ROOTING OUT EVIL

By Jim Jordal

 As therefore the darnel  [tares in other translations] is gathered up and burned with fire; so will it be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and those who do iniquity, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.                                                        Matthew 13:36-43 WEB

Perhaps you’ve been troubled over the seemingly endless revelations of evil evident in almost every facet of our culture. Whether it’s crime against individuals like murder or abuse, or crimes against the public, like Volkswagen and the tricked emission controls, or acts against human integrity like drug abuse or cheating in athletics, or whatever, it doesn’t seem to improve with age. This avalanche of revelations and exposures is further evidence that God’s process of uncovering evil is moving along.

Perhaps you’ve also wondered how on earth God was going to end this wickedness without also terminating everything we hold dear like family, friends, community institutions, or just the flora and fauna of creation. How can God end evil without also destroying the good?

There is an answer, but I don’t think it’s found in the conservative beliefs that the earth will be incinerated preparatory to God’s creation of “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwell righteousness.” I wonder if it isn’t the earth’s unscriptural systems rather than the physical earth that will be destroyed. God loves and respects his wondrous physical earth, but not necessarily the human political, social, and economic systems now preying upon it. These systems, while often designed for good, have gradually been poisoned by human greed, avarice, falsehood and cruelty to the extent that whatever good they may do is lost amid the evil outcomes of their operations.

 Our money system is one such entity. Designed to do public good by facilitating trade and making transfer of wealth easier, it has over the centuries morphed into an instrument of oppression through which those groups controlling the creation of money could thereby virtually own and control all other elements of society.

And it’s that way today. It seems to me that with all the needs of our society for better transportation, infrastructure, education, medical care, retirement income, housing, protection, and the hosts of needs always making headlines; coupled with the vast numbers of people either unemployed, partially employed, or already having dropped out due to hopelessness, that someone might say that if we have vast unmet needs and millions of mostly wasted labor resources we could through issuing more money put these marginal resources to work meeting our unmet needs. But no, that’s not what happens.

The endemic fear on Wall Street is the danger of inflation, or rising prices that may allow debtors to pay off loans in cheaper, inflated dollars, as well as acting to restrict people’s incomes, thereby lessening demand and consumption. Again, it’s big business and finance that steer the ship of commerce. They fear that lower demand for their products or services will decrease their sales and profits, so they do everything possible to restrict inflation. With the continuing massive stimulus provided by Uncle Sam, we should now face rapid inflation as all these extra dollars chase available goods. But we’ve had almost zero inflation, not because of the wisdom of the money powers, but because of stagnant wages for the consuming public, and the massive transfer of new wealth into the coffers of plenty as the ladder to higher income seem to be missing the few bottom rungs. The massive infusions of money into the system might in the past have worked, but they don’t now because almost all income increases go to the top one percent. So the economy limps on in spite of all efforts to recreate the missing middle class.

Reasonable answers are available, but they are ignored because we are not yet ready to heed what God says. He will remove the tares when the time is right.

ROUTE 66: DESPAIR OR OPPORTUNITY?

By Jim Jordal

And there was a great outcry by the people against their money-lending brothers. Some complained that because of the drought-induced famine they had mortgaged their fields to get money for food. Others said they had borrowed to pay their taxes, using their property as collateral. And they described how they couldn’t raise enough food to get money for repayment of their debts, so now their creditors had taken their children as debt slaves.  Nor was it within their power to redeem them, because other men now owned their lands and vineyards.                                                                          Nehemiah 5:1-5 (paraphrased)

Mary and I recently returned from an attempt to follow most of fabled, 2400 mile-long Route 66--sometimes called The  Main Street of America--running from Chicago to Santa Monica, California (we shortened the journey somewhat by beginning in Joplin, Missouri). Portions of the old road still exist as virtual alleyways and rutted, broken beds of concrete, while others now lie buried beneath Interstate 40. But it can be done, although with much patience and some despair due mainly to poor route markings and unclear directions.

Route 66 opened in 1926 and as the Great Depression deepened it became a way of escape for unemployed laborers, failed farmers, foreclosed homeowners, and various people broken in body and spirit. The much-ballyhooed prosperity of the  Roaring Twenties was grinding to a halt amid closed factories and boarded-up stores. Untruthful advertising led the victims to believe that multitudes of farm-type jobs existed in the great Central Valley of California, and they had only to get there to avail themselves of renewed prosperity.

