Because I Have No Discernable Skills

I don’t understand a lot about economics, I’m going to be honest with you.  But the other day, I was sitting at my computer, listening to my intern on the phone with her mom and she was complaining how there aren’t any entry level job openings in her field listed on the university career page.

Ha, I thought briefly, it’s just like it was when I graduated from college.  Remember that?  How the economy under Clinton was supposedly so great and yet we couldn’t find jobs and folks were losing their farms and we’d hear all about the tech bubble and all these young folks with all this money and wondered where we went wrong?

Anyway, yeah, so I was about to welcome her to the club when she went on about how she wasn’t seeing any job openings on the internet or at this company or that company and it dawned on me that the panic in her voice was a little different than when I graduated. 

And it scared me, too, because, frankly, I have no discernable skills.  If my employer decided to cut costs by cutting me, I don’t know what I’d do instead.

So, I don’t understand why, with this financial crisis, it’s okay to bail out the big banking companies, but not the little guy who’s going to lose his house.  I don’t even understand what bailing out these big financial companies has to do with a free market.  Why is it that we have to let the market do its thing when it’s regular folks who are about to be crushed by it but when the market is about to do its thing all over the banks, the government has to step in?

Some days, I’ve got to tell you, I just feel like the fleshy conduit through which one giant company funnels money from another giant company.  And I worry that I can’t stretch to accomodate those companies wanting more money from each other.

I keep thinking that we should grow a garden, maybe ask Mack if there’s a patch of sunny ground near the creek we can borrow, but then I worry that it might get to the point, with gas prices going how they’re going, when I can’t afford to get up there to tend it.

I just feel ill at ease about things and have no confidence in our leadership to guide us through this.

I wish I’d paid more attention to my grandparents talking about what they did during the Depression.

31 thoughts on “Because I Have No Discernable Skills

  1. Because we all know there’s no out-of-work and highly experience politically astute bloggers in Nashville at the moment…

  2. I just feel ill at ease about things and have no confidence in our leadership to guide us through this.

    B, I feel the exact same way right now. I am 41-years-old, and because I took a pay cut in exchange for some schedule flexibility (last year), I am in the worst financial shape of my life. We, you & I, are both very smart, capable people, and we shouldn’t be having to live like this. It’s like…we can’t survive as single women, because the economy is still geared toward 2-income households.

    I am not only fearful for my own future, but that of my daughter’s. I feel like she’s gonna have to depend on another person to function financially when she grows up.

    It shouldn’t be like this.

  3. a-freaking-men regarding the Gov’t bailing out companies that have enough $ to pay their employees millions — I had this exact conversation Saturday afternoon — first the airlines, who have the audacity to ask for help and then when back on their feet, hose the little guy (us). When things get tough, I seriously doubt Uncle Sam will ever help me pay my rent or gas bill. What hope does any person running a small business have? Our leaders are elected by corporations — I guess we’re screwed… and I hate to be so pessimistic, but I see no other hope since I don’t have the money to back my own puppet politician.

    Regarding the depression, my grandfather said that his family was so poor, they didn’t notice a difference when the hard times hit.

  4. B., this reminds me of something I wrote into this really short play that I penned for a theater class. One of the characters– a fictional POTUS– uses the analogy of a cruise ship to describe his economic policy. Long story short, the character says that some people will have fancier rooms than others, and that’s okay, but none of it is any good if the whole ship sinks. I reckon there are some really sociopathic people in this country who believe that squeezing the last dime out of the matrix is the goal, no matter who gets hurt and no matter if it destroys the matrix.

    Fucking assholes.

  5. Pingback: Music City Bloggers » Blog Archive » Is This What Our Grandparents Went Through In The Depression?

  6. B –

    Good questions. I’m not sure how we might come to a place where we can even talk about this stuff since we are so far apart on so many things. But I’ll toss out a few things for the beginnings of discussion.

    I oppose corporate welfare. I don’t think we should be bailing out the banks and mortgage companies. I think we should let the market straighten this out. And I think so knowing that the “value” of my house is going down as we speak. If corps do not learn to live responsibly now, the next bailout will only be worse.

    I oppose citizen welfare, too. For the same reasons. I don’t think we should be bailing out people, either. I say this after leaving the corporate world 15 years or so ago and being self employed since then. For almost 20 years I’ve been the sole breadwinner for my family as The Much Younger Trophy Wife came home when the kids came along and has been home ever since.

