Earlier this month, a congressional oversight panel released its first analysis of the Obama administration’s $75 billion Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), an effort to keep 4 million families from losing their homes. The analysis shows that the Treasury, in trying to keep people in homes they can’t afford, is relying on the same perverse principle that inflated the housing bubble in the first place: namely, that it’s fine to borrow recklessly to buy a house, because house prices can only go up and up. Trying to maintain a bubble mentality, rather than help people adjust to life after the bubble has burst, will hobble economic recovery.
If there’s one lesson from the economic disaster of the last year and a half or so, it’s that one can only expand one’s wealth on credit for so long, then things come to an abrupt halt. It makes sense, therefore, that a salutary long-term objective would be that it’s necessary to find a system that facilitates more sustainable economic growth without the need for wide-open credit and zero savings, especially on the consumer level.
But our government has not learned this lesson, even if that lesson would facilitate some of its own objectives, such as making us do with less and thus burning fewer fossil fuels.
But I’d like to take this in another direction: why is Christianity in the U.S. largely AWOL on this issue? There was a time when thrift and deferred gratification was a part of the Christian message. Is the Scotch-Irish influence so strong that both of these concepts have been thrown out the window, even in the church? Has prosperity teaching forced us to become riverboat gamblers with credit so we can make God (and ourselves) look good? Is our desire to keep up with the world forcing us to keep on the world’s borrowing binge, only forced off with disasters such as the last year? And why is a way whose ultimate purpose is eternal life so unwilling for the most part to be real “salt and light” on this issue?
I realise there are those in Christianity who have figured this out. But I get the feeling that the message hasn’t quite sunk in completely just yet. As a teacher, that bothers me.