Caesar and Mammon: Together Forever

I don’t know nothin’ ’bout economics and high finance. But I have eyes and ears. The national conversation about the Great Wall Street Meltdown, such as it is, appears to be something that takes place in secret government chambers, with news bulletins to us trembling laity who do not speak or understand the strange hierophantic language in which it is conducted. Those bulletins say, “It’s really bad. If we were to tell you how bad, you would probably drop dead on the spot. So we won’t. But, trust us, it’s really bad. (And no, there’s no point in trying to tell you how it got that way. Mistakes were made, mostly by poor people. Trust us on that, too.)” 

Then our Masters tell us, “We are working to fix (well, okay, more ‘stave off’) the problem. Meanwhile, continue your normal life. Remember, you are consumers first and citizens second. We have things under control, but we are telling you now that you will need to give us vast and well-nigh dictatorial power — power without a right of appeal, nor oversight, nor accountability of any kind, and do it without thinking too much because the need is so urgent!”

Our response: “It says here on the news that these guys are working on it. I don’t want to ask too many questions because I feel stupid not understanding this giant problem. And besides, it’s a huge scary emergency and what we need is action — not reflection, self-examination, repentance, or responsibility, and still less a serious look at the people and policies that got us here. All that kumbaya touchy-feely stuff is for the weak, not the consumers of a proud superpower. So I’ll just go ahead and support whatever it is they do because they’ve certainly done a great job up till now.”

Forgive me, but I have a strict rule of only allowing myself to be stampeded into one world-historical blunder per decade, and the Iraq War has used up my limit. For what it’s worth, here’s what I can make of the latest fraud to emanate from our Ruling Classes. Broadly speaking, it appears to me that over the past 30 to 40 years or so, the State (whose function is to preserve the common good against the onslaughts of the various effects of original sin) got it into its head that capitalism was magically immune from the effects of original sin. Possibly this was due to the fact that Caesar and Mammon had been seeing each other, sleeping together, and falling deeper into addiction to a cocktail of various drugs.

It would appear that Caesar then told people in the grip of one of the capital sins — Greed — that they could go ahead and police themselves while he did a line of coke with Mammon up in the penthouse.

Some of these people in the grip of Greed were in the private sector and some were in the public sector. All behaved like people in the grip of serious sin. Sin makes you less free. It does this by, among other things, darkening the intellect, disordering the appetites, and weakening the will — all of which are a very unsound basis for policing oneself for Greed and other capital sins. That’s why Scripture describes it as “slavery.” This slavery we called “the free market.”


And in the grip of this particular capital sin of Greed, we then became very stupid indeed due to that ol’ darkened intellect and burned through trillions we don’t actually have, all while telling people to go shopping because we were locked in an existential struggle for survival. If I were to do this with my family finances, we’d be living in our car. But when you do it on a titanic scale, you are called a bold entrepreneur by people who are also in the grip of capital sins. This is but one of the reasons our descendants will call us the “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?” Generation.



Now we have reached the point where the Mighty go to the State that has ceded them oversight of their own folly and tell Caesar, “You can’t afford to let us fail. You need to confiscate money from those people over there who still actually have assets and give it to us. This time we promise we’ll be trustworthy.” So Caesar (who was sleeping it off after an all-night rager with Mammon), dutifully rolls out of bed, dons his police uniform, and goes out to declare a state of emergency and order every man, woman, and child to pony up vast sums in perpetuity to “fix” the problem.
Caesar knows he has a big job to persuade the people with actual assets to knuckle under and give it to Mammon and his servants.
First trick: Blame poor people first. As Jesus clearly said, “Those to whom little is given, much will be required! Blessed are the rich! For they can always be trusted and they aren’t responsible for anything that goes wrong.” So explain it all by saying that it’s pretty much all the fault of poor people and their damned mortgage defaults that they got into just because every lender in the world was telling them they could make their dream of home-owning happen, urging them to take the risk, and assuring them that this is a normal part of the American Way as they signed on the dotted line and got the toaster. Those poor people were evil for trusting the giant lending institutions who reassured them that being in debt was a normal part of home-buying and handed them a free toaster on their way out the door!
Second trick: Don’t mention what one of my blog readers pointed out — that every single sub-prime mortgage in this country not already owned by the government could be purchased for less than what it cost to bail out Bear Stearns, about $300 billion. Ignore the fact that some banks and funds have $250 in outstanding loans for every dollar kept in reserve (and that, as the reader pointed out, “at that leverage ratio, a drop in value of your assets of 1/2 of 1% makes you technically bankrupt”). Ignore the fact that these institutions have been hiding this by lying on their balance sheets, and that the reason they are now stealing $700 billion from taxpayers is to cover that up. And above all, ignore the fact that this patch job won’t work, in no small part due to the fact that it rewards the crooks and book-cookers who got us where we are.
Otherwise Caesar may actually have to go to rehab, get clean and sober, break off his co-dependent relationship with Mammon, and set about creating an actual system that keeps the capital sin of Greed from destroying the common good. Caesar doesn’t want to do that. He loves the disco night-life too much. And Mammon? She’s been a junkie so long she can’t even imagine changing. In fact, they’ve both worked very hard to make us enablers of the good thing they’ve got going. And they’ve been very successful. That’s why, for most Americans, such a fundamental change is not even on the radar, since almost nobody in our culture even knows what weird Catholic jargon like “common good,” “capital sins,” or “sin enslaves the will and darkens the intellect” means. We’ve been trained to reflexively respond, “Don’t impose your religious values on me!” and we recite it better than a parrot. An analysis of the role of the State using Catholic social teaching as a guide? What’s next? Aristotle, thumbscrews, and The Handmaid’s Tale?
Meanwhile, as we freedom-loving Yankees fend off the Phantom Theocratic Dictator and the Imminent Papal States of America, we welcome the Saviors who hand us a bill that subjects every American company that handles financial instruments to the absolute power of the Treasury Secretary — a power not subject to review by any outside agency or court:
Sec. 8. Review. Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

You read that right: Under the bill, the Treasury Secretary could command Goldman Sachs to sell $1 billion in stock to Morgan Stanley at $1. It would be lawful, without appeal, and without judicial review. Every company that issues bonds and stock options to its employees would be enslaved to the absolute diktats of the executive branch. That used to be called “tyranny.” Now it’s called “Bush Conservatism” and “Democrats Looking Out for the Little Guy.”
And so it goes. Of course, reality has a way of imposing on wishful thinking anyway. Sooner or later, we will reach the point where we begin to seriously say, “Men have forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.” But we are not close to that yet. We still readily believe that the sleazes and crooks who got us here will save us and that we can go back to living beyond our means and looking the other way when the Titans of Finance and State do the same. 

For my part, I think the only sound advice in this hour is, “Repent! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” It was always the only sound advice; hours like this make you realize that.


Mark P. Shea


Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • Tito Edwards

    I say let them wither on the vine. Bring lawsuits against the instigators and suspend corporate law, bring them all to justice to set an example for the rest of these greedy malcontents.

  • R.C.

    Mr. Shea, I know you feel like you have something to say, here.

    But are you aware of how you’re saying it?

