Obama and the Stimulus Package

Has anyone ever wondered if it is possible that one can land in a financial crisis when one has a steady income, no debts, and a large reserve of money in case of emergencies?  Certainly, I suppose, if something devastating comes around, like an accident that requires weeks in the ICU, surgeries, and a long rehabilitation, that could bankrupt a person.  Yet such accidents, on a whole, are rare, and most people who live a financially responsible life never have to plead for a bailout.

When we look at our current financial crisis nationwide, I can’t help but wonder what people are thinking.  President Obama has promised us trillion dollar deficits for years to come in an effort to restore our economy.  Like most right-leaning folk, I’m under the impression that our current crisis has come from overspending, living beyond our means, and not being prepared for when we hit bumpy times in the economy (like $4/gallon gas, which drives prices up all around).  Perhaps, if this view is incorrect, someone will be willing to explain to me why it is so.  But my impression has been that first, people individually are consumed with buying, buying, buying, even when they don’t have the money to buy.   I have friends who, though they grossed over $60,000 a year, were still living paycheck to paycheck because of their deficit spending.  I’ve seen people who, upon receiving their government money, have gone and blown it on new cell phones (that are shut down after two delinquent months), on fancy steack dinners, and so on, instead of buying necessities or saving up what they can.  I’ve seen people struggling with hundreds of thousands of dollars of accumulated debt that came from student loans, house loans, car loans, credit cards, and so on.  This is just what I’ve seen.  What I’ve heard–word of mouth, or in the news, or on blogs–is even worse.

My impression on the nature of our economic downturn is that excessive debt and living beyond our means was primarily responsible, and not just at an individual level.  Our leaders have trampled on our economy with the huge amount of deficit spending required to run two wars, to fund huge expansions of entitlement, and most recently wasted billions upon billions of dollars on stimulus packages and bailout programs that simply didn’t work.  Our dollar devalued in part because we have borrowed or printed so much money to make up for our deficit.  True, to this point we’ve honored all our loans, but any economist knows that you can’t deficit spend forever.  Eventually it catches up to you.  And when our dollar devalued, prices rose.  Prices also shot up because of high fuel costs, which ramified throughout an economy largely driven by the ability to ship vast quantities of products to remote locations.  And when prices rose, people found the scant dollars they still possessed disappearing on those everday items that now they can’t really afford.

One could make an argument that the economic crash never would have occurred without the housing bubble.  The high prices proved to be the needle that pricked the bubble.  Too many people, threatened by a slowing housing market (a market that was finally reaching an equilibrium, and not necessarily downturning), foreclosed on their homes in such a short succession that banks could not recoup their losses.  Sometimes those losses were so extreme that the banks themselves went under.  And yet, one could argue that none of this needed to have happened, if only so many people didn’t take out risky loans that they really couldn’t afford.  Without the housing bubble bursting, we might have just seen a period of stagnant growth, or maybe a slow downturn in the economy, as opposed to an economic crisis.

Our solution to this economic disaster leaves me dismayed and a little angry.  Because of our government’s deficit spending, it had no money on hand to aid those it felt it had to aid.  So instead of turning people away, saying “Sorry, we’re just as broke as you are”, our government promised money it didn’t have.  At that point it had three option: borrow money, which would in turn work to continue devaluing the dollar; print money, which would devalue the dollar further; or to tax citizens, which would slow the economy more.  Now, I’m all for making sure that the needy receive those necessities they lack, but any of these options are just a form of “what one hand giveth, the other taketh away”.  The government gives away money to those who need the money, but in the process–because it has to scrounge up this money from lenders, from the rich, or invent it out of thin air–it makes that money worth less than it was, or damages job growth, to the end effect of making the situation even worse than it was before.

