Archive for the ‘the economy’ Category

The Job of a Moral Theologian

Risk Management and good moral theology: where was a moral theologian when you needed one? Risk Management was described as good judgment calls.

If you cannot control health care payments, you cannot control insurance premiums. If you could not control who could acquire the most updated MRI machine, you could not control competition. Your urban hospital was going to be tested like rural hospitals were 25 years ago. Hospitals that were being killed in this current depression, with no control over the falling reimbursement for health care. As more and more people went uninsured.

Your doctors knew that if you cannot control health care payments, you cannot control insurance premiums. Thus the health care issues of 2009, with artificial deadlines of 10 days. When costs were out of control. Because with health care, no insurance company could say no, when a health care contract was written covering health care expense, without a rationale.

Population Control. Immigration. If you could not control the population numbers, you could not control government costs. If you could not balance budgets, or have some control over the number of citizens, you could not control the economy in a competitive world economy.

Future markets. I used to work across the street from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In the Age of the Ascent of Money. If you talked to a future trader, you learned that actions have unexpected outcome in human affairs. Future traders were hedging bets, with option contracts. Agreed prices when the seeds are planted. Agreed prices before oil or gold was taken out of the earth. Options. Hedge Funds. Derivatives.

The uncertain futures, beyond insurance. Falling family size. The universal desire to be rich, in a nation with borders. Balanced budgets. Border that were defended against neighbors. With defense departments.

Social Security. Amidst boom and bust cycles. Population Control. Until the demographics showed falling birth rates. Where the youth would not be able to sustain the medical bills of their parents. The numbers were not there. Thus the meager reserves which would not sustain either Medicare or Social Security. In addition to the health care crisis.

“The most controversial task of moral theology is to help people live their faith in the light of the times … to help them face new questions and not just to repeat or attack” the old formulas, Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley told the National Catholic Reporter.

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The Clash

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The clash. The painful moments called morning when night crossed over into day, when dreams came to an end. The clash. Of darkness and light. Of good and bad. Of beginnings and endings.

The clash. Of the increasing number of taxis, in a world where public policy now promoted mass transit. In Minneapolis, the city was giving out more medallions, licensing taxis on the streets, then ever before. It did not seem fair, to the taxi drivers who had struggled with 12 hours day. Mostly to people who came from another land. In the world with oil prices fluctuating,like some kind of state fair ride. Immigrants trying to ascend into the ranks of the elite. Amidst public policy.

The clash of people with their past. The clash of a time in baseball when a franchise tried to survive in turbulent times of free agency, when the owner had no money. The clash of 2 eras as seen in the two people inducted last Saturday into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.

The clash. Coming to grips with the creative powers within…in an American world where people try to preserve their ethnic heritage. People trying to preserve their ethnic heritage as they ascend into the ranks of the elite. The clash. The clash of the past with the present. The clash of the urban with the country.

The clash of people with their past. Remembering the instruction. About the lamb that must be a year-old male… which shall “not be eaten raw or boiled, but roasted whole, with its head and shanks and inner organs. None of it must be kept beyond the next morning; whatever is left over in the morning shall be burned up. This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight,” along with instruction how to eat the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. “It is the Passover of the LORD.”

The clash. Of benefits and favoritism. Of health care plans tied to jobs. Why, in an age of rising unemployment, should health insurance plans be tied to employment, when health care insurance would no longer be a benefit of employment? Ideas tied to a past America, in an age when ideals seemed to have been lost. Have you read the piece by John Woo in the Wall Street Journal, where he claims the report from the inspector general ignores history and plays politics with the law? After the new report from the inspectors general of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, criticized the Office of Legal Counsel memos drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, the memoranda which were used to justify warrantless surveillance of American citizens. The memoranda which “raise[d] serious concerns” at Department of Justice because they omitted analysis of key cases and legal provisions and were not subject to the ordinary “rigorous peer review process.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124770304290648701.html

Obama who said in the debates last fall that health insurance was a basic right. Like free speech. A basic human right? Like the practice of religion? Or of a free press, in these times? Woe to leaders who infringe on real basic human rights. Basic human rights were dependent on budgets?

Counting the cost. Amidst those who are in flight. Amidst the struggle of good with evil. Counting the cost. The financial ones. The moral cost, in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The struggle of love, amidst people trying to preserve their ethnic heritage as they ascend into the ranks of the elite.

I always had wondered about the candidates position about rationing, during the last election. I just hoped the discussion would involve gasoline, not health care.

