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There are a lot of things people like to believe that are patently absurd if you think about it. Much of the Obama Administration was based on making confident declarations – we can’t just drill our way out of an energy shortage, it would take a magic wand to bring back manufacturing jobs, 2 percent growth is the “new normal,” etc. – all delivered in a somber, imperious tone that made them sound like unassailable truth, when in fact, all of them were patently false.

One of the most common pieces of false conventional wisdom is that “the government can’t legislate morality!” But of course, they do it all the time. We have millions of laws, just to enforce society’s consensus of what’s morally right or wrong. Liberals used to protest this, and now they’re the chief generators of morality laws, usually bans on everything they find morally offensive, including smoking, using racist words or an unpreferred pronoun, giving someone an unrequested plastic straw, attending a protest for a cause they personally disagree with, etc. etc. etc. Each law comes with loopholes, so government adds more laws to close them. Plus we’ll need police, courts and jails, because some people will always insist on doing the wrong thing anyway. All to legislate morality.

(I know, today’s liberals want to do away with police and jails, but that’s just for actual criminals. They still want to arrest and jail law-abiding citizens who exercise rights they disapprove of, like reopening their gyms, salons and barber shops.)

Self-government requires self-discipline, self-respect, and respect for others. When people don’t follow an accepted standard moral code, government keeps passing new laws to try to force them to, which creates bigger government and more expense and less freedom for everybody. Maybe the national debt wouldn’t be sky high now if our behavior standards hadn’t sunk so low.

How much do people’s bad personal choices end up costing all the rest of us? You might be surprised at the size of the bill. When I left the governor’s office in Arkansas, we had more than 13,000 inmates in the Department of Corrections. Just keeping them locked up cost taxpayers more than $220 million a year. That’s more than it would have cost to send 13,000 kids to any college in the state, all expenses paid. If every prison inmate had just lived a moral life and stayed out of trouble, the taxpayers could have enjoyed a $220 million tax cut. Or the money might have been used to improve roads and services that benefit everyone.

From the left, I’d always hear that we should spend more money on prisoners or else turn more of them loose. From the right, I’d hear that we should lock up more people and eliminate parole while cutting the prison budget. Both were unrealistic. But hardly anyone wanted to talk about the real problem: the lack of morality that led to all those people being locked up in the first place.

And what about juvenile offenders? Every kid placed into our Division of Youth Services cost taxpayers up to $80,000 a year. If they’d all had stable, nurturing homes and been taught to be obedient, responsible and moral, it would’ve saved the taxpayers of just that one state $80 million a year. Imagine how many parks we could have built for all kids to enjoy, or how many books we could’ve bought for school libraries, if we could’ve freed up $80 million a year in the state budget.

A lot of kids get into trouble because of peer pressure, which social media and Twitter mob shaming have made even more oppressive. They think breaking the rules makes them look cool and that they will never face any consequences for it. So kids, when someone you know starts acting up, instead of rewarding them with your admiration or covering for them with your silence, please have the courage to stand up and say, “That’s not cool! Thanks for costing us our parks and turning our generation into tax slaves, jerk!”

Hey, as long as kids are going to be vulnerable to peer pressure, why not use its power for good?

The nation’s largest teachers’ union, the misleadingly named National Education Association (“Education” should more accurately be replaced with “Indoctrination”) came out against parents who are trying to get racist Critical Race Theory out of schools.

https://www.foxnews.com/us/largest-teachers-union-critical-race-theory-reasonable-and-appropriate

The NEA voted that it is “reasonable and appropriate” to use CRT in social studies classes (interestingly contradicting other leftists, who claim it’s too “complex” for lower grades and deny it’s being pushed in K-12 schools at all.) They also approved a plan to "publicize" CRT and dedicate a "team of staffers" to assist union members looking to "fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric" (i.e., they want to research the backgrounds of critics of CRT to try to smear and dox them.)

The resolution also calls for the NEA to "join with Black Lives Matter at School and the Zinn Education Project to call for a rally this year on Oct. 14 — George Floyd’s birthday — as a national day of action to teach lessons about structural racism and oppression." FYI: Howard Zinn was the self-described anarchist/socialist who wrote “A People’s History of the United States,” the first major anti-American “revisionist” (false and propagandistic) history book which has infected America’s schools for years.

