John Horejsi: A bailout for the rest of us
Column by John Horejsi, Vienna
The government’s promise to back mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae now seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. As I write this, Congress is debating a massive bailout for financial institutions. Many are blaming the “greed” of Wall Street, and many others are bemoaning the fact that there were inadequate regulations on mortgage and financial entities.
These are complicated and intricate problems that many of us do not understand well. Yet we cannot simply allow the “experts” to deal with these difficulties because they clearly did not prevent the current mess. Our first instinct is probably not to ask what our faith tells us about these issues which affect our lives so much.
And yet we know that Christians have long offered another perspective on financial matters. The early church pooled their financial resources to care for those who were unable to “make it” without help. For many centuries, the church taught that lending money at interest was morally wrong. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued a major teaching document on the right of Christian workers to form and join labor unions.
Perhaps the most profound Christian perspective was put forward by the U.S. bishops in their 1986 pastoral letter, Economic Justice For All. It applied Biblical teachings and the church tradition on areas such as employment, poverty, agriculture and international development. The basic moral principles set forth by the bishops still speak to us: “Every economic decision and institution must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person;” and “All members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable.” Their fundamental insight that the economy exists for the benefit of all people offers an important counterbalance to the belief that the economy is there to create wealth for investors only.
As our country struggles to stabilize our economy, let us be advocates – a voice – to be sure that those representing us do not just “bail out” corporations and banks, but also find ways to lift up those who are in foreclosure or in danger of losing their homes.