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In God We Trust? Faith and the Recession

I recently walked into my bank to deposit some money into a savings account. What a disappointment! Interest rates keep dropping as our government tries to dig itself out of what most economic observers say is a serious recession. The ups and downs of the market in recent years highlights just how precarious wealth and financial success are in this day and age. Fortunes are made and lost in the blink of an eye. Suffice it to say it’s hard to have a sense of security.
So much of the market depends on peoples’ ability to have faith and trust. The way money works is virtually virtual. Like God, it rarely, if ever, is seen and can turn on people quickly. I never thought it was so ironic that on our dollar bills say, “In God We Trust.” At its core the strength of our economy is based on faith. OK, maybe not faith in God but in the idea of faith itself. When we put our money in the bank we have faith that people will follow suit. Each time we deposit a dollar we have faith that our money actually does exist somewhere. Most importantly, we are constantly having faith that our government can back up our money and keep it secure.


Before he achieved national recognition for his work, “Bowling Alone,” Harvard professor Robert Putnam wrote a work, “Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy”–a comparative study of regional governments in Italy which drew great scholarly attention for its argument that the success of democracies depends in large part on the horizontal bonds that make up social capital. For Putnam, there is direct correlation between trust and economic success. Trust is the lynchpin of healthy societies and stable economies.
Trust does not just require a belief in God, but rather in people and the institutions they create. Faith requires one to move beyond themselves and take a risk on something we are not certain of. As H. Richard Niebuhr explained in “Faith on Earth: An Inquiry into the Structure of Human Faith,” faith is not just some metaphysical category but something that all of life and living is grounded in. When we look at our economic woes we realize that to be successful even the greatest materialist still needs to believe in something. I just hope there are a few believers still investing their money.



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Bob

posted February 20, 2008 at 8:51 am


“Like God, it… can turn on people quickly”
After reading scripture, I always get the impression that it’s the other way around. We turn on Him quickly, while He remains ever faithful to us. No?



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jon01

posted February 20, 2008 at 8:49 pm


I too hope there are other Torah believers out there, and that they are investing their time, energy, and fiat currency into things that matter and will last.



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Dave

posted February 21, 2008 at 10:56 am


1/ A recession is 2 consecutive quarters of negative growth. Not there yet (although with all the talk it almost seems as though people want one to happen-it would be hard to say that Bush was a bad President without a single notable recession in 8 years)
2/ There are places in America in poor straits, but these are largely in areas where either people depended on house prices going up indefinitely or where people exptected their unions to keep their unrealistic wages up.
Of course there are no empty foreclosed houses in places like Kiryas Yoel where there never are empty houses thanks to the high birthrate.
In places like agricultural areas (where high grain prices are making a boom) and in mineral extraction areas of the mountain states and oil states (where commodity prices are booming as well)
We may be having the first values recession where areas with strong moral values do well and areas with poor moral values do poorly.



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jon01

posted February 21, 2008 at 1:45 pm


Dave:
1/ Is this growth nominal GDP or adjusted for real inflation? Not the doctored government/Fed CPI stats. If GDP is up say 4% while real M3 inflation is at 10% conservative, then I have a 4% nominal “growth” and a -7% real growth. Where wages increase slower than inflation we have by definition hyper-inflation, which has been going on for many years. Commodity prices are not so much “booming” as keeping up with inflation over the past 27 years, the boom is relative to returns in other areas.
2/ I agree. America has had years of cheap credit to mask the effects of hyper-inflation. Unfortunately the bust has already taken out over 30% equivalent of the annual GDP. That’s a lot of virtual ATMs offline. With Government spending contributing 50%, there’s little margin left.
“We may be having the first values recession where areas with strong moral values do well and areas with poor moral values do poorly.”
I agree – One who multiplies his wealth through interest and increase gathers it for the patron of the poor – Prov. 28:8



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Scott R.