    Increasingly, the tone of your pieces reminds me of nothing more than two passages from The Screwtape Letters:

    At the other church we have Fr. Spike. The humans are often puzzled to understand the range of his opinions

  • Geoffrey Miller

    Mr. R.C.,

    I tend to agree with you. Mr. Shea and I have corresponded often, and I respect him very much. But judging from his recent writings over the past few months, I’ve noticed the same pattern you have.

    Mr. Shea, your articles, while voicing views that I generally agree with, are getting to be over the top. We’re about to plummet into a Greater Depression. I hardly think such boisterous humor is appropriate at the moment.

    When sin kills a great man, no one jokes about it at the funeral.

    Sin has killed a great nation, perhaps the greatest nation ever to exist on this earth. Should we laugh at the United States’ funeral?

  • Joe Marier

    The great thing about consistently advocating nothing is that you don’t have to accept responsibility for the consequences.

  • Adriana

    Mr. Shea:

    It is indeed a bitter commentary, but no more than deserved. We were sold a bill of goods with deregulation, telling us that since people are naturally virtuous if they are not corrupted by Goverment (shades of Jean Jacques) there is no need for any kind of police.

    Now the chickens have come to roost, and guess who will end up paying for that?

    Solutions? We are too angry and bitter. Be thankful that we do not hang free marketeers and Republicans from the lampposts.

  • Joe Marier

    “[He] is the best ‘Aginner’ I have ever seen. Down my part of the country, an Aginner is a feller who is ‘against’ most everything in general. By and by, these folks have to tell you what they are for, as a way of ‘splaining why they are agin something that is going on as they speak…”

    -Matthew Horan, 1991

  • Maryanne

    The real problem with everything going on in the world now that is of human origin is that people do not have peace. They do not have Truth. They don’t know or they don’t live as Christians who know that Jesus Christ is their Savior. Unfortunately, they are only looking for earthly pleasures. The more pleasures the higher quality of life. But is that true? Throughout the ages we have discovered that this in not true. But we have allowed the message of the world – do whatever you want as long as it makes you feel good – dictate how we live. I think that we may be more far gone that the Roman empire. We must turn to God. We must remember that we cannot have God first if we are of world. Let us all pray that we remember to live in the world as true disciples of our Lord and not be of the world. Let us put Jesus first. He promises he will take care of us if we do.

  • Christopher Milton

    I hear no hatred towards fellow man, but towards their sinful acts.

    I hear no flippancy in that what he says is true.

  • JCHathaway

    In _Mater et Magistra_, Bl. John XXIII says that contraception is the worst economic evil threatening the world today.

    He predicts that contraception will create a short-term economic boom but ultimately economic self-destruction.

    It’s easy to blame the Republicans, blame the Democrats, blame the bankers, blame the low-income voters.

    When the corporate scandals of a few years ago were going on, I didn’t understand why we were supposed to feel sorry for the employees, painted as “victims,” who admitted they knew what was going on and did nothing, just went along with it and participated in it, and then suddenly got consciences after the fact.

    G. K. Chesterton, when asked what was most wrong with the world, answered, “Me.”

    This economic crisis effects every one of us, and it was caused by every one of us.

    Deregulation wasn’t the problem; mortgages to low-income families werent’ the problem.

    Credit card debt was the problem. Urban sprawl was the problem. Abuse of natural resources was the problem.

    And the fundamental problem was a society that put materialism, rather htan family, at the heart of its government.

  • R.S.Newark

    Me thinks this is called the redistribution of wealth. Do I get it? Is it so? you know, like?

  • Brian Cook

    The transition to moving out of my parents’ house is already slow and difficult with my Asperger’s Syndrome–that is, my inability to relate as well as other people do. How will I provide for myself when I do move out? Now is the time to ask God to provide for us as well as give us the guidance on how to do our part.

  • Joe Marier

    Below is Arnold Kling’s argument against the bailout. It’s actually quite good.

    That being said, I do think the choice is something like what’s being proposed — or a major recession along the lines of 1980-1981. I find that a hard choice.

  • Dave

    — all of which are a very unsound basis for policing oneself for Greed and other capital sins. That’s why Scripture describes it as “slavery.” This slavery we called “the free market.”

    The “sin” is not the free market, the sin is greed. Greed has corrupted a system that has served us pretty well through history and would continue to serve us if not for the fraction of greedy people that have no self discipline or regard for their fellow man. In addition, I don’t agree with your assumption that the poor and down trodden are being primarily blamed. These people have been enticed into these deals by the same greedy people that saw an easy way to make a quick profit, no different than the type that fill every payday loan store across America. As Paul Harvey used to say, “Self government will not work without self discipline”. The reality is that every system of human government will be contaminated by sinful human tendencies, and sadly, our sinful tendencies, by the trainload, are going to cost us dearly in the very near future.

  • Philip Mustacchio SFO

    Mr. Shea,
    I found your article to be one of finger pointing and passing judgement on others. I don’t think that’s Catholic and I don’t think it will get us anywhere. Also you are not accurate in your accounts.
    Poor people don’t get mortgages. It was the middle class trying to live like the upper middle class and the upper middle class trying to live like the rich. They sacrificed the future for it. Mr. Shea, you drive an SUV? You need all that metal to get you from point A to point B? Own a lap top? Flat screen TV? Satellite Dish? Sorry we all had a hand in it.
    The world trusted the American Banking system so much that all trades are in US$ and anyone in the world with surplus cash invests it here. Cash was plentiful. Instead of investing it in manufacturing (cause we worry about the trees) we became a service economy and serviced ourselves.
    Reread the parable of the two men (one righteous and one sinner) in the Synagogue. When you ridicule others you put yourself on a higher shelf. One that in God’s eyes does not exist.
    Phil Mustacchio SFO

  • J. M. Walden

    I highly doubt that a more moderate tone would be efficacious, though it may appeal to some of the more high-minded and the civilized readers of InsideCatholic. I generally decry such caustic hyperbole, but in our age of absolute excess, it may be all that is heard. I’m not certain if their are refined ears left, that may well tell apart the whisper from the gale.

    Personally, I think the majority of the folks who caused these fiduciary woes at the top should be horsewhipped or flogged and given over to forced labor for the remainder of their years. The elected officials who were complicit should merely be exiled to some unihabitable wasteland – there’s room here in Jersey – let them try and pay the taxes. But, as much as I sympathize with the poor (as I am among them), I can hardly feel too bad for those who have repeatedly lived beyond their means. If it were only their mortgages, I might shed a tear, but with nightly news reports showing the bulk of Americans carrying deleterious credit debt and my own day-to-day experience validating such reports, my eyes remain dry.

    There are many to blame. Many in government, many in the business sector, and all those who queued up to charge their “needful things” – knowing it was a lie all along. Some were driven by desperate necessity, but the vast majority were not. 42″ Plasma TV? Not a necessity. 2008 Mercedes? Not a necessity. Oversized McMansion? Not a necessity? A huge, disposable wardrobe? Not a necessity? An ipod? Not a necessity? Brand new mobile gadget every year? Give me a break… And thousands more besides. Indulgences all. If you cannot purchase it with cash, perhaps you should not at all. Living within your means is not glamorous, but neither is bankruptcy. (Although I know folks who manage their credit very well, these ARE NOT the majority.)