The clash. Of Democrats with Republicans. Of the rich with the poor. Of life with death. And the consequential pain. When dreams came to an end.

The survival of the fittest. When we were all created equal. And how to eat the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.


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The Gravity of Money

It was the question of the year. How could home values go up or down so quickly? Where were the rating agencies? These were just opinions? Credit worthy? Fluctuating values. “Systemic risk.”

The changing valuations. The fluctuating currency value. Amidst the change in equity. In my house.

Equity markets. Falling equity in my home. When everyone felt secure with equity. It was as if equity was the purpose of life.

There were commissions involved with security. And commissions involved with exchange. Where had those commissions been?

That Filipino guy the other night. That guy, wanting to have sex. The nightclubs were filled with people like this. Just sex. Without concern with equity in a relationship. Without concern for real love. Without any real gentleness or compassion about a mate.

Slavery. Whether it was the Hebrews in Egypt or Africans sold for a cotton plantation. We were all descendants of slaves. Sex. Slaves to sex. But with choice. The choice beyond just having sex with someone in a relationship. The choice to marry someone. How many times?

How to teach the souls of the young? Teaching that “gentle” part of “gentlemen.” The graciousness. Learning the kind of God to believe in through religious education. And about that sanctity of marriage.

Searching for love. Little had changed from the past. The restlessness amidst all the change. I felt it upon my own college graduation. I wanted to get out of there. And make some money.

Memorial Day. Remembering the past. The great tradition, amidst all this change. And amidst the change, searching for God.

As to those outward signs: you had to be looking. A lot of people passed them by without a clue as to what was going on.

There was the rhythm of work. Lolling us. Investment bankers. Mergers & Acquisitions. Equities.

In partnerships. Keeping behavior in check. With liabilities assumed in partnerships. But behavior was not kept in check with the change to stock companies. There were dangers of greed. “Wall Street is a very dangerous place.” It was worse than polygamy.

Amidst all the change, to keep making money. Once the norm has been relativized, there was no obvious way to declare a way of life beyond the pale. Former Treasury official John Taylor, who had devised the “Taylor Rule” as a formula for rate-setting based on the outlook for inflation and growth, said the Fed’s growing balance sheet is a “systemic risk” because it may be difficult to unwind quickly enough without igniting inflation. Since last September 2008, the Fed’s balance sheet has more than doubled to about $2 trillion as it purchased government and corporate debt to help unfreeze credit markets and support banks’ demand for cash.

“Systemic risk.” Rate-setting. Rating agencies. Searching for value. Communal belief in value.

Communal beliefs were more than just opinions. Communal beliefs in action were more than just opinions.

Was there honesty in this work? At work? In the currency? In the trading? Was there honesty in my words? Or was there a lot of passing of the buck, the way government works.

Was there honesty in my words? In my prayer? Which reflected my actions? Was there any prayer by these people?

Falling valuations. Where was the honesty? Some got lost in the search and gave up.

Values. Opinions? These were just opinions? Or beliefs? Communal beliefs. Community’s norms.

Communal beliefs in action were more than just opinions. As to those outward signs: you had to be looking. A lot of people passed them by without a clue as to what was going on. Relying totally on those rating agencies. Passing the buck.

Searching for love. Searching for shelter. Amidst all the change. Searching for belief.

Empty Nests

To be moved, in this world with all of its dysfunction, to act.

The 40% of American Catholics that had moved to different churches, amidst the dysfunction. The European Catholics who just plain quit worshiping. The leadership which by the way was supposed to believe in the Gospel of “I am the Good Shepard,” failed to respond to the dysfunction. Mostly it was left to the parish priest. The leadership, which seemed to called to go looking for its lost sheep, were lost in their own spiritual golf game.

To be moved. When creation had become chaos. Golf games. The priests to whom I was related had loved to play golf. Simple parish priests.

Dysfunction. The dysfunction. I saw it not far from my home in the black community. I heard it on a walk the other night where one woman never took a deep breath in the 120 to 180 seconds I just stood listening to an uninterrupted rant inside a house. When another neighbor came along from the opposite direction, I felt like I had to move on. It might have been the television but if it was, a commercial seemed over due. To this passer-by, it was not funny. It was hilarious.

Uninterrupted rants. There were a lot of them in the world. Creation had become chaos. All that the Good Book says is that Noah submits to God’s will and nothing more;uninterrupted rants. About the ongoing effects of World War II. When you elected leaders who had lived through it all. It was not just what Adolph Hitler had done to all of us, Jews and non-Jews. It was what Stalin had done to all of us. When so much of the media was ready to offer canonization, what had the leadership of John Paul II done to the church? How could anyone lived a life through all of this and not show affects of dysfunction?

