The Federal Government is Targeting Veterans. Here’s How Outrageous That is.

ICYMI, the federal government is targeting 9,700 veterans and others who took sizable bonuses to stay in the military. The bonuses were given during the Bush years, in the California Guard, but massive fraud and mismanagement have been discovered since. Erick covered the issue  — originally reported by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday — earlier in the week, but here are a few things to consider about this bureaucratic debacle.

First, some basic numbers: The Times reported yesterday evening that the total in bonuses was $70 million. The paper also reports that 9,700 servicemembers were given bonuses. That equals $7,216.49 per veteran, on average (though for many, the bonuses were much larger — $15,000 or more).

Second, while that’s a lot of money per soldier, it’s a tiny portion of the Pentagon’s budget. In Fiscal Year 2016, the Pentagon’s budget was $586 billion. That $70 million is .012% of the Pentagon’s budget. Compare that to billions in contract overruns and other indications of incompetence and criminality in our vaunted DoD.

Third, the Times reports that while Members of Congress are throwing around angry words about this mess, President Barack Obama has yet to order the Pentagon to end its recoupment efforts. Hopefully, he’ll do so, especially since it was those giving the bonuses that did wrong, not those receiving them. So far, though, the Department of Justice is trying to dismiss a class-action lawsuit brought some who got bonuses.

Fourth, there were over $135 billion lost to improper payments in 2015 alone. Medicaid’s reported increase of improper payments that year was $12 billion. The feds are flush enough to spend money $43 million on a gas station in Afghanistan, and to ignore $87 billion in better management practices, but they’ve got to put the screws to veterans?

Finally, while it’s no surprise that the federal budget leaks like a sieve, it’s also important to note that the feds are targeting people who served our country. They took the bonuses on good faith, and served in the military longer than perhaps they otherwise would have. The Obama administration would be better off shifting its resources to going after those who defraud the government on purpose, who are trying to hide their illegal and unethical behavior. Fraud is often difficult and expensive to track and recoup, so whatever money is being spent making veterans’ lives miserable should be going to making actual criminals pay for their wrongdoing — not honest and well-intentioned members of the  military.

Erick Drops The Mic on Trump and Christians

Last night, Erick went on a “random twitter storm” about Trump and Christians. It was hardly random. He’s been studying for his masters degree at seminary, and as his knowledge of faith and scripture grow, so does his understanding of the relationship between Trump supporters and their religion.

Here’s the storified version of what should be the last word on Trump and Christians. I recommend everyone read this very carefully. If you don’t understand some of the terms, please refer to the handy glossary at the bottom (reporters and media: this means you, because the AP Stylebook doesn’t define these terms).

Handy Glossary

These are presented in the order used.

Doctor of Divinity: Regent University offers 43 degree programs in religion and ministry. They offer a Master of Divinity program with 11 focus areas. But they don’t offer a Doctor of Divinity. Neither does Southwestern AG University, or Liberty University, or Notre Dame. A Doctor of Divinity is an honorary degree made to look like a Master of Divinity (which is real), but you can’t earn it.

Dispensationalist: An aderent of dispensationalism. That’s a theology which holds that God has dealt with humans through separate and distinct historical periods (dispensations): innocence, conscience, government, patriarchal rule, Mosaic Law, grace (where we are now), and a literal Millennial Kingdom. Dispensationalists believe that the church and Israel have completely separate destinies, that grace has supplanted the Law, and the New Testament Church was not a prophetic object of the Old Testament prophets. Basically, they believe Jews are on their own, and Christians should look to grace until Christ’s coming.

Reformed Protestants: In very broad terms, Protestant denominations holding to the theology of the Reformation. The main theological points here are: Sole authority of Scripture (Sola Scriptura), Justification by Faith alone (Sola Fide), and the priesthood of all believers, versus an earthly priestly class. Today, many Reformed churches are associated with Calvinist teachings, but others are leaning Molinist. Calvinist teaching is important in the doctrine of Irresistible Grace, which (basically) means that to whomever God’s saving grace is directed (the elected) is foreordained to accept that grace.

