Except for Jobs, Taxes, Crime, etc.: America’s Middle Class is Doing Great - The middle class is under pressure from both the economic and social situation in the United States. This pressure is coming from the misbehavior of both the upper strata and the lower strata of society, consider:
America is losing the loyalty of its large corporations and rich individuals. These folks have basically said "we reserve the right to advantage ourselves with little are no regard for the people or country of our origin". This attitude is manifest in many ways but just a few examples will give a sense of this trend. Factories that employ lots of people are packed up and moved to Asia or Latin America with little regard for the American employees displaced. Service jobs that can be handled over the phone or Internet are moved to low wage "English speaking" countries such as India. Corporations demand major tax breaks saying give us this break or we will move our "higher end" jobs offshore as well. What are these jobs? They are in such areas as Headquarters staff and/or Research & Development personal. For higher end jobs which can't be moved offshore, corporations demand special work visas so they can bring in trained technical people from foreign countries to do work at lower wages than American college graduates would accept. These corporations also demand that their products retain full unrestricted access to America's retail outlets. For lower end jobs, they demand weak enforcement of immigration law so there is a ready pool of illegals to work for sub-minimum wages.
Beyond the large corporations, some rich American individuals have begun spending seven months a year in low tax countries to reduce or eliminate their American income tax liability. This upper strata group is also behaving in irresponsible, anti-social ways that are almost beyond belief. Consider the behavior of Mel Gibson, Bernie Madoff, Lindsey Lohan, Stan O'Neal, Angelo Mozilo, Cardinal Bernard Law, Snop Doggie Dog, William O Douglas, Fabrice Tourre, etc. These people are just the tip of an iceberg of highly visible leaders who have behaved very badly in their personal lives, in their working careers, and/or in the policies they have promoted in their professional lives. These highly visible people have a duty to set a good example as well as to avoid outright financial and/or policy injury to their less fortunate fellow Americans. People who have been greatly blessed in life have great responsibility to others.
Then there is America's underclass which numbers perhaps 60 million people. This group has been slammed with a loss of low skill manufacturing and service jobs. Members of this group, who had formerly found employment in the thousands of factories and support services positions in many rural areas, small cities and towns, have migrated to America's big cities swelling the size of the ghettos and intensifying the societial costs of keeping these millions housed, feed, clothed, "schooled", etc. The society has tried a thousand governmental and private "programs" to address this "ghetto" problem with high cost and surprising little success. Colleges and employers have been asked to set aside slots for "deserving" minorities. Many of these are "deserving" not because they have the necessary skills and intellect to fill these slots properly, but because they at least possess the ability to speak distinctly, dress appropriately, and fit into a social setting. This group of "deserving" move through schools and employers looking and acting properly, but there is a great cost to society because extra staff has to be deployed in schools and at work places to reach the organization's goals when slots are filled with marginal people.
However, greater costs comes from the lower skilled people that are crammed together in ghettos with few appropriate work opertunities, and where major pathologies abound such as out of wedlock births, violent crime, vandalism, sloppy dress, hatred for the broader cultural norms, loud obsene displays, etc. Many minorities in America work irregularly or not at all. Many have physical or mental conditions which make it diificult for them to hold any job. These people when they reach retirement age or when their disability is diagnosed begin receiving social insurance support - disability or Supplemental Social Security. (SSI)
But this essay is suppose to be about the middle class and so far it has discussed the upper strata of society and the lower strata of society. This was done because the ecomonic and social costs, created by the behavior described above, fall mostly on the middle class. To understand this, consider a case study of a middle class family living in a ring suburb of a major American city.
Their house is located within walking distance of a new high speed comuter line and also within walking distance of a new large shopping center. Their neighborhood middle school is part of a busing plan that brings inner city kids to the school. The father, Dan, works as ass't supervisor in a accounts receivable department at a local electric utility. After 20 years he has worked his way up to Ass't Dept Head. The mother, Mary, works as a group leader at a call center for a satilette TV company. The daughter, Wendy, is enrolled in the nearby middle school as a ninth grader. A son, George, is already on his own and is working as an electronics design engineer in Calif.
