Where the church is headed now

I am not catholic but the resignation of the pope today got me to thinking.  I was reading a commentary on the irony of the pope’s resignation.  The irony is that he has been labeled as conservative, or more accurately, a traditionalist.  But in resigning, he broke with longstanding tradition in becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign.

The rest of the commentary had to do with the church’s resistance to embrace modern ideals.  This wasn’t an article that was for or against the idea, just rather a statement of fact.

This brought me to thinking about where the church is headed in the future.  Is the death knell being sounded for traditional Christianity?  I would emphatically state that the church is not dead nor is it dying.    Its influence upon modern culture may be waning however.

In the United States a majority of people still identify themselves as Christian.  I’d offer actual numbers but the numbers differ depending on one’s definition of Christianity.  And that is the first major problem that we have.  While many identify themselves as Christian, many of these same people don’t hold to the traditional ideals of Christianity.  So, one must question whether people who call themselves Christians but don’t act like Christians are really Christians.

The so called culture wars have been lost.  I am in no way saying that we give up and embrace things that we consider to be sin.  But there should also be some recognition of where we stand.  Gay marriage has been passed by a majority vote for the first time in the United States.  While several states had previously passed laws, it had never been upheld in a statewide vote before.

The issue of abortion has likewise become a losing battle.  Once it was a battle cry for Christians to stand against.  Now, the same issue has become a rallying cry for the other side as they see the pro-life agenda to be an attack of women’s rights.

So, let’s assume that those two battles that have unfortunately defined conservative Christianity for some time are now lost.  Where do we go from here?  The answer is that we go back to what we should have been doing all along.

I believe that we have been fighting political battles far too much.  And it’s obvious that these battles haven’t gained us much.  We have been fighting to change laws rather than change hearts.

There are good reasons to oppose the things that we’ve opposed.  I don’t want to self righteously declare that Christians know better than others because that sounds foolish and arrogant.  On the other hand though, we do not believe that these are arbitrary rules that we’ve created.  Instead, we believe that these rules come from God and that disobeying them will lead to consequences.

I’m not talking about hurricanes striking cities as a result of God’s judgment.  Instead, I’m talking about individual consequences.  A sinful lifestyle will have bad consequences for the people who lead such lives.  And that is where the church needs to stand.

Sin will lead to consequences of sin.  As society embraces more sinful lifestyles we will see the fallout from it.  Indeed we’re probably already seeing the fallout from it.  Rather than offer a lecture and a stern “I told you so” we need to act with love as the father in the story of the prodigal son.

There will be people who discover that the things that are now being accepted in our culture are empty and worthless.  And when people are ready to turn from sin, the church needs to be there and it needs to show the fulfilling life that is found in Christ.

This doesn’t happen by the church compromising its values.  We must continue to stand for what is right, no matter how unpopular it may be.  And eventually some will discover that a life of sin isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  When that day comes, we need to accept them with forgiveness and lead them to true repentance.

Why I hate the Christian gun debate

If you’re like me, you’ve seen so many articles about gun control and why it’s a great or terrible idea that your head is probably ready to explode.  My apologies for adding one more voice to the din.  On the other hand I haven’t read a single well thought out approach on the issue from a Christian perspective.  Mostly it has been “I’m a Christian so I’m a Republican, so I’m pro-gun” or “I’m a Christian so I’m a Democrat, so I’m anti-gun.”  Pinning this debate to politics is one of the stupidest things I’ve seen in a while.  And that is saying a lot.

For starters, I’m not going to throw out a lot of statistics.  Statistics can be used and twisted to say anything that we want.  87% of all people know this.  (See what I did just there?)  There are obvious cases where statistics are important but as Christians we should know that we answer to a higher authority and not just what seems statistically right or what might be the most popular option.

And just because I’m sure that some will want to know my history on this issue – I grew up in a household with guns and held a hunting license for a couple of years before I decided that sitting in the woods in the cold without seeing any wildlife was pretty pointless.  I am currently a pastor serving in a pacifist denomination but I also serve under a bishop who served in the active military.  So go ahead and try to figure all of that out.

