President Obama gave an address on Saturday utilizing the style of David Letterman's Top 10 to highlight the accomplishments of 2015. (I am not providing a link. You can do a search and readily find it if you want to watch it.) This was designed to fill us with optimism for 2016. Maybe I would be more excited if I were heading off to Hawaii for a couple of weeks vacation at someone else's expense, but let us take a quick view anyway.
10. The economy is strong. We have had 69 months of job growth according to President Obama. I would like to believe that these statistics are true. However, the lines at food pantries and homeless shelters indicate that the economic boom is not being felt by a large segment of the population. It would be helpful to know how many people are underemployed in addition to those unemployed. Also, how many people have just given up in their job search? Regardless of who is in office, I always question the validity and accuracy of reported numbers. Are the statistics manipulated to paint a picture not exactly accurate?
9. More Americans are getting health insurance coverage. Once again, I want to believe the statistics. However, the number of people being covered is only one component. Premium prices are rising despite claims to the contrary when this was rammed through Congress. Insurance companies are withdrawing from the exchanges and/or going out of business. Out-of-pocket expenses for consumers are on the rise. How long will it be until the system implodes? For the health and well-being of people I want this claim to be true, but I am hesitant to celebrate the current system as an accomplishment. Also, let us not forget the trampling of religious freedom in the process. When the Little Sisters of the Poor have to sue the federal government to maintain their rights, something is wrong.
8. America's global leadership on climate change is being celebrated with the agreement reached in Paris. The President said, "it was only possible because America led with clean energy here at home and strong diplomacy around the world." My concern is that the diplomacy described is a one way street. We sometimes seem to give away the store and get nothing in return. Will other nations really abide by the same rules imposed upon us? Maybe I am wrong in my assumptions, but as I recall the diplomacy of trading Bowe Bergdahl for the release of five Taliban leaders I am skeptical about our diplomatic efforts.
7. U.S.--Cuba Relations: "We turned the page on an outdated, half-century-old policy by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and reopening embassies in both our countries, allowing us to build greater ties between Americans and Cubans," Mr. Obama said. Just because something is a half-century old does not necessarily mean it is outdated. I hope due diligence has been done by the administration to ensure this endeavor is not detrimental to the people of Cuba. Every time I see a home-made boat struggling to make it to the shores of the U.S. from Cuba it reminds me that something is amiss.
6. Iran nuclear deal: This issue has certainly been interpreted differently by a variety of constituencies. I am not as optimistic as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry about the result of this deal. Time will tell.
5. Standing strong against terrorism: If poll numbers are accurate this claim is not believed by a majority of Americans. A broken system for decades has brought us to the current crisis and there is no easy fix. When leaders fail to lead we all pay the price. An immigration system that has been in chaos for years will diminish our chances of taking care of those desiring to come to our country legally while maintaining the safety and security of the American people in the process. How many times will we witness a repeat of San Bernardino?
4. The Trans-Pacific Partnership: It has been labeled as "Mr. Obama's legacy- defining trade deal." Time will reveal the impact of the legacy. I hope it is a positive one.
3. Bi-partisan budget and education deal: The budget package is 2,009 pages long. First, I want to know how many of our elected officials read the whole thing before voting. Senator Rand Paul claims that none of them were able to read it in its entirety in such a short time span. It reminds me of the Affordable Care Act when we were told they had to pass it and then they could read it. Secondly, did they give any thought to the consequences of approving it? The number is almost incomprehensible:
$1, 205, 146,000,000.00
Oh yes, it is also paired with a separate 233-page tax bill. It makes me want to apologize to future generations for the fiscal irresponsibility and what we have done to this great nation.
In a deal like this a half million dollars seems like chump change, but it still angers me that Planned Parenthood continues to be funded. They do abortions. They DO NOT DO MAMMOGRAMS. They do not do mammograms at any of their facilities. With the revenue from abortions and the sale of fetal body parts after the abortions why does the government have to fund them? They are doing quite well financially on their own. Every representative and senator that did not stand against this travesty did a great disservice to the moral well-being of our nation.
2. The legalization of same-sex marriage: In the video Mr. Obama gushingly stated, "Love won!" We were reminded of the glowing colors of the White House as the video captured the footage of the night after the decision was made by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Mr. Obama's mind love may have won, but there were many losers in the process. The freedom of state government lost. Religious freedom was trampled and lost. The separation of powers among our branches of government lost. The protection of our consciences lost. The ramifications of a judiciary gone wild will be felt for a long time. A judge ruled at the end of last week against a Catholic school when a job offer was rescinded to a candidate because of being in a same-sex civil union. The judge claimed that since he wasn't in a teaching role it didn't impact the school. Bit by bit our religious freedom is being ripped away.
1. The American People--all of this is because of you. In some way this gives me hope. I think the American people are starting to recognize that the path we are on may not necessarily be the best. On the other hand, we continue to vote people into office and give them fantastic careers. Many of them are doing well for themselves, but few seem to be doing good for the people they are called to serve. If the ten accomplishments listed by Mr. Obama are truly because of people like me, I need to seek forgiveness for being part of an immoral and fiscally irresponsible endeavor. The actions of Congress this week may have given themselves a Merry Christmas by passing the Omnibus Bill, but the rest of us will pick up the tab for generations to come.
So, where is the hope in all of this that I am supposed to articulate? The hope is found in Jesus Christ. Don't place your hope in government; you will be sadly disappointed. On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, prepare the way of the Lord. Come Lord Jesus!