To quote the highly quotable Casey Stengel, “All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for…reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration.” He also said, “Never make predictions, especially about the future,” but I will go out on a limb here and predict Republicans will be given an amazing opportunity by the voters this election and I will embrace the ending of blaming and name-calling. The new Congress will be handed the responsibility to right the ship of state. Voters will have high expectations. Without having a detailed plan and without ceasing the current political sport of playing the blame game, how can Congress meet these voter expectations?
History is filled with the swinging of the political pendulum. One side takes control for a while, fails to use the fuel given by voters, bumble about a bit, then point fingers and fail to take the blame for not accomplishing much, then voters choose the other side hoping for something better. Politicians fail to understand that the true energy for change comes from presenting the electorate with a vision of something better, something more efficient, something that lessens the burdens of life on the average voter without adding the ponderous burden of increasing government dominating their lives. To mangle an old adage, ‘the more things stay the same, the more things stay the same.’
I am a conservative. A conservative in the philosophical sense of the word. Oxford defines conservative in part as someone holding traditional values, (you know…the ones that helped form a new nation, that placed others before self, that sacrificed for the good of the country), as conventional, orthodox, stable, prudent, cautious, temperate. In the context of governance, it describes a conservative as ‘favoring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas with the opposite being “socialist.” For the most part, this describes who I am; however, just as the pendulum swings so do true conservatives grow in the expansion of their thoughts. Much debate has occurred from the days of Edmund Burke through Russell Kirk, William Buckley, and Ronald Reagan, to now. Sadly, on the current national political stage, true conservatism is becoming rare and elusive. The opposite side is louder, more aggressive, and more willing to capture the public square, although in this election, they seem to have overplayed their hand. Happily, the states offer glimpses of how conservative governance can work, with several governors, such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis, offering hope for a resurgence of conservative thought in the making of public policy.
Of late, it seems, I am a dying species, especially within the halls of Congress. One party offers itself up as a champion of spending less than the other side, while the other party seems to have no end to what they seek to spend. One party offers a degree of resistance to radical changes to our successful form of government, while the other party seems hell-bent on radically transforming the most successful form of governance in the history of man. Unless the Republicans do a tremendous amount of soul-searching post-election, we will just see more of the same pendulum swinging. Too much is at stake for this to occur.
This is why I suggest a new vision using old values and call it “An American Agenda.” It has conservative DNA, not only because this is my philosophy of preference, but also because it has been proven to work. Our economy can drive our politics, but only if the meddlers get out of the way and stop trying to revise our lives to meet some philosophical standard that has never been proven successful.
In the words of Russell Kirk, “We cannot make a heaven on earth, though we may make a hell.” There is always room for improvements and effective room for extending a helping hand when needed. Having a caring heart should be a prominent quality of conservative thought. Caring should emanate from our homes, our hearts and our faiths. However, just piling on inefficient governance using other people’s money is not the answer to any of the issues we face. We also should follow Kirk’s maxim “not to endeavor to revise history according to our latter-day notions of what things ought to have been, or upon the theory that the past is simply a reflection of the present.” Study the best of the past to learn what works. Study and refute the worst of our past to ensure those errors never re-emerge.
I believe we have spent most of this century of governance failing to align our intentions with the actual results. Just looking at educational progress alone, we can see how doing more of the same things we have been doing that are not working is not the pathway to future prosperity and progress. We talk a good game about transparency and program evaluations, but when was the last time that Congress really took a hard look at where the money is spent, how it is being spent , and is any of it working? Our national budgets have become large pails of funds we do not have, being spent on programs we may not need, but we have no idea, really, about the effectiveness of it all. One senator, William Proxmire, used to give out a Golden Fleece award just to stress how ridiculous much of the line items had become. At least he tried, but who speaks now to the waste? Crickets!
Therefore, here are a few things that perhaps at least one member of Congress will read and begin to assert the will and the needs of the people. If as predicted, this becomes a landslide on Tuesday, they should heed to loud voices of the people and actually begin to fix what the people are seeing as problems If it isn’t a landslide on Tuesday, then shame on us and we get the government we deserve.
An American Common Sense Agenda- 12 planks to strengthen America
1. American Budgets Plan. Charge subject matter committees with reviewing all spending within their policy realm. Develop and maintain a steady level of funding for all programs found as needed, while eliminating all pork and programs funded for specific constituent groups. Push programs that are state-level programs back to the states to fund. Continue to reduce the total values taxpayers can write off for state and local taxation. Reduce all spending by one or two percent for each line item until such time as the annual spending levels are below income levels. Use surpluses to retire debt and borrowing.