Unsurprisingly, the Bible doesn’t say anything directly about guns.  Guns came around centuries after the Bible.  But we are told about murder and how we treat our fellow man.  This really isn’t the issue of debate here.  I believe that we pretty much universally agree that murder is wrong and it doesn’t matter if it’s done with an assault rifle, a knife, or any other weapon of choice.

At the heart of this debate is an issue of liberty.  Do we have the “right” to own a gun?  According to the Second Amendment, which has been consistently upheld by the court system, the answer is yes.  Now the debate is whether we have the right to own any gun that we choose and what, if any, responsibilities we have that go along with those rights.  While it’s cliche and not directly from the Bible, the statement “with great power comes great responsibility” may be rather applicable here.  In other words, we have plenty of rights but that doesn’t mean that they should go unchecked.

The most applicable passage of scripture to this debate would be Galatians 5 where Paul writes about freedom in Christ.  Galatians 5:13 tells us: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”  While we are free to own and use guns we obviously should not be using them in a sinful manner.  This doesn’t apply directly as there aren’t many instances of Christians committing mass murder because of their freedom to own guns.

On the other hand, I think that the issue is more like alcohol.  There are plenty of churches that frown upon drinking of any kind and I would never want to advocate it.  On the other hand, we are never forbidden from drinking, only from getting drunk.  It is possible for a Christian to drink responsibly and not violate God’s commands.  However, that personal liberty may set a bad example for others and cause them to actually sin.  In such instances, Galatians 5 applies.  This same idea may be applied to gun ownership.  A Christian has every right, or freedom, or liberty, whatever term you want to use, to own a gun in the United States.  However, we must ask the question of whether that liberty comes at a price that we shouldn’t be willing to pay.

As Christians we are used to dealing with a lot of issues in black and white.  The Bible provides absolutes that we should follow.  Gun control is not a black and white issue because all guns are not created equally.  Many people are treating the issue of gun control as an all or nothing debate and this is just foolish.

There is a big difference between people who own a gun for hunting use (and most hunters own several guns for different hunting purposes), people who own a gun for self defense, and gun enthusiasts/collectors.  All three of these groups have guns for legitimate purposes.  There is a fourth group who own guns for nefarious purposes.  These people own guns with the intent to threaten or harm human life.  It might be with the goal of committing crimes or in order to form a militia to keep the government out of their business.  In either case the intention is not to follow the laws that are already in place.  Additional laws would seem to be a minimal deterrent to people who already don’t intend to follow the law.  It only allows for additional prosecution once those laws are broken.

The problem that we are encountering is making laws that can be properly applied to only one group without affecting the other groups.  It is not a secret that assault weapons are the ones that are being targeted in pending laws.  Assault weapons are not used by hunters and they are not the preferred weapon of those who want a gun for protection.  But there are many gun enthusiasts and collectors who own these guns and have never used them improperly and have no intention of ever using them to cause harm.  Should these rights be trampled upon just because there are a very tiny fraction of gun owners who desire to use  their guns to cause harm?  Or should these people be willing to give up their rights to own such a gun because there is a small percentage of people who abuse that right and cause a great deal of harm?  This is really the core of the gun debate.

As Christians we have a lot of freedoms but we also have many responsibilities.  American citizens likewise have many freedoms but also responsibilities.  Many times these freedoms and responsibilities are the same but there are times when they come into conflict.  We have seen government intrude into religion at times as it upholds the “rights” of others to not come into contact with Christian ideals – such as the removal of nativity scenes on public property.  Christians have upheld the freedom of religion while also fighting against the construction of an Islamic mosque.  We can’t have it both ways.  Our American freedoms say that people are free to worship as they please while our Christian responsibilities say that Christ is the only way to heaven and we cannot advocate any other way.

