Posts tagged " government "

Great News! Donations to Liberal Organization are Soaring

December 29th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 13 comments

This might strike you as strange, but I think the fact that individual donations to liberal organizations, including Planned Parenthood, are increasing is great news. Not because I support these organizations and want them to have funds to carry out their objectives; I don’t. However, the increase in donations reflects a fear that government funds (a.k.a as money confiscated from taxpayers) will be less available under a Trump administration. I hope those fears are justified.

On this issue, I lean libertarian. I don’t want to see funds moved from liberal organizations to conservative ones. I want to see funding in general cut back. I  resent the National Endowment for the Arts using tax money to promote artwork that ridicules and insults Christianity such as the monstrosity known as Piss Christ, but I have no desire for the government to fund pro-Christian art or art that denigrates atheists. How about leaving funding to private individuals or, if they choose, local governments?

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Dear Ivanka

September 15th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

Please stop trying to help mothers. This may sound like a strange request from a mother of seven, five of whose daughters are raising little ones right now. But, you see, when the government gets involved ‘helping,’ there are always unintended consequences.

Sometimes, ideas that sound good get implemented and turn out to have terrible consequences. By then, it’s almost impossible to revoke the damaging legislation. Invariably, one group is helped at the expense of another group. In almost all cases, people are forced to adjust their lives to fit in with what the government thinks is best for them rather than living as they think best.

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What’s up with gender?

February 25th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I’ve noticed a change in your writings. Why do you now use the word gender instead of sex?

∼ Kristal M.

Answer:

Dear Kristal,

What an astute observation. We’re a bit humbled that you are paying such close attention to our words. The answer to your question is simple, but the implications are not.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

February 23rd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Bernie Sanders (with whom I’d much rather spend an evening with than Hillary Clinton) is almost comical in his sputtering fury against “Wall Street.”  When he panders to students, it’s “Wall Street” that imposes draconian interest rates upon their loans.  When he panders to groups based on skin color, it’s again “Wall Street” that causes their troubles.  No doubt it’s again “Wall Street” that is responsible for this winter’s poor snowfall in Vermont.

It goes without saying that one could easily find human beings who have worked in companies located in buildings on Wall Street that have behaved reprehensibly.  In just the same way, there are more than 700 teachers still employed by New York public schools accused of offenses ranging from violence against students to sexual misconduct who are being paid their full salaries to sit around in what are called ‘rubber rooms’. That fact doesn’t discredit the idea of education any more than miscreants in finance discredit the free market. (more…)

Why should I work when the world is crumbling?

February 10th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Listening to you is one of the best things I did last year. You have introduced me to the issues of physical life along with spiritual life and how they go hand in hand. I battle with discouragement due to the bleak future of the economy and nation.

Can you offer some encouragement?  I want to set new goals and pursue them but I can’t help but think what’s the point.

∼ Eduardo

Answer:

Dear Eduardo,

A tale is told of a prisoner who is forced each day to transport painfully heavy rocks. He consoles himself by imagining the great building he is helping to build.  One day, a guard tells him that each night, his back-breaking work is undone as another prisoner has the job of moving the rocks back. Every day he merely undoes the back-breaking work of another prisoner. There is no purpose to the labor other than punishing and exhausting the two prisoners.

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Should we use plastic bottles?

January 21st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

My daughter is off to college and came home talking about how plastic water bottles, when left out in the sun (like, she said so many markets do) causes the plastic to release cancer causing chemicals. Her answer to this was more stringent regulation against super markets. How would you answered her question on how to handle that?
 
Thanks! I love your podcast and just finished the first 5 chapters of your book (love it) Thou Shall Prosper.

∼ Darryl J.

Answer:

Dear Darryl,
You have a great opportunity to help broaden your daughter’s outlook and help her be a concerned, informed and thoughtful citizen. The downside (or upside, depending on your attitude) of this is that it will take time and effort on your part.

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Am I wrong to accept gov’t. assistance?

July 22nd, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I have an ailment affecting daily tasks. My decline causes need for care. The system for this is through Federal assistance, etc. Were I better, I’d never ‘go on the dole’. Yet I am viewed as a taker. 

Yet, did not my folk put forth that which was placed into the chest so to speak, for such events as mine? I paid it too. Now it is my turn. Do I give it up or accept thankfully what I have?

∼ Al H.

Answer:

Dear Al,

We are very glad that you wrote us because this is one of those questions that doesn’t lend itself to thirty-second statements. For this reason, exaggerated, misquoted and misleading statements get made and repeated.

Many people are rightly concerned that the percentage of Americans who are dependent upon government is becoming larger than the percentage who are supporting themselves. This is a valid concern, however we must recognize that there is a huge difference between someone whose lifestyle choices lead them to irresponsibly take advantage of their fellow citizens and those who, for example, are members of the military getting paid by the government.

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Leaders or Servants?

December 7th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

The preamble to ‘The Moment of Truth’, the report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, makes a brief and powerful plea for paying attention to the recommendations which follow. I found it oddly moving – not a word I often use about a government document – and I am willing to put aside cynicism and accept it as a sincere representation of feelings which were formed during the months of discussion the members of the commission held. If the calls for tough choices are indeed heartfelt, then I feel sorry for the commission members who have glimpsed an impending tragedy but have only congress to call on for salvation. 

The following passage appears in the preamble:

Ever since the economic downturn, families across the country have huddled around kitchen tables, making tough choices about what they hold most dear and what they can learn to live without. They expect and deserve their leaders to do the same.

