Sunday, November 16, 2008

Black Power for Real

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what it must feel like to be an African-American contemplating the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. I think I would be almost giddy. I know at least one friend from church who said she was up partying all night after the election. You might think that I would be dismayed to find Obama supporters of any color at my conservative Southern Baptist church, but I think I understand. Even some black conservatives, knowing that Obama’s politics are well to the left of their own, could not resist the allure of voting for the first black President. I can imagine how they probably felt: How could I live with myself if I let this opportunity pass? How long would I have to wait for a major party to nominate an African-American again? It might not happen again in my lifetime!

As much as I disagree with his politics, Obama’s election is a true testament to the greatness of our democracy. As many have noted, fifty years ago Barack Obama couldn’t even have sat at Woolworth’s lunch counter. I was born in 1956, so I barely remember segregation. I certainly wasn’t conscious of it at the time. Looking back, however, I have a vivid memory of visiting the courthouse downtown and seeing the separate water fountains and bathrooms labeled Colored. It seemed strange but I didn’t understand what it meant. How different my memories would be if I were black!

Just because we have reached this milestone does not mean that racism is a thing of the past. Its power is broken, but it still persists to cause trouble for those whose skin is not the color of the majority. This, too, I have tried to wrap my head around. I think we can be very proud of the progress we have made. But if you are white, think about this. Even if 95% of all white people are not even slightly racist, that would still leave 5% who are. That’s more than enough to be a problem. Sometimes it will be an overt act or comment that reminds you of the prejudice you face. Other times nothing is said, but you wonder what they might be thinking. Such experiences cannot help but affect your frame of mind and must require strength of character to overcome.

The best thing about having an African-American President is the message it sends to young people of every color: You, too, can grow up to be President. Anything is possible in this great country of ours. Every young generation needs hope. This country was founded and built on hope – hope for a better future for ourselves and our children. The engine of our progress is a firm conviction that if you work hard and make the right choices you can succeed. Upward mobility is in our DNA. Belief in the possibility of advancement is how we have avoided the destructive class conflicts of other countries. We believe that All Men Are Created Equal. There it is, right on the first page of the document that began this great nation. We have not always lived up to that ideal, but in every generation we draw closer to it. And that’s something we all can celebrate.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prayer for Barack Obama

Lord, last night our nation chose a new President: Barack Obama. This morning he woke up to that exhilarating and doubtless sobering reality. I pray that he would turn to you in humility for the wisdom that he will need in the days to come. Give him the energy and determination to execute his duties to the utmost of his abilities. May he govern this nation with great honor and integrity. When temptations come to abuse his power and position, as surely they must to anyone who holds such an office, I pray that he will turn to you for the strength of character to resist. May he seek comfort, wisdom and guidance from your holy Word.

Lord, I pray that President Obama will surround himself with wise counselors and listen carefully to their advice. Help him use his quick mind and deep intellect to find the very best solutions to our nation’s problems. Help him use his great skill as a communicator to bring together Democrats and Republicans alike to make those solutions a reality. I pray that he will be a trustworthy leader, and so earn the trust of all the people.

Lord, how marvelous it is that in our day we have come so far as to see an African-American elected President of the United States! May he govern us so well that never again is skin color even an issue in our politics. May we finally put the last vestiges of racism behind us. We are all your creatures: men and women whom you loved so much that you were willing to die for us on the cross. Teach us all to know you, to love you and to serve you, for your honor and your glory forever.

Amen.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Take on the Election

If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last couple of years it will come as no surprise to you that I’m voting for John McCain for President on Tuesday. I am a conservative, and while I don’t think McCain is the ideal candidate, in my view he is definitely preferable to Barack Obama. In the area of character and patriotism John McCain clearly shines. He has devoted his entire adult life to serving his country with honor and distinction. In contrast, Barack Obama’s past raises many more questions. I do believe that associations matter. You can explain away some things, but the cumulative pattern of Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Tony Rezko, Rashid Khalidi and Edward Said indicate a man who has circulated for years in the radical left fringes of American politics. Although Obama presents himself in this campaign as a left-center moderate, his voting record and his past associations strongly indicate otherwise.

Now let’s look at some specific policy issues.