Do I think that the bailout this past fall was necessary?  Perhaps.  With very myopic hindsight, it was necessary, because I’ll agree that the hemorraging of the economy required at least a tournequet. But if we look even further back, we’ll see that because the government didn’t do as every financially prudent family does–i.e. put some money aside against some unforeseen crisis–the government ultimately just continued the downward spiral with the bailout.  Now we’re even further in debt, and it is only by the “fortune” that almost every other major economic partner out there is also reeling that our dollar hasn’t sunk even lower.  And while we can argue matters would have been much worse without the bailout, the fact of the matter still remains.  Things could have been much better had our government planned ahead and had a reserve to draw from.

As an aside, Wyoming experienced a major bust in the early 1980′s due to changing energy factors.  For years prior, Wyoming’s oil was a major source of revenue, and oil fields contined to expand throughout the state.  Well, post-Carter, our nation recovered from its oil problems, the price of oil dropped, the interest in domestic oil waned, and soon Wyoming was left hanging.  So the state debated, and eventually, once its economy recovered and its new great export (coal) starting bringing in vast amounts of revenue, it was decided to make a reserve in case of future energy busts.  Currently, Wyoming’s planning has been smart enough that even now, we’re only just considering making a few slight budget cuts so that we come in under budget.  Our nation at large could learn a lesson, here.

The unfortunate thing is: we’re not learning the lesson.  We now have from our President practically a promise that unbridled deficit spending will continue unencumbered through his administration.  No problem is so small that the government won’t fling millions of dollars it does not have at it.  Far from seeing a government that is turning the tides of the reckless spending characteristic of the Bush Administration, far from seeing a government put pet projects aside and truly work to end the debts and deficit spending that have nearly ruined us, we see a government that is plunging headfirst into even worse folly.

This stimulus package is not going to work.  All the money earmarked, which I detailed in my  previous post, is not really geared towards helping the economy as a whole.  If you study it closely, you’ll realize that most of that money is being distributed to various governmental offices (some of which don’t even exist yet).  Some of it will trickle down, of course.  Spending on roads is helpful.  Even though the Department of Transportation–which oversees all road projects–is a governmental agency, it hires and pays the private construction crews that do the hard labor.  But most of the rest of the money essentially becomes salary for government positions.  And that salaray won’t last indefinitely; in a couple of years’ time (since this money is to be spent over 2009 and 2010), we’ll need a new package to pay for all these governmental positions.

Sure, jobs (governmental ones, anyway) could be created through this package.  But those jobs will be lost unless another vast swath of money is set aside to maintain them.  That will probably end up being another $365 billion down the drains, $365 billion we don’t have to spend.  This is probably where Obama is getting his projected “trillion dollar deficits for years to come”.

If the government wants to fix our economic problem, as opposed to making temporary patches that score political points but do little in the long run, it needs to balance the budget and pay off its huge debt.  Once that debt is gone, it can then offer further aid from any surplus that comes from having a properly balanced budget.

Far be it for me to criticize President Obama (I’ll leave that others), but what he needs to realize is that you can’t fix the problem with more of the problem.  It hurts, I know, to step back and deny people who are honestly in need and were depending on the government to make good on its promises.  It is difficult to turn away from political expediency to do what is right, to do what must be done, because what must be done is very rarely popular.  But we’ve had decades in which the prevailing politics were self-centered, focuses on entitlements for political points, and paying lip service to ideals in order to get elected, only to abandon those ideals once in power.  The Republican Party self-destructed by betraying its promises made through Contract with America; John McCain lost his bid for presidency in part because too many people felt he was only talking the talk, and wouldn’t walk the walk.  Our new Democratic majority, which took power in 2006, paved its way with promises that it then reneged on, and now suffers from anemic approval ratings.  President Obama campaigned on hope and change, to do away with the old politics and usher in a new era.  The only way he can make good on that promise to do away with the playing for political points and petty power grabs, and so far, he as demonstrated only the same petty bickering and power plays we’ve come to expect from our elected officials.