The NEA also voted to back the “1619 Project,” the latest false anti-American account of US history. It’s so bad that even the World Socialist Web Site dismissed it as a load of careless, cherry-picked, racialist garbage that evinces “no familiarity with the massive body of work produced by generations of historians.”

https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/459872/

And this is what the largest teachers’ union in America endorses pouring into your kids’ noggins. That’s why many people say that sending your kids to a public school these days is a form of child abuse.

On the plus side, since this is the same union that’s fighting tooth and toenail to keep from reopening schools, maybe they’ll still be refusing to indoctrinate kids even by October. By then, you will have been able to find a good school for your kids, or be home-schooling them, or have replaced your school board or pressured local leaders to replace this racist, Marxist brainwashing with actual education.

We hear often these days that society shouldn’t have any absolute moral standards. Imposing standards is oppressive, judgmental and outdated. Like Linus and the Great Pumpkin, it doesn’t matter what we choose to believe, as long as we’re really sincere in believing it. Well, pardon me for pointing it out, but that’s…well, stupid (sorry, Linus!)

There are all sorts of absolute standards to which we adhere. A rock band might be filled with nonconformists, but they can’t each play in whatever key they feel like. You might concede Hannibal Lecter’s sincere belief in cannibalism, but you wouldn’t go to his house for dinner. It seems counter-intuitive, but freedom can’t work unless we all agree to abide by certain basic standards of right and wrong. When we step outside those boundaries, chaos ensues, as we’re seeing right now with blue city officials allowing leftwing extremists to ignore laws, seize public property or smash monuments and statues, just because they feel like it. That can leave a bad taste in your mouth, and I’m not still referring to Hannibal Lecter. I like to illustrate the concept with a story from the days when my own kids were young.

When my son John Mark was only 12, he decided one day to bake a cake. My wife Janet and I returned home and were greeted by our son, proudly offering ol’ dad the first taste. Well, it looked good, and I was already preparing some fatherly praise as I took that first bite. But what came out of my mouth wasn’t words. It was the cake. It was so awful, I had to spit it out. My first thought was that my son was trying to kill me for the insurance.

As soon as my tongue overcame its shock, I asked John Mark if he’d used a recipe. He said he had, and he’d followed it to the letter. Well, except that he didn’t know what a “dash” of salt meant, so he decided a cup of salt should be enough.

Now, my son worked hard on that cake…he had the best of intentions…and he sincerely believed he’d done a good job. But hard work, good intentions and sincere beliefs meant nothing once he decided he could make up his own measurement standards. That’s literally a recipe for disaster.

Freedom can’t exist in a moral vacuum. It makes some people uncomfortable to hear this, but without clear boundaries of right and wrong, the very concept of liberty breaks down. A person might argue that he should be free to look at pictures others find offensive. But if it’s pornography featuring a child who’s being exploited, then there’s more at stake than just the liberty of the viewer. There was a big controversy over separating children from parents who crossed the border illegally, but very few people brought up the facts that the parents chose to bring their children along as they knowingly violated federal immigration law – or that (as a pilot DNA test program proved) in many cases, those weren’t even their parents but people illegally exploiting children they weren’t related to.

Self-government can’t mean each of us lives by our own unique set of rules. If that’s how you define liberty, then you’re just going to get less of it. When people live outside the boundaries of a principled and agreed-upon moral code, it inevitably leads to government that’s bigger and more intrusive (and an avalanche of lawsuits), just to force people to do the right thing. And if it doesn’t, then society quickly spirals into anarchy. Neither prospect is acceptable.

If you think more lawyers and bigger government actually improve society, or that doing away with laws and police is a good idea, then I have a delicious cake recipe I’d like to sell you. Then again, no…selling people a recipe for disaster would definitely be morally wrong.

I hope you’re having a great 4th of July week, but between the celebratory fireworks on one hand and the anti-American political fireworks on the other, let’s take just a moment to reflect on what Independence Day really means and how it led to the freedoms and blessings that far too many Americans fail to appreciate these days.

Most historians (not New York Times writers, but real historians) mark the beginning of America as the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. But in truth, there was still a long road to travel before America as we know it came to be. First, of course, there was the matter of fighting a bloody revolution against Great Britain, one where victory was an overwhelming longshot, and win or lose, the leaders risked their lives, honor and fortunes. Victory was followed by more heated battles over what kind of government we would have.

