Clean Slate
By John D. Turner
19 Aug 2010

When I look at the mess we have made of our country, it reminds me of the Gordian knot; a massive tangle of intractable problems all intertwined, interconnected, and interdependent. No matter where you pull, the knot remains. It is sort of like the way my son’s bedroom looks after awhile; so messy he can’t figure out where to start cleaning.

Our tax code is so convoluted no single person can comprehend it all, and even the IRS, the keepers and enforcers of the code, don’t understand it completely. Asking them for help is no help at all; even if you get an answer from one department, if another rules it incorrect it is still you, not the IRS that is at fault, and you are still liable for the extra taxes and penalties.

Our budgets are totally out of whack; at the federal level, at the state level, and even at the local level. Everything seems to be a priority, and money must be spent on it. All projects are worthy to someone, and all deserve to be funded. We can’t cut spending and we can’t raise taxes. All we can do is sit around, watch them spend, and watch our money become worth less and less each day.

Our political leadership is, for the most part, so partisan and so disconnected from reality that I can hardly bear to hear them speak. In fact, there really is no reason to listen to them any longer; you can predict what they will say in advance on any given issue. “It’s not my fault. It’s Bush’s fault, BP’s fault, the Republican’s fault, the Tea Party’s fault, Wall Street’s fault, the greedy rich’s fault” – you name it, the fault lies somewhere else with someone else.

It is true that there are those who are trying to do something about the problems. Most of the ones trying to do something rational, at least from my perspective, are on the right. And because the term “right-wing Democrat” is such an oxymoron these days, most of those are Republicans. Or Independents. Which means that you hear very little about what they are doing as they get very little coverage in the mainstream media, and much of what is reported is negative or slanted.

Besides, when Republicans speak these days, you have to take what they say with a grain of salt. It is an election year; they are going to tell you what they think you want to hear, just like the Democrats. And keep in mind, as they stick their tongue in your ear, that they are the ones who screwed up big time and got us into this mess in the first place. No, Republicans, I don’t want more of the same at a slower pace! Just because the Democrat Progressives have taken over and are showing themselves in all their true glory does not mean I want your brand of Progressivism back either.

It seems our two party system has devolved into the Party of No (as the Democrats label the Republicans), and the Party that can’t seem to say No (at least when it comes to spending and any and every liberal/progressive idea ever given thought by a member of the Democrat Party).

I was watching “Founder’s Friday” on Glenn Beck (yeah, I know, that racist homophobic moron; what the heck does he know anyway), and I got to thinking. What if magically, we could sweep all of this under the table and start over. What would we want our country to look like? What would be our priorities?

What if we were to start all over? What if at this point, we could simply wipe the slate clean and redesign our country from the ground up? What would we include? What would we get rid of? What things would we consider important, and what things could we dispense with?

What is important to you? More importantly, what is important to your children, and their children on down the line? Are you in this just for yourself, or are the needs of others important to you as well? Is freedom important to you? What does freedom mean to you, exactly? Who ensures you have freedom; who ensures you keep your freedom? Which is more important; freedom or security?

Do you think the government has a big role to play in your life? Should it have a smaller role? How much tax do you think you should pay? Do you think “the rich” should pay more than you? Should they pay more as a percentage or just more as a total dollar amount? Do you consider yourself rich? What is the highest tax percentage you think should be paid by anyone?

If we could just start over – what would your “top ten” list look like? Can’t stop at ten? How about 20, or 30? Should that new constitution be simple, like the one we currently have, or should it be big and bulky – like the stimulus package, for example? Should it enumerate all the things government needs to be doing for us, or should it limit the things government can do to us?

Do we continue to say that our rights come from God and not from men – or should we just go ahead and pitch God under the bus and just acknowledge that we think we are smart enough to pick leaders that have godlike powers and will rule over us like benevolent angels, taking care of our every need and keeping the bad old boogey men at bay?

Do we think we could elect leaders who are smart enough to write rules that guarantee we will never have an economic downturn, never have a natural disaster that can’t be fixed in a week or so, can guarantee that we will always have what we need, when we need it, in any quantity we desire? Leaders who can guarantee us unlimited free health care for as long as we shall live; can guarantee generous pensions that begin when we retire at 60, and will keep us happy and satisfied in a retirement that may last longer than our working careers did?