It seems that the current stimulus package will pass the Senate here shortly, and that by the end of the week all the discrepancies with the House bill will be ironed out.  That’s another $830 billion dollars spent that will have little economic impact other than maybe keeping various government employees employed for another two years.  Already we’re talking of appropriating another $100 billion from the TARP funds to try, once again, to unlock frozen credit.  There’s also talk of crafting a new package, apart from the current stimulus bill, that will give tax-paying families (among others) $500-$1000 of tax-payers money in order to help stimulate the economy.  Then there’s the already-bloated budget for the year, and who knows what else down the road.  I predict, though, that we’ll see call for more massive spending by June, if not earlier, and that many of the corporations that came with doggie bags, pleading for handouts this past fall, will be back this fall for more money.  The cycle will continue until either our nation reaches a point of no return (I don’t believe we’re there yet, but if we start seeing exponential growth in our deficit, we’ll be there), or someone finally says “No more.  We can’t keep spending like this.  We have to return to fiscal responsibility, pay off our debts, and then see what we can do within our means.”

Perhaps I’m just pessimistic, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Update: As of this morning, the Senate has passed the stimulus bill 61-37.  It now goes before a joint conference between the House and Senate to iron out the details.

18 Responses to Obama and the Stimulus Package

  • Anthony says:

    My personal feeling is that the dollar will die within the next 10-15 years. I just don’t see how it can survive all these pressures of printing and borrowing in order to pay for entitlement programs and foreign interventions.

    If Obama were really interested in rescuing the economy and preserving the nations ‘greatness’ while there is still time he would:

    1.) End our overseas commitments, whose cost is perpetually skyrocketing to the detriment of our blood and treasure; not to mention the liberty of those we are trying to “help”

    2.) Audit the Federal Reserve if you aren’t willing to abolish them. The Fed is a quasi-public/private cartel of banks that has control of our currency via manipulating interest rates. Who the hell are they to arbitrarily decide the price of money? Our fiat currency had been far too politicized, thanks to the removal of any kind of commodity standard. We need to know what the Fed has been up to in total. Its way past time Congress reassert its powers and responsibilities.

    3.) Create a long-term transition away from entitlement programs. It turns out the Great Society ain’t so great. While many people are now dependent on the state to survive, the costs we could save from ending foreign commitments could be moved towards these programs as we slowly close them down over time. Congress should be barred from raiding Social Security/Medicare and Medicaid funds for their pet projects.

    4.) Elimination of the Income Tax. The government could easily put money back in the hands of consumers instantly by simply not taxing the fruit of their labor. There are plenty of other tariffs and taxes that would maintain the size of government at about the level it was in the Clinton years. If you have to institute a consumption tax, fine… but it should eventually be phased out too.

    5.) Secure the border. If the Defense Department really needs something do, why can’t they defend our federal border from rampant illegal immigration? Immigration, particularly of educated individuals is crucial to our society’s resources, but that is a far-cry from the seemingly endless free-for-all occurring on the border with Mexico. If the Mexican government were ever to collapse, the U.S. has to be able to preserve its physical integrity. Entitlement programs in medical care and education that have an effect of subsidizing illegal immigration should be ended.

    6.) Allow the liquidation of assets to occur. If the banking industry, real estate industry, auto industry etc. don’t fail how can we ever rebuild on a better footing? We have to discover the price of their assets by rewarding the people who have saved their money. They are the ones capable of bringing on a genuine recovery and moral redistribution of wealth. What is occurring now is an attempt by the elite and politically-well connected to keep the status-quo afloat at the expense of taxpayers and responsible consumers. This process will undoubtedly be extremely painful. But quick and painful is preferable to slow and painful.

    The fact is for the last few decades we’ve been living in a fantasy world of cheap money, easy credit and an entitlement mentality. Thats NOT what this country was ever supposed to be about. We’re supposed to work towards lifting ourselves up so that the next generation could go even higher. Instead we chose the pleasures of today at the expense of tomorrow.

    We aren’t the first generation to ever act this way. Its something that can be forgiven and reversed if we are willing to endure the consequences of our bad decisions. There’s no easy or popular way out. Its time to freaking man-up and deal with it.

