AMERICA'S ECONOMIC CRISIS - A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE
Today's economic and credit crisis is but the tip of the iceberg in American life, resulting from the practice of overextension on many levels, due to continually wanting to have 'more'.
Those who bear witness to the currents of American life that are active today, may see that America's heart and hand are so separated from each other, so confined within their own sphere of influence and interest, that what the heart values in its deepest core, the hand often does not follow through with in action.
This is the dilemma of the moral crisis that lies behind the economic crisis of today. At face value, it is a crisis having to do with the credit industry and with the overextension of credit in the housing and home-mortgage markets. But this focus is just a symptom of a much larger and more pervasive issue in America – one that involves the betrayal of a nation's deeper values as these become separated from the path of action.
The deeper values of America have to do with caring and concern for all people - with caring for all who live within her multifaceted society and for those beyond her borders as well. They have to do with sharing, and generosity, and wanting others to prosper and to enjoy the benefits of living in this most affluent country in the world, where the promise of being able to determine one's own future has been demonstrated over and over again. At least this is what we tell ourselves. And, indeed, this is what America used to be about and still is in her deepest heart.
Yet, superimposed on these underlying values are other values of greed and commercialism, of wanting to have more than is necessary, and of a tendency to build one's self-image on the outer trappings of success and wealth, rather than on the inner. This greed within American life, this intense consumerism and desire for 'more' – of new technologies, new fashions, new ways of looking younger, new toys for our children and for ourselves – all of this is part of the overextension of America, due to a separation of the hand which reaches out for more, and the heart which is more humble, more focused on truer and deeper values.
Is it surprising, then, that the consciousness that leads to overextension and 'having'. would infiltrate the hallways of government and manifest in the display of massive overextension on the part of many administrations in accumulating debt, in preventing remedial measures that could absorb or control that debt, in continuing to buy and spend more and more, all the while turning a blind eye to the interest on the debt already accrued which increases in the amount of billions of dollars on a daily basis.
This government, which was created in sacred trust, and with the blood of those who gave their lives for the fulfillment of a vision, has become shallow and vain in its desire to produce more wealth at the expense of creating a solid basis for that greater wealth. For this reason, speculation has taken place as companies have expanded without the capital to do so, operating on credit with the assumption that all would be well, that a steadily growing economy would insure this. With the same thinking, administrations long before this one have not gone out of their way to create policies which would bring into line the national debt – also with the assumption that the American economy could rebalance itself – that it was strong enough to do so.
Sadly, this is not the case. For there are steps that can be rectified within both the political arena and the economic one, and there are steps that cannot easily be rectified without a great price having to be paid first. Today, because of the overextension in the credit market, within business and on a governmental level as well, we are finally being called to accountability. The problem we are being called to face is not one of recent making, but rather is long-standing, growing with the increased prosperity of America, and multiplying as one administration after another has allowed the economy to continue in the way that it had been, with insufficient funds to do so.
This credit crisis is just the tip of the iceberg.
What is needed, now, in order that America regain her moral and economic footing, is not just an 'economic incentive package' that will allow consumers to spend more. This thinking is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Instead, what is needed is a willingness to spend less – a willingness to finally take responsibility for the ways of life that have led to overburdened mortgages that have used up too large a percentage of people's income, and of an overzealous government that has been willing to coast on the endless belief in America's unshakeable prosperity.
We must become accountable today, for our own greed, for our own wanting to have more, for our own being willing to go out on a limb in order to get what was not rightfully ours. In the process of addressing these concerns, a new fiscal policy must come into being which addresses America's massive debt and her overspending on multiple levels. But if only this were to happen, it would be to no avail. For what is truly needed is the awakening of each citizen to a sense of responsibility for keeping their own lives in order so that they are not living on credit, but on the basis of funds that actually exist.
We, who love America, must pray for a change in her consciousness. We must pray that the values of the heart which remain underneath all current challenges become connected more fully to the actions of the hand, so that we move from a society built on economic risk-taking and indebtedness, to one that has a sturdier foundation. This was the vision of the founding fathers, and it remains with us today as the standard and prototype by which we are each being called to live.
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