The New Endangered Species List: Free Countries

Post-election, the will of a slight majority is nonetheless clear—50.3 percent of Americans have embraced ever bigger government, more and higher taxes (on others), and even more spending on bloated social programs. For millions of conservatives, this depressing development has caused a silent gloom to creep into our thinking.

Many fear that even beyond the fast-approaching fiscal cliff, the effects of which are likely to be steep but short-term, there looms a far more devastating outcome from the recent election—the loss of freedom itself.

Our Founders established this government in 1787 for one reason, to preserve the precious liberty hard won in the Revolutionary War. Now conservatives fear this same government will rob us of that freedom. The Constitution, of course, long prevented the majority from abusing the rights of the individual, but only when judges and politicians respected that hallowed document and their oaths to preserve it, which, it seems, many no longer do.

So now the great fear is that nothing can stop the implementation of ever more socialist policies that will bring on our financial destruction and with it the absolute loss of economic freedom. Without economic freedom, there really are no personal liberties.

Is this fear unfounded? Could anything that dramatic actually happen here?

To determine if this dread is just a knee-jerk reaction to an election loss or a well-founded concern for an Orwellian future that could realistically occur, I turned to an admittedly conservative think tank—the Heritage Foundation. The data discovered there inspired the title of this column, that not just the U.S., but free nations as a whole, should be placed on the list of endangered species.

The Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index ranks 176 nations. It measures four key indicators: rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets. These factors work together to create at one end of the scale a robust environment for economic growth and personal liberty or the opposite; think Cuba or North Korea. Economic freedom should matter to each of us because it impacts our daily lives and our ability to earn a living, or as the Founders put it—the pursuit of happiness.

The 2012 Index ranks only five nations high enough to be considered “Free”—Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. That’s less than 3% of the 176 nations in the survey. Further, the U.S. no longer makes the cherished list of free nations. America ranked only 10th overall and is among 22 nations considered only “Mostly Free.” Note Free countries (green) and Mostly Free countries (pale green) on the Heritage map below:

(Click map to see the interactive version at Heritage)

One metric the Heritage map doesn’t show is the population of the nations on the Free list:

      Nation                           Est. Pop.                       % of World            Birth Rate

Hong Kong 7,130,000 .1% 7.54/1000
Singapore 5,312,000 .073& 7.72/1000
Australia 22,832,000 .32% 12.28/1000
New Zealand 4,447,000 .063% 13.57/1000
Switzerland 8,000,000 .11% 10.4/1000

In the last five nations on earth ranked as Free by Heritage, there are only a combined 48 million people, a shocking .66 percent of the world’s inhabitants, who are truly free.

Obviously, with the United States not even in the top five of the Heritage Index, we can no longer really lay claim to being “The Land of the Free” as our national anthem proclaims. We are steadily dropping in the ranks of freedom. A closer look at the Heritage metrics shows why:

United States

Rule of Law
Property Rights                               85/100
Freedom from Corruption             71/100

Limited Government
Government Spending                 46.7/100
Fiscal Freedom                              69.8/100

Regulatory Efficiency
Business Freedom                       91.1/100
Labor Freedom                            95.8/100
Monetary Freedom                     77.2/100

Open Markets
Trade Freedom                           86.4/100
Investment Freedom                70.0/100
Financial Freedom                    70.0/100

Overall                                    76.3/100

The cold hard facts then indicate that the fear now felt by many conservatives is well placed. I’m at a loss to explain why liberals are not also terrified of the threat to individual freedom posed by ever-increasing taxes, runaway welfare and uncontrolled federal spending. If our course is not corrected, history will record that the greatest nation ever conceived on earth lost control of her spending, wasted her immense fortune, and went broke.

By the Heritage Foundation’s standards, 97 percent of the world’s nations are less than free to varying degrees. And those that are free have dwindling populations, an omen of limited capability to defend their freedom.

For these reasons, I believe we need a new list of endangered species, the countries where people still enjoy the inalienable rights given to us all by God. We can be stripped of them just as effectively by domestic economic policy as we can by the bullets of invading armies.

