Daily Archives: October 8, 2008

WSJ front page: Housing Pain Gauge: Nearly 1 in 6 Owners 'Under Water'

The relentless slide in home prices has left nearly one in six U.S. homeowners owing more on a mortgage than the home is worth, raising the possibility of a rise in defaults — the very misfortune that touched off the credit crisis last year.

The result of homeowners being “under water” is more pressure on an economy that is already in a downturn. No longer having equity in their homes makes people feel less rich and thus less inclined to shop at the mall….

About 75.5 million U.S. households own the homes they live in. After a housing slump that has pushed values down 30% in some areas, roughly 12 million households, or 16%, owe more than their homes are worth, according to Moody’s Economy.com.

The comparable figures were roughly 4% under water in 2006 and 6% last year, says the firm’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, who adds that “it is very possible that there will ultimately be more homeowners under water in this period than any time in our history.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Credit crisis threatens New Orleans' recovery

A prolonged recession and a tight credit market would cripple New Orleans’ still-fragile recovery from Hurricane Katrina, delaying or eliminating road work, new construction and repairs to homes and businesses that have stood empty since 2005.

The city’s infrastructure plans should stay on track, but a real estate expert calls it a “terrifying” scenario: A lack of sufficient credit would smother companies trying to start up or expand, and with them the new jobs needed to grow the area’s economy. It would choke the flow of cash that developers need to build new homes and first-time homeowners need to buy them. And it would make it tough for the city to sell bonds to finance rebuilding projects on its appointed timeline.

Parking lots and buildings slated for reincarnation as gleaming high-rises might never move beyond blueprints. Small businesses, a lifeblood to the economy and neighborhood anchors, may never reopen or expand.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Hurricane Katrina, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Study: Religious people more generous — on 2 conditions

Religious people are more helpful and generous than others ”” but only on two conditions, according to a new study published in the prestigious journal Science.

University of British Columbia psychology researchers Ara Norenzayan and Azim Shariff concluded that religious people act more kindly than atheists on condition they believe their acts will enhance their reputations among their peers. The second condition is being freshly reminded, in a subconscious way, of the existence of a morally tinged God or supernatural being, the researchers said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

The Full Statement from the Federal Reserve this Morning

The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to lower its target for the federal funds rate 50 basis points to 1-1/2 percent. The Committee took this action in light of evidence pointing to a weakening of economic activity and a reduction in inflationary pressures.

Incoming economic data suggest that the pace of economic activity has slowed markedly in recent months. Moreover, the intensification of financial market turmoil is likely to exert additional restraint on spending, partly by further reducing the ability of households and businesses to obtain credit. Inflation has been high, but the Committee believes that the decline in energy and other commodity prices and the weaker prospects for economic activity have reduced the upside risks to inflation.

The Committee will monitor economic and financial developments carefully and will act as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy

David Leonhardt: Ignoring Reality Has a Price

Obviously, next year’s deficit is a problem. And if you assume the credit crisis isn’t about to lift ”” which seems smart at this point ”” the ultimate cost of the bailouts could conceivably go higher. Whatever the final figure, it should still be put in some context.

Despite everything, the biggest fiscal problem remains, far and away, health care. Based on the rate that medical spending has been rising, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts that Medicare and Medicaid will take up 10 percent of G.D.P. within two decades, up from about 4 percent now. In today’s terms, that would be the equivalent of adding at least $900 billion to the deficit every single year, in perpetuity. It makes the cost of the bailouts look like a rounding error.

When it comes to health care, we have a situation that is blatantly unsustainable. With the right choices, we can prevent that. But so far, we instead seem to be hoping that the situation will magically resolve itself, which is a recipe for big problems and perhaps even a crisis.

Let’s see. That doesn’t sound familiar, does it?

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Notable and Quotable (I)

“The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

— John Maynard Keynes

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, Stock Market

Henry Makori–Africa: Why Christianity Fails to Be 24/7 Religion

It is Western Christianity that objectified God, recreated Him-Her as an intellectual idea, and put up a boundary between the spiritual and the material, the sacred and the profane. Is this dichotomy evident in Jesus’ teaching? No.

Secondly, Pope Benedict XVI has recently said that Christianity is not another moral or ideological system, but a transformative encounter with a person, Jesus Christ. Well, Papa, often in Africa we experience Christianity as an encounter not with Jesus but with a bureaucracy.

Western Christianity is obsessively institutional….
Its religious officials are a powerful class of ‘spiritual middlemen’ whose job seems to be to dole out access to the Divine. They keep pushing God further upward and the ordinary Christians further downward. The result, as one African archbishop put it, is that “God has been represented to Africa as distant and inaccessible to ordinary Christians, as if indifferent to them.”

The rise and popularity of evangelical/Pentecostal Christianity in Africa, which emphasizes personal experience of the Divine in every sphere of life, is in part due to its closeness to the traditional African spirituality of God-with-us 24/7.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Virginia Episcopal church joins land dispute

Christ Episcopal Church of Alexandria, one of the most venerable parishes in the Diocese of Virginia, has joined a historic lawsuit against several Northern Virginia parishes attempting to leave the denomination.

