March 25, 2015

Support Israel’s Security, Not Its Conquests

Americans have a deep sympathy for Israel’s founding story, which is rooted in the Jewish people’s emergence from one of the greatest crimes of all time- the Holocaust. We recognize that since its founding, Israel has experienced continuous hostility from some of its neighbors - a hostility that continues today. Americans will always have Israel’s back in the face of violent extremism and aggression. Mormons are especially sympathetic with the plight of Israeli Jews as our faith was born amidst great suffering and oppression.Additionally, the Jewish people hold a special and revered place in our Christian doctrine. Nonetheless, it is crucial that Americans separate their abiding affection for the Jewish people from the State of Israel’s policies, which affect our security and our interests in the rest of the Middle East and beyond.

March 8, 2015

Voter Fraud vs. Voter Suppression- Which is the Real Problem?

After the November 2012 election, Republicans across the country were understandably frustrated. Conservative media outlets had been predicting an easy win for former Governor Mitt Romney. The right-wing media and blogosphere kept telling Republican voters that the polls were biased towards President Obama. Well-renowned conservative pundit George Will famously predicted that Romney would win the Electoral College in a 321-217 landslide. Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson told his followers that God had informed him that Mitt Romney would win and become a two-term president. Instead, Barack Obama was handily reelected and Democrats gained seats in both the Senate and the House. Demographers’ predictions of the expanding importance of minority voters, especially Latinos, in presidential elections were spot-on.

December 6, 2014

Latter-Day Saints Should Applaud Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration

Last week, President Obama announced that because of Congress’s failure to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill, he is taking executive action to help improve our badly broken immigration system. At the same time, Obama acknowledged that his executive action would not solve all of our immigration challenges and that only new legislation would provide a comprehensive solution. Notwithstanding the fact that many previous Republican presidents used executive actions to reform our nation’s immigration policies, Republicans predictably responded to President Obama’s action with outrage, even though it was House Republicans who purposely stalled on taking up immigration reform after the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan reform bill in 2013. Among those expressing disdain for the President’s actions are Mormon conservatives. However, if those conservatives understood the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on immigration reform, they would applaud the President’s initiative.

November 7, 2014

Propagandizing Public Education

Across the U.S., conservative-dominated school boards have sought to manipulate public education curricula by overruling relevant experts in subjects such as history, economics, and science, establishing requirements to teach subjects through a conservative lens, and via outright censorship. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education approved a social studies curriculum that questioned the Founding Fathers’ commitment to secular government and presented conservative political philosophies in a positive light. Astonishingly, the school board cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions across the world in the 18th and 19th centuries and replaced him with religious figures such as St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin because the board members disliked Jefferson’s support for separation between church and state.

August 27, 2014

What do Stalin, Mao and Obama Have in Common? Nothing.

Over the past several years, as President Barack Obama has occupied the White House, his detractors have ceaselessly labeled his policies as communist or socialist. Pundits like Glenn Beck often carefully choreographed imagery of the Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle flag, or the Nazi’s swastika when referring to Mr. Obama and his policies. The notion that Democrats support socialism has become a foregone conclusion in conservative communities. As one who formally studied economics and political science at BYU, hearing these terms twisted far from their actual meaning, and observing the comparison of programs like Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to Stalinist Russia, make me cringe. For Republican strategists, the purpose in making such comparisons to the genocidal regimes of Stalin, Mao, or Hitler are obvious- striking fear in their largely uninformed constituents. This messaging strategy has worked marvelously as more and more Americans now simply refuse to even consider the merits of any policy proposal that the GOP punditry has labeled “socialist” or “communist.”

May 21, 2014

Vigilantism's Return to America

Several weeks ago, George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of murder in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, made an appearance at a Florida gun show as the guest of honor. Zimmerman was invited by the gun show’s organizer, who had supported Zimmerman at his trial, to help promote the event by signing autographs. The appalling reaction of several of my right-wing acquaintances after I complained on Facebook about the celebration of Zimmerman as a hero prompted me to write this post.

March 23, 2014

State Capitals are Key to 2014 Election

Most Americans claim they are tired of bitter partisanship and Congressional gridlock in Washington. The non-stop manufactured crises, including the show-downs over the federal budget and debt ceiling, the more than 40 House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the unprecedented use of the filibuster in the Senate to block even routine executive and judicial appointments, are just some of the ways politicians have log-jammed our democracy. Last October’s unpopular government shut down led to the furlough of nearly 1 million workers, while another million were compelled to work without pay. Any astute observer of American politics knows that one of the primary reasons for this Congressional dissonance is hyper-partisan redistricting, or gerrymandering.

February 11, 2014

Obamacare Unlocks American Innovation

America’s antiquated health care insurance system has hampered innovation and ultimately slowed economic growth for decades due to the insurance system’s perverse incentives. However, the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, has done much to reverse those disincentives. Consider the following scenario:

January 16, 2014

Is Obamacare Doomed for Failure?