posted February 21, 2008 at 4:56 pm


So will we now be saying that those who lose their jobs, their savings and their homes did so because of bad morals?
It will be so much easier to turn one’s back on them then.
And places like Kiryas Yoel aren’t necessarily more “moral”. They’re just more outwardly religious.
But I digress. From Wikipedia:
“Women usually stop working outside the home after the birth of a second child.[3] Most families have only one income and many children. The resulting poverty rate makes a disproportionate number of families in Kiryas Joel eligible for welfare benefits when compared to the rest of the county; and cost of welfare benefits is subsidized by taxes paid county-wide. Per the New York Times,
“ Because of the sheer size of the families (the average household here has six people, but it is not uncommon for couples to have 8 or 10 children), and because a vast majority of households subsist on only one salary, 62 percent of the local families live below poverty level and rely heavily on public assistance [government welfare], which is another sore point among those who live in neighboring communities.”
So if being on public assistance means that “areas with poor moral values do poorly”, perhaps that idea can be clarified.



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Dave

posted February 22, 2008 at 4:42 pm


1/ M3 is a measure of the money supply, not inflation. If the gov’t beaureaucrats are doctoring the figures, there’s no reason to think they weren’t doctoring them in tne ’90′s, same people after all. So realtive to the ’90′s there still has been no big recession.
2/ Jewish morality means obeying the 613 mitzvot which are more obeyed in Kiryas Yoel than in most Jewish communities. G-d’s first commnandment to humanity was to multiply which Kiryas Yoel is doing very well.
3/ In any event if there is a recession going on the people of Kiryas Yoel are not doing any worse economically than before the recession started, unlike many other people, so my point still stands.



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Scott R.

posted February 22, 2008 at 5:18 pm


2/ Obeying the 613 mitzvot may look moral, but if they are done for the sake of looking good, there’s little morality there.
3/ Your point being that those who do not adhere to your version of morality are being punished by God – which makes you little different from the prot fundies (Y”S ahead of time).



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khaleid charles

posted February 22, 2008 at 7:09 pm


EQUAL WEIGHTs AND MEASURES..HAS BEEN THE CRY OF OUR GOD AND GOVERNMENT HAS CHEATED ITS PEOPLE GLOBALLY FOR CENTURIES.THE DOLLAR NOTE IS NO LONGER BACKED BY ANYTHING BUT… i owe you nothing…
JUST LIKE IN THE DAYS OF JOSEPH COMMODITIES RULED IN A TIME OF CRISIS WITHIN A BABYLONIAN SYSTEM.I implore all who read this post to rethink your financail situation and diversify your portfolios, grabbing up some tangible assets…..SILVER GOLD WHEAT ETC.
Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,
Amo 8:5 Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?
NOT MY WORDS BUT THE PROPHET AMOS>
So be wise in your judgement, be prudent as children of the most high God, be honest and kind to all mankind…give to all that ask of you for when you do its like giving a loan to God who will pay you back 100 fold…in health, wealth knowledge,long life, happiness, wonderful children



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jon01

posted February 24, 2008 at 10:57 am


Dave, I think you misunderstood me. I realize M3 is total money supply; I was using rate of increase in M3 to define inflation properly. Since this is no longer published, the current rate is an estimate.
Interesting point on the politicians. I bet people like “Helicopter Ben” would consider Zimbabwe an enviable model of economic stimulation. Their numbers, IMHO, are entirely irrelevant and will likely never indicate a recession whether we’re in one or not.
If memory serves, two of the mitzvot are “I am HaShem your God. You shall not bring the gods of others into my presence.” I conject that if it is true that most families in Kiryas Yoel “rely heavily on public assistance”, i.e. one of america’s false gods, the rest is little more than “emperors clothes” pretentiousness.
Scott – “So will we now be saying that those who lose their jobs, their savings and their homes did so because of bad morals?”
The people of america have had 75 years to return back to the system of honest weights and measures. They could have done this along the way by supporting the lives of those politicians who would engineer this, and ending those of the ones who come literally to steal, kill and destroy with their usury rather than promoting the reverse (Hos. 8:4). In the same way HaShem closed the door of the Ark, so must I close my door when the time comes.
To answer the question: “Most emphatically Yes”. (Ex. 34:7)
Does this make me “little different from the prot fundies”? Well I admit I was rasied as one, so it certainly affects my perception. Perhaps some Torah correction is in order. Feel free to message me at my account on this.
khaleid – I hear you brother and am all over this; building my own Ark as it were. I hope others are doing the same.
l’chaim
Jon