Patrick Henry’s battle cry should be ringing in our ears: “Give me liberty or give me death.” Only the battle this time is not against flesh and blood, but against an economic philosophy. Call it socialism, statism, or even fascism. The name doesn’t matter. It is a philosophy that does not look to God, but instead exalts government as the solution to all our problems. This is the “soft tyranny” that is now enslaving the United States and conforming us into the image of the majority of nations that have already lost their freedom.

Rest assured we will have many more posts on this in the future and plenty of calls to action. We must now put on the armor of God and faithfully spread the Truth throughout the Church. It is time for everyone to study and learn God’s financial principles because one thing is certain—free countries are going to become more and more rare.

Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 21 Comments

What Twinkies Can Teach Us About Our Finances

Since 1930, Hostess Brands, Inc. has produced some of America’s most iconic snack foods, like the ever-popular Twinkies, Ding Dongs and my former weakness, white powdered sugar Donettes.

This week, Hostess announced it is shutting down operations and closing its doors after 82 years satisfying America’s sweet tooth. Some 18,500 people will lose their jobs. Why? Because one of the labor unions representing workers at Hostess facilities refused to accept an austerity plan that would have saved the cash-strapped company.

To be fair, the company was asking a lot from the members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM)—an 8% cut in wages and 17% decrease in benefits. However, by rejecting the new agreement, BCTGM members not only sealed the loss of 100% of their own wages and benefits, but that of the other two-thirds of Hostess’ employees who were willing to accept the proposed terms.

While it’s easy to judge those who made such a poor decision—refusing to accept short-term pain to preserve their jobs, we should think before casting the first stone. Who among us likes to give back something we feel we deserve?

But this is the sad dilemma now facing all of us. Government benefits of all varieties are facing real cuts in the coming decades. Government has promised us things it has no real hope of providing—even if they confiscate everything from our affluent neighbors. America has little experience with this. We are entering an era of loss, and we’re profoundly unprepared to accept it financially or emotionally.

Like Hostess, the federal government has far too much debt. But incredibly, we can’t even agree on the extent of the threat it poses, much less what to do about it. Paul Krugman, Princeton University economics professor, Nobel laureate, and Op-Ed contributor to The New York Times says, “Debt matters, but not that much.” Oh, yeah? Ask Greece, Germany, Argentina, Iceland, Zimbabwe, Stockton, California, Bridgeport, Connecticut or Prichard, Alabama. Ask anyone who has ever fallen behind on a debt!

In the case of the U.S., debt doesn’t matter so long as our creditors are forced to accept payment in devalued dollars. But before long, they’ll tire of the “inflate our way out of this mess” schemes of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. His quantitative easing strategies amount to little more than printing money. When creditors refuse to lend us more, our debt will matter a great deal and it will matter to every single taxpayer.

When the U.S. government, run far less efficiently than Hostess, announces to the people that substantial budget cuts are coming, I predict we’ll seek to pass off the financial pain to someone else. Democrats will want to find money by cutting Defense spending. Republicans will seek to cut the bureaucracy and reform entitlement programs.

Small states will want to cut federal subsidies to big states. Poor states will want money cut from rich states, which in turn will want cuts from programs that don’t affect their budgets. Private companies will point to nonproductive, wasteful bureaucracy. The shifting of blame and responsibility will be endless. Nobody wants to go backwards, even when there is no choice.

If you care to see what the desperate scramble to prevent austerity from hitting home looks like, check out “Greek protests” on Youtube.com. There are even live cams set up now when riots flare up. You can see the anger and frustration unfold like a reality TV program. We’ve already seen massive protests in Wisconsin over Scott Walker’s austerity plan. I fear those were just the warm-up act. What’s coming will make that unruly exhibition look like a Sunday picnic.

Extend and Pretend Will Not Work Forever

You may still be asking if austerity is avoidable. Could the “extend and pretend” policies of our Federal Reserve actually work? Yes, but not forever. Let me give you a real life example from another American iconic brand, Milton Bradley’s famous board game, Monopoly. My family still likes to engage in this slow moving retro form of entertainment that requires dice, cards, an old shoe or ship for a game piece, conversation and best of all—thinking.

In a recent match, our 14-year-old son, John, was asset rich and cash poor. He began mortgaging all of his properties to stay in the game. His strategy worked at first—until he ran out of money again. The rules state that you can only borrow from the bank and it must be backed by an asset or property. This limits the amount a player can borrow and can end the game abruptly for poor risk managers who jumped at the chance to purchase coveted real estate like Boardwalk and Park Place without counting their cash reserves. These are definitely old-school rules! Since the rest of us did not want to see John suffer the humiliation and pain of being the first to lose the game through default, we compromised.

