I’m not so much interested in the return on my money, as I am in the return of my money. Will Rogers
I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately, trying to figure out our family finances going forward.
I have an advanced degree in management, with graduate level courses in finance and accounting under my belt. I’ve even taught graduate level courses in management at one of our local universities.
That does not mean that I have a crystal ball about what the markets are going to do in the next decade. In fact, about all it means in real life is that I understand things like beta and r squared and other odd whatnots of data that the investment firms put out there. Truth told, my insight into politics has actually proven to be a better predictor of long term financial trends than technical financial data.
The markets have given us quite a hayride since the turn of the century. We’ve had two big recessions that basically leveled the returns generated in the bull runs that came after each of them. Extreme volatility has been the hallmark of the markets in the first years of the 21st Century.
I kind of knew this was going to happen way back, but not because of my master’s level coursework in finance and accounting. I knew because I understand politics and I saw what most people don’t want to admit: We are electing ideologue puppets who do not care about this country and who have put corporatists in charge of our nation.
So, what does this mean to the retiring baby boomer generation? Just this: You’d better be careful.
As I said, I’ve spent a bit of time lately, re-jiggering our itty bitty retirement savings. That led me to read the info on various investment web sites. One thing that struck me is the paucity of honest advice from the financial services industry for people who are actually in retirement.
Most of what’s out there is a series of useless three, four or five question risk assessment questionnaires that end in a pretty little round chart advising you to put your doh re me into set percentages of equities, bonds and maybe the side bet du jour, such as REITS or commodities. There’s usually a breakdown between percentages of international and domestic investments, but that’s about it.
I’m not arguing that the allocations you choose between equities (read that growth and loss) and bonds (read that income) will pretty much determine how your investments ride the market. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that almost everything you’re doing with your investments is just riding the market.
If what you are doing when you invest is riding the market, and the percentages you chose between growth (and loss) and income determine how your investment boat floats, then that makes those ridiculous questionnaires and their pie charts important. What’s scary about this is that the percentages those charts are advising are totally off for retirees. They are far too risky, and they are based on a laughably fallacious assumption.
These savings, which are often accrued with a self discipline and self denial about money that approaches a fashion model’s discipline concerning food, may well be their owners’ best shot at all the extras and a lot of the necessities of their elder years. Without Social Security, these savings could be all they have between them and what people used to call “the poor farm.”
This pro forma advice, if taken down like the daily dose of castor oil that my grandmother’s generation once administered in the spring time, will probably yield you a reasonable-sized pot of money at the end of your working years. This outcome is nowhere near as certain as the investment websites imply, as those who had to retire in 2008 know. But that is another story.
At that point, you will find yourself looking at the numbers on your computer screen with the knowledge that this is all there is and you’d better not blow it if you don’t want to eat beans and rice for supper every day of your extreme old age. So, you turn to the “expert” advice on those websites and play copy cat with those little round charts and their color-coded percentages.
Sadly, your actual situation and true risk aversion probably have little or nothing to do with the proportions those charts advise. The primary reasons are a fallacious premise and human nature. Let’s take the human nature part first.
The plain truth is that all people lie to themselves about themselves like they breathe.
Those self-lies carry over into the answers you give to the three or four questions that the marketing departments of those various investment firms put out there on the internet. You will say and believe — when you are clicking answers on a questionnaire — that when the market takes a breathtaking dive for the bottom, you will not only hold your investments, you will pile more money into them. You can say that all day long when you’re answering one of those questionnaires. It won’t hurt a bit.
But the real time pain of watching your life’s savings drop, drop, drop like a rock falling into a well is something else again. Suddenly, you’re the star of a gambling movie and you’re letting your lifetime winnings ride on the next roll of the dice. Or, you’re the driver of a car who just pulled out to pass and is staring into the headlights of an on-coming semi.
The older you are, the more you have to lose, the less you can get back, and the harder staring into those headlights becomes.
People duck in those circumstances, and in the parlance of the game, “lock in their losses.”
The first rule of successful investing is “sell high.” If you can’t white-knuckle those blood-curdling dives into portfolio oblivion, you will violate that rule and sell, not only low, but historically low. You will deflate all those years of scrimping and saving and doing without with a single click of the “sell” button.
But what about the person who has no choice? What if, say, you’re actually living off those savings? What if the crumbs that are left on the table after the crash are all you’ve got? What if you have to sell to pay the bills, even if it means liquidating an unrecoverable large percentage of the fund shares you’ve labored to accumulate over the decades?
That’s the point where the advice in those little circular charts with their color-coded admonitions to buy various percentages of stock/bonds//cash/side bets become something approaching criminal. Because if you’ve done like all of us do and lied to yourself about yourself and blithely answered those questions to the gunslinger side of investing, and if you’ve then slavishly followed the advice in the little chart, you are out there with an investment portfolio whose decline you cannot stomach when it dives for the dirt.
Oh, it was great fun when said investment portfolio was soaring toward the clouds. It felt wonderful, like winning at the annual office softball game, to check your score and see the numbers ticking off in a steady climb higher. You’d check those returns and bask in your own brilliance for being such a clever investor.
But when the bitterness of going down the other side of that mountain begins to settle on you, it’s difficult not to feel panic settle on top of that. If you are actually in retirement, rather than preparing for it, that panic is not at all misplaced.
If you have, as I do, kids in college and an elderly mother to care for while you are also figuring out how to keep a roof over your own head, that panic is not only a realistic response, it may very well be an emotionally accurate assessment of your situation.
You can easily find yourself prey to the marketing advice of the disconnected minds on the other side of those little charts. They advised you to put entirely too much of your nest egg in equities for your situation and your stomach and you did it. Now you, and not they, will pay the price.
