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November 5, 2008                          




Our newly-elected president will be facing a confluence of crises when he is inaugurated in January unheard of since FDR took the oath of office in January 1933.  And it will only get worse.  Much worse.


The deficit for the current fiscal year will be at least $500 billion (a record) and the 2010 deficit is likely to top $1 trillion because of the recent Wall Street financial bailout, among other things.  Meanwhile the “burn rate;” the cost of waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan (over $250 million a day; not including our $40 billion plus intelligence budget) shows no signs of decreasing (see New York Times op-ed from 3/4/08, “The $2 Trillion Nightmare”).


On top of all of this, our national debt (about $10 trillion and counting) would be much, much worse if we had not been raiding the social security trust fund for the last generation.  There is no hope of restoring these funds anytime soon.  In addition, there are billions upon billions of dollars in infrastructure repairs that we as a nation face from municipality to municipality, coast to coast.  Health care costs, which eat up a substantial cost of the federal budget, through Medicare and Medicaid are ballooning.  Finally, if we choose to sacrifice and really tackle climate change the costs may be reflected in lower economic growth rates and lower salaries for the foreseeable future.  Did I mention that we are already essentially in a recession?


Unfortunately, the presidential campaign wasn’t about any of these important issues.  Therefore, we have no idea how Barack Obama intends to handle these problems that threaten the lifeblood of our nation in myriad ways without breaking the bank even further.


However, as cooler heads prevail the breadth and extent of the financial crisis is leaking out and the inadequacy of the solutions to date are becoming more manifest (see “A Question for A.I.G—Where Did the Cash Go?;” a New York Times article from 10/29/08) .  That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that the government has blown about $2 trillion so far in an attempt to prop up banks and forestall a recession.


What is the current situation?


Last week the Washington, DC area’s public transportation system, METRO, was able to beat back a request from a creditor that called in a $43 million loan payment early.  For now anyway, the parties will be in court again in the near future (“Bank Shelves Demand that Metro Pay Up,” a Washington Post article from 10/31/08).  Turns out this is just the tip of the iceberg.


As a recent New York Times article discussed; school boards, municipalities and pension funds all over the country are in the same or worse situation (“From Midwest to M.T.A., Pain from Global Gamble” an article from 11/1/08).  Whether globalization, free trade and deregulated financial markets are a good idea are beyond the scope of this post.  The article highlights the folly of just propping up banks when it’s the people and institutions who have taken out the loans (the “lendees”) who are really getting stuck and more deserving of help.  But, the real news, whitewashed by our leaders and the media alike, is that this nation is on the verge of insolvency.  It turns out that H. Ross Perot was right after all.


If America and its government is truly blessed by the Lord, and has been anointed to help save the world, and I am positive that it is, how is it going to be able to accomplish this without money?  A significant part of the sacrifice of our faith is giving money: consider the teachings of the story of the Rich Young Ruler, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Widow with the Two Mites, Old Testament sacrifices, “Faith Without Works is Dead,” and see the “One Thing” at Galatians 2:1-10; just to name a few.


In the past, many in this country have hesitated to give more (and we do already give a lot) to the poor because of concerns that we were wasting money or that it was undermining the work ethic by setting a bad example.  Well, we have just given (or loaned at incredibly favorable terms) trillions of dollars to banks who are not known for their compassion and did not deserve it.  Plus, we are paying the price for our past selfishness and greed in many ways.  This is why we cannot now afford to comfortably confront our urgent problems or some of the world’s.  Moreover, what’s worse is that we continue to fail to accept that when we give; we are supposed to give until it hurts, like Jesus did.


Therefore, it is clear that in order for the US to do the things it needs to do here at home and the things we should be doing abroad, we must cut the budget somewhere.


Where do we cut?  Healthcare?  Welfare?  Education?  States, counties and cities all over the country are already doing that.  What is the true message from God here?  Isn’t it time we started looking at the burn rate?  Isn’t it time we stopped wasting money, even while we are making excuses why we can’t help the poor?


Iraq is not that much safer.  Afghanistan is worse.  Seven years in.  It’s time for us to face the fact that billions of dollars a month in war costs isn’t making us any safer, but more importantly isn’t stopping new terrorists from being created.  It’s time to seriously discuss this question: would this money be more effectively spent as developmental foreign aid?


The time is coming, I believe, when we will see that our own personal wealth or the military will not save us.  As the angel said to the prophet Zechariah, “Not by might nor power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).


Many are afraid of terrorists.  But, people all over the world are afraid also and they live in much more insecure places than we do.  It is our responsibility to help them.  More importantly, if you believe in God and heaven it is a sin to be afraid to die.  The Proverbs teaches us not to be afraid of “sudden terror” (3:25).


Finally, let us remember that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:8), and I pray that we will allow Him to guide us in the “way of peace” (Luke 1:79).



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