Sunday, July 31, 2011

Compromise -- Like Kissing Your Sister

Everyone hates this compromise unlike anything I've ever seen coming out of Washington D.C.

President Obama failed to get tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans for now, but in January 2013 the Bush-era tax cuts expire. That's a tax increase by any calculation. But Paul Ryan gave Sean Hannity assurances tonight (Monday after the House passed the bill) the measure will not allow it to happen.

There's a bicameral bipartisan committee of twelve (six from each house) being handed authority to come up with more spending cuts (half defense and half entitlements) by November of this year. If they don't, some "triggers" kick in that are designed purposefully to be painful enough for both sides to compel action. We'll see. There is a troubling habit in Washington in recent years. We don't openly debate anymore. We appoint committees. It's a trip down memory lane.

The House has held its ground since the mid-term elections in 2010. They repealed Obamacare, they passed the proposed Ryan budget, and they passed Cut, Cap and Balance and got an assurance for an up or down vote in both the House and the Senate on the Balanced Budget Amendment. Apparently the sticking point for Democrats is a mechanism for a "super majority" vote of 67% in each house to raise taxes. Look for that provision to be modified to be more acceptable.

But tonight it's all political, not meaningful. Here's the biggest problem -- the entitlement spending is on autopilot and increases (because of the absence of a restraining budget) by 8% for the next several years. The "cuts" proposed in this compromise deal merely state we will cut 3% from the projected spending we haven't spent yet, and it's not real. The net result that just got cast in stone today is that S&P will downgrade the AAA bond rating, assured by this deal. Moody's may be more patient, but not for long. Strange, that knowing what the rating agencies wanted to see, the politicians couldn't satisfy their demands.

This is a political compromise of the first order, nothing more nothing less. It's avoided a default in the short term, but the structural economic weaknesses still remain. We're on a path to borrow 100% of our GDP, and this does nothing to short circuit that trajectory. The total economy is $14.8 Trillion, and we've borrowed $14.3 to date with more coming. The debt is accumulating at $4 Billion PER DAY! Astounding to me is Obamacare and its impact, already being

We need to take the baseline for this year, then cut 1% off that per year until spending comes down to the level of tax revenue. That's real. This deal is just more Washington compromise as usual. Watch for Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Budget guru, to take up the return to the baseline budgeting in committee. We learned nothing from the TARP lesson of September of 2008, and you can add Obamacare to that pattern. Remember, "We have to pass this bill to know what's in it?" (That was Nancy Pelosi when they passed Obamacare).

And now we repeat the same pattern. This compromise deal was struck by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice-President Joe Biden (don't let anyone tell you any differently -- that's who did it). Panic at the last minute is once again what this looks and feels like. Will anyone actually get to read and study this thing before a vote? Let's hope so.

Some members of the House and Senate complained that the details of the backroom deal were in the hands of the media for a full hour before getting a conference call to their respective caucuses. That doesn't sit well with elected representatives who were sent there as the representatives of the people. What a horrible example of Constitutional government!

However, lest we sink all hope with these comments, there is a ray of sunshine. The House and Senate freshmen Republicans who were sent to change things have held their ground and have succeeded in changing the conversation. Instead of being able to buy votes with more pork barrel spending, this time the POTUS and the Senate majority leader were compelled to have a conversation with Speaker Boehner in the back room, all of them realizing the American people now had representation and they meant business. We sometimes forget that only a year ago the Obama administration got a $1.9 Trillion increase in the debt limit rubber-stamped through both houses of Congress without anyone even finding the story in the mainstream media because it was buried on page 10 under the fold. Why? See Obamacare -- you'll find it there.

So that's some progress on some level; some, but not enough.

What comes next? We haven't really had a comprehensive debate yet about the underlying economic issues. That has to come next, and it isn't going away until after the 2012 election, like President Obama would have preferred. He's actually going to have to defend his record as the biggest spender in the history of the Republic.

So what we got after all the angst over the last two months was the one thing the country can least afford -- more uncertainty. We'll lose the AAA bond rating, there's little doubt. Whether or not S&P decides to follow through on their threat of a downgrade, that fact may be the least of our financial worries. A Democrat-controlled Congress seems to believe adding a "mere" $7 trillion to our debt between now and 2020 instead of $10 trillion represents a victory for prudent budgeting. GEEZ! And even a "modest" $3-trillion trim is a theoretical number. Further, nothing can bind a 2018 Congress to follow the will of Americans expressed in 2011. That's a lot more frightening than any credit downgrade. Married with inflation that's already on the way, the impact on discretionary spending is negative for everyone.

Last night CNN interviewed Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). Notice how many times the interviewers bring up the political implications, none of which Lee is interested in discussing. Instead, he's focused totally on the underlying economic issues that have not been addressed. Blitzer tried to suggest the Republicans got nearly everything they asked for, so why can't Lee be happy about that? Well, it's simple. This request for an increase in the debt ceiling is unprecedented in U.S. history, and cannot be granted without a structural reform to the way Washington spends our money in the future. This is a debate that has just barely begun, and I don't expect a political "deal" to tamp down that economic debate.

The rest of the story is even easier, which may make all this academic -- will the deal actually pass through both houses among the rank and file members? Lee first wanted to invoke the filibuster, requiring 60 votes in the Senate for passage to break the filibuster, then backed off when the votes lined up in support of the measure. It's the American way. It's the Constitutional way. It's not the political way Lee's interested in. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also stood by his pledge to oppose it without the BBA.

We are finally beginning to wake up from our long national nap, it seems. If there is any good news, both sides are finally compelled because of the economy to end their lavish dreams. The Tea Party uprising has killed both the neoconservative dream of an ever-expanding American empire and the liberal hopes once entertained that roughly 100 years after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, roughly 75 years after the New Deal and roughly 50 years after the Great Society, we were living in another great age of progressive reform.

Given the era of fiscal scarcity we’re now entering, those neocon and progressive dreams are now likely dead for many years to come. This recovery will take years, not months, to materialize. Meanwhile, the Tea Party’s dream of a government reduced to its pre-welfare state size becomes self-fulfilling.