The bankrupt player was allowed to hand out I.O.U.s when he landed on properties that bristled with houses and hotels. He simply wrote down the amount that he owed in rent to each of the other players and continued playing in hopes he would recover over time. This should have enabled him to stay in the game for the duration, right? Wrong.

While you could argue theoretically that this type of debt “doesn’t matter,” we quickly discovered that in practice, it matters a great deal. After a few rounds of allowing John to go further and further into debt, the other players began to realize they needed the money John owed them. They were taking on debt too. Guess what happened next? We stopped loaning money to John. We demanded cash. Suddenly, he was in BIG trouble. His properties were not worth as much as his debt and we had grown tired of his neglecting to pay us. It was game over for John and a valuable lesson learned for all of us.

While the family ended our game in good spirits, in real life, this scenario will make lenders very angry with the borrower. Right now, our federal government is handing out I.O.U.s like there’s no tomorrow, but most assuredly, “tomorrow” will come.

It would be much better if our government began an austerity plan and stopped borrowing our nation into bankruptcy while we can still limit the pain. But don’t count on that happening. The day will come, however, when the government will be forced into austerity that will bring pain to millions.

My advice? Prepare now, financially and emotionally, to protect yourself and your family. Rather than watching and waiting to see what the government will do, reduce your uncertainty and anxiety by taking corrective action. Reduce you debt. Save all you can, and diversify your holdings. It’s the best way to prepare for whatever lies ahead. Maybe being forced to give up Twinkies is a good first step towards developing your personal austerity plan.

Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 7 Comments

The Real Battle Begins

The 2012 election reveals a sea change in the long-term direction of this nation. We are no longer guided by our historic values, but steaming full speed into darkness without concern for the rocks ahead.

In 2008, voters elected an unknown senator from Illinois to the presidency who had carefully crafted his message of change… undefined change at the time. However, four years later, the record of the change he intended is now very clear.

Yet, by a slight majority, voters have bought into this President’s vision of a diminished America as Utopia.

Unless the trend is stopped somehow, in less than a generation the U.S. will look like Papandreou’s Greece, Hollande’s France, Chavez’s Venezuela or the worst of all, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Take your pick, but it will certainly not look like the America of your childhood.

This is not based upon emotion or sour grapes but the stated positions of the winning ticket. With their vote, Americans have:

  • accepted homosexual marriage as a civil right, in blatant disregard for the Bible.
  • endorsed the right of women to publicly funded birth-control and abortion.
  • agreed to continue running up the largest national deficit in our history, ignoring the biblical warning that the borrower becomes a slave to the lender.
  • accepted that fellow Americans who are financially successful should be demonized and that their wealth be redistributed, turning the sin of envy into public policy.
  • accepted massive increases in government welfare as a form of compassion and care for the poor, despite the Bible’s teaching that compassion and generosity are a personal responsibility that cannot be shunted off on the government.
  • virtually guaranteed that a wasteful and inefficient federal bureaucracy will destroy the finest health care system in the world

The electorate engaged other moral issues as well. Following the lead of the President, two states, Maine and Maryland, voted to legalize homosexual marriages. This marked the first time the practice became legal through a popular vote following unsuccessful attempts in 32 different states since 1998.

Two states, Colorado and Washington, voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana although the federal government still prohibits the use of the drug and despite the tremendous toll drugs take on those poor souls who struggle to be free from its addictive power.

But for me, one of the greatest tragedies of this election was that despite the importance of the issues, too many Americans were poor stewards of their right to vote, to make a difference for their country. People chose not to act. Less than 60% of voting age eligible Americans showed up to participate in the democratic process. It is estimated that 13 million fewer Americans voted in the 2012 Presidential race than turned out in 2008.

Showing up to vote, however, were interest groups rallied by their self-interest.

Like Rome of old, too many Americans have realized that they can vote for their bread and circuses. About half of America does not pay taxes, yet can vote to take more from others. And politicians are elected promising to take from those who do not support them to give more to those who do.

Absent in too much of our political discourse is the biblical admonishment to work as unto God for your resources, if physically able. Absent is a discussion of biblical truth.