    Mr. Shea is not bound to provide a solution to this economic mess, and he has every right to offer a vitrolic animadversion – as you do to criticise him for it. But we ALL bear some responsibility for the mess we’re in. How many Catholics are there is America – how many millions? What if they were all to boycott AT ONCE? Hmmm…? What if instead of creating special interest groups to fight special interest groups within a bureaucratic ring of uselessness we simply took to the streets and demonstrated our displeasure – civily, but unavoidably and inexorably.

    Or we can grouse and bicker with one another. I like reading your comments, so grumble away. Maybe someday some future decedent will say that we, “groused while America burned.”

    In all though, thank you for the article Mr. Shea (they’re right about you getting crankier) and thank you, dear fellow readers, for your comments (we are just as cranky as always). I learn a great deal here.

  • Mary

    This article is about GREED taking over the free market, and about weak, enabling governmental policies and regulations, and how it all contributes toward the bureaucrats who cushion themselves from their disgusting reality about the truth about themselves, and about what they are doing to the rest of us, and how they manipulate us. Together, they are bringing us all down, since the American people are dependent upon them for economic gain and consistency, and think it their God given DUTY to buy, buy, buy, regardless of their actual income.

    Mark is not speaking here against the free market itself, or against progress in civilization. He is speaking here about owning up to offensive behavior and the falsity that damages us all in the long run. He is speaking about strength in moderation.

    Good article, Mark. I think that you should also attempt to write a novel, maybe novels for children. You have a great imagination.

  • Jim

    get a writer. I mean, seriously.

  • Mark Shea

    Much of the commentary above can be translated:

    Write about world-historical financial corruption and state incompetence leading to tyrannical overreach, but do it *nicely*. Say what needs to be said, but don’t be mean to these fundamentally decent thieves, tyrants and traitors. The key thing, during incipient civilizational meltdown and massive power grabs by wicked and incompetent moguls and their strumpets in the state who have only their own interests in view, is to be polite. The fabulously rich and powerful deserve, above all, our deference and respect when they are gorging themselves on the flesh of the weak and laboring to destroy our country in their breathtaking arrogance.

    So much for “He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart./He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble./
    He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” That kind of bitter disrespect for the Kings of the Earth won’t do any more. The Blessed Virgin needs to keep a civil tongue in her head.

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot indeed.

  • Phillip

    There has been plenty of greed and excess even among those who approve of Mark’s comments. The problem is crach of the economy will take out the wheat with the chaff. A slowdown in the economy will hurt the poor (most likely much more) as well as the well off. A reasoned slow down of the economy aided by a bailout may in fact be the Christian response.

  • Jim

    say it competently?

  • Joe Marier

    “Please always assume the good intentions of the other person, especially when you disagree, and avoid personal attacks.”

  • Adriana


    The idea that the problem is not the free market but GREED, has a problem.

    It is like saying “I am not afraid of bullets – only of the speed at which they travel”

    How can you keep Greed out of it? Since greed is one sin that humanity cannot get rid of, there has to be a way to control it before we can think about a free market.

    Men insist on being sinful. It is called Original Sin, I think. It is something we have to accept.

    Any system predicated on the belief that people will be on their best behavior will fail.

  • Zoe

    Mark, Your article helps us to both laugh and wonder with disbelief at the sorry state of things. I have no idea what objectionable tone people are “hearing” in your words here. There is plenty of room for strong language and humor and cynicism when analyzing/commenting on such serious issues.

    This line really cracked me up:

    Forgive me, but I have a strict rule of only allowing myself to be stampeded into one world-historical blunder per decade, and the Iraq War has used up my limit.

    Amen to that.

    And Jim, do you have anything constructive to say, or are you the writing police? Please note the rules for commenting on this site which Joe Marier summarizes above.

  • Joao

    Please read what Pope Pius XI says about the causes of the Great Depression in Quadragesimo Anno (n.

  • R.C.

    I didn’t really wish to get into the weeds, on this.

    But very well.

    Mr. Shea, you say:

    Write about world-historical financial corruption…

    You don’t specify a particular violation of laws or a specific immoral act. I suspect you are reacting to the fact that the news contains bad news and worrisome news, and reacting with outrage against unspecified individuals.

    …and state incompetence…

    By whom? What did they do wrong, in reaction to what information about their situation, and given the same (limited) information, what would you do differently?

    …leading to tyrannical overreach…

    Well, “overreach” is certainly correct. But can you demonstrate that the actors involved want tyrannical power over others? Isn’t it more likely they want a fat enough paycheck to put their kids through expensive colleges, with enough left over for a two-story house in a good neighborhood and a vacation home elsewhere, and maybe a bass boat?

    thieves, tyrants and traitors.

    See my previous remark re: tyranny. And as for “traitors”: Whom do you accuse, in this crisis, of giving aid to the enemies of the United States? Or do you regard them as traitors to someone else?

    Or was that just you blowing off steam with a little exaggeration that no one’s really meant to take as serious or meaningful?

    civilizational meltdown

    Well, economic meltdown. That’s civilizational if and only if (imagine a Venn diagram with shaded regions) the set we call civilization is contained entirely within the set we call economics. I don’t think that’s true.

    …massive power grabs…

    Well, yes. But the power grabs in question occurred in the 30’s: The court-packing scheme, and all that.


    Which individuals do you have in mind, and about which of their sins are you complaining, and how are their sins more noteworthy than the average person’s, that they’re worth pointing out as “wicked?”

    …incompetent moguls…

    Incompetence suggests that they reacted in some way, to some information, which was stupid, and that you — or some other person with sufficient but not exceptional knowledge — would have reacted to the same information in a different, superior way.

    Can you back that up? Which moguls? Name ’em. And what decisions did they make, in response to what information? And how would you have reacted differently?

    …their strumpets in the state who have only their own interests in view…

    No real argument, there.


  • R.C.


    The fabulously rich and powerful deserve, above all, our deference and respect…

    I don’t think anyone has asked for deference to anyone, rich or poor, powerful or impotent. Respect, yes: They’re human beings created in God’s image, tho’ fallen. Granted, there are some human beings for whom I myself show no respect…because I can articulate clearly why they don’t merit respect.

    It’s clear you don’t respect someone in this situation, but it’s far from clear who or why. Can you name some names and crimes?

    gorging themselves on the flesh of the weak

    Well, if you’d said the ignorance and greed of the weak, in reference to lenders giving out loans to folks who couldn’t repay them, then you have my agreement. This is preying on the weakness of another, and should be prosecuted as such.

    laboring to destroy our country

    As an intent? Or as a possible side-effect they were knowingly willing to risk? (Can you demonstrate that they could be aware of such a risk?)

    …their breathtaking arrogance.

    Certainly, some folks are breathtakingly arrogant.

    So much for “He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart./He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble./
    He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” That kind of bitter disrespect for the Kings of the Earth won’t do any more.

    What part of that quote is bitterly disrespectful toward evildoers, rather than, say, jubilant about God’s justice? The focus of the quotation seems, in my mind, rather different than the focus of your earlier bombast.

    Mary should learn to keep a civil tongue in her head.

    I’ve never known Mary to do otherwise. Which is why I’m painfully aware that it is not she, with whom I’m arguing.

