By: Brian Sikma

You’d think that with all the extra, overtime effort at bashing banks and businesses there would be some pay off for Democrats in Congress. Apparently, that is not the case. Released today, Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll shows Congress ranked dead-last in the list of institutions people have confidence in.  A mere 11% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress as a body. Standing well above Congress in the confidence rankings are banks and businesses. Yes, this is after the BP oil fiasco started, after the Wall Street financial crisis, and during a period of very high unemployment.

Business and the private sector are not always right.  Left to themselves, human beings in any area will always tend towards failure. But those who argue that government is always the antidote to whatever wrongs are present in the private sector fundamentally overlook the fact that government is comprised of individuals, and government can  more frequently afford to abdicate its responsibility than any private sector enterprise. Take the BP oil spill for example. BP did violate important and absolutely necessary safety regulations in the day-to-day operation of its Deepwater Horizon rig. But government, when responding to the crisis, compounded an already severe problem by bungling the response, turning down legitimate offers for help from international vessels, and imposing unecessary red tape right at a time when decisive action was necessary.

Government can and must keep the private sector accountable by serving as an impartial enforcer of laws and regulations designed to mandate honesty and transparency. But when government inserts itself into the very operation of a bank or business, and unilaterally limits the ability of business owners, investors, and stockholders to make decisions that will put millions of Americans to work and generate wealth in our economy, it crosses an important boundary. Without government we could not have prosperity, with too much government we will never have prosperity; today we are facing the problem of too much, not too little, government. Members of Congress might see their collective confidence rating rise if they decided to err on the side of liberty while generally regarding government power with mistrust, instead of vice versa.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) - Pro-life Democrat now famous for caving in to pro-choice ObamaCare

By: Brian Sikma

Mike Fichter, the executive director of Indiana Right to Life, and the chairman of the IRTL PAC, has made news lately with his PAC’s decision to adopt a no-Democrat endorsement policy. The board of the PAC voted to end the organization’s practice of endorsing Democrat as well as Republican candidates that are pro-life. The American Spectator ran a lengthy editorial highlighting the PAC’s decision and how it relates to the overall debate unfolding in the pro-life community after Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-MI) flip-flop on ObamaCare.

The Right to Life organizations that form a key part of the broader pro-life movement have, on the whole, worked to stay non-partisan in their approach to politics. Because the pro-life movement rightfully transcends political parties, it has been difficult in recent years for some in the movement to see the need to become more hard-line in their political activities. Although fewer in number, pro-life Democrats have been an important part of state and federal legislative strategies since the pro-life battle began in 1973. Pro-life Republicans often provide the majority of the votes needed to deliver on a pro-life bill or amendment, but even when they are the majority party, the handful of pro-life Democrat votes that are in a chamber can mean the difference between victory and defeat.  

Since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, and as control of the Indiana House of Representatives has shifted back and forth over several cycles, it has become increasingly apparent that when Democrats are in the majority, the value of the pro-life members of their party decreases. Because the rank-and-file pro-life Democrats often vote for liberal caucus leadership, or get out voted if they do choose to vote their conscience in leadership elections, an increase of Democrats in any legislative body, even if they are pro-life, spells doom for pro-life legislation.

In adopting a no-Democrat endorsement policy, IRTL PAC has really done the only thing it could have done to maintain a forward-thinking, smart political strategy to advance its values and principles. While it is unfortunate that Democrats, once in power, cannot be relied upon to even bring some pro-life measures up for a vote, let alone pass such legislation, that stark political reality should be acknowledged by pro-life leaders across the country. The Democrat party of today is even more liberal than it was when the pro-life movement began, and its heavy-handed tactics which are evident at both the state and national level justify a complete rejection of the party by a movement defined by principle and not party affiliation.

Independence Hall

By: Brian Sikma

As Americans gather with family and friends across our great nation to celebrate the greatest of our national holidays, it is a good time to reflect on where we as a people have come from, and where we are going. Nothing will stifle the possibility of our future success as a nation as much as a careless ignorance of our past. Similarly, a knowledge of our heroic and vivid history will inspire us to dream bigger dreams and tackle still greater challenges. History is not created in a vacuum.

Perhaps the greatest dream that we can have is to preserve this liberty that we enjoy so much today. The process of preserving and perpetuating liberty is not passive, but active. It demands a consistent series of actions on the part of individuals and local communities. It is a trust that should obligate every man, woman, and child in our country. It has been often said, and it cannot be said too often, that freedom is only one generation away from extinction. If anything, recent political and social developments remind us of just how fragile our experiment is.

When our founding fathers solemnly covenanted with one another and the millions of people looking to them to expend their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” in the defense of independence, they were standing for something far greater than themselves. Personal comfort and economic expedience all argued staunchly against independence. But deep in the soul of each man who, in effect, signed his own death warrant by signing the Declaration of Independence, was an unwavering commitment to a higher law. This higher law was referred to as “the laws of nature” and it declares that rights flow from the Creator, not a king, Parliament, or charter.