I’ve looked at the advice out there for retirees and I believe quite strongly that it is entirely too focused on growing your money instead of spending it while conserving it.
The recommendation to keep a certain portion of your retirement portfolio invested in growth and loss is — at least in the early years of retirement — good advice. But those questionnaires and resulting charts are way off in the percentages they are advising you to take. This is where we get to the fallacious assumption part.
Old-school opinion was to subtract your age from 100 and put that amount in stock. Or, conversely, to put your age in bonds and cash. Either way, the whole scenario was based on the assumption that the human life span ended at 100. It further assumed that people in retirement have less time to make up losses and a need to liquidate assets on a regular basis in order to live off them.
Today’s financial gurus quarrel with that assumption. They claim — with straight faces — that, because “people are living longer than they used to,” we should change the formula and base it on 120. Subtract your age from 120, they tell you, and put that amount in bonds. Put the rest in stock. “Keep your money working for you” by being “100% invested,” which is to say, eschew cash entirely.
All this is based on that magically altered number: 120. This new number, on which the investment industry has millions of nurses, welders, middle management types and professionals betting their retirements, is supposed to reflect the “fact” that “people are living longer” these days.
How many 120 year old grannies do you know?
The truth is, we’re not living longer. Fewer people are dying young. Our so-called longer life span is just an average that reflects the fact that stable government, better nutrition, vaccines, antibiotics and anesthesia which allows advances in surgery is giving more people the chance to live out their full span of years.
Don’t let these ludicrous claims about “people living longer” persuade you to Invest like you’re in your mid 50s and have a dozen years to work, when you’re really bumping against 70 and drawing down those savings. That’s fantasy investing. It can leave you broke and sucking air at the precise time of your life that you scrimped and saved to provide for in the first place.
In my opinion, if you need to invest percentages in growth and loss that are as high as these websites advise in order to have enough money, you are not ready to retire. You need to change something on a more fundamental level than your portfolio allocation.
Perhaps you should become a one car family, or clip the cable tv, get your books and periodicals at the library and start thinking about visits with the relatives in a nearby state instead of high dollar tours of foreign lands. Maybe it’s time to give up eating out every night and replacing automobiles, appliances and computers while they are still working perfectly well.
In addition to telling you to invest in portfolio allocations that are too risky for your age, a lot of these web sites also advise you to keep on working ad infinitum to “let your savings grow.” They use a full-blown oxymoron to describe this: “Working retirement.”
Get a part-time job they say, or maybe even a full-time job. To which I reply once again,
Are you saving in order to have money to retire, or are you saving to grow money for itself?
Do you really want to be an old coot, sacking groceries in your “working retirement?” Is that your big plan that you’ve been saving for, to work until you drop?
Whatever it takes, you need to get that growth and loss portion of your portfolio down to the point that those dives into the dirt level off and become dips in the air. You need a big chunk of your money in cash, even if it’s not earning anything, so that when the plumbing breaks or the kids need tuition or Mama has to have a hearing aid you can chin it without being forced to sell low.
And you need to pare your expenses so that these sensibly invested savings, plus Social Security and whatever pension you might have, will keep you going.
Someone should put a big red Stop! sign in front of those questionnaires and their little pie charts. Because they ask the wrong questions and they are based on fallacious premises. They give dangerous advice to vulnerable people.
They should really be asking you things like how much money will you get from other sources besides this little pot of gold you’ve saved? Do you, or will you by the time your retire, own your home? Are you saddled with short-term debt such as credit card debt and department store loans? How many miles do you put on your car each year? How healthy are you? Is your house energy efficient? What are your human liabilities: Do you have aged parents to care for, kids to educate, a disabled spouse or child?
And oh yes, what will you do when the markets tank? What is your contingency plan for the days, months, weeks and years when the whole thing craters and you are left holding a couple of quarters on the dollar of what you had before? Because it will. The only thing uncertain is when.
Sure. It has historically always come back.
But how are you gonna live while the tide is out?
The real questions, as far as risk is concerned, are (1) how much (and how long) of a dive can you take without cutting and running, and (2) how will you fare while your savings are bottom feeding? Remember: It took 10 years for the markets to come back after the crash of 1929. That’s scary stuff. But it is also a fact.
The difference now is the leveling influence of Social Security and unemployment compensation on the economy. No matter what happens, Social Security keeps pumping money into the economy. People tend to forget that, but the “earnings” of Social Security and unemployment compensation act much the same way on the economy that dividends act on stocks. They level out the troughs.
Your questions of personal survival in the choppy waters of macro trends are only partially based on the psychology that says that you and everyone else gives wonky answers on those little questionnaires. There is a bottom line here and it’s hard as concrete. How do you plan to survive and keep your obligations during those down times?
There are answers to these questions, but you won’t find them in the boring and simplistic advice being churned out by investment firms’ marketing pages. Even in retirement, investment firms are advising you to swing for the fences.
That’s bad advice. Get that growth and loss portion (stocks) down to manageable levels. Raise the income-producing portion (bonds) and non-productive but safe cash portion up accordingly.
If you’re in need of a formula, the traditional advice to keep your age in bonds and cash and put the rest in stocks is time-tested and simple.You don’t need an advanced degree to figure it out, and, unlike the advice coming from those little charts, it’s based on your reality.
Don’t worry about what-ifs like whether or not interest rates will rise. If you have cash, that’s more money for you, and if your bonds fall, they’ll keep paying themselves interest and buying more shares of themselves in the bond fund and, well, you and compounding will win out in the longer while. The trick is, don’t sell them while they’re low.
Which goes back to cash. I can’t emphasize enough that you need to keep a chunk in cash so you can live, no matter what. Assess your real-life responsibilities. Put yourself on both a short-term and a long-range budget. Ignore those questionnaires and their cutesy little pie charts. Make sure your Congressperson knows that anybody or any political party that messes up Social Security is going out the door, feet first.