And if we could elect such leaders, if such even exist, do we think we could keep them somehow from assuming dictatorial powers over us and changing the deal? What keeps them honest? Do we even care if they are honest, as long as we get (or think we are getting) everything we want? Does it bother you to have a government in charge that makes all the decisions for you about everything you do in life? Where you go to school, what you learn, where you work, what you eat, how much energy you use, what words you can and cannot use, where you live, what temperature you set your thermostat to, the list goes on. At what point does the government overstep their bounds? What bounds? Who decides?

Who do you trust to put together the new constitution for our new hot-off-the-press country for the 21st century? Barack Obama? Nancy Pelosi? Harry Reid? Sarah Palin? Mitt Romney? Mike Huckabee? How many would need to be on the committee? How many years would it take to get it done? What would it look like? How much would it weigh? Would it even be comprehensible to the ordinary citizen?

If we could only start over…

Well, the reality is, we can’t start over, at least not that easily. We can’t just sweep everything off the table and pretend it doesn’t exist. Events have consequences that must be taken into account. Bills must be paid, one way or another. Sometimes the reckoning is painful. Entities are only “too big to fail” if there is someone bigger who is willing to bail them out. Who will be there to bail out the biggest economy on the planet?

We can lose our country, and we can lose our freedoms; history shows that happening in country after country throughout time. Empires have flourished and come crashing down. Countries have been born and died; sometimes the country is still there, the name is the same, but what goes on inside the borders – the government running things, is very different. Take a look at the French Revolution for a chilling example of trading bad government for worse.

So this is a good time to sit back with that blank slate and a pencil, and take stock of all we have that we want to keep. No, we can’t start all over; we can’t magically make it all go away. But we can lose what we have. And we can end up with a good deal worse.

It’s a good time to go back and read our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and to think deeply on the words that were penned. What do they mean? Are they good ideas? Are they things you would fight to keep? Do they benefit you and your posterity? Are they a force for good or ill?

And because sometimes it is hard to understand what someone meant when they wrote words 250 years ago, perhaps it is time to go back and study those founders a bit and see what they were thinking when they wrote those words. Do those words and ideas still apply to us today, or are they relics of a bygone era. Do the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” still mean anything in the world of today? Or have we “grown past” them?

Perhaps it’s time once again to pick up the works of John Locke and Adam Smith; of Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine. Where are the Jefferson’s, Washington’s, Franklin’s, and Adams’s of today? Who would be the James Madison of a new Federal Constitution today?

Our forefathers had to fight a revolution, a bloody ordeal, to win freedom from a tyrannical oppressor across the ocean. It was a long and painful process. Many did not want independence; many were content to stay subjects of the King. Family members were pitted against family members. Franklin and his son are two well-known examples. Many lost all they had; many men of wealth ended as paupers. But they gave us a new nation. If its birthing pangs were painful, so were its younger years. In the end, our founders gave us, as Franklin put it “a republic, if you can keep it.”

We have kept it since, though we have made changes that have distorted its fabric in many places. Now we stand on the brink, faced with our own long and painful process. Because of the sacrifices made by those who came before us, we, God willing, will not have to fight a physical revolution with guns and bullets. But we do need to take a stand in the cultural revolution that has been going on around us for decades and which is coming to a head in our day and age.

Our fight is with ideas; our fight is at the ballot box. Our fight is with our elected officials; to elect the ones that will preserve the liberty our forefathers fought for, and to ensure that once elected they keep their feet on that path. Our fight is to survive the mess that has been made, and to emerge from the long and painful process of fixing the mess a stronger nation, and one which our founder’s would recognize as the possessing the same reverence for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that they bequeathed to us in the first place.

This will not be an easy task. Nor will it be quick. There will be those who try to lure us off the task by promises of a quick, easy solution if we just leave it to them to fix it for us. We will grow weary, we will long to quit; some of us will lose all we have.

Will we prevail? I hope so, because I want my children to live in a free and independent America, not the socialist worker’s paradise of America that the Progressives are touting. I’ve looked around the globe, and so far, I haven’t seen a socialist worker’s paradise that has worked. They seem to be ok for those at the top, but for the real workers at the bottom, not so much.

I’ll stick with the original “American dream”, if you don’t mind…