Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aubrey Says

I found this as a comment on an article at The Patriot Post.  The name on the comment is Aubrey HaganIt is very good, and speaks to the point I have been harping about lately.  I reprint it here for your enjoyment:

That debt limit thing is just like me and my brother-in-law Jimmy!

My brother-in-law, Jimmy, has been borrowing money from me for years. Although he's always paid me on time, he just asked me to borrow another $30,000 on top of the $140,000 he already owes me.

Being a prudent person, before giving Jimmy the additional loan, I looked into Jimmy's spending habits. Here's what I found:

Although Jimmy doesn't work, an old trust fund pays him $21,900 in annual income. Further investigation reveals that his annual expenses exceed his annual income by $14,600. In other words, Jimmy's expenses are about 60% higher than his income.

(Now I understand why Jimmy wants to increase his loan from $140k to $170k!)

When I diplomatically explain to Jimmy my reluctance to loan him another $30,000 given his poor money management, Jimmy gets angry: "if you don't lend me another $30k by next week, I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep buying your sister's heart medication. And I'm not sure if I'll be able to buy groceries or heat the house this winter either! In fact, if I don't get the $30k by next week, the bank is going to repo your sister's car and foreclose on her house."

"But, Jimmy", I say, "I thought you told me you'd used the initial $140k loan so that you could pay for that house in cash?"

Long story short, although I don't appreciate Jimmy's threats, since I love my sister (his wife), I offered this compromise (I'll let you know his response when and if I get it):

I agreed to lend Jimmy another $9000, but only if he agrees (starting "very soon"!) to decrease his spending by $2.46 per day.

When I said this, Jimmy got really angry and threw another tantrum: "there's no way that could work! You are trying to KILL your sister!!"

More from Chuck

Today Colson followed up yesterday’s Breakpoint commentary fiasco with:

Debt, Default, and Worldview

Kent comments some more:

Chuck was back today with more on this topic, and he didn’t completely rehabilitate himself.  He starts out by saying:

The clock is ticking. The United States is on the verge of default. Congress and the president seem unable to come together and find an agreement avoiding an economic catastrophe.

The lie that the United States will default on its debt in the next few days is being circulated by those who don’t know better, or who do know better and just want to punch up the “news.”  If the debt ceiling is not raised, it simply means that the government will have to live on its income.  It has quite a lot of income – plenty to pay the interest on the debt, and several other things.  But not everything.  So failing to raise the debt ceiling will not cause a default.  It would cause an out-of-control government to have to decide which of the many things it now pays for are most important.  That’s not default – default is failing to pay the interest on or redeem government debt obligations.  Living within your means is fiscal sanity and responsibility.  Colson should know all that, but if he does, he doesn’t acknowledge it.

Then Colson goes on to say:

How in the world did we get into this fix? Well, it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been coming for a generation. For years, fiscal conservatives have warned about the dangers of out-of-control borrowing and spending, but current and previous presidents and congresses have ignored them, rolling up a massive national debt.

What’s that, Chuck?  Yesterday those fiscal conservatives were lumped in with “ideologues” who refused to “compromise” and “solve” this problem.  Today, they seem to be “voices crying in the wilderness” calling on presidents and congresses to repent.  What happened since yesterday, Chuck?

In any case, Colson is now ready to diagnose the problem:

The bigger question is why did the American people stand for this? The answer is painfully clear. Because the people themselves were busy borrowing and spending like fiends.

Now Chuck is on to something.  But there is a bit of the “chicken or the egg” matter hidden here.  Did American’s make their government in their own “borrow and spend” image, or . . . did activists shape government into a borrow and spend mode which in turn influenced Americans?

Colson’s thought is that:

This is what happens when a false worldview comes home to roost. Remember that it was in the 1960s that existentialism and relativism took over college campuses. If there truly were no God and life were devoid of meaning, well, live it up while you can. Throw off the burden of moral restraints, of civic duty and responsibility.

Chuck comes close, but he never really grabs the gold ring.  Existentialism and relativism did take over college campuses in the 1960s.  And who sponsors and controls most of those colleges and universities?  Governments.  At those colleges and universities are departments of education, though which these worldviews were and are actively propagated though government controlled schools.

Perhaps everyday people changed in regard to the ethics of spending and borrowing because, through its various arms and institutions, those who ensconced themselves in positions of power and influence in government have pushed for those changed attitudes.

Colson says “The greatest generation scrimped and saved; their kids, the boomers, went on a big shopping binge.”

Let’s think back to what happened with “the greatest generation.”  Their parents mostly idolized FDR, the president who did his level best to kick tax, spend, and borrow big government into high gear.  The “greatest” generation elected people like LBJ and Richard Nixon, who kept the legacy of FDR growing.

And the baby boomers watched what their grandparents and parents had put into place in government, and decided to imitate the monster that their forebears had created.  The greatest generation scrimped and saved, but they never insisted that their governments do the same.  When they turned the education of their children over to those same governments, what did they expect?

Yes, Mr. Colson, it is a matter of worldview, but probably not in quite the way you think.