Gdansk in 2001. People coming back to claim property wrongfully taken. Gdansk is about my favorite historical place in all the world. On issues of freedom in that shipyard. Following September 11, there were not many travelers looking at the Gdansk museum, where I learned that Gdansk represented much more than just Lech Walensa. The fight for freedom that arose there under the leadership of Lech Walensa came from events that had happened at the shipyard over a 10 year period. Massacres really. This was the successful Polish uprising, a lot like the ones that had ultimately failed in Warsaw in response to German occupation.

Where was the accountability in Rome to all the lost sheep? It was not just the abuse of the 20th Century and the lack of response from Rome. It was about addressing the status of women in the church for the 21st Century. Men born before World War II did not see the need to address it. Not when nuns were still ironing your vestments, making your food, and cleaning your apartment.

With a dysfunction seen in the corporate world with board of directors appointed by CEOs. When those boards did not question executive compensation. With politics as usual, without a concern for the real world. The real world of Bernard Law. And archbishops like that all over the country, not much different than the world of Wall Street.

When there was a laziness that came from your habits, without thinking. Going back to the same staid ways. When things quit working. The culture will soon be demanding even more reparations for these sins, if they had not already. The juries made up of women were a scary scene when they were going to sit in judgment of this church, on issues of damages against the church.

In this dysfunctional world, with all of the lost sheep

That party in Omaha. “What did you think about John Paul II.”

To be moved. Beyond words of apology. To be moved to change. It was time. This Penecost Sunday.

Masters of Business Administration

A good manager learns to lead by asking, “Will you do it for me?” My first manager in the world of business said that his job was to make his boss look good. I figured out that my efforts were to be directed to making my local boss look good, so his boss would look good.

It was a lot like post secondary education. Dunwoody Institute has this commercial. Something in the commercial made me hear a discussion with an 18 year old and a parent. Because even this school cost something like $15,000 a year. “You know why you want to go there? You know the resources there? You know what you are after? You know what it cost? You are ready to pay the price for the years without income? Do you know how “we” are gonna pay for it? You have a plan to absorb knowledge there? You know what you are going to do with it when you are done?”

It seemed a Christian thing. A Jewish thing. And those Moslems prayed 5 times a day.
Those prayers. And the Moslems I knew then got back in their cabs. And mostly waited. For the next fare. You prayed for this. And when your prayers were answered, most went on with life. Not knowing the next step. Turning it on. Turning it off. What was the next step, when your prayers were answered?

I seldom have heard discussion of the in depth thinking that went into prayer.

Maybe it was the questioning, about the next step after prayer why secularism was growing. Maybe it was the questioning of the modern world, that secular world to dogma, to religious institutions, and the lack of response by institutional religion to suffering. What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Why are you so slow to move?

This lack of movement: What have I done? What have I failed to do? There was no script on the how. On that last commandment, to go baptize all nations. “Do this in memory of me.”

My first manager in the world of business said that his job was to make his boss look good. Making someone off in the distance look good. Passing on the lessons. Of this place and of this land.

10,000 Maniacs

Capitalism was on trial. It was in the news each day.

Communism had been tried and found guilty a generation ago. What now the system here?

The relationships were still there. Think of those vows. In good times and in bad. For better or for worse. We never really had witnessed ‘worse.’ Not my friends. Only a few had died. I was a baby boomer.

How was yours? The relationship. The loyalty. The test. Noli Me Tangere and the ‘Don’t touch me.’ Well, mostly the suffering had missed me. I never really had witnessed ‘worse.’

These were the days. When all those bankrupt banks were going to end up owning even more homes of financially bankrupt people. There were now a lot more than ten thousand maniacs. TO BE CONTD…

Best Supporting Actor

It was Academy Awards month. Movies. Video stores. Academy Awards. We have lived through an age when video has replaced the written word as a media of significant communicating.

Academy Awards. The movies of 2008. Stories with relevance.

Stories with relevance. “Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest Survey of Consumer Finances, Paul Krugman wrote today. The bottom line of this a triennial report on the assets and liabilities of American households “is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: The net worth of the average U.S. household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001.”

“At one level this should come as no surprise. For most of the last decade America was a nation of borrowers and spenders, not savers. The personal savings rate dropped from 9 percent in the 1980s to 5 percent in the 1990s, to just 0.6 percent from 2005 to 2007, and household debt grew much faster than personal income.”

