Enron: The inverted world of sin and debt
Well, it seems that many beguiled investors are finally facing the facts about business as usual in America. Some learned their lesson the hard way a couple of years ago watching their dot com dreams go down in double digits on the NASDAQ as it fell from over five thousand to below two thousand. Why? Because everyone was living large on borrowed money. It was all debt and no earnings…all show and no go! Others faithfully kept their eyes on the Dow believing IT was the true measure of all things economic while dismissing the cold hard truth that the Dow only tracks 30 or so stocks. This makes it a magnificent tool for manipulation and deceit by elites wishing to charm small investors into the marketplace with their precious 401Ks. It’s no secret that these industrial blue chips have been artificially propped-up for years by the federal government’s own “plunge protection team” to create an illusion of prosperity and strength for all the small investors to believe in. Yet, there it stands in all it’s glory past, a moth-ridden symbol of pseudo success and stability that hangs right where it did three years ago (just below 10,000) like an old suit in a musty closet that we open up and look into whenever we need to feel prosperous and secure.
Please forgive me if I sound a little bearish on the markets. Frankly, I actually did quite well in them in the 90’s thanks to an honest and gifted money manager whom I still consider a dear friend. However, I realized around the middle of 1998 that Wall Street had become a place, not for prudent investors but for gamblers, addicts and con men. I fortunately managed to get out only days before the first of many corrections occurred and I haven’t been back since.
I guess it’s our gullible human nature that makes us believe what we want to believe. And when the paid propagandists on CNBC, MSNBC, FOX and CNNfn sit at their financial desks and tell us to believe the impossible, we do just that because we love the flashing numbers, the party atmosphere, the dazzling shows, the sassy lingo and all the smiling faces. It’s like going to Las Vegas for a good time with friends! Even though we know the odds are against us and the glitz and glamour of it all is just a facade designed to make us look and feel like winners, we keep coming back for more regardless of the potential for disaster. Even if we’re upside down and looking for credit… HEY, not to worry…we’re still a player! Although I don’t consider myself to be particularly shrewd or gifted when it comes to investing there’s one thing I am certain of. Those TV pitch men who claim to be looking out for your best interests and mine will say and do whatever it takes to keep us in the game because that’s what they’re paid to do. That brings me to Enron.
A friend of mine asked me the other morning what I thought about the Enron mess. I told him I was convinced more and more with each passing day that it is just tip of the iceberg…an iceberg that has been threatening Wall Street and the U.S. economy for years thanks to a growing and unserviceable debt bubble inflated by corporate greed and government corruption. With little or no earnings and way too much speculative trading, Wall Street is a disaster waiting to happen. Debt is a nasty little word you don’t hear much about on the networks even though its dominating presence and effect on our economy is absolutely chilling. On those rare occasions it does leave the lips of a talking head, debt is usually presented as if it was an acceptable part of a healthy economy. Enron and its “creative accounting” practices are obviously not the exception in today’s business world but rather the rule and I believe it to be the first of many frightening failures to come in 2002. Figuring this out doesn’t really take much savvy…just a little common sense. 2001 saw the greatest number of bankruptcies filed and jobs lost for any single year in the history of these United States. Don’t expect anyone from the mainstream media or the Bush administration to make that announcement in coming days. They have a vested interest in filtering such information from you and me.
In the “Age of Illusion” we’ve become a nation that revels in our indebtedness. Our inverted system of morals and values has taught us that saving is bad and spending is good even when we don’t have anything to spend. Therefore, the more we borrow, the more valuable we are to the economy and society as a whole, all while feeling better about ourselves. Today we measure a man’s potential in the marketplace not by his stability, discipline, character, prudence, skills and conservative values but by his credit line and a willingness to gamble it all on a roll of the dice.
Sadly, these practices are not limited to the business world either. It’s hard to find a church these days that doesn’t believe borrowed money is a gift from God. Faith, it seems, is no longer measured by how much we’re willing to sacrifice what God has blessed us with to help others but rather how much we’re willing to borrow from others to help God bless US. When I see today’s churches readily chain themselves to the world’s financial institutions just to carry out the “will of God”, I’m left wondering; Why must the children of the King beg from the lost to feed the starving? Is that what Jesus taught us to do? Did He feed the five thousand by sending his disciples into town to borrow what they needed from the moneychangers with a divine promise that God would help them pay off the loan in 15 years and bless everyone in the process? The bible says “without faith it is impossible to please God”. (Hebrews 11:6) So I ask you my brothers and sisters in Christ, how much faith does it take to get a bank loan to carry out the Great Commission?
In the “Age of Illusion” debt has become as acceptable as sin…even to the Christian. No longer is it looked-down on by the church as something to avoid or be ashamed of. On the contrary it is celebrated as a mark of excellence…an act of faith…something holy and pleasing to God. The church now teaches BY EXAMPLE that the more debt we incur, the more committed we are to God. If borrowing money is truly an act of faith then every church in America should apply for as much money as their banks will lend them, regardless of the interest, terms or their ability to repay. Now THERE’S real faith in action! In like manner, every church member should go out and apply for personal loans from THEIR banks on a regular basis to keep the church’s offering plates full each and every Sunday. But you see my friends borrowing money doesn’t take faith, patience, humility or personal sacrifice. Its only requirements are covetousness, impatience, faithlessness, selfishness and a driving ambition that says: “I want what I want when I want it.”
Yes, debt is A LOT like sin. There just never seems to be enough in this old world to cover the cost of accommodating one’s insatiable appetite for more and more.
“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20)