Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Confines of Governement and Christian Civic Responsibility

Ivan came across a great post today that inspired him to overcome his apathy and write on subject that has been a splinter under his flesh for the past year or so. Up front, Ivan must enter the confessional and state that he is far from being an expert on politics (and just about everything else), so please do not quote him like King James.

Before going further, it would be helpful (but not necessary) to read the aforementioned post, HERE.

The topic, which will be spread out over at least two posts, of which may not be sequential, has to do with the issue of poverty/social welfare, the role of government, and the Christian civil response. Ivan will barely scratch the surface.

The Dilemma Part One: The American people (some of them) are broke. 35.9 million Americans live below the national poverty level. This includes about 12.9 million children. The stats hit close to home for Ivan. The county in which he resides is ranked the 26th most poverty stricken county in the US for those 18 and under. 3.5 percent of American households experience hunger. 46.6 million Americans are uninsured, with 15.9 percent lacking health coverage (sounds weird, but keep in mind the Fed has Medicaid in place). Since 1998 the uninsured rate was dropping, but since 2005 it has been rapidly rising. Even the insured feel the sting. Ivan currently owes over $1000.00 for an ER asthma breathing treatment for his wife that his "excellent" insurance company refuses to pay.

The Dilemma Part Two: The American Government is broke. America's affinity for limited government is waning, especially in recent times, due in part large to the Bush administration (please do not read into that as a rebuke, just a statement of fact). The bigger the Fed, that is, the more money is spends on things like war, social welfare, national financial security, etc., and thus the more money it needs. The demise of many large financial institutions has recently led to government bailouts with more on the horizon. Promises made to future retirees are soon to meet fruition, with an empty accounts on hand. To meet the promises of social security the Fed needs and implicit 15.8 trillion. To meet the promises of medicare the Fed needs an implicit 88.9 trillion. The national total US output is a mere 14 trillion. The bi-partisan solution is to raise taxes. Economist William Niskanen states that to meet current needs increased taxation will increase the national government from 20% GDP (gross domestic product) to 35% GDP, nearly doubling the Federal intake and size.

Thus said, the question Ivan ponders is this: How should gospel-conscientious Christian, who carries a burden for the poor and widowed, involve themselves politically. How should they interact socially? Politically? In a later post, Ivan hopes to offer some opinion.


Anonymous said...

Great, thought. The Christian solution? First: Intercession. I don't mean just prayer. True intercession means being willing to be the answer to your own prayer for someone before you even pray.
Praying for God to bless someone financially? Get out your wallet.
Second: Example. In order to lead, you muse be the extreme of that which you are leading towards. "Witnessing" as a means of conscience consolation has been exposed as a cop-out to being an example. Ivan basically says that it is time to put up or shut up. I agree. Time to buck up. It's showtime.

Nate, thanks for taking time to check out my blog! I will be here often.


2Pete said...

Credit Unions. Churches need to form inter-congregational (and perhaps interdenominational) financial cooperatives to provide the financial products and services banks have traditionally provided.

There are many credit unions that offer lending that banks wouldn't touch, not because it's risky, but because it's not profitable. Moreso, credit unions don't have to return profits to shareholders - only value to member accountholders - so fee income is at a minimum.

There are churches that have already set up their own credit unions - the Assemblies of God for instance. But I don't know firsthand if those church credit unions are maximizing the transformative potential they hold, for things like microlending and debt consolidation at rates that provide functional income but not profit.

I manage a credit union by day, and think there's huge HUGE potential here.

Also, on the political side, the more I watch what's happening in the US, the more willing I am to pay more in taxes for the sake of the "Least of These." I won't call myself a socialist because socialism is ignorant to the human condition. But we must provide robust and broad social services in America - and to do it, we're gonna have to accept that there will be inevitable abuse of the system. Worth the cost.

Keep it real Nate,

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