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Scott R.

posted February 24, 2008 at 12:57 pm


In the same way HaShem closed the door of the Ark, so must I close my door when the time comes. To answer the question: “Most emphatically Yes”. (Ex. 34:7)
So you’re saying that you will turn your back on the suffering because they are immoral? Including children?
I fail to understand what America has failed to return to for the past 75 years.
Judaism without charity is not Judaism.
That is not Judaism Jon.



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Esther Nash

posted February 24, 2008 at 3:23 pm


I once saw this telling commentary on American currency: “In God We Trust. All others pay cash.”
Funny, sad….it is all too often too true. If EVERYONE lived up
to the religion of their youth, or their choice, or their admiration, it would be a much, much better world. Unfortunately, only around Passover and Easter, and Chanukah and Christmas, do most people “give of their heart”, and forget about monetary concerns, and concentrate on humanitarian ones. It is really so sad…. All I know is that I am haunted, every day, by one of the minor characters in the movie, “Sullivan’s Travels”. In it, a movie director, (Joel McCrea) becomes railroaded, and winds up in a Depression-Era chain-gang. The character who haunts me is “Trusty”, the little guy who has gained the trust of the prison authorities, and who helps prisoners adjust to their new status. I keep wondering….how did he get locked into the prison, and chain-gang system? How did the others wind up there, as well? Are they all evil people….or did some of them just run into bad luck, and/or the lack of a helping hand, (and helping money), when they needed it? (Joel McCrea’s character eventually is freed….but the rest of them stay for their sentences…or their lives….)
It is a sad thing, too, when officers of charities are caught taking things for themselves. This makes people more reluctant than ever to give. There are listings of how much in each charity actually goes to that charity, (and how much to officers, publicity, etc.)….but the
truth is, that most people don’t really have enough for themselves to
begin with. I blame confiscatory taxation, and CEOs who make astronomical salaries. Something is definitely wrong with “the system”….and if chain-gangs and debtor’s prisons have disappeared, we have loan-companies and barely-able-to-get-by-on salaries in their place. If more people in the spotlight were like Oprah Winfrey, (who is coming out with a new game show, called “The Big Give”), and less like those Hollywood stars who are always in and out of rehab, (and in and out of the headlines), it would be a far better world! George
Soris does not bring “soris”….he brings joy, with his giving to good causes. I wish he were more in the public eye! “Giving till it hurts” may not be what most people do….because they are already hurting from “the powers that be”, who just seem to want to squeeze more and more from poor and middle-class people.



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jon01

posted February 24, 2008 at 11:36 pm


Scott:
Perhaps my “In the same way” was a touch too literal. But only as the exception.
“Including children?”
Don’t be obtuse. Will I be more inclined to assist the widow and the fatherless? Certainly, even though care for the “fatherless” annoyingly tends to include their irresponsible, immoral, non-widowed mothers. Am I generous by nature? Yes. Also, I quite adore children and find their use as fodder for cheap, bleeding-heart, liberal propaganda offensive and recoil at its presentation.
“I fail to understand what America has failed to return to for the past 75 years.”
This year marks the 95th (sorry not the 75th) anniversary of the Federal Reserve. I reiterate: “return back to the system of honest weights and measures”. Try re-reading khaleid’s post. I won’t hold your hand on this. In my experience some people get it, and others don’t want to.
I find your reduction of Judaism to something as universal and subjective as charity to be…intreguing. If I were to reduce it to any one mitzvah, it would be “I am HaShem your God”.