All decisions whether personal or political flow from the basis of our worldview. We either see man as fallen and sinful in need of laws to enforce standards of moral conduct, justice and freedom or we see man as good and capable of self-governance without standards that restrain or restrict individual sinful desires. We attempt to put God first, or we attempt to eradicate him from our lives and culture. Labels like Republican or Democrat do not divide us. Vastly differing worldviews are the essence of what divides this nation.

Is it time to resign from the fight?

Based on the results of this election, we continue with this administration; therefore I am moved to pray about the increased spiritual, moral and financial decay that I fear is coming. In spite of all this concern, this is not a time to surrender the battle.

Abraham Kuyper said, “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.”

People and the values they live by collectively form a culture. Government in a democracy is merely a reflection of the desires of the people and their choices for leadership. We have the potential to change the culture under the nose of the politicians. We must shift our focus from politics to the hearts of the people. Regardless of what happens in Washington, DC. the real solution to America’s problems is the return of the common denominator that once united a diverse people. We must work together to enrich our culture with common values and biblical principles.

In his famous book Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville observed the importance of faith to the success of the United States: “Despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot … How could society escape destruction if, when political ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened? And what can be done with a people master of itself if it is not subject to God?

We must work to rebuild our country as one nation under God. The GOP lost the election, but GOD did not. So I say, no more false hope in the Party of the Elephant! No more false hope in the Party of the Donkey! Our true hope is in the Party led by the Lion.

The Lion of Judah has been about redeeming people from worldly philosophies since they chose to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Let us arm ourselves with the ultimate weapons of love and truth and let’s go forth and boldly engage in the battle for hearts and minds.

Crown is committed to that task, one person at a time.

I invite you to join us in this epic battle. We need your financial support, your willingness to teach our materials and your influence to gain new opportunities in your churches and places of business.

The battle has begun. Let’s fight to our last breath.

Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 6 Comments

Saving for a Rainy Day (and a Long Dry Spell)

The origin of the saying “Save it for a rainy day” has been lost, but the meaning remains clear. We should be frugal during “good weather” so that we have something to fall back on when times are bad. Americans understand the meaning, we just don’t seem to do it. In fact, we have it backwards.

In the chart below, compare the rates of personal savings during U.S. recessions since 1950. It’s clear that we tend to save during the rainy days and spend all we have when the economic storms have passed. The shaded columns indicate periods of recession. Note how savings rise dramatically during those periods.

The chart provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that we briefly spiked to a high of near 15% personal savings in 1975–76 to near zero in 2000-01.

To be fair, these numbers do not reflect the rate at which Americans invest long term. It only reflects our tendency to save in more liquid assets, such as savings accounts and CDs. The danger is that far too many people are only setting money aside in pre-tax retirement plans, leaving them without access to needed cash without penalty during a financial crisis such as a job loss or health issue.

In my book, The S.A.L.T. Plan, I examine God’s wisdom that enabled Joseph to prepare the nation of Egypt for a seven-year drought—the longest recorded famine in Scripture. I believe that same course of action can prepare us for an economic downturn of biblical proportion today. The two lessons from Joseph’s story in Genesis 42 are clear and remain relevant.

First, we are to save during the good years. Yet, as you can tell from the graph, our savings habits improve only during the lean years. We should view every good year that the Lord gives us as a blessing and an opportunity to prepare for unknown challenges ahead.

Second, Joseph collected and stored 20 percent of the grain harvest for seven years, or the equivalent of 140 percent of the total grain produced in a single good year. We should strive to do the same today with our personal cash resources. Given the uncertainties we currently face, we should save 140 percent of our annual income and only then begin long-term investing. In this way, we’ll be in a position to provide for ourselves, our families, and even to help others should we experience an economic event on a biblical scale, which, by the way, more than one economist has forecast.

One final note, in Joseph’s plan, the government of Egypt did the saving. The Bible says nothing about the people saving. In fact, the people were forced to pay 20 percent of their grain in taxes to Pharaoh. Later they were further compelled to purchase the grain from the government during their time of need. This important fact needs to be noted—the government did not store the grain in order to provide free handouts to its starving citizens.