  • Ryan Harkins

    We do need a serious self-examination in this matter. The whole problem is not necessarily a result of capitalism run amok, though there is certainly that factor. Any economic plan seems to be the perfect economic plan, until the human factor is worked into the equation.

    Search around the web, and you’ll find endless articles about how this current crisis is the fault of the Clinton Administration. At that time, lenders were given incentive to offer sub-prime loans to those with poor credit, little resources at hand, and income that could be measured with welfare or unemployment checks. On the surface, this seemed like a humane move. Let us get these people their own homes! But there is something implicit behind the scenes.

    The lenders were eager to offer these loans, both to avoid litigation and to earn a potential profit. And that could happen, as long as the housing market continued to rise. Anyone risking foreclosure could simply sell their house for more than they bought it. They would not suffer too much, and the lenders would still earn money off the loan. It seemed like a win-win situation.

    Mark takes umbrage at those who would blame the poor, and that is understandable, because we have a duty to help the poor. But that doesn’t mean that the poor are completely free of blame in this, either.

    Greed is the factor driving us into this financial crisis, no doubt about it. The lenders took insane risks to earn greater profits, buoyed by the hope that the government would bail them out if things turned sour. But there was greed at the lower levels, too.

    Perhaps we don’t notice it, because we’re so used to it. We see car commercials that talk about $3000 cash back, and we’re ready to jump to our feet and buy the car for that screaming deal offered us. We see all kinds of junk that we did not know existed 10 seconds before, but offered to us at a discount of 80% if we only call in the next twenty minutes. We see the Big Mac back on sale for $2, and Arby’s regular roast beef on special at 4 for $5. We’re now seeing regularly advertising for people who will magically dig us out of debt.

    We’ve been trained to want everything, to want everything now, and to want everything cheap. Greed is everywhere, rampant in our society. The instant gratification generation is now.

    How does this relate back to the poor? In part we’re deluded. We think every family must have their own house. The poor in particular see homeowners, and the message that we send the poor is that it is all right to covet, all right to be greedy, because somehow you’re entitled to the same things those homeowners have. And so when a deal comes along too good to be true, do they look at it with skepticism, or do they buy into heart and soul?

    True, we’ve inundated them (and everyone else) with the message of have now, forget the cost. But they, too, are responsible for living within their means, responsible for paying attention to what is reasonable and what is just fantasy, and in that regard they, too, failed.

    But the greed goes deeper. It comes from the generations that lived through the Great Depression who, in the aftermath of WWII, found that they could actually have things again. Everyone could have their own home, two cars, a television, a toaster, a refrigerator, and so on.

    And our government not only told us that we could have this, but that we could have more, and in perpetuity. Let’s see what all we’ve come across, thanks to this mentality.

    Debt: we have immersed ourselves up to the eyeballs in debt. Why? Because we believed we had to get things immediately, even when we couldn’t afford them. We worked on the assumption that, because we didn’t have to pay immediately, we could have, because assuredly the funds would be there later on to pay back the debt. We see how well that has worked.

    Social Security: our government started plundering Social Security back under the Johnson administration, thinking that we could simply keep paying out social security as long as our work force kept expanding as quickly as it was at the time. The Baby Boomer generation was aptly named. But then the Baby Boomers turned around barely reproduced at all, and suddenly the work force didn’t grow as expected, and all that plundering started to catch up with us.


  • PC


    Thank you for your delightfully amusing essay on a woeful state of affairs. A sense of humor is a healthy thing, and I doubt highly that any important bankers, bigwigs or politicians will take personal offense at your comments. They are probably not even paying attention to what your are writing about, anyway. I think that you are within your rights to express your criticisms in the way that you did, using creativity and wit. I laughed when I read it (is that OK?). Well done.

  • Ryan Harkins

    American Vehicle Industry: Back at their height, the American vehicle manufacturers started handing enormous retirement packages, working under the assumption that Americans would keep buying new cars at an ever increasing rate, and thus providing funds to make sure those packages were honored. But then came the bust. Due to foreign imports and a number of other factors, the American companies lost a large share of the market, and their profits dwindles. They could not longer honor the retirement packages, and they had to be bailed out.

    Dot-com Industry: A lot of people lost out on this because they thought they could set up little dot-com industries, get bought out, and live off of that money. This also ended in a bust.

    Housing Industry: Again, people believed they could keep playing the market under the assumption that the housing market would keep expanding, that property value would keep rising, and they could buy beyond their means, hold on for a while, then sell and make a profit.

    We’ve seen this pattern again and again and again. The trend is the same. We see trend in the market. We take a huge risk and play that market under the assumption that the trend will keep on going forever. And when the trend changes, we lose.

    And it is greed that makes us do that. We gamble, not with what we can afford to lose, but with everything, because we think we found the magical means of getting everything right now.

    I’m sorry, but we don’t need the brand new car, the 8 bedroom house, the 48 inch HD TV, an Xbox 360, a PS3, a Wii, every movie known to man, 6 4-wheelers, a boat, some jet skis, an RV, and so on. We especially don’t need to put ourselves into the red to acquire all of these. But we’ve been taught that we have to have all of these, that we deserve all of these, and when we don’t get them immediately, we fall prey to greed. The poor were as guilty as anyone else in this. The only difference is that they are the ones going to pay heaviest, while the ones who committed the most atrocious crimes are going to get bailed out and suffer little to no consequence at all.

  • Matt

    Though I’m inclined to agree that Greed is at the core of Wall Street’s problems, that’s not all that surprising. And the real core of the problem is, as you say, that Man has forgotten God. But between the one and the other, and exacerbating both, is the increasing disconnect between people’s actions and their willingness (or their ability) to take responsibility for their actions.

    Our entire culture has promoted irresponsibility for so long that it wouldn’t surprise me if many of the traders on Wall Street have lost the ability to see what markets are FOR (the exchange of goods and services). Most probably see it as a money-making machine that never stops working. Home-owners (probably also motivated by greed), working from the same mindset and forgetting that “things that are too good to be true probably are, probably didn’t READ even the bold print on their mortgages because they’d never been held responsible for any other screw-ups (certainly not significant ones, and it’s not going to help that they’re being bailed out now as well).

    The impact of full accountability at this point is frankly staggering, though. It’s not anything I’d wish on anybody, and it’d affect both the guilty and the innocent.

  • Doug Moore

    A political problem, not the financial system or a Wall Street problem, is what this is. Think back to years ago when left wing groups including Mr. Obama’s past employer, ACORN and many others who consistently and effectively lobbied politicians and the lending industry to lower or eliminate standards and requirements to obtain a home mortgage. It took a long time to build a monster this size, but would not have been possible with the Left carrying water for this very bad idea.

  • Jim

    What I was trying to say, without being completely offensive, was that Shea’s piece was completely offensive and made no sense. That better?

  • Tito Edwards

    J. C. Hathaway, J. M. Walden, and Ryan Harkins, I couldn’t agree more. Excellent analysis and incite.

  • Brian

    Why should a family owning a home be a dream? This should be a reality for most families. Remember that the original settlers to our country, though embarked on a perilous voyage, often had to pay little or nothing for their land. Now it takes decades to pay off. Perhaps we are already slaves, for the greater part of our lives. And where I live, long time homeowners are faced with high property taxes forcing them to decide whether they can afford to live in the place they once raised their family, cared for the property, and supported their community for much of their lives. And as the good stewards move out, lots are subdivided and shoebox size houses are built which no kid would ever want to live in. There is no hope for a game of baseball, no place for a tree house. Neighborhoods are rezoned for condominiums and apartments. Our civic leaders plan for urban density and furthering their careers, not for healthy place for a family to grow up.

