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Unite programs to create path from poverty to prosperity

People in poverty are rarely poor because they don’t have access to money. It is usually because they don’t have access to opportunity.

The war on poverty really didn’t begin with Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It began in 1776, and for almost 200 years, America was winning the war on poverty. Tragically, and ironically, we didn’t start losing the war on poverty until the federal government declared that it would handle it.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln told Congress that the “leading object” of American government was “to elevate the condition of men – to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.” In a single sentence, Lincoln explains precisely what poverty is, and what government ought to do about it.

A constantly expanding government has spawned myriad disparate and often competing federal and state agencies and programs that are incentivized to be more concerned about protecting their turf than helping those in need.

If we are serious about the charge to lift artificial weights from all shoulders and provide all with a fair chance, we need to consolidate state and federal poverty programs – including health care, unemployment, education and general welfare programs. Having a unified “poverty to prosperity” program could transform the path of upward mobility. Its organizing principle should be to make poverty temporary instead of just tolerable by encouraging and rewarding the “success sequence,” including: finishing school/developing new skills, finding a job, getting married and having children within marriage, along with acquiring the disciplines, skills, tools, life structures and networks for lifelong learning and self-reliance.

We must replace programs that treat people in poverty like liabilities to be managed with a program that treats them like unique individuals – human assets, with unlimited potential to be developed.

Currently we offer financial or material benefits based on poverty status. In other words, our present approach makes people’s ability to improve their quality of life through government programs – including feeding their families, accessing health care, and gaining an education – dependent upon remaining in poverty! This “prosperity cliff” penalizes those who are truly striving to become self reliant – often putting those in poverty into inhumane situations where the most reasonable, and even responsible, option for them and their family is to remain in poverty. Many are trapped in poverty by the very government agencies that are supposed to be elevating their condition.

It is also vital that those in poverty are treated with the dignity and respect that will allow them to say, in hindsight, that they gained their self-reliance from their own successful life decisions and hard work, not just through government handouts.  By focusing on proven skills and a success sequence we can confidently clear the path of laudable pursuit for all who are struggling to rise from poverty to prosperity.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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‘Highly resolved’: More than just giving it a try

When we honor those who have paid the ultimate price we rightly reference the words of Abraham Lincoln, that “they gave the last full measure of devotion.” We often miss, however, Lincoln’s powerful and immediate pivot to the future, to us – “that we here highly resolve.” He recognized that that those we honor have already done their part and passed their test. Lincoln knew the real question was whether each of us would be highly resolved to do our individual duty.

To be highly resolved is not a casual decision but requires complete commitment. Far too many in America are content to “give it a try” or “take a shot at it” without the deep and powerful force of a highly resolved total commitment. Many choose to try, but few commit to do.

A well-known biblical verse says, “Choose ye this day,” but the more powerful translation from Greek is “Commit ye this day.” The difference between a choice and commitment is too big to measure though the results are stunningly apparent. Thus choosing freedom is vastly different from having a highly resolved commitment to freedom.

A wise man who understood the power of a highly resolved total commitment declared, “Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth. … That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”

This is not a day for hesitancy, drawing back or ineffectiveness. Our country needs highly resolved individuals to stand up and speak out for the principles and policies that have fostered an amazing America. Our state houses and legislatures need bold, committed leaders with stronger backbones than jawbones. Our communities need more men and women of commitment who care about creating a better neighborhood and nation.

Rereading the final section of the Gettysburg Address challenges us to gratefully remember those who gave all, lifts our gaze toward the great task and test before us as a nation and implores us to be highly resolved in our commitment to the future of freedom.

Listen to Lincoln’s final call and question, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson – thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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In the cause of freedom, there are no insignificant acts

It has been said that the gates of history turn on very small hinges, and those hinges turn on the courage, commitment and effort of ordinary but inspired individuals. There are no small parts or players in the cause of freedom. Every person matters; each can make a difference.

Several years ago I had the opportunity, as chief of staff in U.S. Senator Mike Lee’s office, to help a family claim a long-ago-earned and long-sought-for Purple Heart – dating back to World War I. Mr. Encarnarcion Trujillo, like so many of his generation, didn’t fight so his name would appear in the newspaper or be recorded in a history book; he fought so his children could pursue their dreams and write their own histories in a land of opportunity.

