America’s Economic Transformation
Will It Wreck the U.S. Economy?
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America’s Economic Transformation: Will It Wreck the U.S. Economy?
It was about 1050 B.C. and Israel was unhappy. After a couple of centuries of relative freedom under the leaders who represented God, they looked at the other nations around them with envy. Some of these nations were powerful and wealthy. They had kings. They had armies. They had capital cities where power and wealth were centered. The Israelites wanted that too.
Just as it is today, or was until recently, Israel was surrounded by nations that hated them. It seems they were always fighting the Amalekites or the Amorites or the Moabites or, worst of all, the despised Philistines who occupied the coastal area known today as Gaza.
It wasn’t that Israel really had to fear these other nations. Whenever the Israelites were ruled by righteous judges, God protected them. He had often fought their battles by evening or more than evening the odds. Samuel was the latest of those judges, and under his leadership God had just given them victory against Philistine attackers (1 Samuel 7:7-13), even restoring several cities the Philistines had earlier captured back to Israelite control.
But that was not enough. The Israelites chafed under the rule of God through His judges. They wanted to be like the nations around them.
Israel experienced a time of peace and prosperity under the rule of Samuel. But as Samuel aged, his two sons, Joel and Abijah, departed from his righteous path. The elders of Israel came to Samuel with a set of demands, saying: “Look, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).
God told Samuel to accommodate the people’s desires. But in doing so, God zeroed in on the key defining issue: “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (verse 7, emphasis added throughout). Israel’s rejection of God as their king set them on a rocky uneven path where their welfare was dependent on the character and integrity of a human system of government. This decision ultimately led to failure and their downfall.
In verses 9-18 God showed what this would look like. He also told Samuel to “show them the behavior of the king who will rule over them.” Samuel described what it would be like to live under a king, a king who would set up a “military-industrial complex” conscripting young men into his army, setting up a hierarchical military command structure, and developing a weapons industry to supply that army.
A king would then tax the nation to support that army. A king would practice political cronyism by confiscating choice parcels of private property and redistributing them to his lords, family members and political supporters.
Israel ignored Samuel’s warnings and persisted until God directed him to anoint Saul as Israel’s first king. With this change the Israelites gave up most of their freedom, content to be ruled by a centralized state headed by human monarchs with all the failings of human nature, some righteous and some who acted as despots.
For centuries afterward, Israel lived under this system. After the first three kings—Saul, David and Solomon—Israel split into two nations, Israel and Judah. While there were brief periods when good kings ruled, the history of Israel and Judah was largely one of bloodshed, famine and want, until both Israel and Judah went into captivity.
Parallel with changing sentiments today
Do we see a parallel for America today? After nearly two and a half centuries of economic freedom, where citizens have been free to pursue happiness and fulfillment within a free market capitalist system, a radical realignment is occurring. Incredible as it may seem, tens of millions now desire an ever stronger, ever more centralized government that increasingly controls every segment of their lives.
In the name of equity, that same government—to buy political support and votes—will redistribute income from those who toil and produce to those who feel “entitled” to a guaranteed income, guaranteed free education, guaranteed healthcare, guaranteed food, guaranteed housing, guaranteed everything. Contrary to how they're presented, these programs represent a radical shift in government. The intent goes far beyond caring for people’s basic needs. At stake are the fundamental freedoms enshrined in biblical principles dealing with social welfare and the economy.
Poll after poll shows that a growing number of Americans now believe socialism to be the best human economic system and form of government. A 2020 Gallup poll revealed that 47 percent of Americans would seriously consider voting for a socialist candidate. That sentiment is even more prominent among younger Americans (see “America’s Looming Lurch Into Socialist Progressivism” in our January-February issue).
How did this happen? This is the end product of decades of indoctrination in schools and universities staffed by liberal-thinking educators who teach that free-market capitalistic societies are fundamentally evil.
Inflation back with a vengeance
Although these trends have been building for years, the Covid-19 epidemic accelerated the pace. The seismic shift in priorities and power that sprang from the 2020 election set in motion economic policies leading to the most serious inflation since the mid-1970s.
Changes so far in 2021 have been little short of breathtaking, with massive amounts (in the trillions of dollars) of government stimulus already approved, and nearly $4 trillion more proposed. All of this is exacerbated by the dictatorial shutdowns of millions of businesses, creating the classic recipe for inflation—too much money chasing too few goods.