Stay tuned, this thing isn't a done deal yet, even when the votes are in.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Open Letter on the Debt Crisis

Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, and Mr. Speaker (and Mr. Chief Justice if it helps):

The noise in Washington this week has been deafening, the heat has been off the charts, the accusations and threats unrestrained, and the rhetoric explosive. And what have we gleaned from it all? So far, nothing. You all saw this coming when the new House was sworn in last January, and what have you done since then? You waited until the self-imposed deadline, and very little leadership among you has been in evidence. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) explains just how simple these issues really are:

There are those who claim the freshmen Republicans in the House are irresponsible with their staunch position on "Cut, Cap and Balance," but to date it is the only piece of pending legislation that has passed, until a second attempt passed narrowly late today. Since then a flurry of proposals (and that's all they are -- proposals) have not been put into actionable legislation. Moody's remains unimpressed, saying nothing they've seen so far will work to appease their pending downgrade of the U.S. Treasury's AAA bond rating. What is pathetic in a crisis of leadership that seems to characterize Democrat control of the Senate and the White House is that we haven't yet seen a plan in writing. The budget submitted by this White House earlier this year was so deficient in specifics it was voted down 97-0, and nothing has come out of the Senate since.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
I am grateful for the efforts of Utah's congressional delegation who are leading the way in this fight -- specifically Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Congressman Jason Chaffetz (D-UT) and senior Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Lee is responsible for the content of the House legislation and it was sponsored courageously by Chaffetz where it passed. Cut, Cap and Balance is the responsible approach, the "balanced approach," if you prefer. Unfortunately, when it was sent to the Senate, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), House Majority Leader, decided to kill it on a procedural vote without giving anyone in the "deliberative body" a chance to debate or amend its merits or deficiencies.

Then the House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), went to work with Reid, feeling betrayed by a "wiggly" Jell-o-like occupant of the White House, to craft yet another Washington COMPROMISE solution. So far, no success on that path has been reached either. We'll now watch the Senate shred this latest attempt and see if they can come up with anything over the weekend that might have a chance for passage in the House.

In the meantime President Obama remains on the sidelines where he deserves to be as a lame duck and out of the discussions because he was summarily excluded (correctly) by Boehner as an impediment.

Since January, the threat of a downgrade in the U.S. Treasury credit rating for its bonds has been on the table. The rating agencies are looking for a commitment for real cuts in spending amounting to $4 Trillion, not ironically the same amount that has been amassed under the Obama administration in a short two and one-half years. I continue to be baffled why anyone would think borrowing $4 Trillion from principally the Chinese government then blaming George W. Bush for everything, as President Obama did last week without even acknowledging his own complicity might be a factor, is a viable campaign strategy by Obama's advisers. The thought makes reason stare. Then after that he demands that wealthy Americans pay their "fair share" in taxes.

It is my considered belief that Mike Lee is the statesman in all this. I define "statesman" as one who takes a principled stand in the face of popular opinion. However, the American people are lined up behind Lee on this one. A recent CNN poll indicates as many as 74 percent favor the general idea of a BBA without even knowing the specifics. You may disagree, but his influence is having a profound impact for a junior senator from a small state like Utah. Those who doubted his effectiveness as a freshman replacing a seasoned Bob Bennett can rest assured there would have been nothing coming from Bennett by comparison. So, kudos to Mike.

I do not speak for Lee (he is fully capable), but it's important to underscore what he is attempting to accomplish without impugning his motives as some have done. He is not in favor of raising the debt limit if he were making an isolated choice. In this climate currently, however, he is willing to make the necessary compromise now if he can get the Balanced Budget Amendment to change the structure of the government's spending habit to finally come under Constitutional control. Click the link (it's not a new idea). Anything short of a Constitutional amendment allows future Congresses to adjust whatever assumptions are put in place today and to change the law at will. That's what got us into this mess in the first place. I think that position is reasoned and worthy of consideration, especially when it authorizes a mechanism to deal with "emergencies" like wars. There are twenty Democratic Senators who are on the record as favoring the BBA idea.

When 49 states require their legislatures to balance their budgets, can anyone explain to me why expecting the same thing from the federal government is such a bad idea? When did it become "reckless" for government to commit to the taxpayers they would not spend more than they take in? Will those same people explain why deficit spending and unsustainable debt and borrowing is NOT reckless? I await your response. We're at a tipping point in America. The word of the year in politics is "UNSUSTAINABLE." Everybody uses that word. So let's bind Congress in the future to a sustainable and sensible process when it comes to spending priorities. Is that reckless?

I have always maintained since first being introduced to Mike's senate candidacy early in 2010, that he would make an impact on Washington if he could remain true to his beliefs. However, I acknowledge he cannot be effective in isolation, nor that any one man can change everything. That would be a truly audacious undertaking. If I were a betting man, I would wager the August 4th deadline is mythical and has no real merit as a drop dead date for solving the problem. If Americans have a few more weeks of watching these positions revealed for what they are -- mostly lies -- we'll see a public ground swell uniting behind Mike's leadership on the BBA. Why? Because President Obama has already caved on including taxes as part of this compromise. That's a reasonable compromise, and he is to be commended for taking taxes out of the equation. However, the spending cuts proposed by Reid have been exposed for what they are -- illusory rather than real cuts to trim the baseline for this year, particularly when an "assumption" about the end of our involvement in Afghanistan is included -- and REAL, tangible cuts out of this year's budget are what the credit rating agencies are looking for. They are certainly not going to be impressed with a promise to impanel more commissions to study the matters.

Everyone knows what is required, it seems, except the Democratic and Republican establishment leadership, who are taking us down a path of more "blue ribbon commissions" to do the hard work the American people elected their representatives to do. There is a committee of 535 elected representatives already in place -- 100 in the Senate and 435 in the House. They need to step up, write their best proposals, debate them in public rather than cutting deals behind closed doors, take the votes up or down, and be accountable instead of hiding behind procedure. The American people are screaming, "NO MORE GAMES!"

I stand with Senator Lee. We must put on the spending brakes immediately against THIS YEAR's baseline, then plan for the future by passing the BBA out of both houses of Congress, realizing that most of its provisions will take a matter of months, maybe years, to be approved by 3/4 of all the state legislatures before its provisions kick in. However, just the act of passing that legislation will signal Washington's commitment to the world and to our citizens we are taking immediate and realistic steps to curb the spending addiction.