Encarnacion Trujillo was part of the Battle of the Argonne Forest, which was fought from late September through November of 1918. The battle is largely a forgotten one, though it was one of the largest in American history. Over 26,000 Americans were killed and 96,000 were injured in the fierce and bloody battle. Mr. Trujillo was wounded in his right shoulder when he was hit by shrapnel. But he stood his ground, far from home and on foreign soil, because he recognized and believed in the principles of freedom his country was standing to defend.

Some might say Mr. Trujillo was just one man among the legions who fought in that battle – but he was indeed one man. I repeat, the gates of history turn on very small hinges, and those hinges turn on the courage, commitment and effort of ordinary but inspired individuals like Mr. Trujillo. He stood with his fellow soldiers who, individually, were young, weak and inexperienced. But united by the cause of freedom, they each did their part – and because they stood – freedom did not falter.

Never underestimate the impact of one person. America is extraordinary, not because of who we are, but because of what we do. The real strength of our nation’s fabric is found in the intertwining and binding actions of the genuine heroes and heroines around us. They are often disguised as everyday citizens performing unheralded, and often unnoticed, acts of kindness and service. The hinges of history turn when a neighbor stops to help a neighbor, when a fifth-grader stands up to a bully for a classmate, when a pastor inspires faith in a troubled soul, when a soldier or first responder steps into harm’s way. Truly it is the small and seemingly insignificant things we can and should do each day that ultimately open the gates to the greatness of our nation.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

For more information and additional resources go to sutherlandinstitute.org.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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A nation on the verge of a civil debate?

As a member of a UtahPolicy.com panel I was invited to respond to a question which framed many of the challenges we face as a nation and if there were reasons to be optimistic about America’s future.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

It is true that we are in the midst of some difficult days and trying times as a nation. Yet I remain convinced that our best days as a country are still ahead of us. Why the optimism? It has little to do with glasses being half full or even rose-colored. It has everything to do with the American people and the uniquely American principles that have fueled and fostered the greatest civilization the world has ever known.

I have traveled the country, and the core principles, values and ideas of freedom, free enterprise, education, empowered citizens, civil society and opportunity still ring true to Americans from every walk of life. These are not liberal or conservative ideas – they are simply American. I have seen these ideas manifest in big cities and rural communities; I have heard these principle echo from podiums in convention centers to the pulpits of churches; and I have felt the stirring strains of our American voice as these values were spoken softly to children in inner-city schools and in humble homes. American principles have made and moved our nation.

There are some political elites, media outlets and well-connected interests who want the American people to believe that we are just too fractured and divided as a nation to use our principles and ideas to address any of the big issues of our time. Health care, immigration, religious liberty, LGBT rights and more are all just too contentious to deal with – they say. Unfortunately this ensures that nothing changes, the status quo prevails, and they continue to control the power, money and influence.

I reject the idea that we are on the verge of a civil war. I believe we are actually on the verge of a civil debate. And oddly, this year’s raucous presidential cycle may just be the catalyst for such a national conversation to take place. America is always at its best when we are a nation of big ideas and honest, open, respectful debate. The kinds of conversations that were central to the emergence of a new nation will be the cornerstone of a new American century.

Why do I believe this is possible? Because I live in Utah – where, despite our problems and differences – we prove it can be done.

You can read my response and those of other Utah thought leaders at UtahPolicy.com.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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What’s really behind the pursuit of happiness

When justifying our own selfish or self-indulgent behavior, many Americans readily recite the Declaration of Independence’s most famous passage regarding our right to pursue happiness. Few of us recognize the true meaning or intent of the “pursuit of happiness” phrase Thomas Jefferson so carefully and purposefully placed into the heart and soul of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson had learned from great thinkers and leaders like Aristotle, Cicero and John Locke that the pursuit of happiness was not a casual phrase or even a simple right – they all viewed this pursuit as the highest calling men and women could seek. “Happiness is the aim of life,” Jefferson stated, “but virtue is the foundation of happiness.” To Jefferson the meaning of the pursuit of happiness phrase went so much deeper than just fleeting emotional feelings or personal pleasure. Dr. Darrin McMahon, in his book Happiness: A History, tied together the way Jefferson and other early Americans approached and pursued happiness. Connecting the dots from these great leaders’ personal beliefs and public statements, he concluded that their vision of the pursuit of happiness could only be achieved through virtue, discipline and service.

