May 2007


upsidedown.jpgBy: Brian Sikma

We all know about the problem of illegal immigrants in this country. For the past several years there has been an almost constant and contentious debate raging over what to do about the porous borders and the 12 million illegal immigrants that are in our country. In addition to the generally peaceable people coming to work in this country, thugs and potential terrorists have been making their illegal way across our border and into our country.

Some propose that the solution to our alien woes lies in securing the border and preventing the further immigration of peoples into our country. Others have proposed an amnesty plan with a guest worker component. As usual, there is merit in parts of each plan. The real solution to our problem lies in strengthening and securing our borders and developing a new set of regulations and laws to stream line the immigration process and allow for needed guest workers. Above all, however, we must insure that new immigrants assimilate into our country once they are here.

Throughout our nation’s history we have allowed people who share our values and beliefs to immigrate to our country. We have offered them a chance to make a better life for themselves and their decedents. In return, we asked that they set aside their nationality and become Americans. This does not mean that we denied groups their heritage. Across this great country we can find people who are 100% American while at the same time proud of their specific cultural existence. As Americans we are bound together by a common belief system while at the same time cognizant of the fact that we posses special traits that have been passed to us by our forefathers. However, those traits are never, and should never, be allowed to interfere with our most basic values and beliefs as a nation.

As we review the current immigration problem, we see a disturbing trend emerging. Illegal-and some legal-immigrant groups enter this country and instead of assimilating into our country they hold on to their own specific values and beliefs. Sometimes these values, beliefs, and cultural practices are fundamentally at odds with what America is all about.

In the case of the Mexican here illegally, he speaks limited English and gets along only with the help of a sub-culture of fellow Hispanics. Since he is here only to make money, he sees no reason as to why he should surrender his national identity and turn his green, white and red flag in for a red, white and blue one. He does not bother to learn English or familiarize himself with our laws because he views himself as just a temporary benefactor of economic riches. He does realize, however, that in order to be the ultimate benefactor of America, he should use each and every government service offered to him. From social programs to educational policies he quickly learns that there is more than one way to get ahead by coming into this country through a hole instead of a gate.

In the case of the Middle-Eastern immigrant here legally, he may learn the language but he will not bother to learn the values and principles of freedom and liberty. He may be quite content to go to the local Saudi-funded mosque and hear fiery sermons denouncing the Great Satan (the U.S.) or the Little Satan (Israel). He of course enjoys the economic benefits of our country, but he has not renounced his old views of society and government and exchanged them for our American views. Surrounded as he is by fellow extremists in his cloistered community he is free to openly discuss his hatred of America. He finds nothing objectionable in his fellow mosque-goers’ praise of Osama Bin Laden or the computer files that point to a plot against innocent victims in his host country.

Are these mindsets on the part of immigrants something we should be concerned about? Yes, they are; and any immigration reform policy must include specific citizenship and immigration requirements that will remedy these problems.

The existence of pockets of citizens-or potential citizens-who’s key views are opposite to those of the our country is something that we must be careful to avoid. Individuals who separate themselves from the rest of their fellow citizens and adhere to their own values system are ripe for a political and social insurgency. If anyone doubts the prospect of this they can look to the nation of France with its unassimilated Islamic immigrant population.

As a nation we cannot afford to become Balkanized in our views and values. While debate and disagreement should not be stifled, we should not be so open minded as to accept any and all poison. We must require immigrants to assimilate themselves into our culture and into our country. Our nation is not just an economic warehouse for the people of the world.  While it is true that our nation does afford an unparalleled opportunity for people to succeed economically, we must understand that this economic power is not some magical formula but instead is the result of our respect for an absolute standard of right and wrong and a belief in the rule of law and not the rule of man.

By allowing illegals to continue to reside in our country, by passing immigration reform that does not require new immigrants-even guest workers-to learn English and come into our country legally, and by not addressing the problem of communities were anti-American sentiment is considered normal, we will be destroying our nation with our own hands.

A fundamental part of any immigration into this country is an understanding of the principles of freedom, the rule of law, and the existence of moral absolutes. These three areas form the bedrock strength of our country’s social, political, and economic might. We must work to make sure that immigrants understand the importance of these values and are aware of the fact that they must divest themselves of any contrary views. A government founded on freedom and governed by the people can’t sustain itself if the people have varying views on what freedom really means.

