Democrats & the Economy: History Lesson #1

FDR: Architect of the New Deal

In the midst of the current economic jitters, I have heard more than one commentator assert that when economic times are rough, voters tend to gravitate toward the Democrats.

Why on earth would that be?

I want to provide a little history lesson on how Democrats have handled the economy over the past 70-plus years. Let’s start with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Great Depression hit America in 1929. Voters turned out the Republicans and looked to FDR to reverse the economic downturn. He initiated his program, which was called “The New Deal.” He became the most activist president in history up to that point, and more legislation passed Congress in a short period of time than ever before. A slew of new agencies (dubbed “Alphabet Agencies”) erupted on the national scene, all created for one ostensible purpose: bring the country out of the Great Depression.

Eight years later, no visible improvement had occurred. In fact, in 1937, when things had started to rise slightly, we suffered another recession in the middle of the Depression. I think most honest historians today have to admit that FDR’s New Deal was actually more of a stimulus for extending the depression than solving it. What got us out of it? Only all the production that was needed for WWII.

Now, people who lived through the 1930s “feel” like FDR brought us out of the Depression. He was a good communicator (his Fireside Chats on the radio) and all the activity made everyone feel like the government was busily reversing the bad situation. But, in fact, it was doing nothing of the kind.

Feelings can lead us astray. I submit that if the commentators are correct, feelings once again are poised to undermine genuine recovery.

Lesson #2 coming up soon.

The Market and Personal Responsibility

The big news last week, of course, was the near-collapse of the market, fueled by the bailout of major firms by the federal government. Leading the way were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-private, quasi-government lending institutions. Now the taxpayers have the burden of guaranteeing an additional $700 billion.

Why did this happen? I’m not going to go into all the economics of it, but at the base of the problem is a spiritual issue. It has to do with personal responsibility. First, individuals were irresponsible when they sought loans for homes they could not really afford. Then, the companies were irresponsible for giving them those loans.

Further irresponsibility came from Congress, which did nothing to warn against the oncoming crisis; in fact, under Democratic leadership, the Congress refused to deal with the issue at all, primarily because of the cozy relationship between members of Congress and the leaders of the industry who were giving them money.

How many news reports pointed out that the men running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were staunch Democrats? I didn’t see any, did you? Instead, we are given sermonettes on the “failure” of the free-market system. That system can fail, yes–but only when character fails.

It all comes back to understanding that we are accountable for our actions, and that arrogance, greed, and selfishness (the lenders and Congress) combined with foolishness and selfishness (the buyers) has led to this debacle.

Loss of Biblical principles affects us all.

Celebrate the Constitution

This past week marked the 221st anniversary of the writing of the Constitution.

From May to September 1787, delegates from all states except Rhode Island labored over the intricacies of what makes government work. They did this in a room with the windows closed even on the hottest days to ensure that their deliberations did not leak to the public. They took a vow of silence, so to speak, in order that they might be able to discuss freely without fear of recriminations from the media of their day.

James Madison, who is often called the Father of the Constitution, took notes on what everyone said all those months. He would write in shorthand during the meetings, then turn his notes into a full account in the evenings. His transcription of the convention’s debates were finally published after the deaths of all the persons who were involved.

Some people today would probably decry this type of secrecy, but it was a wise move. The delegates were uninhibited in their discussions and were able to reach consensus on the form of government without the distracting swirl of constant criticism. Although the debates in the convention were secret, the ratification of the document was not. State conventions debated freely the contents of the proposed Constitution; the final vote in each state was the result of a frank, open discussion of the document’s merits.

The form of government set up at that convention has been the envy of many in the world. It has been copied by some, but not always with good results. The key to its workability always rests on the character of the people of a nation. Supposedly, a woman came up to Benjamin Franklin at the conclusion of the convention and inquired, “Mr. Franklin, what have you given us?” His response? “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

That statement is just as true today.

Principle: God the Creator

Continuing with a review of Biblical principles, I want to focus now on the truth that God is the creator of all things. If God “is,” then it is not a great logical leap to conclude that He also “does.” We don’t really grasp the concept of how astonishingly creative He is. All that we see around us began with an image in His own mind. He then transformed that image into something tangible. The universe sprang from His creativity; all the features of this earth are the result of His desire to create; the material and animal creations manifest His imagination.

Then came man. This was a unique part of His creation. Man is separated from all other created things by one key ingredient. Within man was planted the image of God. Nothing else in creation has this gift. God reasons; man can reason. God displays emotions; man possesses identical emotions. God chooses; man has a will. God knows the difference between right and wrong; man is endowed with a conscience. God is a spirit who is from everlasting to everlasting. Although man has a starting point, he also is more than a physical being; he has a spirit, and he will live forever as well. The only difference is that there are two eternal locations for that spirit, and only one is in the presence of his Creator.