Mary had studied some accounting in college years earlier and, being a concerned citizen, she serves on the local town council's sub-committee for fiscal review. She is stunned when the new annual budget is presented for review and discovers that the police have asked for a 160% increase, it turns out the new shopping center has been attracting a steady flow of inner city youth via the new commuter rail line. These kids have been harrazing shoppers, stealing purses and shopping bags, and breaking into cars. Mary also learns that the local schools have requested additional money to cope with the problems that the new “bussed in” students are bringing to the schools. They are seeing more Attention Deficit Disorder as well as students with knives and drugs. She immediately realizes that a major property tax increase will be needed for the police and schools. And sure enough a 30% tax increase does materialze on their home's new property tax bill, which jumps by $1700. Some neighbors talk about selling out and everyone hopes that the increased flow of shoppers will generate additional sales tax revenue for the town. However, rumors have it that shoppers have already learned about the crime and that traffic at the shopping center is not increasing as expected.
Dan is ass't to a older gentleman who has been training him for the last six years in all aspects of the billing dept. He has never been told in so many words, but this older gentleman has implied that Dan will become his successor. A couple of years earlier the Human Relations Department had asked that the department hire a black clerk - so they had interviewed and hired a nice black fellow. This black clerk, Harry, was a little slow catching on, but he fits in pretty well. Finally, the time came for the older man, the department head, to resign; the retiring department head and his ass't were called into the office of the VP of Accounting to discuss the coming reorganization in the billing dept. The conversation begins smoothly enough but it soon becomes apparent that the VP had decided on something other than the expected succession. It turns out the VP wants to promote the newly arrived black fellow as department head, but he openly admits that the man lacks the ability to fully understand, much less supervise the billing department. The VP, undeterred, goes on to say to Dan - "but with you as his ‘wing man’ the department will run just fine". The VP admitted this is really “not fair but that top management really wants a black in a department head position, and this is our best option at this time". The VP ends the meeting telling Dan to “think it over and get back to me”. Badly disappointed, Dan tells the VP that he'll talk to his wife and get back to him.
Dan arrives home to tell his wife that he is being passed over at work only to find his wife crying at the kitchen table. It turns out her call center is being moved by her employer to India. She has been offered a generous six months severance but she has to live in India for six months to train her replacement. Otherwise its two weeks pay and good by. Her husband can't bring himself to tell his wife he is considering quitting his job at the billing dept. He quietly decides to accept the role of "wing man" .
The daughter, Wendy, at her middle school, is a quiet girl, a good student; her black classmates particularly the boys are annoyed by both her quietness and her studiousness, They invite her to various social functions which she declines. They begin harassing her with foul remarks. They play hip pop and rap music that contains lyrics that are offensive to Wendy. Her father speaks to the principal, but the principal implies that it would be difficult for him to do anything since he has not witnessed anything untoward. Unless they hurt her or one of the teachers catches them red handed making obscene remarks, he can do nothing. The father realizes his daughter's future at the neighborhood school would not be very pleasant. Although the family is Baptist, the father and mother is desperation call a local Lutheran high school and discover that for $8000 their daughter can enroll as a freshman. Fortunately the family has a college fund for their daughter, so there is money for the tuition although college expenses later on could be a problem.
The family's older son, George, who got an electronics engineering degree a few years earlier, calls and says his company in Calif. has devised a intelligent phone that is better than the Apple iPhone. They expect to sell millions of these new phones, and he could get a million dollar bonus in a couple of years. Everyone is excited and the mother asks where will this new product be made, her son's says "China, mom; we expect to employee several thousands Chinese in our new factory" the mother is interested and asks "wow that’s a lot of people how many thousands of employees do you have in California?" her son responds “only 22 in this country. The big salaries are all here but the large numbers are in China. Its interesting Mom, we expect to pay our 22 employees in Calif twice as much in total as all our employees in China" . The mother thinks about her coming trip to India to out source her call center job, starts to become depressed, and hands the phone to her daughter to finish out the call.