Members of the 235-year-old parish were informed Sunday at a parish meeting that the diocese will represent them in the largest property dispute in Episcopal Church history, taking place at the Fairfax County Courthouse. The multi-trial case will resume Oct. 14.

Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows has dealt three consecutive defeats to the diocese and the denomination in their battle to retain millions of dollars of property held by 11 churches that fled over issues of biblical authority and the 2003 election of the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia

Dave Ramsey with some thoughts on People's Reactions to the Economic Crisis

By and large, 70% to 90% of you wanted something to be done to calm the economy, but you didn’t want $700 billion in new debt to bail out Wall Street. The stock market has had record declines since then. What’s going on?

You need to remember that you need to take control of your life. It’s disturbing that people in government totally disregard what the people tell them to do. It’s disturbing that the market goes down and the media panics about this. It’s disturbing that greedy banks made loans to people who couldn’t afford to repay, and people signed up for the trip when they couldn’t afford it. It’s disturbing that Washington ignores its constituents and takes huge strides toward socialism.

All of these things are disturbing, but none will cause this great nation to cease to function. They are not the beginning of the end. But the most disturbing thing is some people’s reactions. Don’t react based on fear or panic. Another negative reaction is that you are looking to Washington to fix your problems. They have never fixed your problems, and you want Obama or McCain to fix things. There has never been a president who can fix your problems. They always say they can and they never can.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Obama, McCain lay out contrasts before undecided voters

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama hammered away at each other’s judgment on the economy, domestic policy and foreign affairs as they faced off in their second presidential debate.

Obama tried to tie McCain to President Bush’s “failed” policies, while McCain pushed his image as a “consistent reformer” at the debate, which took place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

The debate was set up as a town hall meeting, and the audience was made up of undecided voters.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Coordinated Worldwide Rate Cut Done to try to Calm Markets, Bolster Confidence

Central bankers around the world took emergency action to end the market meltdown today with co-ordinated interest rate cuts designed to ease the credit crunch and lift to the global economy.

The Bank of England said at midday that it was cutting its key rate by half a point to 4.50 per cent even though inflation remains above target. The decision was due tomorrow.

At the exact same time, the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Swiss, Canadian, Swedish and Chinese central banks all announced similar cuts.

The emergency rate cuts came only a few hours after the Government set out a radical £500 billion package today to restore confidence in the UK banking sector and break the crippling logjam in credit markets.

Read it all. The ECB cutting is a big positive–KSH

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Globalization, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Independent: 20 reasons for the crunch

The finger of blame points widely, encompassing greedy bankers, the Iraq war and even Margaret Thatcher.

Read it all. It certainly is nice to see a broader list, but it is missing lots of elements. Where, for example, is the SEC? KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Independent: IMF calls for action now to combat global recession

The global economy faces a much more serious downturn than almost anyone has until now realised unless international governments take immediate co-ordinated action to deal with the credit crisis, the International Monetary Fund warned yesterday.

The IMF said it now believed the losses on US sub-prime assets and securities would ultimately total $1.45trn (£828bn), more than 50 per cent higher than its previous estimate of $945bn, and called for “a comprehensive set of measures that could arrest the currently destructive process”.

Britain, in particular, faces some of the worst fallout from the credit crunch, the IMF said, because it is particularly exposed to the problems of rapidly falling house prices and high personal indebtedness. “With house prices falling rapidly, arrears and losses are likely to rise several times over,” it warned.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Globalization, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Schwarzenegger May Seek Emergency Budget Session

“The first quarter of the fiscal year has just ended, and we already are short $1.1 billion,” California Controller John Chiang said in statement. “Revenues are deteriorating faster than expected, and September’s cash flows send strong signals that the recently enacted budget is more out of balance than we feared.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Martin Marty: Revising the Map of American Religion

It would be misleading to claim that all American religion at century’s end could be captured with one metaphor. From the beginning, we have argued that the lines drawn on the religious maps remain and have certain kinds of significance. But the metaphorical mountains and rivers have their own secrets, which are now being laid bare. All too visible are those features of the landscape and climate that do not show up on the maps where political and organizational lines have been drawn.

New line-drawing also goes on, among people like Robert J. Lifton’s “constrictive” types as well as among people of open outlook. These latter seekers pursue integral and organic outlooks and ways of life through what has been called ressourcement, a return to sources. Extreme forms of this retrieval occur in fundamentalist efforts to draw boundaries and hold adherents with them while they promote negative views of the “other.” Moderate forms of this also take the form of patterns of resistance against the erosive and dissolving elements in American life, its spiritual marketplaces and cafeteria lines.

In the new century, one may expect a continued drama among those who, like so many around the world, have at least three choices. Some turn tribal and exclusive within their boundaries. Others seek to choose communal life of a more open character but still respectful of boundaries. Still others heed the call to “pay no attention to boundaries” and then invent new kinds of responses.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Religion & Culture