Thursday, March 27, 2008

News Item: Medcare May Go Broke By 2019

Medicare's trustees report that, if current trends continue, Medicare will go broke by 2019, eleven years from now. Medicare currently makes up about twenty percent of federal spending. This is projected to rise dramatically as more baby boomers retire. By 2011, Medicare is projected to pay out more than it takes in unless changes are made.

The trustees note that options are few. One possibility is that Medicare funding must be doubled through higher payroll taxes. Medicare is currently funded by the FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) deduction on your paycheck. The Medicare tax is currently 1.45% from each employee and a matching 1.45% from each employer. Funding could also be increased by raising Medicare premiums or using tax revenues from the general fund.

Another option is cutting benefits. Medicare benefits have been reduced in the past, but this option is politically unpopular. Special interest groups can be expected to strongly oppose any such cuts. Benefits would have to be cut by about 50% to keep Medicare in the black.

If the problems with Medicare can be avoided, the United States will face a similar challenge from Social Security. Social Security also makes up about twenty percent of the federal budget and is also funded through a payroll tax. 6.2% of a worker's wages are deducted for Social Security and are matched by the employer. Again, as baby boomers retire, the Social Security program will pay out more than it takes in and will go broke.

President Bush campaigned on Social Security reform in 2004 and attempted a plan to allow voluntary privatization of Social Security accounts. The plan was demonized by Democrats and special interest groups such as the AARP. These groups were concerned that citizens who depend on Social Security payments would suffer. Others worried that private accounts would be more risky than guaranteed federal payouts.

In truth, the government program is proving to be very risky. Inaction on the part of the government will guarantee that the program goes bankrupt. Guaranteed returns from the government program are a paltry two percent. This is much less than the returns realized in private retirement accounts.

"The fundamental math is inescapable," said Treasury Secretary John Snow, head of the programs' trustees. "Inaction is not a responsible course. The longer we wait the more difficult the decisions will be."

Charity Versus Compulsion

These days it has become fashionable to speak of how much one cares for those less fortunate. In many cases, caring is demonstrated by helping those who are less fortunate. This is normally not done with one’s own money, but by pursuing legislation to take government funds and give them to those in need.

The problem with this tactic is that those who pursue it fail to realize that the ultimate source of government funds is the American taxpayer. Every dollar that the government holds in its treasury is a dollar that was earned by a hardworking American citizen. Each dollar in the treasury is a dollar that American families could use to better their own lives.

Our current system of government funding of social charities is one of compulsion. The government forcibly takes money from US citizens through taxes. This money is then redistributed to those the government deems worthy or needy. This system began with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and was increased greatly by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Prior to these programs, most charity in the United States was at the local level. Local groups, such as churches, collected money from local residents and distributed it to local people in need. There were some large-scale charitable efforts, such as collections for assistance for Ireland during the Potato Famine, but these efforts were also private.

Studies have shown that blue-collar Americans are charitable givers. In fact, lower income Americans give a larger percentage of their incomes to charity than the rich. For example, Barrack Obama’s tax returns reveal that, of his income of several hundred thousand dollars annually, only one to two percent is donated to charity.

If Americans retained more of their own money, they would still give to charity. In fact, their donations to charity would probably increase because they would have more disposable income available to donate to charity. The ability to donate to charity is currently limited by the fact that the government takes twenty to thirty percent of the annual income of most Americans through income taxes. Property and sales taxes account for even more lost income.

Likewise, Americans would most likely be more comfortable giving money to groups that they, rather than the government, choose. Much government social spending goes to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which already take up large portions of the federal budget. In the near future, these programs will grow so large that they will require large tax increases to prevent bankrupting the country. The government is notoriously inefficient and the massive bureaucracy spawned by the government eats up a large amount of the money that might otherwise go to help the needy.

Other government funding goes to groups that many might find objectionable. Planned Parenthood is opposed by many Americans for their role in promoting abortions. Although many Christian charities are very effective, many Americans feel that they should not receive government funding due to their religious nature.

If Americans were allowed to choose who would receive all of their charitable spending, competition could be introduced into charitable funding. Americans would be allowed to pick and choose charities on the basis of what is important to them, as well as choosing charities that have reputations for effectiveness. The result would be that many worthy charities would receive more money than they do currently.

Charity is, by definition, voluntary. People see a need and voluntarily give some of their earnings to help meet that need. When the government mandates that people pay taxes to fund charity, then it is no longer charity. It has become income redistribution. In the words of Karl Marx, “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Speculating On The End of the World (As We Know It)

We live in an exciting time. Many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim theologians believe that the world is rapidly approaching a time of political upheaval and natural disasters called the Tribulation by Christians.

Before the world enters the seven-year Tribulation, several Biblical prophecies will occur. End time prophecies in the Bible include the reformation of Israel as a nation, an international war against Israel, the "rapture" of Christian believers, the rise of a unified world government, and the return of Jesus Christ. The fact that Israel became a nation over fifty years ago indicates that the fulfillment of many of these other prophecies may be imminent. The following scenario presents a possible chain of events that may lead up to the Tribulation.

