Pragmatic Politics?

Rev. Doug Wilson, whose blog I read regularly, has recently been writing a bunch of posts arguing that a vote for Mitt Romney, presumptive Republican presidential candidate, would be immoral.  Meanwhile, my roommate Trent, who recently moved his blog, has been proclaiming up and down for I believe the entire last year or more that Romney will win the nomination (check) despite being a poor-to-middling candidate (I agree with reservations, having been myself most taken with Santorum) who will lose in November (the jury is quite obviously out) - and that he, Trent, would vote for him, Romney, anyway on the basis of pragmatism.

Rev. Wilson's position is basically that Romney has no principles whatsoever and that moderation is not the way to go.  Despite his dismissal of the point, I cannot help but think that he would consider things a little more seriously if he did not live in Idaho.  Meanwhile my roommate, like many people voting for Romney, will be (presumably) voting for him as the not-Obama - strangely like many people voted for Obama as the not-Bush, except that Obama's economy is at least as bad and no one with a major media voice - except, sometimes, FOX - is blaming him.

I tend to side with my roommate on this one.  Not for lack of principles, as Rev. Wilson suggests must be the case, but perhaps for a different set of priorities.  Let me review the bidding.

The incumbent President has the solid backing of his party and all the votes that entails.

The Republican candidate - we can assume it is Romney - has the only natural voter base to challenge Obama.  Two notes here: First, this is the reason I am still convinced that, had he won the primary, Santorum (or, to take even more of an outlier, Ron Paul) would have been a creditable challenger.  He would have the party machine behind him - and either of those two men would have the further advantage of being more clearly men of some principles (whatever their failings).  Romney is for all practical purposes, by damning reputation if not actual fact, nothing more than a good politician.  Granted this is better than being a proven outright liar - or at least overseer of liars - like the current President.  There is, I believe, a moral difference between Playing The Game and The Big Lie.  Second, either way, the way forward will lie in Congress.

For good or bad - I think it is mostly bad - we have a two-party system.  I believe the Republican party, at least in its modern incarnation, is on the way out.  Its base is already split between managerialists and what we call the Tea Party - which is to say, limited government Constitutionalists - while the Democratic party drifts determinedly Left.  But for the time being, the GOP is the game in town.  When the ChiSox and the Braves are playing in the World Series, everybody loses no matter who wins, but the games still get played.  (Insert your own most hated teams to achieve the desired effect.)

Now, maybe the time has come to step out of the game.  Maybe we are looking at the Black Sox, and an accounting must be made.  There is only one problem with taking that line now.  It is far too late in this cycle to form any alternative scheme, short of getting a Medal of Honor winner - or other person who simply cannot be ignored - to run.  Is this happening?  Does Rev. Wilson have the clout to make that happen?  If the litmus test was the immoral mainstreaming of the Republican party line as he makes out, then the alternative plan should have been begun the moment the returns revealed McCain won the last primary - or before.  Say, somewhere about the time the first Bush reneged on taxes.  Pick an event you dislike.

The saying runs that offering criticism is easier than offering solutions.  Filling a pointless dot in on a ballot is even easier.  Nevertheless, if you want to turn down what appears to be the only viable candidate, it is, in my opinion, incumbent on the one going outside the system to have an alternative plan.  Rev. Wilson, as far as I can tell, has no plan.  He has decided that Romney is not moral enough to vote for - I wonder what he would make of the apostle Paul's advice with regards to the emperor Nero? - and that is that.  Whom he will actually vote for, I do not know: he, I would guess, does not know either.

In summary, Rev. Wilson is trying to make into a moral judgment something that is a practical problem.  I am not saying there are not moral issues at stake.  Obviously there are.  What we are looking at is application of the morals.  That there are no good solutions at present is as obvious as the problems.  To plagiarize or at least appropriate Aquinas, one of the conditions of a just political policy has to be that it actually stands a chance of working.  Electing Romney might happen; Romney elected with a competent and responsible Congress as well would likely be reasonably effective; Romney elected with another overspending farce of a Congress might be willing to pull a Coolidge and start vetoing things.  Electing [unknown] will not happen in today's media climate; even a competent and responsible Congress will clearly get nothing done in the face of a re-elected Obama's intransigence.