Then fold up the investment planning for a year and get back to living.
All will be well.
I am overwhelmed by the news. So, I’m not going to comment on these stories. Read and discuss. Let’s see what shakes out.
And finally, my Catholic Patheosi colleague Tom McDonald says it all with We Broke the World
I didn’t know “trickle down economics” was in the Ten Commandments.
I also didn’t know it was in the Sermon on the Mount.
I remember things about “blessed are the poor” and “depart from me I never knew you.” But I missed that “trickle down economics” part. I guess it must be in the part that says that government should transfer the wealth of generations to a few corporatists under the guise of corporate welfare and “privatization.” Or maybe it’s under the demands that economies should only be built on making war and not manufacturing goods, providing for infrastructure and growing the nation.
I read the Bible every day. I read through the Bible — the Catholic Bible, complete with all those books that Martin Luther took out — every year and a half or so. But I don’t remember anything about taking from the poor to give to the rich, or trickle down economics being a requirement for heaven.
I have heard these claims. I heard them just about every single day I spent in the business of legislating. They are part of the wing nut teachings which political nut jobs on the right use to replace the Scriptures. Left wing nut jobs do the same thing, only in reverse.
In the left wing political religion, moral values only apply to economics. Everything else — sexuality, family, basic honesty, even human life itself — are fixed on their own, selfishly-defined constructs. In the right wing political religion, moral values only apply to sexuality, family and, human life — when it fits their vote-getting expedience. Economics is a absolute morality-free zone.
The one thing the right and left wing political religions both agree on is basic honesty. Neither one of them have any use for it at all.
Which leads us to what has become an entertaining stand-off in the United States House of Representatives.
House Speaker Boehner invited Pope Francis to speak to the House when he visits the US next year. It’s customary when dignitaries come by like this to pass an attaboy resolution and present it to them with suitable legislative fanfare. Nobody takes this resolution stuff all that seriously. It’s just being polite; kind of like offering your neighbor a glass of iced tea when she drops by to say howdy. Neither you nor your neighbor think all that highly of the tea. The only issue would be your rudeness if you didn’t offer it.
In a show of bi-partisanship, the resolution slotted for Pope Francis has both an R and a D as primary co-authors. It congratulates Pope Francis on being elected Pope and compliments him for his “inspirational statements and actions.”
That sounds like plain vanilla do-dah politicking to me. You’d think the resolution would sail through without a comment, that even the pope-hating bozos would chill and keep their mouths shut.
But the true-believers of wing nut political religion can never be underestimated. Their breathtaking self-importance is only exceeded by their equally breathtaking self-righteousness. The pro forma attaboy resolution for Pope Francis’ possible visit to the House may not pass. It will not pass if the true believers of right-wing-nut political religion prevail.
Meanwhile, the Ds are giving the resolution a big huzzah. The party whose national convention booed God is all for Pope Francis as he is defined by their press right now. Their press has edited and parsed Pope Francis into what he is not, which is to say an apologist for laissez faire morality in all areas except economics.
That’s heady stuff for a party that’s been damned and consigned to hell-fire in the public imagination. Pope Francis may not be their cheerleader, but unlike every other pro-life, pro-marriage religio on the planet, he has not washed his hands of them and told them to go to hell. He thinks they’re still people that Christ died for who are in need of salvation. Over 200 Ds jumped on the resolution with co-authorship. They’d co-author the thing twice each, if they could.
The party that claims it speaks for God is all in a pope-hating funk because, as it turns out, he thinks that they are also people that Christ died for who are in need of conversion. They’re not used to being told they need conversion. And they don’t like it.
While anyone can see that the lefty press is twisting statements to lie about the Holy Father, there is no denying that he is laying claim to all those troublesome things Jesus (and the prophets before Him) said about rich men having a tough time getting into heaven and how we all have a responsibility to care for the poor. That’s discombobulating to a party that (1) is corporatist to its core, and (2) has made its vote-getting bones by self-deification.
So, this do-nothing, attaboy, courtesy resolution has become another opportunity for the two political parties to proclaim their own righteousness and teach morality to God. Or, as the case may be, teach morality to the Vicar of Christ.
Rather than just hold their little noses and rise about the stink of their own self-importance, the Rs have used their power as the majority party to sideline the resolution in committee where it is intended to quietly expire. About 19 brave Rs stepped up to co-author. Most of the rest — many of whom are Catholic — have folded their hands and are now studying their shoes.
There are a few convinced and convicted right-wing-nuts who are so apoplectic at the Holy Father’s confrontational attitude toward right wing nut political religion as it concerns economics that they’ve stepped up to set the record straight. They are against the resolution because, they say, “the pope sounds a lot like Obama” (Obama = Satan in their parlance), that he has “denounced trickle down economics” and that he “supports civil marriages.”
In the first place the pope did not say he “supported civil unions.” Go back and read the post about that and see.
But I’m pretty sure, based on dealing with these kinds of birds, that what’s got their feathers in a ruffle is not “civil unions.” They’re on their soapboxes because the pope “denounced trickle down economics.” The reason I say that is twofold. First, it’s what has given well-paid corporatist mouthpieces the temerity to say that the pope is “a marxist,” “following Lenin” and some other thing that’s too stupid to even talk about.
Those media moguls are the corporatist-apologists-without-any-pretense in today’s media. The nut-job Congresspeople are the corporatist-puppet-people-with-loads-of-pretense in elected office. They were beamed into office on a beam of corporate money. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporatist thinking and activism. If they weren’t, they’d be pulled and replaced like a bad spark plug.