If the individual states disagree with the BBA, then let them have their voice, and let the debates be held state by state until we reach the needed number. A return to states' rights and federalism at that level would be a welcomed change from what we are witnessing on the shores of the Potomac today. Yes, withdrawal from our easy credit addiction will be long and painful, but must be undertaken. Like all addictions, the time to quit is now, not tomorrow. I guarantee you those in Washington who are not willing to find the game changing solutions will be swept out of office in 2012.

There is no doubt when the Constitution was approved it baked in all the spending restraints and separation of powers by design to prevent tyranny from ever gaining power in America as it had in England. But the abuse of Constitutional principles defining those important limitations are only effective if all agree to be bound by its provisions. Sadly, that is not the case today.

Therefore, we must determine right now as a nation what course we will take. Will we at long last try to reclaim the liberties we have ceded as free men and women to an out-of-control tyrannical federal government, or will we wait for nature to take its irrevocable course and watch the ship of state sink beneath our feet? The choice could not be more clear to me. We have given money to this government and it was not enough. The government appears to be ready to confiscate and regulate even more, and we have created that voracious appetite by monetizing our debt and printing gobs of worthless paper. We have done this to ourselves, and we have what we have because of our own greed. Only our collective political will as a people can reverse this addiction and stop it in its tracks.

We can debate the merits of the proposed BBA (there are actually many versions afloat now), if a true debate can be had in today's environment, but this much seems clear -- drastic measures are needed now. If you use a percentage of past spending limits as a measurement, maybe that's not realistic, so let's come up with something else to cap what we spend if you like, but unless the spending cuts and caps are real and permanent, and until someone else comes up with a better idea, let's support Senator Lee's efforts to at least get us to the starting line on the debate as a nation.

The political gamesmanship is pathetic to watch. Only this morning I listened to President Obama suggest Americans need to keep up the pressure on their elected representatives. "Keep Tweeting," he encouraged. Really, Mr. President? That's your solution? Tweeting? Wouldn't it be hysterical if he were reported as a Twitter spammer and they shut down @barackobama?

There are some who are far to the right of Senator Lee. They would argue there is no defensible principled position on which we could possibly stand to consider raising the debt ceiling. They would advocate a complete collapse of the federal government as the only option avialable to prove a point and win the ideological argument for "purity."

I would suggest there might be an alternative.

It's called elections. They are free and vouched safe under the Constitution. We may have to wait for sixteen more months before enough like-minded people can be added to the ranks of those who believe as I do, but I have a feeling it will be worth the wait if it means saving the Republic by peaceful means. I don't love the thought of anarchy in the streets, nor do I relish a complete economic meltdown simply to prove your "pure" ideology is better than mine. America renews itself every two years by design. When it makes an egregious mistake in judgment, America can redeem herself. The pendulum swings back and forth.

While you may argue there is no principled room left to entertain a vote to raise the debt limit, I believe there is. Even Senator Lee recognizes it is irresponsible or naive to stamp his feet and refuse to raise the debt ceiling. His rational, if adamant stance on the BBA, makes sense while compromising on a debt ceiling increase tied to the strong medicine of the BBA later on. That's better than specious commissions to study and recommend spending cuts and caps that cannot bind the collective wills of future Congresses. Lost in the clamor of the ideology sometimes is the simple fact that the current proposed increase in the debt ceiling is only to handle what we've already obligated the government to do. We just need to make a stand that we won't continue our irresponsible spending habits.

Going forward, let's find Constitutional principles to stand on relative to the federal government's proper role in our lives. Then when we reduce the size of government we'll attack the silent elephant in the room in the aftermath -- who's got a plan for putting all the downsized federal government workers back to work in the private sector?

But that's tomorrow's problem.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Big is $15 TRILLION?

Last night a grandson was watching the President on TV with me. He heard me muttering in amazement at the way the TRILLION dollar numbers just seemed to roll off the lips, but he had no concept of what he was hearing. So he asked, "Grandpa, how much is $15 TRILLION?"

We went to the computer and this is what we found. It kind of helps to visualize it since it's so difficult to grasp it in words alone.

The fact that amazes me is we actually are having an ideological war of words about it between the parties. Doesn't everyone agree that we have to stop the runaway freight train of spending NOW? It should be a no brainer. Today the CBO scored Boehner's plan and discovered it fell short in actual results of the $1 Trillion he was seeking in cuts, so the vote on his bill is going to be delayed until they can come up with more cuts.

At least someone is doing some serious counting, but as you can see from the illustration, that's a lot of counting!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Showdown at the NOT OK CORRAL

Further evidence that things are seriously broken in the White House. Until this president is retired by the voters in November 2012, the great divide will continue. The evidence could not be more clear in these two dueling news conferences last night:

A Rasmussen poll released yesterday reflects the frustration in the country among likely voters. No matter which Republican candidate is pitted against Obama in the poll, he fails to muster support higher than 47%. The election of 2012 is shaping up as a referendum on the incumbent, and right now they are labeling him a lame duck president and he is being treated as such because of his failure in leadership. Even his liberal base is eroding because his most ardent supporters are seeing him now for what he is. Here's another story with the same conclusion.

The result that was most telling to me was the matchup with Ron Paul -- Obama 41%, Paul 37%. I could be satisfied with ANY Republican candidate right now, and apparently the rest of the country is feeling exactly the same.

And oh, by the way, don't underestimate the influence of a man you've never heard of before on the current discussion over taxes and the debt ceiling. Grover Norquist has marshaled members of Congress who have signed his pledge to NEVER raise taxes anytime, anywhere on anybody.

Bohener is not abdicating his duty and his oath of office -- he's merely excluding the president from the discussion and putting him right where he belongs -- on the sidelines -- while Congress takes the leadership role out of his hands..


House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement regarding ongoing work on a deficit reduction package:
“As I said last night, over this weekend Congress will forge a responsible path forward. House and Senate leaders will be working to find a bipartisan solution to significantly reduce Washington spending and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Political Quote of the Day

On the heels of another announcement of mass layoffs this week (23,000 combined from Cisco, Lockheed Martin and Borders, after 41,432 planned cuts in June, plus 142,000 government jobs lost so far this year), I stumbled over this quote this morning:

Howard Davidowitz
Howard Davidowitz is bipartisan in his criticism, calling the U.S. political system "dysfunctional and deranged."