    Her coming home and my ignorance as to what that really meant cost us dearly. Within two years we were behind on every bill we owed and people were talking about discontinuing services and dropping by to get their stuff and such. It was bad! Somewhere in there I got the crazy notion that maybe if I really busted my butt, I could get out of the situation I had gotten myself into.

    I took a second job and worked 80 hours a week to get back to sea level. Insanely, just when we got our heads above water, I stopped working for someone else and started my own company. My kids are all homeschooled though my taxes pay for public school. I pay for my own health care though my taxes pay for healthcare for so many others. I pay for my own food, housing, clothing and utilities while my taxes provide these things for so many others.

    And here’s the good part. All this started when I was about 35. After 16 years of living small, pinching pennies, busting my butt and doing so many things that so many are unwilling to do – at last, my ship is here.

    I’m 60 days from being out of debt except for my house, I’m 6 months from having enough in savings to live for a year with no income, I’m 18 months from owning my home and I’m 6 years from having enough to retire early and not worry. I’m making more than I ever thought I would make and I can honestly say that it’s worth it.

    But along the way, I had to make decisions constantly that challenged whether or not I really believed what I had said for all those years. That it was not OK to simply bail on my debt. I owed the money – I HAD to pay it back. It was not OK to take money from the government. Bailouts are unacceptable regardless of who gets them. I did accept help from family and friends. More than I will likely ever be able to repay to them personally. I have also been generous with others as I have been able to and will be even more so in the days ahead.

    The problem as I see it is that one side rails against Daddy Welfare and the other against Mommy Welfare. The problem is that we have welfare of any sort. Once we get the idea that the government is there to bail us out, we have lost our biggest weapon in the fight – our self responsibility and self reliance.

    I understand that if Mommy Welfare goes away, there will be people who will be hurt. Not as many as we fear and not as bad as we think. But it’s going to happen. If Daddy Welfare goes away, there will be people who will be hurt. Not as many as we fear and not as bad as we think. But it’s going to happen. But if we continue on our present course with each side clinging to their welfare and castigating the other side, guess what … people are going to be hurt. Only in this scenario – far more will be hurt (the entire nation) and it will be far worse than we can imagine (we’ll lose everything). It cannot help but be so.

    The solution is to stop depending on government and take responsibility for our selves. Because we’ve permitted this to exist and to exist for so long, fixing it is going to be hard. But the consequences of allowing the situation to continue are even worse.

    I can give you some examples of the sorts of things I am talking about if you like. I’m not interested in hearing how lucky I am or that I’m the exception and things in that vein. I worked hard and am enjoying the fruits of that work. Others who have worked hard haven’t done as well and others have done better. I don’t intend to stop working hard just because I’ve achieved some of the goals I established. I want to do better still. My point is that my situation would be far worse had I just given in or given up so many years ago. If it all comes crashing down tomorrow, I’ll just start over. There really isn’t any other choice.

    I’m just rambling now … but I’m serious. If you’re willing, I’ll put out some ideas and we can bat them around. Specifics … You generally have an interesting take on things and I’m interested in hearing what you might say to some of what I believe.

    Your thoughts?


  7. Blue,
    I don’t want to belittle your efforts or hard work, but you cannot get away with a statement like, “I’m not interested in hearing how lucky I am or that I’m the exception and things in that vein.” Whoopie-effin-doo! You don’t want to hear it? Too bad. Because there are a lot of folks out there working 80 hours a week who don’t have a partner at home taking care of the kids. There are people out there who aren’t merely trying to get out of debt, but are trying to simply get by. That is by far a vastly different experience from yours. Having family and friends who had the ability to help you out is a luxury for you that many others do not enjoy. You are the exception.

    You worked hard, but you also made certain decisions that affected how soon you got out of debt. You could have sent your kids to public school, freeing up time for your wife to take a part-time job, thus bringing in more income, thus paying down your debt faster.

    And trying to say you pay taxes for services that you don’t use… That makes me seethe. I don’t have ANY kids and my taxes go to public schools. I hope that these schools can turn out people that can read and write and communicate and help them go on to become people that are needed and function in our society. My taxes go to pay for roads on which I will never drive, but trucks bring in food and goods on those roads. Friends and family travel on those roads and maybe come to visit me. But most egregiously, my tax dollars go to pay for a military-industrial complex of which I do not support or approve.