  • Irish Spectre

    Yes, with great reservation I supported our unprecedented Iraq action, trusting the judgement of our Executive Branch, and it was the wrong thing to do, and so the Executive Branch’s track record for monumental policy decisions is poor. That, plus the fact that we’re NOW talking something, in effect, a state-backed economy, which offends prima facie!

    Nope, one of the crappy things about sin is that it usually affects the innocent as well as the perpetrators; why would the market meltdown be any different? Our leaders now want to save us by confiscating more of our money? Thanks, guys and gals, but no thanks; our culture would be much better off in the long run by suffering through this debacle now. Oh, and if I ever get a hankering for socialism, I’ll move to Sweden, or vote for Barack Obama.

  • Liliana

    I agree with Cristopher Milton.

  • a

    The outrage is justified and the sense that the elite are fear-mongering to cover-up that they really don’t know what they are doing is on point. The notion that this bailout is going to help the Wall Street elite the most is apt. But other bits are wrong.

    For example, I hate the language in the proposed bill as much as Mr. Shea does. But, as a fact, it does not give the Treasury Secretary the power to do what he says it does. What it does is make the Treasury Secretary’s acts under the Act beyond review. Highly troubling and objectionable. But that’s not absolute power. Maybe other parts of the Act do that, but not that language. (Which, so no one misunderstands, I think is unfathomably horrible and whomever put that in there should be hauled off to the stockades.) Mark, the language was bad enough; it didn’t need your exaggerations.

    Second, any serious student of the situation would recognize that de-regulation was not the issue. This is primarily a crisis created by intervention in the housing markets combined with greed. Our government has long been artificially boosting the ability of people to afford homes. But it took huges aggressive steps in the 1990s by mandating that loans be given out on more lax standards (on the basis of an old Boston Fed study that suggested standards were being used in a way that discriminated against minorities, a study that was shown to be flawed and when the flaws eliminated showed no discrimination). And when credit became cheaper, we saw everyone get into the game to get a piece of the action. What has caused this crisis to extend beyond that is how people started to do ridiculous things with these assets through securitization. Basically chopping up and selling the debt to others and then repeating the process where many companies held this bad debt (but more importantly) could no longer tell how bad it actually was. If we had a government that didn’t interfere in the market by eliminating short sells or artifically keeping interest rates low, you would have seen a correction a long time ago. And this plan, with its call to pay for the bad debt at prices as if they matured, is only a furthering of artificial attempts to hold up prices.

    Bottom line: markets adjust for errors. Sometimes they go up because the error was under valuation. Sometimes they go down because the error was over valuation. And there’s no stopping this. No matter how much the government and wall streeters say otherwise. Sooner or later the pain will work its way to the surface. If not through bank failure, then through inflation.

    And notice that greed is still at play with the bailout. First, they are overstating the case of the credit crunch. There are plenty of institutions not feeling the crunch and if you look at actual numbers lending is up. The ones that are feeling the crunch are the wall street firms who behaved stupidly. They are the ones feeling the crunch. Well, boo hoo.

    We all say that this is a housing bubble crisis (and it is) but somehow the bailout is going to take on all bad assets of these banks? This is flat out greed.

    The only argument in favor of all this that honest people can make is this: we know the bailout is a horrible idea, but we think we can smooth out the ride down and that would be better than a quick fall.

    Problem: it is all assertion. There’s absolutely no evidence to support it. And as each day passes and life carries on, reality speaks to the fact that the credit crunch isn’t as all consuming as they make it out to be.

    America is in denial. It has binged on drugs for years and now wants to pretend that detox can be without any pain. It’s not possible. And if we aren’t careful, we will do real damage to our economy. We only enjoy our present situation primarily because somehow (lucky us) we convinced the world that the US dollar should be the reserve currency of the world and the currency in which oil should be priced. There’s no reason to think that this will continue, especially as it exports to others the woes of our economy (i.e., inflation). The day there’s a change in that status of the dollar (and the rumblings to do just that have been growing tremendously in the past year) we will learn what it really feels like to be in so much debt.

  • Kathleen

    We had a BSC/JPM bailout, an FNM/FRE bailout, an AIG bailout and now this.

    Section 8 is truly disturbing in light of the fact that all of the prior bailouts were supposed to be the fix and they didn’t free up the lending system.

    I listened to the hearings the other day and when asked if this would work Secretary Paulson said he could give no guarantees.

    So let me get this right. It may not work and the taxpayers, for generations, end up with the bill and a second Great Depression. Well that’s just great.

    I don’t find anything in Mark’s article offensive at all b/c it gets at the root of the problem.

    I talked to the offices of many representatives over the course of the last year and it was stunning to me that they were brushing off anyone who said this might happen without examining the arguments of those who said it would and now we face it. Now they are using scare tactics to attempt to bully the electorate into buying into something that probably won’t work anyway.

    We are in for a world of hurt going forward. I hope it will turn people toward God but I wonder if He is too far away from the minds of people to even consider that.

    Mark, in my opinion, is one of the best Catholic writers out there on all subjects. He challenges us all to consider God first in all things, something I am not too good at.

  • R.C.

    I don’t understand a statement you made; will you help me understand it?

    You said,

    I don’t find anything in Mark’s article offensive at all b/c it gets at the root of the problem.

    How so?

    I’ll grant there was a positive and undeniably true statement in his article. It came at the end:

    …the only sound advice in this hour is, “Repent! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” It was always the only sound advice; hours like this make you realize that.

    So, in that sense, I agree with you: He gets at the root of the problem, finally, there at the end: The last two sentences.

    But I don’t think anybody objected to those two sentences. I at any rate did not; I expressed concern about all that preceded them.

    I can’t tell whether all the rest of the piece, excluding those last two sentences, was true or not. I mostly can’t tell for certain about whom he was speaking, or what deeds of theirs had qualified them for accusations of “Greedy Tyrant” or “Incompetent Thief” or whatever.

    I quite agree that greed, corruption, incompetence and possibly thievery are valid accusations against certain individuals involved in our current problems…though general culpability is tempered by the fact that those problems stem from hundreds of decisions, each of which looked prudent or at least not too imprudent to those making them, made over decades, from the Carter years up to the present, by legislators and regulators and lenders and investors and consumers.

    But as I said before, I can’t tell whether any given accusation he makes (say, “thieves, tyrants and traitors” in his response posting) is about the President, the Congresscritters, the Lenders, the Borrowers, the Regulators, or whom. So, lacking this data, it’s impossible to judge the truth or falsehood of, well, pretty much all the exciting, hyperbolic parts of the piece and the later posting. Which is to say, the majority of both.

    Hence my confusion at those of you who’re finding pearls of wisdom in it. If you’re responding to something other than those last two sentences, I don’t know what it is. Could you spell it out for me?

  • Kathleen

    I did not say that Mark was the font of Truth. He said in his article that he was not an expert on matters financial.

