Cleaning Skeletons Out of the Closet

With Europeans intrigued by America’s unexpected success, Alexis de Tocqueville carried out an in-depth study of the new nation in the 1830s. He was quite impressed with our divided government, which featured the separation of powers.

This structure made it difficult for any one branch — executive, judicial or legislative — to acquire too much power and run roughshod over the other branches and the will of the American people. Unfortunately, today we are witnessing a largely unchecked executive branch issuing decrees that circumvent Congress while facing only tepid resistance.

In civilian life, when a contract is entered into by two parties, and it is subsequently discovered that one side knowingly presented false promises in order to consummate the deal, a legitimate lawsuit can be initiated on the basis of fraud. The Affordable Care Act is a prime example of such a contract in the form of a bill, which never would have been passed if it had been revealed that millions of people would lose the health insurance with which they were satisfied and that they might not be able to keep their doctors, among other promises.

Nevertheless, this massive case of fraud has not been legally challenged by the legislative branch, leaving one to wonder why.

We hear a great deal about “Chicago-style politics.” It is nothing more than a euphemism for political corruption, including bullying, blackmail and bribery. These pressures can be just as easily applied to national political figures as to local politicians.

Courage can be quite difficult to find when the threat of exposure hangs over one’s head. In an age when Big Brother is capable of watching everything we do, it is not hard to imagine a scenario in which large numbers of public servants are silenced or subdued by secretive threats.

I have had an opportunity to witness firsthand how the blackmail threat operates. Several years ago, while I was in the operating room, I received a call from one of the legal offices at Johns Hopkins University informing me that the state of Florida was trying to attach my wages for child support.

I was shocked at such an allegation and informed them that I have three children, which I already support very ably. They said a woman in Florida was accusing me of being the father of her son, and that she had proof of our relationship. The proof turned out to be knowledge of where I went to high school, college and medical school, and where I served my internship and residency. To top all of that off, she had a picture of me in scrubs. I said anyone could obtain such information. However, the paternity suit was pursued, and I had to involve my personal lawyer.

As the case advanced, I was asked to provide a blood specimen to facilitate DNA testing. I refused on the basis of the incompetence of any governmental agency that was willing to pursue a paternity suit on such flimsy grounds. I said that level of incompetence would probably result in my blood specimen being found at a murder scene and my spending the rest of my life in prison.

Shortly thereafter, the suit was dropped with no further ramifications. I’m virtually certain that the woman in Florida erroneously assumed that someone who travels as much as I do was engaging in numerous extramarital affairs and wouldn’t even remember all of the parties with whom they had been involved. Under such circumstances, she assumed I would be willing to fork over the money to avoid public embarrassment.

What she didn’t know is that I did not have to scratch my head and try to remember which affair she represented, because I know that the only woman I have ever slept with in my life is my wife. Even if that had not been the case, I think confession and dealing with the consequences would have been the best course of action.

In the early history of America, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton was seduced by the wife of a political enemy with the intention of blackmailing him into complying with their wishes. Hamilton publicly confessed his transgression, and the public forgave him, completely thwarting the plans of his adversaries.

I think the American people are just as forgiving today if people are willing to be honest. With so much at stake regarding our country’s future, I think now would be an excellent time to come clean for all national public figures who have been threatened by Chicago-style politics or who know that there are skeletons in their closets.

If it were all done in a short time span, the media would be overwhelmed, and the people would quickly understand the extent of the disgusting and dishonest practices infesting the highest levels of government.

Importantly, our public officials would be able to act with courage and conviction to rectify the corrupt practices that are all too readily ignored and that threaten the moral fabric of our nation. I am confident that the American people would be both forgiving and grateful for the willingness of public figures to take a risk to preserve the American way of life.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. To find out more about Ben Carson and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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Stuffland