Still, the restructuring expert is a longtime and vocal critic of President Obama. Today, he said:

"There has never been a situation in my lifetime where a guy increases the debt by 40%, GDP growth is on the way down, Food Stamps are up, millions more are unemployed -- and to accomplish this we spent $4 trillion."

Further evidence we are indeed living in unprecedented times.

WASHINGTON – Following a procedural vote to prevent the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act” from coming to the Senate floor, Senator Mike Lee released the following statement:
“Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid used procedural tactic to prevent a vote on a bill that is supported by two-thirds of the country.  It is shameful, despicable, and an abuse of this chamber.  We weren’t even allowed sufficient time to debate the one bill in Congress that would address the country’s most immediate challenges.
“The Democrats have blocked a vote for now, but the fight is not over.  I will continue to make sure ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ receives a proper up or down vote in the Senate.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mike Lee Making Headway on the BBA

Forget everything you're hearing about Mike Lee being ineffective as a freshman Senator:

23 Senate Democrats Support a Balanced Budget Amendment

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): “Before I ask for your vote, I owe it to you to tell you where I stand. I’m for… a balanced budget amendment.” (Rep. Brown, “Where I Stand,” YouTube, 11/1/06)

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): “I crossed the line to help balance the budget, as one of the Democrats that broke with my party.” (Michigan Senate Debate, 10/22/00)
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-AK): “It’s time to stop playing political brinksmanship with the budget and do what every Alaskan is doing - balance the budget.” (Sen. Begich, “Begich Statement On 2011 Budget Vote,” Press Release, 4/15/11)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): “Over the years, I have supported a balanced budget amendment…” (Sen. Bill Nelson, Congressional Record, S.1920, 3/29/11)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): “[T]he balanced budget amendment's very, very important to me and to every governor, to every state, to every household, especially in West Virginia. And if they can do it, they think we can do it also.” (U.S. Senate, Budget Committee, Hearing, 1/27/11)
SEN. BEN NELSON (D-NE): “I voted yes and support a balanced budget amendment that allows for flexibility in times of war and for natural disasters.” (Sen. Nelson, Press Statement, 3/4/11)
SEN. MARK UDALL (D-CO): “I've long gone by the saying, if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. By restoring healthy and responsible spending through a reasonable Balanced Budget Amendment, we can begin filling in that hole.” (Sen. Udall, “Udall Co-Sponsors Balanced Budget Amendment,” Press Release, 2/1/11)
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO): “U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet broke his hesitation on endorsing the balanced-budget amendment last week… pledging support for the idea.” (“Bennet Balancing His Approach To Budget,” Denver Post, 3/6/11)
SEN. CLAIRE McCASKILL (D-MO): “I think they should. …It would be great if that discipline were in place. Clearly it’s a goal we’ve got to work toward…” (“McCaskill For ‘Responsible’ Balanced Budget Amendment,” PoliticMo, 6/29/11)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): “New York families must continuously balance their checkbooks. Forty-nine states, including New York, require a balanced budget. An amendment to the Constitution will finally hold the federal government to the same, common sense standard.” (Rep. Gillibrand, “Nation Deserved A Balanced Budget,” The Time Union, 6/4/07)
SEN. TOM CARPER (D-DE): “As a Member of the House, when I served with Senator Santorum over there, we were great proponents of something called a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution…” (Sen. Carper, Congressional Record, S.8063-4, 7/14/04)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “…I believe we should have a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I am willing to go for that.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.1333, 2/12/97)
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D-ND): “I believe deeply in the need to balance the Federal budget… I would support an amendment to the Constitution.” (Sen. Conrad, Congressional Record, S.1147, 2/10/97)
SEN. HERB KOHL (D-WI): “The balanced budget amendment does, in my opinion, embody a principle simple and vital enough to deserve inclusion in the Constitution.” (Sen. Kohl, Congressional Record, S.1609, 2/26/97)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): “I took a position to support a Balanced Budget Amendment…”(Sen. Landrieu, Press Conference, 2/25/1997)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): “The spending trends are what really motivates me, and I hope others, to accept a constitutional balanced budget amendment.” (Sen. Feinstein, Congressional Record, S.1594, 2/26/97)
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D-IA): “Mr. President, I have long supported a balanced budget amendment. I expect to do so again...” (Sen. Harkin, Congressional Record, S.2460, 2/10/95)
SEN. TIM JOHNSON (D-SD): “It is time to get our priorities straight. I've been a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment…” (Rep. Johnson, Congressional Record, H.11213, 10/26/95)
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): “I have always supported a balanced budget. Montanans want a balanced budget. We must listen to the people and give them a balanced budget.” (Sen. Baucus, Congressional Record, S.2469, 2/10/95)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): “…we need to move toward a Balanced Budget Amendment.” (Rep. Durbin, Congressional Record, H.1310, 1/11/95)
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): “It’s absolutely critical.” “My folks did not teach me to not have a fiscal balanced budget. It’s absolutely critical… Because I am of the belief that you take care of your own self and you don’t pass your debts on to your kids... Let’s be fiscally responsible. Let’s have a fiscally balanced budget.” (Montana Senate Debate, 6/25/06)
“Jon Tester will lead efforts to balance the federal budget…” (“Real Change, Real Vision For Montana Plan,” Jon Tester Website, Accessed 7/14/11)
Tester Spokesman: “Of course Jon supports a balanced budget…” (“Rehberg Chides Tester Over Budget-Balancing Vote,” Billings Gazette, 3/3/11)
SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): “I Believe In A Balanced Budget. Government Should Live Within Its Means, Like Any Small Business.” MR. RUSSERT: “Let me find out how you would implement something that you’re promising the voters of Pennsylvania. Here’s a Casey campaign ad about our budget.” (Videotape, Bob Casey campaign ad): MR. CASEY: “I believe in a balanced budget. Government should live within its means, like any small business.” MR. RUSSERT: “How would you get a balanced budget?” MR. CASEY: “It’s not easy, Tim, but here are the steps we should take. First of all, when it comes to the budget, what’s missing principally is a lack of fiscal responsibility, you know that. We’ve gone from about two, 236 of, of surplus down to 296 in deficit. We need some fiscal discipline.” (Pennsylvania Senate Debate, “Meet The Press,” 9/3/06)

Thanks, Mike, for holding them accountable. . . in a word: SCOREBOARD!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Debt Ceiling Deal Pending

Negotiations continue over debt ceiling and spending cuts
Politics is a treacherous but ever-so-predictable business these days. What seemed within reach a few days ago to stop the insanity over debt and spending is now slipping through the cracks of the time-honored traditions of political compromise.