    What can be gleaned from our current financial debacle is that we have a financial crisis on our hands that has been fueled by greed.

    We currently have an economy that is based on consumption alone. We don’t have the GDP to shore that up in the long term and now the chickens have come home to roost. That consumption is based on debt consumption. The consumer must buy stuff they don’t actually have the money on hand for to continue that cycle. It works until the debt can’t be paid back and thus we end up in a deflationary cycle and that is what we are now in. If I can’t pay back the loan I took on the house I live in, someone needs to take a loss, usually the mortgage holder. But these were put into tranches and sold off with a risk principle applied. More debt promises. That debt was based on faulty security ratings and sold off and insured by credit default obligations. Another derivative. This derivative now can’t be claimed against b/c again, the loss is there and the CDO’s are worthless b/c that initial debt obligation is itself worthless. Furthermore those that guaranteed the payback on the debt (think AIG) can’t pay on their policies and are themselves insolvent.

    So who did this? It wasn’t J6P and his Catholic kids. It wouldn’t have been possible for him to be engaged in this system without the loan being offered or to perpetuate it. He is absolutely responsible for his own actions but the WS side of this was fueled by and impossible system and now it’s a scramble to see who will be left standing at the taxpayer expense.

    Both sides of the transaction have to face their own responsibilities and decisions. But there is no equivalency between the Catholic family trying to buy a house and those who have gazillions who enable a this system.

    I think it is wrong to expect that Mark find THE culprit. We are all guilty of it to some degree by giving into our cultural decay.

    It’s also clear from scripture that to whom much is given, much is expected.


  • Richard F

    I guess I am not very discriminating. When you lie in one paraagraph, you are probably lying in all of them. That’s my reaction to your rant.

    Strange that no one mentions the obvious basic fact that both parties, over a long time, advocated increased home ownership, especially for the lower economic classes, and exerted huge pressure on everyone they could to obtain it. It was not so much the supposed greed of lenders but the pressure and arm twisting of the elected government- thus our fault as well. Everyone would grant that home ownership is a great plus for society as a whole. Who usually worries about “Bogey Men from the Id”?

  • Anon

    Strange that no one mentions the obvious basic fact that both parties, over a long time, advocated increased home ownership, especially for the lower economic classes, and exerted huge pressure on everyone they could to obtain it. It was not so much the supposed greed of lenders but the pressure and arm twisting of the elected government- thus our fault as well. Everyone would grant that home ownership is a great plus for society as a whole. Who usually worries about “Bogey Men from the Id”?


    You’re not alone in reminding folks about the actual cause of the crisis.

    There was a story yesterday in a local paper about a couple who were evicted because the bank foreclosed. They had taken out the mortgage that was equal to their combined monthly income of 3000 dollars.

    Don’t get me wrong, because under NO circumstances will I forced to bow to Baal and vote for a promurder candidate. That temptation doesn’t exist for people who value and love life.

    But, let’s be honest. The little people have been trying to warn the Repugs for a couple of years of the economic situation that was bound to infect their wallets at some point and they arrogantly refused to listen. What we have now is the lengths it has to get to in order for them to pony up.

    Not more than several months ago, the luminaries threw the insult of 600 dollars as though it was going to cure our woes when the reality is, our expenses of heating, feeding, getting to work in our cars and health insurance have gone up more than 600 dollars A MONTH in the last two years. The Dems have given so much away,for working slobs children of this year’s class of high school graduates did not have loans as an available tool to assist in paying for 45 thousand a year.

    Simpletons or anyone who goes to a grocery store could see this coming down the pike.

    The Democrats caused this crisis by insisting banks lend money to people who couldn’t afford to pay them back and the Repugs closed their eyes to this disaster.

    Sara Palin ought to go into the meeting, tell them all to sit down and shut up, get the skinny on the actual mess, find a way to get the money back from the multimillion dollar goons at the top, redline giving them anything more than a pink slip and a criminal subpoena, pick the lesser of all the evils of the suggested fixes and call it a day.

    Personally, I can’t wait until a prolife woman who goes to the grocery store gets in there!

  • Yes

    It took me some effort to go through the introduction, but I persisted and it was a good article after all.

    I had that same feeling.
    If they succeed in repairing the situation, only they succeed and we pay.
    But if they fail we all fail very hard.

    It is like having their boots upon our throat.
    Our options are to go with them through a valley and the abbys is at the end of the valley.
    Or go through a deep valley of death and who knows what is on the other side.

  • nobody

    This attack on capitalism is a canard. In pure capitalism wealth is attained by the few.

    This is a case of an oligarchy manipulating the wealth of property to the masses, a housing welfare program —socialism.

    Just another socialist ponzi scheme like social security.

  • R.C.

    If nobody’s talking, does it mean they’ve nothing to say?

    This attack on capitalism is a canard.

    Which attack on capitalism?

    In pure capitalism wealth is attained by the few.

    “Pure capitalism” is an impossibility, because “capitalism” is a descriptor for a set of rights of individuals and restrictions of government, alone. It does not specify religion, culture, or even whether the government is monarchical, pure democracy, or what.

    This is a case of an oligarchy manipulating the wealth of property to the masses, a housing welfare program —socialism.

    What is, exactly?

    Just another socialist ponzi scheme like social security.

    Social security is surely that. But tho’ I oppose the unwise lowering of lending requirements which government forced lenders to implement, I don’t see how it can be likened to a Ponzi scheme (Charles Ponzi having been a person, the P is capitalized).

    I think I agree with you, “nobody,” but until you say what you want to say more clearly, I can’t quite be sure!



  • Kathleen
  • R.C.


    I know that’s well-intended. But unless I badly misunderstand the points you enumerated in your quote (which is possible, as I’m no great expert), that proposal would be a bad idea.

    The problem here is the lack of ability to valuate the assets which are partly based on possibly defaulted mortgages. Without those assets having a known value, they can’t be sold or bought…and worse still, those holding them are required to list them on their books as having zero value (despite the fact that these assets will eventually sell for far more than nothing!). This is bad because banks must maintain an asset ratio above a certain amount to be allowed to lend money. If so many of their assets become valued at zero, their total assets drop below the level required for the loans they’ve already made, and they have to stop making loans. Which, since they’re in the lending business, is as much as to say: They close down.

    Now if only those Mortgage-Backed Securities could be taken out of the market long enough for people to figure out what they’re worth, and then sold back into the market at whatever the market decides, the problem will right itself (albeit with rocky times).

    The current plan (Paulson’s) is problematic because of the lack of restraint on Treasury’s authority, and because Dems (being in the majority; I’m not saying a Republican majority would do anything different) are trying to load it up with pork and funding for Democratic activist organizations like ACORN. But the core of the plan is sound: The government buys these “poisoned” assets at a low value…hopefully more than they’ll turn out eventually to be worth. The banks get an influx of cash which they can list on their books as being of nonzero value…allowing them to start making loans again. The “freeze” gets unfrozen.

    Then, gradually, the government starts selling those assets back into the market after breaking them down into small enough components as to clarify which mortgages make up each type of security (thereby allowing them to be easily and accurately valued). The crappiest mortgages will draw a selling price of less than the government paid; the best will draw a sale price of more. In the end, we, the taxpayers, may come out about even. The sole lingering wound will be the knowledge that those who caused the crisis or benefited from it mostly got away with big bonuses or not having to pay their debts. But at least we’ll escape a Depression.