There once was a land that had more stuff than any other place in the universe. It had so much stuff that they called it Stuffland. And in the Land of Stuff there lived a man who had accumulated more stuff than anyone else. He had so much stuff that they called him Lots-of-Stuff. Now, Lots-of-Stuff got his stuff the old fashioned way. He worked for it, sweated for it, and saved for it. He was proud of all his stuff. And then it happened. One day, Lots-of-Stuff got word that there was a new place in a far away land that had even more stuff than Stuffland. They called it New Stuffland. Lots-of-Stuff had to check it out for himself. So one day, Lots-of-Stuff got in his stuffmobile and drove down the stuffway until he came to this place called New Stuffland. He pulled into a stuffing lot, got out of his stuffmobile, and looked around. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He was looking at more stuff than he ever dreamed existed. Then the biggest, shiniest stuffmobile he had ever seen pulled into the stuffing lot and parked next to Lots-of-Stuff. A man got out. Lots-of-Stuff asked him to explain all the stuff. Before answering, the man opened the trunk of his stuffmobile and pulled out more stuff than Lots-of-Stuff had ever owned and handed it to Lots-of-Stuff. “Where do you get all this stuff?” asked the visitor to New Stuffland. “You must be from Old Stuffland,” said his new friend. “We used to be like that here. We had to work for our stuff, beg for our stuff, and do whatever it took to get more stuff. Then a stranger came to town and he gave us more stuff than we ever imagined. He said we could have all the stuff that really mattered on two conditions. First, he said we were to give our stuff away. And second, we were to tell people where we got it.” This stranger in the parable is Jesus. Lots-of-Stuff is you and me. We work for our stuff, sweat for our stuff, and do whatever it takes to get more stuff. A Time Magazine poll of several years ago found that what Americans want more than anything else is to be happy. To be happy, we need more stuff. The message of this Easter season is that a stranger has come to town. He came, not to criticize, polarize, or antagonize. He came to bring more stuff – the kind that matters most. This stranger came to the place you and I live, Old Stuffland. He lived among us, died among us, then rose from the dead. He came to introduce us to New Stuffland. Let’s consider three reasons this stranger came to Old Stuffland. First, he came to be one of us. Tourists travel to the Hawaiian Island of Molokai for its quiet charm, gentle breezes, and soft surf. But Father Damien came for a different reason. He came to help people die. He came to Molokai because leprosy came here first. It started about 1840. Because of their gross disfigurement, lepers were outcasts placed on a small piece of land called Kalaupapa. There they lived out their lives in isolation and poverty. Then, in 1873, Father Damien stepped into the picture. He pled with his supervisors, “I want to sacrifice myself for the poor lepers.” Father Damien entered their world, dressing their sores, hugging their children, and burying their dead. He sang to them and taught them about God’s love. He didn’t just join them; he became one of them. Due to his constant contact with them, he became a leper, too. He wrote to his friends, “It is one thing to treat a leper, but far better to become one.” On April 15, 1889, Father Damien died of leprosy. But he made a difference. He did what Jesus did. Not content to simply “treat” man, Jesus became a man and he died a man. But he did more than even Father Damien could do. He rose the third day, giving us victory. That is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Let me illustrate. The prophet Muhammad died on June 8, 632. He was buried in Medina, in present day Saudi Arabia. He is still there. Joseph Smith, first president of the Mormon Church, died on June 27, 1844. He was laid to rest in the Smith Family Cemetery in Carthage, Illinois. He is still there. Mahatma Gandhi, voice of the Hindu faith, was assassinated on January 30, 1948 and his ashes were scattered over a river. They are still there. Each of these great religious leaders has one thing in common. Where they were laid to rest, they remain. But Jesus rose the third day. That changes everything. Father Damien could have done a lot of things that were more fun than becoming a leper. Our consumer society says we all should strive to be Lots-of-Stuff. We want to get all we can, can all we get, and then sit on our can. We would rather sing “Sitting on the Premises” than “Standing on the Promises.” We seek the success Jesus scoffed at. We commit ourselves to causes that do not matter. I love the way noted author Francis Chan says it. “The great danger is not in failure, but in succeeding at things that don’t matter.” Jesus succeeded in what mattered. Second, Jesus came to encourage us. The resurrection is the most encouraging event ever. In one moment everything changed. Jesus was an encourager. When he walked on the water and found the disciples in panic mode, he didn’t chastise their fear; he replaced it. When he met the woman caught in adultery, he didn’t criticize her; he redirected her. Psychologists tell us we need 17 words of encouragement every day. John Assaraf and Murray Smith wrote a book, The Answer. They tell us of the negative impact of words on children. They write, “By the time you’re 17 years old, you’ve heard ‘No you can’t’ about 150,000 times. You have heard ‘Yes you can’ about 5,000 times. That is thirty ‘no’s for every ‘yes.’ That makes for a powerful belief of ‘I can’t.’” A boy pestered his dad into joining him for a game of darts. The boy threw all six darts at the board. Then he walked to the dart board and removed the darts, and he threw them again. He kept repeating this until his dad stopped him and said, “I thought you wanted me to play darts with you! How can I do that if you throw all the darts?” The boy responded, “Here’s how it works, Dad. I throw the darts and you say, ‘Good job.’” That’s what most of us are looking for. We get plenty of instruction, agitation, and perspiration. What we need is inspiration. And sometimes, you encourage people by just showing up. Ask Father Damien about that. Third, he came to give us a happy ending. A man went to a fortune teller to hear about his future. She looked into a crystal ball and said, “You will be poor and unhappy until you are 45 years old.” “Then what will happen?” asked the man. “Then you’ll get used to it,” he was told. There is more to life than life. It’s called grace. Philip Yancey wrote, “God has set the bar so high we could never get over it. And he has set grace so low that we can never be too low for it.” Here is the way I like to say it. There is nothing you can ever do that can make God love you more, and there is nothing you will ever do that will make him love you less. In movies, sporting events, and life, we all want a happy ending. A lady took her son to the animal shelter to pick out a dog. There were several pure breeds, many of great value. But the boy pointed at the mutt in the corner, whose tail was wagging briskly. “I want that dog,” he said. “But why do you want that one?” asked his mother. “Because his tail is wagging. I want the dog with the happy ending!” What will your ending be like? You didn’t get to write the first chapter in your book, but you will write the last. Jesus came to give you a happy ending. Lots-of-Stuff was like most of us. He had more stuff than he really needed. But he didn’t have the right stuff. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s okay to have stuff. It’s even okay to have lots of stuff. America is the modern Stuffland. We have more stuff than any other country. And there was a day when that was all any of us understood. Then a stranger came to town. He brought us more stuff than we ever imagined. No, his stuff wasn’t all about money, houses, and cars. His stuff is better than that. It lasts. And you can have it today. Just give it away. And don’t forget to tell people where you got it. That is the message of Easter. Welcome to New Stuffland! Dr. Mark Denison is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Conroe, Texas. He also serves as Chaplain for the Houston Rockets and is Board Chair at Houston Baptist University. His daily radio devotions are broadcast by K-STAR and his daily newspaper columns are found in the Conroe Daily Register. He has written for several publications, and his new book, The Daily Walk, is now available through Amazon.com and AustinBrothersPublishing.com.

