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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 04 December 2008

AN ANCIENT RELIGIOUS MORAL PRINCIPLE

By Jim Jordal

 Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers who write oppressive decrees; to deprive the needy from justice, and to rob the poor among my people of their rights, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? Where will you leave your wealth? 4They will only bow down under the prisoners, And will fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, But his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 10:1-4 WEB

Noted author and national affairs correspondent William Greider writes in the August 18/25 issue of The Nation that one cause of the current economic decline is the 1980 bipartisan legislation removing federal interest rate ceilings and other regulatory restraints on the banking system. He notes that this deregulation and the liberalized lending guidelines that followed led quickly to the Savings and Loan collapse of the early 1980s, thus removing a major competitor of commercial banks and setting the stage for the "go-go" banking empires that are toppling today. What happened was that the public--supercharged by greed and the unrestrained desire for goods fueled by massive and misleading advertising--became anxious to take on unaffordable debt. And the lending industry—newly freed from restraints of the past—stood ready and able to supply easy credit, courtesy of a compliant Congress and a friendly Federal Reserve System.

Ultimately, the massive deregulation of the banking system led to the "irrational exuberance" (former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan’s phrase) behind the uncontrolled expansion of credit and lax lending policies that resulted in the sub-prime mortgage crisis now threatening to spread to the entire world financial system.

And in their haste to facilitate their banking buddies (and generous campaign contributors) in the quest for increased profits, Congress ignored an ancient moral principle found in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Greider states this principle simply and clearly: "People of great wealth must not be allowed to use it to ruin others who lack the same advantages."

The new Democratic National Platform presented to the Democratic National Convention that ended today fails to adequately deal with this moral absolute. It promises undying concern and help for the less fortunate among us, but this is merely normal Democratic rhetoric. Nor do its national political candidates offer any serious suggestions for how to redress the gross imbalances between rich and poor existing (and growing) in our society today. It’s as if the issue doesn’t exist.

But it does exist, and it threatens to subvert our entire way of life if it persists much longer. What happened in the sub-prime mortgage crisis was the exact antithesis of this undying moral principle: Lenders having access to great wealth used misleading and often knowingly fraudulent lending devices to trick ignorant or unwary borrowers into accepting loans that they had no hope of repaying. The lenders used their superior knowledge and favorable position to ruin others lacking the same advantages.

And ruined they were. Among poor or middle class black families the major source of family net worth is housing. Recent studies show a precipitate drop in the net worth of black families due mainly to massive foreclosures and declining values of their chief form of wealth. And it’s not even nearing an end.

The prophet Isaiah in the above reading noted the same sinful and immoral acts among his people three thousand years ago. Notice that the evil arose from unrighteous decrees (laws) having the effect of robbing the poor and depriving the needy of justice. Consider also that it was helpless children and widows who were particularly afflicted because they had little opportunity to create income. And who is it today who bears the brunt of foreclosure: helpless children, single mothers and other dependent citizens who have no way to redress the balances or to recover their previous standard of living.

Folks, what’s happening is a national sin. Isaiah prophesied calamity upon the nation for allowing similar behavior. Let’s pray that God today might be more merciful because we richly deserve whatever He has in mind.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 December 2008 )