  • R.C.


    Note that the core of the proposal is that first, the government buys something nobody else is willing to buy, not because it’s overpriced, but because government accounting rules require them to value the assets at zero, which they can’t afford to do because it prevents them from making loans. The government doesn’t have that problem, so it buys them.

    Then it sells them back in a way that makes their value obvious.

    Only if nobody’s willing to buy them from the government, do taxpayers lose $700 billion. But that’s impossible, because they’re actually worth something. In none of them are more than half the mortgages going to default. So the reality is that in selling them back, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect to get at least $350 billion for them, at the very least.

    So in the end, the current proposed plan would risk less money than the one you listed.

    Apart from that? The plan you listed makes the government a lender of money it can’t afford to lend, in order to increase the cash-on-hand for all the banks who currently (because of the zero-value assets) are stuck below their reserve requirement, in order to put them back at a ratio which would allow them to lend.

    I don’t see how that allows potential buyers to unravel the value of the poison assets. And it’s at least as big of a government intrusion as the core of the Paulson plan (assuming that plan can be passed without too many Democrat add-on provisions for Green Technologies and Limitations on Oil Exploration and all these other unrelated things Reid and Pelosi seem determined to add), but runs the risk of making the Federal Government the place where the buck stops if there’s a run on the banks.

    As I said, it’s not really my field; if I’ve totally misunderstood what you’re proposing, please correct me and clarify things. But if I’m getting it right, then that plan is no better, and risks being worse, than what’s on the table.

  • Richard F

    Some of you may have seen the counter proposal that is circulating on the net. It is much too long for me to recreate it here, but it boils down to taking the same amount of money and dividing it equally between all American Citizens over the age of 18. It amounts to some $250,000 each after taxes (which return about 1/3 to the government immediately). I made a few changes and then tried to send it to my Congressional folks. 24 hours later I am still trying. Interesting how hard they are to reach via internet.
    Anywow, if you can find it I suggets you all give it a read. It is certainly no worse an idea than what the gov’t is working on and maybe much better. Allows all mortgages to be paid off or down, debts erased, constructions begun, savings plans enabled,, etc., etc., etc.

  • Seamus

    This is probably a good time to remind people again about a revolutionary new financial management strategy:

  • Kathleen


    But will that plan work?

    Martin Weiss doesn’t seem to think so. His paper is sobering and he explains it better than I ever could.

    This part is especially frightening:

    Disregard data based on the list of troubled banks maintained by the Federal
    Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The FDIC

  • R.C.


    You ask, “Will that plan work?”

    Well, that depends on what you mean by “work.”

    We’re about to hit a deep recession, with repercussions worldwide: There’s no avoiding that now.

    If the Paulson/Bernanke plan, or something like it, is passed by tomorrow night (i.e., before markets open on Monday AM) then we’ll likely enough experience a short-term “bounce.”

    So it’ll kinda “work”; if a deal is reached it’ll get us to the election.

    But the bigger problem will remain.

    The Bigger Problem

    That bigger problem is, in a nutshell: Living beyond our means.

    America’s consumer culture is debt-driven; most people are living way beyond their means; most people carry credit card balances month-to-month; most people live in a house they can’t afford and don’t have enough money left over for either savings or charity; and most do not have a 6-month emergency fund to help them cope if things go bad.

    That makes most of us (quite rightly!) slaves to those who loaned us the money (Proverbs 22:7).

    Indeed, many of us Christians have contributed to the problem. Heresies and moral failures, in every century, have been worse outside the Church, but existed in a smaller form within the Church because of cultural influence.

    You there! You, who’re in the Church! Are you living within your means? Or has our debt-soaked culture rubbed off on you, too?

    What “Living Within Your Means” Looks Like:

    Individual consumers should not be in debt. Ever. Including Credit Cards. No car loans, either. Ideally, no home mortgages.

    Anyone who carries a balance on a Credit Card is an immoral fool. (Count me as having often been in that category, lest anyone think I’m being all high-and-mighty.) That person is living beyond their means.

    Home mortgages, because of tax laws and other protections, are the least problematic, provided that you don’t buy “too much house” on “too little down.” But if you do, then it’s a moral failure, too.

    Put it in concrete terms: You should have no credit card balance from month to month. Your vehicles should be paid for with cash. Your mortgage payment should be less than 1/3rd of your paycheck, and every payment you make should be at least half principal rather than interest (which means that in the early payments on a mortgage, you should be paying a lot extra).

    If it isn’t, you’re living in more house than you can afford.

    Again, I confess: I too am guilty! My wife and I are furiously trying to work our way out of it, and we’re finally about under control: Zero on credit cards, and home equity equal to 2/3rds the sale value. (Yes, sadly, it would be more like 3/5ths were it not for the drop in home values!)

    But you see my point. (The first step is to admit you have a problem, folks.)

    And let’s not neglect the other aspect of financial stewardship, shall we?


    Ten percent, pre-tax, to your church, and more beyond that for missionaries and local charities.

    How much more? Hard to say, but my own method is to calculate my income percentile (what % of Americans make less money than I), divide that number by four, and give that % of pre-tax income to charity. So if I were Bill Gates, making more than 99% of all other Americans, the number would be about 25% of my income. As I am not Bill Gates, the number is actually in single-digits!

    But you get the idea. Live like you don’t love money and stuff. Be good stewards. Stay out of debt.

    Then, at least, you won’t be part of the problem.

    But the Bernanke/Paulson plan won’t fix the BIG problem. That’s my job, and yours, and your neighbor’s.

  • L.C.

    What’s this, “we’re all responsible…” stuff? I’m a thirty year old college graduate with four children. Yeah, I’m a sinner, so in that sense I’m part of the problem. But I grew up on the lower end of the middle class and that’s where I am now, and I’ve never lived beyond my means.

    College? A few scholarships, and I worked and saved and paid for it, not my mommy and daddy. My husband was smart enough to do it all with scholarships. We have cars and a house that we can afford. We don’t buy extra clothes or gadegets or toys beyond what we can afford. We make sure we pay for insurance, even when that’s a sacrifice. We give 10% to the church. Our kids have what they need and a little extra, but not tons of crazy junk. I don’t get my hair done or buy myself new clothes.

    My neighbors recieve various forms of gov’t assistance and don’t all have insurance. Yet their kids have cell phones and ipods and they all eat out alot. My other friend who’s had to lean on the gov’t find the money to buy extremely expensive “organic” soaps and foods. People like this are responsible. I’m not perfect, but I’m not a super consumer and I’m not taking the rap for this!

  • Kathleen

    But the Bernanke/Paulson plan won’t fix the BIG problem.

    Why should we spend 700 BILLION dollars in taxpayer money for something that won’t work any way?

    Yes the responsibility rests with us but what Congress is about to do may have the opposite result of what is intended. Read the Weiss paper.

  • R.C.


    Okay, you got me!

    Not all.

    But trust me, more people currently or previously fit my description, than not.

    So, kudos for not being part of the problem. (Yet. Watch you don’t slip up!)

    And, sorry for being less precise than is my normal habit!