In 2008, the economy of the United States is in serious trouble. Rampant spending and poorly conceived federal regulations have slowed growth and brought the US economy to the edge of collapse. The troop surge in Iraq has quelled much violence in that country and has largely removed the War on Terror from the headlines. As a result, American voters, worried about inflation, unemployment, and the mortgage crisis, elect Barrack Obama as the nation's first black President.

President Obama's administration, acting in concert with a Democratic House and Senate, enacts a series of economic reforms shortly after taking office. Many of these reforms, such as allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire and creating a nationalized healthcare system, further slow the economy and soon the United States is in a full blown recession. The Obama Administration does not withdraw US forces from Iraq as promised. Instead, US forces continue to partner with Iraqi government troops and friendly tribes to press the attack on fundamentalist insurgents. Attacks dwindle and eventually the Iraqi government is stable enough to stand on its own.

With Iraq stable and quiet, the world turns its attention to the other lingering Middle East hotspot: Palestine. Hamas replaces Fatah as the ruling party of the West Bank, as well as Gaza. Hamas and Hezbollah form a secret confederation with the goal of goading Israel into a war of attrition.

A third Intifada is launched against Israel. Suicide bombers and rocket attacks become commonplace throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories. Many of the attacks are by Arabs with Israeli citizenship. Eventually the Knesset is forced to place heavy restrictions on the large Israeli Arab population. These restrictions, together with Israeli incursions into neighboring countries and media reports of Israeli atrocities against Muslims soon spark worldwide protests against Israel.

Muslim nations launch an anti-Israel campaign in the United Nations. Dmitry Medvedev, the new President of Russia and a protégé of Vladimir Putin, takes up the cause. Many speculate that Putin himself, now Prime Minister, is actually controlling Medvedev's actions.

The UN Security Council passes several resolutions condemning Israel's actions. These resolutions also require more freedoms for the Palestinian Arabs and total Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. Another resolution requires Israel give up its nuclear weapons and submit to inspections by the IAEA. Under President Obama, the US does not veto these resolutions. Neither does Israel comply with the resolutions.

Russia, partnering with its Arab allies, begins to put together a coalition to enforce the UN resolutions. Under the aegis of the United Nations, several nations agree to commit troops to the enforcement action. The principal nations involved the coalition are Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Jordan, and Germany. Noticeably absent are Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, and Iraq, whose military is preoccupied with internal conflicts. The United States, focused on its domestic troubles, neither joins the coalition nor intervenes on behalf of Israel.

Coalition forces amass along Israel's borders. The Israel Defense Force calls up its reserves and prepares for a desperate battle. The coalition issues an ultimatum to Israel: Comply with all UN resolutions or be destroyed. The Israeli government refuses. Israeli citizens not in the military go to bomb shelters to await the attack.

As the deadline for the ultimatum passes, the coalition forces start to move. Coalition jets scream overhead. As they cross into Israeli airspace, the unimaginable happens. Fire from the sky rains down on the invading army. The attacking aircraft are struck and crash. The entire coalition army dies a fiery death in a matter of minutes.

The devastation does not stop there. Facilities around the world belonging to the member nations of the coalition fall to the rain of fire. Military bases, embassies, and government buildings ranging from legislatures to post offices are destroyed. Mosques and madrassas that spread fundamentalist Islam are also destroyed. Civilian casualties number in the millions.

The world is stunned. The devastated nations mourn their losses and completely forget about Israel. The cleanup of the debris in Israeli territory alone takes years. Disease from unburied and rotting corpses runs rampant. Famine results from crop failures in the devastated countries of the world. The fact that many of the coalition nations were major suppliers of oil creates further economic problems around the world. Oil wells, drilling rigs, refineries, storage facilities, and ports destroyed by the fire contribute to oil shortages, causing the price of oil to reach new record highs.

In spite of the massive resources required for the cleanup, one project has even higher priority in Israel. One of the buildings destroyed in the rain of fire is the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock was an Islamic holy site located on the temple mount, the site of the ancient Jewish temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Even though the Israelis controlled Jerusalem since 1967, control of the temple mount remained in the hands of the Muslim authorities who controlled the Dome of the Rock. With the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, the Jews are free to begin construction of a new temple. There are very few remaining radical Muslims left in the country to protest.

Throughout the world, there is a religious revival. In Israel, scores of Jews who had lost faith in Yahweh as a result of the Holocaust return to the faith of their fathers. Similarly, the sudden evidence of forgotten and ignored God triggers a Christian awakening in America and Europe. Millions of people around the globe embrace a newfound faith in Christ.

For a time, the world is relatively peaceful. But it doesn't take long for people to forget the events around the world in Israel. In a short time, the world is back to business as usual.

