Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Reflections: Bleeder: A Mystery

My dad once told me that he liked to read a novel in the summer.  Typically I read biographies, inspirational books, historical books, political books, or religious books.  I rarely find time to read novels.  Well I decided that I was going to read a novel on my vacation this past week.  It was a nice break from the routine.  I think I'll have to read novels more often.  I found it to be both fun and relaxing.  I didn't have to think too hard although I liked to try to solve the mystery in my head; I just read the book for enjoyment.  I chose this novel for a couple reasons.  I enjoy a good mystery and it sounded like it had a lot of Catholic themes.  This novel gives some insight on some Catholic teachings and traditions especially regarding saints, but it does so in the context of an interesting story and is not at all in your face preaching.  If you are looking for a good mystery novel to get away from the normal routine, I encourage you to check this book out.  I don't think you'll be disappointed... I must boast a little bit and say that I figured out at least half the mystery before it was fully revealed.  I'm proud of myself!  If you have a kindle and would like to read this book, send me a message and I will loan it to you for free.

Bleeder: A Mystery

God bless,


Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Christian Perspective on the National Debt Crisis

The huge news of the day in this country is the national debt crisis.  No sane person can deny that the national debt is a serious problem in this country.  Our government is borrowing billions of dollars that we are unable to pay.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if this trend continues it will lead to financial disaster.  Financial disaster will lead to numerous other problems including most likely a moral decline of our society (some would say we are already experiencing this moral decline).  I would argue that the national debt is as much a moral issue as it is a financial one.  I believe that our country has finally accepted the fact that we have a problem.  The question facing the country is what we need to do about reversing this disturbing trend of increasing debt.  The answer to solving the national debt is obvious but not easy.  We have 3 options.  We can increase government revenue, cut government spending, or we can attempt to do both. Most conservatives contend that we do not have a revenue problem, but we have a spending problem and we need to make deep cuts in government spending.  Most liberals may be willing to accept some limited government spending cuts especially toward business and people considered rich or successful, but they contend that we must also raise government revenue (raise taxes).  Both sides are hesitant to suggest specific spending cuts due to political repercussions.  As soon as any spending cut proposals are offered, the other side is quick to attack.  So here we sit at a stalemate because both sides can’t agree on a solution.   The result is the American people continue to suffer the consequences.   I understand the difficulty in reaching an agreement, but I think I have some common sense thoughts and possibly even a couple solutions.

First of all, let’s take a look at why the increasing national debt is considered a crisis.  The national debt affects every citizen, but most especially the young people because they are most likely going to be forced to foot the bill.  This really irks me, because the people in government who have created this crisis will not be held responsible for their irresponsible actions.  Perhaps taxpayers aren’t completely absent of blame either; we should have been much more engaged and proactive in monitoring the spending habits of our government.  We have freedom of speech and the voting booth which provided us opportunity to make our voices heard.  We are at crisis level because we no longer have the money to pay off the debt.  

Just like the government, families must have to budget.  Responsible families do not spend money that they do not have.  As the father and head of my family, I am very conscience of our ability to pay off our debts.  Only in the most dire and extreme situations (ex. medical expenses) would I consider using my credit card if I knew we would not be able to pay the debt in full when we got the bill.  I follow this principal not because I want to be cheap, but because I want to be responsible and I know that if we start to accrue debt we will be in far worse trouble down the road.  We might get a short term benefit, but long term the family will suffer.  Sometimes there are things I would like to buy or things I would like to do, but I know that I don’t have the financial means to do so and it would hurt not just me but my entire family.  The government needs to look at the budget as families look at their budget.  They should look at taxpayers as if they were family.  If someone in your family gives you a $20 and asks you to mow their yard, would you spend that money on candy and then come back and ask for $200 so that you can buy a lawn mower?  This would be extremely insulting to the family member who gave you that money expecting you to use it to mow their yard.  Likewise, the government should not be spending taxpayer money on non-essential programs that taxpayers do not need or want, and then ask them to pay more taxes so that we can pay off the debt.  We pay taxes to the government so that they can protect our freedoms and provide security.  We are not authorizing the government a blank checkbook so that they can go on a spending spree and finance whatever special project they personally see fit.  It is not their money.  It is the taxpayer’s money and the taxpayer should decide how it is used.  There may be some well-intentioned programs that the government will have to cut.  This does not mean that these programs in and of themselves are bad, but we cannot afford to pay for all of the programs the government supports.  Not only that, but how many of these government run programs could be run more efficiently by local communities or small businesses?  The government is not the answer to all our problems, and in fact it is often the government that creates many of our problems.

