Elvis’ Last Song

Elvis Pressley will forever be missed. So let’s go back and remember his last song. The date was June 26, 1977. The place was Indianapolis, Indiana. The arena was Market Square. The concert was sold out. Elvis had been in failing health for years, often cancelling his shows or under so much medication that his speech was slurred and his movements minimal. At 42, the greatest entertainer in American history was an old and dying man. As his final concert neared its end, Elvis sang what would be his final song, as he never appeared on stage again, and died just two months later.

His last song was eerie. He sang the 1960 hit song that went gold, Are You Lonesome Tonight? Seconds before the song, he said to the audience, “Are you lonesome tonight? I know I am.” He forgot some of the words as he stumbled his way through it. He never performed again. Two months later, he was found dead on his Graceland bathroom floor in Memphis. Presley’s abuse of prescription drugs had brought on two comas, damaged his liver, and now ended his life.

Elvis was the most amazing entertainer we had ever seen. From the day he first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956 until his last days, Elvis was an icon without equal. It was no wonder 80,000 fans lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery. President Carter mourned with America, offering his own words of eulogy. Inducted into more music halls of fame than any other performer, Elvis’ memory still lives. Every year, on the date of his death, thousands gather at his home in Memphis to celebrate his life all over again.

But let’s return to that night in Indianapolis 38 years ago. The most beloved singer in American history, adored by millions worldwide, took the stage for the last time. Of the dozens of #1 hits he could have ended with, he chose Are You Lonesome Tonight? His final spoken words on stage still echo through time. “Are you lonesome tonight? I know I am.” Elvis Presley had everything this world can possibly offer. But he didn’t have peace.

Are you lonesome tonight? Think of the lyrics as if they were written from God to you. He would ask, “Are you lonesome tonight? Do you miss me tonight? Are you sorry we drifted apart?” Elvis was lonesome. But he treated his emptiness with the wrong drug. Blaise Pascal had it right when he said, “There is in the heart of every man a God-shaped emptiness that only God can fill.” If you are among the billions of hurting, lonely people in the world today, there is hope. You will not find peace until you find it in God. He offers you that peace through his son, Jesus Christ. There is no reason for you to go to bed lonesome tonight.

 

The Rushmore Report – A Surprising History of the National Income Tax

As tax day approaches, a review of the history of the American tax system is in order. The U.S. government has been taxing its citizens for most of its history. However, during the early years, the tax was minimal and applied only to the affluent. Beginning with the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal, that all changed.

Since FDR, the government has been growing larger and requiring more and more revenue. Let’s review the individual income tax and the corporate income tax.

A Brief History of the U.S. Income Tax

During the American Revolution (1775-1783), most states levied a faculty tax, which was a tax on a person’s property and ability to earn income from commerce or trade. For several years after the Revolution, there was no national tax and the government provided very little for its citizens. The Constitution of 1789 gave taxation powers to the federal government to “pay the debts and provide for the common welfare of the United States.”

Because of the Civil War (1861-1865), the U.S. government levied a temporary income tax on individuals. Decades later, in 1894, Congress enacted the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act, which included a two percent flat tax on incomes over $4,000 ($115,000 in today’s dollars). This tax affected fewer than 10 percent of households and was the first tax levied during peacetime.

The modern tax era was birthed in 1913, with the passage of the 16th Amendment, allowing for a federal income tax. This applied mostly to high wage earners.

The top marginal bracket was raised to 77 percent to pay for World War I. By the 1920s, the top bracket was back down to 25 percent. This fueled the “Roaring Twenties,” a bubble in the financial markets, followed by the Great Depression of 1828.

Corporate Income Tax

The corporate tax has ranged from six to 15 percent. Beginning in 1943, the percentage collected via corporate tax began to deline. But the personal income tax has not wavered much. Today, the corporate tax generates far less revenue for the government than does the personal income tax.