This assimilation requirement is not an unfair proposition. We offer them the best of our country and we give them a chance to make something of themselves, in return we ask that they become one of us in shared ideals. If they do not think the exchange is worth it, they are free to stay out of our country. If they feel that they cannot in good conscience embrace freedom and all that it means, then no one says that they must become one of us.

With many things in life, if you want a good result you have to pay a price. If you want to succeed in a relationship you have to unselfishly give of your time and effort to build that relationship. If you want to be successful in business then you have to make wise economic choices, choosing to invest for future return instead of immediate gain. If immigrants want to come to this country it’s completely logical that we mandate that they assimilate themselves with us. This is something that generations of immigrants have done and it something that must be done today if our country is to continue to be a beacon of hope welcoming freedom lovers to its shores.

Just as immigration without assimilation leads to the disintegration of a nation, so immigration with assimilation can lead to a wonderful and rewarding experience. Policy makers and citizens should understand that it is not the color of a person’s skin that counts, but the color of his or her principles. One of the wonderful things about America is that an American can be of any skin color or nationality, as long as his or her heart is red, white and blue.

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By: Brian Sikma

With nearly a dozen Republicans running for president, the base is being subjected to a single phrase over and over again. “I am a Ronald Reagan Republican” is now the war cry of just about every GOP candidate. Variations of that tune sound like “I am the true Reagan Conservative”, “If elected I will implement the policies of Ronald Reagan”, etc. etc.

While all of this is going on one can’t help but wonder if the next real Reagan will actually bear the title of a “Reagan conservative”. I’m not saying the views of Reagan are outdated, they’re not. But this continual reference to the greatest president of the last half of the 20th Century leaves one pondering what exactly set Reagan apart from the rest and how he articulated his views. When Reagan took to the podium in his now famous endorsement speech for Barry Goldwater, he didn’t introduce himself to the crowd by saying “I am a Ronald Reagan Republican”.

Great leaders have always had those that ride on their coattails. In fact, great leaders usually ride-at least in part-on the coattails of those before them. This does not detract from their greatness because it shows how much a student of history they are. In his farewell speech Reagan borrowed from Puritan John Winthrop the phrase “a city on a hill”. Greatness is not just developing new ideas, it is articulating timeless ideas in such a way as to inspire others to follow you on your upward journey. Leaders can developing seemingly new ideas simply by taking an old idea and applying it in one way or another to a particular situation.

Take the example of Patrick Henry. At the time of his famous “Give me Liberty” speech, freedom was something that parts of the world had experimented with. England had a constitution that guaranteed certain freedoms to the English people; the colonists enjoyed a measure of freedom from the mother country and had been allowed to elect their own legislative bodies. Patrick Henry did not invent the concept of human liberty in his speech, that was something that had been around for centuries. What Henry did do was to apply that concept to the then present crisis. He called his fellow Virginians and fellow colonists to realize that they were not experiencing freedom if England continued in her war-like ways. Henry took an idea and realized it to a fuller extent than most of his fellow colonists. He grasped what true liberty was and he called his fellow men to join him in the realization of that freedom.

So too, did Ronald Reagan take concepts that had existed for years and expanded those concepts by applying them to the crisis of the day. Reagan created new ideas not from scratch but from principles that had been neglected. The difference between Reagan though and some of his present day come-alongs is the fact that Reagan took the time to spell out exactly what he believed. When he spoke of freedom he spoke of the relationship between individual freedom and individual responsibility. When he spoke of the role of government he stressed the need for traditional values applied through libertarian means. Reagan was a social and fiscal conservative at a time when some wondered if the two were compatible.

Reagan’s particular breed of conservatism has been termed a “fusionist” conservatism. To summarize, fusionists believe in traditional Judeo-Christian principles and free-market economics. These two views are sometimes seen as irreconcilable polar opposites because if you believe in traditional morality then it is assumed that you believe that arbitrary government force should be used to coerce individuals to hold to that morality. After all, if traditional morality is our end should government work to bring about that end? While some social conservatives may desire to inappropriately use government power to bring about a social change, those social conservatives who understand the proper role of government are content to regulate only that behavior which integrally impacts society.