The Rushmore Report: What Have I Learned?

Zig Ziglar - The Rushmore Report

Chuck Burck runs an upbeat burger place that caters to people of all ages. The following is a compilation of some of the things he has learned from others of all ages:

“If someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it.” (age 39)

“Even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.” (age 82)

“Motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone.” (age 50)

“Regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die.” (Age 53)

“I can’t hide broccoli in a glass of milk.” (age 7)

“I shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. I need to be able to throw something back.” (age 64)

“Brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s greatest pleasures.” (age 29).

“Wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers follow me!” (age 29)

“You can make someone’s day by simply sending a little card.” (age 44)

“When I wave to people in the country, they stop what they’re doing and wave back.” (age 9)

“You can tell a lot about a person by the way he handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.” (age 52)

“Making a living is not the same thing as making a life.” (age 58)

“I like my teacher because she cries when we sing ‘Silent Night.'” (age 7)

“There are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it.” (age 41)

“You should reach out and touch someone. People love human touch — holding hands, warm hugs or just a pat on the back.” (age 85)

“I still have a lot to learn.” (age 92)

As you noticed, we can learn from people of all ages, and as a matter of fact, if we ever want to teach others, we must make it a point to learn from others. Take that approach, and I’ll see you at the top!

To find out more about Zig Ziglar and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. Subscribe to Zig Ziglar’s free email newsletter through info@zigziglar.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM.

The Rushmore Report: How Do We Know That Jesus Is the Messiah?

carey_kinsolving

I asked this question to children as part of the Children’s International Arts Festival, at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. Alexandria Dubinin, 12, wrote a wonderful essay that won her family of six a dude ranch vacation at Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch in Yucca, Ariz. Here is her winning essay:

“Jesus gave us many signs to prove that He was the Messiah. He fulfilled prophecies, performed miracles and changed peoples’ lives.

“We know Jesus is the Messiah because Jesus knew who Nathanael was and what he was doing before Philip had introduced him to Jesus. Through this story, we can be sure that Jesus knows who we are and what we are doing every day. Only God has the ability to do this.

“Another way we know that Jesus is the Messiah is because he fulfilled all the prophecies that were made many years before Jesus came to the Earth. One of the earliest prophecies was made in Deuteronomy 18:15,18. It tells us that the Lord will raise up a prophet who will know everything. ‘A prophet’ refers to Jesus, and Jesus knows everything: past, present and future.

“Another prophecy is found in Isaiah 9:6-7. It says that the Lord will send a king who will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. He will reign forever in peace and justice. Through these prophecies and others, we know Jesus is the Messiah. He is the only way to salvation.