As for me, I’m not all that alarmed about this resolution thingy. As we say here in Oklahoma, it don’t mean nothin’. The resolution is just a piece of paper with no force of law of any kind. It’s a Congressional attaboy that they hand out to visiting dignitaries and such like gum drops.
Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. He answers to Our Lord. I doubt very much that he’s going to cry himself to sleep because a bunch of political puppets with delusions of grandeur do not deign to gift him with a meaningless attaboy filled with compliments they clearly do not mean.
It’s entirely possible that the press flurry may embarrass these Congresspeople’s corporatist owners enough that they tell them to go ahead and vote the resolution through and be done with it. If that happens, it’ll slide through and we’ll go on to the next Congressional stupidity. If it doesn’t, no matter.
The beauty of this particular incident is that these folks have demonstrated rather candidly what they are and who they follow. In terms of its impact, the resolution itself is worthless. But in terms of its teaching powers, it’s priceless.
I keep putting this message out there. I’m going to continue putting it out there until it gets through.
Repeat after me: Political parties have nothing to do with righteousness. Political parties are about power; about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.
Do not follow the R or the D.
Follow the whole Gospel of Christ, all of it, including the parts that disagree with your political religion. The simplest and surest way to do that is to follow the teachings of our Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church constantly irritates both the R and the D. If you believe Jesus, you will not agree with either political party most of the time. If you follow Jesus with your life, you will not and cannot follow either political party.
There is one Way. The R and the D are not it.
From The Hill:
A popular piece of legislation that seeks to honor Pope Francis is stuck in Congress.
With time running out on the Capitol Hill calendar, the lawmakers who crafted the bipartisan measure are getting impatient with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The resolution, written by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.), congratulates Francis on his March 2013 election and recognizes “his inspirational statements and actions.”
The seemingly innocuous resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which hasn’t acted on it. The panel didn’t comment for this article.
The inaction and the lack of a white smoke signal from Boehner have sparked speculation that politics is at play.
Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans. The dearth of GOP members on the measure could be attributable to assertions that the pope is “too liberal,” according to a Republican backer of the legislation.
The source noted that Francis last year denounced “trickle-down economics.”
Some Republicans believe the pope is “sounding like [President] Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged,” the GOP official said.
There are two kinds of people who obsessively watch porn.
Those who enjoy it.
Those who believe it.
Either way, porn is addicting and degrading. Porn is based on degrading a group of people for the titillation of those who get off on the degradation.
Both those who watch porn because they enjoy it, and those who believe it, will become addicted to it if they don’t pull back from it. That alter world where degradation of other people reigns will take them over and the day will come when they find they can’t just turn it off.
The difference between those who watch it for the titillation alone, and those who get so wound into it that they believe it, is the difference between doing harm to oneself and doing harm to others.
The porn believers can become dangerous as they seek to act out the things they have watched. Every prostitute I’ve ever known has told me about painful and rather hideous things johns did to them in attempts to live out things they’d seen in porn. Rape victims report the same stories.
I would guess that the international sex tourism industry finds its customers among porn believers. Acting out fantasies of degrading other people can take porn believers over. That leads to every kind of horror for their victims.
These same assessments also apply to intellectual porn. All the demagogues of all the eras and epochs of history instinctively knew this. They could, by producing the mind porn of hate politics, gain power. It was — and is — as seductive to the demagogue as to the demagogues’ followers.
The practice of moral and intellectual demagoguery gets votes. It ups ratings, sells books and pleases advertisers. It also confers a kind of heady, ego-driven power over other people.
There are, as usual, two kinds of people who obsessively watch this intellectual porn or listen to it on the radio.
Those who get off on the titillation it provides.
Those who believe it.
The trouble with demagogic porn is that it never, ever, claims to be a fantasy. Point a finger at sexual pornographers and one of their first defenses is that “it’s not real.”
But the purveyors of intellectual porn always, always, always claim that what they are saying is factual and true. They can get away with this because it usually is based on facts. What they leave out is that the facts are carefully selected to promote one viewpoint and that the facts are mixed with a lot lying implications.
Here is a case in point:
The sudden incessant discussion of the supposedly all-new “border crisis” is moral and intellectual porn. It is obvious demagoguery.
This story gets ramped up every bi-election season. Then, after the votes are counted, it goes away. It is being put out there right now because we are in a bi-election season.
It is political demagoguery, designed to gain power. It is also intellectual and moral porn of the worst sort.
The problem of people coming over America’s southern border illegally is real. The trajectory of children crossing the border alone has taken on a 70 degree angle. It has gone up, and is going up.
However, the wild stories about gangs meeting them at the border to recruit them and how one in four of them are “criminals” are untrue. They are being told to ratchet up the emotions and build the outrage past rational thought. The constant 24/7 drumbeat of hysteria about this issue is manufactured for political reasons.
One of the simplest and most effective things we could do to stem this tide of people crossing into our country illegally would be to severely punish the business interests who hire them. If they couldn’t find jobs, a lot of this would go away.
If you try to pass a law like this, the business interests will work against it with all they’ve got. And they will win, especially if the people who are running the show at the time are Rs. I’m not just saying this. I’ve seen it. I can also verify with court actions taken by business interests to attack such laws.
We also need to look past the Rio Grande and consider why they’re coming. We spend billions “building” countries in other hemispheres. Perhaps we should take a more serious look at our own.
However, this is all talk. Nobody is going to fix the border problem. Nobody wants to fix it. Just try to act on either of these two suggestions and watch who will object. It will be the same people who own the media that runs this bi-election immigration frenzy.
This reportage is demagoguery for political purposes.
It is moral and intellectual porn designed to whip people around. It uses fear and hatred of other people to get viewers worked up past the thinking point and keep them there until November. It turns good people into the face of ugly. At that point, it is impossible to reason with the viewers and believers of this porn. They are irrational.