As Americans survey the landscape around them today, and see an ever expansive government attempting to become a social safety net for every individual, organization, and business, they should be skeptical about the direction of the country. Our present leaders have wondered from the path trod by our founders, and by the millions of everyday Americans who followed in their footsteps and forged our land. By simply returning to that path, that course of liberty lighted by freedom’s unfailing flame, we can once again return to a better day.

Just as our founders declared independence from England in 1776, we in our day must declare a new independence from the all-encompassing grasp of big government. This second declaration of independence must be preceded, or at least accompanied, by a great spiritual reawakening. Setting the stage for the political revolution of our founding was a nationwide awakening towards private virtue and deep spiritual values. A return to first principles in the public sphere must be paralleled by a return to individual virtue and personal responsibility.

Unless we understand the moral questions of what is right, what is wrong, why absolutes matter and why our rights are not universally true because an international body happens to say so, a return to first principles will be a futile exercise. We must commit now to building not a facade, but a strong structure with a sure moral foundation. The construction of this foundation is preeminently a personal, and not public, endeavor. To preserve liberty in our day, we must return to political first principles and personal responsibility coupled with individual virtue.

Editor’s Note: This was originally published in this morning’s edition of the Muncie Indiana Star-Press.
 
By Rep. Mike Pence

The Fourth of July is a time of great tradition across Indiana. It means watermelon passed around the family picnic table, communities gathered together at parades and blankets laid out on freshly cut grass to enjoy fireworks displays.

And so it should be. As President John Adams wrote of the first Independence Day, “It ought to be commemorated as a day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

We would be remiss if we did not take time, as individuals, as families and as a nation, to commemorate and reflect on our independence. Today we celebrate that day over two centuries ago, when America stepped out from the shadow of tyranny, and founded a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

We remember the courage of our founders, who took this stand in the face of the most powerful empire in the world. And we pay tribute to the sacrifices made in places near and far by the men and women who have worn the uniform to defend the freedoms we enjoy.

America’s love of freedom is deeply ingrained in our nation’s history. We live and breathe the cause of liberty. Freedom is at the very core of an American spirit that is alive and well today.

We have seen it at tea parties, town hall meetings and gatherings across America. It is a force in America great enough to redeem our national government and reaffirm our revolutionary ideals.

This Independence Day, let us take to heart the decree of our second president. Let us celebrate our great gift of freedom with pomp and parade and the joy that befits a free people. Let us also commemorate this day with thanksgiving to God for the liberty and blessings we enjoy in our great nation.

Mike Pence represents Indiana’s Sixth District in Congress.

BP Execs Arrive at White House / AP Photo

By: Brian Sikma

When Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas) used his position as ranking member of the House Energy Committee to apologize to the leadership of BP for the way they have been treated by the federal government, he quickly found himself in hot water from both sides of the aisle. The black oil spreading across the Gulf has created a toxic environment in Washington towards anyone attempting to excuse the actions of the company that lauds itself as being “Beyond Petroleum.”

Unquestionably, BP has not been treated right by the Obama Administration. Forcing BP to set up a $20 billion escrow account was yet another advance by this administration in an all-out assault on the free-market system that is the only thing that will power our economy back to prosperity. When the Administration demanded that BP give the federal government a lien on $20 billion worth of U.S. assets as collateral on the escrow account, we saw a brazen power-play that resembled Chicago-style politics more than legitimate Constitutional government. Make no mistake: BP had no choice in this matter, and it was not a voluntary action on their part.

The unacceptability of the Administration’s effort to hold BP accountable is not justified even by the magnitude of the disaster. Government should never leap beyond its Constitutional bounds and arbitrarily seize control of private enterprise and private resources. We are a nation of laws, not bureaucrats with good intentions and limitless powers to resolve catastrophes and crises however they see fit. Elected officials, citizens, and even private sector players must respectfully and ardently oppose the BP arm-twisting and a repeat of similar actions in the future.

This is not to say that BP should not be held responsible for the damage it has caused. The billions of dollars worth of damage to the states and people along the Gulf should be compensated to them by BP. BP should bear 100% of the disaster clean-up costs because this problem, whether caused by an accident or a purposeful and willful negligence towards safety and good operating standards, is BP’s responsibility.

Individuals, corporations, and organizations are free to sue BP for real damages that they suffered. Those who immediately covered the bill for the clean-up effort, primarily the federal government and state governments, should seek to be compensated by BP for the costs that they incurred. Small business owners who suffered actual and real damages, for which there are definite monetary figures available to measure the extent of harm, should be free to join together in class-action lawsuits against BP to recover what they lost. Larger corporations and other entities that lost money may find it more appropriate to sue BP singly for compensation.

The problem that has marked the Obama Administration’s response to the crisis is not that they want to hold BP to account for what happened and make sure that BP pays for the damage it has caused, but that they have done so in a way that violates core Constitutional principles and unnecessarily bypasses established legal procedures. President Obama and his team like to focus on action and it is not at all disconcerting to them to place action – any action – ahead of the careful pursuit of justice via well established channels that serve to protect our nation and the freedom that we enjoy.

