harvest is come, and my word must needs be fulfilled.
Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be;
While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.
Therefore, a commandment I give unto all the churches, that they shall continue to gather together unto the places which I have appointed.
Nevertheless, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, let not your gathering be in haste, nor by flight; but let all things be prepared before you.
And in order that all things be prepared before you, observe the commandment which I have given concerning these things—
Which saith, or teacheth, to purchase all the lands with money, which can be purchased for money, in the region round about the land which I have appointed to be the land of Zion, for the beginning of the gathering of my saints;
All the land which can be purchased in Jackson county, and the counties round about, and leave the residue in mine hand.
Now, verily I say unto you, let all the churches gather together all their moneys; let these things be done in their time, but not in haste; and observe to have all things prepared before you.
And let honorable men be appointed, even wise men, and send them to purchase these lands.
And the churches in the eastern countries, when they are built up, if they will hearken unto this counsel they may buy lands and gather together upon them; and in this way they may establish Zion.
There is even now already in store sufficient, yea, even an abundance, to redeem Zion, and establish her waste places, no more to be thrown down, were the churches, who call themselves after my name, willing to hearken to my voice.
And again I say unto you, those who have been scattered by their enemies, it is my will that they should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you —
According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. [America was obtained in the Revolutionary War through the shedding of blood in a most remarkable outcome -- nobody predicted victory over the mighty armies of Great Britain, yet victory came.]
Now, unto what shall I liken the children of Zion? I will liken them unto the parable of the woman and the unjust judge, for men ought always to pray and not to faint, which saith—
There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man.
And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him, saying: Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while, but afterward he said within himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
Thus will I liken the children of Zion.
Let them importune at the feet of the judge;
And if he heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the governor;
And if the governor heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the president;
And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation;
And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers;
Even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
Pray ye, therefore, that their ears may be opened unto your cries, that I may be merciful unto them, that these things may not come upon them.
What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse;
That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered;
That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.
And again, I say unto you, it is contrary to my commandment and my will that my servant Sidney Gilbert should sell my storehouse, which I have appointed unto my people, into the hands of mine enemies.
Let not that which I have appointed be polluted by mine enemies, by the consent of those who call themselves after my name;
For this is a very sore and grievous sin against me, and against my people, in consequence of those things which I have decreed and which are soon to befall the nations.
Therefore, it is my will that my people should claim, and hold claim upon that which I have appointed unto them, though they should not be permitted to dwell thereon.
Nevertheless, I do not say they shall not dwell thereon; for inasmuch as they bring forth fruit and works meet for my kingdom they shall dwell thereon.
They shall build, and another shall not inherit it; they shall plant vineyards, and they shall eat the fruit thereof. Even so. Amen. (D&C 101:1-19; 43-101, emphasis added).
There is a profound and scriptural reason why the living prophets among us do not seem to be concerned about the political winds that blow. No matter what happens politically in this country as it is tossed to and fro in the mighty winds of adversity, there is peace in knowing the promises of the Lord -- come what may.
As I write this post to the blog, President Obama is addressing school children amidst withering criticism from the right that he is trying to somehow brainwash them into his socialistic agenda (a stupid notion), and tomorrow he will address the Congress in a joint session presumably to ram home his health care program (little more than great political theater since he already has the votes in his pocket to do whatever he desires).
Against the backdrop this political stage, remember no matter what, Zion will be redeemed "when I will." In the meantime, "go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you." That injunction has never changed, and neither has the commitment of our leaders to building enough temples throughout the world to fulfill their mandate as true watchmen on the towers of Zion.
And the national debt and the political debate continue to escalate.