'My Son, Freedom is best, I tell thee true, of all things to be won. Then never live within the Bond of Slavery.*
The Latin quote is a direct quote attributable to William Wallace, the patron saint of freedom for Scotland.
The speech by Mel Gibson on horseback in the movie 'Braveheart' is a Hollywood adaptation of what William Wallace may have been like back in 1297 before the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the first victory over the British towards Scottish independence.
We bring this up on this Independence Day in America, the 238th in a row in a remarkable string of survival despite all sorts of wars, pestilence, economic depressions and less-than-stellar national leadership for far too many years and times.
'Freedom!' for us in relatively safe and calm 2014 America was purchased by many brave souls over the years who sought freedom from tyranny and injustice.
We take it far too lightly, don't we? Those of us who never wore the uniform of a soldier in combat or faced an enemy bullet, cannonball or IED planted in a road in distant Afghanistan or Iraq have a huge debt owed to those who did that we can never really ever fully repay.
We bring this up because of some interesting conversations we had this week with some old friends. We talked about how life's paths had taken us various ways through the ups-and-downs none of us ever really expected life to throw at us.
And, of course, we talked about politics at the state and federal level.
One thing that struck us once again is how no one ever really equates 'freedom!' with being 'free from the uncertainty of massive federal debt!' and the catastrophic impact it has had on various republics, democracies, monarchies and dictatorships over the past millennia of human history.
There is a presumption out there in the public's mind that 'every dollar spent on federal programs is essential!' and therefore, 'we must raise taxes to pay for it, mainly only on the rich!'
We have pointed out the fallacy of any effort to pay off our annual deficits and national debt solely by raising taxes many times. For one thing, there is not enough revenue to collect from the Bill Gates and Warren Buffetts of the world; we could confiscate both of their entire mass of wealth and run the federal government for perhaps 3 days.
One way to look at our federal deficit is to look at it from the other end of the telescope. Perhaps we don't need to raise any more tax revenue to pay for federal programs (or borrow money ever again from the Chinese or the Saudis etc).
Perhaps all we need to do is reduce federal spending. As we continuously pare down not only the rate of growth and increase across-the-board in every federal program but also in actual amounts year-over-year, wouldn't that in and of itself obviate the need to raise taxes from their current level on anyone?
As we talked, we told them that we had been on the House Budget Committee for 4 years in Congress and had read every page of the federal budget at least once during that time. Beyond that, we had read dozens if not hundreds of CBO publications, documents and reports about the federal budget and felt comfortable saying that we had some cursory knowledge of every federal line-item function in the federal budget.
We made this bold claim:
'50% of the federal budget could be reformed, reduced or eliminated.....and we would STILL have an effective national defense capability; a reasonable safety net and the funds to build roads and do the other necessary functions our Founders wanted the federal government to do'
No one believed it.
We'll amend it to 80% of the federal budget if that makes it any more believable. But it can be done with some serious effort by serious people.
The amount of waste and redundancy in the federal budget is beyond comprehension to the average person who only soaks up information on the federal budget from 'their' side of the slanted news media be it MSNBC for the left or Fox News for the right.
Many times, if not all of the time, the news media producers and assistants have not read the base core documents either about the federal budget! They read the talking points given them by the staff assistants on the Democrat or Republican Policy Committee teams of the various congressional committees or national political party apparatus, most of whom have not read the core documents either!
We really do have a case of 'the blind leading the blind who are also leading the blind'. The elected officials don't read the core documents; the news media doesn't read the core documents and the public doesn't read the core documents!
How can we really have a reasoned national debate when everybody doesn't know anything about nothing?
We believe our freedom is directly tied to getting our fiscal and financial house in order. We had hoped President Obama would take a stronger step towards financial and fiscal sanity leadership than President Bush but we have been miserably disappointed along now with the majority of Americans in that regard.
Congress has to be the arm of our federal government to take the lead on spending priorities. For decades, under both Republican and Democratic control, Congress has been hampered in doing much to reduce the amount of federal spending primarily because of their abject fear and loathing of having to do anything with federal entitlement spending in Medicare and Medicaid, primarily and then Social Security and the other mandatory programs.
What can be done?
Well, the only thing left that can make a difference is for the American voting public (sad to say this again but if you are not registered to vote, you really don't figure into the calculus of elections at all) to become educated on ways that the federal government can be controlled and reformed and run more efficiently.
And that means reading and understanding and getting up to speed on the federal budget and all of its components.
One friend somewhat facetiously suggested that we start an on-line tutorial where every night, we start flipping through the pages of the federal budget and go through it in a year like some people go through reading the Bible in a year during their morning devotional readings.
We might do this, assuming there is any interest in it. We could charge $5 to be a part of this course and MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) it to all parts of the nation.
You will not believe how much fluff is in the federal budget until you actually read it for yourself. We would be honored to be your sherpa guide through it all.
Here's the link to the federal budget once again if you want to get a head-start on the class: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2015/assets/a...
Benjamin Franklin was approached by Mrs. Powel once the signing of the Declaration of Independence was completed on July 2, 1776 (not the 4th as many people believe).
“Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”
With no hesitation whatsoever, the sage Mr. Franklin responded: 'A Republic. If you can keep it'
Freedom. We have it today. As long as we can keep it. (yes, that means you, too!)
Getting our fiscal house in order would be a monumental step in that right direction. Let's start putting pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing this July 4, 2014 by learning how to do it after reading the federal budget.
*As quoted in William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland (1948) by Sir James Fergusson, p. 4
** If you don't see the clip from 'Braveheart', click on the title and that will take you to the website where you can see it