Think about that. Virtue, discipline and service – hardly the words which spring to our minds when we think of pursuing happiness. I can’t say I have ever seen the media, movie producers or magazine publishers show people pursuing happiness by portraying them engaged in virtuous activities, rigorous discipline or unselfish service. Usually it is just the opposite.

Dr. McMahon further noted, “[E]arly Americans agreed that by pursuing the happiness of others, they helped to ensure their own.” I would add that while Americans are often portrayed as self-absorbed narcissists, it is also safe to say that Americans are among the most giving people on the planet – regularly the first to give, the first to arrive on the scene of a natural disaster, the first to raise awareness of a tragedy or injustice. I am convinced that many Americans have experienced for themselves that the happiness that comes from helping others is every bit as exciting as any virtual reality game and more satisfying than a shopping spree.

John Stewart Mill observed, “Happiness is not the same thing as contentment, but involves the pursuit of nobler feelings, higher pleasures, and higher things” – things like virtue, discipline and service.

Thomas Jefferson knew exactly what he was doing and what he was saying when he set the standard by declaring that everyone had the unalienable right, opportunity, and even the obligation to pursue happiness in this great land of America. We encourage you to enjoy and renew your pursuit of happiness today.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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Put Common Core clamor aside: Let’s talk about educational standards

Education, which represents two-thirds of our state budget and is vital to our future, continues to be front and center in Utah’s political and policy debates. It is worthy of our attention and our best efforts to engage in serious, meaningful dialogue. I am convinced that a marketplace of educational options and a culture that respects the unique, individual learning needs of students is critical.

In order to cut through the clamor of political rhetoric, I have invited Christine Cooke, Sutherland Institute’s education policy analyst, to share a few key insights on this issue of educational standards:

Christine: No matter who you’re voting for in this year’s gubernatorial race, Utah’s policy dialogue should move beyond the deeply pitted “anti-Common Core” and “defending Utah Core” rhetoric.

By way of background, the Common Core are state-level standards in language arts and mathematics. The standards were created in 2009 by the National Governors Association (NGO) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Since then federal government has heavily incentivized states to adopt the Common Core through Race to the Top grants and waivers from the heavy penalties of the No Child Left Behind initiative. In total, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards; Utah adopted them in 2010. Because of the federal mechanism used to spread the standards nationwide, many Utahns have been concerned about their effect on local control of education.

The fact is, we all want the finest education to be accessible to our kids — quality standards, meaningful curriculum, rich opportunities. But to do so, our conversation needs to progress from problems to solutions. We should have a meaningful discussion about academic standards in general. Utah has some of the most passionate and committed parents in the nation and a slew of intelligent policymakers and analysts. Here are some questions we can ask to get the conversation started.

  • What is the purpose of standards? Is it to hold policymakers accountable for education? Is it to challenge students to higher levels of performance?
  • What effect have our standards had on curriculum, teachers and students? Do they constrain districts to a certain curriculum? What effect do we hope they have on curriculum, teachers and students?
  • The state constitution gives the State Board of Education “general control and supervision of the public education system”; traditionally the board creates standards while districts create curriculum. What level of government (State Board of Education or districts) should create academic standards, and why?
  • What ought to be the content in our standards, and what rubric are we using to ensure that content is rigorous and reflective of Utah educational values?
  • How can parents and the public get involved in the creation or modification of standards?

For too long the education policy bandwidth has been taken up on the question of whether a candidate, policymaker or neighbor was for or against the controversial Common Core. But that’s too easy. We shouldn’t let our policymakers or ourselves off the hook. Let’s have a real conversation about standards. Then let’s do something bold, and create for Utah the best academic standards in the best way.