So the question that we must answer is whether our rights and responsibilities as Christians coincides with our rights and responsibilities as American citizens or if they are at odds with one another.  Can we stand for our American gun rights knowing that those rights will be abused by some for some very sinful actions?  Or do we stand by another Christian ideal that we are only responsible for our own actions and no matter what laws exist we cannot stop someone from sinning if they are determined to sin?  I don’t propose to have the absolute answer to this question but I wish that Christians would stop pretending like this is a black and white issue.

Peace, at what costs?

I rarely post on political issues because frankly I don’t like religion and politics to mix.  They intersect in a number of ways but often people are just as if not more dogmatic about their politics as their religion.  That being said, I’m rather bothered by what is going on in the Middle East.  Obviously I’m disturbed by people being jailed, beaten, and even killed for peacefully protesting the government.  But I’m equally disturbed by the American and internation response to all that is going on.

Middle Eastern politics are very dangerous waters to wade into, I understand that.  It would be bad to bet on the wrong horse so to speak only to have the wrong party end up or stay in power.  It’s certainly not a stretch to imagine a vindictive leader saying that they will no longer supply oil to the US.  With all of that in mind, it should still be a no brainer that killing one’s own people in order to stay in power is wrong.  Why hasn’t these actions been forcefully decried?  It took about a week from the start of unrest in Libya for the president to even issue much of a statement condemning it. 

We aren’t dealing with a leader who is new and unknown.  This is the same headcase that has been in power since 1969.  His response shouldn’t be a surprise.  At the moment of unrest a travel alert should have been issued and all non essential US personnel should have been removed from Libya because we know what this man is capable of.

Shortly after entering office President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.  This was obviously given on the basis of the hope that he brought rather than anything that he had actually achieved.  He marked a clear change from the Bush administration and the international community was greatly in favor of this.  But now it’s time to earn that prize.  So far the response has been peace at all costs.  And by peace, I mean that the US won’t get its hands dirty.  Let’s do nothing while Libya’s cities are bombed from the air by its own leader. 

I’m not suggesting that the US invade Libya or any other Middle Eastern countries.  We can’t afford another war financially or with the price of lives.  But right now peace only means that the US isn’t fighting.  The leaders of our country and the world should condemn what is going on in the strongest way possible and make it abundantly clear that any leader who attacks his own people must go.  Sometimes peace has to be fought for as thousands of demonstators are doing in several countries.  Unfortunately the US response appears to be that peace means not causing a stir.  There is a difference, just ask those who are dying.

The Final Stretch

Right now we’re two weeks away from one of the biggest midterm elections in our lifetimes.  And the truth is that we don’t know exactly what to expect.  It’s almost a certainty that Republicans will pick up seats in the House and Senate but no one has a good grasp on how many.  And the truth is that an astute politcal pundit could have made that prediction two years ago.  The sitting president’s party almost always loses seats in the first midterm.  The other party is angrier and more energized than the party that has things going their way.  It’s a simple matter of fact.

Also a matter of fact is that Republicans will spin this as a referendum on what America thinks of the president and his policies.  The Democrats will turn around and attack each other for a lack of energy and for losing focus on all that they accomplished in the past two years.  These two things are also very predictible because the storylines are already being played out before the election is even completed.

What remains to be seen is whether any of this is going to bring about actual change.  Even if Republicans win by landslide majorities and manage to take control of the House and Senate, what is going to happen?  At best, the current tax cuts will get extended.  At worst, there will be a bunch of political wrangling with nothing actually accomplished.  Just because Congress passes it does not mean that the president has to sign it.  And Congress will not contain the numbers needed to pass a law without the president’s signature.  So we’ll see how all of the talk about bipartisanship is talk or hogwash.

The Democrats have been unable to pass some of the things that they campaigned on and President Obama promised despite holding sizeable majorities in Congress.  When those majorities dwindle further or turn into minorities we can expect two years of congressional gridlock as the parties begin posturing for the 2012 elections.

