Saturday, February 21, 2009

What is Fair?

President Barack Obama has repeatedly spoken of the sacrifice all Americans will have to make in order to get this country back on track. Now, as he begins to take steps to meet the challenge of restoring our economy and building a strong foundation for our future, some people are calling his initiatives unfair.

Was it fair that this country's debt more than doubled over the past eight years? Was it fair that unnecessary and wasteful spending was allowed to continue during that period? Was it fair that largely unregulated banks were allowed to make huge profits on complicated and obscure money schemes that still today plague the world's economy? Was it fair that mortgage-lenders preyed on aspiring homeowners, lured with visions of having a piece of the American dream? Was it fair that speculators flipped properties faster than a Roger Clemens fastball? Was it fair that some homeowners decided to reach beyond their means in an effort to have a bigger house and a huge payoff someday? Was it fair that, while all this was going on, Congress had devolved into bitter political gridlock based on political agendas and egos? America and most Americans chose not to acknowledge the financial bubble was growing, that the system was wildly over leveraged and that it could explode at any moment. What was everyone thinking?

Now all Americans are on the hook big time. The government has thrown billions of dollars at a failed banking system in an effort to stabilize the economy. Is that fair? The government has bailed out insurance companies. Is that fair? The government has allocated billions of dollars to American automobile companies with failed business plans. Is that fair? Now the government has passed a multi-billion dollar stimulus bill to preserve or create jobs. Is that fair? Meanwhile, plants are closing, 401K's are shrinking, housing values are declining, employment lines are growing as is the number of Americans who do not have proper health care. Is that fair?

In his proposals, President Obama has tried to balance what is best for the country with what is fair for each individual. This is a nearly impossible task. Take Obama's housing plan, which could cost taxpayers as much as $275 billion, but may help as many as nine million homeowners avert foreclosure. Critics are yelling "unfair" because the plan is rewarding "bad behavior." But haven't we already rewarded bad behavior? It was even suggested that a Web site be created where Americans could vote on whether they "really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages." Sure, and maybe we can vote on all those other government bailouts too!

These are not ordinary times, so extraordinary steps must be taken. While differences of opinion should be heard, at the end of the day actions must be taken now. President Obama was elected to lead our country in a new direction. He is quickly addressing the numerous problems that afflict our country and threaten its future. His remedies are not perfect for each American. It will take time; it will take patience. But it is time to lower our voices, reduce partisan bickering and self-interest. It is time to step up and increase our willingness to move forward as one nation.

Recently Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, declared, "It's the end of a certain kind of selfish capitalism." He continued, "(This is a time) when we have to reflect...on what are the things that nourish the values, the virtues, we want to have." He concluded, " Capitalism needs to be underpinned with regulation and moral purpose."

Let us all reflect on what made our country great as we try to make America healthy again.

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