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Sunday, September 21, 2008

What You Own vs. What You Owe

“An absolute principle of economics,” the late Larry Burkett wrote in his 1992 # 1 best seller, The Coming Economic Earthquake, is that, “No one, government or otherwise, can spend more than he or she makes indefinitely. At some point the compounding interest will consume all the money in the world.”

Larry added that, “With so many variables in the economy, the one non-variable is this: What you own belongs to you and not to a lender.” What Larry was encouraging folks to do here was to make debt a rare thing, and to get completely out of debt as soon as possible.

In this best-seller, Larry may not have foreseen the subprime mortgage crisis, but writing about mortgages, home equity loans, and easy lines of credit, he did note that, “Clearly many American homeowners have transferred the wealth stored in their homes to the lenders. In this case, it leaves both in jeopardy. Given the wrong set of circumstances, the homeowners will default, leaving the banks with huge inventories of homes they can’t sell.”

Approximately 18 months ago, it seems that “the wrong set of circumstances,” became “the perfect storm” for many homeowners, lenders, and the government. The latest big victims of this storm: Investment bank Lehman Brothers (fourth largest in the U.S.), insurance giant AIG, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Hundreds of billions of dollars will have been lost by homeowners and lenders by the time this turns around. I’m speaking here not only of those individuals who lost their homes, but also of those who have seen their homes plummet in value as a result of this mess.

With its bailout of companies “too big to fail,” its purchase of failed assets, and a pool at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure investors in money-market funds, according to some in Congress, the total cost for the federal government in all of this will be over a trillion dollars. Of course, by “the federal government” what I really mean is the U.S. taxpayer, or better still: you and me.

How did it get to this? The details are somewhat extensive and complicated, but simply put: America had too much bad consumer and corporate debt, especially in the area of home mortgages. The better question is: Where do we go from here? There is no easy answer, but first and foremost I believe that all parties involved here: the government, lending institutions, and U.S. citizens, need a much more cautious attitude toward debt.

Even Time magazine recently noted that, “We all will have to start living within our means—or preferably below them. If you don’t overborrow or overspend, you’re far less vulnerable to whatever problems the financial system may have.” That sounds like something Larry Burkett would have said.

My wife Michelle and I can testify to this wisdom. We have now been married for nearly eleven years and for about the past 10 years we have lived our lives completely debt free. This includes owning our home, our cars, and so on.

We are not, nor have we ever been, “rich,” at least by American standards. I’ve been a public or private school teacher for the last 15-plus years. Michelle worked full time for a Christian ministry early in our marriage, but has been a stay-at-home mom for about the last 7 years. Our income over the life of our marriage has always been at or slightly above the median income for Americans.

I take almost no credit for where we are financially. Michelle has always been more financially disciplined than me. Early in our marriage, through her efforts and the ministry founded by Larry Burkett, Christian Financial Concepts (now Crown Financial Ministries, www.crown.org), I embraced the simple, wise truths put forth in Scripture concerning money and debt. In other words, we are where we are financially by the grace and wisdom of God.

Our financial path has literally been a calling. After about a year of marriage I felt God was calling us to commit to live our lives totally and completely debt free, never going into debt again for anything. I have always felt that this calling was not simply to bless us personally, but that we were to be an example to others and encourage them to trust God to provide all that they need. (A snippet of our personal testimony from Crown Ministries can be seen here.)

I am not saying that it is wrong to be in debt. However, debt should be rare (as it used to be), and any debt should be paid off in full as quickly as possible. The bottom line financially, whether we’re talking about the government, banks, corporations, small businesses, churches, or an individual is: How much do you own and how much do you owe? Let me say from experience, it is much better to own than to owe.

I plan to share more of our financial journey, including some of the struggles we’ve faced with the current economic climate and other challenges as well, in my next column.

Copyright 2008, 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

Sunday, September 7, 2008

McCain's Brilliant Choice

See, I told you that John McCain could be trusted to make good decisions for the country (See The Case for McCain on my Web site.). If Sarah Palin is any kind of indication as to the kind of people with whom he would surround himself as President of the United States, I can’t wait to see his first Supreme Court nominee.

The choice of Sarah Palin for his running mate was a brilliant decision by John McCain in numerous ways. First, and probably most importantly, she energized the base of the Republican Party and galvanized them behind McCain. Palin is a true-blue (or rather red) conservative. She is a Christian, is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-family, while also being fiscally conservative, and anti-establishment.

Palin is someone that every facet of the conservative base can get behind. Evidence of this was the money that came pouring into the campaign the weekend that she was chosen and continued to roll in the week of the Republican convention. McCain’s campaign raked in $7 million the day Palin was announced. They reported bringing in $10 million on the day of Palin’s convention speech, which was the most they ever raised in one day. Republicans now say that there will be no money advantage for Obama the rest of the campaign.

The choice of Palin demonstrates, again, the “maverick” image of McCain. This will continue his appeal to independents. Also, there is the obvious appeal to women, especially those who may have become disenfranchised with the Obama campaign not choosing Hillary. If nothing else, it keeps Obama playing defense as to why he passed over Senator Clinton for his V.P.

Also, Palin’s strengths match Obama’s strengths. He’s fresh and new, so is she. He’s articulate and well spoken, so is she. He’s handsome; she’s beauty-queen beautiful. He’s an African-American, she’s a woman.