Conclusion

Today, we have a tax code of over 700,000 pages. It is unwieldly, cumbersome, and entirely too complex. Moreover, the individual income tax is the largest source of federal revenue. With an ever-expanding federal government, it seems plausible that future taxes will be more creative and less obvious to the casual observer. However, because government’s primary targets are individuals and corporations, any additional tax on businesses will only serve to drive companies away.

As companies leave the U.S., the country could become like Detroit, once a beautiful city with a strong tax base. Today, its tax base has migrated to other localities, leaving the city with a severe tax shortage. Could the U.S. become like Detroit on a larger scale? Yes, if politicians continue to attack the golden goose. The prudent path would be to cut spending and implement greater fiscal control in Washington. It is no longer acceptable to give politicians a blank check to use for personal gain. We need the George Washingtons of this nation to step forward, serve the country, and return to private life to live under the rules and regulations that they helped to enact.

About the Author

Mike Patton is a contributor to Forbes.

George Washington Turns 186 Today

If he had not died on December 14, 1799, he would be celebrating his 184th birthday today. On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the second son from the second marriage of a colonial plantation owner. An initially loyal British subject, Washington eventually led the Continental Army in the American Revolution and became known as the father of the United States. George Washington’s legacy has endured a long process of untangling myth from fact. The famous cherry tree incident never occurred, nor did Washington have wooden teeth. Known for being emotionally reserved and aloof, he was concerned with personal conduct, character, and self-discipline but was known to bend the rules if necessary, especially in war. Although Washington was undoubtedly ambitious, he pursued his goals humbly and with quiet confidence in his abilities as a leader.

During this election cycle, Republicans are asking, “Who’s the next Ronald Reagan?” Democrats are asking, “Who’s the next John Kennedy?” A better question might be, “Who’s the next George Washington?” Let’s consider three traits demonstrated by our first president that we sorely need in national leadership today.

  1. George Washington was an humble man. In his first inaugural address, he said, “I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.” He declined “any share in the personal emoluments” or monetary gains for himself. Never intoxicated with power, in his second inaugural address, he subjected himself to “the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.” He could have been a king; he chose to be a president. The Bible says, “Be completely humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2). Humility was perhaps the most significant character trait of our first president.
  2. George Washington was a man of self-discipline. In her book, Meet George Washington, Joan Heilbroner describes a man of incredible self-discipline. She quotes him as regularly challenging himself, “Undertake not what you cannot perform.” He said, “It’s better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” No one farmed harder or fought harder than George Washington. He outworked his staff and outlived his contemporaries. Every day was filled with purpose. George Washington was the embodiment of self-discipline. Paul said, “God gave us a spirit of self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7), a spirit demonstrated daily by President Washington.
  3. George Washington was a man of high character. In 1788 he wrote to his trusted confidant Alexander Hamilton, “I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain the character of an honest man.” In leading the War for Independence, he extolled his soldiers to “display the character appropriate to Christian soldiers.” Though gifted as a leader, statesman, and military genius, what mattered most to George Washington was not to win the battles of war, but the battles of the heart. Paul told young Timothy to “pursue righteousness” (1 Timothy 6:11). That was a pursuit that filled George Washington’s life.

President’s Day was created to honor the first president of the United States. Was he our greatest president? The answer seems obvious; without him there would have been no others. So as we celebrate the man who would be 184 years old today, let’s do so, not with another statue or monument, but by committing to being the kind of people worthy of the sacrifice of the man who gave all he had to create a better country than the world had ever known.

First Teddy Bear Goes on Sale

This month in 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom placed two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed, and before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution. Reports differ as to the exact details of the inspiration behind the Teddy bear, but it is thought that while hunting in Mississippi in 1902, Roosevelt came upon an old injured black bear that his guides had tied to a tree. While some reports claim Roosevelt shot the bear out of pity for his suffering, others insist he set the bear free. Political cartoonists later portrayed the bear as a cub, implying that under the tough, outdoorsy, and macho image of Roosevelt lay a much softer, more sensitive interior.

