Saturday, July 30, 2022

Musings on Whether or Not We Are in a Recession. But Does It Really Matter?

Rudy Barnes, Jr.

In 1992 James Carville proclaimed that in politics, “It’s all about the economy.”  We are in a recession by the traditional standard of two consecutive quarters of a declining GDP, but other signs are mixed.  Despite the Federal Reserve increasing interest rates to counter runaway inflation, consumer spending is high, unemployment remains low and the  stock market is rising.       

There are two economies in America: One for the rich, and one for the rest.  The disparities of wealth in those two economies are more dangerous to a democracy than inflation.  When disparities of wealth are combined with inflation they can destabilize the middle class so essential in a libertarian democracy, and foster a political insurrection like the one on January 6.

The rich are the 10% of Americans  who own 90%  of  stock in the Wall Street megacorporations that  produce and set prices on most of America’s consumer goods.  That’s where the power in America resides, not in the diminishing middle class and poor, who bear the brunt of inflation and any recession and who must often live from paycheck to paycheck.          

When the stock market goes up with inflation, that’s evidence that the rich who control the megacorporations on Wall Street have raised prices to make their profits despite inflation.  That leaves the rest with higher prices and nothing to offset them.  The solution is to control prices in inflationary times; but that will be resisted by the megacorporations who set the prices.

What really matters in a recession is that people keep their jobs and that inflation doesn’t  unduly raise prices.   Providing for the common good requires balancing the needs of consumers with respecting the economic freedom of the producers of consumer goods.   If producers don’t control prices during inflationary times, then Congress may have to do so.

The old notion that higher interest rates by the Fed deter investments in the stock market has been disproved by a booming stock market over the past few weeks.  It has become a safe haven for the wealthy who can afford to invest in stock; and as a barometer of the economy of the rich the stock market has made a mockery of the Fed’s efforts to counter inflation.

Can Congress regulate prices set by Wall Street megacorporations in inflationary times?  It has only done so in national emergencies.  In the past Wall Street has prevented Congress from such regulations with generous  contributions.  But if Congress doesn’t prevent Wall Street from exacerbating income disparities in a recession, it’s inviting socialism to reform American capitalism.

A booming stock market is not a sign of a healthy economy in inflationary times.  It’s just the opposite.  If the Fed and Congress can’t (or won’t) subdue a booming stock market in inflationary times with taxes and price regulations, a recession will spell the end of unregulated American capitalism--and the megacorporations of Wall Street won’t know what hit them until after it happens.


“The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of 0.9 percent between April and June, marking two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Six months of contraction usually signals a recession. The contraction comes as other markers of the economy — such as the job market and consumer spending — are still showing signs of strength. That leaves policymakers, economists, businesses and families to make sense of how the economy is doing, and what the latest GDP report tells us about where we go from here. 

…Inflation has risen to the highest levels in 40 years, with prices rising 9.1 percent in June compared with the year before. The Fed is racing to get control of rising prices before they become even more embedded in the economy. Republicans are hammering the Fed for being too slow to respond and are placing much of the blame on Democrats’ sprawling stimulus efforts from last year. Meanwhile, the job market has shown tremendous strength since losing 20 million jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. The unemployment rate remains remarkably low — 3.6 percent — and the job market has been a huge talking point for the Biden administration. But economists and policymakers also worry the job market is unsustainably hot. There are far more job openings than job seekers, and the mismatch has the Fed trying to tamp down demand for workers without causing people to lose their jobs.” See

Paul Krugman has noted the ambiguity of defining a recession.  “What difference would a recession call make, anyway? What should matter is the state of the economy — which is complicated — not the particular word we use to describe it.” See

For a commentary on the topic dated February 5, 2022, before we actually entered into a recession, see Musings on the Stock Market, Inflation and Providing for the Common Good at also Musings on Inflation, the Stock Market, and the Economy (May 14, 2022) at

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Musings on Moderating Extremism in American Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

          By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

This is the 400th commentary on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics.  A major topic has been the pervasive extremism of America’s polarized partisan politics.  Moderating extremist partisan politics requires altruistic moral standards of political legitimacy that balance individual rights and partisan interests with providing for the common good.  That’s a big order.

The toxic extremism of partisan political polarization is a threat to American libertarian democracy.  Unless reconciliation can moderate partisan extremism, political legitimacy in America will be corrupted beyond redemption; and the diminishing power of the church to reshape the standards of political legitimacy makes such reconciliation problematic.

Extremism on contentious issues like abortion, gun control and restraining corporate greed on Wall Street illustrate the challenge.  Extremist politics on abortion rights and gun control are self-evident.  Less evident are increasing disparities in wealth that are diminishing America’s middle class and weakening the stability of libertarian democracy.  