    I would much rather a great portion of those taxes go to single parents who need help putting food on the table for their kids. Or money to help for childcare for parents who do work 80 hours a week not just to pay off debt, but to get friggin by.

    There are people out there that REALLY need a leg up—people who need help getting by (REALLY get by, not pay off their house, not work harder so their partner can stay home with the kiddies). There are people out there that, if they take another job, have no way of taking care of their children while they work at night. There are people out there that, if they take a job that earns them a couple extra hundred dollars a month, lose the public assistance that helps maintain their children’s health care.

    The tragedy here isn’t social welfare, but that we’ve created a society that makes it nearly impossible for so many to simply maintain a day-to-day existence. The tragedy here is that you resent anyone whose hard work doesn’t pay the kind of dividends yours has.

    So really, if the elitist shoe fits…

  8. Editor –

    Thank you for proving my point. You are so locked into your mindset that you cannot see any way out.

    The fear that people have keeps them bound so tightly that their dreams die. And you enable it.

    You accuse me of elitism. You don’t know the details as I’ve only shared some of them – obviously I cannot include everything in a comment and that at someone else’s blog. Worst of all, you can’t even do the math. My little saunter down Elitism Lane took almost 20 YEARS!!

    Please don’t think you even begin to know what took place in that time and that you have some sort of moral superiority with which to address me. Because there is one thing that you will never be able to deny. Regardless of how many people try their best and fail at success, some succeed. There is not one person on welfare that has ever accomplished their dreams. I’d rather take a shot at the chance of success than accept the inevitability of failure. You think because you guarantee someone a menial existence you are doing them a favor. But even you understand there is something better out there that everyone aspires to.

    When someone comes along to share how they were able to accomplish that something better, your best response is an arrogant dismissal. How sad to be you …


  9. “There is not one person on welfare that has ever accomplished their dreams.”

    Can that possibly be true? What about people who grew up in households with government support who then went on to accomplish their dreams, do they count as counter-examples?

    Blue, is generally getting help, not doing it on your own (or in families) what you take issue with, or is it only help that comes directly from tax money that is the problem? One subtext I read is that safety nets make people slackers but fear and need motivate. While some people may thrive on fear, others flounder.

  10. Plus, I think we’re going to get into a fundimental theological difference here, because, to me, to prosper while others in my community are suffering–especially if my prosperity comes as a direct result of their suffering–is dishonorable and exceedingly unlucky.

    I have an obligation to provide in the ways I can to the welfare of my community. I realize that not everyone shares that idea, but that’s their misfortune.

    It’s not my job, I don’t think, to try force my equals to stand on their own two feet or to teach them lessons about personal responsibility or to advocate for the reduction or elimination of what the community sees fit to give them. The community hasn’t seen fit to give me a position of leadership (though, too, I haven’t sought it) and so, even if I feel obliged to tell people how they’re fucking up (especially as it affects me and the community in general), I don’t feel it’s my place to treat my peers as if I should lead them.

    It would be problematic for me; I think it would be unlucky, both for me and for the community.

    From where I’m sitting, it does seem that the way you’ve done things is very fortunate–in that it’s brought great luck to your family and shown you to be a man of honor. You truly should be proud of that and boast about it with impunity. That seems to me to be an appropriate response.

    But what I don’t get–and again, I think this is just a theological disconnect (and I’m finding the older I get, the harder it is to put myself back in the Christian mindset, so I’m sorry about that)–is why you think that just because you can do it, everyone who wants it bad enough can do it.

    How does such an attitude not diminish your deeds?

    You did what few others can do and you’re rightfully proud of that.

    Why do you undermine that with this idea that, if others can’t do what you’ve done, we should treat them as if they aren’t members of the community?

    It’s as if you work to negate the good fortune accumulated by a life well-lived by denying your obligations.

    That’s weird to me.

