President-elect Obama said on November 26, 2008:
People should understand that help is on the way. And as they think about this Thanksgiving shopping weekend and as they thing about this Christmas season coming up I hope that everybody understands that we are gonna be able to get through these difficult times, but we’re just gonna have to make some good choices.
“Help is on the Way”
The sphere of government is portrayed as the helper. This is an economic problem and it is the sphere of labor, community, and family within which the problem must be solved. What is it that government can do to “help” me as I consider buying Christmas gifts this weekend? The only way that they can give me money is if they take it from someone else. Does helping me mean stealing from someone else? If so, thanks, but no thanks.
As a child my family was poor. Around Christmas there were numerous years that people did “help” my family with the ability to give gifts. I remember the Salvation Army (the sphere of church) setting up tables with gifts on them for my mom to peruse and choose to wrap and put under our Christmas tree. I remember my youth pastor (the sphere of community) dropping a whole mess of gifts on my front porch signed “from Jesus”. The sphere of community can help my family with Christmas gifts, and they have proven that they will. But what can government do other than steal?
“Think About … Shopping”
Listen again to President-elect Obama. Here is the message. Go ahead and spend on Black Friday (should be renamed “Debtor’s Friday). If you overspend and place yourself further in the hole that you have already dug by buying a house that is too big, don’t worry! The government has a plan to give you some money for being irresponsible. In fact, the only way to prop up this dismal retail season is for people in debt to spend money that they don’t have and have “hope” that President-elect Obama and congress will give them more money to be irresponsible with and banks more money to lend them. The message is also, for those who have chosen to become conservative with their finances given the troubling signs, that we should stop being so stingy and spend our savings this weekend because President-elect Obama has a plan.
“Make Some Good Choices”
Look where the burden of choice-making about family finances lies in this quote by President-elect Obama. It is clearly the government that we can have confidence will make “good choices”. In another time he might have said that families will have to make good choices and some of those choices will feel an awful lot like sacrifices.
As for Me and My House
My wife and I have been planning for about six months to buy a camcorder for Christmas so that we can begin to video tape our children now that they are old enough to begin to have soccer games and be in programs and other public performances. But we looked at the amount that we have saved compared to the amount that is being demanded by our budget for primarily fuel for our van and the cost of groceries (the price of the whole wheat that my wife grinds for a significant portion of our food just rose 100% since our last order) and we had to choose to increase that savings cushion for the coming year. Where does that savings come from? No camcorder and just a couple gifts for each of our four kids (most of the gifts, like the Prince Caspian Movie, are for them to share anyway).
But are we doing our part for the economy? Well, Target won’t be getting as much of our money and we won’t be taking advantage of the great deals over at Beach Camera. But when it comes time for another tax rebate (of money that we didn’t pay in … thus our tax rebate was more like stealing from somebody who did make enough money to pay income tax) my family can say, I appreciate the thought, but we’ve gone ahead and saved for ourselves or looked to our church and community for help when needed. Now stop dipping your government sphere of authority into the pockets of the families, communities, and labor spheres to give my family money that we should have saved for ourselves.
Our Tickling Ears
So, President-elect Obama, I see that you are saying what our American tickling-ears wnat to hear. We did elect you because your message of “hope” has tickled us “blue”. But I don’t think your help is what we need after all. And yes, we will make it through these difficult times. But only if we can learn that sometimes “good choices” mean “good sacrifice”.