Personally, I favor the ideologically pure notions presented by the "Cut, Cap and Balance" idea coupled with the Lee/Hatch/Cornyn (et. al.) Balanced Budget Amendment, but now the "smart money" tells us there is no chance of passage. They wanted no increase in the debt ceiling without an up or down vote on the BBA. It's the members of the Utah congressional delegation who are leaders in the fight, specifically Hatch and Lee in the Senate and Jason Chaffetz in the House. Watch for the tea-party-dominated House to pass Cut, Cap and Balance this week, then watch it die in the Democrat-laden Senate.

The reason it isn't going to happen, apparently, is because the ideology on the other side in the personification of Barack Obama senses no urgency and wants tax increases on the rich. "We don't need a Balanced Budget Amendment," he says, "We just need to do our jobs." Well, we've all seen how that has worked out. "Doing our jobs" on his watch has included running up record debt, deficits, stimulus bills that didn't stimulate anything, the biggest entitlement program in the history of man, threats of more taxes as far and the eye can see, printing worthless currency and regulating everything that moves in the economy. They don't seem to be aware that tax increases on the wealthiest Americans just isn't enough to close the gap mathematically. If you confiscated, not merely taxed, that wealth it still wouldn't be enough. Perpetuating the myth that you can tax the rich to help the poor is what I've labeled "The Great Big Fat Lie." (Click the link to my post on April 16, 2011, and watch the embedded video).

Yes, blame Bush too -- government programs, unfunded wars, TARP, etc. -- so don't single out the criticism for Obama alone. But you can top all that history with a presidential threat just last week that Social Security recipients might not get their checks in August unless Congress comes to heel at his command. That kind of threat, first, isn't very presidential, and second, it's a big fat whopping lie.

The lies are piling up with every news conference.

Despite it all, there will be a budget spending deal along with an increase in the debt ceiling struck here in the next few days; Washington working in its "finest hour," some will yet say. However, it will be a watered down deal and the questions will remain to haunt us going forward: Will whatever they come up with satisfy the rating agencies, Moody's and S&P as being "sufficient" to stave off a downgrade of America's "AAA" bond rating? Both agencies upped the ante last week in the political poker game, by signalling they will not hesitate to degrade the rating if meaningful progress is not achieved. A downgrade in the bond rating of America would mean higher borrowing costs for everyone.

I suspect Americans, however, are growing weary of the same old rhetoric and class warfare struggles -- "tax the rich for the benefit of all who aren't." Tax revenues have been historically low these last three or four years because of the collapse of the financial markets in the wake of the toxic mortgage securitization marketplace, and this much is clear in hindsight: the federal government promoted that market and its interventions have proven catastrophic in the aftermath.

There have been reams of paper and gallons of newspaper ink spilled over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. When he was a freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama assailed George W. Bush for lack of leadership in coming to Congress to raise the debt ceiling back then, and now as POTUS, Obama rides to the rescue once again proclaiming the end of the world as we know it unless he gets a big budget deal to carry him through the 2012 election. He doesn't really want to have to deal with this question of fiscal responsibility and accountability between now and then. Truth is, the Republicans voted many times under George Bush to raise the debt ceiling. The hypocrisy on both sides is stunning, and they expect Americans to keep buying their explanations? I don't think so.

In the back and forth for over two years now, one detail is seemingly lost. The President has a Constitutional duty to propose a budget each year. This president, however, has failed to do so for two and a half years, abdicating his responsibility to Congress and carping over every proposal that comes his way. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, complained the other day that negotiating with Obama is like trying to strike a deal with Jell-O; he's a little slippery and wiggly. So much for golf diplomacy.

The historic election of 2010 notwithstanding, where Obama was handed an overwhelming rebuke by the voters, political sea changes are slow in translating into reality and seemingly impossible to make stick. One thing is clear: this president thinks he's got the voters with him. He was bold enough to quote a fuzzy poll result the other day, claiming 80% of Americans favor a tax increase on the wealthy. Really? Whether it's true or not, he absolutely believes he is doing the right thing for America and the people are on his side. That's the belief of an avowed extremist, and one could say the same thing about the other end of the spectrum perhaps.

So this morning it appears likely we will see the classic result coming from Washington once again. Negotiations over political positions where both sides can claim some watered down portion of victory. Political maneuvering continues to plague our national debate. This morning it is reported Paul Ryan, the House's Budget Chief, who actually had the courage to propose a sound but politically suicidal budget a few months ago, and got it passed in the House, has been lecturing the freshmen House members about the futility of pressing their case not to raise the debt ceiling. The voters back home won't be pleased who sent them there to put a cap on the spending spree and to take away the blank checks from the president, but until there is a majority in both houses of Congress and the present occupant of the White House is expelled, there are going to be half-measures that please no one.

There are about four options that are still on the table that can be identified by their biggest supporters. 

  • The McConnell plan would force Barack Obama to take some very uncomfortable public positions but, policy-wise, would likely mean the fewest amount of real spending cuts. 
  • The plan Eric Cantor is pushing for is a short-term small-cut deal that would cut much less than the "grand bargain" and would force more debt ceiling votes and negotiations before the 2012 election. 
  • Barack Obama is negotiating for a medium-term cuts-and-taxes deal that would solve the issue past 2012. 
  • And finally, there's the John Boehner-backed "grand bargain" that would contain up to a reported $4 trillion in cuts.

The average American doesn't wake up every morning wondering whether or not the planet has been saved from a potential debt crisis in the USA. Instead, they awaken to another day oblivious to the issues their elected representatives are tasked to tackle. Even with all the angst on display in the election of 2010, it appears we're back to business as usual in Washington, and both sides are dug in until they find the partial solutions they are so adept at crafting together -- wait for it, it's coming -- "This isn't a perfect deal, but it's the best we could do under the circumstances."

There is a titanic struggle for the future unfolding before our eyes, however, that looms ahead. As anyone who carries enormous debt obligations will tell you, freedom is curtailed with debt and spending money at a rate that cannot be sustained. America has always been among the leaders in freedom in virtually every category, but we are threatened by our self-inflicted cancer of debt and deficits:

We are under siege and sometimes don't even know it or understand what's at stake. It's true for individuals, businesses and countries. We may not see the effects immediately, which is why life appears to go on as normal each day, but the underlying erosion is taking place imperceptibly but unrelentingly.