  11. Hmm. B., I think I’m digging your point about the theological disconnect. One of the things that’s so fucked up about the non-wealthy conservative mindset is that seems to be based on some misanthropic, medieval interpretations of Christianity. As human beings we are all prone to be holier-than-thou on occasion, but where in the Bible did Jesus tell his disciples that there was virtue in making themselves and each other miserable? I must have missed that part in the Beatitudes. Anyway, that kind of misanthropy is very helpful to those who want to keep the majority (the not-super-wealthy and powerful) at each other’s throats. If we can be convinced that ‘every man for himself’ is a path to righteousness, then we’ll applaud those who want to destroy the commons and privatize the shit out of everything.

  12. On the macro side of things I must admit that the Fed coordinated action on the Bear Stearns / JP Morgan deal is very complex. I don’t pretend to grasp it and some of the econ blogs I’ve read – well known economists – are saying little due to their lack of understanding… really takes a financial economist to sort it out… but I feel I know enough to say that it does seem a bit troubling to me. There are enough people of true stature who are fairly concerned.

    That said, on the micro level what the Sam Hill are you’all talking about? You have no skills B? I appreciate the feeling, the panic when you think about it briefly, but it just isn’t true. It there was a shock you’d likely adjust. It might, probably would, be rough for a period of time. People do it all the time. What BCM relates is a very common experience. It is not the exception. Talk to people who are 70+ years old. Ask them about some tough times they went through… practically all people have. Some have had tougher and longer periods than others of course. As recently as 1980-81 we had over 10% unemployment. People, for the most part, made it.

    The “sky is falling” attitude is strange to me, not because it might not fall but because it can always fall and has fallen on many individuals and societies since time began. Do you expect security, freedom from hardship, and flowing beer all the time?

    Being a single parent is harder than having two adults? Well yea.

    I do not just speak for myself when I say that negotiating obstacles, enduring hardship, and scrambling from time to time has been to my benefit. It has made me a better person. I think that is what BCM was saying. The government can not solve the human condition. Part of the human condition is that there is suffering. Sometimes we suffer for a variety of reasons. In material terms our lower middle class, even our poor, are filthy stinkin’ rich when considered against the backdrop of human history.

    Currently I am doing OK financially. I would like to do better and am taking action to achieve that. It is very possible that I take a step back… could happen in the near future. If (when) that happens I know what I’ll deal with – I’ll get hungry, lean, and focused. I’ll have periods of doubt and anxiety. I’ll think of the things I’d like to provide for my children and re-dedicate myself. I’ll try again and again. I’ll fail. The path won’t be easy. And, I’ll be travelling along a path where many have gone before.

    As for the Christianity, Christians were called to, “come follow me.” I am inspired that I believe in a savior who stumbled under a heavy burden to Calvary. He was mocked and vilified. Before that he suffered mental anguish in the garden, to the point of sweating blood.

  13. Professor,

    The folks you reference became successful because they turned their back on the pittance that welfare doles out. There isn’t enough money there to accomplish anything more than minimal living. That’s the point. They wouldn’t serve as counter examples for me. They did not realize their dreams while on welfare. They left that behind in order to be able to do better.

    To answer your question, I would have to say that as I understand what you are asking, it is governmental help from tax dollars that is the problem. That is the original thought from B’s post. Once we begin to permit welfare of any sort, it becomes impossible to deny it to any entity – corporate or individual. To do so is to invite splitting hairs over who needs it the most and at what point do we all agree the help kicks in and argue over “Yeah, but what about the guy who missed the cut by $50?” and it never ends. There is no Constitutional provision for welfare – corporate or individual. It all needs to stop.

    The reason is exactly what you said at the end of your comments. Safety nets make people slackers. Safety nets make businesses slackers, too. Reality and economics are pretty good at telling us this stuff.

    Why is it that most people on unemployment don’t starve? Even the ones that “can’t” find a job while the bennies are flowing. How is it that they manage to be working when the money flow shuts off? Remember welfare reform under Clinton? The kids that would starve and the general anguish and suffering that would result? Never happened. When they HAD to, people discovered they really could hold down a job, get an education, begin the process of weaning themselves off of handouts. Economics 101 – you get what you pay for. Why do so many rich people own farmland but don’t farm? Subsidies! So many like to decry that’s just the rich getting richer. Nope – it’s just the rich getting handouts. As long as the feds are handing it out, people will take it.