But alas, as later so graphically revealed by John Steinbeck’s searing novel, The Grapes of Wrath, starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, this wonderful opportunity was mainly a skein of lies and broken promises. Relying mostly upon hope, the poor came by the thousands from the closed factories of Chicago, the dust-bowl farms of Oklahoma, and the hundreds of seemingly God-forsaken hovels in between. They drove broken-down old jalopies often turned into trucks by back-yard mechanics, loaded with all the family possessions, topped by mattresses and canvas tents upon which rode those passengers unable to get inside the vehicle. They camped along the way, cooking their meagre food by fires or kerosene stoves. If someone died they were buried along the road, mourned by their spiritually-torn survivors and accompanied to the next life by prayers and good words by whatever amateur spiritual counsel was available.

The awful part of it all was that hope soon morphed into despair as they reached the bursting-with-food valleys of California. Yes, the jobs were there, but not at the expected living wages promised so glowingly by widely distributed handbills.  Growers needed their labor, but soon realized that with scores of workers seeking each job, they did not have to pay the wages they had promised. So wages were arbitrarily cut to the point that it soon became impossible to earn enough to even feed one person, much less an extended family.

But none of this had to be. The Great Depression could have been prevented or greatly reduced in effect had economic and political leaders been more willing to abandon their love of balanced budgets and tight credit in favor of using already-existing levers for adding to public purchasing power.  And the farm foreclosures that drove the “Okies” into migration could have been avoided with less greed and fear on the part of prairie bankers and increased credit relaxation funded by the federal government.  Tight money is not useful in aiding recovery from depression, although then-President Herbert Hoover thought so. It took three years of suffering before Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated recovery through the famous First Hundred Days of the New Deal, but it took the better part of ten years and the advent of World War Two for prosperity to return again to those Okies now become Californians.

Weren’t the parallels pretty close between Nehemiah’s credit-starved, exploited people and the desperate victims of greedy farm seizures in Oklahoma and lying food producers in California? Allowing the banking system almost absolute control over credit is too often fatal to economic health. Israel knew it back then, and we are finally beginning to know it now. Route 66 recalls some of the horrors of that day. Let’s not have any new ones today.

 

…BUT THE PATIENT DIED ANYWAY

By Jim Jordal

Historians still debate the exact cause of George Washington’s death in 1799. What is known is that as treatment for his severe throat infection he agreed that his doctors should bleed him, resulting in the loss of a large amount of his blood volume. The exact cause of death is still unknown, but we do know that losing that much blood certainly did him no good, since he died soon afterward.

His doctors were prominent, well-trained physicians who adhered to the 2,000 year-old practice of removing blood from a patient to relieve inflammation or "bad" blood as they called it. I’m sure they were mystified by his death since they had done everything possible. That they could be mistaken probably never entered their minds.

There is an analogy between the role of blood in the body and money in the economy. Blood transfers nutrients, oxygen, and other essentials of life to the cells. In the economy, money plays a similar role in carrying goods and services to all parts of the "body." When the amount of blood in the body is severely reduced, as in George Washington’s case, the patient weakens or dies. When the supply of money is reduced the economy also weakens by falling into recession or depression. Many monetary theorists blame the Great Depression on a shortage of money due to Federal Reserve tightening of the money supply in the erroneous belief that if thrift was good for individuals it must on that account alone be good for the entire economy. George Washington’s doctors relied on traditional treatments and the patient died. Washington D.C. doctors (economists and politicians) do the same today with similar results.

The "patient" today is the stumbling economy and its suffering people. Whatever else is wrong with the patient, his major problem is a shortage of blood, or money. It’s common knowledge that the Federal Reserve System’s governors have an excessive fear of inflation. This phobia often leads to tight money policies when the exact opposite is needed. Today, they correctly have instituted a very loose monetary policy (low interest rates coupled with encouragement toward borrowing), but that is not working because people and businesses are too uncertain of the future to want to risk borrowing money. It’s well known that corporations and banks are right now sitting on several trillions of dollars that they won’t put into circulation due to fear of the future.

