I’m losing track. Since the economic downturn began in late 2007, the government has repeatedly tried to turn things around, without success. It’s like watching a play in which the imperiled characters try to rescue themselves, but are defeated in the final scene of each act.
I’m losing track. Since the economic downturn began in late 2007, the government has repeatedly tried to turn things around, without success.
It’s like watching a play in which the imperiled characters try to rescue themselves but are defeated in the final scene of each act.
First, there was the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. The legislature passed a bill to provide rebates to low- and middle-income taxpayers, tax incentives to stimulate business investment, and impose limits on mortgages available through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
That was Act One. In Act Two, the curtain rose on The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. This legislation authorized the Treasury to spend more than $700 billion to purchase mortgage-heavy securities and inject capital into distressed banks. The bailout gave cash to tight-fisted bankers, but Wall Street was not impressed. The slide toward economic calamity, greased with excess credit and debt, continued unimpeded.
The curtain has just risen on Act Three: President Barack Obama’s "Economic Stimulus Program," which was transmuted into "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." When the curtain fell after Acts One and Two, Washington’s massive expenditures had failed to stop the slide toward an economic depression. Our hero, the American Citizen, was headed for joblessness, bankruptcy, and the unemployment line.
I wonder if Act Three will bring us to the turnaround, in which the hero escapes disaster at the last moment. I am not optimistic. Too much spending in the bill is either delayed or used to support pet congressional projects that will not stimulate the economy.
But then, I’m no economist. Maybe Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right, and using government funds for family planning programs will help turn things around. I, for my part, fail to see how the federal government can fund contraceptives in a way that will create jobs or avert tragedy in the sub-prime mortgage market. But again, I am no economist.
If Act Three fails, what will Act Four be? Let me suggest that Act Four may introduce us to a whole new drama, a spin-off of the Economic Stimulus Program of 2008: The Spiritual Stimulus Package of 2009.
It has happened before. In times of economic crisis, people have turned to God for help.
From the very beginning, the people who listened to the message of spiritual hope often have been those undergoing hardship: the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, the Jewish exiles in Babylon, the slaves in the Roman empire — the list could go on and on.
The atheists have a ready explanation: In hardship, people grasp at straws. Religion, they say, is just one more straw. It follows, according to their view, that strong people — the financially secure, for example — don’t need to bother with spiritual niceties.
I suggest that there is another possibility. The God who made the world has acted and is acting to renew humanity, and all of creation. Those who willingly cooperate with him (everyone cooperates in the end, willingly or not) are those who have faith. God desires all of us to come over to his side, but he prefers not to use force. He is as gentle with us as our attitude will permit.
Indeed, in the early acts of this drama (which God produces, directs and leads), it is "the kindness of God," as St. Paul tells us, that "leads to repentance." (Repentance is a change of mind about oneself and about God that leads to a change in conduct.)
Those who will not be led by kindness, may find themselves led by another aspect of God’s goodness: discipline.
When the curtain rises after this latest act, will the stage be set with the props of hope or of despair? No one knows, but you can be sure the Director has a plan to turn it all around and bring a smashingly good conclusion. It turns out that he is directing a comedy (in the classical sense), not a tragedy. It is, in fact, "The Divine Comedy." I just hope we follow his direction.
The Daily Reporter (Coldwater, Mich.)