Iraq continues to stabilize and benefits from the upheaval in fundamentalist Muslim nations, many of which had supplied arms and insurgents to groups fighting the US led coalition and the Iraqi government. Iraq also benefits from the oil shortage. Iraqi oil production picks up much of the slack and profits fill the Iraqi treasury. Iraq is both peaceful and prosperous for the first time in decades. This island of prosperity attracts thousands of refugees from Iraq's devastated neighbors and Iraq becomes a thriving commercial hub.

One of these refugees is a charismatic and handsome man who eventually enters politics. This man is from the Mediterranean. He fits easily into the secular world, but is a devotee of the Wahabi school of Islam. He is one of the few remaining radical Muslims after the short war. He begins a meteoric rise through the Iraqi government and becomes the darling of the world media.

One day, the world's tranquility is again shattered when billions of people suddenly disappear. Suddenly unguided, cars and planes randomly crash causing massive damages worldwide. Some countries lose large percentages of their populations, while other are almost untouched. Panic ensues and the world economy is again on the brink of collapse. No one can explain the disappearances or assure that they will not occur again.

The world is ready to be reassured and the charming leader of Iraq steps into the breach. His diplomacy comforts the people of the world and unites them in their fear and grief. The nations of the world rally behind their new leader. Reconstruction and aid efforts give way to national unification. Within a short time, the world is almost devoid of national borders. The leader of Iraq is now leader of the world.

One nation remains independent. Israel has not forgotten the recent coalition against it and refuses to be part of the new global nation. The Israelis are not hostile to the rest of the world, in their newfound religious fervor; they just want to maintain their national identity. To assure peace, the Israeli leaders announce a peace treaty with the rest of the world. The treaty is of limited duration and will be renewable in seven years. The countdown has begun.

For more information, read Ezekiel 38-39, Daniel 9, and the Book of Revelation. Also read Joel C. Rosenberg's "Epicenter."

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Primer of Wahabi Islam

Wahabi Islam was virtually unknown in the West until the attacks of September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden was schooled in Wahabi theology and to understand his motives for attacking the United States it is helpful to understand Wahabi Islam.

Wahabism is an Islamic reform movement began by Abdul Wahab two hundred years ago. Wahab preached against superstitious practices and focused on a return to strict Islamic law. His teachings also emphasized the oneness of Allah and rejected practices that distracted from Allah such as worshiping at shrines, pilgrimages, and religious ceremonies and festivals.

Wahabis believe in a literal interpretation of the Koran and do not subscribe to any of the four schools of Islamic theology. They also reject alcohol, intoxication, injustice, treachery, luxury, impurity and laxity towards infidels.

Wahabi's greatest convert was Mohammed ibn Saud. Saud married Wahabi's daughter and began the Wahabist dynasty. Saud began a federation among the Bedouins of Arabia and combined religious beliefs with national loyalty. Saud's federation eventually became modern Saudi Arabia.

Wahabis believe that their sect, called muwahhidun or "Unitarians," is the purest form of Islam. They do not follow writings or traditions not found in the Koran. The Wahabis do not believe that Shiites are true Muslims and are also opposed to other Sunni sects such as the Sufis.

To enforce morality, Wahabism uses mutawwin, "those who volunteer or obey," to serve as missionaries, preach in mosques, and look for violations of Islamic law. They ensure that shops are closed during prayers, that women dress modestly, that men wear their hair correctly, and that music, alcohol, and tobacco are not allowed.

Wahabis use some forms of modern technology when it suits their purpose. Airplanes, automobiles, and mass communication are used to spread their version of Islam as well as help their nations function in a modern world. Their use of modern technology has been selective, however, and change has been gradual.

Wahabism also resurrected the idea of jihad, or holy war. Sufi Moslems believe that jihad is a spiritual war, but Wahabis believe in a literal holy war. Since its inception, adherents of Wahabism have slaughtered both Sunni and Shia Moslems who were not part of their movement.

Saudi Arabia remains a bastion of Wahabism. The flag of Saudi Arabia contains the Shahada, the Muslim statement of faith ("There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet") and a sword representing justice. These symbols are links to Saudi Arabia's Wahabist history.

Saudi Arabia also funds Islamic schools, called madrassas, around the world. The curriculum of these schools teaches Wahabism including jihad and hatred of other religions. Charities funded by Saudi Arabia serve as a means to fund Wahabi terror around the world. The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) even employed Al Qaeda officer Ayman al Zawahiri at one point. Through Islamic charities Saudi Arabia supplies over half of the budget of Hamas and pays the families of suicide bombers.

The Wahabi atmosphere in Saudi Arabia led directly to the attacks of September 11. Osama bin Laden is from a prominent Saudi family, although his citizenship was revoked in 1994 due to his attempts to overthrow the Saudi government. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were also Saudis.

The ultimate goal of Wahabis is to use jihad to spread Islam throughout the world. Osama bin Laden said that the 9/11 attacks presented a "great step towards the unity of Muslims and establishing the Righteous Islamic Khilafah (Califate)."

Sources: wahhabi.htm .htm 060905-7.html