Tom plays golf at the same club as me. He works in finance for Hershey Foods, the folks who invented chocolate. Tom’s car has a bumper sticker you’ll appreciate. It simply says $18,000,000,000 and that sticker is on top of one that says $17,000,000,000. He told me he has a new one to put on that says $19,000,000,000. Our national debt is staggering.
We enjoy movies. Thanksgiving and Christmas days are commonly ended with our whole family going to see one. During the Christmas break we saw two disturbing ones. The Big Short tells the story of the home mortgage finance crisis that hit the nation in full force in 2008. Concussion is the story of a courageous doctor who discovered that football can cause brain injuries that can kill or debilitate its players.
It’s not an overstatement to say that Wall Street greed brought on a recession from how they invested in the mortgage industry. A few insightful investors—those who bet against the mortgage market by shorting it—saw it coming and made billions for themselves and their clients. Unfortunately, seven million Americans lost their jobs, six million lost their homes, and countless millions more lost their life savings during these calamitous events. It nearly sent the world into a depression. The actions of many Wall Street firms, bond-rating agencies and mortgage originators nationwide morphed into full-blown fraud. They made unprecedented sums at the expense of others. Remember the “too big to fail” pronouncements? Yeah, you and I paid for the bailouts. It was ultimately at our expense.
In Concussion we see the arrogance of the National Football League operating in denial—at least publically—regarding the dangers of one player hitting another head on with the impact of 60 times the force of gravity. Who in their right mind thinks this doesn’t cause permanent damage?
My parents didn’t let me play football when I was a child—mostly because games were on Sunday when I was young. We didn’t let our own children play. Many of my adult friends suffered from “old football injuries.” I didn’t want my children to have the same aches and pains from the common injuries of a game. Sunday wasn’t when the games were played when my children were young, but that would have been a concern, too.
Neither life-altering football injuries nor Wall Street greed are a surprise to any of us. Yet, now that we know these concerns, will it really make a difference? Our support of football fuels those that play. The fact that we now know players go crazy and die will have little impact. When I encouraged a friend to see the movie, he asked me—a bit tongue-in-cheek—“Will it ruin the rest of the season for me?” We do love our football.
It doesn’t seem Wall Street has learned the lessons either. Excess and greed still run amuck. Virtually no one was prosecuted from the fraud surrounding the mortgage crisis.
Most of us are not substantially affected by either of these concerns. I don’t want to be insensitive to you if you lost your house or job as a result of the mortgage crisis. Nor do I want to assume that no one reading has been affected by the brain injuries from football. Yet there are likely few who read this that were impacted so directly. That doesn’t mean we are exempt from any impact of society’s foolishness.
We must ask, “What’s next?” and “Will it impact my family?”
We’re entering into a presidential election year. We’ve already been bombarded by presidential debates, television ads, solicitations to donate, etc. It’s shaping up to be an election like never before. It’s also shaping up to be more of the same.
Public opinion about our government is about as low as it can get. Washington, DC’s answer far too often is to gain our favor by giving us something. Lower taxes appeal to some, welfare to others, low interest college loans, health care—the list could go on and on.
The fact is the resulting federal debt is out of control. Someday we will reach a tipping point. Maybe we have already and, like someone jumping off a cliff, we think everything is fine until we meet the ground below. There should be no doubt that the path we are on is unsustainable. This may be the big one—the one that does us in like some feared the mortgage crisis might.
I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump. Yet he speaks what many have been afraid to say. He just doesn’t say it very well. Something is needed in Washington to right what is wrong. I just don’t think it’s him. And I have no more hope in any of the others.
What we need is a new generation of thinking. What we need is godly, articulate, savvy politicians who love the Lord Jesus Christ and will follow him, whatever the cost.
That’s why I love the classical Christian education I see happening in the next generation. The God-instilled wisdom, ability to think and reason, and the winsomely persuasive communication coming from these young people is the best starting point I know. Let’s give it to our children and watch how God uses them.
Then maybe Tom won’t have to keep buying bumper stickers.