In addition, her weaknesses, whether perceived or real, that liberals may point out, highlight even greater weaknesses in Obama. This gives the Republicans a retort for most every criticism that could be leveled at Palin. Liberals have said she doesn’t have enough experience. Conservatives responded that she has more than Obama.

Liberals will say she’s a small-town hick. Conservatives will respond that Obama is a big-city elitist. Liberals will say she comes from a radical church. Conservatives will quote Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright. Liberals will say she’s too conservative. Conservatives will point to Obama as the most liberal Senator in the U.S. Congress. Along with all of this, conservatives will note that Palin is on the under card for their party, while Obama has top billing with the Democrats.

What’s more, Palin has a life and a history to which most all Americans can relate. This cannot be said of any of the other candidates. McCain’s biography is so unique and amazing that no one can imagine himself as him. Obama is the graduate of two Ivy League schools (Columbia and Harvard) and has been involved in law or politics his whole adult life. Joe Biden has been in law and politics all of his adult life as well. In fact, he became a U.S. Senator at the Constitutionally minimum age of 30.

Palin is a graduate of the University of Idaho with a degree in communications-journalism. She worked in journalism and served on the PTA. She’s helped her husband run his family’s commercial fishing business. She served two terms on the city council in Wasilla, Alaska and later became mayor of Wasilla. In 2002 she ran for lieutenant governor of Alaska and lost in a close race. She was appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and chaired that Commission from 2003 to 2004.

In 2006 Palin became the first female governor of Alaska and its youngest at age 42. In addition to all of this, she is a wife of 20 years and a mother of 5, including a son who is set to be deployed to Iraq this month. She hunts, fishes, and is a lifetime member of the NRA.

All of this gives Palin strong connections to the majority of Americans. Her life story is one that resonates across the heartland. It’s one that many young Americans, especially young women, can look at and say, “Yeah, I could do that.”

Many liberals know this, and this is why they have come after her. The attacks have been vicious. It was discovered through wild efforts to prove that Governor Palin’s last child was actually her grandchild, that her unwed 17-year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant. Having their crazy theory quashed, liberals went after Bristol. (These liberals never seem to let the facts get in their way; i.e. Joan King’s August 26 article, which contained multiple false accusations about me. See my Web site for my response.)

It seems that many liberals imagined that since Palin’s daughter became pregnant out of wedlock, evangelical support might waver. This proved to be way off, and her attackers should have known better (though most liberals often get evangelicals wrong). Evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Bush-Cheney in two elections even though Cheney has a lesbian daughter.

This election should ultimately come down to the contrasts between McCain and Obama. However, Palin has shaken up the election like no one else could have. I think John McCain could have won without her, but I also believe that with Palin on the ticket, he improved greatly his chances of victory.

Copyright 2008, 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

Monday, September 1, 2008

When Liberal's Attack

The liberal backlash against Governor Palin is beginning to resemble the same attacks that Clarence Thomas had to endure. With the same lustily vengeful fervor as was leveled against Thomas, liberals have gone after Palin. Not surprisingly, the line of attack is similar to the one used against Thomas and is also a topic with which liberals seem very comfortable: a sex scandal.

Some liberals have recently accused Palin of faking her last pregnancy. These liberals contend that she did this to hide the fact that her oldest daughter, Bristol, was actually the one pregnant, and that Trig, the Down syndrome child born in April is actually Sarah Palin’s grandchild, not her son.

The Palins have now revealed that 17-year-old Bristol is currently about 5 months pregnant. This, of course, makes it impossible for her to be the mother of Trig.

With many liberals it’s not enough that you’re a minority or a female; what’s more important to them is that you tow the liberal party line. It just goes to show that it really isn’t about the color of your skin (or your gender), but about the content of your character. However, the kind of character for which they are looking must make one pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-evolution, anti-Creation, anti-Ten Commandments, anti-gun, and so on.

Much has been made of Governor Palin demonstrating her pro-life beliefs by delivering a Down syndrome child back in April. But little has been said about Bristol Palin, despite being 17 and unmarried, choosing to let her child live in this deadly abortion age in which we find ourselves. Twice now, under very difficult circumstances, the Palins have lived out their pro-life character.

As a contrast in character, consider the Palins’ response to their 17-year-old daughter becoming pregnant, and Governor Palin giving birth to a Down syndrome child, with what Barack Obama said when hypothesizing about one of his own daughters becoming pregnant, and his voting record on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA).

Speaking of Bristol’s pregnancy the Palins said, “Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support. Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.”

Compare this to Barack Obama’s comments in April of this year when he said, “Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old—I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” Here, in only a hypothetical situation, Obama demonstrated his staunch anti-life character.

Also, as I wrote about recently here, Obama demonstrated just how anti-life he is in what amounts to infanticide. His opposition to a proposed Illinois law (a virtual copy of the federal BAIPA), which would have protected infants born alive during abortions, and his subsequent deception about it, reveal the lengths to which he will go to protect abortion on demand.

In the twisted world in which many liberals live, Obama is the hero and Palin the villain. Unlike what Clarence Thomas had to endure, with a mostly liberal Congress sitting in judgment of him, thankfully the American people will get to decide what kind of character they want in the White House.

Copyright 2008, 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