This sentence reads well, but I think it inadvertently points to one of the problems. Who exactly is the family pictured? Legislators? The word picture as presented pre-supposes healthy, functional families whose members are a distinct unit who care about one another and share a vision. What picture comes to your mind when you think of that ‘typical’ family? I think of parents who earn the money and also have the final say as to its disposition. Those parents might indeed choose to go without so that their children can benefit, but it is their own money they are dispensing.  Or perhaps that family has multiple children and some children might work in order to support one sibling’s education. The college bound sibling, in turn, accepts a debt that needs to be repaid and a responsibility to shoulder.

That family is a far cry from Congress. The picture doesn’t work when those who spend the money are completely removed from those who earn it. .  It doesn’t work when some family members are addicted to power just as it won’t work if some family members are addicted to gambling or alcohol. It doesn’t work when the family cannot have an honest conversation because members of the family are willing to lie, exaggerate and use manipulative language to gain points with a third party. If legislators are the family under discussion, they seem more like a caricature of a Victorian father with unlimited power whose behavior leads to misery from those unfortunate enough to be under his control.

There are certainly tough fiscal decisions ahead. The family analogy presupposes a healthy family whose priority is a commitment to the common good. It presupposes maturity and wisdom on the part of those making the decisions. There is a revealing word in the last sentence I quoted. Our elected officials are not our ‘leaders’. They are our public servants. If they began thinking of themselves as such the electorate might begin to think that they could actually cope with this nation’s economic crisis.

 

 

Goofing Off

April 27th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

 

One of the downsides of running your own company is that you always know when at least one of your employees (you) is goofing off. Nevertheless, that was what I was doing last week. I came back from a truly wonderful Passover (see below, Fifty pounds of potatoes…) rather tuckered out, and had great difficulty changing gears and focusing on work.

After I wasn’t concentrating on the job at hand but before laying my mouse down and walking away from the computer, I succumbed to one of the dangers of modern life—computer games.

In doing so, I either made a worthwhile discovery or else deluded myself into rationalizing that I wasn’t completely wasting my time.  In an attempt not to lead others down a frivolous path, I won’t give the name of the game that seduced me, but seduce me it did.

The objective of the game was straightforward. I needed to stack playing cards by suits in order from aces to kings. What I found fascinating was that after losing the game, my computer gave me the option of replaying the exact same layout. While I occasionally won on the first round, what I discovered was that even when I lost, I was able to be victorious on my second, third or fourth try. The secret was discovering that what seemed the obvious road to victory was often a dead end path. To win, I frequently needed to ignore what looked like the unmistakable correct choice. Searching for unanticipated pitfalls was a more reliable strategy than sprinting to an easy win.

While I would not recommend that most Americans shirk work responsibilities to play computer games, I do think it could be a good idea for politicians. One potential benefit is that they might get so absorbed in the game that they won’t have time to tinker with legislation, which could have very positive results for the electorate. More importantly, maybe the message will sink in. What looks like the straight, clear-cut and simple path to objectives such as ending poverty, providing health care or quality education or achieving world peace, usually leads to a hazardous blind alley.

If a deck of inanimate cards contains surprises and snares, leading to a losing hand more often than a winning one, how can one expect manipulation concerning people to simply fall into place? It may sound like taking money from some and giving it to others will increase wealth all around, but it won’t. It may seem that increasing funding for schools will lead to better education for more students, but it won’t. It may even seem that being nice to people who want to kill you will disarm them, but it won’t.

Having a clear objective, whether winning a card game or saving the world is a good idea. But the unintended consequences of moving a seven of hearts prematurely won’t destroy lives and nations. Unfortunately, legislation’s unintended consequences are far from benign.

Hopefully, I am back to working conscientiously this week. But being reminded that good intentions and brilliant ideas often fall flat and that multiple paths may be needed on the road to success wasn’t such a waste of time after all.

 

Feed the Pig?

March 16th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

 

Have you been hearing ads on the radio telling you to “feed the pig”? The ads, sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and The Advertising Council,  offer suggestions for cutting expenses such as brown-bagging lunch or cutting out your morning latte at the local Starbucks. As cost-cutting measures, these might have been good tips well worth mentioning when people were earning money. At a time when so many are unemployed and higher taxation is sharpening its claws preparing to pounce, this is a bit like bailing out a sinking boat with a teaspoon.

Nevertheless, if your boat is sinking and all you have available is a teaspoon, you should use it. Maybe you will only gain 20 seconds, but those may be exactly the 20 seconds needed for a rescue helicopter to spot you. At the very least, you will be a partner in your own salvation.

One can only wish that similar ads were played for Congress. Am I the only one tired of hearing that the response to suggested cost-cutting measures is, “That will at most save only 1.4 million,” so it’s not worth discussing? Or as Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.) said while explaining why he doesn’t return leftover taxpayer funds given to him for use on a Congressional trip, ” I won’t deny that sometimes I have a little left, but it’s not much—maybe 80, 90, or 100 dollars.” Unfortunately, Rep. Butterfield is expressing normative thinking for many elected representatives of both political parties.

Granted, when we are running up trillions of dollars of debts, taking careful stock of $80 or even $1.4 million may not do very much. However, not treating the money in a responsible fashion does a great deal to eradicate trust in government and destroy any pretence that those who govern are actually men and women worthy of their offices. The ad council may be referring to piggy banks when they tell us to feed the pig. Somehow, when one thinks of Congress an entirely different image of pork comes to mind.

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