The truth is that America’s problems are going to take time to solve and won’t be magically fixed by new laws, stimulus, or tax breaks.  Maybe some of those things would jump start the economy more but there are no guarantees despite the cries from both sides.  After two weeks, we really shouldn’t be expecting the politicians to fix our system though because I have very low hopes for them getting much passed.

Republicans blocking progress?

I don’t weigh in on politics too much because I don’t want this to be a politic blog.  We’ll know in about six weeks what Americans think about the direction of our country in whether they bring back the same bozos they’ve been complaining about for so long.  But when things in politics defy common sense I feel the need to point out the absurdity of it.

The latest is a report that Congress won’t vote on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts until after the election.  The democrats are pretending as if there isn’t enough time.  Not enough time to do what, show up and vote on the issue?  This – to the best of my knowledge – is not a complicated bill which needs to be written.  Either keep the current tax codes in place or don’t.  Or keep them in place for a certain group of people, namely those making less than $250,000.  The stalling on this vote is pure politics because no democrat wants to go into an election having been accused of raising taxes on anyone even if in truth they simply allowed previous cuts to expire.  This amounts to an increase in the minds of everyone being taxed because those in power had the ability to stop it but didn’t.

The tax cuts aren’t really my problem however.  I really couldn’t care less.  I don’t make enough money that it would affect me directly either way.  A majority of economists say that the best way to keep the economy going is to extend the cuts for everyone.  If that’s what the experts’ opinion is, then I’m fine with listening to the experts.  Again, it doesn’t matter much to me either way it goes.

What is driving me nuts is the game that democrats are playing with this issue and every other issue that they haven’t been able to get their way with.  They are blaming republicans for obstructing the vote.  Any time a bill doesn’t look likely to pass, the democrats have whined that the republicans won’t play nice and therefore they aren’t even going to try to bring the bill to a vote. 

First of all, is the American public so dense that we can’t do math?  Democrats have majorities in both houses of Congress and we have a democratic president.  This means that any bill with democratic support should be passed.  If it fails it is because not even all democrats support it.  In the Senate there is the threat of a republican filibuster because there are not 60 democrats to break it.  But most of these issues that are being complained about do not even have the threat of being filibustered.  All the democrats have to do is bring the issue to a vote and they win.

At the least, the democrats could bring the issue to a vote and allow our representatives to say yes or no.  If the republicans stand together and manage to actually block passage on something, then the democrats would have the right to complain about blocking progress.  But instead they are complaining before a single vote has been cast.

The game that the democrats are playing is to get the best out of both worlds.  If they take a vote on a bill and it loses, they have the stigma of being unable to pass the bill.  Yes they can blame the republicans for blocking it but they are still the ones who were unable to deliver when push came to shove.  But if they sit on the bill they can blame republicans for blocking it while not having the stigma of losing the vote.  Later if they get the bill passed, they can claim how they overcame all of the republican opposition to the issue.  (And pay close attention to the vote.  It will be something like 59-41 or 58-42.  The exact same result as would have occurred before because no republican still voted for it.)

I think this game is insulting to the American people.  Fortunately the only people who are likely going to get riled up about the republicans “blocking” issues will be people likely to vote democrat anyway.  I hope in November that we have massive turnover in DC because it is clear that what we have is not working.  President Obama campaigned on a platform of change.  Yes, he’s had a lot to deal with but so has every president.  I’m not seeing the change I expected and I don’t believe that too many others are either.  If we want change, it will have to start with the American public demanding it.

The question the media won’t ask

In April, a blogger for CBS wrote that Supreme Court nominee might be a lesbian.  After pressure from the White House, the post was taken down two days later.  The truth is that this is an issue which the mainstream media can’t discuss without causing itself a lot of trouble.  Regardless of the truth, the discussion of the topic appears to be taboo.

Quietly, conservative Republicans have been upset about the prospect of a potentially gay Supreme Court judge.  However, they have little recourse concerning this for a number of reasons.  First of all, there is no way to know if the rumors are true short of Kagan coming right out and saying that she is gay.  This would appear very unlikely because this would hurt her chance of approval whether fair or not.

Even if Kagan would come right out and declare that she is gay, officially there would be nothing that anyone could do about it.  The Senate is to confirm her based on her qualifications.  If thye would reject her solely on the basis of being gay (or even they would be perceived to reject her for it) there will be serious accusations of discrimination. 

If in fact Kagan were gay, this would be a win-win situation for the gay community and a power move by Obama.  If she is confirmed, she would be the first homosexual on the Supreme Court.  If she is rejected, it will bring up all sorts of gay rights issues and spark public outcry about blatant discrimination.  Legislation will likely be enacted along with lawsuits by every liberal and civil rights organization.

Personally, not that my opinion is really worth anything, I don’t believe that she is gay.  For the position she has been nominated for, it would almost be impossible to hide this from everyone.  A leak would spring from somewhere.  Frankly I don’t believe that Obama would make such a bold move as he seeks to take the middle of the road.

This does not mean that homosexuality is a non-issue with the nominee.  When dean of Harvard Law School, she protested having military recruiters on campus because she disagreed with it’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  This is cause for concern, more than for just the issue of gay rights.  Whether she agreed with the policy or not, it was and still is for the moment the law of the land.  Ironically, this rule was instituted by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, and not a Republican.  If she will not support the law of the land, it is scaryto think what she may do once she has the power to reinterpret it.

Republicans have the right to fear that Kagan will support a liberal agenda and will attempt to undermine marriage between a man and a woman.  On the other hand, this will be the case of every person that Obama could possibly nominate for the position as he’s going to place a liberal on the court.  On the bright side, Kagan, if confirmed, will be replacing someone who is considered the most liberal judge on the court today, so ultimately we’ll be trading one liberal for another.

In the end, the issue of whether Kagan is gay is a concern but also a non-starter of an issue.  Republicans have no option in pursuing the question because of the legal and political fallout.  In the end, it likely won’t stop the confirmation from going forward.  This is a fight that Republicans would like sitting out but it is in their best interests to let it be.

Cuts After Stimulus

Now comes the hard part, making the unpopular spending cuts.  The hundreds of billions of dollars that was shipped out to states to keep them afloat last year is drying up and as budget makers plan for 2011 they are falling short, way short.  It’s impossible to truly measure the effect of the stimulus package but it appears that in many areas it became nothing more than a stopgap solution.  Instead of stopping the bleeding to allow for recovery to begin it appears that it just prolonged the inevitable.

Without federal stimulus money, states are scrambling to pay for big budget items such as education and medicaid.  This means that many jobs are likely to be lost unless something drastic is done and done quickly.  It is estimated that the stimulus package saved 300,000 jobs in the field of education.  Once the federal government is no longer picking up the tab almost all of those jobs, 275,000 of them could be cut.

I’m of two minds on this issue.  I don’t think that cuts in education are a good thing but if states believe that they can achieve the same results by trimming fat, then these are jobs that should have been shed previously to save money.  While the last thing we needed last year was for more people to lose their jobs, this year isn’t exactly any better.  Without stimulus money, states would have been forced to make unpopular decisions and work on balancing their budgets last year. 

I’m not about to suggest what should be cut and what should be saved – that’s why we pay our lawmakers big salaries, we expect them to make the hard decisions.  Every American has had to learn the hard way that we can’t spend more money than we make.  That’s why so many people have had houses foreclosed and bill collectors calling.  The government needs to make the same decision that we can’t borrow our way out of trouble until the next economic boom. 

Of course we haven’t learned our lesson.  There is already talk about sending more money to states so that they don’t have to make the necessary cuts.  This will only teach states that they don’t need to make unpopular decisions and that the federal government will bail them out. 

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in the coming months.  State budgets have different deadlines but Congress is not going to want to touch this issue until after the November elections.  Any kind of second stimulus is going to give Republicans ammunition to use against what they will categorize as wasteful spending by democrats.

I Feel Like a Genius

I recently made a post about fixing health care.  Part of that included the radical idea that employers don’t pay insurance companies directly any longer but instead insurance is paid for by the government.  It appears that just may happen, not on a universal scale but it occur on a wide scale basis if employers drop employees’ health insurance. 

http://money.cnn.com/2010/05/05/news/companies/dropping_benefits.fortune/index.htm?cnn=yes&hpt=C2  There’s a ton of interesting information in this article including an amusing anecdote about democrats accidentally running across this information and immediately trying to bury it because it shows that the health care bill has the potential to cost massively more than was just estimated. 

Essentially, big companies started doing the math after the health care bill passed.  While the bill requires employers to provide insurance or pay a fine, it turns out that paying the fine amounts to a massive savings.  Employees who are not covered by their companies would be allowed to purchase through exchanges.  Families making $88,000 or less will have their health insurance subsidized by the government. 

The uninsured will still likely have to pay some money out of pocket but most people already pay some amount of their insurance.  It is assumed – and we all know the danger of assuming – that employers can’t just drop health insurance without increasing employees pay.  A relatively modest increase will cover the cost of employees paying for their own insurance.  Employees will still save a bundle of money and there’s a chance that employees will come out ahead as well with the insurance subsidies.

Of course we know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Employers save billions of dollars while hopefully employees at least break even if not come out ahead.  The government picks up the tab to the tune of billions of dollars.  There’s no telling how much it could cost but the article above how some pretty interesting numbers.

By Fortune’s reckoning, each person who’s dropped would cost the government an average of around $2,100 after deducting the extra taxes collected on their additional pay. So if 50% of people covered by company plans get dumped, federal health care costs will rise by $160 billion a year in 2016, in addition to the $93 billion in subsidies already forecast by the CBO.

Only time will tell how this all pans out.  It depends quite greatly on if employers decide to actually opt out of paying for insurance.  It could be good for employees but the tax payer will end up paying for it in the end.  We’ll just have to wait and see if the cost of all of this comes in the form of increased taxes or decreased benefits somewhere down the government chain.

Stimulus a Year Later

Church got cancelled because of snow so I thought I’d chime in here instead. 

We are at the one year anniversary of the stimulus package and there is a lot of talk about it.  Obviously every article that you read on the subject is going to be biased based on whether a person is a democrat or republican.    Democrats claim that the stimulus has created jobs and therefore was a success.  Republicans say that people don’t like it and it increased the deficit significantly so it was a waste of money.  I’d like to offer a different perspective as an independent.

The stimulus package was necessary on account that it gave people hope.  It was passed when the stock market was spiraling downward and many people were scared.  For the time being, people needed to feel as if the government had a handle on things and the stimulus package provided that.  It may have been just as effective with a smaller price tag or could have been more effective if even more money was spent, I don’t know.  The stimulus package gave people hope however and the stock market soon rebounded in March, giving people the impression that things were on the upturn.

People are now turning against the stimulus package because it was not everything that they had hoped for.  It is possible that the stimulus will deliver absolutely everything that President Obama said it would but the American people expected more.  They expected that unemployment would have dropped instead of risen.  And more importantly they expected that the economy would be in better shape overall by this point.

What about actual numbers?  The stimulus passed in 2009 was said to have a hefty price tag of $787 billion.  Recently this price was raised by $75 billion.  To be honest I’m not clear why the price was raised except it seemed as if no one figured in the interest that this would cost us on the deficit. 

The first report that was issued by the government after the third quarter stated that 640,000 jobs had been created or saved as a result of the stimulus.  The reports that were received contained numerous factual errors including many instances where reported congressional districts did not ever exist.  Because of this and other problems, the accuracy of the jobs created was called into question.  The fourth quarter report claims that just under 600,000 jobs were created or saved as a result of the stimulus.  This gives us 1.24 million jobs that have been directly saved or created as a result of the stimulus package.

