8 March 2009
The shocking events that came in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis which occurred in the United States and spread to the entire world have taken our breath away and made many of us wonder what is really happening to us. Every few days we in the US are confronted by a new disaster, another financial giant failing, another trusted individual betraying people’s trust. Catastrophe is the order of the day, and many have begun to ask where are we headed?
This beloved country of ours has never experienced such a barrage of financial disasters in its brief history. Even the depression of the thirties was not as severe and did not affect the global economy as this one does. Our new president found himself immersed in this mess even before his inauguration. He tried to do something before 20 January since the situation was deteriorating by the minute. After he was sworn in as president he got Congress to pass a rescue package worth $787 billion. The previous president had already passed another package worth $800 billion. The two packages thus came to more than one and a half trillion dollars.
Many people think this is a lot of money, and it is. They say we are mortgaging the future of our children who are the ones who will have to pay all the debt. There is no doubt about that. But the doubt that I and many others have is that there is no guarantee that this money will do the job. Not because it is not enough, but because the problem is not financial, it is a problem of values and character. Any observer of the scene will be able to tell that it was greed, selfishness, the love of money beyond reason, and the lack of conscience among those in charge, that are behind what happened. This is the real root of the problem.
Let me remind you of a few of the scenes and stories we have recently seen. There were the CEOs of the three giant auto companies coming to beg Congress to bail their companies out. They came to Washington flying their expensive corporate jets. Then came the heads of the failing banks who gave themselves almost two hundred billion dollars in bonuses while their banks were bankrupt and billions of dollars in the red. Then there were the millions of homeowners who lost their homes, and the millions who lost their life savings. There was also one of the most trusted financiers in the country who stole fifty billion dollars from famous and rich people and nations around the world. These are just few examples of what this nation was bombarded with lately.
The question is: Will throwing money at the problem solve it? There are reports that more than half of the first package was abused when implemented. So money alone will not solve the problem. We cannot trust those who were in the first place the key figures, and the reason behind what happened and assume they will suddenly undergo a change of character and behaviour once they are handed the new cash. We have to place strict guidelines and regulations as to the manner in which this cash is spent. We have to have a mechanism of checking and monitoring every penny of that package to guarantee that it accomplishes the purpose for which it was included in the package.
Then we must realise that all the people who did that were the product of our educational system. This tells us that we need to go back to what our schools are supposed to teach. We need to make our children excellent in the basic skills and knowledge that will make them masters of their future. More important, however, is to make them citizens who have some basic values such as honesty, modesty, and truthfulness. Only then can we hope that our country will rise again and conquer the financial disaster currently crippling it, and can again hold our head high as we used to.
Dr Sami Boulos is a retired college dean who lives in New Jersey. He authored a few books in biology, raising children, the Life of Christ (4 volumes), and The History of the Early Coptic Community in the USA.