Consider that trillions of dollars flowing out of Washington in a gigantic tidal wave have ballooned the U.S. money supply. In confronting an economy dealt a sucker punch by government response to the epidemic, the U.S. Federal Reserve has created these dollars out of thin air. Recent figures from the Federal Reserve’s website federalreserve.gov show currency in circulation increased by $226.3 billion between June 2019 and June 2020, which equates to almost 22 percent of all U.S. dollars being created in that year alone.
Under the new administration this policy has continued. Though exact figures on new money creation are hard to verify, the pace has almost certainly accelerated, as the Federal Reserve is mandated to buy new federal government debt in the form of bonds, which injects new money into the economy.
Added to all this new Fed money are the trillions of dollars borrowed by the federal government to fund all the new stimulus spending. A new term, “helicopter money,” has emerged to describe the billions of dollars that seemingly drop from the skies in the form of government stimulus checks. A growing chorus of economists, even some on the liberal side and others who saw this as necessary while so many were kept from working during the lockdowns, are questioning the need for government fiscal stimulus when the economy is already recovering.
Notable among this group is Larry Summers, who served as former President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary. Though he’s long been an advocate of liberal, Keynesian economics, as the new administration piles up proposed stimulus spending plans amounting to almost $6 trillion, Summers has called for restraint. “The laws of economic arithmetic still apply,” he said recently, pointing out that the large Covid relief plans threaten a return to the economic “stagflation” of the mid-1970s, when the national economy faced the combined threats of economic stagnation and high inflation.
While all this extra money fuels demand, supplies of many products and services are curtailed, due in part to responses to the epidemic. The result is skyrocketing prices. Gasoline has jumped nearly 30 percent since January alone and is up almost 50 percent over a year ago. Lumber costs have doubled or tripled in many areas, which combined with the scarcity of skilled homebuilding labor has caused housing prices to increase almost 20 percent over the past year—especially in the suburbs where more Americans want to live as they flee increasingly crime-ridden big cities.
The bottom line is that by inflating the amount of currency, creating more dollars out of thin air, along with suppressing the availability of goods and services by government-imposed shutdowns, everything we buy costs more. From a biblical perspective, this amounts to the government stealing—stealing the value of its own citizens’ money by making it worth less and less.
It has further, through the Federal Reserve, suppressed interest rates to enable itself to borrow massive sums interest-free in the creation of debt instruments for the stimulus packages, thereby destroying citizen’s ability to earn interest through savings—thus stealing these potential earnings and possible inflation hedge as well.
What, me work?
All of the “helicopter money” out there has conditioned millions of Americans to believe the federal government will always take care of them. With stimulus checks and doubling of unemployment benefits, many Americans see no point in working at a job. The April 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report was expected to show more than a million Americans returning to work. Instead, government economists were horrified to learn that only a quarter of that number, or 266,000, had resumed working.
Let’s be clear: This was not due to lack of job openings. The National Federation of Independent Business recently reported that a record 42 percent of business owners posted job openings as of early Spring 2021. The BLS recorded 7.4 million job openings as of early March. Even government economists had to admit the problem was the disincentive to work caused by excessive unemployment payments.
This has dealt a major blow to millions of small businesses that struggled to stay afloat during the epidemic. The problem is so bad that more than 20 states have dropped out of the federal unemployment stimulus program well before its September expiration date, to remove the work disincentive.
From a biblical perspective, this also is a form of stealing. The government takes money from wealth producers through taxation and gives it to those who produce nothing. And while the Bible teaches us to care for the poor and lays out specific instructions for fair and equitable ways to do so, such short-sighted government programs make it more appealing for people to stay at home and not work than to actually get a job and produce anything of value! Sadly, government debt has grown so enormous that we are stealing from future generations, leaving it to our children and children’s children to pay back the debt from such profligate spending.
Not to worry, just tax the wealthy and big corporations
The march toward income redistribution is growing as the current administration tries to ram legislation through Congress to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy. It has long been part of the socialist dream for government to fund programs such as free daycare, free community college, and college loan forgiveness on the backs of corporations and the wealthy.
But will huge corporations and wealthy individuals really pay more? A basic economic fact is that companies pass along most tax increases to consumers in the form of higher prices, and the vast majority of wealthy individuals hire tax and investment advisors who set up their wealth to avoid taxes. So all this “free” stuff ends up coming at a great cost to all the citizens, who are again being stolen from.
Further, most Americans have heard about secret bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, among the many techniques used to hide vast sums of wealth. As a result, many economists fear that as these sources of additional tax revenue prove inadequate to fund redistribution schemes, taxes will inevitably be raised on less-wealthy Americans.