Think Again, Chuck Colson

Nothing Like It Before

The Battle over the Debt

Kent comments:

I often find something useful in Colson’s “Breakpoint” commentaries.  But I have no idea how, given what he seems to think about the Christian faith, he came up with some of the ideas in this one.

Colson is worried about the debates in Congress over spending, debt, and budgets.  That’s reasonable enough – it is a matter worthy of concern.  After some introduction, Colson says:

I’ve never seen the kind of chaos, recalcitrance, and perhaps downright obstructionism that I’m witnessing in the battle over the budget and the debt ceiling.

I’m still with you, Chuck.  There is plenty of all the things you mentioned going on in this debate.  But then Colson goes on to say in regard to previous political debates:

But almost every time . . . agreements were reached when both parties put the national good over ideology. Even if it took, as I remember one time long before that, Lyndon Johnson, then majority leader, locking the parties in a room and telling them not to come out until a deal was reached. And they stayed there until they did reach a deal.

Now I am starting to get worried about old Chuck.  Is he really longing for the days of Lyndon Johnson (practically a political gangster) locking people in a room until “a deal” is reached?  I would remind Mr. Colson that many of these “deals” forced on people by Mr. Johnson were the very things that have led us to the fiscal precipice at which we now stand.

Colson goes on to say:

But that isn’t happening now. And I find it both bewildering and alarming.  I cannot explain the behavior of either side. It’s bordering on the irrational.

I am rather glad things – bad things – are sailing smoothly into law as they did with LBJ.  Then Colson come to the heart of the matter:

What is going on? I can only think of three possibilities. None of them are good. First, is ideological madness. Both sides held captive by a political ideology that won’t let them settle for anything short of total victory. If that’s the case, the system may be badly broken.

I won’t go into Colson’s other possibilities, because they are really just variants of this one.  When Colson says mentions “both sides held captive by a political ideology” he seems to be forgetting that there are more than just two “sides” in this debate.  There is President Obama, who has never really made clear what he wants other than higher taxes and increased spending and debt.  There is the majority of Congressional Democrats who are – I don’t know how else to say this – fiscally insane.  There is the Republican leadership which keeps proposing ever-changings “solutions” that do not solve anything.

And then there is a sizeable minority of Republicans (and perhaps a Democrat or two I don’t know about), led by people like Rand Paul and Jim Demint, who see that we have a fiscal crisis rapidly approaching and are trying to do something that could actually address the problem.  They do have what Colson would call an “ideology” behind what they are uncompromisingly advocating. 

That “ideology” informs them that it is practically impossible for the United States government to continue to borrow trillions of dollars each year that is cannot repay.  That “ideology” also has a moral component that informs them that it is morally wrong for a government to borrow money that everyone knows it will never repay.  That “ideology” informs them that it is wrong to promise people that we will pay their bills for them by borrowing money we cannot repay.

Then Colson goes on to make a statement that causes me to question his rationality in this matter:

Our society has jettisoned the belief in moral truth and absolutes and we have grasped at man-made answers and ideologies; whether it’s angry anti-government sentiment on the far right or the sacredness of entitlements on the left, or any host of other political pathologies.

It is not a “political pathology” that causes us to conclude we cannot, and we must not, continue to spend money that we do not have for things that we do not need.  That conclusion is drawn directly from the Christian worldview that Colson professes to love and teach.  It comes straight from the “moral truth and absolute” that it is wrong to borrow money that you know you cannot and will not repay.

And if Chuck Colson does not understand that, then he does not understand the moral teaching of the Christian faith.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Uncle Sam: You Need to Cut Up Your Credit Card!

Today I heard our great Senator Rand Paul on the radio being interviewed in regard to the current government budget and debt debate.  He reminded me of something I had forgotten.  In the proposals by both Democrat and Republican leadership, an ever-increasing baseline budget is the starting point for any supposed cuts.  I think the annual baseline increase is around 7%.

This means that, in the end, the proposal that is being worked out by the Speaker of the House does not actually cut government spending at all.  In fact, it allows it to increase significantly as time goes on, along with an ever-increasing government debt.

Suppose a friend with a “cash flow problem” (what a euphemism that is!) came to you for budgeting help.  The friend has an enormous balance on his credit card, and not only is the balance increasing, but it is increasing at an ever-increasing rate.  The friend wants to know what he can do other than declaring bankruptcy.

The friend is going to have to spend less.  That will mean that he will have to stop buying many of the things to which he has been accustomed.  He is necessarily going to have to trim his lifestyle significantly.

Surely any meaningful advice would also have to include this:  stop borrowing money immediately.  Do whatever you have to do to make sure you borrow no more!  Cut up your credit card.

Could good advice in such a situation ever be “just try to slow down the rate at which you are going into debt?”  Could good advice include the idea “assume you will spend and borrow more each year, and just cut down how much more you are going to go into debt”?

But this is exactly what even the Republican leadership is proposing for the United States government.  It sounds utterly idiotic when you put in terms of your hypothetical, over-spending friend.  And it sounds just as idiotic when it comes from the Speaker of the House.