Megacorporations on Wall Street control most of the production and prices of consumer goods.  The wealthiest 10% of Americans own 89% of corporate stock, and the remaining 90% own only 11%.  With runaway inflation and Wall Street shielded from regulation and taxation by big money and a polarized Congress, a shrinking middle class threatens American democracy.

In  the past, the church has shaped altruistic moral standards of political legitimacy and moderated extremism by promoting the common good in American politics.  But racial issues have contaminated the common good in a white church that has been coopted by the Republican Party and a black church loyal to the Democratic Party.

The American church is in decline, split by race and partisan politics; and its fragmented leadership shows little inclination to be reconciled.  The church has sacrificed Jesus on the altar of extremist partisan politics and has ignored the greatest commandment to love God and all of our neighbors as we love ourselves.  America has lost its moral compass.

America needs a moral reformation to restore its corrupted standards of political legitimacy, but the mainstream church has cited the separation of church and state in refusing to promote the moral imperatives taught by Jesus in politics.  The Constitution prevents Congress from meddling with religion, but it doesn‘t limit religions from promoting morality in politics.

If the church fails to be the paraclete (John 14:23-27) that provides moral stewardship for America’s libertarian democracy based on the greatest commandment, another advocate must be found to lead a moral reformation to moderate the extremism of its polarized partisan politics.  Otherwise, Americans will forfeit their privileged lives, their liberty and their pursuit of happiness. 


On abortion, Unlike Biden most Democrats want strict abortion limits. See

On Congress wants more red-flag laws, but meets resistance from GOP, states and gun groups, see; see also Musings on gun regulation as a test of libertarian democracy at

On how tech megacorporations are opposing regulations that would increase competition, see

On the dangerous disparities of wealth illustrated in the ownership of corporate stock, see also, Musings on the Stock Market, Inflation and Providing for the Common Good (2/5/22) at; also  

Musings on Inflation, the Stock Market, and the Economy (5/14/22) at

Past commentary on a church that has lost its moral compass:

(8/5/16): How Religion Can Bridge Our Political and Cultural Divide

(9/17/16): A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics

(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

(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

(1/15/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Morally Muddled Mainstream

(1/29/22): Musings on the Inadequacy of Religious Moral Standards in American Democracy

(4/23/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Why Americans Are Losing Their Religion

(4/30/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Obsolescence of Christianity in Politics

(6/25/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Church and the Greatest Commandment


Saturday, July 16, 2022

Musings on the Standards of Political Legitimacy of "Woke" Millennials

         By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Woke is a liberal political movement seeking to reshape concepts of racial and social justice; and millennials born between 1977 and 1995 are the face of the woke generation.  They are challenging traditional standards of political legitimacy, beginning with concepts of freedom and equality, with innovative standards of equity, fairness and providing for the common good.

  For freedom and equality to coexist in a libertarian democracy their limits must be defined by law; and the law must accommodate changing concepts of equity, fairness and providing for the common good.  Even so, equity should not be confused with equality; and in woke vernacular those terms are often considered as moral equivalents.

Rather than confusing equity with equality, equity should relate to fairness and providing for the common good.  When woke vernacular confuses equity and equality, it muddles the important distinctions between those terms.  Communism has claimed the moral equivalence of equity, equality and freedom, but no communist regime has ever achieved that ideal.

Early Christians experimented with communism and “held everything in common” (Acts 2:44); but it was short-lived.  They discovered that “from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs” was an unrealistic ideal that precluded fundamental freedoms; and that axiom of Karl Marx has since been confirmed by all communist regimes.

Hugo Grotius and John Locke were theologians who considered the primacy of freedom in libertarian democracy consistent with Christianity.  So did Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and championed religious freedom in America; but as a slaveholder Jefferson was a hypocrite on individual freedom being a universal “inalienable right.”         

Woke millennials either ignore history or revise it to conform with their utopian norms,  rather than learning from it.  I was born in 1942 and belong to the Silent Generation.  We are considered by millennials to be culpable for the mess the world is in today.  We may share culpability, but a woke blueprint for the future that ignores history won’t clean up the mess.

George Will is a member of the Silent Generation who hasn’t been so silent in his criticism of woke millennials.  “Millennials grew up relishing a radical discontinuity with the past.  The know-nothing thirty-year-old today is the twelve-year-old who dropped his books and took up the [social media] screen.” Now they are adults. Sort of.”  

While equity is a term often associated with racial and economic justice, inequities that extend beyond racism can cause economic disparities that threaten democracy.  A stable democracy depends on a strong middle class, and when income disparities created by a concentration of wealth and economic power threaten the middle class and political stability-- as they do now--woke millennials should be promoting ways to limit those income disparities.