The Obama administration is touting a number of jobs created between 1.5 and 2 million as a result of indirect jobs created.  The reports only reflect jobs directly created with the money spent.  It is only fair to reason that these additional jobs created causes a need for more supplies, construction equipment, fast food meals, etc.  This indirectly adds to the job total as those companies must have more workers to deal with increased demand.

So far $263.3 billion has been spent of the stimulus money.  Using the most optimistic 2 million jobs number, this means that the cost of each job has been $131,650.  Mind you, this is not salary that has been paid to each worker for a year’s labor but reflects only what has been spent in six months of reports.  When projects are finished and completely paid for, that number will likely rise.  So yes, the stimulus has created jobs as promised.  And yes, the stimulus has come at a tremendous price tag.  One would think that we could create jobs at a much smaller price tag than $131k per job, especially considering that a third of those jobs were indirect jobs with no official government spending.  It also looks like the proposed $5,000 small business incentive to hire workers look like a pittance even at an overall price tag of $33 billion.

Not that a 10% unemployment rate isn’t a big problem for those who are out of work, but 90% of Americans are getting little to nothing for their tax dollars.  I believe that we can provide stimulus and provide lasting value for Americans.  Our infrastructure is crumbling.  Bridges and roadways are in bad repair.  The engineers who inspect these things give our infrastructure a grade of D.  They estimate that it will take $100 billion to repair our infrastructure to where it should be.  I say write the check.  $100 billion to repair our roads will provide real, tangible benefits to everyone as well as lasting value.  It will provide more jobs, even if they are mainly construction and manufacturing ones.  And the price tag seems like a drop in the bucket compared to what has been spent in the last six months and even smaller compared to the overall price that hasn’t even been paid yet.

One final note on all of this government money.  Not that anyone is a fan of big banks these days but they’ve mostly held up their end of the bargain.  Of the $700 billion provided by the Bush administration in TARP funds, only $99 billion is still outstanding.  Granted this is a huge chunk of change and would almost fully fund by proposed infrastructure improvements, it is much better off than the stimulus.  As mentioned earlier, the price of the stimulus package was just raised another $75 billion for a total of $862 billion.  The Obama administration keeps blaming the Bush administration for the current problems.  What is never mentioned is that it was a democratic congress that passed the bills and Bush just signed them into law.  Just comparing the two bills, it appears that Bush was far more financially smart.  That doesn’t account for anything else passed during his watch, just that TARP looks like the better of the two bills right now.

Two Big Problems

There have been two major issues that keep appearing on the news week after week.  The first issue is the health care debate.  This may be resolved soon, or sometime next year, with the longer it takes to get passed, the less likely it is to pass.

The second issue that keeps getting the public riled up is the issue of executive pay at large companies.  Some places have been reined in, specifically ones that have received government bailout money.  There is also talk about giving shareholders the right to vote on executive pay.  However most stocks are not held by individuals but by companies who couldn’t care less about how much executives make.

Obviously many people are against changes to the health care system and my point is not to address individual problems with the health care proposals.  One major sticking point is going to come down to the price of the proposal.  This is what I want to address in an attempt to fix two of the major problems that are in the news today.

Rather than putting a cap on the pay for executives, simply add a tax to the bonus compensation.  If Company X wants to give $50 million in bonuses to their executives, let them do it, but require them to contribute an additional $50 million towards the price of whatever health care plan is passed.

The public won’t care nearly as much about executive pay if they know that much of that money is going to the government to fund a program that they are interested in and ultimately will keep them from paying higher taxes to pay for this program.  If a company gives out $50 million in bonuses, 40% of this will be paid back to the government in individual taxes, which adds up to $20 million.  Add to the $50 million that the company will pay in taxes and that is $70 million that goes to the government and only $30 million that goes to executives.