This case contains five occurrences or situations that effect a hypnotically family. Some middle class family might have more such instances, some less, some none. But taking this case as an example consider the social and economic burdens that this hypothical family has to carry because of the changes described: 1) Mary's income is lost at the call center, 2) Dan expected raise from being promoted to department head is also lost, 3) there is the cost of sending Wendy to the Lutheran high school, 4) the property tax increase has to be paid to support additional police and educational resources, and 5) the pain that Mary felt when she realizes that George's company has chosen not to employee Americans - Americans like the young men who are currently committing crimes at the local shopping center and had decided to employ Chinese. ........... (Prepared by Hugh Murray on 1/11/2011)
Aristotle, Eugene Robinson, and Michelle Norris Made Related Observations - Aristotle remarked in his Politics that slavery should be outlawed except for those that have the ability to take direction and work productively but lack the ability to formulate for themselves a reasonable or sensible course of action.
Michelle Norris of Boston University notes that Birmingham's historically black neighborhood formerly had, under Jim Crow segregation: 1) an all black high school, Parker High School, with great teachers many of whom had PhD or Master's degrees and furthermore the graduates were well disciplined and functioning at their full capability upon graduation, and 2) had a vibrant business center with many successful black owned stores, doctors offices, repair shops, etc. Michelle noted that under integration these high quality teachers have gone on to higher paying jobs in government and private business that were formerly unavailable to them. In like fashion the successful businessmen, doctors and skilled repairmen have moved to higher income areas where greater compensation was available. The better students no longer attend the formerly all black high school they now go to formerly all white or private high schools in the suburbs.
But what of the hundreds, indeed thousands, of less capable students and their parents left behind in the old black neighborhood. Their school has declined and the many jobs formerly provided in the black owned businesses are gone. These "left behind" folks are not being helped by integration. They have lost their natural leaders and are now floundering, with high unemployment and with temptations to various anti-social behaviors: crime, out of wedlock childbearing, drug dealing, etc.
Eugene Robinson in his recent book Disintegration has looked at this “left behind” group of blacks. He is not sure what to recommend for this group, but he knows they number in the millions, and they need help beyond handouts. Robinson also points out that America has been a magnet for capable blacks from many majority black countries around the globe. He points out how well this group of immigrants have been doing. Of course, this movement of capable people to America is creating a talent and leadership shortage in the "sending" countries.
Returning to Aristotle’s definition there is a need to look beyond the offensive word "slavery" and focus instead at the words "direction for those who are incapable of formulating for themselves a reasonable or sensible course of action". In most societies today these less capable people are given direction by their cousins, or friends, or neighbors who live nearby. Today there is no “slavery”, or even any heavy handed compulsion, rather, through fraternal and family connections, loving suggestions and directions are provided to the less capable members of the community.
Of course, a distant impersonal government can try to substitute by establishing a series of programs designed to put before such people work places and social institutions that will allow them to engage in constructive useful work. In some places in America today, the government is attempting to implement programs which hope to induce these “left behind” folks to pursue useful goals. Of course, the government programs will probably not succeed because the government lacks the interpersonal ties developed through family, community, and long association that command a trusting ascent to suggestion without being impersonal or pushy. ..........(prepared by Hugh Murray on 1/21/2011)
An Open Letter to a US Senator about the Recent Regulatory Destruction of 1000 Small Broker Dealers -
Dear Sen Doe:
Happy New Year this Jan. of 2011.
I write to advise you of the closure of over 1000 small broker dealers in the last 24 months. This is out of a total beginning universe of about 5500 broker dealers.
The situation is dire because the SEC and FINRA have stepped up the issuance of new rules combined with much stricter enforcement of all rules. Formerly, under the NASD, there was a desire to work with small firms to get them smoothly into compliance with the 8000 page rule book. (You will probably recall that the NASD was controlled by a "one firm, one vote" policy so small firms had a lot of say on methods of enforcement. Today, after the merger of the NASD with the NYSE enforcement division, we have FINRA where only 3 of 20 board seats are allocated to the smaller firms.).
Now it is a game of "get 'em if you can". The issuance of Wells Notices with accompanying requests for suspensions, expulsions, or fines has increased. When I first became a compliance manager this firm was about the same size it is now. Then a regulatory exam from initial announcement to final conclusion was 10 to 12 weeks with the on site portion of the exam involving one examiner for a week or less. Today the time from initial announcement to conclusion is 6 to 8 months and the on site portion involves 2 or 3 people for 2 weeks. Recently FINRA conducted an election for the three small firm seats on the board, the moderates that FINRA's management backed were summarily defeated by three "write in" candidates who strongly opposed FINRA's current policies.