    At least thats the way I see it.

  • Lee says:

    I’m usually just a lurker here and love The American Catholic writers and the in depth dialogue here – Thank you. … I can’t help myself in making this point to enough people… I believe the goal of Obama and whoever is behind him is to destroy this country and maybe that just means Democracy but I can’t help think it also includes Christianity.

  • John Henry says:

    I think it is inappropriate to accuse the President of wanting to destroy the country. After listening to similar accusations from Bush-haters for the last eight years, I think those on the right should be especially sensitive to this.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    I don’t believe that the President intends to destroy this country. I think he sincerely believes that unprecedented deficits that our descendants will never be able to repay, an ever-expanding public sector, and enhanced government regulation are the path to prosperity. Truth to tell I would have more intellectual respect for the President if I believed that he did wish to destroy the country, instead of accepting the fact that he actually believes this snakeoil.

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Lee,

    I would also caution against spreading that speculation. I’m more in the camp that Obama and his ilk are plunderers (cf Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged), and they simply think they can keep plundering the wealth accrued by our hard-working, industrious citizens indefinitely.

    Part of the problem is that there’s a disconnect between viewpoints on the right and the left. The ideas of how economics work, how to stimulate job growth, how to make sure everyone has his needs met, are so divergent there is simply no middle ground to work with. To this extent, both sides see the other as being completely disassociated with reality. Frankly, I believe most of these people who are willing to plunder our nation–and they are on both sides of the aisle–are the ones who are truly disconnected with reality. The plundering occurs to score political points, and those points continue to put a person in power.

    Now, I don’t really see what Obama gains personally by being president, except that he gets to be the one directing the course of the nation. Now, most people are drawn to one party or another because they believe that party has a particular vision that agrees with their own view (even if that party hasn’t held that vision since 1960). I think Obama truly believes there are huge injustices working in our nation. Ask any Democrat, and you’ll get that kind of response. In some cases, those injustices are completely valid, and Republicans are remiss in failing to address them. In other cases, those injustices are trumped up, or are infantile railing against the natural order of the world. But just because they’re trumped up doesn’t mean that the person advocating fixing those injustices knows it.

    Consider the plight of having extremely wealthy and extremely poor in our nation (though, arguably, our poor are wealthier than most “wealthy” in many third-world nations). Democrats view this disparity as coming from free market economics, a system that plunders the poor for the advantage of the rich. (I’ve argue long and hard with my sister on this point, and she won’t budge an inch on the denunciation of capitalism as personified by the industrial giants of the late nineteenth century.) Republicans view the disparity as being derived from government interference, whose subsidies and favoritism to lobbyists create situations and loopholes that permit the plundering to occur. I believe the disparity comes in part because the free market permits people to get rich by working hard (and often being in the right place at the right time), and permits people to be destitute by not working hard, or having the wrong ideas, or being in the wrong place a the wrong time. But I also believe that governmental interference with the markets by and large has permitted the grossest of injustices to occur. So when I see someone calling for more governmental oversight, more governmental interference, more governmental control, I cringe and feel that the person calling for this is either off his rocker, malevolent, or making power plays.

    But you have to understand, that someone working with that opposite viewpoint things the same about me when I call for deregulation, for tax cuts, for more faith in the market, and so on. When Obama speaks about the “failed policies of the past eight years”, I really think he believes what he says. That doesn’t mean he isn’t flat out wrong, but I think he’s honest about it.

    But I also think he is plunderer, in the sense that he feels the hardest working and most successful have an obligation to subsidize those who aren’t as successful. Now, Catholics believe that a man’s excess wealth should by right be accessible to the poor, but that can be accomplished in more ways than just handing money out. But there’s a big difference between believing there’s an obligation on the part of the rich to help the poor, and believing that a person can only be rich at the expense of the poor, and therefore should have his possessions forcibly confiscated and returned to the “rightful” owners, which I think Obama believes.

