Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Downfall, Part 1

It's no secret that, for many conservative Christians, the crusade against gay rights is fueled by the belief that God will destroy any society that becomes even moderately tolerant of homosexuality, which in turn is based on the church's long-standing misinterpretation of the Sodom narrative as an anti-gay object lesson. Thus, for these individuals, the drive to persecute "unrepentant" gays and deny even the slightest vestige of legal recognition to their relationships is seen as nothing less than a "do this or die horribly" imperative from the Almighty.

The sad fact is that the United States is indeed on the brink of calamity, but it has nothing to do with the battle over gay marriage. If anything, the religious right's almost exclusive focus on crushing the gay rights movement has distracted millions of voters and left the politicians they elected free to drive up the national debt at a rate that ought to alarm even the most optimistic proponent of deficit spending.

The federal deficit for 2005, calculated according to standard accounting rules, totaled a staggering $760 billion. That number rises to $3.5 trillion if unfunded future obligations to Social Security and Medicare are factored in. Even discounting the latter (a bill that will come due as more and more baby boomers reach retirement age as opposed to money being borrowed today), we cannot hope to sustain that rate of borrowing indefinitely; it's only a matter of time before the national debt overtakes our economic output, rendering the United States effectively bankrupt.

It would seem that even most conservatives today have forgotten one very salient fact: debt is slavery. The lender wields a very real power over the borrower, as anyone who's ever become mired in credit card debt can attest. The Bible condemns usury (the lending of money with interest) far more often and far more clearly than it allegedly condemns same-sex marriages, yet even among the devout many don't think twice about taking out large loans (at sometimes exorbitant interest rates) to purchase cars, vacations, education and any number of other things. Granted, our modern economy is structured in such a way that only the very wealthy can avoid borrowing entirely, but how many American Christians seriously try to live within their means?

In past decades, when the federal debt was relatively small and owned largely by American banks and individual citizens, it was easy enough to ignore. Now, however, the largest holders of American debt are the central banks of foreign governments, entities that by their very nature cannot be relied upon to have our best interests at heart. It may be in China's interest, for now, to maintain friendly relations with the United States and to prop up our economy by financing our debt, but eventually China will need to do something with all of the dollars sitting in its coffers.

Already state and local governments are beginning to sell off public assets in a short-sighted attempt to forestall insolvency. Even assuming the most benevolent intentions on the part of the Chinese government (a very dangerous assumption), why would they not start using their dollars to invest in our infrastructure and in what's left of our industrial base? And once enough of our strategic assets are owned by Chinese and other foreign interests, what's to stop them from dictating terms to our government? Given how many of our politicians already bend over backwards to appease the Chinese government, the answer seems pretty apparent.

How long can a nation prosper, much less remain independent, when its economic infrastructure lies in foreign hands? We speak so often in terms that assume American invincibility; no doubt many Romans maintained the same mindset even as the barbarians were swarming down the Italian peninsula.

With a handful of exceptions, the biblical authors spend far more time addressing economic matters than they do discussing sexual ethics. Those who view the Bible as authoritative would do well to rediscover that fact and to readjust their priorities accordingly.

It's sadly ironic that the Christianists who speak so loudly about saving America have given a group of cynical politicians free reign to sell our country out from beneath us, all for a little lip service to "family values." Esau at least got a full stomach in exchange for his birthright.

Of course, given what a convenient scapegoat those "wicked homosexuals" make, don't expect to see religious right advocates taking responsibility for their misplaced trust in politicians anytime soon. The rest of us can take comfort in knowing that God will judge rightly in the end, but in the meantime keep your seat belts fastened.

4 comments:

John said...

And yet a problem exists in that not only do both parties spend like drunken sailors with no mind to the consequences, a majority of the voters WANT them to. Sure, if you ask them they will whine about government overspending but God forbid you ask for cuts in a program they favor. I'm not so concerned about insolvency as much as I am about the next generation having a poorer standard of living than ours. The Feds will cut everything to the bone, including so-called entitlements, and raise taxes if it has to in order to avoid bankruptcy but this will mean your average Joe will be left with nothing. There is political paralysis on this at the moment with only tinkering at the edges of the budget. Give it 10-15 years and when reality sets in with bills coming due on Social Security, MediCare, etc., and perhaps then the will be found. If not, well what can I say? One thing the Republicans have shown over the past decade in Congress is that once in power they are no better and in some cases worse than the Dems on spending. It makes things interesting at voting time because it's more of voting for the guy who least ticks me off when in fact they all do.

CrackerLilo said...

Doesn't the Bible say something against racking up debt, too?

E said...

Lilo,

I'm pretty sure there is such a verse, but can't think of where it's located at the moment. Some Christians take that admonition seriously, some don't.

John,

I agree that the government will pull out all the stops to find ways to avoid outright insolvency. Most likely I suspect it will involve printing more and more money (like they're already doing) and letting inflation devalue the dollar as a way of cutting entitlement spending without actually touching it.

Of course, that will give the Chinese even more incentive to spend their dollars on investments more likely to retain their value. Conservative Christians used to care about such things, and no doubt eventually will again. Whether that's before or after we've become a fully-owned subsidiary of a regime that's no friendlier to Christians than it is to gays is another question.

eng sara said...
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