We’re already being taxed substantially more than 20 percent by government at all levels. Not only is that money being spent as fast as it comes in, government is borrowing vast amounts more. Unlike ancient Egypt, our government will be hard pressed to save us in an extreme economic crisis.

My advice is to take Joseph’s plan and apply it to your personal finances. Once you achieve the 140 percent savings goal, then begin long-term investing. This will prepare you not just for a rainy day, but a very long dry season as well.

Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 8 Comments

Blown Call Illustrates Battle for Truth

October 3, 2012

Blown Call Illustrates Battle for Truth

If you think that truth is irrelevant and unwelcome in our culture today, consider this modern-day parable from professional football.

Fans of America’s largest and most lucrative sport struggled with poor officiating through the first three Sundays of the 2012 season. But the faithful finally had enough of the “replacement referees” last week when the poorly trained fill-ins blew a game-changing last call on Monday Night Football.

Packer defensive back M.D. Jennings clearly made a heroic interception in the end zone as time ran out, but the replacement refs awarded Seattle with a phantom touchdown and the win. It was the second, observable bad call in the play that should have favored the Packers. Game over. But not forgotten.

With that single event, the sub-par officiating that had been evident across the league during the union referee lockout, suddenly mattered.

For the league, the financial stakes were no longer limited to the union refs’ compensation demands. The dispute was causing even the most devoted fans to walk away, putting at risk the estimated $9 billion the NFL earns in annual revenue.

Even President Barack Obama found time during his busy schedule to weigh in on the issue saying, “We’ve got to get our refs back.”

Just three days after the infamous bad call, now referred to by pundits as “the Inaccurate Reception,” the regular referees were back on the job. All was considered right again in the world of big sports—fans happy, players happy, advertisers happy, owners happy.

It is almost refreshing to be reminded on such a grand stage that the American people, and certainly NFL fans, appreciate truth when it counts. Christians can learn something from this.

First: Consider the recent challenge to Chick-Fil-A owner Dan Cathy’s right to operate his business according to his personal religious beliefs.

The Constitution protects Dan Cathy’s right to free speech and the freedom to practice his religion. Customers who are offended by his statements are free to eat lunch elsewhere. These freedoms should be championed and defended because they are derived from standards given to us by God. And if Dan Cathy can be attacked for his views and bullied, than so can any one of us.

Media elites and even some politicians justified their trampling of Cathy’s Constitutional rights in the name of “tolerance,” defined and practiced as intolerance of faith.

Yet the rule of law is the cornerstone of a free and orderly society. Without standards that are consistently and fairly applied, order becomes chaos.

Leviticus 19:15 warns, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” When there are no longer common standards to determine right or wrong, might makes right and the freedoms we all enjoy are threatened.

Second: Consider the difficulties that are arising as biblical standards of righteousness are removed from our schools, our courts, our businesses and our public policy and replaced with new standards of “tolerance” for everything but biblical values.

Without reliable standards of right and wrong moderating our choices, we are vulnerable to the whims of political correctness. We can clearly see that inept referees calling an interception a touchdown is not good, and we can all understand the far greater threat to society if evil is celebrated as good and good punished as evil.

That bad call cost replacement referees their temporary jobs. Will making man the central authority for moral judgments permanently cost us our nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian values?

Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

This past weekend, I experienced a wake-up call.

My wife, Ann, and I with our two youngest sons attended a conference on Creation at an evangelical church. The talk was interrupted repeatedly by a man and woman who appeared to be there solely to mock the presenter, and throughout the course of the event they would applaud references to atheists, as self-appointed referees against biblical truths.

Earlier, this couple even deceived the speaker into having his picture taken with them so they could boast about their exploits on social media. They were cheerleaders for a culture attempting to deconstruct our national basis for Truth, the Bible.

As believers, we have a choice—to remain apathetic to these attacks or to become active. I, for one, am choosing to step up my game. My heart has been quickened to do more, to fight for what is worth dying for and to take a clear stand. I ask you to join me. Put on your spiritual armor and together let’s stand for God’s truth.

To become active, we must be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. This is a call to combine courage, humility and love, but we must all use our voices. But make no mistake; if you take on this challenge and speak up, you will be putting a target on your back.

Prepare to be labeled intolerant, hater, fundamentalist, idiot, bigot, racist—the other side uses the powerful tool of embarrassment and humiliation to discourage and defeat you.