“Yet another way Jesus shows us that he is the Messiah is through the many miracles that he performed, miracles that only God can do. Jesus healed the sick, turned water into wine and changed peoples’ lives. Jesus will continue to change our lives when we choose to follow him.

“Unfortunately, many people do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, despite all these signs. Many have never even heard of Him. That is why it is our job as Christians to share the good news that Jesus is the Messiah and what he did for us to all the ends of the earth.”

I like the way Alexandria developed her essay. We have prophecy, miracles and changed lives. These three validate the messianic claims of Jesus Christ. Isn’t it amazing that most people never take the time to investigate these claims?

Author and Oxford don C.S. Lewis is famous for his statement that Jesus Christ is either a liar, a lunatic or God. He can’t be just a good man or a prophet because Jesus clearly claimed to be God (John 10:22-33). Good men and true prophets don’t lie. If Jesus wasn’t God, he was either the greatest deceiver of all time or a mad man.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to Corinthian Christians, he boasted that Jesus appeared to more than 500 men at once in his resurrection body (I Corinthians 15:6). He even said most of the 500 were still alive at the time of his writing. Jesus’ proclamation of victory over death wasn’t done in a dark corner. He dared his readers to validate his claims.

Think about this: The claims of Jesus Christ backed by predictive prophecy, recorded miracles and transformed lives deserve thorough investigation.

Memorize this truth: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Ask this question: Is Jesus your Messiah?

Listen to a talking book, download the “Kids Color Me Bible” for free, watch Kid TV Interviews and travel around the world by viewing the “Mission Explorers Streaming Video” at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. Bible quotations are from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted. To find out more about Carey Kinsolving and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CAREY KINSOLVING

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The Rushmore Report: Bigger Than Life

Tomb of The Unknown Soldier - The Rushmore Report

As twin brothers, Robert and John Horrigan did everything together. Whether it was hunting and fishing as boys or joining the U.S. Army as adults, their bond was one that could never be broken.

“The closest person to me on the face of the earth was my twin brother,” John, 49, said.

From an early age, Master Sgt. Robert Horrigan displayed qualities that would lead to him becoming one of America’s most respected battlefield warriors.

“He would give you the shirt off his back,” the soldier’s twin said. “Robert would do anything for anybody … if he had a dollar in his pocket and you needed it, he’d give it to you.”

Dollars were sometimes hard to come by as the Horrigan family endured financial struggles during parts of Robert and John’s boyhood.

“You earn what you’ve got, and my father, my mom … all of us were like that,” John said. “It takes hard work and dedication to get where you are, and Robert was the same way.”

In 1984, the Horrigan twins joined the U.S. Army. The brothers would eventually end up in the same Ranger platoon, where they served under Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the future commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“It was phenomenal being in the Army together with my brother,” John said.

Even though John had long since retired from military service by Sept. 11, 2001, he could see the impact the terrorist attacks had on his brother, who had earned a coveted spot on the Army’s elite Delta Force.

“I know it affected him a lot, especially with the unit he was with,” the soldier’s brother said. “He went down and got the U.S. flag tattooed on his left (pectoral muscle).”

By December 2001, Robert was hunting Osama bin Laden in what would become one of the most important chapters of the entire U.S.-led war on terrorism.

“Robert was in Tora Bora,” John said. “Robert told me was running through a field not far from (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar’s house.”

In the years to come, Robert was part of many historic battles. His astounding bravery and heroism has been chronicled in several books, and quickly became legendary in military circles.

“Robert saw Gen. McChrystal about 15 years after we were in Ranger battalion, and Stanley remembered,” John recalled. “For someone to remember your name 15 years later is pretty incredible.”

Still, the burdens placed on Robert’s shoulders were almost superhuman in nature.

“Robert went to Afghanistan three times and went to Iraq five times,” his twin said.

Having served in the military himself, John knew that his brother was frequently in life or death situations. He remembers one particular conversation they had about preparing for the worst.

“If I get killed, you’re just going to have to get over it,” Robert told his twin.

“It’s easier said than done,” John replied.

By 2005, John was a firefighter in Austin, Texas, while Robert, who was married with one daughter, was starting to look beyond his 19-year military career.

“He wanted to get out and he wanted to make knives,” John said. “He enjoyed the craft of it.”

Before he retired from the Army, Robert volunteered for one last deployment with his Delta Force brothers.

“If you’re going, I’m going with you,” the master sergeant told his commanding officer.

As Robert fought insurgents in Iraq and John fought fires in Austin, the Horrigan twins kept in close touch via email. But one summer day, their frequent communication suddenly ceased.