We need some leaders; real leaders who are not afraid to do the right thing regardless of the political consequences.  Each side has their ideal solution, but the reality is that compromise on both sides will be necessary to reach an agreement.  What do I think we need to do to solve this national debt crisis?
1.       We need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment.
a.       Those who oppose a balanced budget say it would be irresponsible.  I say that it is irresponsible to not have a structure in place to slow and eventually pay off the debt.  Those opposed are also concerned what a Balanced Budget Amendment would mean for programs that are not set from year to year such as unemployment benefits especially in a bad economy.  I say include rainy day funds in the budget to address these concerns.  The government does not HAVE to spend every penny they receive.
2.       Distinguish between essential and non-essential government programs. 
a.       This is probably the most difficult step to agree upon, but I think there are some criteria that can be used to help us distinguish what is essential.  Most important is the security of the citizens and the protection of our God given freedoms.  Also essential is education of our children and certain infrastructure projects.  There can be some debate about many of the other government programs, but we must prioritize where we spend money.
3.       Analyze the efficiency of all government funded programs starting with non-essential programs.
a.       The government might be well intentioned with some of the programs they fund, but some of these programs may not be efficiently run or mismanaged. 
4.       Make fair but significant cuts in government spending after careful review of all programs.
a.       We will not be able to tax our way out of this debt.  We will have to make some tough decisions, but we absolutely must make some spending cuts if we are going to have any chance of getting the debt under control.
5.       Review and reform tax laws to address any loop-holes or inconsistencies. 
a.       Some consideration should be given to eliminating some tax credits if it is determined the elimination of these credits would have minimal impact on the economy.  I would think things such as mortgage deductions on multiple homes would be an example of a credit that could be looked at as a possible elimination.

So those are my proposals.  It seems like common sense to me.  Don’t spend what you don’t have.  One thing I know for sure is that doing nothing is not an option.  My prayer is that the two sides can come together on this important issue and make some positive changes.  It is immoral to leave this huge financial burden for our children.  So what do you think?  Do you agree with me or do you have some other ideas?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Reflections: Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living With Passion & Purpose

I picked up this book because they were passing out free copies at church.  How could I pass that up?  I had heard Matthew Kelly talk because I got one of his cd's from Lighthouse Catholic Media so I knew he was an inspirational speaker.  I have to say that the book was a little different than I expected.  I thought that the book would be written more for fallen away Catholics because the idea of having a free copy at church during Easter and Christmas was to reach out to those Catholics who only go to mass once or twice a year.  I think this is an excellent idea and I appaud Matthew Kelly's desire to bring back fallen away Catholics and to reinspire practicing Catholics.  As I read the book however, I found that this book was talking to me, a practicing Catholic, directly and maybe even more so than to fallen away Catholics.  I found myself upset a few times while reading this book because I felt that he was challenging me personally.  Maybe this is a sign that I have some work to do in my spiritual life.  Not maybe, certainly.  I can be a much better Catholic.  I can be a much better person.  This book is not just for fallen away Catholics and I would say that it is not just for Catholics, but I think any person of good will can find some valuable lessons from this book.  Basically Matthew Kelly talks about the state of Catholicism through his eyes and based on his experiences.  Some of his analogies may not apply to you personally, but the ideas he presents I believe are universal.  In this book Matthew Kelly tries to convey the great beauty and importance of Catholicism and I believe he does a very good job.  He stresses the need for great saints to rise up in the Church to combat a society that seems to be moving further away from Christian ideals.  This book will challenge you to become a better Catholic and a better person.  We can accept the challenge and work towards becoming what Kelly calls the "best version of ourselves," or we can chose to walk through life just doing enough to ease our conscience.  Take up the challenge.  Be the best version of yourself.  Learn the beauty of living an authentic Christian life.  Rediscover the greatness and wonder of Catholicism.  Read this book.  You will be a better person for it.

God bless!

Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living With Passion & Purpose