Let me state this clearly. Despite some news reports, I am not a candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s Ninth Congreessional District. I am considering becoming a candidate, however, and I so informed the Bergen County Republican Organization (BCPO). People considering becoming candidated had until Jan. 31 to inform the BCPO of their interest; otherwise, they could not be considered for the party’s nomination (although they could run in a primary).
Truth regardless of consequences While I am not candidate, I am actively exploring the viability of such a candidacy, including my ability to integrate existing responsibilities into the considerable effort a serious candidacy will entail.
And I want you to know why. Why would a rabbi run for Congress? In my case, it is because the problems we are seeing in our great nation are not caused by an economic downturn, as proclaimed by media and politicians alike, but by a values erosion. Congress so desperately needs a values-voice. I have sought to be that voice in other sectors of American society; I could be that voice in Congress, as well.
The values that have dominated the U.S. political landscape for decades are the obsessions with gay marriage and abortion, to the exclusion of nearly all others, which explains why our country is so incredibly religious yet so seemingly decadent. It is time to expand the values conversation and policy agenda.
Let us begin with really saving the institution of marriage by focusing squarely on the divorce rate – anywhere between 40 percent and 50 percent, depending on how one plays with the numbers. Any way you look at it, however, the divorce rate is outrageous. I will promote legislation that will fight marital breakdown by making marital counseling tax-deductible. We should be offering husbands and wives whose families are collapsing a financial incentive to get the help they need so that their children do not end up like yo-yos bouncing from home to home. I am a child of divorce, and I have helped families move away from the brink of a tragedy that must finally be addressed on a grand scale.
There is a need to recreate an American Sabbath so that parents have an incentive to take their children to a park rather than to a mall. Bergen County is the only county left in the United States that keeps its shopping malls shut on Sundays, thereby allowing families to coalesce around the dinner table rather than a department store counter.
Beyond helping the family, this will also help counter the growing materialism that continues to poison the American soul, leading to the near-collapse of a $10 trillion economy just three years ago when we had homes that were never large enough, cars that were never new enough, and designer labels that were never fashionable enough.
Eighty-one percent of 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed in a Pew Research Center poll said getting rich is their generation’s most important or second-most-important life goal, while 51 percent said the same about being famous.
I am pro-wealth, but only when it is consecrated to a goal higher than mere consumption. That is why I advocate a moment of silence to start the day in public schools, so children are given time to reflect on issues and something larger than themselves. Separation of church and state is key in our nation. That, however, means not imposing a religious creed on any citizen; it does not mean chasing God from public life.
We should also be combating the growing narcissism of our children by proposing a year of national service after high school. Just two percent of the population of the United States protects our freedom in the military while the remainder do scant public service. With one daughter now entering the Israeli army and a son who has been nominated to West Point, I believe strongly in children who choose to serve.
The reality-TV generation, which experiences exploitation as a way of life, needs to rediscover human dignity. Of course people want food, clothing, and shelter. More than anything else, however, they want a life of dignity and self-sufficiency. Dignity is the human aura that accrues to the individual through self-reliance. A dependent life is a fundamentally undignified life. Self-respect is earned through the sweat of one’s brow. Yes, we want to be able to pay our bills; yes, we all seek material comforts. Yet we also seek an existence infused with relevance and meaning. Government, of course, must provide a safety net for a rainy day, but only self-reliance creates a sunny life. Citizens can take both moral and financial responsibility for their own future; Congress can help them do so.
High taxes and a complicated tax code that imposes a greater burden on the “barely haves” are also values issues, not political ones. For working parents to survive this economic downturn, for them to have money to spend on the needs of their families, there must be a lessening of the outrageous tax burden. I agree with Warren Buffet; that billionaires should not be paying taxes that are lower than what their secretaries pay, and the overall tax burden needs to come way down. A flat tax and a simplification of the tax code are essential.
When it comes to education, parents have a right to choose who educates their children and to which schools they send their children and, as such, vouchers empowering school choice are a must. We must simultaneously, however, strengthen our public schools by introducing more values-based learning as well as a dress code that fosters dignity and self-worth.
In foreign policy, this country must be true to its promise by forgoing ambiguity and firmly opposing tyrrany wherever it exists – including Iran and Syria.
This country also needs to stand unambiguously beside Israel, its most stalwart and reliable ally. President Barack Obama, thankfully, has reversed course on his unfair pressure on Israel and deserves credit for increasing military and intelligence cooperation with the Jewish state. Who is to say, however, why he did so? Is it because of his shellacking in the 2010 midterm elections? Will the pressure on Israel resume when the pressure of re-election is taken from him?
Israel is this country’s surrogate in championing democratic ideals in the world’s most dangerous region. That makes supporting it a values issue, not a political one.
I do not know whether I will run for the Ninth CD seat. I do know why I would want to.