Saturday, March 28, 2020

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Quick and Dirty Economic Revolution

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

The massive $2.2 trillion emergency stimulus act of 2020 instigated a quick and dirty economic revolution.  Resonant of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008, it once again bails out Wall Street mega-corporations as “too big to fail,” and it’s coupled with cheap money through low interest rates of the Federal Reserve as a form of corporate welfare.

In addition to expanding the corporate welfare of the TARP, the 2020 act also includes long-term unemployment benefits that are likely to continue as a form of individual welfare similar to a guaranteed annual income.  History tells us that such “temporary” or “emergency” measures for corporate and individual welfare are not likely to end anytime soon.

The 2020 stimulus act is the largest ever passed by Congress, and Its welfare policies go well beyond emergency relief.  It reflects a rare alliance of Republicans who support corporate welfare and Democrats who support individual welfare. The 2020 act is a mix of neo-socialism and crony capitalism (an illicit relationship between the super-rich of Wall Street and the politicians they control) that lacks fiscal restraint and threatens libertarian democracy. 
We should have seen this crisis coming.  The COVID-19 pandemic was just the trigger event for the stock market crash.  The economy already had serious underlying health issues, with excessive debt at personal, corporate and national levels; and the Fed’s low interest rates only encouraged increasing those debts.  It was an invitation for an economic disaster. 

An overvalued stock market and a seemingly endless bull market were other indications of the approaching stock market crash, but they were negated in the crash.  Now it’s deja vu all over again, with a 2020 sequel to the 2008 TARP that features individual welfare benefits added to expanded corporate welfare benefits that were initiated in the TARP.

Excessive debt was the underlying cause of the economic collapse, and the political remedy only made the debt problems worse.  With a projected annual deficit of over $3 trillion to be added to a national debt of over $23 trillion, it’s reasonable to ask whether increasing the national debt to such astronomical levels is dangerous.  If it is, America is in big trouble.

Even during a booming economy, the Fed had kept the low interest rates of the 2008 TARP in place to feed the voracious appetite of Wall Street for cheap money.  With no more room to lower rates, the Fed has once again instigated unlimited quantitative easing, an inflationary policy of buying troubled assets from uncreditworthy private and public entities.

The promise of bailouts from the 2020 stimulus act coupled with the continued flow of cheap money from the Fed through quantitative easing has enabled the stock market to recover much of its losses, but it no longer represents the health of the economy.  Last week was the best week since 1931 for the stock market, but the worst week in decades for the economy.

Without regulation, the crony capitalism of Wall Street will continue to create dangerous disparities of wealth that undermine the middle class and deny economic justice.  With a massive national debt hanging over the U.S. economy like a black cloud, crony capitalism must be reformed to prevent the excesses of Wall Street and socialism from dooming capitalism.      

Congress has provided a quick and dirty revolution of the American economy.  While it has provided much needed emergency relief for the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 stimulus act has also revealed the need to regulate crony capitalism to preserve a healthy middle class and libertarian democracy.  Voters must hold the president and congress accountable to do just that.


On  what’s in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, see

On how the 2020 stimulus act carves out billions intended for Boeing, despite its safety lapses, since the airplane maker is considered “critical” to national security, see

On the sleeper issue of the coronavirus crisis (the economic weakness of state and local governments),  

On how excessive debt has weakened the economy:
David J. Lynch, Fears of corporate debt grow as coronavirus outbreak worsens.(3/10/20) See
Gretchen Morgenson, A dozen years after the 2008 recession, a different kind of debt threatens the world economy. (3/9/20) See
Annie Nova, Why people with student debt are refusing to repay it. (2/12/20)  See
Jeff Stein, U.S. deficit to eclipse $1 trillion in 2020, CBO says, as fiscal imbalance continues to widen. (1/28/20)  See   
Robert J. Samuelson, America’s debt spree isn’t stopping.  It might soon be too late. (1/28/20) See 
Sam Meredith, World Bank warns of global debt crisis following fastest increase in borrowing since the 1970s. (1/9/20)  See
Larry Elder, The Great Recession: “Reparations” Gone Bad. (1/9/20) See
Philip Inman, Debt will kill the global economy. But it seems no one cares. (1/4/20)  See

