Bill Clinton ran and won, in 1992, on the economy. Barack Obama is attempting to do the same thing in 2008. He may succeed. John McCain is doing everything within his power to stop him and to show why he can be better trusted to resolve our problems. I believe both candidates fail to grasp the depth of the "real" problem. It's not the economy, it's the debt. You don't have to be an economist to figure this one out.

Who caused the financial panic of the last few weeks? Republicans blame Fannie and Freddie. Bill O'Reilly nightly gets angry at the greedy Wall Street CEOs and corrupt congressmen. Democrats blame President Bush and the run-away free market. Republicans blame the Cintonites for creating massive entitlements and starting this mess. Democrats believe "trickle down" economics has finally failed and Republicans believe "pork spending" is the culprit. There is blame everywhere. And there is truth in some of all of it.

But no one seems willing to tell us the whole truth. We have met the enemy and it is "us." "They" did a lot of harm for sure. But it is "we" who borrowed and spent like crazy and then expected our homes to be worth three times their market value. It is "we" who got greedy and wanted more and more. We maxed out our cards and "deserved a vacation." We wanted to retire early, a concept we think we own, and someone then took it all away from us.

Victor Davis Hanson, one of my favorite public commentators, asks: "So who will tell the people that we can't raise–or reduce–taxes and that we can't borrow for any more new programs until we first cut expenses and begin paying off the trillions we've already borrowed?"

Hanson adds that we have the ability to pay down the debt in "relatively short order" if "we have leaders brave enough to quit promising to spend a few more hundred billion here and there that we simply don't have."

Hanson suggests it is the general public who are the real "wheeler-dealers" and until we learn that our houses are really our homes to live in we will never deal with reality. How McCain thinks he can take on bad mortgage debt is beyond me. And how Obama thinks he can raise taxes on the wealthy and then give money to those who do not pay taxes at all is even more beyond me. I don't think either one of these guys is willing to tell us the whole truth or they actually live in the dream world that is part of our problem. One of them is likely to inherit the whirlwind in less than two weeks now. 

Hanson wrote, just last week, "In this year's presidential race the honest candidate who stops promising endless bailouts and has the guts to lead us out of the debt could well end up winning." Sadly, neither candidate will do it. McCain had a chance but did not deliver. Obama is even worse, still promising that he can spend more and make it all work.

Hanson at Podium
In the end I think this crisis might prove to be the "great wake-up call." I hope that it is. I have prayed for such a wake-up for years. I know that it will hurt me if it is a "wake-up" call but I welcome it if it awakens the church from its slumber and its love of affluence and pleasure.

This is more than a political issue. It is a moral issue. Personal and corporate greed is taking its toll on all of us. When will we call it what it really is? In the words of Victor David Hanson, this time around: "It's the Debt Stupid!"

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  1. jls October 23, 2008 at 10:14 am

    In an economy flush with borrowed dollars, people are all too willing to live beyond their means, and corporations are all too willing to encourage it.
    As a conservative, I am willing to concede that personal and corporate greed are troubling. Income redistribution à la Obama is wrong. It’s also foolish, because it creates all kinds of perverse incentives incentives that reward non-productivity. But income disparity has dramatically increased in the last few decades. Standards of living for nearly everyone, even those in poverty, have been rising. But the salaries for people at the top of the food chain–whether they are CEO’s, professional athletes, Hollywood stars, media figures, and even pastors of large churches–have grown much faster. Even the lowest salaries of major league baseball players are higher than the largest salaries of a few years ago. No, it’s not the fault of George Bush and those wascally Wepublicans. No, more government regulation of the private sector is not the answer. The problem stems from our insatiable personal appetites for ever more material possessions, which are symptomatic of an impoverished soul. The soul of our nation has got to change. Government policies cannot do that, but the gospel can.
    Proverbs 30:8-8:
    “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
    Ephesians 1:3:
    “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

  2. Adam S October 23, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I am not going to advocate for more borrowing and I have been concerned about Bush’s increases in spending and decreased in taxing. But as a percentage of GDP, the US has one of the lowest federal debts of any in the developed world. It is around 60% of GDP, which is high, but Germany is around 80% and Japan is around 180%. Debt is serious, but economy I would argue is more important. If countries outside of the US decide that the US economy is not worth investing in, then they will stop buy US debt. Then we will have a bad economy and no money to borrow. Right now US federal debt is around 2% of US assets. So while debt is high there is real value in the economy that is being invested in. If the dollar continues to drop and/or the economy continues to falter, the world will diversity out of US T bills.

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