I, for now, unless I am persuaded to do something else, am planning to vote for Romney.  I do not trust him; I do not trust power; and I think the important thing is Congress, anyhow, since they pass the laws (though things like that goofy HHS mandate should be alerting us that not everybody thinks so, and by "not everybody thinks so" I mean "President Obama thinks he can just issue orders which amount to law", which is why a second term in office could end in more disaster than we have seen already).


In Honor of the Day

Here.  I am going to overhaul the Federal tax system.  What is more, my solution is practical, workable, and fair - or I think so anyway.

The I Am Not Actually Part of Congress Act [Amendment?] to Reform and Simply Tax Laws of 2012

I.  The Act

All perpetual Federal revenue shall derive from a single-rate income tax levied on the basis of the wage-earnings of each household, this tax to be determined, applied, and and excepted as follows.

II.  Conditions

II.A.  The tax rate shall be determined by an act of Congress [may I suggest 15-20% in the first place, accounting for our current expenditures but hopefully to be reduced], and that rate shall be subject to change by other acts, but shall not change twice in any six years [the length of a Senate term, the longest term in the Federal government].

II.B.  No household shall be required to pay tax if the earners' incomes were in total below the Congressionally recognized [what figures should be recognized is, I realize, a tricky issue] subsistence income for the household's numbers and situation.  Households with income above that amount shall pay the full tax amount or that amount which would bring them to but not below said subsistence income in total, whichever amount is smaller.

II.B.1.  "Income", for the purposes of this act, means all monies received for work or services performed, from investment or other speculation; in summary, all monies from activities normally conducted for gain and profit.

II.B.2.  No exceptions shall be made to this tax on any basis other than insufficient income.

II.C.  This act shall not be taken to outlaw tariffs etc. leveled internationally for the protection of the national interest; nor to affect any such fines as may be applied as appropriate penalties for crimes and misdemeanors.  This act shall be understood to prohibit any additional fines, penalties, or taxes which might be levied on any otherwise legal trade in the interior of the country.

Done.  Tax law fixed.  Wonder how many lawyers I just put out of a job?

Potential issues:

- The whole income tax thing.  As far as I am concerned there is more or less no universally "fair" basis for taxation, and income taxes are frowned upon by various people.  At the same time, they do provided a reasonable basis, and with reasonable exceptions taken, seem the best workable principle except property taxes... which establish another whole conundrum of "renting from the government".

- A certain segment of the commentariat might suggest I am guilty of corporate cronyism.  Not at all.  Corporations are not persons (despite periodic legal sophistry) and funds held by or for the corporation as such are not doing anything immediate - and will be taxed when spent (and therefore earned).  If you really object, pass a law specifying that corporations must not hold more than x% of their material net worth at any given time, or otherwise limit the exact possibilities of action open to corporations.

- I am sure there would be all sorts of practical issues implementing this law, and that there are better ideas out there.  I'm just trying to demonstrate, mainly, the absurdity of our current tax code.  Even if we left other taxes and simplified the income tax on this basis or something similar, it would be an improvement over the doctoral thesis current law forces the IRS to hand out every year.


Thoughts On a Confirmation

On the Saturday before Easter - or as some would insist, on the eve of Easter, the liturgical calendar beginning days at night - a previously Protestant friend was confirmed in the Roman church.  I note this merely as background; as explanation or perhaps the provocation of the following.  In itself the circumstance was (for me) hardly unique: I could likely have said the same thing for any of the past five or six years, with regard to the Roman or Orthodox churches, though matching particular names to particular years is more than I can do now.

My own opinion of the Roman church I have probably stated before in this space: however, I will restate it briefly.  While possessing a certain superficial historicity, the Roman Catholic church is wracked by un-Scriptural doctrines and practices.  Any argument which would convince me to join the Roman church would have to either convince me of the validity of the pope's authority (if he has that authority, I am no one to argue doctrine, certainly not from outside "the Church"), or present a sufficient apology for the Roman church's doctrine from Scripture, or represent the conclusion a true reformation within that church.

Yet the point of this post is not to debate Roman views.  If demand requires, I will do so - elsewhere or at another time.  (As for the Orthodox: my knowledge is less, but the second and third criteria would also apply.)  No, this is more a record of self-reflection.  I am Reformed in my own theology, and attend generally churches both presbyterian and Reformed - though I am not a particularly convinced presbyterian.  I spent several months last year attending and studying at a Lutheran church - on invitation - due mainly to this lack of conviction, with additional impetus provided by a growing concern over the general practice regarding the Lord's Supper among Reformed churches: which is to say, in practice if not in confession, we lean too much towards mere symbolism.

