Ellsworth replies

I stopped by for a quick check of my inbox today to see that Congressman Ellsworth did in fact send a reply to my email. Ok, so it was probably a staffer sending a canned response, but it’s something. Unfortunately, he did very little to address my actual concerns or engage my proposed action – which makes sense if it was a canned response. There is a lot of talk about how outraged he is about the situation and about the initial bailout plan, and how much better the one they want to pass now is. I’m not buying it. He might be outraged, but I’m not convinced the current plan is any better. I don’t believe it’s any substantially different in the base principles than the original plan over which he was so outraged.

I’m going to attach his response to this post in Word format. I usually prefer to use .PDF or OpenDocument, but my computer is wonky right now and this is the only option I have. Fight the power, view this file in OpenOffice.org.

Congressman Ellsworth’s reply to my email

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Letter to my Congressman on the bailout

I’m not usually a big believer in the governmental process as an agent of change, truth, justice, or whatever, and the current issue with the proposed Wall Street and bank bailout plans is no exception. I have very little expectation that my letter will actually in any way influence the decision of the representative for my district. I wrote this more as a way to get some of my thoughts down in one place. That being said, after I wrote it I figured hey, why not go ahead and send it? And now I’m posting it here. Feel free to pass it along or to debate the points presented therein, but realize that it is not a nuanced, technical policy position piece but rather a simplified, rhetorical one.

Dear Mr. Ellsworth,

I see that yesterday you voted in favor of the economic bailout plan that came to the House floor. I urge you to reconsider your position on the bailout. It seems quite disingenuous to provide billions of dollars in taxpayer money to bail out the institutions that have largely created this crisis through their own actions. It smacks of elite classism to allow corporate banking and finance executives to get off with their golden parachutes and allocate vast sums of what is supposed the people’s money to clean up their mess – moreso when it’s a clean up that is highly debatable with regards to its potential efficacy to actually do that which it purports to do.

I believe this so-called bailout plan is little more than an economic version of terrorism. For one, the Treasury and Fed say “give us the keys to the kingdom” of the economy. The proposed bailout as I understand it gives officials the power to essentially take over enormous swaths of the economic sector in an essentially arbitrary fashion, which would result in the economic directors having little-to-no accountability to the people the government and public officials are supposed to serve. The Bush Administration has excelled at taking advantage of crisis situations in order to consolidate power (particularly “emergency” power) under the umbrella of the Executive Branch, and this is just one more example of that tendency.

Furthermore, the bailout is in response to what could be essentially construed as a kind of terrorist threat on the part of the big banks. “Give us billions to fix our mess or we won’t give you house loans, car loans,” and so on. Without credit the economy fails, and those who hold the keys to credit have the ability to hold the people hostage.

The plan would involved the government basically buying assets from the bailed-out-companies above market value, thus providing the banks with a kick start in capital, which is a nonsensical proposition. If the bank owners are unwilling to utilize the market functions to raise the capital, which would ostensibly be both in their self-interest and in the public interest, then the government should only buy the assets at market value – or buy the banks at their market value, nationalize them, and nurse them back into healthy operation until such time as further action can be taken – either selling them to private interests or some other action that would not only return the banking activity to the private sector but also make up for some of the drain of public funds the whole financial crisis has engendered (and the public subsidies that have been involved in the operations of these banks throughout their history). Banks that will not submit to this process can be left to their own, and if they fail then they fail. As Adam Smith said, any business that does not operate within the public interest loses its legitimation.

In other words, if the government is going to intervene in the workings of these banks, as it appears it must, then do it in a way that makes sense and will actually work to making things better in the long run, and let those who are actually responsible for the mess be the ones who are punished, not the American taxpayers.

No capitalist system has ever existed for long without having to be regulated, modified, or bailed out by the government. No national economy that is strong today got to be so by utilizing “free market” principles; all of them, every single one, became prosperous through some form of government intervention/central planning. This case is no different – in voting for the bailout you vote to subsidize the foolishness of the robber barons who got us into this mess in the first place. I implore you to reconsider your position on the bailout and vote “nay” if it comes to the floor again.

Thank you,
Jason Barr
Evansville, Indiana

John Médaille has written quite a good piece at The Distributist Review on the bailout as a response to economic terrorism. TDR is consistently excellent and I highly recommend you read it regularly.

A reflection for Advent

I didn’t write this, but I wish I had.

A young man called out to Jesus from the crowd and said, “Teacher, command the trustee of my father’s will to give me my share of the inheritance!” Jesus replied, “I am not a lawyer or a judge—why should I get involved?” Then Jesus told everyone, “Guard yourself from every form of trying to get more in the world. When you finally get everything you want and more, then you finally realize too late that stuff is not what life is about.”