The easiest and simplest way to avoid falling into the porn trap (whatever the type of porn) is to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.
No other church will take the stands on issues where the public is all whipped up against them. Other denominations follow the zeitgeist. It pains me to say this, but all I have to do is consider the sounding silence I’m hearing from everyone but the Catholic Church right now, and the ugliness I’ve seen on this one issue from various clergy in the past.
If you want to go to heaven, do what the Church teaches. If you want to follow Christ, then turn off the porn.
What these media people are doing by deliberately whipping people up into mass hatred in order to change how they vote is deeply immoral. It is anti-Christ.
If you blindly follow them, you become immoral and anti-Christ, right along with them.
My delete file is bulging with ugly, bitter and downright crazy diatribes against both me and the Catholic bishops because I dare to say this.
So be it.
I am a Christian. I am a Catholic. I choose Christ.
It is my responsibility as a Christian, Catholic blogger who chooses Christ to say this. If nobody listens, that’s on them.
I hate it when I have to spend my good time sweeping up the refuse from idiotic, politically-motivated attacks on our Catholic religious leaders.
Today, I’m going to address attacks from the right side of unreason, and to be honest, I’d rather not. Have to, that is. I’d much rather I didn’t have to keep doing this.
I’m not so pleased when I have to do the same thing for with the left side of unreason, either.
But … duty calls.
There have been a smattering of articles and combox vitriol floating around the internet accusing the Catholic bishops of all sorts of nasty things because they don’t/won’t/aren’t-going-to hate on Mexicans. After all, we’re deep into our bi-election brown-skin hate-off right now and every red blooded American is called to abandon all reason and blindly join in.
The cable news networks are discussing (they never report, they only discuss) the issue of large numbers of children coming over the Rio Grande. I watched a brief thingy on one of them Saturday night. They were proclaiming that one in four of these kids are “criminals” and that “gangs” are meeting them at the border to recruit them.
I know lots of people who’ve come over that border. Some of them are bad dudes. True. But most of them fall into the salt of the earth category of family-loving, deeply-religious goodness. You can hate me for saying it, but it’s just a fact.
To get back to the talking heads and their endless talk-talk on this border situation, I have one main point, and that point is …
They do this every single bi-election year.
I’m not saying that the problem with people flooding our Southern borders isn’t real. I am also not saying that this country should not control its borders. Far from it. A country that can’t control its borders is in big trouble.
What I am saying is that the this wall to wall reporting that has you so whipped up and miserable right now is politically-motivated. The cable news does this every bi-election The constant drumbeat of hysterical talk-talk-talking about “illegals” will stop like turning off a tap as soon as the votes are counted in November.
In the meantime, the good people of this country will have been ripped around and worked up into an emotional pitch for nothing. Again.
Because, you see, nothing is going to happen that will stop the flood of illegal immigrants coming over the border. Think about it. This big outrage has been whipped up every bi-election since the turn of the century. What good has come of it? Republican President/Democratic President/Republican Congress/Democratic Congress it doesn’t matter. Nothing changes.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops are doing their Jesus thing and insisting that these children are people and must be treated as people. If you will read the Bishops’ statements on this issue, they plainly support efforts to control the country’s borders. But they can’t very well drop kick the Gospels just to make the right wing side of unreason like them.
So … they get hit with the usual claptrap from the vicious pharisees to the right. I won’t go through the whole tired litany of hate talk. I’m going to focus on one bizarro statement that I’ve seen repeated enough to know it has traction in certain internet nut bins. That statement is the ludicrous claim that the Catholic bishops are “in bed” with President Obama.
That is so stupid that it deserves a trophy of some sort or other.
Have any of the little hive minds that are passing that around totally forgotten the dozens upon dozens of lawsuits filed against the HHS Mandate? How about the bishops’ requests for religious exemptions to ENDA and the fight brewing there? Who do you think was working against the Hobby Lobby vote last week?
The bishops are in bed with President Obama? Puleez.
What the bishops are doing with their support of the human rights of immigrants and their refusal to join in with the great bi-election immigration hate-off, is following Jesus.
You know, the Jesus Simeon said would be a “sign of contradiction.”
What Simeon didn’t prophesy, but which Christ the Lord promised when he said If they persecute me, they will persecute you, is that people who follow the Gospels, especially in a a post-Christian society such as ours, are also going to be signs of contradiction. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that our vocation as Christians in this post-Christian culture is to be signs of contradictions.
The bishops are succeeding in that vocation in a grand fashion. They are, for instance, being sued directly for their teaching that abortion is wrong. That’s from the left side of unreason.
Now, they’re being accused of pandering to our anti-Catholic president by insisting that people are people, no matter their legal status. That’s from the right side of of unreason.
What we are dealing with here is two sides of the same God-is-Made-in-My-Image coin. When people cut the Gospels down to fit their politics, they stop being a sign of contradiction to the sins of the world and become the sin’s enablers. They are salt that has lost its savor.
The followers of the politically-trimmed Gospel that does not allow for the sanctity of human life or marriage on the one side, and that tries to enforce economics as a morality-free zone on the other, are both examples of fallen and useless Christians. When I say “useless” I mean they are useless to God in His great work of Kingdom building.
Is there anything worse I can say about a Christian than that they are useless to God?
Jesus told us cannot follow two masters, and I think He meant it. When we trim our faith to suit our politics, we are running away from the cross, just like Peter, Andrew, James, James, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel, Simon the Zealot and Thaddaeus.
The Apostles repented of their shameful running away. They gave their lives for the same Jesus they had abandoned.
We can too.