On the Federal Reserve and interest rates: 
Josh Barro, Here’s Why It Matters That Interest Rates are Cratering. (3/8/20) See
David McHugh and Christopher Rugaber, Negative interest rates turn saving, borrowing upside down. (2/14/20) See
Gregg Robb, Fed Chairman says central bank will use “forward guidance” communication with markets about interest-rate plans (2/12/20) See
Sam Bourgi, Jerome Powell Secretly Knows the Federal Reserve Is About to Crash the U.S. Stock Market (1/16/20) See

Related commentary on Christianity and capitalism:     
(3/8/15): Wealth, Politics, Religion and Economic Justice
(8/9/15): Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities
(10/18/15): God, Money and Politics
(1/30/16): The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves
(6/4/16): Christianity and Capitalism: Strange Bedfellows in Politics
(10/1/16): The Federal Reserve, Wall Street and Congress on Monetary Policy
(2/11/17): The Mega-Merger of Wall Street, Politics and Religion
(3/11/17): Accountability and the Stewardship of Democracy
(9/9/17): The Evolution of the American Civil Religion and Habits of the Heart http://www.religion
(9/16/17): The American Civil Religion and the Danger of Riches
(12/16/17): Can Democracy Survive the Trump Era?
(1/20/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Morality and Religion in Politics
(1/27/18): Musings on Conflicting Concepts of Christian Morality in Politics
(2/17/18): Musings of a Maverick on Money, Wall Street, Greed and Politics
(6/15/18): The Prosperity Gospel: Where Culture Trumps Religion in Legitimacy and Politics
(4/27/19): Musings on the Legitimacy of Crony Capitalism and Progressive Capitalism
(6/29/19): Musings on a Politics of Reconciliation: An Impossible Dream?
(8/24/19): Musings on How a Recession Could Transform Religion and Politics in 2020
(9/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Polarized Politics of Climate Change
(12/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the End as a New Beginning
(1/4/20): Musings on How a Depression (or a War) Could Make America Great Again
(2/8/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Love of Money and Lack of Virtue

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on What Will Follow the Coronavirus Pandemic

    By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

  Whatever follows the coronavirus pandemic, there will be major political and cultural changes in America.  We’re in a world-wide crisis that will test our moral standards of political legitimacy. As we’ve been hunkered down in our homes hoping the plague will pass over us, all of us have had time to think about what comes next--especially old people like me.

The future of post-pandemic America will be different than how it looked just a few months ago.  In politics, it’s deja vu all over again, circa 2008 and the TARP bailout.  The Trump administration and congress are working together for the first time since 2016 to prepare a trillion dollar stimulus package that ignores the massive deficits it will create.

 At the personal level, America is in a lockdown mode with social distancing.  Schools have been closed and meetings of over 50 people are banned. Restaurants have been limited to take-out orders, and cities have imposed curfews until more is known about the spread of the virus.  Main streets and malls around the country are eerily quiet, and toilet paper is hard to find.

In religion, the myriad variations of the church remain strong community organizations, but aside from the white evangelicals who elected Trump, Christianity has become irrelevant to American politics.  The only effective voice of religion in politics comes from the charlatan white evangelicals who support Trump and his Republican Party with their distorted partisan doctrines    

America’s churches have mostly elderly congregations and services that include more than 50 people.  With Easter approaching, it’s uncertain how churches will conduct their services. While most schools and colleges have cancelled classes and are experimenting with distance learning to avoid crowds, few churches have gone that far.

The greatest commandment to love God and to love others as we love ourselves is a moral imperative of Christianity, while social distancing is a medical imperative necessitated by the coronavirus.  How can churches nourish the souls of their congregations while protecting their health? Easter will be a test for pastors to balance those conflicting priorities.  

Congregational worship in church sanctuaries has long been a priority of Christianity, and that enabled it to become the world’s most popular and powerful religion.  Jesus never emphasized worship; he emphasized caring for the needs of others. Exclusivist church doctrine subordinated the universal moral teachings of Jesus to the popularity of the church, and the mainstream church has avoided politics to remain popular in a nation of diverse politics.      

Where do we go from here?  The crisis will be over when a vaccine is developed, but before that happens America will elect a president and a new congress.  COVID-19 has challenged the expectation of increased life expectancy by targeting the elderly. That includes both Trump and Biden, and it makes Biden’s choice of his vice president critical.