When the media finds a narrative it loves, it tends to hang on, even when the facts do not compute. The poll numbers for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, have plummeted since the embarrassingly flawed roll-out of the online health insurance exchanges, and as reports spread regarding cancellations of some lower-grade insurance policies. And while some of the recent criticism of the health law is appropriate and much of the damage self-inflicted, polls also show that most Americans know very little about the health reform law. “Health Affairs,” a leading peer-reviewed journal on health policy, recently conducted a survey of top health care executives from large hospitals and health care systems across the U.S. and found surprisingly positive viewpoints about the prospects for ACA’s success. It is noteworthy that the individuals polled for this survey are health policy leaders who are well informed on how care is delivered and health care budgets are managed. Of those surveyed 65 percent believe that the U.S. healthcare system will be somewhat or significantly better than it is today by 2020. When asked about the prospects for improvements in their own organizations, 93 percent predict that the quality of care will improve. Similar attitudes were forecasted for reductions in cost and improvement in delivery of care all around.

October 27, 2013

The Tyranny of Gross Income Inequality

In a 2012 General Conference address, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expressed concern about "the ever-growing gap between the rich and poor." Elder Ballard's concern about gross wealth inequality has been shared by many of his predecessors. Elder Orson Pratt once observed that "an inequality of property is the root and foundation of innumerable evils; it tends to derision, and to keep asunder the social feelings that should exist among the people of God.... It is a principle originated in hell; it is the root of all evils.... It is inequality in riches that is a great curse."

October 7, 2013

Shutdown Antics Threaten Constitutional Order

The current shutdown of the federal government and upcoming showdown over the debt ceiling has caused many people to ask who is to blame for this gridlock. The media, in its effort to try to report both sides of the story, often end up giving balanced treatment to an unbalanced phenomenon. What we have is an extremist element within the minority political party that refuses to accept the results of the previous elections. Leading up to the shutdown, House Republicans demanded defunding of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) in exchange for passing a continuing resolution budget that would fund the rest of the federal government for a brief period. Republicans also threatened to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised that could result in a catastrophic default on our national debt if their demands are not met. In making these demands, Republicans are attempting to thwart the Constitutional order of our government while threatening financial and economic chaos.

September 26, 2013

Stop Subsidizing Walmart: Raise the Minimum Wage

A recent study of Wisconsin's Medicaid program revealed that Walmart ranked first on state's list of Medicaid enrollment by employer. In other words, Walmart employees in Wisconsin comprise a plurality of the state's Medicaid recipients. Altogether, a single Walmart Super Center costs Wisconsin taxpayers about $900,000 per year in poverty subsidies for employees, such as food stamps, Medicaid, school lunches, and housing assistance because the employees are paid significantly less than what is reasonably required to survive at a minimum standard. Most Americans have rightly decided that we will not allow our fellow citizens, especially children, to starve or go homeless. We have a safety net for the poorest Americans, most of whom live in working households. However, Walmart and all other minimum wage employers are passing on much of this burden from themselves to the taxpayers.

September 5, 2013

Is There a Middle Ground on Gun Control?

Although I did not grow up in a home with guns, I was exposed to them at an early age. From the annual Boy Scout summer camp to visits with extended family, I had frequent opportunities to use guns, and as an adult, have thoroughly enjoyed periodic recreational shooting as well as have taken weeks of firearms aptitude and safety courses. While I do not currently own a gun, I plan to purchase a handgun and a long gun in the near future, both for personal recreation and for family protection.

July 28, 2013

Putting the "Conserve" Back Into "Conservative"

During my freshman year at BYU, a conservative friend of mine tried to explain to me why recycling, and caring for the environment in general, were scripturally unsound practices. He cited the LDS Doctrine and Covenants Section 59 verses 16 to 19, which, in a nutshell, indicate that the Lord provided all of the natural things on the earth “for benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and raiment.” My friend’s attitude was that if the earth and all the things on it are for our benefit, why bother to protect the environment? He conveniently left out the next verse, which states, “for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” The scripture is clear: we are to be wise and reasonable stewards of our natural resources. George Handley, a professor at BYU, outlined several fundamental principles of environmental stewardship in LDS belief, which I won’t go into here, but are worth reviewing. Unfortunately, far too many people who claim to be Christians have do not feel a duty to care for and protect the earth.

June 21, 2013

A Supreme Precedent for Gun Control

In the aftermath of any mass shooting in the U.S., an all-or-nothing rhetoric about guns typically infects the public discourse regarding what ought to be done to prevent such tragedies in the future. In many communities, inhabitants are warned that the government has a hidden agenda seeking to ban all future gun sales and intends to confiscate privately owned firearms. “Obama wants to take your guns away,” we are warned. Far too many Americans have accepted the all-or-nothing gun control paradigm, and believe that any attempt by government to place even the most modest of restrictions on how guns are acquired, what firearms can be sold publicly, and where they are carried, as an egregious intrusion on a supposedly inalienable right.