The patient does not need more large bank bailouts, or tax cuts for the rich, or austerity measures for the poor—all of which are now being touted by various political parties. What the patient needs is more purchasing power so that he can participate in a healthy economy. That infusion of money can come from fiscal policy, or renewed government spending for infrastructure. It can come from tax cuts, although that’s difficult politically because of deficit issues. The best place for it to come from would be greatly increased job opportunities. But that’s difficult when the government still rewards companies for slashing jobs or sending them overseas.

In the absence of any of these methods for increasing purchasing power, the patient will remain comatose at best. Low interest rates are not working. Stimulus programs seem inadequate. Banks and business will not put surplus funds into circulation. Tax cuts threaten future fiscal responsibility and anger the rich who feel that they are the source of the "golden eggs" of progress. Government seems politically hamstrung as it agonizes over small details while allowing the patient to remain in a stupor.

Meanwhile the spread between rich and poor widens in the U.S. with no seeming hope of any quick reversal. But we have yet to pay any heed at all to what God says. Federal reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was for a while nicknamed "Helicopter Ben" because of his seemingly facetious statement a few years ago that any recession could be ended immediately by filling helicopters with currency and dropping it over cities.

That’s not a ridiculous idea, except to the economic "doctors" who still believe in bleeding the patient through austerity and scarcity. That he will not recover under this treatment seems lost on them.

If we did things God’s way we’d begin to institute some principles from biblical Jubilee (Lev. 25) that encourage release from debt, no usury, no financial oppression, and adequate purchasing power for all. But we haven’t suffered sufficiently to adopt God’s way, so we’ll remain in our national travail and human suffering.

THE TRILLION DOLLAR COIN

By Jim Jordal

 For among my people are found wicked men: they watch, as fowlers lie in wait; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and grew rich. They are grew fat, they shine: yes, they overpass in deeds of wickedness; they don't plead the cause, the cause of the fatherless, that they may prosper; and the right of the needy they don't judge.

Jeremiah 5:26-29, WEB

Economist Paul Krugman recently proposed, tongue-in-cheek of course, that President Obama order the minting of a trillion dollar platinum coin. This coin could be sent to the Federal Reserve in return for an equal entry in the government’s checking account. This act would happen should Congress refuse to raise the current debt ceiling before March 1. After that date the U.S. will technically be in default and unable to pay its creditors, resulting in global shock and a serious rise in the cost of borrowing in the U.S.

The loop hole here is that the President is legally allowed to mint platinum coins in any amount to encourage commemorative coin sales.

It’s interesting that people are now finally beginning to realize that we need not remain at the mercy of flint-eyed minions on Wall Street for our prosperity. While the $1 trillion coin is a joke, the principle of just printing needed money is not. Right now when tax receipts fall short of expenditures there are several major options available. Increasing taxes is one, but that cannot be accomplished quickly. Cutting programs is another, but that has serious consequences at the ballot box. So borrowing is the option most often used because it is quick and safe, at least in the short run. Government borrows by issuing bonds which it then sends to the Fed in return for entries into the government checking account. Voila! New money, but only if we are willing to add to the federal debt and pay interest to the Fed or the bankers, trust funds, and private investors to which it sells the bonds.

With the increasing complexity of American society and the avalanche of discoveries, inventions, and problems comes the need for more money. Problems seem to increase much more rapidly than our ability to deal with them does, so expenditures outstrip available resources. For example, one cyber criminal can steal more with a few computer strokes than a thousand old-time bank robbers could with guns. The same is true in the health care field. Every time we see a new life-saving discovery we face the need for more funds to both protect the public against misuse of the discovery and to disseminate it where needed. More complexity equals the need for more money, and it never ends.

Our Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5) gives Congress power to coin money, [and] regulate the value thereof. This power was surrendered to the Federal Reserve System in 1913 when the Fed was created to provide a managed money supply able to avoid the unstable economic conditions brought on by the virtually unchecked operations of thousands of private banks. Unstable currency inflates when times are good and shrinks when times are bad, thereby doing the exact opposite of what is needed. The idea of the Fed was that they would "lean against the prevailing economic winds," as one Fed chair detailed his duty, in order to level out the supply of money and prevent rampant booms followed by severe economic crashes.