  • Adeodatus

    My, my… nothing gets Catholics more riled up than attacks upon St. Adam Smith and his holy doctrines.

    If you’re a capitalist, you’re a Modernist and a Liberal.

    Unfortunately, here in the good ol’ USA, even our ‘conservative’ Catholics are usually Liberals and Modernists. A real conservative would probably get locked up in a padded room.

    I don’t see much opportunity for change, sadly. We all have to vote Repug (an extremely liberal party) because the other party is hell-bent on killing babies (and wouldn’t change much anyway). This country, its way of thinking and the basis of its discourse are so far from basic Catholic principles that there’s practically no prospect for getting on the right track.

    Still, don’t let it shake loose one iota of your charity, Mr. Shea. It’s not worth it! Of course, I’m not saying you were uncharitable. The proud and the haughty need firmly to be put in their place.

  • R.C.


    You say,

    My, my… nothing gets Catholics more riled up than attacks upon St. Adam Smith and his holy doctrines.

    …which is odd, because nobody got riled up, or suggested in any fashion that Adam Smith or his observations about market behavior were “holy.”

    Which thread were you reading?

    But in the interests of keeping you happy, I’ll say something about Smith which you may gleefully characterize as a canonization and attack at whim…or which, alternatively, you can read honestly. (Your call.)

    Economists from Adam Smith to F.A. Hayek to Milton Friedman observe quite rightly that if nations would increase the wealth of individuals (and thereby broaden their own tax-bases), they should maximize the opportunities for non-compulsory trade between nations, business concerns, and individuals…but that this maximization is and should be limited by other priorities; notably, the rule of law as expressed by contract enforcement and property rights.

    Note the core verb: “Observe.” Free-Marketers, Capitalists, Supply-Siders, et alia are not saying what should happen. They’re saying what does happen under certain circumstances.

    People who characterize this as a moral doctrine, let alone a worldview are as wrongheaded as people who characterize Platonic philosophy as a type of theology.

    Just as Greek philosophy informs our understanding of the Eucharist with the distinction between forms and accidents, so our understanding of economics informs our understanding of the just duty of the state.

    Adam Smith & Co. don’t say, “It’s right to do this, at all times and in all circumstances.” They just say, “Generally speaking, if you do this, you’ll get that; you might want to take it into account.” This is useful information and the Catholic politician who disregards it does not thereby demonstrate greater loyalty to Christianity. Quite the reverse. For “all truth is God’s truth” and Our Lord’s intent is not that we extinguish in ourselves all sources of information save that which can be acquired at seminary. (Else St. Thomas Aquinas would have been excommunicated, not canonized.)

    And the Church has, in fact, made use of economic information. In her Social Doctrine she lists protecting property rights and the rule of law as among the duties of the State. Why? Because she’s devoted to St. Adam Smith?

    Not at all! (One might as easily say she takes Eucharist because she’s devoted to St. Plato! …it would be an equally logical assertion.)

    Instead, she encourages property rights and freedom to exchange because (a.) without them, material prosperity suffers generally, with the poor being the hardest-hit; (b.) the Church teaches that individuals have rights and that it is a moral duty of civil authorities to protect those right; (c.) one cannot, by definition, give alms when one cannot own property and therefore has nothing to give. (One of many reasons for the Church’s vilification of communism.)

    Adeodatus, no one, least of all a free-marketer, holds up the U.S.A. as a perfect unfallen society, or its system as perfect. But if you find it so contemptible, I think it is incumbent upon you to name your preferred alternative.

    And it must be a true alternative, something which actually denies/resists the observations of Adam Smith (or whomever). I think you’ll find that difficult to do.

    For of course, a U.S.A. in which the market was twice as free as it is now…but in which every person fully tithed to the church and gave an additional 3-to-33% of his pre-tax income to assist the poor and needy locally and in the world, would be more in accord with the observations of Smith & Co. than our current alms-free churchgoing, not less. And it’d be more in accord with the teaching of the Church, too.

  • Joe


    What follows are not personal attacks. However it is hard to address such a personal statement as you posted, which is sorely lacking in facts, without seeming to be so.

    Before I begin, I find your anger understandable and common. Your ignorance does not make you “bad”, nor am I judging you so. However, it would be an offense against justice and truth to not speak to the below.

    Two things jumped to mind almost immediately.

    First, you are very correct in your assertion “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout economics and high finance.”, second you are very angry.

    If you truly believe the former then you should apply it to the latter and fulfill your obligation to not be ignorant; you are a member of a Constitutional Republic and as such have a moral obligation, yes this is part of Catholic teaching, to be an educated citizen.

    As for your “Forgive me, but I have a strict rule of only allowing myself to be stampeded into one world-historical blunder per decade, and the Iraq War has used up my limit.”
    – again, you should use these instances as impetus to correct your ignorance. I suggest “The Panic of 1907” and “America’s Secret War” as starters for each.

    “Caesar knows he has a big job to persuade the people with actual assets to knuckle under and give it to Mammon and his servants. – First trick: Blame poor people first. – Second trick: Don’t mention what one of my blog readers pointed out –that every single sub-prime mortgage in this country not already owned by the government could be purchased for less than what it cost to bail out Bear Stearns, about $300 billion.”

    Regarding the first, the “blame” being laid on the poor is justified IF they extended themselves beyond their means. Again, they like you have a moral obligation to educate themselves on the debts to which they enter. Regarding the second, you and the reader clearly do not understand one of the most important issues underlying the situation. Leverage is very very common in financial markets, and has been for over a century; futures markets routinely employ leverage levels these instruments did. The problem was not the leverage, it was the “transparency”; i.e. securities traded off/not on an exchange.

    “And above all, ignore the fact that this patch job won’t work, in no small part due to the fact that it rewards the crooks and book-cookers who got us where we are.”
    Who were the “crooks”? Who were the “book-cookers”? You are ranting in priori….

    “Sec. 8. Review. Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”
    – I dont believe this section made it into the final law. Can you provide proof otherwise?

    The two most damaging lies being told, by both politicians and those “angered opportunists”, are these;

    – Wall Street robbed the citizens.
    – What is being done now will stabilize/stop the financial crisis.

    If you truly are a concerned Catholic who wants to apply moral lessons I suggest you work from your strength and help people look in the mirror and contemplate their moral culpability. Sins of omission, though they usually provide a greater degree of mitigation in culpability than one who commits a sin, make up a large aspect of what currently grips this nation.

    One last question, for some perspective, as it stands now the proximate cost of the “bail out” will cost you as a tax payer approximately $3000. How much did you “make” in home appreciation and “material goods resulting from improved credit based on the value of your home” since 1998? I bet it’s far far more than $3000…..

    The “masses” are far far more culpable than the experts and “angered opportunists” are willing to teach….and they have gained over the past decade than they will lose IF they do the right things.


  • TLewis

    Where did it all begin? With Eve it started and with Mary it will end. It is disobedience that is this root cause, Mary’s absolute faith in God where it ends. The trouble is the two choices of obedience or disobedience as presented to each and every one of us, at almost every moment of our life is the theater of the Church militant. The mirror, upon which you gaze each day, is a place where one could ask

    “Mirror Mirror on the wall, what is my will to be today, is it to love my God and obey, or sin against Him and go my way.