Boyd: Thanks, Christine. We look forward to driving meaningful dialogue on education for Utah and Utah’s future.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

 

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Who should find solutions: Everybody, Anybody, Somebody or Nobody?

What the world needs most today is a lot less shoulder-shrugging and a lot more shoulder-squaring.

Pointing fingers, placing blame and deciding who is at fault has become the norm in businesses, associations, communities, states and nations. This leads to the “It isn’t my job” or “That isn’t my responsibility” syndrome. Unfortunately this leads to poor service, poor performance and poor outcomes for everyone.

We live in a world bent on pointing fingers and placing blame anytime anything goes wrong. It is tempting to want to follow that path, but true leaders and true citizens know where the buck stops and who is ultimately responsible for failure or success.

Henry Ford declared, “Don’t find fault! Find me a solution!” An environment of fault-finding usually leads to more shoulder-shrugging, and few people who are willing to square their shoulders, take responsibility and do what needs to be done.

There is a classic story which sums up what happens with a shoulder-shrugging approach in our communities. It is the story about four citizens whose names just happen to be: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done in the community – helping to educate and train the young people on their vital role as citizens. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. And while Anybody could have done it, Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because really it was Everybody’s job, yet Everybody thought Somebody would do it. But, of course, Nobody asked Anybody.

Everybody thought a meeting would help. Somebody couldn’t make it and suggested that Anybody could come up with a plan to execute in two weeks. Two weeks later when Everybody checked in, Nobody had done anything with Anybody so Somebody recommended they meet again in two more weeks.

Well, Anybody could have done it, Somebody would have done it, Everybody should have done it, but in the end Nobody did it.

So, when rising generation didn’t learn their civic duty and failed to work and serve in the community as they should Everybody blamed Everybody and Anybody for the problem, Nobody got back to work on a solution that Anybody could have come up with. And in the end the community failed and the community was ultimately given to Somebody else!

What kind of culture are we creating in our communities and state? Do we have a lot of shoulder-shrugging and finger-pointing to Somebody, Anybody, Everybody and Nobody? Or are we creating a culture of shoulder-squaring where personal responsibility and getting things right is all that really matters?

For resources on how to square your shoulders and engage as responsible citizens visit SutherlandInstitute.org.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

 

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When the cat’s away, the mice will play

While Rod Arquette is away from his microphone, a great slate of local and national guests will join Sutherland’s Boyd Matheson on KNRS Talk Radio. Boyd will guest host The Rod Arquette Show on 105.9 FM from 4-7 p.m. on May 2, 3 and 4. Tune in for some deep dialogue on the country’s most pressing issues.

Here are a few highlights from the guest list:

  • Arthur Brooks, president of American Enterprise Institute; check out Brooks’ latest TedTalk to get a taste of what is to come.
  • Ben Sasse, U.S. senator from Nebraska; listen to what Sen. Sasse had to say while speaking to MSNBC.
  • Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College.
  • Jim DeMint, president of The Heritage Foundation and former U.S. senator from South Carolina.
  • David Bobb, president of Bill of Rights Institute and author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue.
  • Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs and author of The Great Debate; he is also the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor to National Review and The Weekly Standard.
  • Stephen Hayes, columnist for The Weekly Standard and New York Times best-selling author; Hayes regularly appears on Fox News.
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Rise above temptations of verbal combat

Public policy, presidential politics, local campaigns heating up and burning social issues have all combined to raise the temperature of public rhetoric, and upend rational thinking. We would be wise to remember the old axiom, “Speak in anger and you will deliver the greatest speech you will ever live to … regret.”

Many have come to believe that silence is weakness, that calmness is cowardly and that you must engage in a tit-for-tat exchange of point and counterpoint, claim and counterclaim to compete and survive in the 21st century. In all our personal interactions, whether in the public square or within our personal circles, we must focus on desired outcomes instead of emotional outbursts and come to people with questions instead of accusations.

The airwaves and social media sites today are filled with pundits, experts and even those we call “friends” who constantly badger or bombastically blow up anyone who might disagree with their point of view. While this might be entertaining banter, it has produced a horrible pattern for dealing with people and relationships.