Simply stated, government could legally issue its own debt free money with no deficit financing and no additions to the national debt. The supply of money would not be under control of international bankers whose major bias is avoiding inflation, even though that often means rather tight control of money creation. Money would be issued as needed to facilitate commerce and the public welfare. It would be flexible to meet changing market conditions, and would be managed by computers hopefully programmed by people committed only to the public good.

But every time someone speaks of breaking out of the financial box of acceptable practices, the specter of hyperinflation arises. Yes, there is such a thing and it is very serious. However, it generally occurs when a society is beset by other serious problems like war, revolution, or massive debt, and is tempted to simply print money to take care of the problem. That is not the case in the U.S. today.

Biblical Jubilee (Lev. 25) speaks to this issue. It forbids oppression of debtors by moneyed interests devoted to transferring wealth from the people up the pyramid to the few at the top. The current continuing economic problems faced by the U.S. ought to be indicative of this situation. We need biblical Jubilee, and we need it now!

 

 

THERE’S ANGER IN THE LAND

By Jim Jordal

But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.

Isaiah 24:16b-17 KJV

It took the loss of last month’s senatorial election in Massachusetts to persuade the Obama administration that anger rages in the land. Main Street America is fed up with half-hearted reform measures guided by insiders that have so far bailed out Wall Street bankers, but not Main Street workers.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner faced angry senators recently as he was grilled for an entire day on just what happened to the bail out funds. One thing that became clear was that of the $182 billion given to American Insurance Group (AIG), some $62 billion was immediately transferred to Wall Street’s giant and so far unscathed financial player, Goldman Sachs. This happened because Goldman-Sachs had insured any possibility of loss to their greatly leveraged investment portfolio by buying credit default swaps from AIG. So money that was intended to loosen up credit markets to get the economy moving again actually went into propping up Wall Street giants so they could continue the game.

If Big Money had apologized (Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman-Sachs did apologize after a fashion, but now he says it’s back to business as usual) for what they did they might have been forgiven. But instead, they announced record profits and multi-billion dollar bonus pools for their executives and traders. This clueless, greedy largesse evidently pushed Main Street America over the edge. The people now ask, Why do these gamblers who played casino roulette with our money get big bonuses while we can’t find even entry level jobs?

It seems that President Obama and his aides have belatedly gotten the message. They are again pushing a package of Wall Street reforms, but too little and too late. What about the millions of people loosing jobs that no longer exist? What of the millions of homes foreclosed, abandoned, and trashed beyond reasonable repair? What of the college educations abandoned because of their high cost? And what of the blasted hopes for a better future endured by tens of millions of families?

There is no dollar figure that can compensate for this suffering. The only real compensation can come in the form of learning something from this debacle and moving forward into a new and better future for all Americans. But that does not appear to be happening, at least not yet.

There still are "reputable" economists pushing supply-side economics and the now-discredited idea that tax cuts for the rich will somehow "trickle-down" into higher incomes for everyone else. If this view is true, then we should have the highest levels of working class income in recent history because of the massive tax cuts for the rich passed during the Reagan/Bush administrations. What we really have is a decline in middle class/worker purchasing power over the past generation, compensated for by more family members entering the labor force, vastly increased credit card borrowing and the cashing in of home equity—all of which are unsustainable for very long.

The anger exhibited by working class Americans typified by Main Street values will not alone solve the problem. Anger must be translated into needed change. Just replacing one political party with another does not result in significant change because the same power structure lies behind each party. Until Americans widely accept that political parties are all creatures of the same power system, there will be no really significant change. The problem is systemic, not just political.

I don’t know how many times God will allow us to massively ignore his word, fall into various forms of disaster as a result, and then recover only to do it again. Somewhere along the line this cycle of apostasy must be broken. I know it will happen; I just don’t know when.

When we come over to God’s side we’ll begin to make some progress. God already knows what we need; it’s written in his word. God says that all law and all morality is simply translated into two behaviors: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbor like yourself." That’s the framework of God’s plan for human success. The fleshing-out of the framework can be found in the Jubilee principles of Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15.

We’ll look again at these soon.