As Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton draw nearer to a very important primary race in Pennsylvania they seem to continually seek to "one-up" each other with the newest economic solution packages for what they think will gain votes for their respective campaigns. Piggy_bank
One cannot be exactly sure what they are actually promising voters without a good deal of careful reading. Says one writer in a paper today, "They often appear to be playing a game of policy leapfrog." Sen. Clinton proposed  a $30 billion package on Monday that would provide grants and loans to localities so they can acquire foreclosed properties, make improvements and then sell them. The aim, she says, is to head off big clusters of foreclosures that can undermine neighborhoods.

Then yesterday Senator Obama countered Clinton with his own $30 billion package, although he says his would help financially stressed borrowers keep their homes through individual aid (whatever that means seems unclear to me right now). In the Obama plan the money would also be used to help states deal with their projected budget shortfalls because of a weakening economy.

In today’s news reports we hear that both Senators Clinton and Obama have pledged to support legislation being written by Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) that would establish a federally backed auction system for mortgages in default. Both candidates also have called for a $10 billion expansion of the mortgage revenue bond program that offers below-market interest rates to first-time home buyers.

Given the NAFTA debates in Ohio (which came down to who would provide the most protectionist policies) I have to wonder what else we will be offered to gain the votes of frustrated people who are in default financial positions. The two Democratic candidates seem determined to press two issues: (1) The War in Iraq; (2) The Economy. The question I have is simple: "What is the real difference between their respective positions?" So far, Clinton offers a plan, then Obama one ups her plan and then she comes back offering even more than she did before. This is precisely the kind of "messing with the economy" that I wrote about earlier today.

For many Christians, who do not understand economics or have a solid grasp of how markets and capitalism actually work together, all these plans look and feel like "compassion." Sadly, they offer much more than they will deliver. Many people, including younger Christians who are influenced by the political left, do not understand that liberty, both personally and financially, can (and should) be balanced with moral responsibility. And this can be done without the federal government trying to interfere. The name of the game here is to label something. The Democrats are still defending the policies of the "New Deal" and the Republicans are still pretty close to "Reaganism." President Bush clearly moved away from Reaganism, at least in spending measures, and now the party is confused about where to stand on some of these points. The Democrats have no such problem. They are going back to the well that they have gone to for over sixty years. Most people understand this, to some degree, but most are also unable to understand how markets can actually benefit people so long as freedom is preserved and morality is not surrendered to the almighty dollar. The way to fix our economic problems, long term, is to embrace both free markets and real (private and public) morality. The two extremes are what we are often give by the two parties and common sense. It would be great if we could move the discussion in a different direction, especially among Christians.

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  1. George C March 28, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I agree that a universal morality should guide what government does or doesn’t do, but the arguments around money and politics is always about the effect of a policy as if the ends are justified by the means.
    Every major religion in the world agrees that it is wrong to steal, so I cannot find a explanation for any of our social programs that are paid for by through the forceful aquisition of peoples money. It is just stealing from one group of people and giving it to another.
    Of course people should give to the poor, but there is no justification for forcing someone to do it. That, at it’s root, is every social program that is subsidized by taxes.
    The fact that all of our governments efforts to reduce poverty have actually slowed down the decrease in poverty that was happening without their use of force (pre new deal) is just adding insult to injury.

  2. Adam S March 31, 2008 at 8:09 am

    It is just silly to claim that taxes are the equivalent to stealing. Taxes are taxes. They are not stealing. Taxes can be used for good and bad things. So argue about the good and bad things.
    To claim that taxes are stealing is to claim that all government is wrong. You can argue about the size of government but not about whether to have government. All governments need money to operate. How you get the money is called taxes. It doesn’t matter whether you get that money through tariffs, income tax, sales tax or other means, they are all a form of taxes.
    Also what are you citing as the government slowing down the reduction in poverty? I have never heard of such a thing. I would be interested in the research. We are currently at one of the lowest rates of poverty in history, so I am just interested.

  3. Steve Scott April 1, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Adam wrote: “It is just silly to claim that taxes are the equivalent to stealing.” Yes, it is silly to call taxes merely stealing. Because the state uses the threat of force to collect, it is actually armed robbery. What, armed robbery is okay simply because it’s the state that does it?

  4. Adam S April 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Steve, et al. Do you honestly think that anarchy, no police, road, schools, etc. is a better place than a government that does somethings that you disagree with? Because I cannot conceive of that point. Biblically, since we are on a Christian blog, I cannot think of any justification for support of non-government.
    I also am disturbed by this armed robbery assertion because clearly theft is a sin by any definition in scripture. However, taxes are authorized by Jesus and the law. Something that we are instructed to do by both Jesus and the law cannot be sin.

  5. Steve Scott April 2, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Adam, it’s clear that we’re approaching this form different points. I’m not sure where the idea comes from that if there were no taxes that there would be no roads, schools, or other things we’re accustomed to. In fact, these things exist in abundance even though we do have taxes. Look up a map of the state of Maine. I grew up on a private street and my kids are privately educated even though I’m not rich. I don’t support the idea of non-government, but I support the biblical form of self-government. It is not family, church or civil government, but rather self-government that Galatians 5 says is the fruit of the Spirit.
    About taxes, my position (the biblical one, of course!) is that Scripture defines all authority. It must be remembered that Jesus answered the trap question about Caesar’s coin because it was a trap. He gave principles. Caesar is limited in taxing of his coin only. Jesus did not say “render to Caesar”, nor did He say the typical evangelical interpretation of, “render to Caesar the things Caesar claims are Caesar’s”, He said, “render to Caesar THE THINGS THAT ARE CAESAR’S.” They have to be Caesar’s in the first place in order to be rendered to him. Romans 13 limits civil government to one thing only; the punishment of crimes against individuals and property (the Romans 12 context about not taking our own revenge) In fact, Paul limits taxes to one thing only, a justice tax, “for because of THIS [singular!] you pay taxes.” Rom. 13:6. It’s interesting that the tax the Jews objected to was merely just such a tax, and was a miniscule one day’s wage. Hardly what we see in America.
    With the coin story, Jesus also gives a criteria: whose likeness and inscription is on it? What would He have said if they showed him a temple sheckle? Look at property taxes: whose likeness and inscription is on my house? My family’s likenesses adorn my walls and my inscription is on the porch. It is mine. Any claim by the state to tax it is therefore armed robbery becasue IT IS NOT CAESAR’S. If I fail to pay the hush money tax by claiming that my property is my property, I will receive an orange jump suit and a new boyfriend. Hardly biblical or Christlike! I would even go so far as to say that just as Jesus charged the Pharisees, as sons of the devil, with plotting to murder the heir and seize the inheritance, that the seizure of my inheritance (they already murdered Jesus) through taxes and forfeiture for not paying them is the work of the devil himself. Be careful with your theology; it has consequences.

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