Until the political gimmickry stops and we put this federal government in a straight jacket that binds future congresses and the president to fiscal sanity, we are in bondage even if we don't see the velvet shackles binding our wrists and ankles. I remember a wise old businessman telling me years ago, "Borrowing money is like wetting the bed -- it keeps you warm for awhile, but eventually you have to get up and change the sheets."

I don't really care much for political parties and their partisan rhetoric that merely keeps them wetting the beds. As I've said before, what we need now are patriots who can rise above party and stop the insanity by changing the course of America. If we can't do it ourselves, the consequences will overtake us.

One final point: The underlying issue distills to whether we should have a larger and more expensive federal government. Over many years, federal spending has averaged about 20 percent of gross domestic product.

The Obama Democrats have raised that to 24 or 25 percent. And the president's budget projects that that percentage will stay the same or increase far into the future. The decision point has arrived at our doorstep. In the process, the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product has increased from a manageable 40 percent in 2008 to 62 percent this year and an estimated 72 percent in 2012. And it's headed to the 90 percent level that economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart have identified as the danger point, when governments face fiscal collapse. Those are the stakes and the politicians are still posturing.

I'm still waiting for the serious debate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Launch Leads Thrives Despite Slow Economy

The Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum selects Launch Leads as one of the top companies in Utah at the annual “Top 25 Under Five Awards.” Launch Leads, a business-to-business appointment setting and lead qualification company, has enjoyed continued growth and innovation to help them land a spot on this prestigious list.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum has named Launch Leads among the fastest growing businesses in its annual “Top 25 Under 5 Awards”. Launch was named #21 in the list. Orange Soda ranked #1.

Brandt Page, CEO
“It’s exciting to be on this list and be recognized alongside so many great companies,” said Brandt Page, CEO of Launch Leads. “It really is an honor.”

The Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum (UVEF) recognizes the best emerging companies in the state of Utah based on revenue growth and job creation. The UVEF uses these awards to help promote local companies that may become industry leaders throughout the region, state and the world. Recent winners include ZAGG, Interbank FX, Seastone, Altiris and Omniture.

The success and accolades are extremely rewarding for Brandt Page, who started Launch Leads in his living room just under 3 years ago.

“Innovation was the key,” he said. “We brought to market a business that people actually needed and wanted: a way to get more leads and sales opportunities by providing a service for the thing sales people hate most: cold-calling and prospecting.”

About Launch Leads:

Launch Leads, a Salt Lake City-based company founded in 2009 assists B2B companies by filling their sales pipeline with qualified leads and scheduled sales appointments. Launch's clients consist of technology businesses throughout the United States and Canada including MarketStar, Mindshare,, Corda and PolicyTech.

Even though the company is just over two years old, Launch Leads' CEO, Page, is already turning heads and being publicly recognized for his success. In 2009, he was named the Emerging Executive of the Year by the Utah Technology Council. In 2010, American Express selected him to advise their national OPEN Forum Pulse on Twitter and his @BrandtPage and @LaunchSales were included in the Top 40 Sales People to Follow on Twitter. The last two years, 2010 & 2011, Page was elected to the vSpring Capital Top 100 Entrepreneurs list.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Page said. “But we're constantly improving as we grow. We feel confident that 2012 and the years following are going to prove to be our best growth years and this award is just the beginning.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Captured Prisoners and Triumphant Atonement

Matters of life and death have preoccupied me lately, and no, I'm not speaking about the future of America here. I am guessing the hearts and minds of many parents and brothers and sisters are weighed down with the burdens they carry for the sins of their family members.

I hope I can begin to offer more light and hope to such in this post.

The Great Plan of Salvation

The great plan of salvation, synonymous in The Book of Mormon as "the plan of redemption," "the plan of mercy," "the plan of happiness," "the great plan of our God," (see Alma 42), involves more than merely hoping for someday "being in a better place." In the covenant relationship there is work involved on our part too. However, when one we love was incapable of doing the work required here, let us be assured that life continues beyond the veil.

I don't know how many times we heard, "He's in a better place now," in the final farewells to my brother Drew, but they were many. However, the scriptures are clear on this point regarding our works in the flesh when we depart from this life:

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection — Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil — for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house — and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
. . . there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works. (Alma 40:11-14; 21, emphasis mine).

In that merciful "space" we know as the spirit world there is agency, progression, repentance and continuation beyond the grave. A better place? Perhaps, but there is only hope commensurate with the desires of one's heart, and that's a piece of judgment that is hard for us to measure. I would bet most of us desire to do better than we do. We know better, but we are routinely subject to the desires of the "natural man," aren't we? (See Mosiah 3:19). Works can be seen, but desires of the heart are God's business, as the Lord makes clear in D&C 137:9: "For I, the Lord will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts."

On one occasion some years ago, we joined together as a family and cast out some evil spirits who were still habitating a home. It was pretty obvious some dark happenings had occurred there, and when we cast them out one in the group asked, "Dad, when you cast out evil spirits where do they go?" It was a good question, and as I thought about it the answer seemed obvious. Lost and disembodied spirits whose tendencies were to do evil during their mortal probation could be invited to seek out the missionaries in the spirit world who have the fulness of the gospel to teach. Since then, that's what I've done -- invited the evil spirits to learn the gospel. I'm not certain what that would mean for unembodied spirits, but I suspect disembodied spirits who are looking for truth can be helped on the other side. For these reasons, I suspect the spirits of those who chose to do good are the missionaries and those who chose to do evil are the investigators. In order for that work to proceed in the spirit world, there is little doubt they would interact with each other.

