The Glass-Steagall myth

According to the left, the financial crisis was caused in large measure by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, making it possible for local commercial banks to make risky investments.  Business & economics columnist Steven Pearlstein–who is himself a liberal–busts that myth:

I was watching “The Newsroom” last week, the latest hit show by the producer and screenwriter, when the brainy-but-beautiful economics correspondent for the fictional cable news network was explaining to her gutsy-but-impulsive executive producer how the world’s financial system recently came to the brink of collapse.

“So after the Great Depression, Congress wanted to put a firewall between the [banks and the] investment banks. They wanted to make sure that Wall Street could melt to the ground and the commercial banks wouldn’t be touched. They passed a law, the Glass-Steagall Act. Now you could be Gordon Gekko [tycoon in the movie “Wall Street] or George Bailey [small-town banker in the movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”], but you couldn’t be both.”

Then, explains the brainy-but-beautiful correspondent, Ronald Reagan launched a two-decade push toward deregulation, which culminates in the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. Suddenly, Gordon Gekko could make risky bets with George Bailey’s deposits, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was vintage Sorkin: eloquent, fast-paced dialogue that perfectly channels the liberal political/cultural zeitgeist, transforming what appears to be a complex story into a simple morality play.

The only thing is, it’s not true — not even close. Yet it has been repeated so many times — on PBS and NPR, in the liberal blogosphere, on very-serious Op-Ed pages, in an Oscar-winning documentary — that whenever I give a talk to a group of college students about the financial crisis, the first question predictably is, “Yeah, isn’t it all really about the repeal of Glass-Steagall.”

But why let facts get in the way of a good screenplay?

Facts such as that Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch — three institutions at the heart of the crisis — were pure investment banks that had never crossed the old line into commercial banking. The same goes for Goldman Sachs, another favorite villain of the left.

The infamous AIG? An insurance firm. New Century Financial? A real estate investment trust. No Glass-Steagall there.

Two of the biggest banks that went under, Wachovia and Washington Mutual, got into trouble the old-fashioned way – largely by making risky loans to homeowners. Bank of America nearly met the same fate, not because it had bought an investment bank but because it had bought Countrywide Financial, a vanilla-variety mortgage lender.

Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo — two large banks with big investment banking arms — resisted taking government capital and arguably could have weathered the crisis without it.

Did U.S. investment banks create a shadow banking system and derivatives market outside the normal regulatory framework that encouraged sloppy lending and created what turned out to be toxic securities? You betcha.

And did regular banks make some of those bad loans and buy up some of those toxic securities? Yes, they did.

But that was as much a problem at the banks and investment banks that combined as those that remained independent. More significantly, the bulk of the money that flowed through the shadow banking system didn’t come from government-insured bank deposits. It came from money market funds, hedge funds, pension funds, insurance companies, foreign banks and foreign central banks.

via Steven Pearlstein: Shattering the Glass-Steagall myth – The Washington Post.

Eat mor chikin day

Today, August 1, has been proclaimed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” by those who support the chicken sandwich company’s CEO who is catching flak for opposing gay marriage.  Americans are being urged to show up at one of their stores and simply buy a sandwich.  I suspect the company will have huge sales today.

Then again, pro-gay-marriage protesters are promising to show up too.  Some are saying they will just order water, so as to make workers busy without buying anything.  Gays are calling for a kiss-in at Chick-fil-A outlets on August 3.

See  Chick-fil-A braces for protests, same-sex ‘kiss-in’ | The Lookout – Yahoo! News.

So what do you think about this?  Will you eat “chikin” (as the cows in the company’s advertising campaign put it)?  Or, if you support gay marriage, will you boycott the company?  If you oppose gay marriage, will you eat chicken sandwiches for the principle of the thing?

It seems to me that those who want to boycott Chick-fil-A because of the CEO’s beliefs and are otherwise making a big deal of this may be opening a can of worms.  The issue of gay marriage is not nearly as settled as our cultural elites think it is.  If those who oppose gay marriage were to follow suit by refusing to patronize companies that support gay causes, it would probably have a bigger impact.

Do you think the political, moral, or religious beliefs of a company’s owners or leaders should be taken into account when consumers make their purchasing decisions?  If the company’s philanthropy goes to support a particular cause, doesn’t that mean that people who buy the product might be giving money to something they don’t believe in?

Obamacare provisions that go into effect today

As of today, women can get free contraceptives and abortifacients, as well as other goodies that their insurance will have to give them without co-pays to doctors:

Democrats hailed the Aug. 1 introduction of these Affordable Care Act services as a turning point at which the American public would finally grasp the magnitude of healthcare reform.

The new services that will be required to be offered under insurance plans without a co-payment are well-woman visits, gestational diabetes screening, domestic violence screening and counseling, contraception and contraceptive counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, HPV DNA testings, sexually transmitted infections counseling, and HIV screening and counseling.

via PJ Media » Dems Seize Message on Hill Hours Away from Contraceptive Mandate.

Health & Human Services considers “morning after pills,” “week after pills,” and other measures that prevent the embryo from attaching to the womb or that cause expulsion to be “contraceptives.”  For those who believe life begins at conception, that is abortion.  And we are all going to be paying for that, even if your religion forbids it.