On June 17, 2005, Master Sgt. Robert Horrigan, 40, was killed while raiding a suspected enemy safe house in al-Qaim, Iraq. Master Sgt. Michael McNulty, 36, who was also killed in the fierce battle, also left behind a twin brother.

“I loved my brother so much that I wouldn’t want him to experience the pain I’m going through,” John said. “Losing him was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

John Horrigan, who makes knives while he’s not fighting fires, is proud of his twin brother’s three Bronze Star medals. But to this day, he admires Robert’s mettle most.

“Robert was bigger than life,” he said. “He is and will always be my hero.”

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Robert Horrigan fought in some of the military’s most significant post-9/11 battles. The Delta Force soldier, 40, was killed in Iraq on June 17, 2005. Photo courtesy of John Horrigan.

Tom Sileo is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of “BROTHERS FOREVER: The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice.” Written with Col. Tom Manion (Ret.) and published by Da Capo Press, “BROTHERS FOREVER” will be released in spring 2014. To find out more about Tom Sileo or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM

The Rushmore Report: Millennials Playing the Confidence Game

Suzanne Fields - The Rushmore Report

No generation stands still for a snapshot. Even when making a selfie, friends, acquaintances and bystanders sneak into the frame, ruining the message that it’s “all about me.” (You could ask Ellen DeGeneres.)

So it was a big task undertaken when the Pew Research Center set out to capture the “Millennials in Adulthood,” to distill the essence of a generation now between the ages of 18 and 33.

“Generations, like people, have personalities,” the researchers say, and this cohort, starting in its late teens pressing into adulthood, “have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.” Of course, as soon as the words capture the imagination, contradictions and paradoxes emerge. As they forge into adulthood, the millennials are passing milestones later than any other generation before them, measured by work, marriage and children.

Whatever they’re doing, you can bet they’re recording it.

Confidence and self-expression depend on technology: what you blog, tweet, post and send. Since the millennials are “digital natives,” the first generation to get laptops as toddler toys, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that 81 percent of them are on Facebook, claiming an average of 250 “friends,” and more than half have posted a selfie on a social-media site. But it may surprise us that 9 in 10 millennials are critical of too much self-expression and exposure online. They worry that a friend or relative will show and tell something embarrassing about them. Virtual narcissism is a double-edged reflection.

Generational surveys of the young produce snapshots that freeze a moment in the fluid passage of life, but they’re only the beginning of the family album, and it will take a series of albums over the years to accurately capture them.

If you start with the grandparents of millennials, unfairly labeled “the silent generation,” born between 1928 to 1945, you’re likely to see smiling family groups where a father is the breadwinner, the mother is a stay-at-home mom, and the children are neatly dressed, the wholesome unit much maligned today.

Few want to go back to that stereotype, but we couldn’t if we wanted to. Attitudes and the economy have changed, but there are a lot of unhappy people today who miss some of the things in those family photographs.

The nuclear family had its problems and limitations, but the new college graduate didn’t expect to boomerang home to a bedroom with a fading poster of Marilyn Monroe on the wall. Nor would Lena Dunham, the protagonist of HBO’s “Girls,” showing off too much of her chubby nude body, have been the sitcom icon of the educated female of that silent generation.

You’ll find no twerkers in this survey and few women who “lean in.” Women in this cohort have more education than men, and both men and women have fewer job opportunities than their parents or grandparents did.

One in eight of the older millennials are now living at home, largely because of harder times. What’s touching is that a majority says they’re willing to return the favor, showing a sense of responsibility and generosity toward an aging parent who may want to come live with them.

Statistical surveys don’t reach personal stories, and there’s certainly a disconnect between the millennial optimism and their current reality. They usually want to marry and have children, and rank such aspirations far above achievement in a career.

Nevertheless, they aren’t marrying or working up to those expectations. Only 26 percent have tied the knot. That’s considerably lower than 36 percent of the Gen Xers, 48 percent of baby boomers and 65 percent of the silent generation at their age. Almost half of the millennial women have children out of wedlock. There’s less stigma, but there’s also less child support.

They want an active big government, and think health insurance is the government’s responsibility. Like nearly everyone else, they don’t much like Obamacare. It’s precisely this group President Obama tried to reach this week when he stooped to plug government health care on Zach Galifianakis’ online cult comedy show.

The millennials are on track to become the most educated (or most “schooled”) generation in American history, but what they’ll do with that education is not clear. Of the three generations living before them, they’re the only group that takes no pride in the “work ethic.”

They don’t dress for success, 4 in 10 have tattoos (usually more than one) and they pierce their skin in places beyond their earlobes. They’ll have to change the dress code if they’re lucky enough to find a job in an office. A majority says the older generations are superior to them in both moral values and work discipline. The millennials still have a lot to prove when they grow up.