Unless held in check, the greatest damage to the country that results from the Gulf disaster will be the Obama Administration’s sacrifice of the rule of law on the altar of expedient action. Eventually the oil will be cleaned up, and with much effort the lives of the people along the Gulf Coast will return to a level of normalcy, but our nation will be negatively impacted for a very long time by the precedents set up by the government’s response to the disaster. Right now, both BP and Big Government are to blame for the disaster in the Gulf.

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Thomas Sowell – Is the U.S. Now On Slippery Slope to Tryanny?

By: Brian Sikma

A well-meaning arrogance dominates, drives, and defines the modern political left. Throughout the West, liberals consistently advocate for policies that leave government, generally unelected experts and commissions, with more power and average citizens, entrepreneurs and families with fewer choices and less freedom. Europe is quite a bit closer to the consequences of such policymaking, but the Obama Administration is working hard to drive our country down that same path of soft socialism.

Conservatives believe that many choices are best left up to the individual, and to individuals working collectively through free-market based economic systems. Government, no matter who it is run by or how big it may be, cannot determine the specific needs of every individual and develop a targeted solution for every individual’s private problem. This is not to say that government should not limit choice in some areas. Moral issues are matters of absolute right and wrong, and failure to enforce a prohibition on making choices that violate morality is an open invitation to anarchy, and freedom cannot function when every man is a law unto himself.

Radical environmentalism, and the alarmist rhetoric and shoddy science resulting from it, provide an excellent case-study on the arrogance of liberalism. As the oil continues to spew at a rate of about 210,000 gallons per day out of the broken BP/Deepwater Horizon deep-sea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the left is up in arms over the extent of the damage being done to the environment of the Gulf of Mexico and southern coastal states. There is significant immediate and mid-term damage being done as the oil washes up on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and drifts out on the currents threatening the coastal beaches of Florida.

After broadly denouncing corporations (that employ millions of Americans and pay billions in taxes), the private sector, and Republicans, President Obama’s most ambitious step towards solving the immediate crisis has been to order a freeze of all deep-sea drilling. Besides costing the nation part of its vital intake of domestic oil, and putting thousands of much-needed jobs on the line, the freeze does very little to prevent a repeat of the Deepwater well disaster. It does look good on the surface, however, as do the photo-op commission announcements and meetings with various academic and bureaucratic experts.

The one sector that the president has most heavily criticized throughout all of this is, ironically, the one entity that is doing the most to cap the gushing well and solve the problem. The oil industry, and particularly BP, has engaged in round-the-clock efforts to staunch the hemorrhaging of oil and thereby reduce the likelihood of greater environmental and economic damage. What, exactly, is the usefulness of Attorney General Eric Holder’s criminal investigation into the situation remains to be seen. It is doubtful that its value will measure up to what is being done with robotic equipment thousands of feet below the surface of the Gulf.

Broadly freezing all deep-water drilling, and announcing criminal investigations into the situation, are overkill responses to what is happening. Ultimately, once the oil leak is stopped and the clean up takes place, the environment of the Gulf and the coastal areas bordering it will recover. The oil that is causing the problem is a natural substance. In time, the affected areas will recover, and human efforts will only speed that recovery. The left worships the concept of “Mother Earth” and laments the tragic impact that human beings have on the environment. But liberals view themselves as the ultimate protectors of the earth and go about their do-good work with the attitude that without their loving and expert care, the earth would simply commit suicide and kill itself, human beings or no human beings.

Instead of blaming Republicans, the President should set aside the pretentious photo-ops and get to work helping state governments and private organizations that are better equipped to deal with the disaster. The American people in their haste should not be quick to blame the President, Washington, or either political party for the event that led to this problem (though an interesting case can be made for how environmental regulations forced the development of higher-risk deep-water wells when shallow coastal wells were available). But though the President may not be responsible for the problem, or for how large it grows, he is responsible for how he responds to the problem, and that is something the voters should begin to pass judgment on this November.

In November the three Republican state Senate candidates in District 17 completed questionnaires from the Allen County Right to Life seeking information about their individual positions on a number of critical pro-life issues. The questions asked were straightforward and two of the candidates did a solid job of providing clear answers. Reviewing the final essay question, however, one would probably have to conclude that Jim Banks, an experienced pro-family and pro-life advocate with national experience, provided the most thorough and persuasive explanation of his pro-life philosophy.*

Candidate Tom Wall, currently a Huntington County Commissioner, checked “unsure” in responding to two of the questions on his questionnaire. Each of the questions he marked this way were very simple questions dealing with two common pro-life issues faced by legislators around the country. Anyone familiar with the cursory elements of the pro-life position and philosophy would have been able to make a final judgment about his or her support of the position stated in the question.

The first area of uncertainty for Wall was the matter of conscience clause legislation that protects pharmacists from being legally liable for refusing to fill out prescriptions for abortion inducing products. This issue has come up in several states, including neighboring Illinois, and pharmacists have had to face a choice between violating their conscience and assuming serious liability for their refusal to comply with a consumer’s request. In Indiana legislation has been introduced in recent sessions of the General Assembly to protect pro-life Hoosier pharmacists from this morally and professionally difficult choice.

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