Theonomists: Adherents of the system of Christian ethics known as theonomy; its main tenet is the applicability of Old Testament ethical standards to modern society (such as the Ten Commandments). Most theonomists advocate Christian Reconstructionism–making Biblical Law the foundation of society’s laws, including certain civil prohibitions.

Post-Millennialists: Believers in postmillennialism, which holds that the reign of Christ is not a literal return and thousand year era, but achieved through the gradual increase in God’s Kingdom through the spread of the Gospel. These believers emphasize doing everything based on converting people and increasing the influence of Christianity. Reformed theologians such as R.C. Sproul hold to this belief.

Israel (Biblical): Biblically, Israel is a tender issue for Christians. Replacement Theology holds that Israel is just another country, and Jews are just another people group who hold to a covenant which was fulfilled and supplanted by Christ. Many Replacement Theology (Supercessionism) believers believe that (Jews) Israel is irrelevant to the end-times. Scripture does not support this view, and a spectrum of beliefs populate Christendom. Ephesians 2:11-22 provides the best Biblical support for Christians to love and value Jews and Israel, who, through Christ, will become “one new humanity of the two” Jews and Gentiles.

Prosperity Gospel: One day I was in church, and the preacher said if I give $50, a new Cadillac would appear in my driveway the next morning. I eagerly put a $50 in the offering plate. And behold, the next morning, a shiny new Cadillac pulled in to my driveway. The preacher got out and personally thanked me for my donation. Seriously (but that is serious), Prosperity Theology holds that God will do whatever is asked in His name (John 14:13), combined with Jesus’ teaching on giving and money (Luke 6:38). Though God does desire that we are blessed, and God does answer prayer, prosperity preachers center all teaching on those singular points, emphasizing giving to get. The “name it, claim it” doctrine is taught by many Charismatic preachers such as Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, and T.D. Jakes. Mostly, it just enriches the preacher, not the flock. Most serious theologians reject Prosperity Theology as outright heresy.

The Book of Virtues: No, it’s not in the Bible. Stop looking. It was written by Bill Bennett. I recommend you read it and then compare it with his statements supporting Donald Trump.

Pharisees: A Jewish sect in Jesus’ day, characterized by the priest and Levitical classes. Pharisees emphasized the spiritual gifts and nature of God, while adhering to the strictest legal code of Jewish life and Torah. To be called “pharisaical” as a Christian is a pejorative meaning overly legalistic and self-righteous. Many of the Pharisees opposed Jesus because they believed God would reveal the Messiah exclusively through them, due to their perceived righteousness (how wrong they were!).

Chasidim: In Jesus time, a Pharisee. Today, a Hasidic Jew–the inheritors of the Pharisees. Interestingly, today’s Chassid is probably most likely to accept Yeshua as Messiah when presented with inescapable personal evidence (dreams, visions), versus the secularized Jew. In Jesus’ day, many Pharisees became Christians when they heard the Gospel.

Render Unto Caesar: Matthew 22:20-22. The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into a theological error. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” They wanted him to weigh in on a political matter, but Jesus wouldn’t bite. This has nothing to do with a Christian’s obligation of citizenship, and certainly is not any kind of commandment that Christians are to vote as a matter of faith. In fact, it buttresses the argument that a Christian’s faith should inform their vote, not that a vote is a Christian obligation.

False Disciples: Matthew 7:21-23. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” — Speaks for itself.

Ted Cruz just endorsed Donald Trump. Here’s what people are saying.

Here at The Resurgent, opinions have been clear for a long while on whether Republicans should stand with Donald Trump. Erick reiterated this week that he won’t back the GOP nominee, and as rumors flew that Ted Cruz would endorse Trump, Josh outlined several reasons why Cruz should choose principle over party. As for me, I joined the #NeverTrump train some months back.

