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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Want to be a Slave to Debt? Vote for Big Government

My wife Michelle and I are financial disciples of the late Larry Burkett. As I have noted in columns before (and as our newly published book details), due in great measure to Mr. Burkett’s ministry, on a teacher’s salary, we have lived the last 14 years of our lives completely debt free including building a home without borrowing a dime.

As I was first learning the biblical principles of finance, I encountered many Bible verses that deal with money and wealth (there are hundreds). One of the verses that most impacted me was Proverbs 22:7. It reads, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender (NIV84).” If you have ever had trouble with debt and creditors, you understand well what this verse is communicating. To be a slave to debt is a sad reality for far too many Americans today.

The debt of our federal government is well known. Many state and local governments have not fared much better—some even worse. We are in such a position for a myriad of reasons, but I believe that when it comes to debt (as is the case with most issues) our government is simply a refection of our culture. We have governments addicted to debt because far too many families and individuals in the U.S. are addicted to debt.

When governments are swimming in debt, especially when it gets to the point of bankruptcy, the consequences are far reaching. There is no better example than the city of Detroit. With liabilities totaling about $18 billion, Detroit’s Chapter 9 filing in the summer of this year was easily the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy.

With public services slashed, a fire-sale of city assets, and cuts to benefits for Detroit employees, Detroit’s citizens are in the midst of a whirlwind of financial chaos and uncertainty. True to the warning issued in Proverbs 22:7, a very recent L.A. Times column noted that the misery in Detroit had some citizens describing their situation as enslavement.

Of course, when dealing with something described as “enslavement,” as is typical of a liberal publication such as the L.A. Times and with the liberal mindset of the vast majority of Detroit’s citizens, “racism” is the frequent cry when lamenting the sad reaping the Motor-City is now enduring.

Detroit’s bankruptcy is being overseen by a state-appointed emergency manager. Some citizens are in court attempting to halt the bankruptcy. One of the more contentious issues is the law that empowers the emergency manager. Testifying in court, longtime Detroit resident Bill Hickey declared that he found the emergency manager law “to be racist in its aims and in its application.”

To further push the racism narrative, The Times found several individuals willing to use the “slavery” analogy: “‘We still remember—we haven't forgotten—that we are only a few footsteps away from slavery,’ said Monica Lewis-Patrick, a community activist who works at Hush House, a shelter in one of Detroit's most embattled neighborhoods.” Also testifying in court, Sheilah Johnson tearfully wondered, “When my 9-year-old grandson asks me, ‘Grandma, are they trying to make us slaves again?’ how do I answer that child?” Johnson added, “We do not need a slave owner, and I am not a slave.”

The Times piece ends with Hickey concluding, “But racism is still a huge issue. It's a hard conversation to have, but it's an important one, and we need to have it.”

Yes, there is a conversation to be had, and yes, we are dealing with a form of enslavement. However, racism has virtually nothing to do with it.

The most common themes with municipalities facing dire debt consequences are billions in unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities. Also, according to Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal, of the U.S. cities in the most trouble financially, “the vast majority are located in states with forced unions, non-right-to-work states.”

Moore points out that, “Unions control state legislatures and city halls in non-right-to-work states, so it can become politically paralyzing to try to fix the problem of runaway labor costs.” And of course, the most significant common trait of U.S. cities with heavy debt burdens is that for decades now their governments have been dominated by liberals.

As Moore explains, “
For at least the last 20 years major U.S. cities have been playgrounds for left-wing experiments—high taxes on the rich; sanctuaries for illegal immigrants; super-minimum wage rules; strict gun-control laws (that actually contribute to high crime rates); regulations and paperwork that make it onerous to open a business or develop on your own property; crony capitalism with contracts going to political donors and friends; and failing schools ruled by teacher unions, with little competition or productivity.”

Over 80% of Detroit’s citizens are black. Anyone with an attention span greater than that of a Miley Cyrus fan knows the overwhelming rate at which U.S. blacks vote for liberals. As more and more state and local governments draw ever closer to their day of reckoning with their debt masters, just as in Detroit, they too will learn the hard lessons of Proverbs 22:7. And any U.S. citizen, whatever the skin color, who doesn’t want to find himself feeling like a slave needs to get off the Big Government plantation.

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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