Saturday, July 19, 2008


"The wages of sin is death," the Bible says. I can't cite chapter and verse, but it's in there somewhere.

For the rich man who ignored a diseased beggar named Lazarus camped out at his gate (one of Jesus's parables), the payback for sin was worse than death. Both men died the same night, but the next morning the rich man looked up from the flames of hell to see the beggar resting in the bosom of Abraham in heaven.

That rich man may have been an executive vice-president of IndyMac.

Last night on Bill Moyers' Journal, journalist William Greider talked about the economic sins and crimes of the neocon Bush administration and their role in the "mortgage meltdown," which is shaping up to be another gigantic transfer of wealth from the have-nots to the haves, additional to the gigantic transfer that occurred with the enactment of the Bush tax cuts.

Greider identified the practice that caused the evaporation of billions of dollars of imaginary wealth, which will now have to be paid out to financial institutions as real wealth supplied by the taxpayers (that's you and me) in order to forestall economic collapse, as usury. All three religions "of the book," Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, regard usury as one of the most serious moral transgressions, and those who engage in it as worthy of severe punishment.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Greider explained it succinctly:

Usury, to be clear about it, is rich people taking advantage of poor people by lending them money on terms that are sure to make them fail. All three of the great religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, had a moral prohibition against usury because they recognized that society can't function like that. People of great wealth and their institutions like banks naturally have the power to overwhelm people of lesser means. And you can't allow that in a decent society. It won't survive.


Congress repealed the law against usury. It was done in 1980 by a Democratic Congress, Democratic President. And, of course, the Republicans all piled on and voted for it. And that was the first stroke, only the first of many, in which they stripped away the regulatory laws from the financial system and from banking.

And that allowed the free market modernized gimmicks of one kind or another, all these things we're now reading about, to flourish. And that's where we are. I mean, the gatekeepers said to the banking industry and to the financial industry, "We don't think federal control or regulation is good for you, so we're, therefore, liberating you to do your own thing.

The full transcript of this interview is here.

The specific neocon crime in the "mortgage meltdown" occurred when Federal Reserve chief Greenspan became aware of the practice of "sub-prime" loaning and the prevalence of adjustible rate mortgages (ARMs) designed to trap borrowers in unrealistic paybacks -- which are clear-cut cases of usury -- winked at it with his one good eye, and said nothing.

Some people say unregulated free markets will solve all our problems. They're liars, and to hell with them. The "mortgage meltdown" reveals the naked evil of this intentional and deliberate lie. As Jesus made clear, hell is where God will put them if we don't.


Grace Nearing said...

Thanks for the transcript link. To quote Grieder, it "[m]ade me angry all over again, even though I know the story."

One thing I'm curious about and have never seen discussed is how US credit-card practices (especially interest rates and fees) compare with those in European countries, Japan, and Australia. Do those countries have enforced usury laws? Do credit-card issuers in those countries charge 10 to 15 times the prime interest rate?

Joe said...

I'd like to add to the usury definition. It is debt that effectively enslaves the debtor. Most debt falls into this category from my viewpoint.