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For conservatives, no dog days of August

With Paul Ryan’s selection by Mitt Romney to be his running mate, August can be a productive time for conservatives, a month worth looking back on when the summer is over. There are three issues where conservatives should lead the debate, can educate friends and colleagues, can bring to the attention of candidates, both local and national, and actually have considerable impact on the result.

First is Cut, Cap and Balance, legislation that reduces the annual deficit and national debt, balances the budget going forward, and caps spending by Congress. Cut, Cap and Balance is the single most effective way to put the country on a path toward sound financial footing.  The effort, which was first introduced in the summer of 2011, earned the support of no less than 66 percent of the American people, easily passed in the House of Representatives and was supported by every single Republican member of the Senate. But it was killed by Harry Reid. 

A new bill was just introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that uses the budget numbers developed by Sen. Toomey, has 21 co-sponsors but is otherwise similar to last year’s bill.  It deserves the support of every conservative in the U.S., and must be the No. 1 item on Congress’ agenda.

Second is the defense budget and $55 billion in cuts that are scheduled for early next year, and a whopping $500 billion in cuts over the next ten years -- unless Congress acts to stop them. Defense Department officials, members of the armed services and defense contractors have warned that these cuts would leave the U.S. at the mercy of the rest of the world and the military ill-equipped to defend our interests, both at home and abroad.  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called the impending cuts “unworkable” and “a disaster,” while Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey called the cuts an “unacceptable risk.”

Conservatives need to spend August making Defense budget cuts a cause celebre.

Republicans in Congress (who agreed to the cuts last year as part of the debt-limit deal) who are now trying to reverse the cuts face fierce opposition from the Obama administration and congressional Democrats – who would rather keep entitlement cuts at a minimum at the expense of national security.  And in a recent congressional hearing, a senior Obama administration official accused Republicans of being responsible for Defense budget cuts because they refuse to allow Democrats to raise taxes on the “rich.”

Conservatives need to spend August making Defense budget cuts a cause celebre, informing the American people and, ultimately, members of Congress that they are unacceptable and a danger to safety and stature of the United States.

Finally, conservatives must remind their friends, colleagues and public officials that August 1, 2012, was D-Day for liberty in America.  Regulations imposed on Americans by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, which took effect on August 1, require health insurance plans to provide free “family planning” services to employees despite moral or religious objections which the employer may have.

The result is that charities, hospitals, schools and colleges – many, but hardly all run by the Catholic Church, as well as private businesses, are being forced to provide services that may fly directly in the face of their religious and moral beliefs.  The federal government, in other words, is dictating to these institutions how their moral and religious faith should be interpreted. 

Rarely before has the government interfered with religious liberties, and when it has, the courts have usually taken a dim view of such actions. Dozens of organizations have already filed lawsuits against the government for the mandate, and at least one court has already granted injunctive relief. After all, it was because of religious persecution that many people came to America in the first place, which is why the Constitution treasures religious liberty as highly as any other of our freedoms.

Luckily, all three of these problems can be fixed if we can convince Congress to be bold enough to take the bull by the horns. So between the ball games, the barbeques, the trips to the lake and quiet time with families and friends, let us suggest that conservatives take a few minutes to consider the perilous state their nation is in, and take a little time to do something about it.  It is no secret that we’ll face a fiscal cliff soon after the first of the year if we don’t act now. 

Times are tough enough now without massive tax hikes, more unneeded spending and another addition to the national debt that will be a millstone around the necks of our children and grandchildren.  Add to that a diminished national security apparatus to protect us against threats that come from terrorists, from rogue countries like Iran and North Korea, as well as threats to our sovereignty from places like China, Russia and the Middle East. And finally, if you consider infringements by the government on the freedoms that Americans have been fighting to protect since 1789, it all adds up to a witches’ brew of issues crying for solution.

In those spare moments, therefore, conservatives should call their representatives and senators, write letters to the editor, send email alerts to members of their organizations, raise the issues in town halls and candidate forums, call radio talk shows. 

What could be more important than preserving our economy, our security and our constitutional liberties?

Regnery, former publisher of The American Spectator and former president of Regnery Publishing, is the managing director of the Paul Revere Project.