Upholding a standard for Truth is an issue far more important than the outcome of a football game. If we lose the battle to preserve Truth as our common standard, we not only lose America, we lose everything.

It is not time to wave the white flag of surrender. This is not a game; it’s a battle that demands our all, and we are on the winning team.

Chuck Bentley

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Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 12 Comments

Dickie: Fake It Till You’re Broke

The Washington Times is running an important op-ed piece by Crown President Robert Dickie III calling for a national discussion on the epidemic of financial illiteracy in America:

A national crisis in financial education contributes to the current willingness to embrace buy-now-pay-later logic, whether the spender is Uncle Sam on a spree with taxpayer dollars and a credit card from China or any average household, where “budget” is just a word on a child’s spelling test. Financial strain and growing personal and national debt have a stranglehold on Americans in a sluggish economy that has crawled for 43 months with higher than 8 percent unemployment…

Financially ignorant, many Americans have no idea how to impact their financial health…We can’t expect people with zero financial skills to make insightful choices or engage effectively in teaching their children about money. It’s time for a national discussion of skills and tools that are just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic…

As a nation — whether in schools, churches or halls of government — it is time to seriously address the financial-education deficit that is contributing to our current decline.

Please help us get the word out about this vital topic by forwarding this message to family and friends and encouraging them to read the entire editorial at The Washington Times. Thanks for your help!

Chuck Bentley

Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 1 Comment

America’s Next “Twin Towers”

I just finished Joel Rosenberg’s excellent new book, Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time? Rosenberg’s sobering work is filled with data to support the very real decline of America’s spiritual and economic strength—what I’m calling our next “Twin Towers”—both of which are under attack.

The greatest threat to our economic tower is self-inflicted—our national debt. The U.S. government now officially owes $16 trillion, much of it to unfriendly nations. Remember, the Bible tells us that the borrower is slave to the lender.

We hit that woeful mark at the end of August with surprisingly little fanfare, save for a few items in news outlets like The Wall Street Journal:

Total U.S. government debt eclipsed $16 trillion for the first time Friday [Aug. 31], new government data show, as total federal borrowing continues marching toward the $16.394 trillion borrowing limit…The government is projected to run a deficit of between $1.1 trillion and $1.2 trillion in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, meaning that spending will outpace tax revenue by that amount over 12 months…The government is currently running an average monthly deficit of $100 billion and is likely to hit the debt ceiling sometime in late December.

We often complain that politicians in Washington don’t know what they’re doing, but that’s a myth. They know exactly what they’re doing. The $16.394 trillion debt ceiling passed in the last “compromise” agreement isn’t exactly a round number. And both parties are responsible for it. That number was skillfully chosen to kick the issue just past the coming election, so politicians of either party wouldn’t be forced to take a stand on raising the debt ceiling in the current campaign.

Of course, the issue is not going away. The debt ceiling mess will hit again right at the end of a lame duck session of Congress. Expect little, if anything, to be done about it. The Treasury Department can juggle the books for several months to keep the bills paid, but sometime next spring, the federal government will be legally constrained from borrowing unless the debt limit is raised yet again.

Sixteen trillion is just too big a number for the average person to comprehend. So let’s break it down into a more manageable amount. The 2010 Census showed that we have a residential population of roughly 309,000,000. Divide the $16 trillion that we now owe by that number and you’ll discover your individual share of our national debt—$52,000. For the average family, the share is $135,000. Now ask yourself, what exactly did you get for taking on that kind of liability?

We’re told by politicians not to worry. The liberals believe that the solution to this debt is to get the rich to pay their “fair share,” but this is a straw man argument at best. The idea that we can solve our problems by getting the so-called rich to pay their fair share, whatever that means, is a complete fraud designed to get the votes of the uninformed.

President Obama’s defines “rich” as anyone making over $250,000 a year. He wants us to believe that raising taxes on these people will solve our deficit problem. But according to Kevin D. Williamson, writing for National Review Online, the numbers just don’t add up:

In fact, in 2006, the Census Bureau found only 2.2 million households earning more than $250,000…The 2012 deficit is forecast to hit $1.1 trillion under Obama’s budget. (Thanks, Mr. President!) Spread that deficit over all the households in Club 250K and you have to jack up their taxes by an average of $500,000. Which you simply can’t do, since a lot of them don’t have $500,000 in income to seize: Most of them are making $250,000 to $450,000 and paying about half in taxes already. You can squeeze that goose all day, but that’s not going to make it push out a golden egg.