How did this all affect you? Market manipulators. Those stock brokers. Wanting money to manipulate.

How did this all affect you? Falling incomes. Now in a failing economy. If you did not know, it was worse overseas. In Latvia. In Ireland. With the banks of Austria and England.

In the crises of these times, what was the message in the most recent creations? If God is going to continue to influence our times, on a conscious level. In the 1930s, as the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out, “attempts to sell assets and pay off debt deepen the plunge in asset prices, further reducing net worth. Attempts to save more translate into a collapse of consumer demand, deepening the economic slump, Krugman wrote. When they realize they have too much debt, the things people and companies do tend to be self-defeating. When everyone tries to do them all at the same time.

And we are in deep trouble. Deeper trouble than most people realize even now, Paul Krugman wrote.

Academy Awards. A feast when you realize that famine is real.

Real stories. Remember the year 2000 problem? It was only supposed to involve our computers. Not out net worth. Wanting to run away and start over. The New Millennium.

It has been quite a decade. With hanging chads. With September 11, 2001. And now all this.

Life. When you realize you are gonna die. Foxholes. People finding religion in foxholes. God as the main actor in creation. God now cast on too many days, in His humble role as a supporting actor. Or God simply now a part of my audience. Aware of me. And me of Him. His past was an actor, the main player. And now as some kind of Producer and Director, for some of us. The actors needed to pay more attention?

Arson

The battle of culture. Executive pay. And China that was now funding this.

At Davos last week, Chinese premier, looking at the system of capitalism, Wen Jiabo lashed out at the ‘blind pursuit of profit’ in some countries in what he called the ‘American financial crisis.’ The view from China was that stocks and bonds were an American system.

Certainly Wen Jiabo could have known of salaries, in lieu of management of companies. His system allegedly did not believe in a class system. ‘There was no effective management of the astronomical salaries of those greedy senior executives.”

Wen Jiabao said that the quality of financial assets must be assured. Max Weber opined 100 years ago that religious movement fostered capitalism. What happened in a secular society? What happened in a society that does not foster religious belief? What happened in the world to religion when money becomes a scarce good? When traditional churches were suffering a drought. The latest Gallup poll on the influence of religion. What would the affect be? That was the social question. On all of us?

One of the most profound lessons to be learnt from the ‘American financial crisis,’ Wen Jiabo commented, was the relaxation of the supervision or ‘even no management at all’ of the financial industry.”

In an arson, fire investigators looked for 3 factors. Motive. Opportunity. Accelerants.

Wen Jiabo seemed to have discovered the affects of moral relativism on Western culture. Money was the motive. Wall Street and its profits were the opportunity. Moral relativism was the accelerant in this current economic fire.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

  

Cinderella.  Glass slippers.  A poor girl.  It was a story about illusion.  The story was really about wealth and poverty.  And the author in the end ties the illusion into romance.  Marrying well.  Match.com in the fairy tales. 

 

At the time of the New Millennium, John Paul II proposed that debt forgiveness be instituted for 3rd world countries, keeping a custom from an age long ago.  No one one on Wall Street appeared to give this idea serious consideration.  The idea seemed more like a story for young kids.  There seemed to be a fairness missing. 

 

In a piece today, Elizabeth Moyer in Forbes quotes CreditSights, a research firm in New York and London, that so far the U.S. government has put itself on the hook for some $5 trillion in an attempt to arrest a collapse of the financial system.  The estimate includes many of the various solutions cooked up by Paulson and Ben Benake.  “The FDIC, meanwhile, is guaranteeing $1.5 trillion of senior unsecured bank debt.” 

 

In a speech yesterday at the Treasury Department., Henry Paulson said: “I believe we have taken the necessary steps to prevent a broad systemic event. Both at home and around the world, we have already seen signs of improvement.”

 

The environment of leveraged borrowing is over.  It is over for government.  It is over for the home owner.  Bankers, LIBOR rates, big money realize that in a deflation, you need cash to keep going, to keep your business in operation.  In a new era of deflation, you want cash.  To offer low interest rates when low interest rates developed this quagmire is beyond logic and is throwing oil on a fire.  You can no longer create wealth with illusion.   