2, American Security Act. Close the border while taking a hard look at current legal immigration. Our open border leaves us tremendously vulnerable to terrorist acts, floods us with illegal drugs, and leaves us as being party to the tragedy of human smuggling. Take a hard look at military spending to make sure that all programs work as designed, are necessary, and are modernized. We have enjoyed peace through strength and our military is an integral part of our successes at world trade. We are only as free as our oceans are open and safe for commerce. We are only as safe as our defense nets can meet the terrors of modern warfare. Our CIA and our FBI need to be both examined and repurposed where needed. Intelligence is a critical component of security. However, recent revelations about domestic political engagement should be made more transparent and violators should be punished. The public should neither fear nor be concerned about domestic engagement by federal authorities.
3. American Dream Immigration Act. This can be blended with the shutting of the border efforts, but clearly, there is a need for a deft hand in dealing with those already here, especially those either born here or raised here from a young age. There is also a need to better link the needs of our American economy with who is allowed to come into our country legally. We see tremendous openings in health care, for example. Can we not prioritize whom we admit while admitting it is for selfish economic reasons? Congress should work with the states to streamline qualifications and licensing for occupations requiring licensing. Does it make sense for a foreign-trained medical specialist to be relegated to a lower level of caregiving when they have needed skills?
4. American Success Higher Education Act. Stop this nonsense about loan forgiveness. Forgiveness is the wrong word anyway. How can government forgive a legal transaction between a borrower and a lender? Modify all amnesty or reduction programs for student loans. The ones already being done and not subject to current court review are only designed to drive students into the not-for-profit sector or government work. A doctor serving patients at both for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals is being paid a similar amount to do the same work on the same combination of patients. A review will show that in many cases, a for-profit hospital serves more indigent or government-insured patients than a local not-for-profit with their staff doing the same work. We should not surreptitiously grow government under the guise of debt relief.
Strengthen regional accreditation, not weaken it. We should have learned from experience that weak accreditation results in great harm to students. Degrees with little commercial value, credits that cannot be used in other institutions, and in the results in bailouts by the federal government for students in debt to failed institutions.
Congress should examine all research programs funded using federal dollars to see if proposed metrics are being met, if the research really adds value to the economy, and if it can be funded by local or donor-based funding.
Student and family loan programs need to be reviewed. How are the funds being used by students, and are they making satisfactory progress towards a degree, or are they using the funds for living expenses and not taking the requisite course aimed at reaching a conclusion? Place time limits that serve to prod along. If students fail to make progress, it is largely the student’s fault. Re-payment should be integrated into every program for students failing to complete the program. However, offering strict hardship forgiveness criteria should also be included.
5. American Education Improvement Act- This would take far longer than I have here, but each member of Congress involved in any way with Pre-K-12 education should be given “A Nation at Risk” to read and then spend time reviewing how we are still at risk and how we have lost decades in our efforts to improve our outputs. The most recent NAEP scores should serve as a loud alarm bell for the future of our country. Parents’ rights should be emphasized; choice should be an integral part of all levels of education. Fund based on student headcount. There is little need for a U.S. Department of Education, but should it exist, it should spend a lot of time engaged in transparent program evaluation. A focus on how best to meet the needs of students, and our economy should be preeminent in their thinking. All levels of proficiency should be a part of this effort. Do not assume the needs of the gifted are being met and likewise the needs of the struggling. All students can achieve and succeed, perhaps not at the same speed or results, but all can be moved forward with the right placement and the proper curriculum.
6. American Safety Effort. Congress must be engaged in offering solutions to the problems in the public square that leave us vulnerable and afraid. Crime, in some communities, is out of hand. People are wary of going freely about their lives and attacks upon persons have made our cities unsafe, especially for those who live in neighborhoods where the police are viewed with suspicion. Effective policing is a local problem and in many cases, the elections of radical district attorneys have made repeat offending a competitive sport among criminals. However, we have reached a point where safety is a prominent concern of many voters and if conservatives and the rest of the Republicans who seek to continue to serve after the next election, do not take meaningful and effective actions, their time will be up just like those adopting no cash bail options. Voters can be philosophical in their outlooks, but when it comes to personal safety, the issue becomes whose ox is being gored. For too long, we have ignored crime because it mainly occurred in certain communities. Those ‘communities sit around their kitchen tables too. They worry about their children in school and they worry about their children walking home from school. Safety is a shared value in every community. Solutions largely will not come from Congress, but they will come from local and state officials, and if not solved, the solutions will get down to street level, which is not good for anyone. “Don’t tread on me” means more than oppressive government interfering in our lives. Being free also means being free from fear. Fix it!
7. American Production Act. Develop a plan to bring back manufacturing to America. Virtually every industry now either fully constructs items or uses foreign parts for assembly here. This is not to say they should all be moved back home but an examination of why this is warranted. Anything being done by the government that has caused companies to go overseas should be fully evaluated. American Built was once a Gold Seal promise. This is no longer a large part of who we are. If only the planning, design, marketing, and management of products is being done here, we leave ourselves open to catastrophe. We saw what happened to our supply chain during COVID. This should never happen again.