Our Forefathers finally agreed to a blueprint, the Constitution, that wasn’t even introduced until 1789 – over 13 years later. Today, many Americans take those hard-won freedoms very lightly and seem eager to trade them away for false promises of security. Many can’t even name the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Maybe they’d cherish them more if they knew how close they came to not having them at all.

Did you know that the Constitution very nearly got passed without the Bill of Rights? Even some of the wisest of our forefathers thought a Bill of Rights was a dangerous idea. Alexander Hamilton argued that it was risky to list the rights the government couldn’t take away because then, politicians might try to grab any and every power that wasn’t specifically prohibited to them (apparently, the ability to rap wasn’t the only way Hamilton predicted the 21st century). He and many others also felt that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary: since nobody was surrendering their God-given rights by agreeing to the Constitution, there was no need to list them, right? Hamilton wrote, “Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”

It’s ironic that Hamilton made that argument. Later on, as the first Treasury Secretary, he cited powers that the Constitution merely implied that the government had in order to take on debt, create a federal bank and impose unpopular taxes. Over a century later, when the federal income tax was passed, some lawmakers wanted to include a 10% limit, but they were voted down. Opponents scoffed that it was absurd to think the government would ever steal as much as 10% of an American’s hard-earned wages. Flash forward just 30 years, and they were happily taxing away 94%. So just imagine how few freedoms we’d have today if they’d listened to Hamilton and decided it wasn’t necessary to put specific limits on government power.

Luckily for us all, Thomas Jefferson won the argument, and the Bill of Rights was added. They even included the 9th amendment, which I’ll bet most people can’t even describe. Here’s what it says:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

It means that just because some God-given rights aren’t specifically listed, that doesn’t mean the people cede them to the government. Maybe because so many of the framers were also farmers, they understood that like weeds, government tends to grow and grow, choking out the productive crops -- and like a bull, it will trample you if you don’t corral it. (Also, it produces the same thing a bull does.)

So if we want to preserve our freedoms, and keep government limited, maybe we should send more farmers to Washington -- and fewer lawyers.

I got a comment from a reader arguing that one reason young people fall prey to socialism (aside from being brainwashed by their teachers) is that they feel the capitalist system is failing them. They were told they had to get college degrees if they wanted good jobs, and encouraged to take out huge student loans. Now, they’re saddled with crippling debt, and those degrees aren’t opening the doors to jobs that pay enough to ever get out of the hole.

I admit that’s a serious problem, but electing people who will expand the very policies that raise taxes, kill jobs and wages, and make college ridiculously expensive and degrees useless (is anyone other than George Soros hiring people who studied how to overthrow the US government? is not going to help.

And promises to pay off everyone’s student loans are just a bait-and-switch. Your student loan debt might disappear, but your tax bill will double or triple. Will that solve your problem? And talk about redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich! People who never attended college will pay higher taxes to pay off the college loan debts of lawyers and others at higher income levels.

We need action on a number of fronts for young people to be able to access the American dream. First, we do need to restructure student loans, so that rates are lowered and terms easier to handle. Government policies need to be aimed at helping grow the economy and encourage private sector expansion, so that jobs are plentiful and wages keep rising. And future generations need to be taught to be more judicious in choosing majors, or that maybe college isn’t the only alternative. There are many good-paying jobs in skilled trades that employers desperately need to fill (just ask Mike Rowe.) There’s dignity in all work, and it’s a heck of a lot better to be a busy, well-paid plumber or mechanic than an angry, unemployed poli-sci or gender studies major (they obviously have way too much free time on their hands these days.)

Besides, as many of our recent political leaders have proven beyond a doubt, having an Ivy League degree is no guarantee of superior intelligence, ability or even basic competence. It might just mean that your parents bought the school a gym. Academic credentials are fine, but they don’t mean as much to me as native intelligence, a strong work ethic and an eagerness to learn.