Charles McNamara has explored equity as it relates to equality, fairness and the law, and why the Right is so upset about it.   He cites Christopher Caldwell warning that we “might call equity a no-excuses imperative to eliminate all collective racial inequalities. Rather than see equity as “a new name for something that Americans have been arguing about for two or three generations”—the equal treatment of minority groups and the expansion of civil rights—Caldwell and others argue that “the equity movement is radically new.” More specifically, Caldwell claims that “equity is derived from so-called critical race theory,” and warns that calls for equity constitute “an invisible legal revolution.” McNamara then cites Christopher Rufo’s presentation of equity as a novel principle designed to undermine “equality under the law.” McNamara cites Aristotle praising the rule of law, but worries that laws alone might  sometimes work unfairly.  McNamara notes that equity comes with its fair share of hazards, and that we should strive to make better fairer laws that don’t need to be bent so often [to accommodate equity]. See

George Will cites Mark Bauerlein who rejects the idea that “millennials, the first generation suckled by their digital devices, would dazzle the world with the sublime personal and social consequences of their mind-melds with those devices. Bauerlein anticipated that millennials were going to become “unsatisfied and confused” adults, bereft of the consolations of a cultural inheritance, which is unavailable to nonreaders. They would be bewildered by encounters with disagreement, which they find inexplicable; and immersed in social media that have “contracted their horizon to themselves, to the social scene around them,” unable to “think beyond the clique and the schoolyard,” they pay the severe “opportunity costs of digital diversions” with mind-maturing activities” forgone, such as following the real politics of governance. Bauerlein knew in 2008 that his lament about “a low-reading, high-viewing childhood” would get him dismissed by many; but today, he has nothing to regret but the fact that he was prescient. In 2010, with 15-year-olds averaging eight hours of media a day (42 percent more minutes in lower-income than in higher-income households), children were constantly absorbed in youth culture and peer pressure, all of it flooding “the pleasure centers of the developing brain.” Confined to the moment, children relished “a radical discontinuity with the past” because it “lifted the burden of the monuments, the greats, the heroes and geniuses, all the things that can make an adolescent feel small.” A teacher would not be a “sage on the stage” but a “guide on the side,” with students “taking ownership” of their education. The stage was set for the “overproduction of elites,” churning out college graduates who felt themselves of historic importance because they lacked knowledge of history. Which is a chastening record of the wreckage of egalitarian utopias imagined by people boundlessly pleased with themselves for being the first to understand “social justice.” Bauerlein is telling the origin story of today’s cohort of aggressively illiberal, censorious young adults: “The fractious, know-nothing thirty-year-old is what we got when we let the twelve-year-old drop his books and take up the screen.” Those 13-to-17-year-olds who had mobile devices in 2010 were, according to Nielsen data, averaging more than 100 texts sent a day (3,339 per month). Now they are adults. Sort of. Unacquainted with literature, they are Ignorant of history, and hence of political possibilities, they cultivate bitter victimhood. “If there is no past that deserves their attention, if they are given only yesteryears fraught with shame, heroes with clay feet and clay hearts, too, the present becomes a barren habitat,” he writes. In a flattened world drained of greatness, today’s steep decline of humanities majors among undergraduates is a lagging indicator of lack of interest in humanity’s lessons learned on the path to the present. Given this nation’s unhappy present, it is remarkable to remember that the arrival of screen-soaked lives was cheerily announced as the next stage of the “information age.” LOL

Other commentary on Christianity, capitalism and economic disparities:     

(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

(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

(9/16/17): The American Civil Religion and the Danger of Riches

(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

(8/18/18): Musings on Religion and the Morality of Socialist and Libertarian Politics

(4/27/19): Musings on the Legitimacy of Crony Capitalism and Progressive Capitalism

(8/24/19): Musings on How a Recession Could Transform Religion and Politics in 2020

(2/8/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Love of Money and Lack of Virtue

(5/9/20): Exposing the Corruption of Crony Capitalism

(6/27/20): Musings on a Zombie Economy Fostered by the Federal Reserve

(8/15/20): Musings on Racism, Reparations, Racial Disparities and the Federal Reserve

(8/22/20): Musings on America’s Two Economies: One for the Rich and One for the Rest

2/6/21): Musings on the danger of economic disparities and excessive debt in America

(2/27/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Debt as a Vice or Virtue

(3/6/21): Musings on Socialism, Capitalism, Democracy and Debt in Politics and Religion

(6/5/21): Musings on Why Socialism is no Substitute for Altruism in Politics

(7/31/21): Musings on a Socialist Experiment in a Nation Burdened by Pandemic Debt

(9/25/21): Musings on an American Economic Apocalypse

(10/30/21): Musings on Modern Monetary Theory, and Why National Deficits and Debts Matter

(5/14/22): Musings on Inflation, the Stock Market, and the Economy

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Musings on Expanding Concepts of Sovereignty to Reduce Polarized Politics

By Rudy Barnes, Jr. 