    Have no doubt–I believe Obama’s economic policies will do much to ruin our nation. But I also believe he feels he’s doing right. But then, I believe no one willingly does evil. They simply convince themselves that what they want to do is good, and then feel justified in what they do.

    Of course, you could argue that Obama sees the destruction of this nation as a good he is fighting for, but I don’t think there’s much justification for that.

  • Micha Elyi says:

    “Catholics believe that a man’s excess wealth should by right be accessible to the poor…” – Ryan Harkins

    I disagree. I do not have such a low opinion of Catholics as to believe that Catholics approve of envy, theft, and ingratitude.

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Micha Elyi,

    Of course Catholics do not approve of envy, theft, and ingratitude. The principle I’m referring to is when a man has more wealth than he needs, and the poor person does not even have the essentials for survival. The right to private property does not outweigh the obligation to work towards the common good, especially when one can deliver needed sustenance to those who would perish without. The Catholic church does not approve of theft, and many of the arguments we tend to have concerning social justice is whether, say, governmental taxation and entitlement programs are thinly disguised theft, or if they are true genuine charity, the option that is least bad for helping the poor.

    The problem that we face is how much wealth one can possess before any more is truly excess, and how little one can possess before it constitutes to a desperate situation that permits the usage of another’s goods in order to survive.

    Context, Micha Elyi, should help resolve what I’ve said with what the Church teaches.

  • TJ says:

    This stimulus plan is the old “wrong execution of the right idea”. The
    righy idea being something is needed to “kick start” the economy after a
    brutal loss of confidence. But piling on more debt after execessive debt will
    not work anymore than giving a heroine addict more heroine.

    We must do what Kennedy and Reagan did. Cut Taxes!

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Ryan,

    The right to private property does not outweigh the obligation to work towards the common good, especially when one can deliver needed sustenance to those who would perish without.

    I think you’re comparing apples to oranges here. It is precisely because we have a right to private property, that we have a moral obligation to work towards the common good.

    The Catholic church does not approve of theft, and many of the arguments we tend to have concerning social justice is whether, say, governmental taxation and entitlement programs are thinly disguised theft, or if they are true genuine charity, the option that is least bad for helping the poor.

    While the state has an obligation to insure the barest needs of the poor are met, even when the state does step in, it is not out of charity in any Catholic sense. The state is incapable of theological virtues as far as I understand it.

    The problem that we face is how much wealth one can possess before any more is truly excess

    In our economy, the excess wealth is that which one keeps in one’s mattress, or uses to buy yachts. Funds invested in the markets, bonds, treasuries etc. is not excess, it is actually “working”, it is providing the needed capital for job creation, manufacturing needed goods, and in fact funding social programs. There is such a thing as excess consumption. The beauty of the fair tax is that it taxes consumption, not wealth.

    and how little one can possess before it constitutes to a desperate situation that permits the usage of another’s goods in order to survive.

    If they have cable TV, DVD, a car, cell phone, MP3 player, etc… then… I submit that their situation is not so desperate.

  • Donna V. says:

    Good post, Matt. I would add that a free society means that one is free to behave selfishly. The miser who shovels wads of money under his mattress and the big spender who buys more houses and yachts than necessary are both guilty of being uncharitable, but that does not give the state the right to take their property away. Characters like Paris Hilton can momentarily make a Marxist out of even me, but then I remember that there have always been rich people who choose to lead selfish and self-serving lives. They will be judged, just as the rest of us will be.

    If charity is forced, it is not a virtue. And you are perfectly right that the state is not in the charity business, but in the business of expanding itself.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Donna V.,
    I would add that a free society means that one is free to behave selfishly.

    Quite right, I meant to be suggest that, to the extent that the state is obligated to provide for the common good, that it should be funded from excess consumption rather than by reducing the capital which is the engine of the economy.

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Matt,

    I think you’re comparing apples to oranges here.