Now, with Cruz officially backing Trump this afternoon, opinions are flying fast and furious across Twitter and the political punditry world. Below is a sample:

And from my friend Justin Higgins’ Facebook page:

A Good Reason To Hate 2016

This presidential campaign will be over in 76 days. Thank God. I’ve said it before, this particular year is exhausting. Friendships have been strained, and some even broken, not over Democrat vs. Republican, or even liberal vs. conservative. This year, it’s mostly over one man and some people’s devotion to him, and others’ revulsion of him.

On November 9, people who used to associate and agree on most things will have to learn to live together, or reach an amicable parting. The likely scenario is awaking from a Trump trouncing, but much can happen in 76 days, so I’m not willing to close the door. (Washington Post The Fix writer Aaron Blake responded to John Oliver’s suggestion that Trump drop out and become a “hero”…this is what the race has come to. Erick sighed “I hate this year.”)

The Republican Party, as an organization, may never recover from Trump. Once the RNC went all-in and ensured his nomination, the lobster trap snapped shut, and now there’s no exit. But will relationships and friendships survive?

Even in 2008, when the liberal wing of my family went ga-ga over Barack Obama, I still loved them, and I still spoke to them. We didn’t usually discuss politics, but even when we did, we realized we’re still family. It’s the same with many of my liberal friends. People in the armed forces still trust their lives to their battle buddies, regardless of who those people support, politically. The guys who pack parachutes are not vetted for their political stance.

But the tone here is somehow different. People are coarser. Jonah Goldberg lamented with a tinge of anger, at his friend Bill Bennett, who said this to Megyn Kelly.

There’s a lot of people and there are still undecided people. [Trump] does not need to speak to the NeverTrump person — some of my friends, or maybe former friends, who suffer from a terrible case of moral superiority, and put their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country.

Wow. That smarts. It’s this way for many–those who are not NeverTrump see those who are as sanctimonious pricks. And it’s really hard to reconcile with someone after you call them a sanctimonious prick.

Everything that Trump does or says for the next 76 days will now be seen through the lens of “take that, you sanctimonious prick!” for many who walked together with us on every issue.

To Todd Starnes: nope. I don’t have an issue with it. How many NeverTrump people do you think there are? Do you think it’s more important for Trump to gain the trust of Latinos and African-Americans than to win over some tiny number of publicly-declared NeverTrump writers and radio hosts? If every single NeverTrump figure suddenly switched to full #MAGA warrior mode, would that make even the tiniest difference in the polls?

If National Review came out with a cover “The Case For Trump: Make America Great Again” featuring hagiographic essays from Goldberg, Glenn Beck, David Boaz, Brent Bozell, Ben Domenech, Erick Erickson, Bill Kristol, Dana Loesch, Andrew McCarthy, Michael Medved, Russell Moore, Katie Pavlich, John Podhoretz, Thomas Sowell, and Cal Thomas, would that win the election?

No. It wouldn’t. Neither will those same people being against Trump cost him the election–it didn’t even cost him the nomination! But people like Starnes are not about to admit it.

This is really a bigger split than many people acknowledge. It’s not really over Trump and his politics (such as they are, if anyone can actually define them). It’s over the role and ground rules of party politics, and what Republicans–even conservatives–actually stand for.

One reader of this site emailed me. “Republicans need to focus on the economy, the debt and not ever speak of social issues,” he wrote. “From my point of view, they were on the wrong side of gay and abortion issues for too long. I don’t know of any Republican that is anti-gay or anti-pro-choice. They may be for traditional marriage and pro-life but are not opposed to others living their life as they so choose.”

Many people feel this way. Even many people who agree with my social and religious views agree that Republicans are too focused on losing social issues. This would happen to include leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Dr. Robert Jeffress, Wayne Grudem, and Bill Bennett. For them to choose Trump (or hold their noses, like Dennis Prager) indicates their desire that the GOP focus on economic, trade, and personal liberty over social agendas.