    If we ended farm subsidies tomorrow, that land would be sold off or leased and used for something else. We all see it so clear when it comes to the side of the equation that we disagree with. Some hate corp welfare – others hate people welfare. I don’t like any of it. The results of it are evident for anyone willing to honestly look.

    If you are willing to agree to end welfare, I’m willing to consider some sort of weaning process, albeit under duress. That process is going to be just like unemployment. Who knows how many people will not do anything until they HAVE to. But we can talk about it if you like.


  14. Yeah, Mr. Kennedy, but it was all the cool, subversive stuff that he said and did before the sweating blood that earned him the state-issued torture and murder. Sharing food with those lazy deadbeat poor people? Healing the sick without charging a fee? Saying that the rich would have a really hard time inheriting the kingdom of God? No wonder the Romans offed that pinko hippie!!

  15. If we can be convinced that ‘every man for himself’ is a path to righteousness, then we’ll applaud those who want to destroy the commons and privatize the shit out of everything


    but it was all the cool, subversive stuff that he said and did before the sweating blood that earned him the state-issued torture and murder. Sharing food with those lazy deadbeat poor people? Healing the sick without charging a fee? Saying that the rich would have a really hard time inheriting the kingdom of God? No wonder the Romans offed that pinko hippie!!

    CS, I know we disagree on just about everything, but I do want to sort of interject something here as a conservative and a Christian…especially as you mentioned the theological disconnect.

    I am a person who opposes state welfare on both the corporate and the individual level. That has nothing to do with my hating people, wanting to keep people down or greedily grasping as I climb over the backs of the poor.

    It has everything to do with the second statement you made.

    When Jesus did all those cool and subversive things, he was acting as an agent of God, not an agent of the State. As a person who strives to be more Christlike, I believe firmly in following Jesus’ example. I share food and money and time and goods with the poor on my own and in relative secrecy. I don’t heal the sick, as I am not the Son of God, but I do try to comfort the sick whenever possible. Again, I do this as an agent of God and not an Agent of the State.

    As you pointed out, the State killed the subversive Jesus.

    Yes, I know you’re readying your arguments, and they’re all good ones. How can I possibly be as effective as the State on my own? How can I be allowed to make value judgements about whom I help ? Those are all questions I ponder, and I know other conservative Christians who share my philosophy and do the same type of pondering.

    I just felt the need to put that out there. Pardon me for repeating myself.

  16. Yes, I agree that JC was very radical but the Romans could have cared less. Pilate didn’t want to send him to the cross. Who demanded it? The Jewish establishment… the whole problem with him claiming to be the Messiah. But there was another group profoundly frustrated – the Zealots. They wanted a political Jesus, one who would condemn the Roman occupation. There is no record of him showing concern for the transitory conditions. My believe is that he still does not concern himself with things that are not permanent.

    It is not about whether we should have this or that anti-poverty policy but about how we, you and me, respond to the downtrodden. How should I respond to my neighbor, to my wife, to my children, and to my fellow man as I see him or her in need?

  17. Aunt B –

    As I said, I always like talking seriously with you because you think about stuff. Thanks for the reply.

    Regarding your points, prospering in the midst of poverty is not dishonorable. It’s dishonorable NOT to strive to prosper in that scenario as only prosperity will alleviate the poverty. Unless, as you mention, you are prospering BECAUSE of the poverty. However, isn’t that what folks who control the welfare system are doing? If welfare ended tomorrow, how much political power would evaporate? Interesting thought.

    It is often taught that poverty is somehow noble and character building. Rubbish! Living hand to mouth and depending on others for decades is demeaning and destructive to the human spirit.

    You have even hit on the solution – it’s you. It’s me. I agree with you 100% when you say “I have an obligation to provide in the ways I can to the welfare of my community.” The more prosperous you are, the better able you are to fulfill your obligations. Even the editor above would like to see more of “her” money go to help the poor. Fine. Let’s reduce the tax burden on the country by the amount spent on welfare and the three of us can give our shares to whichever cause we choose. I have absolutely no problem with that.