Less than a month ago in a raucous rally in North Charleston Trump described the coronavirus threat as a Democratic hoax to prevent his re-election.  Later he took issue with health officials who called it a serious threat Only in the last two weeks has Trump admitted the ugly reality of COVID-19, and he has dishonestly denied that he ever suggested otherwise.  

Trump has described himself as a wartime president and declared a national emergency giving himself extraordinary powers.  In November America may have to vote by absentee ballot, and we should expect Trump to use all of his powers to influence the election in his favor.  His demonstrated lack of moral integrity in the past should prepare us for trouble ahead.   


On How the coronavirus will change our lives forever--from music to politics to medicine.  See

After describing the coronavirus threat as a Democrratic hoax, Trump then spent weeks downplaying coronavirus and has now declared himself a “wartime president” as the U.S.gears up to fight it.  See

Jennifer Rubin has cited a study in the UK that predicts 1.1 million coronavirus fatalities in the U.S., and described Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as the biggest blunder in presidential history,  See

Annie Lowery has described the current employment crisis as Not a Recession but an Ice Age. See

Mnuchin has warned that Senate inaction on a stimulus bill could lead to 20% unemployment.  See
Yesterday the Dow tumbled 900 points to end Wall Street’s worst week since 2008.  See

Related commentary:

In my commentary posted on February 29 urging S.C. voters to vote in the Democratic primary that day, I noted that the night before Trump had told a raucous rally in North. Charleston that the coronavirus threat was a Democratic hoax.  The S.C. primary vote gave the Biden campaign a critical boost. See

On the future of a church that has lost its moral compass and the end times:
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light
(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos
(10/4/15): Faith and Religion: The Same but Different
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(8/5/16): How Religion Can Bridge Our Political and Cultural Divide
(9/17/16): A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics
(9/24/16): The Evolution of Religion and Politics from Oppression to Freedom
(11/5/16): Religion, Liberty and Justice at Home and Abroad
(12/31/16): E Pluribus Unum, Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation
(1/7/17): Religion and Reason as Sources of Political Legitimacy, and Why They Matter
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church
(3/18/17): Moral Ambiguity in Religion and Politics
(4/15/17): Easter and the Christian Paradox
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(4/29/17): A Wesleyan Alternative for an Irrelevant Church
(6/24/17): The Evolution of Religion, Politics and Law: Back to the Future?
(7/1/17): Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy
(7/15/17): Religion and Progressive Politics
(7/22/17): Hell No! 
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism  
(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion
(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy?
(3/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Holy War
(3/17/18): Jefferson’s Jesus and Moral Standards in Religion and Politics
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy
(4/7/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Need for a Moral Reformation
(4/28/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Virtues and Vices of Christian Morality
(5/5/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Nostalgia as an Obstacle to Progress
(5/12/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christianity and Making America Great Again
(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs
(8/4/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Problems and Solutions in Politics
(8/11/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Changing Morality in Religion and Politics
(9/1/18): Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads
(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics
(11/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist: Has God Blessed Us or Damned Us?
(11/10/18): Musings on the End Times: God’s Rapture or Satan’s Rupture?
(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos
(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism
(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment
(2/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Hypocrisy of American Christianity
(3/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Post-Christian America
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism
(3/23/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Thinking Outside the Box
(5/4/19): Musings on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century
(5/18/19): Outsiders Versus Insiders in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics
(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus
(6/8/19): The Moral Failure of the Church to Promote Altruism in Politics 
(6/15/19): Back to the Future: A 21st Century Pentecost for the Church
(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity
(7/6/19): Musings on Democrats, Busing and Racism: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country 
(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of  the Church and Democracy in America
(8/10/19): Musings on Christian Nationalism: A Plague on the Church and Democracy
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy
(9/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Chaos as a Prelude to a New Creation
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
(10/5/19): Musings on the Moral Relevance of Jesus to Democracy
(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(12/7/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Triumphalism and Politics
(12/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Prophets, Scripture and God’s Truth
(12/21/19): Musings on Advent and a Not-so-Merry Christmas for American Democracy
(12/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the End as a New Beginning
(1/11/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christians as a Moral Minority
(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics