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Modern Day Slavery

DebtLast week a woman that I know called my office in tears.  She and her husband are solid Catholics who are doing their best to raise their children as good Catholics and productive members of society.  Although they both have full time jobs, they’ve been having financial problems for the last couple of years.  About five or six months ago, one of the banks they owe money to filed a lawsuit against them.  The bank is now in the process of seizing some of their assets.  When the woman called she was in a state of panic.  (She should have called me a year ago, but like most people, she put it off because she thought they could work things out on their own.) 

I explained to her that the only reasonable option that’s available to her and her husband is to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy which will stop the bank from harassing them.  She and her husband are dead set against filing bankruptcy, but unfortunately, if they don’t file they will eventually lose their home to the bank.  (By filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, we can force the bank to take payments on any arrearage that is due while they continue to make their regular monthly payments.)

There are a lot of Americans who are undergoing severe financial hardship right now.  Most of them are decent law-abiding citizens who have, for one reason or another, ended up in a serious financial bind.  My fear is that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now and things are going to get worse before they get better.

Within the last two days I’ve read about four different events that appear to be unrelated, but if you look at them from a certain perspective, you will find that they are very much related.  Here are the four events:

• reported that a new Congressional Budget Office report disclosed that for the first time in 25 years, Social Security is spending more on benefits than it’s collecting in taxes.  A $28 billion bailout of Social Security is going to be needed by September 30.  (The last time I read an article about the financial condition of Social Security, the consensus was that this was not going to happen until 2017.)

• A proposed new fiscal year budget of $3.834 trillion was released by our government with a provision that over a trillion dollars will need to be borrowed.  To put this monstrous amount of money into perspective, the budgeted amount comes close to equaling the entire amount of wages that will be paid to American workers in 2010.  If the total one year budget of $3.834 trillion were collected directly from the American public, every person in America (including children) would have to pay approximately $12,780.  The cost per family would be $51,120.

• In January of this year, the U.S. Mint sold a total of 3,592,500 American Silver Eagle one ounce coins, which is more than it sold for the entire year of 1996.  There was only one other 
January where over 2 million coins were sold and that was January, 2008.

• Last week the IRS  posted the following notice on a government website:
“The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to purchase sixty Remington Model 870 Police RAMAC #24587 12 gauge pump-action shotguns for the Criminal Investigation Division.  The Remington parkerized shotguns, with fourteen inch barrel, modified choke, Wilson Combat Ghost ring rear sight and XS4 Contour Bead front sight, Knox Reduced Recoil Adjustable Stock, and Speed feed ribbed black forend, are designated as the only shotguns authorized for the IRS duty based on compatibility with IRS existing shotgun inventory, certified armorer and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts.”

So there you have it.  A confirmation that Social Security really is broke.  An unimaginable and record amount of money being borrowed by our government with no way of paying it back other than by levying additional (crippling) taxes on American workers.  A beefed up IRS that is ready, willing, and able to engage in warfare against American citizens who refuse to pay “their fair share.”  Cautious (and smart) investors using their paper money to purchase real money – gold and silver – so that if (when?) the big crash comes, they’ll at least have something of value to show for their years of effort and hard work.

So what does all this have to do with you and me?  What does it have to do with our Catholic faith?  Plenty.

The Catholic lady who called my office has been constantly fighting with her husband for the past year.  Why?  Because of their ongoing financial problems.

Have you ever had serious money problems?  If you have, you know that those problems can easily overwhelm you.  They eat away at you and your relationships like a slow-acting acid.  It can be torturous.  Once a person reaches a certain tipping point, there’s no way out short of bankruptcy.  Prayer helps to bring some sense of peace, but at the end of the day the house payment, the utility bill, and all of the other critical bills still need to be paid.

As devout Catholics, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to the members of our families to take the time and effort to learn how to save and manage our money.  One key ingredient that is required for effectively saving and managing money is to pray for (and practice) the virtues of humility and courage.  Without those two virtues, it’s extremely difficult to say no to ourselves and our family members when a decision has to be made to purchase an item that we want but don’t really need.  In today’s credit saturated culture, it’s too easy (and tempting) to borrow money by obtaining a direct loan or by charging a purchase on a credit card.

There are several references in the Bible about the dangers of becoming a “slave to the money lenders.”  A sincere Catholic has to always be on guard against becoming enslaved by the money lenders.

Once enslaved, the path to financial freedom can be long and arduous.  It is critical that we Catholics free ourselves from the shackles that have been placed on us by the money lenders.  This is the only way that we will ever be in a position to endure the financial storms that lie ahead.

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