    What I do disagree with is your later statement that arguing for the end of welfare (corp or individual) is somehow thwarting the intent of what “the community sees fit to give them”. Community involvement would be welcome. A community would know who was truly needy and who was gaming the system. Community would know who was truly unable to help themselves and who was scamming. Community would be better able to see when the flow of cash needed to stop because the person had no further need of it. There is no community giving things to people. It’s faceless cubicle denizens. And the community abdicates its responsibility to its brethren by doing little since “my tax dollars” or “the government” will take care of it. Welfare makes it harder for you to do the very thing you said you wanted to do, to provide in the ways you can. Not only do we have less money to do so, we’re generally less inclined to do so. Think not? How much money or time does the average person give to charity?

    You mentioned theological differences. Hrmmm … well – there’s those Christians with their hospitals, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens, workfare programs and such. I don’t recall a lot of charity arising from other circles. Not in any serious amounts. Not that there isn’t work being done by non religious groups. It’s just that it isn’t generally of the sort of work we’re talking about here. The Foundations and Institutes and such address the issue of poverty and need at levels which don’t require them to sully themselves. Mother Theresa took her life and gave it to the poor. John Edwards took $50K to talk about poverty and ran for President telling us how to help those less well off than he.

    Over the years, we’ve had people live with us for months at a time at no charge, taken meals out and welcomed strangers in, given treasure, time and talents. All of that was over and above what we paid in taxes and formally gave to church and other charities. On a limited income we gave thousands while Al Gore gave, as I recall, $250.

    I don’t think it’s because Edwards, Gore and the rest are stingy. They actually believe that their tax dollars can substitute for their personal effort and responsibility. Just another way government impoverishes men’s souls.

    You’re putting words in my mouth when you say that I believe that because I did it, everyone can. That’s not true. What is true is that, in my mind, everyone has the obligation to try. To do less is to be an intentional drain on the lives and prosperity of those around you. If it is a sin to not help those in need, then it is a greater sin to not do all that you can to not have a need to be helped.

    As I mentioned, my own trip to get to this place was 20 years in the making. Martin K rightly observed there were failures and setbacks and detours. I learned and moved on. I understand that I am more gifted than others in some areas and that will mean I have more success than others. Just so, others are more gifted than me, as well and will be more successful. What I despise is a system that intentionally preys on people’s fears and encourages them to not try at all despite everyone being gifted at something. And a government that enables it all in the name of helping. And a community that enables the government to do so in the name of washing their hands of their responsibility.

    I’m not trying to boast, with impunity or anything else, about what I’ve accomplished. I don’t think I’m better than others. But neither do I believe the lie that I’m luckier or more fortunate than others. I have achieved what I have achieved due to hard work and a lot of help and encouragement from so many others. I’m trying to get people to see that if they try as hard as they can with the gifts they have they’ll probably do a WHOLE lot better than if they refuse to try anything and let themselves be kept by government masters.

    My good fortune didn’t accrue to me by a life well lived. It was gained by sacrifice and sweat. I have never treated anyone with less than I have as anything other than my equal and a member of the community that you reference. Why do you feel I denigrate them to be equal to me in effort? All cannot be equal in ability. All can be equal in effort. All cannot be equal in accomplishment. All can be equal in striving. To suggest that because I expect people to work hard is to demean my own accomplishments seems weird to me. A better suggestion is to say that each man is going to reap what he sows. If he sows well and has a hard season, a loving supportive community will help him through his difficulty regardless of how long it takes. But if he will not sow at all or refuses to learn how to sow better, then he will live with the consequences of his choices.

    That’s true for people. That’s true for corporations. And what too many do not see is – that is true for governments, too. How long do you believe it will be before the government admits what most of us pretty much understand. We cannot go on like this forever.

    You cannot tax your way to prosperity. You cannot give your way to prosperity. To accuse me of good fortune makes success like the lottery. I just got lucky and that’s why I have what I have. And the reason others don’t have anything is that they didn’t get lucky like me. How cold and uncaring to look at a man who needs hope that his life can be better and all you can tell him is “Hang in there, bud! Maybe one day you’ll hit the lottery, too!” Meanwhile such advice practically guarantees he never will. And then to castigate me for proving that hard work pays off with the reasoning that others shouldn’t do what I’ve done because they might not achieve the success I have is even more uncaring. You’re right, of course, they might not do as well as me. They might do better! And even if they do half as well, they’ll be in a better place than welfare could ever get them.