I am not saying that we should not be concerned about the flood of illegal immigrants that have been coming over our borders for the past decades. This country needs to secure its borders. Period.
I am saying that we should stop letting ourselves be jerked around by the bi-election carrying on that happens so predictably that you could set your calendar by it.
This isn’t about shutting down our borders. In fact, the same corporatists who own the news outlets that are pushing this hysteria are themselves ardently opposed to shutting down the borders. They like and employ the cheap, off-the-books labor. I’ll write more on that in a day or so.
What this reporting and whipping Americans into a xenophobic hysteria are about is the universal goal of power politics: Getting power and keeping power.
Nobody is going to fix this problem, come November. The day after the elections, the talking heads will start talking about something else. Just like they do every bi-election.
In the meantime, the right-wing-of-unreason crowd will have scarred and defamed the name of Christ with their claims to be Christian while they say things that come straight from the pit.
The bishops are right about this, just as they are right about marriage and abortion and human trafficking and a whole host of other things.
They are being attacked because they are the sign of contradiction in American public discourse.
They get attacked from the left and right because they are not acolytes to either the right or left. Their job isn’t to give moral support to the immorality of power politics. Their job is to proclaim the Gospels and teach us what living for Christ means in this world.
When they tell us to treat immigrants as people, they are teaching us how the Gospels apply directly to us, in our current world. They are setting the cross before us and asking us to take up the unpopular position and lift the cross onto our shoulders and follow Him.
The Catholic bishops are in bed with President Obama? The plain facts of recent history make that charge ridiculous.
The fact that otherwise intelligent folks are bandying it about simply points to how nutty following the gods of this world can make people.
I am writing this with one goal, and it’s not to call in the lightning on my own head, although I will probably get a bit of that. I am writing it to urge you to regain your reason.
Think straight. Look at the simple fact that this happens every bi-election. Consider what that means in real life.
Look also at the fact that the bishops are hated on by both the right and left of the political spectrum. Consider for a moment that perhaps this is because they are actually being the “sign of contradiction” that we all should be.
If you follow Jesus, you’ll be treated the same way He was. That’s what’s happening to the bishops. It’s also what should be happening to you and me.
Use your minds and think people. Do not be whipped around by talking heads with a political agenda. Think. Connect the dots.
And support our bishops.
My heart goes out to Dr Theo Boer.
He doesn’t sound as if he gets it, at least not yet, but he’s come far enough to know, in his own words, that he was “ … wrong … terribly wrong” to have supported euthanasia in the Netherlands.
What he doesn’t seem to get — at least not yet — is that euthanasia is not wrong because abuse of legalized murder is always going to happen; because in his words, “once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.” Euthanasia is wrong because murder is wrong. It is wrong to kill people.
He doesn’t sound as if that has seeped through to him yet.
Who is Dr Theo Boer and why does his opinion matter? Dr Boer is a Dutch professor and ethicist, who The Mail calls “a European assisted suicide watchdog.” He is, in short an expert on how legalizing euthanasia is playing out in the real world. And his knowledge has taught him regret.
According to Dr Boer’s testimony before the House of Lords, he advocated for the legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands. But the resulting use of the practice to kill anyone who’s troubled for whatever reason has changed his mind.
Professor Boer argued seven years ago that a “good euthanasia law would produce relatively low numbers of deaths.” Now he now wonders if “the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort to a normal procedure.”
He also said that he worries about changes in the law to allow the killing of children, those with dementia and those who are simply depressed He sees the “the mobile death units of traveling euthanizing doctors” and has come to the conclusion that “activists continue to campaign for doctor-administered death … and will not rest until a lethal pill is made available to everyone over 70.”
I don’t know if it’s fully come home to him what this means, but Dr Boer will have to live with what he has done for the rest of his days. His comment that you can’t get the genie back in the bottle again sounds as if he’s come against the terrible truth that un-doing evil is much more difficult than doing it in the first place.
My heart goes out to him because I’ve been there. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t unkill people. You can go back to the people you led astray and say, “I was wrong,” but you can’t make them listen to you. The downward trajectories you helped set in motion keep rolling on and nothing you do can stop them.
I’ve also learned absolutely and without doubt that I am not God. That’s why I don’t quibble — ever — with the 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church. If I had followed those teachings and looked for other ways to deal with the injustice and suffering that led me into doing wrong, I would not have done wrong in the first place.
I don’t think Dr Boer has arrived at that place yet. He knows a bit of the horror he helped unleash. He’s evidently a man of moral courage. I say that because it takes moral courage to admit you were wrong about something like this.
Most people won’t do it. They will keep on justifying their mistakes right down to the grave. They will not admit that they have done a terrible thing, that they have been somebody’s monster, that they were, in Dr Boer’s words, “terribly wrong.” And they die and face God in their sins.
I thank God for Dr Boer’s courage. I pray that he goes all the way down this road until it leads him to the only place where these things can be made right, which on his knees in front of the cross.
‘ASSISTED DYING: DON’T GO THERE’: DUTCH ETHICIST THEO BOER’S THOUGHTS ON EUTHANASIA IN FULL
Britain is debating legalizing medical murder.
Medical murder’s proponents spiff it up by calling it “death with dignity,” which is a change from their old name for it: “mercy killing.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has decided to throw sewage on his own skirts by coming out in favor it, along with former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.
Meanwhile, New Mexico kills their babies and little old ladies, Quebec has euthanasia on demand, France is taking another look at medical murder, and India’s Supreme Court has opened the gates for legalizing euthanasia in the land of sex-selected abortion and baby-girl killing. Satan only knows what India will do with legal medical murder, but it doesn’t look good for little girls, worn-out sex slaves, surrogates and daughters-in-law without dowries.