Write to Suzanne Fields at: suzannefields2000@gmail.com. Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM

The Rushmore Report: 65 Million Reasons for Optimism

Scott Rasmussen - The Rushmore Report

I am an optimist. I believe that America’s best days are still to come and today’s children will live a life far better than their parents and grandparents.

The vast majority of Americans are more pessimistic, and it’s easy to understand why. Looking at the behavior and performance of our political leaders, there’s little reason for hope.

That’s why I look in places like Johnstown, Penn., rather than Washington, D.C. Last week, I spoke in Johnstown at the Chamber of Commerce annual dinner. I met many good hardworking people who devote a lot of time, energy, money and talent to making their community a better place to live and work. There were business leaders, a university president, heads of civic organizations, community volunteers, some local politicians and more.

These good people roll up their sleeves and get things done … and they’re not alone. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, there are 65 million Americans who volunteer their time through a civic organization. All told, they contributed just less than 8 billion hours last year, time worth an estimated $175 billion dollars.

The largest number volunteered through churches and other religious organizations (34 percent), with another large group through schools and educational programs (26 percent).

Volunteer activity can be found improving communities in all demographic groups. The highest level of engagement is among those ages 35-44, followed closely by those 45-54. But a third of the nation’s volunteers are under 35, and another third are over 55.

There are only modest differences along racial lines, and women are a bit more likely than men to volunteer. People who live in urban areas are somewhat less likely than those in rural and suburban areas to volunteer, but the differences are small.

There are some geographic differences with places in the middle of the country generally enjoying higher levels of volunteer activity. But the big story is that volunteering to solve problems is a truly all-American activity. It can be found in every nook and cranny of the nation, among all segments of society.

People who volunteer are also generous with their wallets. They are twice as likely to donate to charities as other Americans.

The people I met in Johnstown, and the 65 million other volunteers around the country, fill me with hope, because they are addressing the real needs of our society and solving real problems. Many of them, however, don’t share my hope for a simple reason. They are so busy solving one problem after another, they don’t recognize that they are shaping and saving the nation at the same time.

In America, change always begins in the popular culture and society. Politics and politicians always lag a decade or two behind. That was true at the founding of our nation when the colonies thought of themselves as independent for decades before the Revolution. It was also true for the suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and other great shifts in American history.

That’s why I see a bright future for our country. I recognize that there are 535 reasons in Congress to be pessimistic. More importantly, though, in Johnstown and other communities throughout the land, there are 65 million reasons for optimism.

To find out more about Scott Rasmussen, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 SCOTT RASMUSSEN

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The Rushmore Report: 7 Steps to Spring Clean Your Money

Terry Savage - The Rushmore Report

Its time for a spring money cleanup. I’m not suggesting you run your cash through the washing machine. Instead, you might want to invest in a file box and a small home shredder and start getting rid of excess paper that clogs up the view of your finances. Now that you’ve finally organized enough to finish your taxes, it’s the perfect time for a spring money clean up.

Here are seven steps to take now.

1. Save only the necessary paper, and save in an organized way. Yes, you needed receipts for business expenses, so clean out a small drawer or buy a wire desktop basket and clean out your wallet regularly, throwing those receipts into the basket. It’s amazing how much time you will save — and how much money — next April, or when you file your expense reimbursement forms at work.

2. Stop receiving paper when you can. There’s no need to get bank statements in the mail every month, since your bank allows you access to an online archive. Similarly, elect to receive your brokerage and mutual fund statements online. You can easily vote your share holdings online. If everyone did that, we would save a forest every year!

3. Consolidate accounts. There’s definitely a point at which having too many financial accounts complicates your ability to make smart money decisions. You’ll want to stay under the insured limits for bank CD’s, but that doesn’t mean you need small accounts in different banks. In fact, I’d you have a larger profile at one bank, you could pay less in fees or get free checking. Similarly, consolidating stock-trading accounts could earn you commission discounts. Fewer accounts means fewer organizational challenges.

4. Organize your financial life. You can’t completely eliminate paper, but you can keep it organized. If you were killed in an accident today, would your family know where to find all your assets? What about your life insurance policies, your will and trusts, your cemetery deed? Do your loved ones a favor and buy a small, locked file box and leave instructions. (You can get a link to my free financial organizer form at TerrySavage.com, to serve as a guide for your family.)