    I’m not the one defaulting on my obligations. I’m the one showing folks the way out. Even if I gave away every cent I ever make, I’ll never be personally able to reduce poverty. But if I give away the secret of how I accomplished what I did, then I have done everything necessary to not reduce, but eliminate it.

  18. It is an interesting conundrum you put forth, Katherine Coble.

    I am reminded of a saying I read somewhere, and I can’t recall the author:
    “When I feed the poor, I am called a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, I am called a communist.” Well, Jesus did both, but it was clearly the latter that got him killed. I think that is an important point: Jesus wasn’t whacked because he was plotting to assassinate Caesar (or whomever was in charge then); he was executed because his ideas were far more dangerous than a mere regicide (I don’t think the Romans particularly cared which god Jesus claimed to represent).
    That said, if we’re supposed to be a democracy with freedom of choice and all, why not opt for a more Christ-like State? I don’t think we’re genetically hard-wired to follow the Grover Norquist Method of Governance.* Other countries have taken their ill-gotten imperial gains and set up social democracies that sort of look out for their own people, so why can’t we? If we can bankrupt ourselves by pouring our money into Iraq, why can’t we spend a fraction of that on something like single-payer health care, or overhauling public schools? Maybe I’ve been breathing too many diesel fumes, but what makes our country so great (that we never stop patting ourselves on the back about it) if it isn’t the power to choose how we are governed?

    *That’s where you put people into positions where they can sabotage the government, then point at the resulting failure of that government as an excuse for selling the commons off to private ownership.

  19. … That said, if we’re supposed to be a democracy with freedom of choice and all, why not opt for a more Christ-like State?

    Would that include prohibitions on divorce and re-marriage?

  20. No, Mr. Kennedy. As you can see, I said a Christ-like State, not a post-medieval theocracy. I’m one of those free-thinking believers who notices the practical disconnect between the living, breathing Messiah and the moldy, blood-steeped bureaucracies that operate in his name.

  21. I just saw something funny that reminded me of what B.’s post was originally about. B. says this:

    I don’t understand a lot about economics…

    I’m in that club, too, B. But there are some things that we can probably agree on, like what The Editors says:

    No one could have predicted that letting a semi-retarded dry drunk with a history of abject business failure run the country for 8 years might end up having negative economic consequences.

    Very few can wield the snark like The Editors.

  22. Would that include prohibitions on divorce and re-marriage?

    No, Mr. Kennedy. As you can see, I said a Christ-like State, not a post-medieval theocracy.

    But many of those of us who follow Christ absolutely are against both divorce and the subsequent marriage of the divorced–as we believe that Christ teaches these things to be wrong in all but a few limited circumstances.

    As we live our lives privately we hew to these principles. We also refuse to swear oaths of any type, refuse to have sex with anyone but our married heterosexual spouse, refuse to have abortions, refuse to work on Sundays, etc. Many of us refuse to go to any movie with a rating above G.

    I’m not going to go through the red letters of the gospel right now and give you all of the actual teachings of Jesus Christ which back up these actions, but please trust me that I do have references. From Jesus, not Paul. I know a lot of you don’t trust Paul as being entirely Christlike.

    Which is another conundrum. Which texts would we use to outline a Christlike state? The redlettered gospels only? The texts used by the Roman Catholic, the Protestant or the Anabaptist lines of Christianity?

    Even Martin and I differ on the actual terms of being Christlike.

    This is why I cling to libertarianism. It’s not some gruff desire to see the poor be unable to afford a private ambulance or some greedy desire to keep the poor out of good schools.

    It’s because I believe in living my ENTIRE life in a Christlike fashion, and I believe in a PERSONAL journey of Christianity shaped by mystical revelations which are guided by sacred texts.

    There is NO WAY AT ALL this faith of mine can be structured into a government of/by/for people because my faith is by nature a theocratic dictatorship, with all guidance coming from my spiritual leader. Not unlike the Moonies.

    I am really really bothered by those who wish to have a “christlike’ state while not following the Christlike principles.

    There’s this big trend now which emphasises the Good Nice Fun things that Jesus talked about–feed the hungry, clothe the poor, have socioeconomic parity.

    Yet nobody seems to want to do the Hard Lonely Painful things that Jesus ALSO talks about–disavowing earthly society all together, abstaining from sex outside of marriage, abstaining from any earthly society interaction like going to movies, watching television, reading books.