Just think about it: All you have to do is get a doctor — the same doctors who obligingly use women for surrogacy, egg harvesting and do abortions on baby girls because they are baby girls — to agree that someone needs to die with dignity. It’s as easy as pushing in on the hypodermic syringe, as simple as pills in a paper cup. Euthanasia and India go together like misogyny and India. They’re a natural fit.
Of course, Britain is far more civilized than India (wink wink). They have been grappling with sex-selected abortion, and not too successfully. It seems that they can’t write a law that will allow people to kill their children at will before birth … except when their intention is to kill their child before birth because she is a baby girl.
That kind of fine-line fence-straddling in the killing fields is tough to codify and downright impossible to enforce. You give people the legal right to kill, they’re going to kill for whatever reason they want.
You can’t control murder.
Once you start feeding your children to the Baals, the right to life of every human being becomes conditional. The new advance to the dark past of human history is multi-pronged. The Baals are ravenous and we’ve got to find more and more people to feed them.
We’ve pretty much destroyed any sanctity attached to human life before birth. People are created and sold like merchandise. Women are reduced to body parts to be used in the manufacturing process. If we don’t like what we get, we discard the widget we’ve made and make another. The fact that this widget is a human being is something we ignore and simply deny.
Inherent in abortion is the lie that some people’s lives are not worthy of life unless other people want them. “Death with dignity” is no different. There is no doubt that, as the Hoy Father warns us, “the right to die will become the duty to die.” That idea has already been bandied about by prominent politicians here in America.
Euthanasia is just a fancy word for murder, and murder, if it is not stopped and punished, leads to more murder.
Abortion leads to designer babies leads to egg harvesting leads to surrogacy leads to the rock-hard cultural belief that some people are not as human and do not deserve the same basic rights as other people. Exploitation/murder/buying and selling people: It all fits together like two sides of a zipper.
Euthanasia is the next new thing in our retreat to the pre-Christian world.
We feed our young into the maw of the Baals every single day. We toss in women and girls — the life bearers — alongside them. Now, we’re putting more and more of our elderly, disabled and depressed through the fires. How long will it be before we start euthanizing the homeless, the jobless and the ugly?
Not long. It won’t be long at all before the push is on to broaden the killing fields to people we would never consider murdering today.
Too many of our people have become slaves to the next new thing. Too many people are incapable of resisting propaganda. Too many people are intelligent but profoundly stupid. They are blind followers of the pied piper of what’s happenin’ now.
It won’t be long. The reason? Too many of our people have been made profoundly stupid; easy marks for whatever propaganda comes along. Without the anchor of Christianity, they roll like marbles from one thing to the next.
They are low-hanging fruit for the evil that never sleeps.
My husband and I had supper at a local hamburger joint about a week ago.
It is one of those places where they have tvs mounted on the walls, blaring away while you eat. This particular tv was right behind my head, so I had to listen to it.
It was tuned to one of the cable news networks and the story they were not reporting but talking about (cable news does not report news, it talks about it) was the number of child migrants coming over America’s border. The entire conversation boiled down to two points: (1) President Obama caused this. (2) We should all hate President Obama.
The discussion was just hate, hate, hate, directed at President Obama.
That, my friends, will not solve this problem or any other. It is evil. It does enormous damage to our country.
Both sides of the political divide go into endless hate mode as soon as the votes are counted in November. They shamelessly encourage their followers to hate the person who was elected and to attack him or her, no matter what they do or say. I quit watching cable news except for once in a while during a disaster because it (1) doesn’t report any news (2) is blatant propaganda and (3) is so full of hate that it gives me indigestion.
I don’t know enough about the current border problem to either diagnose its causes or to affix blame. I could listen to these so-called news channels 24/7 and I still would not know.
I do have a couple of observations, both of which are going to anger quite a few of Public Catholic’s readers.
First, the Republican Party and their talking heads on “their” cable news shows ramp up the immigration debate in every off-year election. This has been happening consistently since the turn of the century.
The campaign ads here in Oklahoma that came from the Republican Party’s candidates four years ago were flat-out racist. They showed hispanic people in dark night-time scenarios, being arrested, and in other degrading ways with voice overs about how the candidate the ad was backing would stop “illegal immigration.”
Two years after that, when hispanic people all over the country held their noses and voted for the presidential candidate who was against their personal religious and moral beliefs, they were accused of abandoning their faith. My reaction then was simple: What did you expect? They had to vote this way. To do anything else would be to deny their own humanity.
So, when I saw that the cable news was following their regular pattern of reporting the immigration thing in an off-election year and hating on President Obama, my first question, was How political is this story?
I have looked at statistics, and there has been a surge — a big surge — in numbers of minors coming across the border in the past few months. Based on that, (and I haven’t looked deeply at these statistics, so it’s a kind of preliminary opinion) I am guessing that the “crisis” they are reporting actually exists.
Notice how carefully I word that. The reason I tiptoe around it so carefully is that (1) It’s an off-election year, (2) They do this every off-election year (3) The “reporting” I’ve heard seems to be focused on hatred of the President and little else.
There is a debate going on right now as to how much money Congress should appropriate to this “crisis.” The problem is that our elected officials want to use the question as a political football to gain power for themselves in November. So they are, once again, holding America hostage.
I’m withholding judgement about what is causing this situation and how we should handle it in the long term. I will say that I am reasonably confident that the reporting on the crisis will end once the votes are counted in November. Then, we’ll go on to the next hate-reporting thingy.
I will also say without equivocation that I do not believe that the Republicans in the House of Representatives want to fix the “crisis.” They are talking about how the President has asked for “too much” money to deal with it.
But I am absolutely certain that their true objections are not fiduciary. If one of their corporatist handlers wanted this amount of money for themselves, it would pass without a single question. I am not saying that $$ for judges and intensified border patrol is the long-term answer. I don’t think it is. What I am saying, is that the objections to this request and the refusal to act are politically motivated.
