Defining the Problem
To get started, let's understand a recession. A recession is the financial condition of a country in which it declines in economic growth---that it essentially shrinks instead of expanding. An economy grows when it produces more than it consumes. The national economy is measured every quarter and we see if the gross national product of the country has grown, plateaued, or shrunk. In a technical sense, a recession occurs when a nation declines two quarters in succession. A severe and long recession becomes a depression. Since the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s, the United States hasn't had another one of those.
So what caused this recession? Greed. What caused the Great Depression? Greed.
After bringing my daughter to orchestra rehearsal on Saturday morning, I hung around and talked to a PhD economics professor who is visiting University of California at Berkeley for this year from Korea. His daughter joined the orchestra three weeks ago and plays cello. I asked him about the recession, and like almost any economist, he mentioned the mortgage bubble. He made the observation, even as I had previously, that this is similar to the dot com bubble that burst in the middle of the 90s.
President Bill Clinton was recently here in Oakland as part of the campaign of his wife, Hillary, and he gave a speech explaining why the mortgage crisis took place. It was vintage Clinton. He essentially depended upon a huge amount of ignorance for political advantage by saying that the mortgage problem was created by the Bush administration in order to cover-up for their lack of creating any new jobs during the present presidential administration. It was sad, but so lame that I laughed out loud---well, also because of the classic, conniving smile of Bill Clinton when he said it. It reminded me of the famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.This country has an increasingly growing number of people who the Clinton's can fool all of the time.
Anyway, the government does not make jobs. People get government jobs and recently there have been more and more of them because of the expansion of the federal government. However, the government didn't create those out of thin air. They represent, as I'm sure my readers know, redistribution of wealth. Taxpayers produced wealth that was confiscated by the government and then given to a federal employee. You can't sustain a growing economy with government jobs because they don't produce any new prosperity.
But I digress to some degree, because I was talking to the economist from Korea and told him that the problem was greed. He smiled like he hadn't heard of this. I explained, first by describing what took place before the Great Depression.
The industrial revolution resulted in mass production. Marconi's invention, the radio, increased advertising. Consumers began buying on credit. Covetousness. I want the refrigerator in the advertisement. I must have a Model T like my neighbor. The economy exploded in the roaring twenties. The factories were churning out goods to meet the demand. Men began speculating on the stock market, even borrowing money to invest in a rapidly expanding company.
And then the money ran out. People stopped buying things. Now they were just paying on things. Demand for items nearly ceased, inventory mounted, and the factories stopped producing. They laid off workers in debt, who in turn could not pay off their loans for their purchases and their risky investments. When banks started to collapse under the monumental burden of debt, the customers made a run at the banks. Stocks plummeted. Men and their companies were ruined.
The Great Depression started because of greed and the solution was fueled by greed, but that's another topic altogether---Roosevelt versus Hoover. We fastfoward to the twenty-first century. The federal reserve attempted to sustain the American economy after 911, which had taken a hit literally and metaphorically, by lowering the interest rates. Mortgage companies, banks, and brokers saw an opportunity to cash in by becoming overly creative with their loans, offering unheard of interest only loans and microscopically low adjustable rates. Future homeowners saw this as an opportunity, especially in expensive housing markets (like California), to get into the dream house and stop paying rent. Some of them could afford a smaller house, but they went for the gusto fueled by the artificially created optimism of the low interest.
It has all been greed. Greedy home ownership painted like Grant Wood's American Gothic. Greedy mortgage lenders looking for a quick buck. Greedy illegal immigrants who think they're entitled. And then the greedy politicians who overspent in the time of plenty, instead of creating budget surpluses for the time of leanness. Well, now the bubble has popped and it isn't looking very pretty.
The Solution to the Greed Cycle
The typical solution, which is what has happened, and almost instantly, reminds me of Captain Rennault at the end of Casablanca. I'm not endorsing that film, but I think you'll see what I mean when I say it reminds me of the last scene. Rick has killed Strasser and Renault tells his men to "round up the usual suspects." That's how we'll deal with this crisis---round up the usual suspects. Who are those? An economic stimulus package. It's mainly symbolic---the Korean economist suggested this and I nodded "yes." And then a massive 3/4 point interest cut. Mr. Bernanke doing his part. There we go. All solved. Right?
My Korean economist laughed and enjoyed my economic term for all this---the greed cycle. He agreed, and he is concerned. His afraid for what will happen in the future. The mortgage bubble isn't like the dot com bubble popping. People live in their homes. This affects everyday life. This is a deep rooted problem.
But of course, it's very deep rooted. It's sin. Man is depraved and greed is part of it. He is willing to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage. He wants to spend now the portion of his inheritance. Who cares if he ends up in the hog trough tomorrow? What's the solution? I told the Korean economist. It is change in the most inward way---transformation of the soul. That alone will end the greed cycle. And we all know that it will never really end until we see Christ.
The Lord Jesus will lead a perfect kingdom that anyone can have a part who will turn to Him alone for salvation. But for now, too many people are willing to give up the kingdom then for the kingdom now, one often "paid" for with a very "low" mortgage rate. That bubble will surely pop. What man needs is to end cyclical living and turn to something totally stable---a life of contentment, a life peace and fulfillment that is much better than whatever this world has to offer, and it can arrive when he receives Jesus Christ.