A five-day belated Happy New Year to all.
You remember Jan. 1, this past Sunday. On that one day, you felt optimistic, happy. You thought of and felt new beginnings, a determination to stop bad habits and make your life better.
Certainly, we’re guessing you also felt hope. Hope that whatever pulled you down personally in 2022, whatever pulled down our community, our state, our nation in 2022 will disappear.
We all hope for the better. We need hope.
That is our word.
Followers of this page at this time of year know that one of our traditions in the first edition of the year is to devote this space to a word … a word to live by through the year. And in light of the events ravaging this great nation for the second consecutive year, one word kept surfacing: We need hope.
We hope for the better, because we know deep down there is so much more good around us than there is bad. We have hope because deep in our psyches we believe good eventually will overtake the bad.
In our home turf of Longboat Key and Sarasota and Manatee counties, we are fortunate because good indeed far outweighs bad.
Thanks to the basic decency and goodness of the people who live along the west coast of Florida, and thanks to the law enforcement officers who serve us, we don’t have the runaway crime that afflicts so many communities across America.
And like him or not, you can credit Gov. Ron DeSantis, his leadership and the Legislature for not letting woke-ism become a social cancer here the way it has been eating away the nation’s historical moral culture in so many other states. Florida clearly stands out now as the best, freest state in America in which to live and work.
Talk about good fortune. Miraculously, the Tampa Bay region down to northern Sarasota County escaped the wrath of Hurricane Ian. Our hearts, prayers and best wishes continue to go out to the Floridians from Venice to Naples still trying to recover and rebuild. They need hope. Perhaps the inspiring words of the late Pope John Paul II below can help them through.
And perhaps those inspiring words can be infused in all of us — and especially all across America. We need to be filled with hope in 2023. Even though we all felt buoyant and optimistic Jan. 1, on that one day, five days into the New Year and beyond many of the dark realities of 2022 will continue to drape our backs.
Hope? We in Florida should hope our fellow Americans — the 80 million who voted in 2020 for Joe Biden and the millions upon millions more who live obliviously — wake up. We should hope they wake up and see how their standards of living and quality of life are deteriorating day by day. We should hope in 2023 it dawns on them what the people they elected to Congress are doing to them — and especially to their children and grandchildren.
Surely, they see. Surely, they care.
Of course, they know their paychecks don’t buy as much as they did in 2020. They know it’s inflation. But we hope they would understand that the cause of inflation comes not from “Putin,” but from only one source: the federal government — the printing of too much money, brought on by Congress’ spending of money it doesn’t have.
Because of the legalized theft in Congress, the declining value of our dollars has been a forever trend. But let’s go back only 15 years for an eye-opening snapshot of what they are doing to us and our heirs.
From the end of the George W. Bush era in 2008 and the election of Barack Obama, the purchasing power of your dollars has declined 30%. That $100 you spend at the grocery store today bought $141 worth of groceries in 2008.
That $50,000 annual salary in 2008? Today, it’s the equivalent of earning $35,460 — a loss of $14,540 in purchasing power. And that’s before taxes.
Just since Joe Biden’s election, the value of your dollar has declined 12.5%. That $100 you spend today, it bought you $114 in goods at the end of Donald Trump’s term.
That $50,000 annual salary at the end of 2020? Today, it’s the equivalent of $43,859 — a loss of $6,141 in purchasing power in two years.
Just in the past two years alone, the middle class has lost 40% of the purchasing power it has lost since 2008. Or turn that around: That loss is essentially a 40% increase in taxation.
That devastation is what Americans are feeling today. And it’s going to get worse in 2023, thanks to the $1.7 trillion “omnibus” spending bomb Congress passed at the close of 2022. That bill has 7,200 earmarks, including nearly $1 billion to provide food and shelter in sanctuary cities for immigrants pouring into the U.S. illegally.
That $1 billion is on top of the approximate $300 billion overall annual cost to taxpayers at the federal, state and local levels for illegal immigration. Whatever governments spend on immigrants living in the U.S. illegally is money the government is not saving or spending on its legal citizens.
Think also of the effects on all the local property owners and citizens along the borders of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. Illegal immigration is destroying their communities’ ways of life. While this goes unabated and is filtering into all of the United States, Joe Biden has yet to communicate to the American people the objective he is trying to achieve and how this invasion of immigrants is a benefit to American citizens.
All of the above is what Americans see and feel now. But what Congress and the White House are doing to our children and grandchildren is an even worse lock-them-up crime.
Look at the accompanying U.S. debt table. In the past 15 years, Congress has increased the national debt 227% — an average of 15% a year. What middle-class family do you know that can increase its annual income 15% a year?
And that total national debt doesn’t count the unfunded liabilities U.S. taxpayers will have to pay in the future to cover the debt on Social Security and Medicare — a staggering $173 trillion, or $518,625 per citizen.
This relentless looting of middle-class Americans’ income will continue to eat away and destroy future generations’ standard of living. The more money the federal government consumes to fund itself and pay the interest on its growing debt, the more punishment is inflicted on Americans.
In the words of the late economist Ludwig von Mises, “Depriving the individual of the freedom of the choice of consumption logically leads to the abolition of all freedom.”
Wow. What a downer of a way to start the New Year.
So much appears hopeless.
But that is exactly why we must start 2023 with hope. Indeed, history — from the Old Testament on — has shown us the power of hope.
To buttress any waning hope you might have, we turned to Rabbi Noam Marans, director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations at the American Jewish Committee, one of the world’s leading human rights organizations. Rabbi Marans is an internationally recognized leader of Catholic and Jewish dialogue and an expert biblical scholar.
Asked what good does it do to have hope, Marans’ first words were: “Let me first state unequivocally, hope is a Jewish value.”
Or, put another way, the Israelites were the first to make hope an embedded value in their culture. Even though the word “hope” does not appear in the first five books of the Old Testament, the concept came about via the early Jews’ exiles to Egypt and Babylon.
Marans cites the prophet Jeremiah, who lived around 585 B.C. Jeremiah sent a letter from God to the Jews exiled in Babylon. Among its words:
“Only after 70 years have elapsed for Babylon will I deal with you and fulfill for you my promise to bring you back to this place.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.
“When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.”
Later in the letter:
“Thus says the Lord: Cease your cries of weeping, hold back your tears! There is compensation for your labor, they shall return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future; your children shall return to their own territory.”
Have hope, says God.
And then there is the prophet Zechariah. In Chapter 9:12, Zecheriah refers to the Jews as the “prisoners of hope.” The people of hope.
Throughout the Old Testament, Marans notes, “Hope is what kept the Jewish people alive who were disconnected from their homeland.”
And there is no better story of hope, Marans adds, than that of the Jewish people from the late 1800s through the 1940s. During this period, world Jewry was nearly destroyed. Ninety-percent of the Polish Jews were murdered.
“But somehow these ‘prisoners of hope’ were able to rise up and change the course of history,” Marans says. “They went from the nadir of powerlessness to self-empowerment. It was the activist hope making the possible happen.”
To be sure, Marans reminds us of the frequent truism: Hope is not a strategy. But it’s a necessary ingredient to a better life.
“An individual without hope,” he says, “is a person with no mechanism for dealing the challenges of human beings. Life without hope is a life governed by inevitable tragedy and despondency.”
But hope “is the antidote to loneliness and despair,” Marans says. “It’s the power of community. When one belongs to a community, one inevitably embraces hope. Community in this sense implies friendships, relationships, family, neighborhood, shared humanity.
“Shared humanity gives us hope,” Marans says. “Hope is the power that propels us to take action.”
In 2023, fill your heart and mind with hope. Have hope that all Americans will do the same.