5. Deal with your credit cards. If you’re carrying more than two or three cards in your wallet, leave some at home. If you don’t use some cards anymore, consider closing the accounts. (But hang onto your oldest cards, as longevity helps your credit score.) And make a list of outstanding balances and finance rates on each card, so you can pay them down more rationally.

6. Make a list of everything in your wallet. If your wallet or purse were stolen, would you even know what’s missing? List the cards, account numbers — and the toll-free number listed on the back of the card so you can act quickly in case of theft. Don’t forget your driver’s license number! And take anything with your Social Security number out of your wallet. That includes Medicare cards for seniors!

7. Review your 401(K) or IRA investment choices. The first quarter has just ended and this is a good time to make adjustments. For unbiased advice, use the free link to FinancialEngines.com on TerrySavage.com. Most of the Fortune 100 companies offer this service to their retirement plan participants. They’ll let you know how to best adjust your portfolio to reach your retirement goals.

Well, that is a seven-point financial spring-cleaning list. If you do one every day, you’ll be finished in a week. And you’ll feel a lot better for having accomplished it. That’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5’s 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, “The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?” “Terry answers readers’ personal finance questions on her blog at www.TerrySavage.com. To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 TERRY SAVAGE PRODUCTIONS

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The Rushmore Report: Declaring the Obamacare Debate Over Won’t Save Democrats

David Limbaugh - The Rushmore Report

Apart from gutting America’s military, our standing in the world, our fiscal stability, the economy, the office of the presidency, conventional energy sources, the free market and religious liberty, Obama has little to boast about other than Obamacare, so let him go for it.

Yes, let him gloat, because the more he bloviates in defense of the indefensible — the more he spins the unspinnable — the more damage he’ll do to the cause he’s trying to promote: the election of Democratic congressmen in November.

Obama wasn’t content with having just one news conference to tout the “success” of his Obamacare sign-up efforts, the one in which he fraudulently claimed he had met his goal of enrolling 7 million new people to fund this monster. As I’ve previously written, that number was staggeringly misleading for a variety of reasons, including that millions of new enrollees already had other coverage, far too few were in the necessary “young and healthy” category, 15 to 20 percent of the enrollees hadn’t secured coverage because they hadn’t paid their premiums, and an estimated 1 million more people lost their insurance and couldn’t afford to replace it because Obamacare’s mandated coverage provisions caused premiums to increase. (Also, how hard is it to add enrollees when uninsured Americans have a gun to their heads to force them to acquire insurance? Isn’t this kind of like a bank robber’s bragging about his “earnings?”)

Obama conducted another self-congratulatory news conference just a few days ago to celebrate that 8 million people have now signed up, and this time, he was even more baselessly triumphant. As you may have heard, he declared — he is the president, after all — that the debate is now over and instructed his subjects — i.e., Republicans — that “it’s well past time to move on.”

Oh, maybe that’s why he wouldn’t respond to questions during the first news conference. Why should he have to provide information when there’s nothing left to discuss? Silly us.

I’m not quite sure, though, that this “debate is over” edict is going to work too well, as a recent Fox News poll reports that 61 percent of Americans believe that Obama “lies” about important public issues either “most of the time” or “some of the time.” As The Washington Examiner’s editors aptly noted, “no other president in living memory has conducted himself in a manner that warranted even asking if such a description was appropriate.”

There is just no getting around Obama’s Obamacare lies: “If you like your doctor or health care provider, you can keep them,” and health care insurance premiums for an average family of four will go down by some $2,500.

As painfully narcissistic as Obama is, the immediate reason he is so often sprinting to the presidential podium now — when he otherwise studiously avoids it — is not to defend Obamacare because it’s his “baby,” though that is a close second. It is to change the narrative on Obamacare in a desperate attempt to prevent an electoral bloodbath for Democrats in November.

Unhappily for Obama, one of his biggest Obamacare lies — the one that served as the main premise underlying our allegedly urgent need for Obamacare in the first place — has yet to be fully realized by the American public he continues to victimize with this law.

The primary impetus for Obamacare was that 46 million Americans were uninsured and Obamacare would correct that. Forget the unconscionable fraud in that number, and put aside the fact that Obamacare is not getting appreciably more people insured. Even if it ends up doing better, don’t forget that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that after the law is fully implemented, some 30 million will remain uninsured.

The main fraud in Obama’s sales pitch about the millions of uninsured is its implication that insurance coverage equals access to care. No matter how many net millions more, if any, end up with coverage, what about their access to care, the quality of care they will receive, their ability to choose their doctors and type of care, and the cost of it all — to individuals and to the government?

People are discovering the inevitable with Obamacare — that with their newly acquired insurance, many doctors will not accept them for treatment. This is forcing people to drive long distances to get physician and hospital care. People are being forced to switch doctors they like. Their premiums are being jacked up.