Perhaps Michaelangelo expressed it best in his painting of the Sistine Chapel.

How are we handling this most wonderful creation of God? Do we reason as God reasons? Feel what He feels? Choose as He would choose? Is our conscience informed by His truth or have we instead seared our conscience to avoid the truth? This is not a game; it determines where our spirit will spend eternity.

And do we attempt to influence our culture by speaking clearly regarding this truth? Or do we hide the truth in order to be accepted by the culture? The future of the nation depends on the answer to that question.

A Truly Christian Discussion

I had a great experience last evening. As part of Constitution and Citizenship Day at Southeastern University, I moderated a panel discussion on politics. First, I presented, without comment, planks from both the Democratic and Republican platforms on such issues as: national defense and terrorism; government reform; energy policy; education; environmentalism; abortion; and marriage, among others.

After I finished, I turned the program over to a panel of four Southeastern faculty members, who made comments on items in the platforms, sharing their Christian concerns in the process. When they completed their remarks, it was time for the audience (which numbered approximately one hundred) to ask questions of the panel.

Why do I call this a great experience? Because two goals were achieved. The first was to better inform potential voters as to the issues at hand and where the respective parties stood on them. The second was to demonstrate that Christians, even when they may disagree with one another on certain aspects of public policy, can conduct themselves in a manner that does credit to the One they serve. The presence of God permeated the room; we were all challenged to make sure that our Christian faith has priority over our political views, and that our political views should be informed by our Christian faith.

Moreover, if we can carry ourselves in the love of God, the world will notice how different we are. Jesus said,

I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You sent Me. . . . May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me. (John 17:20-21,23)

It’s nice to experience that unity once in a while. It should be a more common occurrence.

Palin, Gibson, and Romans 8:28

Sarah Palin Being Interviewed by Charles Gibson
Sarah Palin Being Interviewed by Charles Gibson

This week, Sarah Palin had her second test (the first being her acceptance speech at the Republican Convention): could she hold her own against an interviewer from the mainstream media?

Charles Gibson of ABC news was given two days to interview Palin on any and all subjects. ABC stretched out the interview segments over two nights and three different programs. I think they wanted ratings (from what I have heard, they succeeded in that).

How did it go? The first night, Palin was a little tense, but even most of her detractors had to admit she did not hurt herself or the Republican ticket. Some tried to make a gaffe out of her asking Gibson what he meant by the “Bush Doctrine,” but as numerous commentators have noted since, there are at least four different policies that have been labeled in that way. She had ample reason to ask for clarification.

The second night, she was practically a different person–casual, at ease, with answers that seemed to flow more from her heart. This is all the more impressive when you consider how she was treated by her prosecutor interviewer. Gibson’s attitude toward her was one of superiority, as if he were on a mission to let her know just how much she lacked the credentials for the position of vice president. I think one e-mailer to National Review’s “The Corner” expressed it well:

His glasses accentuated the sense that he was looking down his nose at her. I felt like he was treating her as though she were fresh out of community college, but interviewing to be president of Harvard. And he was humoring her by interviewing her — but hoping to show her, by his questions, that she had no business even applying for the job. 

 

I don’t want to be one of those who sees conspiracy everywhere, but when you couple Gibson’s attitude with the overview of Palin’s life that ran on the 20/20 program just before the last part of the interview, you have to wonder. I thought I was past being surprised by how the media treats Christians and conservatives (combine the two and they really have heartburn), but this “hit piece” was startling. All accusation, no balance at all. The goal was to make you feel that this person is dishonest, untrustworthy, and an outright fraud.

 

 If the intent of the media is to destroy Sarah Palin, it is not working. The over-the-top accusations and well-fed rumors have not turned people away from her. In fact, I think the opposite is happening: people are seeing the agenda on display and are turning on the media instead. A Scripture comes to mind:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 

If Palin is maintaining her love of God, and if He indeed has called her for a high purpose, He will actively work to make good out of what others intend for evil.

Chambers on God and Culture

Whittaker Chambers

Whittaker Chambers

I’ve been commenting on the fact of God’s existence and that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. These are basic truths upon which all of our thinking should rest.

Those who have perused my website cannot have missed that one of the subjects I have been researching is Whittaker Chambers, a man who found the truth of God’s existence, but only after experiencing the failed god of communism.

Reflecting on God, man, and history in his seminal work Witness, Chambers commented on man’s rejection of God, and put his thoughts into words that have stayed with me ever since I first read them more than twenty years ago.

There has never been a society or a nation without God. But history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to God, and died.

May America never be indifferent to God. Indifference is tantamount to rejection. If we reject God, He will reject us.