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from Fortune Magazine: "The Next Credit Crunch"

I read this interesting article from CNN's Fortune Magazine called, "The Next Credit Crunch." (by Geoff Colvin) The subtitle reads, "Our easy access to plastic is about to dry up - and with it our ability to fake living the good life."

"For the past several years, the average inflation-adjusted total pay of American workers hasn't been increasing. That means we haven't been building a foundation for increases in our living standard. You might be tempted to say that by definition our living standard couldn't have increased, but that's not quite right. Even with stagnant real incomes, we can always live a little better every year through borrowing and pretending that our living standard is still rising, just as it was for decades"

The article goes on to talk about the current economy and how now, at last, things are in a position where people won't be able to pretend. Easy mortgages won't be available, banks won't be giving as much easy credit for people to at least appear to be keeping up with the Joneses.

Colvin concludes, "It may be that the standard-of-living bubble finally has to deflate. Sustainable increases in living standards have to be earned, not borrowed, and that means performing ever higher value work that can't be outsourced. We haven't been meeting that challenge very well; doing so will probably require much more and better education for millions of Americans, which takes time and money.

The result may feel like deprivation, but I don't see it that way. Who knows - we might even find that living within our means and saving a little money actually isn't so bad."

Colvin seems ultimately a bit stuck between arguing that we just have to work harder so we can earn more, and suggesting, quickly, at the end, that perhaps we might even be okay just living within our means.

I read somewhere that surveys show most of us think we would be happy if we had 20% more. (More of everything, I guess, but income, primarily.) The trouble is, if we get 20% more, we still seem to want 20% more. We'll even fake having 20% more if we can, because we like the way it looks, makes us feel, how we stand among our peers with all our stuff.

How much is enough? How much more do you need? I guess a benefit of a struggling economy can be the way it makes us live more simply, even if we do so kicking and screaming in protest. Of course, those who suffer most, though, are those who didn't have enough to begin with. It's a costly way for those of us with so much to learn our lesson of getting along with less.

What do you think is the church's role in a time of great economic stress? Certainly, I've had more people seeking out help from the church, and our centers like food banks and thrift shops are in increasing need as they have to serve more people. But beyond that, what does the church have to say?


Pastor Bill said…
Hi Beth!

I believe he church has an obvious prophetic role in calling folks to lives of integrity and caring - that works out in real life when our neighbors around the world have need we reach to help.

I have been offering a practical budgeting program through for the last few years that encourages people to cut up their plastic cards, pay off their debt, live within their means and give generous gifts.

It is far from a perfect program, but it works and has been life giving and life changing for people that have embraced it.

Love bill
Melissa said…
I think there's a huge opportunity for the church to talk about stewardship -- not in the "give the church money" way, but in the "how do we best use our resources" way. I think it's a great way to reframe what our material blessings mean and how stuff, in the end, isn't necessarily going to bring us the happiness we look for.
Anonymous said…
Good post. I don't have much by way of an articulate comment beyond that.
Questing Parson said…
This was a compelling post. It occurs to me that this desire to have more has made its way into the clergy ranks over the last few decades. I've run into too many pastors who, two weeks after arriving at their new appointment, begin working on getting to the next one with the bigger salary.
Anonymous said…
Good post.

One takeaway from this is that we can expect that many people who come into the church will be carrying a little or even a lot of debt. The church tends to have the view that most people aren't in this situation and expect that tithing and giving is going to be a given. Most of the sermons given on or near commitment sunday indicate this.

Rather than use it as a boundary marker to keep people with debt out of community (a lot of churches shun people who have debt problems), I think it becomes a chance to integrate them into community. I like how pastor bill offers a program for those who would like help.

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