On other side of the conservative spectrum, libertarians argue that most government power is bad and that a free markets should prevail in economic and moral choices. It is their contention that free choices in markets must also be applied to free choices in values. What they fail to realize is that choice is not the ultimate end, the right choice is the final end. Freedom as a stand alone value equated with unbridled choice leads to anarchy.

The unique governing ability of fusionism centers around the achievement of traditional ends through libertarian means. Realizing that government force cannot change hearts, fusionist (a.k.a. Reagan) conservatives believe that government should create an environment where economic markets are free to function within the bounds of law and where those aspects of private morality that greatly impact a culture are regulated by law in such a way as to encourage individuals to make the right choices in the market of values.

The application and further enunciation of this basic conservative premise is worthy of a national debate. Shouldn’t a presidential campaign provide a good atmosphere for an intellectual exploration of this principle on the part of candidates and voters? Sadly, the current debate between GOP presidential hopefuls has been barren of any in-depth attempt to really talk about how this principle affects substantive policy issues. Although some very bright candidates are out there, it would seem that a reference to being a “Reagan conservative” or “Reagan Republican” suffices for a statement of principle.

Some, such as Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), have successfully branded themselves as Reagan Conservatives. However, if we look closely at Pence’s rhetoric and actions we find more than just a passing reference to Reagan. Instead we find an individual who combines both a respect and reference to Reagan with a substantive analysis of what it means to be a conservative. Pence is a remarkable communicator who doesn’t rely on sound bytes to be the extent of his expression of principle. While hearkening back to a great leader, he also applies timeless ideas to the problems of today. Is he always right? No, he’s human, but rarely do we see someone in politics who isn’t afraid to move beyond the media summary and into the nitty gritty of understanding why a policy proposal is right or wrong. The Republican presidential candidates would do well to follow his example.

So, to answer the question posed in the title: Will the next Ronald Reagan be a Reagan Republican? The answer is yes and no. The next great leader may or may not identify himself with the name of Reagan, but he will identify himself with the ideas of Reagan. Saying you’re a Reagan Republican isn’t a substitute for doing some hard thinking yourself about what you believe, why you believe it, and how your principles will impact policy. Let’s work hard to make sure cliches don’t trump substance in this debate over who will be the standard bearer of our party in November of 2008.

Image courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library.

oil.jpg 

By: Brian Sikma 

Today, our nation faces higher gas prices that leave consumers fuming over the cost of a fill-up. While some have been quick to blame the oil companies for the rising prices, a closer look at what is taking place will help us understand the situation. Taking shots at “windfall profits” makes for rousing reading, but it doesn’t give us a real picture of what is going on.

While today’s prices are high, according to the Energy Information Agency, gasoline prices in 1924, when adjusted for inflation, were $3.10 per gallon. While inflation has caused the price of goods to rise, the real price of gasoline fell until the energy crunch of the 1970s; then in 1980-1982 adjusted prices rose to $3.20 per gallon. Since that time gas prices dropped until just a few years ago.

Prices rise when demand outpaces supply. If the market demands more gasoline than oil companies can produce, prices are going to rise until the demand and supply levels balance each other out.

This simple cause and effect situation is sometimes tampered with as artificial limits are placed on one side of the equation.  These artificial limits usually come in the form of government regulations. The federal government and some state governments, impose environmental regulations on both refineries and the gasoline that those plants produce. The result of this tampering is a gas price that is higher than the normal effect of the supply and demand ratio.

If any entity is making a “windfall” off of higher gas prices it is the state and federal governments. In 2005 government consumed $71 billion in taxes from gasoline sales. That figure is double what government took in taxes from the oil industry in 2003.

A new refinery has not been built inside the United States for nearly 30 years. While fuel companies have been able to expand their existing refinery capacity, heavy handed environmental regulations have prevented the construction of badly needed new plants. This inability to build new refineries strangles the ability of companies to quickly refine enough gasoline to meet an expanding market need.

While America continues to import most of its oil, massive oil reserves in Alaska and parts of the American west, as well as off shore reserves, go untapped. With an increased demand don’t you think it would be wise for companies to be able to access this domestic oil? Welcome to Potomac Logic. Regulations handed down from Washington bureaucrats continue to prevent the effective use of domestic oil supplies. While legislation passed in 2006 cracked open the door of access to some oil reserves, a Washington imposed dam still stops the flow of more domestic oil.