The Lutheran experiment foundered, on a double (or perhaps treble) difficulty of its own.  The first: the use of the crucifix in worship, to say nothing of bowing, if not actually scraping, to the thing.  My greatest distaste for the Roman church I found in abridged form in the Lutheran - though at least there were no parades of and towards likely specious relics.  The second: a certain lack of utility - not to say precision - in the Lutheran doctrines of the Church and its governance, at least as presented to me.  To be more accurate, the Lutherans seemed to want all of the exclusivity provided by Roman or Orthodox doctrines of Tradition and infallibility (of church-through-pope or council, as may be), while claiming with Luther that "councils have erred" - and presumably must still continue to do so: a most curious stance.  Perhaps a more thorough investigation would have clarified matters, but I suppose I lack patience.  Also (note my count to three!) the music tends towards the excessively Germanic - and German native rhythms are noticeably different from those which fit English lines.  I suppose I should have been grateful that at least the words were English, but would it be too difficult to reset the tunes - as most other Protestant hymnals have done - to suit the different flow of words?  This is however a highly technical complaint, and not one which holds that much water in light of the rampant banality, not to say occasional stupidity, of many modern compositions spread widely throughout my own Reformed circles.

Once again, I wander fairly far afield.  The crux of the matter, brought home to me this weekend, is that maybe I do not care.

Does this sound strange?  Most people who know me know I am Christian; the rest probably assume so correctly.  I periodically - as now - discuss matters of the Faith here and elsewhere in public.  I can defend my faith, as Peter commanded, both as a Christian generally (all the way to the details of forcing talk of presuppositions) and as to my particular denominational choice (though less certainly here - for example, I have no significant attachment to and only slightly more defense for presbyterianism as currently practiced and taught as a system, Biblical or otherwise, for governing the church) and I do so, when occasion has arisen.

My friend's father remarked - I summarize - that he had been thoroughly impressed, though not a Catholic himself, with the zeal of my friend's friends for Christ.  Myself?

Well, I have some knowledge; a certain confidence; assurance - one might suspect self-assurance, I suppose; but not so much any burning energy.  I have a certain amount of self-discipline even with regards to my religious devotions; but I do not go out of my way to be conspicuous; rather the opposite.  Praying in the closet comes far more naturally to me than taking the pains to make sure my actions will cause others to glorify the Father.

Again, on my own denominational particulars, I accept what I have been taught to accept, but not always with the confidence of complete understanding.  Consider the acronymic summary of the Reformed confessions: the TULIP.  I rather suspect flaws in some arguments for limited atonement; yet those flaws depend on phrasing.  Is it the extent (as some would have it) of the atonement achieved that is limited?  This seems to fly flat in the face of Scripture's proclamation of redemption and love for the world.  Or is it (as others would say) the application that is (or will be, or has been - tenses melt in the face of eternity) limited? - this much at least seems undeniable in light of the testament the Word bears to the goats and reprobates.  And then what is the functional difference?  I illustrate: I could produce a similar contrast or dilemma in interpretation for each point, and then go on to consider problems posed by the phrasing of the formal confessions and catechisms.  I am tempted to believe that the majority of schisms in the Church over the years have been caused by such too-quibbling confrontations over various parties' attempts to explain the ineffable - but then there are battles that needed to be fought, as well, and who am I to draw the line?

On the other hand, in that I try to stand away from public debate on doubtful points. who is to say I am taking a wrong part?  Given my uncertainties, would adding "zeal" do any good?  Lewis writes, in various places, that he did not consider himself one to address any difficult points of the faith - even going so far as to avoid writing at all on subjects he had no knowledge of or temptations he had not experienced.  For me, the state of affairs is such that I simply have no opinion, or only the most guarded of opinions, on many of a wide range of topics.  The Nicene Creed I can defend in detail; an inquisitor refuting the Westminster Confession would find me rather more short-handed in apology.  Should I put in the effort to study further - or simply trusting God accept that I am not called as a theologian and put myself under the teaching of those who sit, as it were, in Moses' seat?  Or both?  The danger to me seems rather to be charging off in approximately the wrong direction - or am I simply too cautious, held back by my own habits and character?