This is the great divide that threatens to smash longtime friendships and associations.

It doesn’t matter if Trump wins or not. If he wins, there will be another four years of apologizing for him nearly every day. At some point, many will declare their disappointment and regret, and may realize they bet on the wrong horse. My sister–an Obama acolyte in 2008–now despises the man for what he’s done the last 8 years. Maybe that’s the best course–I’ve even thought about that as a reason to support Trump–to preserve those relationships.

In other words: I’ll vote for Trump  for your sake. Now shut up.

But it’s too big a stretch for me. Not because I’m a sanctimonious prick, but because my conscience tells me something that other people’s consciences don’t necessarily tell them. And just like the Bible says, I don’t condemn Christians who support Trump for believing what they believe. I don’t think supporting Trump will send a Christian to hell. It’s just wrong, to me, and to many (most?) others. I do, however, expect those Christians to be accountable when the election is over.

I agree with Ramesh Ponnuru:

Most people who work in Republican politics want Donald Trump to win but think he will lose. They hope that afterward the party will unify in opposition to President Hillary Clinton. They are, however, underestimating the divisions in their party that Trump’s campaign has revealed.

From the standpoint of Republican unity, the worst possible outcome of the November election would be a narrow defeat for Trump. The nominee’s Republican supporters would be enraged at those Republicans who balked at Trump, and the party would be consumed by recriminations.

I think the Republican Party, as an organization, will be consumed with all kinds of handicaps, from donor disengagement, to a lack of new volunteers, that recriminations will just be the icing on that particular cake of awfulness. But from the standpoint of friendships, relationships, and conservative thought, will be in danger from those recriminations.

There is a place for social agendas in politics. In fact, I believe that’s the primary foundation beneath all the policies and trade and economics. Ideals are far more important than execution. The schism that faces post-Trump conservatives is this: Do we place our shared ideals above policies, programs, and political goals, or does upholding those ideals at the cost of party goals make those who do so into sanctimonious pricks?

If it’s the latter, it’s going to be a very long time before certain “former friends” break bread again without that awkward tension. That’s a good reason to hate 2016.

Rubio’s Path Forward

For much of the presidential campaign, it has seemed that one of Marco’s best strategic assets was that he had nothing to lose. He wasn’t running for re-election in the Senate and began talking about open-convention strategy almost immediately. He’d burnt his ships on the beach.

Over the last few weeks, as he’s consistently fallen short of vote goals, debate performance and fundraising, it’s become clear that while losing his bid for the presidency isn’t a career ender for Marco, losing in the wrong way could become one.

Three scenarios present themselves for consideration.

  1. Rubio prosecutes the campaign with a serious eye towards an open-convention. Erick has discussed the folly of this strategy at length. The chances of a positive end result of this plan for Marco, let alone our nation or party, is slim to none. What’s much more likely is that it allows Trump to reach a delegate majority months before the convention.
  2. After losing Florida, Marco concedes. In a last ditch effort to prove viability, Rubio stays in for March 15th, when nearly 300 delegates are at stake. If he wins, he’s still behind both Ted and Donald in the delegate count. If he loses, which is increasingly likely, his division of the vote gives at least 200 of the day’s delegates to Trump. In the process, Marco will have burnt his opportunity for party unity, a potential VP selection and the resurrection of his reputation within the conservative wing of the GOP.
  3. Marco makes good on his #NeverTrump promise by backing Ted Cruz prior to March 15. As a Cruz supporter, it’s easy to see how this helps Ted but Marco has some serious up-side in this scenario.

By dropping out and joining forces with Ted before Florida, Marco would become the man who sacrificed his presidential ambitions in order to stop Trump. He didn’t run out of money. Was still getting delegates. But he read the tea-leaves and saw that his country needed a special kind of sacrifice from him. The voters who have held Gang of 8 against him will have to weigh their disagreement against Marco’s unprecedented self-sacrifice. I, for one, think that such an action would erase a host of prior sins. It would also make him the only candidate to exit the campaign gracefully in the last 4 months.

