Monday, September 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Families

In the parable of the prodigal son, a young man takes his half of his father's estate and wastes it on riotous living. His fall is swift and humiliating. He finds himself living lower than his father's own servants. Finally he resolves to return to his father and offer to work as one of his servants, knowing that at least he'd be cared for and be able to eat real food. His father, of course, will have none of it, but instead welcomes his son home joyously. They kill the fatted calf and have a feast to celebrate the return of his once-lost son. The other son, who had remained faithful throughout, cannot understand why his father would greet this wayward son and welcome his return with full forgiveness. This faithful son is taught an important lesson about the need to welcome back those who stray and return with repentant hearts. True repentance requires being in the depths of humility and recognizing the need to remove the sinful behavior from one's life.

How very different from the prodigal son is this tale of the country's financial crisis. In this tale we have fathers and sons making horrible decisions with their finances. Money is lent irresponsibly to those who cannot truly afford to borrow. When those borrowers cannot repay, they face losing their homes and, potentially, even their livelihoods. Rome, being Rome, can think of only one response to this situation: give money held by those who chose wisely to those who made those bad decisions. Thus everyone appears to win.

Except for the repentance. There is no repentance in this scenario. The lenders will continue to lend, raking in as many borrowers as the new laws will allow. They will find whatever loopholes they can exploit for lending money once again to those who truly are in no responsible position to borrow. The borrowers will seek new sources of money so they can live in homes they cannot truly afford in order to maintain the lifestyles they dream of. They hope against hope that their personal finances will grow to the point of being able to pay back the loans without further assistance, but this will only happen if their income increases dramatically in a short amount of time.

Meanwhile, taxpayers who have acted (I know some of you hate this word) conservatively with their funds and their financial decisions are suddenly expected to simply hand money over to those who will (emphasis intended) squander it. There is no question that our taxes are going to be squandered by throwing it after people who have lived riotously, yet fail to realize that this was a bad decision on their part. No, they feel that they are entitled to this bailout, or at least they have felt that way ever since the government told them that they were so entitled.

So, if this bailout legislation succeeds, please don't ask me for a fatted calf with which to make merry. I won't be able to afford one.

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