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Scott R.

posted February 25, 2008 at 3:19 pm


The comment about the children and “their irresponsible, immoral, non-widowed mothers.” was just crass and generally heartless.
There is far more to the mitzvot that the one I mentioned. What is outside the pale of Judaism is Bush conservatism. That is just the apex of amoral behavior.



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jon01

posted February 26, 2008 at 12:42 am


Well, I’ve been around long enough to become pretty jaded. I was raised that honesty is the best policy, which is probably why 1) Tact has never been my forte and 2) I’m not really inclined to sugar coat an issue either.
During my time in the Army I often heard the axiom: Self-inflicted – no sympathy.
In first-aid courses I learned to assess a situation for dangers to myself before attempting assistance, because in becoming a casualty I am either useless, or worse an impediment to progress.
While my stance could very well be amoral, it certainly is not im-moral but basic, utilitarian wisdom.
As I said previously, I care little for pushy, bleeding-heart liberal propaganda. I also have no interest in establishing my own neo-con welfare state. And I’m not aware of any mitzvah that requires me to do otherwise. “When I give a loan” perhaps? I give out my business card and offer a job in construction with no reply. I offer a room in my house as available if someone needs it. I offer use of my car to get to work. I offer babysitting services when a woman is going to give birth to yet another child. Or just because kids adore me and I’m soft that way. Even though it breaks my heart to hear a kid ask me “Will you be my Daddy?” and would rather not have to manage it.
If calling a spade a spade is crass and heartless, I accept.



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jon01

posted February 26, 2008 at 2:14 am


I think this will help clarify. Ultimately the primary mitzvot (off hand) I consider in my stance are:
1) You shall not oppress the widow or the fatherless (Ex. 22:21 et al)
2) You shall not commit a perversion of justice…(Lev. 19:15 et al)
3) Do not glorify a destitute person in his grievance (Ex. 23:3 et al) (With economic recession/depression being the result/judgement of supporting an immoral and idolatrous financial system, I cannot glorify those made destitute by this)
4) When you lend money…(Ex. 22:24, Deut. 15:7)
5) If one turns aside his ear from hearing the Torah, his prayer, too, will be considered an abomination. (Prov. 28:9) I credit the reflexive of this verse to ‘my’ recent successes. B”H
Dave posts under “True Wealth”: “One thing that separates Judaism from Christianity is the latter’s adoration for the poor.” I clearly don’t do this. I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him.



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Scott R.

posted February 26, 2008 at 7:55 am


That is all well and good – if your god is George W. Bush.
I’ll stick with the One from Sinai, thanks!
And to make sure the point is not missed – I don’t believe any Jew has any business being a conservative and especially allying themselves with conservative Xians. That’s almost as bad as converting to Xianity (and there is no worse sin than that).



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Leah Green

posted February 26, 2008 at 10:21 am


That’s a very good point Scott. I want to go further. Fundamentalist Christians and Evangelicals are idol worshippers. Tanakh says that if we throw our lot with idolaters we’re nothing better than them.
Choose life, not Christian conservatism.



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jon01

posted February 26, 2008 at 5:24 pm


“That is all well and good – if your god is George W. Bush.”
When did I ever indicate admiration or even support for this man?
“I’ll stick with the One from Sinai, thanks!”
Cosidering the only mitzvot I presented as a basis for my opinion came from the One from Sinai and not from GWB, a man I despise, I fail to see your point.
I have stated “Perhaps some Torah correction is in order” in regards to my position, yet you have offered none at best and obtuse, ad homonym attacks at worst. If this level of critical thinking is what I’m associating with when I use the term Torah or Karite “Judaism” to help describe my “biblical” religious orientation as opposed to using “Christianity” which I am certainly not, then I will gladly make an increased effort to avoid this confusion.



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