8. American Connectivity Act. Just as we built roads to expand our internal connectivity and improve our defense capabilities in the fifties and sixties, so should we endeavor to ensure every community and every household is connected to our information highways. This links our efforts at looking towards tomorrow in way more ways than browsing the internet. For example, COVID caused many businesses to close offices and offer work-at-home options. Many communities did not have this option. In addition, we saw the damage done by locking our schools and having students learn from home. Many did, but many could not and we see the effects of this on recent NAEP scores. High-speed linkages allow our higher education institutions to share research efforts. This will be an ever-growing need for us to compete in a wired world. Whether it be satellite or hard wire, we must stay ahead of the world, or we will surely fall behind.
9. Conserving America Act. We must do a better job of managing and preserving our resources. What better use of being conservative than to conserve? Proper stewardship of lands the government already owns should be a national priority. Using the resources within those lands properly should be encouraged as long as the natural aspects of those lands are not harmed. We see the consequences now of becoming dependent upon un-friendly nations for gas and oil. We can both effectively shepherd our lands while moving back to energy independence. This advocating for renewable sources of energy needs to take a hard look at the lack of beauty in a solar field or a windmill field. They need to examine what the mining of areas for needed materials for building batteries does to the landscape of our country. Funding a better way and making sure our oil and gas platforms are safe and secure seems like an obvious option that should be encouraged.
10. American Future Act. Congress stays mired in the present, repeatedly. This is, in part, ok as it leaves the private sector to explore the possibilities and wonders of tomorrow. However, collaborating with innovators like Musk, Jobs and others over time can give a value-added. I would like to see a standing committee focused on the future. It would not hurt to add a strong bi-partisan group who are responsible for thinking. To some asking Congress to think might be an oxymoronic act, but in the end, I still believe that good people, for the most part, offer themselves up and, once chosen, go charging off to DC, only to hit wall after wall and eventually settle into the comforts of incumbency. What a waste of creativity and energy. A committee of this type offers a way for government to be reflective, proactive, and innovative in ideas. The process might drag down those ideas, but at least they would now be in the public space.
11. Espousing Conservative Values. We spend so much time and energy battling in the public space about silos that we forget the role of the individual and how it played an integral part in both the Founding and the development of our nation. Great orators of our past emphasized both the rights of the individual and the role each plays in our daily lives. We collectivize to do the things we need to do, but we should never forget that each person, no matter who they are or where they come from, are linchpins in the collective. Our daily politics seems to have lost this notion. The new Congress should endeavor to cease the divisive name-calling. We emphasize conservative values because we respect the individual’s societal roles. We offer conservative solutions because we think they are better answers to the many vexing problems facing us as we move forward. We demean ourselves when we fall into the trap of vitriol and name-calling. I was taught early that when you throw mud, you get yourself dirty. Politicians need to heed this maxim too. We must eliminate arrogance from our public square, never look down upon people or groups, but instead offer them a better way. If we cannot win them over with facts and results, they cannot be won over and it is best to continue moving forward in the politics of positive messaging.
12. American Values Plan. Much is said of late about alternative versions of our history and how new derisive programs need to be instilled in our school lesson plans. While this is not a role of Congress to fill officially, it is the role of them as individual servant leaders to speak out when needed and offer both fertilizer and balm where needed. This election will seat new Governors and new legislative bodies across the land. Too many of them seem to enjoy the conflict in the public square. Instead, they should endeavor to teach history as it really happened, warts and ll. However, underlying both the arts and the beauty marks were philosophies and ideals. Teach how slavery came about, as an example, and how the Founding Fathers wrestled very uncomfortably with global issues and how it affected a new nation. Teach about the horrors of slavery and how millions of non-slave owners died in a war that could have destroyed a nation, but was largely fought over the ideal a new nation claimed as a goal. There are ways to prepare lessons that capture our entire history, yet focus on the ideas and the ideals we are as a country. Our nation will never fully succeed if we keep revising or arguing the past. The past is past, and our focus should be on the ideals we have always had, even as we stumbled. We will not get better until we are all better in our minds and in our hearts. There are many lessons from history that students need to hear, but not in a politically divisive manner.
We must find better ways to capture our better selves. We can argue forever about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, as St. Thomas Aquinas postulated, but there is no value in these arguments. I prefer to dwell on the words of Lincoln, who wrote, “The mystic clouds of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
- Dr. Ed Moore: The Future of Education Will Be About Choice - November 11, 2022, 10:00 am
- Dr. Ed Moore: An American Agenda - November 7, 2022, 12:00 pm
- The Body Of Knowledge Grows Exponentially While We Slumber - November 4, 2022, 10:00 am