    Jesus is subversive for a lot of reasons and they don’t begin and end with the economy.

  23. Pingback: The Christlike State « Just Another Pretty Farce

  24. Well i see everyone had a chance to shape this discussion around their particular beliefs of The Word. Thats nice and everything, but not at all helpful. Those that believe a pedantic approach to Faith is the true way and, absent that, all you have left is some sub-standard approach, will probably never see the more basic point. Poll most any religious adherents, and ultimately, you will find some very basic, very obvious tenents that nearly everyone holds dear. Why is the idea of infusing policy with at least the goal of adhering to those most basic ideals so often met with ridicule?

    Govt makes policy. People comprise the Govt. Ergo, people make policy. Most people root for the underdog…why? Is it that we instinctively recoil from blatant unfairness? Or, maybe, we don’t like lop-sided victories. Public policy can, and should protect those unable to protect themselves.

    Not so long ago, a clerical error enabled Corporations to achieve the same protections as people. It is perhaps the biggest blunder ever. When legal entities whose sole purpose is to enrich a small number of people are able to influence public policy, well, not to put to fine a point on it, we get the W. Presidency.

    What B was asking for, i believe, is an approach to policy that seperates the needs of the legal entity from that of the actual person. Surely we can all agree that the needs are not the same.

  25. Yet nobody seems to want to do the Hard Lonely Painful things that Jesus ALSO talks about–disavowing earthly society all together, abstaining from sex outside of marriage, abstaining from any earthly society interaction like going to movies, watching television, reading books.

    I think I see the problem with our communication, Katherine Coble. We must be reading different Bibles, or at least we are talking about different Jesuses. The one I know was not an austere hermit all the time; the man turned water into wine at a party, for crying out loud. His personal chastity was a function of his origin and his purpose; his recognition of our frailty was why he focused more on the “do” (proactive voice) than on what Hebrew laws of the time focused (the “do not,” or prohibitive).

    But let’s take a look at this what you said:

    There’s this big trend now which emphasises the Good Nice Fun things that Jesus talked about–feed the hungry, clothe the poor, have socioeconomic parity.

    I highlighted certain phrases for a reason. First, I think you were making a funny when you talked about “Good Nice Fun things,” but part of me sees a bit of ideological seepage there. Especially when you talk about “socioeconomic parity,” which Jesus never talked about. When Jesus talked about the difficulty of a rich man inheriting the kingdom of God, he wasn’t writing the foreword to a Karl Marx volume. He wasn’t suggesting that it is wrong to have a few shekels more than your neighbor, either; I believe Jesus was pointing out that the accumulation and protection of wealth has a tendency to put us on morally tenuous ground, most notably because it often gets in the way of the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thingie. In other words, I have a tough time believing that Jesus wanted us to spend all our time and energy denying our design. His treatment of sin was usually more practical than dogmatic. The dogmatic leanings began with Paul, who was converted from a holier-than-thou persecutor of Jesus’ disciples to– well, you get my point.*

    Furthermore, Katherine, I think our interpretations of the concept of a Christ-like state are formed by our interpretations of Christ and his message. I tend to think of our responsibility to each other as the foundation of Christ’s teachings; look at this passage:
    “The foremost is, … you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
    The first commandment is lofty, but from a doctrinal perspective it seems a bit vague. I don’t think that construction was accidental; I think Jesus was making a point about the specificity of the second commandment.

    So when I talk about the Christ-like state, I’m not talking about reworking the U.S.A. into a doctrinally copacetic, pseudo-Christian theocracy. I’m talking about a state that acts like Jesus did. One that follows the philosophy of the more specific second commandment and that leaves the details of the first up to the individual. This idea is not revolutionary; it’s already provided for in the Constitution (you know, that business about ‘promoting the general welfare’). Of course, we can disagree about what “promote the general welfare” means, but that phrase for me doesn’t mean promoting upward concentrations of wealth while leaving the non-wealthy to depend on each other’s private charity. It means pooling our resources to establish a baseline of no one going hungry, no one going without comprehensive medical care, and no one going without the opportunity for at least a basic level of education. We don’t need to separate morality from economics. Nor should we, especially when we’re dealing with our own.

    *I can imagine some early Christians thinking of Paul: “this dude was a lot more fun when he was tormenting us.”

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