    Hardly at all. The crux of the question is how much wealth is enough, and how much is too much (or excess)? At what point does a person have so little that he has a right to appropriate my property in order to survive? Private property and working towards the common good go hand in hand. The common good upholds the notion of private property (for a variety of reasons, like making our work fruitful, like providing for our individual needs so as not to be a burden on others), but that does not mean that private property is inviolable, either.

    But keep in mind that you’re making way too much out of my statements. I’m not in the slightest an endorser of the massive lot of entitlements the government keeps handing out. What I do endorse is understanding two things. One, we Americans have by far more stuff than we need. Just think of all the things that you could do without (and maybe should, since wealth has this nasty tendency to get between one and God (cf Luke 16)). Two, while investments are good long-term strategies for both making sure one is provided for in old age and providing jobs for people, there are plenty of people who need some short-term solutions just to make it to the long-term solutions. I would hope that these are apparent. The question then is: how do we best help those who truly need an act of charity to make it through the day?

    The Catholic church does not approve of theft, and many of the arguments we tend to have concerning social justice is whether, say, governmental taxation and entitlement programs are thinly disguised theft, or if they are true genuine charity, the option that is least bad for helping the poor.

    While the state has an obligation to insure the barest needs of the poor are met, even when the state does step in, it is not out of charity in any Catholic sense. The state is incapable of theological virtues as far as I understand it.

    Keep in mind I just stated what the dilemma was here, and not a solution. You have proffered an understanding of the government that bars any true charity in governmental acts. I would counter, reluctantly, that the government is made up of people who are capable of charity, and who often enough believe that passing laws to force others to subsidize the needy is the only way to provide aid. But I say reluctantly, because Donna states it correctly when she says: If charity is forced, it is not a virtue. But you have to understand where the supposed charity theoretically lies in the case of the government–it is supposedly (and I say supposedly because too often I feel the government entitlement programs have nothing to do with charity, and everything to do with political power) on the side of the government officials who are wresting the money from one person to another. The absence of charity is, often enough, on the part of the tax-payer, because their tax dollars are an obligatory contribution, not a gift.

    Of course, if we look at charity–the love and willingness to give of oneself for another (even a stranger) because of one’s love for God–then we see that the government official fails in part because the wealth is taken from someone else, not the official. But then, you have to understand that a case could be made that the government official’s giving of herself is the giving of her time and talent to craft those laws that wrest the money from the rich man and redistribute it to the poor.

    Now, if it seems that I’m wishy-washy here, or waffling, or whatever, it is because I’m just writing arguments. I’m not arguing one side or the other; I’m merely presenting other factors to consider. I don’t think my case for the charity of the government worker is at all compelling, but it is an argument that can be made, and to someone in power, is a good justification for enacting massive entitlement programs. (That whole fallen nature thing I’m sure comes into play somewhere around here.)

    If you want my honest opinion, it is that most government entitlement programs enable sloth, breed envy, and in general make the situation worse. The principle of: if you subsidize something, you get more of it is at play. Sometimes love for our neighbors has to be tough love, but the only way to know if that is the case is to be intimately involved with our neighbors.

    Just some things to chew on.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Ryan,

    Ryan:The right to private property does not outweigh the obligation to work towards the common good, especially when one can deliver needed sustenance to those who would perish without.

    Matt:I think you’re comparing apples to oranges here.

    Perhaps I’m misreading, but in my understanding you are comparing the right to private property with the moral obligation of that owner to give of his excess to support the poor. The first is a right, the second is an obligation which flows (at least in part from the right), it is not a question of one outweighing the other.

    But keep in mind that you’re making way too much out of my statements. I’m not in the slightest an endorser of the massive lot of entitlements the government keeps handing out.

    I recognize this, just seeking to clarity.

    What I do endorse is understanding two things. One, we Americans have by far more stuff than we need. Just think of all the things that you could do without (and maybe should, since wealth has this nasty tendency to get between one and God (cf Luke 16)).

    Absolutely, and with regard to “stuff” this is exactly the argument in favor of the fair tax, which targets stuff.

