Are Americans "selfish"?

Saturday, November 1, 2008 Comments

Today on the campaign trail, Obama criticized those who oppose his "spread the wealth" philosophy as being "selfish."

So according to Obama, unless we are in favor of the GOVERNMENT confiscating our hard-earned dollars to dole out as THEY see fit, we are selfish. He seems to think that Americans are by nature miserly people who refuse to give unless compelled to do so. He seems to think that the only hope for poor Americans is the U.S. government, rather than local communities or private charities.

Not only that, he believes that Americans haven't done enough to help those in other countries, as evidenced in his Berlin speech when he said, "This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably." To that end, he supports a global tax, which essentially would redistribute wealth not only among Americans but from America to other nations.

Let's set the record straight. Americans are NOT selfish, far from it in fact.

According to the 2008 Index of Global Philanthropy, Americans contributed privately and voluntarily $34.8 billion to individuals and organizations in developing countries in 2006 (the latest data available). That's $11.3 billion or 48% more than the $23.5 billion the U.S. government gave.

Add in private remittances (funds sent directly from one private individual to another) and the total of American giving to developing nations is $129.8 billion. That's more than any other country. The UK comes in second in total giving at $20.7 billion.

In addition to the $129.8 billion of American giving, Americans sent another $62.3 billion of private capital flows, which is investment and lending, to developing countries.

And that's just what we as Americans sent to developing nations and doesn't include giving within our own country. What about charitable giving as a whole? According to an article in the March/April 2008 edition of The American magazine, Americans gave about $295 billion to charities in 2006. Some of that came from foundations, bequests, and corporations, but the vast majority, $223 billion, came from individuals. They estimate that 70 to 80 percent of American households give to charities each year. According to the article, no other nation comes close to the level of giving in America.

This is not to say that we're perfect or that there aren't still unmet needs at home and abroad. But IMO it's grossly inaccurate and unfair to claim that Americans are "selfish," and I think the notion that somehow raising taxes will make things better is misguided at best. And before someone jumps in to claim that Obama only intends to raise taxes for 5% of the population, I don't believe that for a minute. A year ago, he defined "rich" as those making over $1 million a year. More recently, he said he'd only raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year, yet in his infomercial the other day it was $200,000. Biden recently said $150,000 and Bill Richardson said $120,000. Obama has voted in the past to raise taxes on those making $42,000 a year, so how long do you think it will be before he's back to that level, or lower?

I think it's worth considering that perhaps our nation's generosity is possible BECAUSE OF, rather than in spite of, our capitalist economic structure, and that imposing a socialist structure would likely lead to an overall reduction of charitible giving from Americans. We can't give unless we have something to give. "Spread the wealth" tax policies will leave little disposable income for individuals to take care of their own families, much less give to others. And don't think that there will be a one-for-one tradeoff between private giving and government giving, the government is hardly efficient enough to accomplish what private organizations and individuals can.

I believe that we as a nation will be in a better position to rise to the challenge and meet the needs of "the least of these" if we continue to have the freedom to earn money, grow the economy to create more opportunities for everyone, and give of our own free will. We don't need the government to mandate "compassion." We the people are already compassionate, and to claim otherwise is an insult to the millions of hard-working Americans who give of their time and money.

The Index of Global Philantrophy 2008, The Center for Global Prosperity
America's Generosity is Unmatched, Real Clear Politics
A Nation of Givers, The American

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The weak and the strong


I read recently that from Obama's perspective, the role of the Supreme Court is, at least in part, to favor the "weak" over the "strong." Based on his comments, he considers the weak to be minorities, women, employees (vs. employers), etc. and it sounded to me like he is in favor of the court deciding cases on some sort of power-balancing rather than the merits of the individual case.

Personally, I disagree. Maybe I missed something in my high school or college classes on American government, but I was pretty sure the role of the Supreme Court was to decide matters of constitutionality. No legislating from the bench, no letting emotion cloud judgment. Just the merits, and just whether the matter at hand is constitutional or not.

But putting that aside, I find this supposed championing of the "weak" to be disingenuous at best. After all, if you really want to talk about the weak and the strong, who in our society could be considered more weak, more in need of protecting, than our children? Particularly, our newborn babies, and yes, even unborn babies. And yet, Obama has repeatedly voted against the interests of newborns if they are so unfortunate as to have the "strong" (namely their mothers and doctors) decide that they should die. If I'm not mistaken, even Planned Parenthood dropped it's opposition to the bill when language was added stating that it could not be construed to interfere with Roe v. Wade.

It's not even about abortion, this is about babies who are born alive, outside the mother's body, no longer connected physically to the mother. And yet Obama voted to deny them basic medical care that might well save their lives. How, exactly, is that being a champion of the weak?

As a mother of two preemies, I can assure you that there is nothing "magical" about 9 months gestation. In fact, some babies born as early as 24 weeks have survived thanks to the miracles of modern medicine. Even if a child is born before there is a chance of survival outside the womb, is it not the humane thing to do to offer them medical care and try to make them as comfortable as possible?