“There was an entrepreneur who ran his own business. One year, he did exceptionally well, and found that his business had outgrown his little store. So he was contemplating what he would do with his surplus profit, so, talking to himself, he said, ‘I know! I will rent a larger store, hire a couple of employees and the business will practically run itself! Then, over a few years I will have a tidy nest egg stored up and I’ll say to myself, “You have found the good life. Now it’s time to relax, and enjoy your retirement.”’ In that instant, however, God’s voice spoke to the man, ‘You are such an idiot. This very night your life is to be taken from you. So who will enjoy what you are planning?’ This is what happens to a person who works for himself and his family, but who never gives to God by giving to the poor.”…

See the rest at Young Anabaptist Radicals.

The Qaddish and the Lord’s Prayer

The Qaddish, named from the Hebrew qadosh, “holy”, is one of the central prayers in Jewish worship. It is very old, going back to pre-Christian times. The Qaddish, in one of its shorter versions (from an ancient Jewish inscription) says:

Magnified and sanctified be his great name in the world He created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel, speedily and in the near future. And say Amen.

There are also other variations, including one for Rabbis to pray in their training, ones for funeral and burial rites, and others (the above is actually a half-Qaddish).

As you can see, this is quite similar to the first part of the Lord’s Prayer, and indeed many scholars have called the Lord’s Prayer Jesus’ version of the Qaddish. A more literal translation of the opening to the Lord’s prayer than our liturgical forms tend to utilize is instructive here (actually mine is probably more like the Amplified Bible than anything else):

Our father, the one who is in the heavens,
May your name be sanctified (or made/known as holy);
May your kingdom come (or appear, or come into being),
Your purpose (or will) come into being (or be accomplished, or be done)
Just as in heaven, so also upon the earth.

If Jesus did adopt the Qaddish for his prayer, from where does the rest come, all the stuff about forgiving and daily bread and the like? Scot McKnight, a leading emerging church theologian, proposes a solution in The Jesus Creed.

McKnight refers to Mark 12:28-32 as the “Jesus Creed”, his opening of the Shema to include Leviticus 19:18’s command of loving your neighbor. The Shema (Deut. 6:4-5) was the fundamental text of Jewish monotheism, and devout Jews would recite it twice a day (the Qaddish was also recited multiple times daily along with other prayers). McKnight speculates that Jesus may have had his disciples recite the Shema with Lev. 19:18 added when they prayed. Jesus expanded the fundamental command of Judaism to include not only allegiance to and love of God, but also love of neighbor – the basic duty of life extending both vertically AND horizontally. The inclusion of both love of God and neighbor in the Jesus Creed mirrors the two sections of the Lord’s Prayer, and McKnight argues that Jesus is essentially doing the same thing with the Qaddish that he did with the Shema – expanding it to include dimensions of God’s glory and of his kingdom and also of life together based on love of neighbor in a community dedicated to living God’s kingdom as reality. In other words, as he says, if you love God you pray the first part of the prayer, and if you love your neighbor you pray the second.

Each of the petitions of the Lord’s prayer is subversive and perhaps even revolutionary: God is not distant but he his our Father; it is his name that should be exalted on the earth and not the name of any other ruler or power; for his reign to be fully manifest in this world, displacing the reign of other would-be lords. These fairly jump out at us from the page, but the petitions in the “love your neighbor” section are equally explosive.

To pray for our daily bread echoes the experience of Israel in the wilderness as God provided manna – just enough for each day, with no hoarding possible, no way for anyone to gain greater influence or power through God’s gracious gift. This undermines the nature of an affluent culture by declaring trust in God, not accumulation, as basic to our way of having needs met. To pray to be released from our debts as we release those in debt to us is an outworking of the principle of Jubilee that subverts a society based on debt and unequal economic power relations. To pray to be not lead into temptation but delivered from evil (or the Evil One) stands as a bulwark both against the tendencies of an oppressive society to call those who could to join the oppressors as well as the tendency of the oppressed to undertake violent revolution.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, forever and ever. Amen.

U.S. to push for global trade pact

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can read this article at http://absolutionrevolution.com/blog/2007/02/13/us-to-push-for-global-trade-pact/

A telling graphic…

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can read this article at http://absolutionrevolution.com/blog/2007/02/12/a-telling-graphic/

Love of money and corporations

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can find this article at http://absolutionrevolution.com/blog/2006/08/30/love-of-money-and-corporations/