Just like a person with a massive, continuing credit card balance, the United States needs to stop borrowing money.  We should have stopped it a long time ago.  But now it is now, and now is always good time to stop borrowing.

It would be a good thing, not some kind of tragedy, if the “debt ceiling” were never raised again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It’s Time for Repentance

from The Freeman, in an old article by Hans Sennholz:

Most Americans favor it [government spending], legislators enact it, and government agents administer it. A Constitutional amendment calling for balanced budgets, enacted under such conditions, may restore balance through significant tax boosts. But it may also lead to massive reorganization of government activity and spending. In particular, it may prompt a Federal rush to the backdoors of government spending, and give rise to countless new off-budget agencies and private enterprises under government control. The possibilities of concealment and just plain trickery are endless. It is naive to believe that a balanced budget amendment, enacted by the masters of subterfuge, could dampen the enthusiasm for Federal largess.

Kent comments:

I hope “Cut, Cap, and Balance” passes the House today.  It has little chance to pass the Senate, and no chance to avoid an Obama veto.

But even if it, or anything like it, were to pass through Congress and the President, Sennholz (he is now deceased, I met him long ago - He had a very interesting life story) has a good point to make in this article from 1987.  We are in the current fiscal mess because most Americans want the government to spend a lot of money.  They also do not want the government to collect (in taxes on them) all the money they want the government to spend.  The government couldn’t collect that money because we don’t have it.

Most of us have wanted all this for a long time now – as did our parents and perhaps even some of our grandparents.  Politicians have simply done the bidding of most of us.  This means that ever-increasing government debt is a spiritual problem, involving greed, envy, and many other issues that are ultimately spiritual.

Wanting things you can’t afford, and acting to get them even when you can’t afford them, is a spiritual problem.  It is the kind of problem which can be solved only by repentance, that is, a fundamental change of your mind about the problem at hand.

Nothing is changed by the fact that the things you want might at least seem good, benevolent, or nice.  Take careful note of this:  at one level it is just as wrong to borrow money you can’t pay back to help your needy neighbor as it is to borrow money you can’t pay back to buy yourself a new car.  (Think about that again, and maybe a third time.)

I utterly detest the ideology of Obama and his whole gang of thugs.  But his resistance to correcting the problem of ever-increasing government spending and the resulting increasing debt simply mirrors what most Americans want.  And I am confident that if you examine yourself carefully, you will find that you want governments to do all sorts of things that governments need not do – and you don’t want to pay for them.

So until YOU are willing to repent of your government spending addictions, don’t blame politicians for simply carrying out the desires of you and most of your neighbors.  The national government has a large credit card with a limit it can raise at will mostly because you want it that way.  You like at least some of the results.  You like to spend money you don’t have.  The only solution to that problem is repentance.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

True and Literal

May 25, 2007

One-Third of Americans Believe the Bible Is Literally True

High inverse correlation between education and belief in a literal Bible

by Frank Newport


PRINCETON, NJ -- About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word. This percentage is slightly lower than several decades ago. The majority of those Americans who don't believe that the Bible is literally true believe that it is the inspired word of God but that not everything it in should be taken literally. About one in five Americans believe the Bible is an ancient book of "fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man."

Kent comments:

Educated people should understand that it is nearly meaningless to modify “true” with “literally” in this way.  The real question is:  are all the statements of the Bible true?  It is pointless to insert “literally” here.

Of course we can debate what kinds of language are being used at various points in the Bible.  There are many ways to express truth, many of which are some kind of figure of speech.  But even figures of speech must, in some sense, be taken “word for word.”  Every word of a figure of speech is important.

Notice the categories in this poll:

When you try to understand these categories, you run into a conceptual brick wall.  (That last phrase, by the way, is a figure of speech.  But it is one that rather clearly expresses a truth.)

I imagine now these three options presented to me in a poll.  I have to try to answer a poll that presents a false trichotomy.  I believe the Bible to be the “actual word of God” in the sense that God superintended its production so that all that it claims is truth.  But if I am forced to add “to be taken literally” I must quickly add that if you take the many figures of speech in the Bible literally, you will most certainly misunderstand many parts of the Bible!

As for the second choice, I don’t even know what to make of saying that the Bible is “inspired by word of God.”  I could affirm that the Bible “is the inspired word of God” but that is very different.

The third option is also problematic.  I don’t think the Bible is fable or legend as those words are normally used.  I do think that some of it is history as recorded by some men, men whose recording activity was overseen by God.

So, in the end, this Gallup Poll is nearly meaningless.  We don’t learn what people believe about the Bible here because the responses are too limited, and very vague.  It might be difficult to learn what people think about the Bible in a poll, because many people, even Christian people, have not thought very much about what they do, in fact, think about the Bible.

I know a wonderful church lady who insists that the Bible must be everywhere and always taken “literally.”  But I doubt that she believes we should rip out our eyeballs when we have a problem with a sin that involves seeing things – as you might have to conclude if you really took Matt. 18:9 “literally.”