Two Big Problems

There have been two major issues that keep appearing on the news week after week.  The first issue is the health care debate.  This may be resolved soon, or sometime next year, with the longer it takes to get passed, the less likely it is to pass.

The second issue that keeps getting the public riled up is the issue of executive pay at large companies.  Some places have been reined in, specifically ones that have received government bailout money.  There is also talk about giving shareholders the right to vote on executive pay.  However most stocks are not held by individuals but by companies who couldn’t care less about how much executives make.

Obviously many people are against changes to the health care system and my point is not to address individual problems with the health care proposals.  One major sticking point is going to come down to the price of the proposal.  This is what I want to address in an attempt to fix two of the major problems that are in the news today.

Rather than putting a cap on the pay for executives, simply add a tax to the bonus compensation.  If Company X wants to give $50 million in bonuses to their executives, let them do it, but require them to contribute an additional $50 million towards the price of whatever health care plan is passed.

The public won’t care nearly as much about executive pay if they know that much of that money is going to the government to fund a program that they are interested in and ultimately will keep them from paying higher taxes to pay for this program.  If a company gives out $50 million in bonuses, 40% of this will be paid back to the government in individual taxes, which adds up to $20 million.  Add to the $50 million that the company will pay in taxes and that is $70 million that goes to the government and only $30 million that goes to executives.

The Day After the Election

Well, yesterday was election day and here is what we’ve learned about the direction of our country – absolutely nothing.  Without a doubt Republicans will spin the results as a rejection of Obama’s policies and a revival of conservatism in the United States.  Democrats will repeatedly say that yesterday’s results were no big deal and not a sign of things to come in next year’s election.

The truth is, both are right.  Conservatism was never dead to begin with.  Last year so many pundits were pronouncing the Republican party as dead but had very short memories.  The same pundits, and I mean literally the same ones because I can recall several of the same men and women on CNN, declared the Democratic party dead four years earlier when George Bush was re-elected and Democrats lost seats in Congress for about the sixth straight time.

Which is the other point worth remembering.  Typically the party in the White House loses seats in Congress.  This prediction could have been made last year about 2010 even after President Obama’s astounding victory because that is simply the cycle of things.  The winner’s party is a little less enthusiastic about getting out to vote at mid term elections while the loser’s party is bitter and motivated. 

The White House should be less concerned about the results of yesterday’s election and far more concerned about fulfilling promises.  Obama campaigned on a promise of change and so far the American people have seen little of it.  Guantanamo Bay is still open.  We’re still involved in wars in Iraq Afghanistan – actually escalating there.  While the economy is showing signs of recovery, this is little comfort to to 9.8% of unemployed workers who will likely top 10% when the latest numbers are released.  Add to this the cost of a $787 billion stimulus package that has not created jobs as quickly as we were led to believe.  And of course there is the promise of medical reform that has languished in Congress.  I don’t know if I’m representative of the rest of America, but my thoughts are that I hardly care what gets passed now because regardless there will be things that both sides don’t like about the bill.  Just get something passed and prove to me that you are capable of enacting some reform.

It can easily be argued that the President inherited most of the problems that he is facing right now.  In a year that is unlikely to matter because a) perception is greater than reality and voters have short memories.  In another year some won’t remember the fear of the economy last year but will remember a failed health care bill or a $787 billion stimulus that didn’t accomplish what they anticipated.  And b) the President ran a campaign of change.  He may have inherited these problems and he was elected to fix them.  If progress isn’t made by then, there will definitely be some disillusioned voters out there next year.

The President and the pastor

Today I was reflecting on the difficulties of being President and thinking about similarities of the position to that of a pastor.  Right now the biggest domestic issue that faces the President is the issue of health care.  He can approach the task in a couple of ways.  He can decide that first and foremost he is a leader.  As a leader it is his job to get what he feels is the best health care plan for the American people regardless of what the opposition may feel.  As a leader he must stick to his principles and do what is best.

Or the president may decide that his main job is to serve the American people and because of this he should try to find a health care plan that pleases the most people possible.

Likewise the pastor has many different roles and often it depends on the perspective of the people in the pews if the pastor is effective.  Should the pastor be a leader who casts vision and takes the church where he believes God has directed them.  Or is the main role of a pastor a caregiver who visits and takes care of the sick.  Or possibly the pastor is expected first and foremost to be a preacher and act like a prophet of old who boldly proclaims the Word of God and calls the people to repent.

A pastor is expected to do all of these duties from time to time but each pastor is different and will view their job with their own priorities according to the way they are gifted.  This can cause problems when the expectations of the church is not the same as the expectations of the pastor.

The same is true of President Obama.  Most democrats desire for him to lead because it means pushing an agenda that they are behind.  But even among democrats the President has already shown that he won’t toe the party line just to keep them happy.  He has sought consensus with republicans, including on the issue of health care.  Of course politics always come into play as republicans will say that he does not seek their opinion often enough and democrats will state that he looks to appease them too often.

We need to pray for our President as he makes important decisions every day.  We won’t always agree with his decisions but there is no denying that he has a difficult job for him.