 

The axis of power at the Treasury Department has included an imposing army of top-of-their-class Goldman Sachs people. From the September 21, 2008 Washington Post was a letter written by Eric D. Hovde, chief executive of Washington-based Hovde Capital.  “Firms such as Goldman Sachs and Lehman not only made billions of dollars packaging and selling these toxic loans, they also wagered with their own capital that the values of these investments would decline, further raising their profits. If any other industries engaged in such knowingly unscrupulous activities, there would be an immediate federal investigation.  Why is Washington so complicit in this intricate and lucrative affair? First, the Fed laid the groundwork for both these asset bubbles by lowering interest rates to historic lows.”

 

The axis of power at the Treasury Department includes a lot of people who must be afraid to tell Henry Paulson “NO!” 

 

In a piece in Fortune in the last week of September 2008, Alan Sloan wrote: “It is apparent to me that Washington’s attempt to bail out banks and brokers will do nothing but add to consumer debt, weaken the US dollar, and literally waste $700+ billion dollars which could have gone to more productive uses. Since the markets blew up in the summer of 2007, Paulson and Bernanke have tried one thing after another to stimulate lending and restore confidence but nothing has worked for more than a brief period.  For the past 14 months Paulson and Bernanke have thrown hundreds of billions of dollars of fed assets into the market, yet lenders still won’t lend.”                                                           

  

According to an October 17, 2008 piece in the New York Times, as he fought for the survival of LehmanBrothers this summer, “the CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fulda, Jr., made a final plea to regulators to turn his investment bank into a bank holding company which would allow it to receive constant access to federal funding.  According to an October 17, 2008 piece in the New York Times, according to a former Lehman executive who requested anonymity because of continuing investigations of the firm’s demise, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Timothy Geithner told him no. Its options exhausted, Lehman filed for bankruptcy in mid-September.  A week later, Goldman and Morgan Stanley were designated bank holding companies.” 

 

“That was our idea three months ago, and they wouldn’t let us do it,” said a former senior Lehman executive who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “But when Goldman got in trouble, they did it right away. No one could believe it.”

 

(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/business/19gold.html?_r=1&pagewanted=4&referer=sphere_related_content&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin)

 

 No one could believe that Cinderella had been at that ball.  Eight years ago, no one gave serious consideration to the idea of debt forgiveness.  No one could believe the idea.  I still have a hard time getting a handle on credit swaps, how this was all derived.  I know that Henry Paulson was at the ball when these ideas which were driving valuations down were derived at Goldman Sachs.  Now he was at the printing presses of currency.  I cannot believe all that is happening.  What Eric D. Hovde never quite explained when he said “Firms such as Goldman Sachs and Lehman not only made billions of dollars packaging and selling these toxic loans, they also wagered with their own capital that the values of these investments would decline, further raising their profits.”  The unscrupulous activities involved people and institutions who had contracted for new building with these credits swaps attached like your mortgagee requring you to purchase life insurance on the amount of your loan when you took out a mortgage.  After Lehman Brothers went poof in the night, builders who might cancel a construction project still would have to pay Lehman if they cancelled their project.  

How soon now before money as the medium of exchange would be questioned? 

 

Suddenly debt forgiveness was being talked about for every corporation with a spin doctor and a lobbyist.    In my view, Henry Paulson should have just asked for forgiveness for his mistakes.  “As we forgive those…..”

Campaigns Door to Door

 

In good times and in bad.  Truth.  When honesty was put to the test.  God is truth, in times of panic.  So this is what being put to the test was about?  “Do you promise to be true to me?”

 

God is humble. He is quiet in the food, so quiet that most people never really notice. 

 

God is love.  Taste and see, coming to us quietly. 

 

Wine: it was all about the year of the wine, the times those grapes had lived.  The harvest.  It was all so sensitive.  Then the blending.  The blending of different grapes but all from one locality.  Then the taste. 

 

 

Door to door.  Looking for more.  Votes.  Hand-outs.  Business.  It was humbling to go door to door.  Religion.  Mormons.  As a spokesman, let me say, “Catholics for the most part did not like to go door to door.”

 

“I think you have to develop a sense of urgency in your players, and they have to see that you’re passionate about winning. But scared?”

 

“Do you promise to be true to me?”

 

Looking for priests.  In good times and in bad.  “Do you promise to be true to me?”

 

The Jesuit experience at the end of the first year, sent out with $35 and instructions to come back in 30 days.  In search of the truth.  Door to door was not comfortable for anyone doing the knocking. 

But this was what lovers did before eventually succumbing to one another.  We had all started door-to-door in a search. 

It was all about unity.  The power of affiliation.  With an employer, even if business was greatly down.  With a political party.  With a church.  With a lover.  Politics.  Religion.  In good times and in bad.