Believing that raising taxes on “the rich” is the solution to our deficit and debt problem means you have to ignore cold, hard facts. As Williamson points, out, we’re going to need an awful lot more rich people to tax our way out of a deficit hole this deep. And that’s just to break even this year—never mind making a dent in the $16 trillion debt. Any politician who tells you that taxing Americans more will solve our problem is simply wrong.

If you still believe that the federal government has a revenue problem and not a spending problem, perhaps this thought might change your mind. After they tax everything from the rich and still can’t balance our dangerously bloated federal budget, who do you think they’ll come after next? Remember, you already owe a $52,000 share of that $16 trillion national debt.

For that kind of money, you’d expect to get a “free” college education, or “free” health care for life, or maybe half of your house paid for. Last time I checked, those things weren’t free. Students are still graduating with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of student loan debt, Obamacare is loaded with new taxes, and millions of Americans are still underwater on their mortgages.

Meanwhile, Christianity is under siege in the western world, even right here in America. While we see events unfold in Libya and Egypt, mobs attacking our consulates and killing our diplomats, all purportedly because of an affront to Islam, our State Department apologizes for something we haven’t done. At the same time, it’s open season on Christian beliefs. God is booed at one of our own party’s national conventions. Our spiritual tower is becoming as wobbly as our economic tower. It seems their fates are entwined, just as the World Trade Center Towers were 11 years ago.

So what exactly do we need to avoid a spiritual and economic collapse?

Joel Rosenberg argues that there is still good reason to hope for America’s recovery. Many times in our short history we have pulled out of a downward spiral, evidencing God’s grace on this nation. The New York Times bestselling author advocates that we need a revival or the Third Great Awakening to change the self-destructive course of our nation.

Rosenberg cites the definition of a revival by Charles Finney who was himself a part of the Second Great Awakening to sweep America at the dawn of the 19th century. It was “the renewal of the first love of Christians, resulting in the awakening and conversion of sinners to God.” Yes, we need to see Christians returning to their first love. Perhaps our misplaced dependency upon our money and wealth is being destroyed for that very purpose, to get our attention and to move our hearts back to the Giver and off the gifts.

Rosenberg also notes that we have a voice in the political process. While we should never place our hope in government or the next President or the next election, we should speak up and expect a return to fiscal sanity in Washington. We need real cuts in federal spending or we will have those cuts forced upon us by our lenders.

In two months, we’ll have the opportunity to choose new leaders. I pray you’ll use your vote wisely to elect men and women who are prepared to make the tough choices we need to solve this crisis. Regardless of the outcome of the election, join me in praying with Joel Rosenberg for the Third Great Awakening to sweep our nation before our next “Twin Towers” collapse.

Chuck Bentley

Your comments are always welcome.

Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 2 Comments

Dan Cathy Is No Chicken

Political correctness has made us a nation tolerant only of “one-legged opinions,” a friend of mine recently observed. We take a stand on a hot issue, but only on one leg at a time, shifting when necessary so as not to offend the beliefs of others—but never standing solidly on two feet.

Like a modern day parable, the story of a lone, courageous businessman has taught us what it means to be guided by truth, rather than political fad.

Dan Cathy is the Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A, a privately owned chain of quick service restaurants with annual sales of $4 billion. The company is ranked the 10th fastest growing retailer in the country, although Chick-fil-A restaurants close their doors every Sunday, the best sales day of the week for those in this business sector.

Cathy recently expressed his belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman as defined by Scripture. The howls of self-righteous indignation condemning Cathy for his stand are puzzling, since his position was shared until recently by President Obama. Perhaps the President’s prior stand was of the one-legged variety.

When asked whether he agreed with a biblical worldview, Cathy had the courage to say yes, so now he and his company are facing a public relations firestorm.  His two-legged opinion is in opposition to what some insist is the new cultural view on gay marriage—tolerance.

Predictably, those who trumpet tolerance have responded with hysterical intolerance and a campaign to persecute Dan Cathy and—if successful—injure a stellar company.