I find it telling that a man who votes "present" on so many issues to avoid taking a stand, is so firm and forthright in his stance supporting abortion rights. He sees babies as a burden rather than a gift (and I obviously disagree). He has even gone so far as to say that if elected, the first thing he would do as president is sign the "Freedom of Choice Act," which would essentially eliminate ANY restrictions on abortion (even late-term abortion and partial-birth abortion) as well as eliminate any parental notice laws that currently exist in many states.

Apparently this is something he cares deeply about. But Mr. "Compassion" can't very well pretend to be the champion of "the weak" and talk about taking care of "the least of these" when he is so callous and uncaring in his attitudes towards babies, who are truly the "least of these," and the "weak" in our society.

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The Declaration of Independence



The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

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Welcome to Eternal Vigilance!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 Comments

I am creating this blog as a place to discuss politics and current events, separate from my family blog. The name is inspired by Thomas Jefferson's quote, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

That is really what this blog is about. It's about educating ourselves as citizens, staying informed, and holding our government accountable.

"Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and lost it, have never known it again." -- Ronald Reagan

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Thoughts on prenatal testing

Saturday, September 6, 2008 Comments

I've been thinking about this all week, ever since Palin was announced as McCain's running mate. The media has been making a really big deal about the fact that "she knew ahead of time that her baby was going to have Down syndrome, and yet she decided to have the baby anyway." They say this with a sense of awe and/or surprise.

It seemed odd to me, until I learned that 90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome during pregnancy are aborted. 90%. I did a little research, and found that there are approximately 5,000 babies born with Down syndrome each year. So, if we assume that roughly 75% of those were diagnosed during pregnancy (just for the sake of estimating the impact), that's around 3,750 babies born with DS each year who were diagnosed during pregnancy. If that represents the 10% that are not aborted, that means there are another ~33,750 babies with Down syndrome that are NOT born each year. I don't want to start a debate on abortion, but that just breaks my heart.

This does help to make some sense of what dh and I experienced when I was pregnant with our youngest son. I had the routine blood tests done around 15-16 weeks and didn't think much of it, until the dr's office called me about a week later to tell me my test results came back showing increased risk of Down syndrome, significantly more likely than it should have been for my age anyway (I was 30 at the time). They wanted me to come in the next morning.

When I went in for my appt, they were all ready to do an amniocentesis. Seriously, the nurse came in with all the equipment ready to go, and they didn't actually ask if I wanted an amnio, just assumed that I would. Whoa, stop the bus! After all, wasn't the amnio known to have some risks too? They looked at me like I was nuts, but the nurse escorted me into the doctor's office for a more thorough consultation.

Having just been through a miscarriage (not related to any testing, just happened spontaneously, unfortunately) a few months prior, even a remote risk of miscarriage was too much for me to think about (and let's be honest, the big needle was a deterrent too). I'm not at all judging anyone who chooses to have an amnio, there are plenty of reasons to do so and the risk is pretty low. Just explaining my mindset at the time.

When I told the doctor I wasn’t interested in having an amnio, he was skeptical. He kept reminding me it was the only way to know for sure, and he told me a few times that if we wanted to consider ending the pregnancy if the results were positive, then we really need to have the amnio, and right now. We had no intention of ending the pregnancy regardless, so I declined and asked what other options we had. He reiterated that the amnio was the only way to know for sure, but said they could do an ultrasound to look for "markers" of Down syndrome. I agreed to that, and the u/s showed nothing unusual. It wasn't definitive, but it was reassuring.

Here’s his sonogram picture from that day, it looks like he’s waving :). That was the day we found out he was a boy!

I admit I was a little disturbed by how they just seemed to assume that if our baby was found to have Down syndrome, that we would most likely want to have an abortion. I had no idea how common it is to do just that. After all, I had fallen in love with our baby the moment I learned of his existence, and nothing was going to change that!

Now, I probably should have used the months between that point in time and delivery to do some research on DS and try to prepare just in case, but I didn’t. I completely put it out of my mind. This news came scarcely a month after our twins had been diagnosed with autism, so at the time, the possibility that our third child might also have special needs was a bit overwhelming. We were still trying to research autism and navigate the world of therapies, waiting lists, etc.

I remember feeling a little swell of panic as we drove to the hospital on the day our son was born. Up to that point, I had purposely not given the possibility much thought, but now we were going to find out for sure whether our son had DS. I started to think maybe I should have done some research on DS just in case, but figured we’d just have to immerse ourselves in a “crash course” if needed. As it turned out, he does not have Down syndrome. He would eventually be diagnosed with autism 2 years later.

Which brings me to my last point. Currently research is being done to enable diagnosis of autism earlier and earlier in a child’s life. I am all for that – if we could diagnose in infancy it would save both parents and children a lot of heartache, and would enable parents to seek out help for their children sooner.

But what happens if a test is developed that will diagnose autism during pregnancy? On the one hand, it would give parents time to research and prepare. But on the other hand, will we see 90% of autistic children aborted? I don’t even want to think about a world like that, and yet it has already happened in the case of Down syndrome and perhaps with other conditions that can be diagnosed prenatally. I don’t want to debate the broader “cure” issue, which I know is a hot-button topic, but I have to ask, is this what some people have in mind when they think of a cure for autism? Will there come a day when people say with amazement in their voices, “she knew her baby would have autism, and yet she decided to have the baby anyway?”

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