On top of all this, Obama’s economy continues to tank, and he is demonstrating himself to be a foreign policy buffoon, dragging down America’s image after promising to rebuild it.

Obama can declare the debate over all he wants to, but if the debate is now over, Republicans will win in November — big-time — which means, with a little hope and prayer, that we’re moving that much closer to repealing his “signature achievement,” restoring America’s military, addressing the debt, reinvigorating the market and reinstituting policies of economic growth.

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book, “The Great Destroyer,” reached No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction. Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at www.davidlimbaugh.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM

The Rushmore Report: Outwitting the Purveyors of Dependency

Ben Carson - The Rushmore Report

Divide and conquer is an age-old strategy, effectively used by many in positions of power to ensure that they retain their wealth and authority.

During the dark days of slavery in America, there were many geographic areas where the number of slaves significantly surpassed the number of whites and slave owners. This occasioned appropriate anxiety for the owners, who cleverly sowed seeds of discord among the different groups of slaves in an attempt to effectively destroy unity. For example, field slaves were told that the house slaves thought of themselves as superior.

This worked in most cases, although there were notable instances of secret cooperation between the slaves to accomplish various goals. It required real wisdom and insight to avoid easy manipulation by the slave owners, who usually used slaves loyal to them to accomplish their nefarious objectives.

In today’s culture, there are political forces that see the descendants of slaves as useful objects for maintaining their positions of wealth and power. By promising to care for their every need, they create dependency.

Frightening those dependents into thinking they will be abandoned if others are in control, they create loyalty that is undeserved but fierce, loyalty that translates into the real goal: votes. Anything or anyone that threatens this paradigm of victim and protector must be destroyed, lest the victims recognize the deceitfulness of their manipulators and revolt.

The most dangerous people to the modern manipulators are people who have freed themselves from the plantation mentality. They eschew the propaganda of victimhood and advocate for personal responsibility. They see the value found in the true compassion of a hand up rather than a handout.

The tragedy is that many “leaders” of the black community succumb to the poison of the controlling elites, who make them feel “cool” and important. I’m sure that some actually realize what is happening, but — like the kids you remember in high school — they don’t want to risk being ostracized and expelled from the “in crowd” and therefore remain silent.

It is so important for the black community to realize that there is tremendous strength in unity and that disagreement on some issues does not have to create animosity. In fact, by engaging in open discussions rather than demonizing, a great deal can be learned by all parties.

I am a registered independent, but I have many friends who are Democrats and many who are Republicans. One friend who identifies himself as a Democrat left Alabama at age 16 and headed to Boston in search of employment. He accidentally ended up in Hartford, Conn., and worked in a lowly position as a construction aide for a hotel that was being built. This young black man from Birmingham had a strong work ethic and was gifted with common sense.

Today, he not only owns that hotel, but he also owns many other businesses and is a philanthropist. We do not disagree about most important things, but we have some political disagreements, which have no negative impact on our friendship or our ability to work together on projects. If someone tried to exploit our differences, we would have a hearty laugh at their expense.

Those who spew venom at black conservatives would do well to read about the lives and philosophies of such luminaries as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and many others who refused to subscribe to the victim mentality.

They should make an attempt to understand what it takes to ascend from the lifestyle of Southern sharecroppers to the office of secretary of state of the United States of America. Perhaps then they would rally to the side of Condoleezza Rice, who achieved this and much more including becoming a concert pianist. When the black community tolerates a group of liberal Rutgers professors who succeeded in disinviting Rice to their commencement because she is a black conservative, they embolden the controlling elites and dramatically minimize accomplishments that any ethnic group should be proud of.

We must fight for the precious hearts and souls of all of our young people. We have to give them the “can-do” attitude that characterized the rapid ascension of America. We must defang the dividers by ignoring them and thinking for ourselves.

I wish the haters and manipulators would take a moment to examine their hearts and motives. I hope they will think about using their intellectual talents for good. They would be wise to ask themselves this question: How much good did being one of the cool guys in high school do in the long run? Let us all give honor to the concepts of hard work, integrity, kindness, compassion, personal responsibility, family values, and faith in and obedience to God.

Many people from all backgrounds gave up their freedom, their blood and even their lives to provide a life of liberty and dignity for those trapped by the chains of legal discrimination and hatred. We must not allow their sacrifice to become meaningless by allowing “do-gooders” to substitute the chains of overt racism with the chains of dependency, low expectations, victimhood and misdirected anger.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. To find out more about Ben Carson and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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