We all had stuffed teddy bears as kids, or in my case, a stuffed lion. I still have it. Why? Because it reminds me of the loneliness from which we all run. The teddy bear brings comfort and a sense of companionship, for which we were all created. Genesis says it is not good for man to be alone. Ecclesiastes said two are better than one and three are better than two. God allows you to travel difficult roads at times, but never are you to travel them alone. That is the lesson of the most rugged president our land has ever had. And that is the lesson of the teddy bear, who turns 113 years old this month.

It Happened in January

January 1, 1863 – Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

January 2, 1788 – Georgia entered the Union.

January 3, 1959 – Alaska became the 49th state in America.

January 4, 1989 – The United States shot down two Libyan fighters.

January 5, 1933 – President Calvin Coolidge died.

January 6, 1919 – President Theodore Roosevelt died.

January 7, 1789 – George Washington won the first presidential election.

January 8, 1814 – General Andrew Jackson led American forces to a win in the Battle of New Orleans to end the War of 1812.

January 9, 1861 – Mississippi seceded from the Union.

January 10, 1933 – The Holocaust began.

January 11, 1757 – Alexander Hamilton was born.

January 12, 1722 – The Alamo was built.

January 13, 1969 – The Beatles released their album, Yellow Submarine.

January 14, 1914 – Henry Ford introduced the assembly line.

January 15, 1967 – The Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl.

January 16, 1920 – Prohibition began.

January 17, 1950 – Brinks, Inc. reported a robbery of $2.8 million.

January 18, 1862 – President John Tyler died.

January 19, 1955 – President Eisenhower held the first televised presidential news conference.

January 20, 1981 – Iran released 52 American hostages.

January 21, 1977 – President Jimmy Carter pardoned all Vietnam draft evaders.

January 22, 1973 – On the day that President Lyndon Johnson died, the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision.

January 23, 1789 – Georgetown University was founded.

January 24, 1848 – Gold was discovered in California.

January 25, 1949 – The first Emmy Awards were held.

January 26, 1870 – Virginia was readmitted to the Union.

January 27, 1880 – Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.

January 28, 1986 – The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after take-off.

January 29, 1845 – Edgar Allan Poe published The Raven.

January 30, 1933 – Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

January 31, 1861 – Robert E. Lee was named General-in-Chief of the Confederate Army.

The Rushmore Report: You Think Politics Is Rough Now – The VP Who Killed a Man

You think politics is rough now? We cringe when we hear of President Trump’s daily tweets. Then we hear the despicable things many in the media say about him. Democrats blast Republicans and Republicans blast Democrats – daily. But this is nothing compared to what happened this week in history. On July 11, 1804, the sitting Vice President of the United States killed the former Secretary of the Treasury in a duel.

It was the culmination of a long and bitter rivalry between the two men.

In the early morning hours of July 11, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton departed by separate boats from Manhattan and rowed across the Hudson River to a spot known as the Heights of Weehawken in New Jersey, a popular dueling ground below the towering cliffs of the Palisades. Hamilton and Burr agreed to take the duel to Weehawken because although dueling had been prohibited in both states, New York more aggressively prosecuted the crime. (The same site was used for 18 known duels between 1700 and 1845.)

In an attempt to prevent the participants from being prosecuted, procedures were implemented to give all witnesses plausible deniability. For example, the pistols were transported to the island in a portmanteau, enabling the rowers (who also stood with their backs to the duelists) to say under oath that they had not seen any pistols.

All first-hand accounts of the duel agree that two shots were fired; however, Hamilton’s and Burr’s seconds disagreed on the intervening time between the shots. It was common for both principals in a duel to fire a shot at the ground to exemplify courage, and then the duel could come to an end. Hamilton fired first, and into the air, though it is not clear that Burr perceived him to be “throwing away his fire” (as it did not follow the standard protocol).