Usually it is the preservation of ego that keeps us engaged in verbal combat. We have come to believe that having the last word wins the day. We must remember that the solution to any problem begins when someone says, “Let’s talk about it,” or asks, “What do you think?” – and then is willing to listen.

Whether speaking to someone live or going back-and-forth in email, texts or tweets, you must ask yourself if the messages you are about to speak or send are going to move the conversation, and more importantly, the relationship, forward or whether they will simply fuel more anger. Winning a verbal battle at the expense of losing a war for a relationship is never wise.

The way you communicate with those you disagree with speaks volumes about who you are as a person. Petty, personal attacks never produce positive results and often keep us a safe distance from real dialogue and meaningful solutions.

All this is not to suggest in any way that we should retreat from public debate or become obsessed with political correctness. We can disagree without being disagreeable, and we can communicate in ways that elevate ideas and promote the best intentions of everyone.

Beware of your emotions and your ego, especially in the highly volatile arenas of public policy and interpersonal communication. Silence can be strength, a kind word can carry a conversation, stepping away can be the best step forward. Words have weight and their impact is immense — so choose them wisely. When it comes to the war of words, text tirades or social media rants, whenever in doubt — don’t!

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

 

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Voters need to ask themselves – not candidates – a few questions

In major election years it is important to realize that as voters we don’t get what we pay for. We actually end up paying for what we get and generally get what we deserve. With such high stakes in 2016, voters should not be pulled by the latest polling or swayed by political spin. Instead, voters should ask tough questions and demand real answers. But not of the candidates. Voters should ask themselves these five questions.

Question One: How is this candidate positioned to show real courage? Another way to think of it would be to ask whether or not this candidate would be OK not winning election or re-election based on taking a firm position on an issue that was unpopular. The challenges of our time are going to require elected officials with real courage.

Question Two: When you listen to this candidate where does it lead your thoughts? When you listen to the candidate do you find yourself thinking just about the candidate and their story or do you find yourself thinking about your life, family or future? Do your thoughts go toward feelings of fear, frustration and conflict, or toward positive solutions and possibilities? A candidate whose words lead your thinking to negative places or solely into the candidate’s world is not the one to lead you, the state or nation toward a better, brighter future.

Question Three: What is this candidate for? You know what the candidate is against – starting with their competitors for the nomination and the opposing party. While the candidate has to be willing to fight against the kind of government they don’t want, they must also be able to articulate the kind of government they do want. Do they have an agenda they can point to, expressed in principles and policies, that describes what kind of government they intend to foster?

Question Four: Does the candidate talk in generalities or in specifics? In business the rule is always: when you talk about things in generalities you very rarely succeed, but when you talk about them in the specific you very rarely fail. The same applies to politics. One-liners and bumper-sticker slogans are nice, but they don’t produce real results. Beware of the candidate who uses sweeping generalities in their responses. Also anger should never be confused with an actual agenda, and we should also remember that hope, as important as it is, is simply not a strategy. Candidates should be talking about specific policies, strategies and tactics – there is no substitute for real, concrete and detailed solutions.

Question Five: Is the candidate more concerned about making friends or keeping promises? Many Americans complain about the conflict in politics. I can tell you from experience that conflict is not the problem in government – collusion is the problem. You do not get nearly $19 trillion in debt through conflict. It comes from way too many elected officials being way too eager to get along, go along and make deals that are good for them, not necessarily good for their constituents. If you want a friend in office, remember that real friends tell you the truth, even when it is hard; they tell you what needs to be done to solve your problems without sugarcoating it; and demonstrate to you by their actions that they will stand with you no matter what.

As we all prepare to cast important votes during 2016, remember we are going to pay for what we get in elected officials, so taking some time to ask ourselves a few questions about candidates is going to be time well spent. Debates are interesting, forums can be fun, commercials can provide comic relief, and even a chat with a candidate can provide some clarity – but nothing is more important than the answers to the questions we ask ourselves. If as voters we do not find ourselves this election cycle, we will never find people who can lead us where we hope to go as a community and as a country.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for listening.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here