Sovereignty is the supreme power to govern.  In religion, God is sovereign; and until the advent of democracy, the divine right to rule determined the sovereignty of nations.  The Articles of Confederation of 1781 was America’s first attempt to claim national sovereignty, followed by the Constitution in 1789; and in 1860 that was challenged by a confederacy of southern states.  

Today states are reasserting their political sovereignty to compensate for a polarized Congress.  In America’s two-party duopoly, issues are decided along partisan lines.  There’s no room for reason or independent thinking to break up the partisan log-jam.   It’s similar to two religions that each claim to be the one true faith.  Truth is a fabrication of the party in power.  

With political sovereignty concentrated and polarized at the federal level, contentious issues like abortion and gun control defy resolution.  Beyond unique functions like the national defense, political sovereignty should be shared with states and cities to resolve political issues at levels closest to the people.  That’s provided in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

Political division can unravel the fabric of democracy, as it did in the American Civil War; but a concentration of sovereignty can create political polarization in a diversified nation with a two-party system.  The Civil War initiated a short-lived confederacy that supported slavery.  The 13th Amendment now prohibits slavery, but racial issues continue to divide America.

President Lincoln cited Jesus on the danger of divisiveness in his efforts to preserve the Union: A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. (Mark 3;24)  The greatest commandment is a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims that emphasizes reconciliation; and in Luke’s version, Jesus taught that God doesn’t favor one religion over others (Luke 10:25-37).   

The concentration of sovereignty at the national level coupled with polarized partisan politics have made diversity in America more a curse than a blessing.  Political legitimacy in America’s increasingly diverse and polarized democracy requires an ethic of reconciliation that can defuse partisan polarization with expanded concepts of sovereignty.

The greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves is a universal moral imperative of faith that promotes reconciliation and providing for the common good in politics; but given our religious and political differences, it will take a moral reformation in religion and politics to promote reconciliation.

Modifications in concepts of sovereignty at national, state and local levels can foster the  reconciliation of contentious issues that divide us.  A moral reformation in religion and politics in America that promotes reconciliation and expanded concepts of sovereignty must be more than just wishful thinking.  It’s an existential issue for the survival of American democracy.      


The Articles of Confederation of 1781 represented a short-lived effort to create a sovereign U.S. nation from the 13 original colonies that was superseded by the Constitution in 1789. See

Perry Bacon has described How the GOP is making national policy one state at a time.  “There are 25 red states in which Republicans dominate state government and 16 blue states where Democrats dominate state government that are now exercising their sovereignty in passing laws.  The political divisions in the United States increasingly aren’t coming from Washington. America has divided starkly into states dominated by Republicans with a shared agenda and states dominated by Democrats with an alternative one. Much of America’s uncivil war, as President Biden has described it, stems from states adopting these divergent policies. The partisan pattern is clear: Republicans are more effective than Democrats at getting a coherent, coordinated agenda enacted on a broad scale, with almost identical legislation passed in state after state. In contrast, liberal activists and donors have invested more in national politics and on groups that work on individual policy issues, instead of a state-based strategy. Liberals are trying to catch up, but state policy groups on the left aren’t as robust as they are on the right.” See

Kathleen Parker has cited Bacon’s article on the red-blue split among state governments and noted that “We’re long accustomed to red and blue states. In Red America, Republicans have created a conservative legal infrastructure across all branches of state government that insulates them from the (currently) Democratic federal government. A secessionist’s dream come true! In the past year, Republican-governed states have passed laws on such hot-button issues as guns, the teaching of race and identity, and school voucher programs. With Roe v. Wade reversed, many are poised to ban or severely limit abortion access.  As Bacon wrote, many of us now live in states that increasingly don’t align with our core convictions. Some won’t want to live in a state where a woman can choose to abort an unborn child; others are not going to tolerate a home state where gay people are considered to have chosen their ‘lifestyle.’ The Texas GOP appears intent on driving the red-blue divide even wider.  More violence is almost a certainty.  See


Overturning Roe v. Wade has set up competition between state laws unseen since slavery.   See

Jonathan Rauch has said that the nationalization of abortion policy should be avoided as impossible to resolve given the extremes of  the absolutists on both sides of the issue. “For the next 10-plus years, the United States’ national abortion policy should be to have no national abortion policy”.   See

A viable third party could reduce partisan polarization, and Tom Malinowski, a candidate for the House from New Jersey, believes a Fusion Party that links a third party candidate with a major party can make that happen.  While history provides few examples of successful third parties in America, Malinowski has noted that “During the 1890s in North Carolina, Republicans and Populists ran a unified slate that temporarily ousted the white supremacist Democratic majority.”  See

On how the resolution of contentious issues at the state level can improve politics, see Musings on Irreconcilable Differences in American Politics (11/14/20) at

On sovereignty, see God and Country: Resolving Conflicting Concepts of Sovereignty (3/29/15) at  See also, Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country (7/13/19), at