The Rs want this “crisis” to continue because of the November elections. The good of this country does not matter.
Many of Public Catholic’s readers are going to romp all over me for saying that. But it’s the plain truth. If we want to deal effectively with the onslaught of illegal immigration, we need to end the practice of using it for a vote-getter every two years and deal with it intelligently.
On the other hand, this sudden surge of children coming over the border must be organized, and not by President Obama. These children are being used, but I don’t know by whom. No one seems to be asking questions about who is organizing this migration of children south of the border. In fact, what we are getting by way of explanation is sound bites that don’t make sense because they aren’t connected to anything.
If I can get Public Catholic’s readers to look at these two parties dispassionately, I will have accomplished a lot. We’re going to have to stop letting them jerk us around like this, both for our personal mental health and for the health of this nation.
We serve Christ. We need to eschew hate-filled invective and use the fine minds that God gave us to think.
I’m going to put a few videos below to help us all — including me — think this through. Don’t knee jerk. Defy the talking heads. Think for yourself.
The argument gets repeated a lot these days.
It’s a one-two-three punch that goes like this:
1. Hobby Lobby imports its wares from China.
2. This is absolute evil and means that Hobby Lobby supports forced abortion, the one-child policy, slavery and probably the mass slaughter at Tianamen Square and the Cultural Revolution, as well. It may even mean that Hobby Lobby’s owner are Communists.
3. So … Hobby Lobby’s owners do not deserve and should not have Constitutional Rights under the Constitution of the United States of America.
I have a question for those who make this argument. That question is not based on the fact that they don’t know anything about who sells Hobby Lobby its wares. The question doesn’t even address the highly tenuous assertion that people are guilty of the sins and crimes of everyone they associate with in the business world. (That would make all of us guilty of some pretty ugly stuff, you know.)
My question is simpler: What are you gonna do about your cell phone?
I am speaking specifically of Samsung cell phone owners, but that could apply to just about every one of us who owns a cell phone. I mean, Apple’s been in the news a lot because of its China connections.
In fact, whenever someone wants to create a faux moral outrage, or damage a company, they trot out the China connection.
The real outrage — and the one we need to address or die as a global power — is that we’ve moved our industrial base to China so that our manufacturers could use slave/child labor. This isn’t about one company or another company. It’s about moving our entire industrial base to a Communist regime.
The trouble is, that’s an issue that falls under the corporate control of our government, which, sad to say, removes it from moral discussion for a lot of people. We’ve been sold the rapacious lie that money and how it’s got is outside morality for so long that many ordinary people think it makes sense.
Anyone, up to and including the Pope, who dares to question this money-is-outside-morality cant will be called a Communist by the corporatist-owned media and their talking heads. That’s particularly rich, since what the corporatist media is protecting are corporations who’ve gone to bed with a Communist regime.
But I digress.
Let’s get back to your Samsung cell phone. And your Samsung smart watch/camera/Chromebook/tablet. If you are really truly sincere when you say that about Hobby Lobby’s owners don’t deserve Constitutional rights because you are sure they trade with China and trading with China is anathema, then you need to toss those babies today.
It seems that Samsung has done a bit more than import from China. They’ve been manufacturing their wares there, which means they have a direct contractual relationship with the plants that employ egregious and exploitative labor practices.
It probably also means, given Samsung’s size, that they are the sole proprietor or customer of these plants. We’re talking big money here. Samsung has money power (the only power that matters in a corporatist world) to change what happens in these plants.
This has led to repeated claims by China Labor Watch that Samsung has been using child labor to manufacture its products.
Of course, Samsung is a publicly-held corporation whose stocks are traded in the open market. That means the Hobby Lobby decision doesn’t apply to them. They’ve got to provide abortifacients in their insurance plans for their stateside employees.
So, what about the folks who’ve been jumping up and down like apes in a cage over the Hobby Lobby decision?
If you think they are going to go all moral and righteous over Samsung and its corporate child-labor-using brethren, raise your hand.
From China Labor Watch:
New York – China Labor Watch (CLW) has once again exposed the employment of child labor in Samsung’s supply chain, this time at a factory called Shinyang Electronics in Dongguan, China. This revelation comes nearly two years after CLW first revealed the exploitation of children in a Samsung supplier factory.
The production orders of Samsung are seasonal, and suppliers like Shinyang will alter the strictness of hiring practices in order to adapt to Samsung’s demands. During the busy season and in urgent need of labor, Shinyang hires child labor and underage student workers. These minors will usually only work for a period of three to six months, toiling for 11 hours every day without overtime pay, and the factory does not purchase social insurance for them as required by law. These young workers usually leave when the factory as it enters the off-season, and the factory does not need to provide any sort of severance pay.
On June 30, Samsung published its 2014 sustainability report titled “Global Harmony”. Within, Samsung says that it inspected working conditions at 200 suppliers in 2013 and “no instances of child labor were found”.
After allegedly inspecting hundreds of suppliers, Samsung did not find one child worker. Yet in just one Samsung supplier factory, CLW has uncovered several children employed without labor contracts, working 11 hours per day and only being paid for 10 of those hours.
CLW’s investigation of Shinyang revealed at least 15 sets of labor violations. In addition to child labor, unpaid overtime wages, excessive overtime, and a lack of social insurance, the investigation exposed a lack of pre-job safety training and protective equipment despite the use of harmful chemicals; discriminatory hiring; overuse of temp workers; workers made to sign blank labor contracts; illegal resignation requirements; potential audit fraud; broad company regulations that establishes the pretext to punish workers for almost any behavior; a lack of any union; and poor living conditions.