President Lorenzo Snow
President Lorenzo Snow offered this bit of consolation and insight into the condition of the souls of our family members who may stray in this life:

"God has fulfilled his promises to us, and our prospects are grand and glorious. Yes, in the next life we will have our wives, and our sons and daughters. If we do not get them all at once, we will have them some time, for every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ. You that are mourning about your children straying away will have your sons and your daughters. If you succeed in passing through these trials and afflictions and receive a resurrection, you will, by the power of the Priesthood, work and labor, as the Son of God has, until you get all your sons and daughters in the path of exaltation and glory. This is just as sure as that the sun rose this morning over yonder mountains. Therefore, mourn not because all your sons and daughters do not follow in the path that you have marked out to them, or give heed to your counsels. Inasmuch as we succeed in securing eternal glory, and stand as saviors, and as kings and priests to our God, we will save our posterity. . . . God will have His own way in His own time, and He will accomplish His purposes in the salvation of His sons and daughters. . . . God bless you, brethren and sisters. Do not be discouraged is the word I wish to pass to you; but remember that righteousness and joy in the Holy Ghost is what you and I have the privilege of possessing at all times." (Lorenzo Snow, General Conference address given 6 October 1893, as quoted in Collected Discourses, 4 vols., comp. Brian H. Stuy [Sandy, Ut.: BHS Publishing, 1987], 3:364-65, emphasis mine).

We have before us the teachings of Amulek, who reminds us the same spirit or disposition we have in this life will be with us in the world to come (see Alma 34:31-35). Continuing in an evil addicted course would make it incredibly difficult to change, especially when the body and spirit are separated at death. But I would ask is it impossible? Too often, I believe, we tend to deny another the opportunity to change, but we all know people who do change here. Why would they be unable to change hereafter in the spirit world?

President Joseph F. Smith
During the past couple of weeks, I've been thinking and pondering, praying and reading about President Joseph F. Smith's vision of the post-mortal spirit world. I've been imagining how "the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel." I believe that word "all" is instructive.

Then I thought about this verse: "Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets." (D&C 138:31-32; emphasis mine). That's descriptive and non-restrictive.

This same principle is echoed in the words of President Wilford Woodruff: "I tell you when the prophets and apostles go to preach to those who are shut up in prison, thousands of them will there embrace the Gospel. They know more in that world than they do here." (Joseph F. Smith, "In the Presence of the Divine," as quoted in Messages of the First Presidency, 5:6-7; emphasis added).

I've thought about so many like Drew, weighed down by challenges and crosses, circumstances, injuries inflicted by others' abuse of agency, wrenching and difficult life situations that only God can see and comprehend. That is true of members of the Church as well as non-members without distinction. Our spectrum of knowledge of the true facts in people's lives is so limited. We see and smell with our senses what is obvious; the sweet aroma of cigarette smoke on someone's breath, drunken behavior, drug abuse and a thousand other behavioral shortcomings, but few if any of us know the back story.

Why does a person become addicted? Why do some reject the gospel? Why does a child rebel and stray from home? Can we discern accurately? Are we in a position to pass appropriate judgment and close the doors to future recovery and reconciliation? Any drug rehabilitation expert will tell you about the high recidivism rates among those they treat on this side of the veil. Could we hope for better results in the spirit world.?

I have been reconsidering my perspective over the years as I have witnessed the breakage in so many lives of good people. Based upon my personal observations and the word of scriptures and prophets, I believe when a person passes through the veil of death, one who has a sincere desire to rise above wickedness but was tormented by his sins in this life, they will see things differently and more accurately than they ever did here. All the impediments and challenges and crosses to bear that were beyond one's power to control — sexual abuse, drug addiction, neglect, immoral environment, false traditions of the fathers, etc. — all of it will dissolve. Then perhaps they shall, as President Woodruff suggested, see and feel things that they could not see and feel before. Remember, these spirits may be as old as this universe, (2.555 billion years, said Joseph), and to think our performance in this brief mortal probation is the only accurate data point in our eternal existence makes reason stare.

President Boyd K. Packer
President Boyd K. Packer offered this contemporary insight:

"It is a great challenge to raise a family in the darkening mists of our moral environment. We emphasize that the greatest work you will do will be within the walls of your home, (see Harold B. Lee, in CR, April 1973, 130) and that 'no other success can compensate for failure in the home.' (See David O. McKay, in CR, April 1935, 116). The measure of our success as parents, however, will not rest solely on how our children turn out. That judgment would be just only if we could raise our families in a perfectly moral environment, and that now is not possible.
"It is not uncommon for responsible parents to lose one of their children, for a time, to influences over which they have no control. They agonize over rebellious sons and daughters. They are puzzled over why they are so helpless when they have tried so hard to do what they should. It is my conviction that those wicked influences one day will be overruled. . . .
"We cannot overemphasize the value of temple marriage, the binding ties of the sealing ordinance, and the standards of worthiness required of them. When parents keep the covenants they have made at the altar of the temple, their children will be forever bound to them." (Boyd K. Packer, in CR, April 1992, 94-95).

While it is true Satan captures many prisoners these days in the battles for the souls of men, he will one day be overthrown and the captives will be set free. Jacob tells us about the ultimate victory:

Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.
For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement — save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.
O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.
O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. (2 Nephi 9:5-10, emphasis mine).

Salvation, Exaltation, Eternal Life

Throughout the scriptures the various prophets have set forth repeatedly what it means to be "saved" and how men and women may qualify for exaltation or eternal life.
Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith taught:  "Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet." (TPJS, 297).

He said on another occasion: "Salvation is for a man to be saved from all his enemies; for until a man can triumph over death, he is not saved. A knowledge of the priesthood alone will do this." (TPJS, 305).

In his Seventh Lecture on Faith, the Prophet Joseph taught:

"As all the visible creation is an effect of faith, so is salvation also — we mean salvation in its most extensive latitude of interpretation, whether it is temporal or spiritual. In order to have this subject clearly set before the mind, let us ask what situation must a person be in in order to be saved? or what is the difference between a saved man and one who is not saved? We answer, from what we have before seen of the heavenly worlds, they must be persons who can work by faith and who are able, by faith, to be ministering spirits to them who shall be heirs of salvation; and they must have faith to enable them to act in the presence of the Lord, otherwise they cannot be saved. And what constitutes the real difference between a saved person and one not saved is — the difference in the degree of their faith — one's faith has become perfect enough to lay hold upon eternal life, and the other's has not. But to be a little more particular, let us ask — Where shall we find a prototype into whose likeness we may be assimilated, in order that we may be made partakers of life and salvation? or, in other words, where shall we find a saved being? for if we can find a saved being, we may ascertain without much difficulty what all others must be in order to be saved. We think that it will not be a matter of dispute, that two beings who are unlike each other cannot both be saved; for whatever constitutes the salvation of one will constitute the salvation of every creature which will be saved; and if we find one saved being in all existence, we may see what all others must be, or else not be saved. We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude, as to the answer of this question, there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this, that he is the prototype or standard of salvation; or, in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interrogation, and ask how it is that he is saved? the answer would be — because he is a just and holy being; and if he were anything different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change, in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitute salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him. Thus says John, in his first epistle, third chapter, second and third verses: 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.' Why purify themselves as he is pure? Because if they do not they cannot be like him. . .