Following this course of action would give Rubio significant credit for stopping trump. It would fuel a desire to see him on the GOP ticket, preserve future presidential viability and also leave the Florida Governors race open to him. Losing badly in his home state and handing the nomination to Trump would kill each of those paths.

I recognize how unlikely it is for Sen. Rubio to choose this path but I believe our nation needs it. Should he choose it, we will owe him a debt of extreme gratitude.

Senator, I believe you’re a good man who truly wants what is best for your country. She needs you now but not in the way you believed when you launched your campaign. Please answer her call.

DR Radio March 2, 2015: Super Tuesday Special

Welcome to the Super Tuesday Special edition of Dead Reckoning Radio! This is where host Jay Friesen, our resident 2015 Republican National Committee rising star, Hadley Heath, and Dr. Brian Mattson sit around an old door-turned-table and intelligently engage with (primarily) politics from a distinctly Christian perspective.

Today is a post-Super Tuesday roundup, considering three “futures”: The future of the GOP Presidential race, the future of the GOP as a political party, and the future of the country. Action-packed and full of unique insight, listen in as they intermix these segments with games of wit and whimsy: Nerd v. Nerd and a special election year game, “Donald’s Dictionary”!

For full show notes and to subscribe to the podcast click here:

On Meet The Press Erick Tells Trump Supporters They Will Elect Clinton

Watch Erick on Meet The Press Sunday morning.

MITCHELL: “And one of the things about Rubio which you just alluded to is he already had a deficit of stature of being presidential and commander-in-chief. So to get into the playground or the sandbox with Donald Trump, yes he needed to go after him but go after him on substance. Not go after him on—“
TODD: “Well, but the substance hasn’t worked. I mean that’s been the problem.”
ERICKSON: “I think you’ve gotta go after his personality—“
MITCHELL: “But don’t you think It lowers Rubio’s—“
TODD: “Well I agree but substance hadn’t worked. But let me ask you this, you alluded to it during the break. The ultimate like suicide mission to stop Donald Trump is to run a third party Republican. you’ve mentioned, you half-joked Rick Perry for president. Do you think there will be a third party a Constitution party say that is a legitimate Republican, a conservative?”
ERICKSON: “There absolutely will be, there are too many conservatives who would sit it out if it was Donald Trump and—“
MITCHELL: “Doesn’t that elect Hillary Clinton?”
ERICKSON: “It could but I think that ultimately that Donald Trump supporters need to understand that Hillary Clinton will be elected if they choose to go down this path and Republicans have an obligation to to make it clear in the primary that it will be Hillary Clinton if they don’t change.”

Tell your Trumpcoma-victim friends that their KKK-supported candidate will bring the house down.

Tell Me Again How Ted Cruz Can’t Beat Hillary?

As Erick noted recently, the GOP Establishment and their talking heads are eager to frame Ted Cruz as too conservative to win in November.

“We’ll take anyone!” the Establishment is saying, “Even Trump over Cruz.”

As I wrote the other day, these are the same political pygmies who have put the Republican Party in the state that it is in today. Rudderless, easily rolled by the Obama Administration and more interested in money and power, not principle, this chattering class is terrified of Ted Cruz and what he means to their futures.

Eager to undermine Cruz, they have moved from whispering to shouting, “He CANNOT win!” in hopes that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here’s the problem they face.

Ted Cruz is beating Hillary Clinton right now. He can win in November. The Real Clear Politics poll average now has Ted up 2% points over Hillary Clinton at a time when the GOP 1) does not have a nominee and 2) has not put the full force of the party machinery behind its candidate and against Hillary.

As others have written, Cruz has the kind of campaign it takes to win both the primary and the general election. The poll numbers are now backing this up.

So. . . tell me again how Ted Cruz can’t beat Hillary?

For full disclosure, I am currently helping with the Keep the Promise efforts, the Ted Cruz super PAC.