Archive for the 'Political' Category

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

     I remember well the campaign slogan of the Clinton era – “It’s the economy, stupid!”     Its basic message was that most of us had it  wrong; that it wasn’t about politics, policies, competence, or character.  It wasn’t about abortion, gun control or the definition of marriage.  It was all about money, yours and mine, and how all around bad it was.    (Interestingly, those look like the good old days now.)  Today, it is the same tired mantra; but the more I think about it, it’s not about money per se; and it is not the economy. 

     To be sure, my company and I have been affected by the economic downturn; I am challenged as much as other small business owners.  But I believe the root cause of our problem lies well below the surface of interest rates, credit availability, taxes and regulation.  It’s does not have to do with economics; it has to do with how we view economics – our attitude towards money and how it plays out in real time.

     It has been said that people don’t have money problems, it’s how they think about money, how they handle it, and what they do with it that are the real issues.  Here are some things I have identified as being underlying causes of our economic woes:

 Entitlement.  By this is meant the mentality that we have certain rights to things – economic, material or otherwise – regardless of whether or not we qualify for them, have earned them, or whether they are good for us or not.  This attitude permeates our culture, rich and poor alike.   The reality is that, by our own Constitution, our rights extend to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They do not extend to things, but the freedom to pursue things.  Thus happiness is not assured; its pursuit is. Compounding the effects of this mindset is a government that plays to it.

Debt.  There was a time when there were no credit cards; if you didn’t have the money, you didn’t have the money, and you either saved for what you wanted or you didn’t get it.  The problem with debt is that it presumes upon the future; either you believe that things will stay the same or get better, or you don’t care.  This kind of thinking has a lot of folks foreclosing on their homes, working multiple jobs to keep up with minimum balances, or filing for bankruptcy.  Certain types of debt can be useful, but for the most part it creates a false sense of prosperity, causing many to live beyond their means, often resulting in financial failure for both people and nations.

Sloth.  There is a biblical proverb which goes like this: “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.”  In other words, laziness is not a good thing. Being an employer for 35 years, I think I have seen everything.  But one thing I have noticed recently is an overall change in people’s attitude towards work.  The prevailing mentality is do as little as possible for as much as possible, retiring as soon as possible so we can continue to do as little as possible.  And then complain about how bad the economy is.  “All hard work brings a profit,” is another saying.  It seems to me that there are few problems that cannot be solved by plain old hard work.

Charity.  “As you sow, so shall you reap.”  This is a truth the nation’s farmers understand, but it escapes most everyone else.  History teaches there is a cycle to all great nations, and part of that cycle is that they go from abundance to selfishness.  Though Americans are the most generous of the world’s peoples, their level of charitable giving pales with their level of income.  Perhaps the answer to our economic woes is to take a larger chunk of what we do have and support those who have less – and I don’t mean the forced redistribution of wealth.  I mean freely giving to meet the needs of others, through the local church, charitable organizations, or directly to those less fortunate than we are.  I have found that the more you give the more your get; benevolence always pays off in the long run.

 In summary, the nation’s economic situation is real and it affects all of us.  However, the answer is not adding fuel to the fire by increased entitlement programs and debt, but by fostering a culture of generosity and hard work.

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The Change We Really Need

    We kept hearing during the presidential campaign the mantra of change – not a small attraction for those who were fed up with the current state of things, and a common call to youthful idealism.  And now we are getting a glimpse of what that change will be – all three branches of government controlled by the same party, an administration comprised largely of previous and liberal politicians, and an approach to ruling that has a definite socialist bent.

     The change we really need, however, is of a different sort.  It is not political per se, but it will affect one’s views on politics.  It is not financial, although it will put us in the right concerning money.  And it is not ideological, but it will direct our thinking as to how things ought to be.  The real change required to make our lives and our country better is one of the heart, and it is referred to in the Bible as repentance.

     Repentance in the holy writ is really twofold.  In one testament it means to change course, go a different direction, change your behavior.  In the other, written in the Greek language, it denotes  a change of mind, a change of thinking.  And both meanings indicate moving away from one thing, and toward another.

     “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” were among the first words of Jesus the Christ.  Before him, the prophet John the Baptist was saying the same thing.  And Jesus, upon sending out his first missionaries, instructed them to preach the exact message.  All throughout the the Bible, and especially the New Testament, and right to the very end, this message is repeated, both to Christians and the Church, and to those outside the church.

     It is a message we all need to hear once again.

     The apostle Paul, speaking in Athens at the time, told his audience that God was now commanding all men to repent, because he had appointed a day on which they would be judged.  The point being that, regardless of whether we agree or not, there is forthcoming a judgment, whereupon we all shall give account of ourselves to God.  A good reason, I believe, to make sure our heads and our hearts are in the right place.

     But it isn’t just future judgment we should be concerned about – and this is what I am aiming at.  It is our present situation that warrants our attention.  Call it what you may, but the current financial crisis could well be a clarion call to us to make a drastic change – a change as to where we put our trust, whose drum beat we march to, and where our affections lie.

     The change the Bible calls for is one in which we shun our reliance upon ourselves, our elected officials, and the almighty dollar, and direct it instead to the living God – the God who has told us in the Bible how we ought to live, and who says with longing in his heart, “repent or perish.”  It is a change were we leave our worthless idols of money, material goods, and false security, and turn instead to the One to Whom our forefathers went in times of trouble, and Who gave us all these things to begin with.

    Indeed, unless we heed the call to go back to our roots – and I mean our Christian roots, I fear our going forward, that we shall have to learn our lesson the hard way.  And it will be very, very hard.