"These teachings of the Saviour most clearly show unto us the nature of salvation, and what he proposed unto the human family when he proposed to save them — that he proposed to make them like unto himself, and he was like the Father, the great prototype of all saved beings; and for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved; and to be unlike them is to be destroyed; and on this hinge turns the door of salvation." (Lectures on Faith 7:9, 16, emphasis mine).

This is but one sample of the use of this word "salvation." In virtually all cases (there are only a few exceptions), salvation is synonymous with the words eternal life, exaltation, and eternal lives. Consider more examples:

In Alma 11:40, Amulek instructs: "And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else." 

In D&C 6:13, we read: "If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation."

In D&C 14:7, this passage: "And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God."

If Joseph Smith meant to tell us something different than the precise usage of the words he used, he easily could have done it. Almost always, salvation and eternal life are equated; they are the same.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated:

"We are ofttimes prone to create artificial distinctions, to say that salvation means one thing and exaltation another, to suppose that salvation means to be resurrected, but that exaltation or eternal life is something in addition thereto. It is true that there are some passages of scripture that use salvation in a special and limited sense in order to give an overall perspective of the plan of salvation that we would not otherwise have. (2 Nephi 9:1-27; D&C 76:40-49; 132:15-17). These passages show the difference between general or universal salvation that consists of coming forth from the grave in immortality, and specific or individual salvation that consists of an inheritance in the celestial kingdom. All men will be resurrected and all men (except the sons of perdition) will thus be saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment. But only those who keep the commandments will "be raised [both] in immortality [and] unto eternal life." (D&C 29:43).

"Since it is the prophetic purpose to lead men to full salvation in the highest heaven of the celestial world, when they speak and write about salvation, almost without exception, they mean eternal life or exaltation. They use the terms salvation, exaltation, and eternal life as synonyms, as words that mean exactly the same thing without any difference, distinction, or variance whatever. Thus Amulek says that 'no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven,' and then asks: 'How can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven?' He teaches that men 'cannot be saved' in their sins; that Christ will come to 'take upon him the transgression of those who believe on his name;' and that 'these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.' Having thus spoken of the salvation which the saints seek, he also says: 'The wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death,' meaning they shall come forth in immortality. (Alma 11:37-41). Thus all men — except the sons of perdition who are cast out into an eternal hell — are saved, in that they become immortal and go to a telestial or terrestrial inheritance, but only those who believe and obey become inheritors of that celestial rest which the whole body of revealed writ speaks of as salvation." (The Promised Messiah, 129).

As we recognize our fallen condition and humble ourselves, we claim the merits of Christ's perfection in our covenant relationship. The brother of Jared understood perfectly and speaks of his weaknesses in the flesh because of his fallen condition: "O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires." (Ether 3:2).

Aaron taught these truths to King Lamoni  in Alma 22:13-14: "And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name. And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king."

If The Book of Mormon is ever accused of being anything, it should be accused of being "The Book of Deliverance," preaching nothing but the merits of Christ's atonement and His mercy and patience.

Abinadi challenged the priests of wicked King Noah's court with the question about how salvation comes. He asked them was it by the law of Moses? And then answered his own question in Mosiah 13:27-28:  "And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses. And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses."

Elder Bruce R. McConkie offers this explanation: "Now let us suppose a modern case. Suppose we have the scriptures, the gospel, the priesthood, the Church, the ordinances, the organization, even the keys of the kingdom — everything that now is, down to the last jot and tittle — and yet there is no atonement of Christ. What then? Can we be saved? Will all our good works save us? Will we be rewarded for all our righteousness?
"Most assuredly we will not. We are not saved by works alone, no matter how good; we are saved because God sent his Son to shed his blood in Gethsemane and on Calvary that all through him might ransomed be. We are saved by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:20).
"To paraphrase Abinadi: 'Salvation doth not come by the Church alone; and were it not for the atonement, given by the grace of God as a free gift, all men must unavoidably perish, and this notwithstanding the Church and all that appertains to it.'" (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, 76).

The Apostle Paul reminds us, "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
"That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
"Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:10-14, emphasis mine).

On occasions like Drew's funeral, we are reminded with a token down payment where we are transported momentarily and given a glimpse of the glories of eternity that lie ahead, that we are the "purchased possessions of Christ" when we claim Him as our Redeemer. Salvation is in Christ, which is eternal life and exaltation. There are few requirements beyond our best efforts to live the gospel, keep the commandments, repent when we don't, serve others and live so we may someday be comfortable in His presence. The truth is we are already in His presence, we just can't see Him (see D&C 38:7-8).

President Brigham Young
In the meantime, while we continue to toil here below, a word of counsel from Brigham Young in conclusion:

"It is present salvation and the present influence of the Holy Ghost that we need every day to keep us on saving ground. When an individual refuses to comply with the further requirements of Heaven, then the sins he had formerly committed return upon his head; his former righteousness departs from him, and is not accounted to him for righteousness: but if he had continued in righteousness and obedience to the requirements of heaven, he is saved all the time, through baptism, the laying on of hands, and obeying the commandments of the Lord and all that is required of him by the heavens — the living oracles. He is saved now, next week, next year, and continually, and is prepared for the celestial kingdom of God whenever the time comes for him to inherit it.
"I want present salvation. I preach, comparatively, but little about the eternities and Gods, and their wonderful works in eternity; and do not tell who first made them, nor how they were made; for I know nothing about that. Life is for us, and it is for us to receive it today, and not wait for the millennium. Let us take a course to be saved today, and, when evening comes, review the acts of the day, repent of our sins, if we have any to repent of, and say our prayers; then we can lie down and sleep in peace until the morning, arise with gratitude to God, commence the labours of another day, and strive to live the whole day to God and nobody else." (JD, 8:124-5).