Burr returned fire and hit Hamilton in the lower abdomen above the right hip. The musket ball ricocheted off Hamilton’s second or third rib – fracturing it – and caused considerable damage to his internal organs, particularly his liver and diaphragm before becoming lodged in his first or second lumbar vertebra. Hamilton collapsed immediately, dropping the pistol involuntarily, and Burr moved toward Hamilton before being hustled away behind an umbrella, as rowers were already approaching.

Hamilton was carried away, to the home of William Bayard, where he died the next day with his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, at his side.

Is politics rough today? Sure it is. But things could be worse. So the next time you feel things have really gotten out of hand, remember Mr. Hamilton.

The Rushmore Report: A Christian Response to the Manchester Attack

Evangelists Greg Laurie and Franklin Graham have taken to their social media pages to comment on Monday night’s bombing in Manchester, England, that the Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for. After hearing of the attack that claimed at least 22 lives, Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California called on Christians to pray for the protection of the Unites States.

Laurie wrote, “I just heard the terrible news about what appears to be a terrorist attack in Manchester, England. This is horrible and this is happening while our president is meeting with leaders to try to fight terrorism. We need to realize that there is a spiritual dynamic in play here. When our president says this is good versus evil, there is a lot of truth to that.”

Graham wrote on his Facebook page, “The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the horrific carnage of Monday night’s bombing, targeting children, teens, and their parents who were attending a concert. They’re proud of this despicable and cowardly act.” He continued, “Islam is a threat to our way of life.”

Meanwhile, religious freedom advocate Johnnie Moore, who sits on the president’s evangelical advisory board, quoted from the Old Testament, then called on Americans to pray for the victims and their families.

Graham agreed, adding, “Pray also that God would give wisdom to our leaders in combating this and the courage to identify what it is by name – Islamic terrorism.”

About the Author

Samuel Smith writes for Christian Post.

The Warren Commission

One week after President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot, President Lyndon Johnson established a special commission, headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination – on this date in 1963. After ten months of gathering evidence, the Warren Commission released their report, concluding there was no evidence of a conspiracy, either domestic or international, in the assassination, and that Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, acted alone.

The presidential commission also found that Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who murdered Oswald on live national television, had no prior contact with Oswald. According to the report, the bullets that killed President Kennedy and injured Texas Governor John Connally were fired by Oswald in three shots from a rifle pointed out of a sixth floor window in the Texas School Book Depository.

Despite its seemingly firm conclusions, the report failed to silence conspiracy theories surrounding the event. In 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in a preliminary report that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime. The committee’s findings, as with the findings of the Warren Commission, continue to  be widely disputed.

So what happened that fatal day in Dallas, 53 years ago? In a recent survey, nearly 70 percent of the American people indicated they believe the Warren Commission had it wrong, and there were multiple shooters.

I have my own opinion. I’m sure you have yours. The fact is, no one really knows for sure. That’s how it is with life. Despite millions of hours spent by experts pouring over the evidence, despite re-examination upon re-examination of the famous Zupruder film, no one knows.

There are some things in this life that no one knows or understands. And that is a good thing. It serves to remind us that there is One to whom we can turn that has answers man can never find on his own.

The Rushmore Report: Why Christians Must Vote in This Election

I hear the lament often from conservative Christians as I travel the country. “How can I vote for either of these candidates with a clear conscience?” Increasingly, many Christians are choosing the stay-at-home option (or throw away their vote with a write-in candidate option) as a way to maintain their integrity. Frankly, I understand the appeal of such a choice. But there are three reasons that not voting is not an option for a Christian.

1. Voting is a God-given privilege and responsibility.

Many times I’m challenged by Christians who wonder why I am involved in politics. “After all, didn’t the apostle Paul instruct believers to simply ‘pray for kings and all those who are in authority’?” But remember, in biblical times, citizens of Rome or Israel did not have the option of doing anything about government leaders except to pray for them. You didn’t get to vote for the king or emperor.

