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Commentary: The Bible vs. the gravy train of greed

Jim Winkler

A UMNS Commentary
By Jim Winkler*

Oct. 7, 2008

There have been more limousines than usual on Capitol Hill over the past couple of weeks. No one wants to be left out of the big bailout for banks and financial institutions. A gravy train this long doesn’t roll down the tracks very often, and everyone wants their share of the $700-plus billion that is expected to be doled out of the U.S. treasury in coming years.

As I travel across the United States, I always read local newspapers. This summer, as I traveled to the Minnesota and Kansas West annual conferences, the newspapers of America were filled with page after page of mortgage foreclosure notices. I fear we are in for difficult times.

Much of the focus so far has been on mortgage repayment problems. Next, though, problems are likely to emerge in car loans, credit-card debt and small-business loans.

The White House-organized initiative for homeowners facing foreclosure, Hope Now, routes callers to call centers in Phoenix and Spokane, Wash. Four percent of callers actually speak to housing counselors who negotiate with lenders to reduce a borrower’s mortgage. Other callers receive advice on how to manage debt better. Hope Now is dominated by mortgage industry representatives unwilling to restructure loans for homeowners.

The U.S. secretary of the treasury and the chair of the Federal Reserve Board belatedly requested an immediate meeting with congressional leaders on Thursday night, Sept. 18, to describe the huge financial crisis facing the United States and the world. They proposed to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street and financial institutions that have been feeding greedily off the American people for years.

In return, Congress wanted to restrict executive salaries and to prevent homeowners being thrown out of their homes. The secretary of the treasury, Henry Paulson, was reportedly cool to those ideas.

Thrown to the wolves

The rescue of the rich is taking place right now. The rest of us are being thrown to the wolves.

And you can forget about the poor people outside the United States. The highest number of Americans ever — 28 million — are receiving food stamps.

Rock star activist Bono said, “It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street, and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.”

“ The highest number of Americans ever — 28 million — are receiving food stamps. ”
The wealthy have already benefited dramatically, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, in tax cuts voted for them by other rich people. The Bush administration and Congress are filled with millionaires who profit personally from tax cuts.

St. Luke reminds us, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Thankfully, several years ago the scheme to derail the Social Security program and place the funds of taxpayers in the hands of Wall Street investment firms was defeated. Imagine the plight today if the retirement accounts of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens were in similar peril.

Untrammeled greed

Hundreds of billions of dollars have already been wasted on a war of aggression against the people of Iraq. The Taliban has regrouped in Afghanistan because the people of that country do not want a foreign military occupation of their land, and the current field commander is asking for more troops.

The scriptures repeatedly warn against the consequences of untrammeled greed and of nations determined to conquer and dominate other nations and peoples. The psalmist in Psalm 72 promises that God “delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. God has pity on the weak and the needy and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence God redeems their life; and precious is their blood in God’s sight.”

I pray we may summon the strength and will to help God and to restore wholeness and balance in our society.

*Winkler is top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society in Washington D.C.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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