According to the AAA, part of the reason for the recent gas price spike comes from the inability of refineries to quickly switch over from federally mandated winter fuel blends to the federally mandated summer blends. The EPA has mandated 12 types of gasoline blends for different parts of the country. Additional state regulations bring the total number of separate fuel blends to 30. Each blend must be kept separate from each other. This means that companies are forced to maintain separate production, transportation, and storage facilities, all at a higher cost to the consumer.

After looking at the facts, we can see that we do not have to be in our current energy situation. The solution to our problem is not more government regulation or increased bureaucratic oversight. The solution is to get the federal government out of the way and let the market run itself.

We need to increase our oil supply by allowing environmentally responsible drilling to take place. By drilling for our own oil we will lessen the number of geo-political situations that have the potential to adversely affect our energy prices.  We need to loosen the environmental regulations that strangle gasoline producers’ ability to build new refineries. New technology now allows cleaner oil refining to take place and we need to update our regulations to reflect this change.

Big Oil is not wholly to blame for the high gas prices, Big Government bears much of the burden. If politicians wish to enact meaningful energy policy that will reduce prices they would be wise to start breaching the regulatory dam that keeps domestic oil from flowing into the marketplace. They need to cut through the red tape that has the energy market in a strangle hold. Now is the time to look beyond self serving special interests and towards common sense solutions that will allow the market to correct itself.

By: Brian Sikma

Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) have once again joined forces to co-sponsor and pass federal hate crimes legislation. S. 1105 would make “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” protected classes in federal law. Kennedy and Smith attempted to pass similar legislation in 2004. Although then-Senate Majority Leader Bill First (R-TN) was able to outmaneuver liberal parliamentary games, the bill passed the Senate. It met its ultimate demise, however, in the House where Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) promised to pull out all the stops in killing the bill.

Aside from the question of if there is federal jurisdiction for this legislation, the question arises as to whether or not this bill’s passage would be a violation the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment mandate for equal protection of all citizens. By determining that a particular class of citizens are entitled to greater protections than citizens who are not members of the protected class, it would appear that Congress is mandating unequal protection for victims of crime.

In the case of S. 1105, homosexuals, cross dressers, and other individuals engaging in similar, non-moral lifestyles would be offered greater protections because crimes committed against them would be considered “hate crimes” and would therefore carry extra heavy penalties. Similar crimes against citizens not engaged in deviant behavior would be less serious offenses. In a court of law then, the equal protection rights of homosexuals would be greater and the equal protection rights of heterosexuals would be less.

This attempt to create two distinct justice systems, one for homosexuals and one for heterosexuals, would lead to a complete undoing of the proper understanding of the equal protection of law. The creation of two criminal categories would lead to a legal anarchy. The 14th Amendment does not allow the federal government to create or enforce two different types of justice systems. It does not allow one form of equal protection for one class, and another form of equal protection for another class. If it did, it would be a fundamental violation of the principle that all men and women are created equal and that they are endowed-in other words entitled to-certain unalienable rights.

To assume that the equal protection clause protects a particular class of citizens from the state’s attempt to discriminate against them on the basis of behavior is to turn the clause into a monster that has the power to wipe away all semblance of a moral order and justice in our country. True equal protection would be the consideration of the crime committed and not the underlying motives for the crime. True equal protection would be the even and fair handed application of justice to each and every case, regardless of the victims social, mental, racial or sexual status. By assuming that a crime committed against a homosexual is a hate crime, S. 1105 imposes a special protection on the legal procedure simply because the victim is a part of a 3% minority.

To not only assume that we can know the motives of a crime but to then reconstruct the system of justice to protect some more than others is a simple violation of the Constitution of the United States. For Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Smith to put forward this legislation, and then work so hard for its passage, indicates that they either do not fully understand the idea of equal protection, or that they simply prefer to disregard with reckless abandon the Constitution of the United States. As United States Senators these men need to seriously reconsider their support of S. 1105 in light of the oath that they have taken to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Partial justice is no justice at all. For the law to protect one group more than another is to destroy the idea that an absolute standard of right and wrong exists and that the justice system must act in accordance to that principle.