Monday, September 22, 2008

Wall Street and other bailouts

New Orleans - I've spent the past several weeks in New Orleans, Louisiana...where the people are friendly and the weather sometimes is not. I was originally scheduled to arrive here three weeks ago, but was delayed by Hurricane Gustav. When I finally did arrive, people were just returning from their "hurri-cation" and fixing up the damage brought by the heavy winds of Gustav and awaiting more bad weather from Hurricane Ike. (Ike eventually went south causing flooding in southern Louisiana and Texas and then brought high winds through the Midwest causing Sue and the boys to be without power in West Chester for a few days).

In addition to the news about the bad weather, it was also hard not to miss the news last week about the government "bail out" of our nation's leading financial institutions. At the end of the week the price tag was estimated at $700 billion dollars for this "once in a lifetime" catastrophe.

For an overview of the crisis, I've found Robert J. Samuelson's writing In the Washington Post helpful. His articles: "Wall Street's Unraveling" and "The Confidence Game" raise some important questions about how the financial firms found themselves in this crisis and the recovery plan that is being proposed.

For me, I wonder how long the increase in government spending can continue. The U.S. already has a $10 trillion dollar national debt.

I wonder too about the assistance that will likely be provided. It is in our nature to subvert rules and look out only for ourselves. I wonder how people will use this latest bailout for their own gain. I was reminded of this in last Friday's "USA Today" that noted that the federal government has provided over $20 billion dollars to coastal areas after Hurricane Katrina, with the provision that new homes be elevated to avoid future disasters. The newspaper noted, however, that local officials have told residents that they do not need to follow the federal government's rules (so that they can keep rebuilding costs low and rebuild at a quicker pace). And so houses are being build at the same pre-Hurricane Katrina levels.

As I thought about the current "bail out", and feeling more and more depressed, I was reminded of the biggest "bail out" of given to sinners by a loving and just God. God provided this "bail out" (called a "condescending love" by scholars) to the world by providing forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.

St. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

In Galatians 2:20 Paul added that the Son of God: "...loved me and gave his life for me."

John Bunyan summarized these ideas in "The Pilgrim's Progress":

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save everyone that believes. He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. He is mediator between God and us. He ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
(I Tim. 1:15, Rom. 10:4, 4:25, Rev. 1:5, I Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:25).

A good bailout to focus on.


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