But as John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and co-author of The Federalist Papers said, “God has given to our people the choice of their leaders . . . of our Christian nation.”

2. Voting is a primary way for Christians to stop evil.

Imagine  you saw an elderly woman being assaulted by a mugger and you had the ability to stop the assault, but walked away. Although you might not be legally culpable for the attack, you would be morally culpable.

Every year more than one million of the most defenseless in our society – the unborn – are being murdered through abortion. Since the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court, more than 50 million children have been killed.

Donald Trump has pledged to nominate Supreme Court justices who will either overturn Roe v. Wade or at least curtail late-term abortions including the horrific practice of partial birth abortion.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton has pledged to nominate justices who will uphold abortion. Additionally, she refuses to place any restrictions on abortion, regardless of the reason for or the timing of the abortion.

The war against religious liberty will escalate under Hillary Clinton, who is resolved to nominate Supreme Court justices who embrace an expansionist view of the Constitution. She will push for continuation of Obama policies of transgenger rights, as well.

3. Voting is about endorsing policies, not personalities.

Ronald Reagan was a known womanizer during his days in Hollywood and would be the first divorced president in history. Yet, in 1980 evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Reagan over a Baptist Sunday School teacher named Jimmy Carter, who faithfully married one woman.

By supporting Reagan, evangelicals were not supporting womanizing or divorce, but they were endorsing Reagan’s policies.

I’ve been amazed at the number of conservative evangelicals who have developed a case of selective amnesia when it comes to their support of previous candidates with imperfect pasts, whether it be Reagan, McCain, Bush, Gingrich, or a host of others.

There are no perfect politicians – just as there are no perfect pastors or voters. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. But the fallibility of both candidates in this election – as in every election – is no excuse for not voting.

I will be the first to admit that the sanctity of life and the preservation of religious freedom are not even among the top ten concerns for most voters. But those issues should be of primary concern to those who call themselves Christians.

About the Author

Robert Jeffress is the Senior Pastor of Dallas’ historic First Baptist Church. He is also a best-selling author and frequent guest on Fox News.

 

The Rushmore Report: Clinton’s Closing Argument

Rocked by the recent statements by James Comey, Director of the FBI, Hillary Clinton is maintaining a positive persona to the end of the campaign. With a wide team of surrogates spanning each critical state, Clinton is narrowing her focus to a few points that her team thinks will carry her to victory. With just five days remaining in the campaign, her plan of attack is clear. This is the closing argument for Hillary Clinton.

1. Children and Families

On the stump these days, Clinton continues to highlight her policy agenda, often circling back to issues she’s been discussing on the campaign trail for months, such as college affordability and equal pay for women. She’s also keen to talk about climate change and job investments that will help the American family.

2. Trump – A Threat to Democracy

Clinton is trying to convince voters that Donald Trump is mounting an “unprecedented attack on our democracy.” Since the final debate in Las Vegas, she’s been hitting Trump on his reservations about saying he’ll respect the results of the election. “This is a direct threat to our democracy,” Clinton told a crowd of a few thousand on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

3. Early Voting

With Trump gaining in the polls, Clinton is counting on racking up big numbers in early voting, conducted at a time when her national lead was about seven points. Her campaign estimates that about 60 percent of Florida will have voted early. North Carolina reports similar patterns.

4. Expand the Map

Clinton’s multi-pronged offense is focused on states Trump needs more than Clinton to reach 270 electoral votes. Florida tops that list. Clinton is working hard in other states she really doesn’t need, such as North Carolina, Iowa, and Ohio. This forces Trump to play defense in places he’d rather be able to take for granted.

Will Clinton’s four-pronged strategy work? We’ll know in five days.

About the Author

Scott Detrow is a writer for NPR, whose primary assignment is the 2016 presidential election. With a focus on the technology and data angles of the race, Detrow is a frequent guest on the NPR Politics Podcast.