    Two, while investments are good long-term strategies for both making sure one is provided for in old age and providing jobs for people, there are plenty of people who need some short-term solutions just to make it to the long-term solutions. I would hope that these are apparent. The question then is: how do we best help those who truly need an act of charity to make it through the day?

    Principally by letting those who have a right to those investments determine what portion ought to go to charity, it would be for God to judge them on their culpability for letting greed interfere, secondarily, by the state acting as an emergency backstop to take by compulsion what it is absolutely necessary (all the better based on consumption rather than income)

    Matt: While the state has an obligation to insure the barest needs of the poor are met, even when the state does step in, it is not out of charity in any Catholic sense. The state is incapable of theological virtues as far as I understand it.

    Ryan: You have proffered an understanding of the government that bars any true charity in governmental acts. I would counter, reluctantly, that the government is made up of people who are capable of charity, and who often enough believe that passing laws to force others to subsidize the needy is the only way to provide aid….The absence of charity is, often enough, on the part of the tax-payer, because their tax dollars arean obligatory contribution, not a gift…a case could be made that the government official’s giving of herself is the giving of her time and talent to craft those laws that wrest the money from the rich man and redistribute it to the poor.

    Excellent! This is the sort of precision I like (I recognize that you aren’t agreeing with these arguments).

    1. government people are capable of charity – absolutely
    2. government people believe that taking from the wealthy to give money to the poor is charitable – absolutely, but they are in complete error on this (the crux of my opposition)
    3. government people are charitable when they give their efforts to taking from the wealthy – they are in error, particularly when they are paid, it increases their power or furthers their ideology. They may be charitable to an extent when they give of themselves as part of their work to aid the poor, and/or they sacrifice potential for private sector wealth by working for government (great distinctions have to be made here, as this may be exceedingly rare).

    My definition of “government people” extends from legislators, to employees of government and non-governmental organizations (as well as those who support such) who’s practice it is to expand the role of government.

    If you want my honest opinion, it is that most government entitlement programs enable sloth, breed envy, and in general make the situation worse. The principle of: if you subsidize something, you get more of it is at play. Sometimes love for our neighbors has to be tough love, but the only way to know if that is the case is to be intimately involved with our neighbors.

    Amen! The amazing thing is that true Charity has a much better impact on the reciever and the sender because it is not seen as an entitlement or taking but a gift of love.

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Matt,

    Just to clarify:

    Perhaps I’m misreading, but in my understanding you are comparing the right to private property with the moral obligation of that owner to give of his excess to support the poor. The first is a right, the second is an obligation which flows (at least in part from the right), it is not a question of one outweighing the other.

    I’m viewing this more as a weighted scale than a comparison. Our first obligation is to take care our of ourselves, and we are not called to give charitably when doing so harms our ability to survive. But as we accrue more wealth, the possibility of a contribution harming said survivability decreases, and eventually vanishes (save for being stupid about it…). At some point, we have so much (think scales dropping well below the equilibrium point) that we have a graver obligation to use that wealth for the benefit of others than for our own concerns.

    So it really isn’t comparing two unrelated objects (in my mind, anyway), but trying to determine where the tipping point comes, and what should be done when the scales tip.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Ryan,

    Our first obligation is to take care our of ourselves [, our families and those we have a special obligation to], and we are not called to give charitably when doing so harms our ability to survive. But as we accrue more wealth, the possibility of a contribution harming said survivability decreases, and eventually vanishes (save for being stupid about it…). At some point, we have so much (think scales dropping well below the equilibrium point) that we have a graver obligation to use that wealth for the benefit of others than for our own concerns.

    Now we’re on the same page, the apples-apples is obligations, to our own vs to others. I agree completely. Of course, using our wealth for the benefit of others is not necessarily direct help for the poor, it can include hiring workers or investing in businesses that do so.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    using our wealth for the benefit of others is not necessarily direct help for the poor, it can include hiring workers or investing in businesses that do so.

    I might add, that growing our business is not charity, even if it helps others. No matter how many people we help through employment, we have a serious obligation to direct charity.

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