Looking for safe havens
All the inflation news has prompted many to turn to gold and silver as inflation hedges and, more recently, to cryptocurrencies. The economic press and media fed the growing mania with speculation that gold prices might again reach nearly $2,000 per ounce as they had in 2011. Millions of investors, especially newer, younger investors using new trading websites such as Robinhood.com, threw vast sums of money into cryptos with names like Bitcoin, Coinbase, and Dogecoin. Banks announced they would begin accepting crypto deposits; brokerage houses hired crypto investing specialists.
Other people are turning to more traditional assets such as real estate, contributing to the massive rise in demand that is seeing houses in many markets sell within 24 hours at prices well above asking price. The last thing many want to do is leave money in bank accounts paying less than 1 percent interest.
We have come to the point where most, it seems, have forgotten there is no such thing as a free lunch. A great many have come to rely on wealth that doesn’t really exist. In a perfect storm of employee layoffs, business shutdowns and “free” government money, the unemployed produced nothing. They added nothing to the national wealth. The money to cover the billions in stimulus checks is borrowed. It adds to the national debt. In theory, it has to be repaid, although few Americans believe this will ever happen.
What about the poor?
There is no doubt that government response to the Covid epidemic has inflicted unimagined hardship on millions since the spring of 2020. It’s not hard to see why growing numbers of Americans are turning to socialism with its promises as a possible improvement. But is it really? Human government has caused the problem. So why would more of it make things better?
One need only look at the many examples of centrally controlled Marxist economies over the past century to see their dismal failure. The Soviet Union, Communist China, North Vietnam, North Korea and more recently Venezuela—all have failed miserably.
Not long ago, Venezuela was one of the three most prosperous nations in South America, with an expanding economy and high living standards for its citizens. Yet, under Marxist dictators Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, hunger has become so widespread that 75 percent of the population has lost 15 percent or more of their body weight! Wracked with hyperinflation of as much as 1.7 million percent per year, Venezuela’s economy has all but completely broken down.
China, the world’s most populous nation with nearly 1.4 billion inhabitants, wallowed in third-world stagnation for decades after Mao Zedong consolidated power under his communist regime in 1949. Starting in 1978, however, the Chinese government did start permitting partial free-market practices, which have brought significant economic growth and improved living conditions for many. However, this is a fascistic arrangement with business serving state interests, repression and tyranny persisting. The prosperity of the Chinese people would be far greater in a truly free society with a genuinely free market. And the same is true of people everywhere.
The all-important biblical perspective
As Christians, we must look at the world from a biblical perspective and share our understanding and care. Jesus Christ taught that people must help the poor. The biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John relate many examples of His compassion on the poor and downtrodden, many of whom suffered under harsh Roman rule.
He fed them, healed them and comforted them. But He also told His disciples, “The poor you have with you always” (John 12:8). Nowhere in Christ’s teaching do we see Him calling for a revolution, an overthrow of the Roman state to usher in a new economic order. Instead, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
Following His death and resurrection, His disciples spread the good news of the Kingdom of God throughout the known world. That message foretold a coming world order of peace and prosperity under Jesus Christ at His return.
Some will claim the early Church was socialist, citing Acts 2:44-45: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” But when we examine this more closely, we see this was the case only in the context of the time and circumstances. The Church began on the Day of Pentecost, when many were visiting Jerusalem temporarily. Those first Christians banded together there in voluntary sharing for mutual protection and sustainment, but only for a short time.
Nowhere does God’s Word support laziness and sloth. On the contrary, the apostle Paul made it clear to the church at Thessalonica, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
But the key issue has not changed. As Israel rejected God’s rule more than 1,000 years before Christ, so America has rejected God’s direction in our society today. This, too, harks back to a warning God gave Israel through the first judge in the Promised Land, Joshua.
In the dramatic three chapters of Deuteronomy 28, 29 and 30, God spelled out for the ancient Israelites both the blessings for obedience to His law as well as the curses that would befall them for disobedience. It is obvious that America, like ancient Israel, is making all the wrong choices.
For the moment American life seems to perhaps be returning to normal, but economic curses are building. The anxiety millions feel from the effects of the epidemic responses, from lost jobs, rampant inflation and wrong direction from Washington are all too real. In times like this, do you know where to turn? The first step is to wake up and understand the real situation facing America in these times—and recognize our need for God’s intervention!