Monday, February 29, 2016

My father would have voted for Trump

Last year, I retired after several years of seriously planning for it. We had help from an advisor, and we worked with a legal and financial framework that had essentially been in place for the last 15 years.

Then, late last fall, Congress passed and President Obama signed the compromise budget bill, which was considered a great step forward in intra-governmental relations. Embedded in the bill, and no one will admit who did it or even if congressional leaders were aware of it, was a provision that changed some Social Security provisions. It was a change desired by the Obama Administration for years. What it effectively did was save the government $11 billion annually in Social Security costs.

Guess who is helping to pay for that? People like me. It’s coming out of the hide of the middle class. It was one of the assumptions of our retirement planning. And now it’s gone, with no one wanting to own up who did it.

Guess who isn’t paying for it? The Congress who passed it, the President who wanted it, and the congressional staff people who slipped it into the legislation. They’re not covered by Social Security. They can make policy decisions without any thought of the impact on themselves, because there isn’t any (unless their constituents get riled enough to evict them from office).

They are what columnist and author Peggy Noonan calls the “protected class.” My wife and I are  members of the unprotected class, although our saving and spending habits over the course of our marriage probably make us more protected than many. Our financial planner had to do some scrambling for us and their other clients, because this hit with a wallop and it hit suddenly.

This reminds me of my father. He had more experiences than you might imagine of dealing with unexpected changes in laws. He was a small businessman who often found himself operating on the basis of negative cash flow, which you can do for a time but ultimately not sustain. Federal, state, and local tax laws changed constantly. Adding insult to injury was the constant harassment by local police in New Orleans looking for “considerations” so he could avoid having his delivery truck constantly ticketed.

A member of the World War II generation, he was often bewildered by what passed for political wisdom. He voted Democratic in state and local elections (there was no real Republican Party in Louisiana until the late 1970s and early 1980s) and Republican in national elections. He was conservative. He believed in law and order. He didn’t trust the national Democrats. He liked Richard Nixon (until Watergate) and he loved Spiro Agnew (until he was indicted). He particularly liked Agnew because the Vice President would publicly say things – like against the news media – that outraged the media, liberals, and progressives. And he voted for Ronald Reagan twice.

My father struggled in business as he watched big corporations and big banks get benefit after benefit from the federal government, including from some of the very same people he had supported. He watched privileges and special considerations be conferred upon people whom he believed didn’t deserve them. And he would have understood the concern many people have about illegal immigrants – and he would have seen them as ways for big corporations (and big agriculture) to manage labor costs.

If he were still alive today, my father would be supporting Donald Trump.

And my father and I, who tended to vote for generally the same national candidates, would have parted political ways.

Of the remaining candidates in the race, the one who speaks to my heart is Ben Carson.

I have friends on Facebook who say that you can’t be a true Christian and vote for Donald Trump. I understand their anxiety, but I don’t place my hope in political candidates, or place my hope against them. If Trump wins the Republican nomination, and Hilary Clinton the Democratic nomination, I will be completely perplexed on how to vote.

But my faith remains intact, regardless of who runs, regardless of who wins. Nothing else in this life is certain.

Top photograph by Peter Griffin, and lower photograph by Kai Stachowiak, both via Public Domain Pictures (second photo here).  Used with permission.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A different fisherman

After Luke 5:1-11

He came to my boat, dusty,
asking to push off, from shore,
from the press of the crowds
clamoring for a piece of him.
My boat, now a platform
for the crowds to hear, multitudes
desperate to touch him, touch
the words spilling softly
from his lips and falling upon
our ears, alternately washing
and burning. With everyone else,
I listened and watched: rapt faces,
enraptured hearts. Then he pointed
and tells me to fish, fish where
there were no fish, his words
stripping my pretenses, crushing
my knowledge, searing their way
inward. We caught fish where
there were no fish, and then
we abandoned all, to follow.

Painting  by Jacopo Bassano (1545).