Before I entered politics, I worked with a fellow named Gary Underwood to build a community TV station on a shoestring budget. Gary had no formal education in television production, but he figured out things, like how to make work lights from Sam’s Club do as studio lights, and how to run lights and a camera off a car battery so we could do remotes. If he’d had formal training, he might’ve told me it was impossible on our budget and given up. But since he wasn’t a "trained expert," he found ways to do the impossible. Later on, he ran media operations for the Arkansas Governor’s Office for me.

There are people with more education than others, and who certainly think they’re smarter than the rest of us. But you’d be hard pressed to find people with more “smarts” than someone like Gary. Have you ever heard it said that someone was “educated beyond their intelligence”? We’ve got plenty of people like that. Washington is crawling with so many Harvard and Yale alums that if they could all get a tuition refund, they could probably pay off the national debt. And frankly, many of them should demand a refund.

As both a Governor and a business owner, I’ve hired a lot of employees over the years. Some would figure out how to get something done, while others would spend more time explaining why it couldn’t be done than it would’ve taken to do it! Give me a smart person with a can-do attitude any day over one with an expensive education who lacks the resourcefulness to solve problems with whatever is available.

Remember the story of the eminent scientist who proved through incontrovertible laws of physics, gravity and aerodynamics that it was impossible for a bumblebee to fly? The bumblebee ignored all his arguments about how flying was impossible and flew anyway. The moral: If you want to succeed, be like a bumblebee and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t fly.

The leaders we need

July 5, 2021

We all knew a kid in school who just had to run everything. Remember the classmate who insisted on picking the games you’d all play at recess, where you’d go after school, even who was “in” or “out” of your group? In high school, that kid had a compulsive need to be the leader of every student organization. You just wanted to say, “Hey! You’re not the boss of me!” Whatever happened to those kids? I wouldn’t be surprised if most ended up in government. We certainly have no shortage of people there who think they know how to live your life and spend your paycheck better than you do.

I’m convinced the world is divided into people who just want to live their own lives and those who, for some reason, have an uncontrollable urge to tell everyone else how to live. Unfortunately, to that latter group, government seems like the ideal place to work, and at the moment, they are getting 99.9% of all the attention from the media. As more of them gravitated toward government, Congress abdicated much of its legislating authority to unelected bureaucrats. Their bureaus grew like kudzu, and so did their regulations with the force of law (but no input from the people.) Then one day, we looked up and discovered we had a crushing national debt and were paying huge salaries to an army of people who enforce how big your soda should be and who couldn’t be fired and who is allowed to come into your daughter’s locker room. That’s when sane people realized that government is the LAST place these out-of-control control freaks needed to be.

The temptation for government to overreach is hardly new. In fact, it stretches back to the beginning of recorded history, and I bet even earlier than that. There’s a story in the ninth chapter of the book of Judges in the Old Testament about Gideon’s son Abimelech, who craved leadership and stature - not to serve the people but to control them and make them serve him. He said, “Give me dominion over your lives, and I will simplify your existence.” Wow, does that sound familiar? It’s basically the entire 2020 Democratic platform. Our government has taken us pretty far down that same road, but does your life seem any simpler -- or just a lot less free?

Anyway, back to Abimelech. He had a very smart younger brother, Jotham, who came up with a clever tale about three trees: an olive tree, a fig tree, and a vine tree. All three were fine trees that produced lots of fruit. All were offered the exalted position of “King Of All Trees,” but all three turned it down. The plant that wanted to be “King Of All Trees” was the bramble bush, a weak plant that produces no fruit at all. Jotham’s point was that only the weak and nonproductive have the desire to rule everyone else. Does that lesson not resonate like a gong right now?

When anyone aspires to a position of power, take a long, hard look. If that person seemingly crawled out of the cradle with an ambition to be President, then beware! Anytime someone talks about “running the country,” alarm bells should sound. No one – not the President, not Congress, no one person – “runs the country” or should aspire to. That’s why the Founders took such pains to divide and limit federal power, and why we need to reinstate those limits that have been blurred in recent years, whether by Presidents ruling via executive order or out-of-control judges legislating from the bench or unelected bureaucrats abusing their power to try to influence the results of elections. If we allow any one person or entity to ignore those limits and assume the power to run everything, we won’t be able to stop them when they run America into the ground.

We should pick leaders who resemble the trees in the Bible story that don’t need or crave power but that have shown they bear good fruit. As it is said, by their fruits ye shall know them. Government has more than enough nuts already.