Economic Recovery
Neither candidate inspires much confidence here. Both seem to have only a tenuous grasp of economic principles. McCain talks about cracking down on Wall Street greed and corruption. Obama talks about the problem being lax regulation. Both are somewhat wide of the mark. The mortgage crisis which spawned the recent market collapse is the result of banks making risky loans to people who shouldn’t have been borrowing. Both parties are culpable – it takes two to tango. So how do you convince people to be prudent in their personal financial decisions? Unfortunately, that’s not something the government can do. Wisdom is learned from parents and churches, not government agencies.

The more peculiar thing about the recent crisis is why anyone in their right mind would loan money to someone who probably can’t pay it back, or buy such a loan from the bank that made it. If normal economic incentives were operating no rational investor would do that. Here is where government intrusion into the market distorted the normal economic incentives that guide business policies. The very existence of quasi-governmental institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac implied some level of government guarantee for these loans. On top of that was misguided social engineering in the form of Congressional pressure to encourage minority home ownership by relaxing lending rules.

I’m not against government ever intervening in the economy. Some rules are clearly necessary, but they should generally focus on promoting honesty, transparency and accountability between the private parties doing business with each other. When government tries to engineer a particular outcome by heavy-handed pressure on the market, the Law of Unintended Consequences virtually guarantees an unpleasant outcome.

Health Care
Again, in my view neither candidate is being realistic about the health care situation in this country. However, I strongly prefer McCain on this topic because I believe Obama’s plan will be ruinously expensive in the long run. I fundamentally disagree with the notion that the government can or should guarantee universal access to health care in this country. Obama’s plan doesn’t go that far, but he envisions more tax credits, more coercive government regulations and generally greater government involvement in health care than today. McCain also proposes a tax credit, but his overall program is directed at greater individual control over health care choices and insurance.

Unfortunately, neither candidate seems to recognize and address the structural issues that are driving health care costs higher. Fundamentally, costs are rising because of the availability of ever more powerful and ever more expensive treatments. It is the advance of technology. If everything your doctor could do for you could still be carried to your house in a little black bag, I guarantee you there would be no crisis in health care costs. It’s the development of new drugs, new diagnostic tests, new medical devices, new surgical techniques and the like that makes health care cost more. An ideal health care policy would focus on harnessing market incentives to drive health care technology toward greater cost efficiency, while not shutting down the technological progress to ever more effective treatments. I don’t know exactly what that policy might look like, but I don’t see it in either candidate’s proposal. McCain comes closer by putting more emphasis on competition.

National Security
Hands down it’s McCain on this one. Obama is na├»ve about the value of negotiating with evil regimes and about the consequences of a rapid pullout from Iraq. He is far too concerned about what the Europeans think about us instead of what is best for America. McCain is much more knowledgeable about foreign affairs and military strategy. Furthermore, I don’t believe the accusations that McCain is trigger happy. I will rest far sounder at night with McCain as Commander-in-Chief than Obama.

Environment
On environment, both candidates take positions I’m not too happy about. I oppose a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, which both candidates support. The massive reductions in greenhouse gases necessary to have a significant impact on the climate will cost a significant percentage of the world GNP. We must be very, very sure that the benefits outweigh the costs before we undertake a program of the scale that would be necessary. To be effective, any such program will also have to include the rapidly growing economies of developing nations such as China and India. Half measures enacted individually by the developed nations will cost huge amounts of money and will be unlikely to affect the global climate significantly.

Energy
I like McCain on this issue. Of course, everyone’s for increasing domestic energy supplies. These days it’s like being for Mom and apple pie. The question is how you go about it. I believe that the government can and should fund research into a wide variety of alternate energy sources. But it is a mistake to enact subsidies for those energy sources. In the long run it is an unsustainable drag on the economy. McCain understands this and famously opposed ethanol subsidies even while campaigning in Iowa during the primaries. Obama wants to treat alternative energy like a jobs program. McCain is for offshore drilling, but alas not in ANWR. Obama supports some offshore drilling, but he wants to put a lot of restrictions on the oil companies that will not encourage utilization of these resources.

Education
Again, advantage McCain. I really don’t think the Federal government should be directly involved in education at all. Education is fundamentally a parental responsibility. Government policies should encourage local control and parental choice in education.

Social Issues
The headliner here is abortion. Obama could not be more pro-abortion than he is. McCain has been consistently pro-life. As a Christian, I strongly believe in the sanctity of human life, including the life of unborn children, so I favor McCain on this issue.

Conclusion
There are so many other issues I don’t have time to cover, but to me the verdict is clear: John McCain should be the next President of the United States.