John Adams incisively stated, “We have no government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” Accounting for this prophetic truth, there is one superseding reason for the economic crisis America confronts today, that being, moral corruption; and the consequent colossal failure to heed the economic and financial principles of Scripture.
Specifically, there are three principles that Federal and State government leaders, industry leaders, members of the workforce; and American consumers continue to violate. These principles relate to debt; integrity; and accountability.
Total Federal Budget debt is currently at an historic high, and growing. The Federal Deficit for 2008, originally projected at $455 billion has ballooned to a massive $1.2 trillion, before the economic $787 billion economic stimulus legislation, the allocation of the second installment of the $350 billion TARP fund, and any additional bailout money being contemplated by Congress and the Administration. These additional Federal expenditures will increase the 2009 Deficit to over $2 trillion. The inclusion of Federal unfunded liabilities such as Social Security, and Medicare, raise the real Federal Deficit to a staggering $5.1 trillion. Total US debt currently stands at $65 trillion. In addition, combined US State budget deficits over the next 30 months are estimated at $350 billion. As a consequence of borrowing money to finance the Federal Budget Deficit through the sale of US Treasury Securities, the US Government, is in effect, bankrupt. The initial shock of this reality raises the question of how this occurred. The simple answer is that elected representatives, at both the federal and state levels, incessantly spent more money than tax revenues provided, by borrowing on behalf of taxpayers. Herein lies the first Scriptural violation; the relevant precept stating, “Owe nothing to anyone.” The Federal Government’s inability to limit spending to available tax revenues, has led to fiscal disaster. The harsh consequences of violating the Scriptural principle to avoid debt, are now reflected at both the Federal and State government levels in America.
Operating in tandem with the violation of the Debt principle is the decline of personal integrity and discipline among elective office holders, industry executives, and millions of consumers. Greed, selfish ambition, and deception resonate as motives throughout the nation’s ruling class, and the culture at large. Distinguished New York University Economics Professor Nouriel Roubini is correct in his assessment about the seismic nature of the current economic situation. However, he errs in one point, to wit: that “there’s nothing wrong with greed per se.” On the contrary, the Scripture declares greed, which is idolatry, selfish ambition, and lying as sin. It defines the moral law as loving one’s neighbor as oneself; and the Golden Rule, as treating others as you wish to be treated. Moreover, it admonishes individuals to do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but rather to regard others as more important than oneself; and to not merely guard one’s own personal interests, but also the interests of others. Over the past several years, five Governors, and a US Senator, have forfeited their offices due to corruption. A US Justice Department task force established in 20002 to combat corporate fraud has yielded 1,236 corporate fraud convictions, including among them 214 CEOs and presidents, 53 CFOs, 23 corporate counsels, and 129 vice presidents. The culture is replete with examples of deception through the use of steroids among professional athletes. Major League Baseball’s problem is so profound that the league Commissioner is considering re-instating Hall of Famer Hank Aaron as the Home Run King.
Accountability for one’s actions, meaning to accept responsibility and to be answerable for behavior, seems increasingly rare in today’s society. Perhaps the epitome of this trend is the fact that the United States Government is $65 trillion in debt, a financial circumstance caused by decisions among elected representatives – and virtually no one raises the specter of accountability. In effect, irresponsible conduct, short of illegality, portends little, if any, consequence; a development representing a further violation of God’s principles. The Scripture states that whoever does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong he or she has done; and the consequences are to be applied without partiality. Each individual is to bear his or her own load. Yet in today’s society, wrong behavior is ignored, minimized, rationalized, and even approved of; and the imposition of consequences is often delayed, or truncated. A financial “bailout” of private enterprises, and consumers, at the taxpayers’ expense is unjust; effectively condoning wrong behavior, and promulgating a policy which undermines moral order, the foundation of an upright society.
Is there hope for America’s economy? Yes; however any true hope begins with a return to moral principles, as the foundation of national economic policy; and any such return is wholly dependent upon the character of the American people, and whether they demand it. The venerable Mr. Adams is correct; there is no governmental system that can restrain irresponsible behavior, “unbridled by morality and religion.”
US Dept. Justice
Wall Street Journal