Reaction

For starters, the mayors of Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco have announced that Chick-fil-A is no longer welcome in “their” cities. DC Mayor Vincent Gray called the Atlanta-based chain “hate chicken.”

This is not only childish name calling, but the decision by these mayors usurps the constitutionally protected right of an individual to operate his business according to his own values and accept the consequences of his choices in a free market society.

The Los Angeles Times lists further reaction by both sides:

The Jim Henson Co., creator of the Muppets, announced it would sever a deal it had with Chick-fil-A to make toys for children’s meals. Local politicians in a few blue-state cities said Chick-fil-A was not welcome. Nearly 6,000 people signed an online petition vowing to boycott Chick-fil-A for its stance on gay marriage (and its financial support of some groups opposed to the practice). The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is urging supporters to make their feelings known in a same-sex kiss-in at Chick-fil-A’s across the country on Friday [August 3, 2012].

A counter-protest took shape: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has urged people to make Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who held many events at Chick-fil-A locations during his presidential campaign, urged his Facebook followers to patronize the chain: “Help us fight for traditional families and eat chicken at the same time.”

Money over Morals?

The media has joined in the campaign to bring Dan Cathy back into the politically correct fold. Bloomberg Businessweek editor Diane Brady offered Cathy a lesson in one-legged opinions from Bill Marriot, the chairman of Marriot International.

“A few months ago, I had an interesting conversation with Bill Marriott. As a prominent Mormon-controlled venture, his hotel company was an obvious target in 2008, when the church vigorously supported California’s now-overturned ban on gay marriage…

“In Marriott’s personal life, marriage is something reserved for a man and a woman. But he has long been reluctant to impose that view on the company his father founded…

“‘This church helped me raise a family and has brought great joy and happiness to my life,’ he told me. But that didn’t mean gay employees had any less status at Marriott. ‘We have to take care of our people, regardless of their sexual orientation or anything else,’ he said. ‘We are an American Church. We have all the American values: the values of hard work, the values of integrity, the values of fairness and respect…

“‘Our church is very much opposed to alcohol and we’re probably one of the biggest sales engines of liquor in the United States. I don’t drink. We serve a lot of liquor. You’re in business. You’ve got to make money,’ he said. ‘We have to appeal to the masses out there, no matter what their beliefs are.’”

One-legged take-home message: Don’t let your religious values impact your business model.

Marriott International is not alone. Giant corporations like Amazon, Kraft, J.C. Penney, General Mills, Starbucks and Microsoft have similar policies either promoting or supporting the rights of those known as LGBT or lesbian, gay, bisexual and yes, even transgender. The pressure to compromise is great.

A Time to Stand with a Respected American Enterprise

For those who don’t kiss the ring of political correctness, the repercussions are extreme. Economic persecution for those who support Christian values is now the norm in the United States. This flies in the face of our First Amendment guarantees of free speech, freedom of religion and right of conscience.

While the left preaches tolerance, Dan Cathy’s right to run his business as he wishes, speak his mind and organize his affairs in a manner respecting biblical principles is under attack.

Is America still the land of the free and the home of the brave? This vitriolic response to Dan Cathy is an attempt to punish a man for running a private enterprise according to his deeply held religious beliefs. Dripping in hypocrisy, it is the work of a small but very vocal minority that would gladly take away a man’s right to free speech while exercising their own.

I for one say it is time to take a stand by voting with your wallet. Buy a Chick-fil-A sandwich tomorrow, use the company to cater your next business luncheon or event and get a Chick-fil-A gift card for your relative’s or friend’s next birthday.

Dan Cathy is no chicken—let’s stand with him on two legs. Together we can create a response that declares that this kind of intolerance won’t be tolerated.

Chuck Bentley

Posted in Handwriting on the Wall | 63 Comments

MoneyLife Podcast for Friday, June 29, 2012

Looking to change careers? Now may be the very best time to make your move.  Today, Chuck shares how to take advantage of the volatile job market to get where you want to go.

Posted in MoneyLife Videocast | 1 Comment

MoneyLife Podcast for Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spotting a business scam is getting harder these days.  With better marketing, technology, and an increased hunger by the public for the latest get-rich-quick scheme, business scams are rampant today.  Today Chuck shares a list of ways you can avoid being scammed.

Posted in MoneyLife Videocast | Leave a comment