An Aurora victim whose life was spared

A former student wrote me after the Aurora shootings saying that a friend of his was in the theater and had been shot.  He said she was from an active homeschooling family, a leader in the Colorado homeschool debate league, and a committed Christian, very much like our other students.  He was distraught about it, and the parallels with our other students made the shootings disturbingly real to me.

A few days later, my student updated me about how his friend’s life was providentially, if not miraculously, spared.  I’ll let NBC News tell the story:

Petra Anderson, one of 58 people injured in the Aurora movie theater attack, is lucky to be alive.

Anderson, a 22-year-old aspiring music professor, was hit by a shotgun blast during the assault that killed 12 people. Three pellets struck her arm and one rocketed through her head, but it missed the brain’s many blood vessels and key sections controlling vital functions, according to her doctor.

“If the pellet had wavered a millimeter, really in any direction from what it actually took, then she would have likely either died or been severely injured,” said Dr. Michael Rauzzino, a neurosurgeon at The Medical Center of Aurora who operated on Anderson to remove the pellet. “I would say this is definitely a miracle,” he said, while showing an MRI of Anderson’s brain.

The MRI reveals a faint trace of the pellet’s path after it entered the left side of Petra’s nose, broke through the front of her skull, and passed through her brain, before lodging in the back of her head. . . .

“It would be hard to create a path similar to this where it goes all the way from the front to the back and misses every single blood vessel, doesn’t bother any of the major structures, and leaves her able to talk and move everything and not be paralyzed or dead,” he added. “Never in my entire career have I seen a case where a bullet has traversed the entire brain like this and not caused severe damage or death.”

via Shotgun pellet’s ‘miracle’ path spared Aurora victim’s life – U.S. News.

At first the report was that she was saved by a birth defect–a channel in her brain that the pellet exactly followed–but the doctor says now that this was not the case.  The pellet just went through her brain missing every blood vessel and vital structures.  That’s miraculous enough.   I know it’s hard to talk about such things, given the people who were not spared, but still, this is remarkable.

The St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest

Who says conservative Lutherans don’t like contemporary Christian music in church?  We do.  It’s just that we want the contemporary Christian music to be, you know, hymns, as opposed to pop ditties.  And we do need new hymns.  Towards addressing that need, I am happy to announce that some twenty-somethings in our congregation, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia, have organized a major hymn-writing competition.  They have raised a $1,000 prize and have arranged for publication.  For details and for just learning about what the big deal is about hymns, check out the website:  St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest.

Here are the parameters of the contest:

The Challenge:

Many of the Gospel readings throughout the historic Church Year lack hymns which properly exposit their true sense. It is the purpose of this contest to provide profound and artistic hymns for such unaddressed pericopes (that is, a set of readings given for a certain day). Therefore, the challange of this contest is as follows: to compose a hymn which discerns and declares the meaning of the chosen lectionary texts and properly expresses the congregational response to the work of our Lord in the Word.

The Texts:

The hymn should concern itself with the following texts, with a focus on the gospel reading:

Zephaniah 1:7-16
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

The Prize:

The winner of the contest shall be awarded $1,000. The winning hymn will be publised by Liturgy Solutions, which will be granted first right-of-refusal to the hymn upon acceptance of the prize money.   The author/composer royalty to be paid by Liturgy Solutions will be 50% of all receipts from sales and any other profitable uses of the hymn (public performance for profit, radio broadcast, etc.).”

So the texts the hymn is supposed to elucidate deal with the Day of the Lord, Jesus coming back like a thief in the night, and the Parable of the Talents.

Yes, I have been asked to be one of the judges, but I will show no favoritism to the tunes of Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, or other artists that I can go on and on about on this blog.  (Well, if Bob Dylan enters the contest with a lectionary hymn, he might have an edge with me.)

But, seriously, you can use an existing hymn tune, if you like, or you can compose your own.  The words will be key.  You know those numbers at the bottom of each page in a hymnbook?  7.7.7., 8.6.8.6, 10.10.10.10.  Those are the number of syllables in each line.  That’s important to know in writing words to go with a particular tune.

Anyway, enter!  Try it.  You need not be Lutheran to win.  There is a thousand dollar prize!  The deadline is December 1.  Maybe your hymn too will be sung in future centuries.

The Case for Early Marriage

Christians have been emphasizing abstinence, says University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, whereas they should be emphasizing marriage.  Instead, Christians are buying into the same confused ideas about marriage that the world has been assuming.

Among both Christians and non-Christians, the marriage age has been rising, from an average in 1970 of 21 for women and 23 for men to today’s 26 for women and 28 for men.  “That’s five additional, long years of peak sexual interest and fertility,” he remarks.   The fertility point is often neglected.  “Women’s fertility is more or less fixed, yet Americans are increasingly ignoring it during their 20s, only to beg and pray to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.”

He also deals with objections to early marriage.  For example, the higher divorce rate among those who marry in their teens.  He isn’t arguing for that.   He sees the optimum age as being in the early 20s.  But he also suggests how Christians are uniquely positioned to make early marriages work.

Read Regnerus’s article, which eludes simple excerpting:   The Case for Early Marriage | Christianity Today.


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