Quick! Grab every man, woman and child! The end is near! The sky will come crashing down upon us unless (that is), the bailout bill is passed.
Sure, this might be a slight exaggeration, but it is how some lawmakers in congress interpreted the plea by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for support of his $700 billion economic rescue plan. Despite being reworked and retooled as a result of intense negotiations over the weekend, the plan still suffered the same fate as that of its predecessor, failure.
Because many in congress are wary about spending such a large sum of money (and perhaps rightfully so) on what they see as the errors of Wall Street.
Before yesterday’s vote, I watched on TV as the various members of congress came up one by one to either give their reluctant support or adamant rejection of a proposal that many have said is our last best chance at saving a tail-spinning economy. Meanwhile, the media reported it seems the entire nation abhors the proposed bill on the grounds that it lets rich Wall Street investment bankers off easy.
As citizens of faith, what are we meant to do? How are we meant to view this issue? It is one that confounds expectation and blurs the traditional political lines.
When in doubt, perhaps there is no better example than Jesus Christ himself.
Jesus for Treasury Secretary
Jesus always said to love your neighbors as yourself and perhaps more importantly (and most challenging) to love your enemies. He made these bold statements at a time when it was not popular to do so. It was a radical departure from a culture of vengeance and greed. The old way, “an eye for an eye,” was effectively replaced by a new philosophy of all inclusive love—even love for those who were most despised.
Jesus broke bread with prostitutes, tax collectors and thieves. He did not judge and taught all his followers to do likewise. In hindsight, while we know that the end of the world wasn’t exactly right around the corner, the urgency for world change was enough for God to send His only son. I think it’s safe to say that at the time, things were not going well. With Jesus’ arrival and his eternal forgiveness, everything was made new.
Now fast forward 2000 years.
We’ve found ourselves entrapped in an incredibly complex economic web where the term “mortgage-backed securities” is fast becoming as common a household phrase as “warm apple pie.” Economists pin the cause of our current economic crisis on irresponsible actions by greedy investors. Through these same mortgage backed securities, they have amassed millions of faulty assets, causing a global squeeze on credit and capitol.
Now, by no means am I an economist. I hardly know how the intricacies of the stock market work. That said, I see oversimplified versions of this situation spewing from Capital Hill and I have felt compelled to respond in a similar oversimplified way.
From day one when Secretary Henry Paulson first revealed his plan to rescue Wall Street, I was against it. $700 billion and unchecked power for the treasury department? All for what? To help some rich investors on Wall Street who fell on some hard times? Please.
There are far better ways to use that money, such as universal healthcare, more affordable housing initiatives, education in poor urban schools, and a general combat against poverty.
While I’ve always been more liberal minded, this issue makes my stomach turn. I can’t say I’m against big government intervention because I have always seen government as a vehicle to carry many of our poorest citizens to economic opportunity and societal inclusion. However, this form of government intervention I’m against.
Why? Is it the price tag? Perhaps. I suspect conservatives found themselves in a similar knot, being against government intervention but for big business, something that in the banking world at least has been on life support.