My firm is likely to go out of existence in April when another local firm will probably take us over. We are still in talks, but we are close to a deal. Please note, I don't write for myself or my firm.
The down market of late '08 and '09, plus the accompanying investor fear, put heavy pressure on me and my company, but when the regulators decided to simultaneously increase the regulatory pressure on my firm, the possibility of saving the firm was essentially lost.
Just when I should have been cutting back office expenses to match the drop in our volume of business, I had to increase back office overhead to keep, review, approve, and store many new records being demanded by our regulators. My time, during many recent months, was mostly devoted to the changed regulatory landscape rather than figuring out how to motivate my brokers, or to finding new products to offer clients, or to recruiting new brokers to come to my firm.
The basic problem, as I see it is a strong desire on the part of our regulators to make every firm operate according to pre-approved detail procedures. Small firms, in all industries, have only one great advantage; they are able to be flexible and adjust their processes, product offerings, and services on short notice. With regulatory pre-approval of procedure changes and strict enforcement of these detail procedures, the flexibility of small firms disappears.
There is a second related problem. FINRA, which is led by lawyers, likes to have no blind spots if a litigation or regulatory action is leveled against a firm, or one of its brokers, at a later date. This desire has sent the record keeping and management review requirements way up along with costs. The regulators don't just want to be able to "nail" the offending broker, they want to make certain there is enough documentation to "nail" the broker's supervisor just as easily. The cost to create, approve, and maintain such a panoply of documents is huge.
The combination of rising costs and reduced flexibility would be tough for any small firm to handle; it has been particularly hard for small firms in the brokerage industry whose large competitors have been propped up with TRAP funding.
I have noted an interesting sidelight to all this. The selling of a small B/D, particularly when 1000 other small B/Ds are being offered for sale at the same time, creates a very interesting business school case study about the price effects that occur when there is a sever imbalance between supply and demand.
What might you do to stop this from happening to another 1000 small B/D's? Because Congress has given wide ranging rule making and enforcement power in the brokerage industry over to the SEC and the Self Regulatory groups, like FINRA, legislation is likely off the table. (Congress probably should reconsider these huge grants of power to un-elected commissioners at the many agencies, but that is a subject beyond the scope of this letter.)
Nevertheless here are a few ideas:
. A) Ask for a Congressional Research Service study on the effects of such small firm destruction on:
.. (i) service, public education, and information availability for small investors (those with less than $50,000 of investable assets) who don't want to lock their money up in a pre-packaged product (e,g, an annuity) but want to learn about all sorts of investments from a knowledgeable person,
.. (ii) employment options for part-time or small-time producing brokers who are less interested in generating large personal incomes and more interested in providing service and information to clients,
.. (iii) employment opportunities for support personal at these many small firms,
.. (iv) the source of "good & useful" innovations (as opposed to "greed driven & bad" innovations) in the financial service industry including whether they have tended to come from small firms or large firms, and
.. (v) whether fee based accounts really are better for small investors. Perhaps commission based accounts are actually better for many or even most.
. B) Have an oversight hearing of the SEC on the recently changed regulatory approach. The key questions to ask are "why so much change in such difficult times?" or "what did you do to save some small firms?" or "didn't you think that forcing the closure of all these firms might exacerbate unemployment and the recession?". The SEC missed Madoff and Sanford, even though whistle-blowers told them, so now they take out their angst on the remaining small and mid-sized firms. What's the logic?
. C) Seek out Elizabeth Warren and have a few chats. She was a Sunday School teacher years ago and has a deep concern for the plight of America's families. Many clients at small broker dealers come from middle income families, (Lately large firms have tended to push smaller accounts out using minimum account size requirements. Today large firms have a client base that it mostly upper middle or high income people. Ms Warren might have views on these trends.)
Finally, I have to say the people I deal with at FINRA are generally nice people. They are being asked to pursue policies which, I think, they have strong reservations about.
Additionally, I believe the large firms have captured FINRA in Washington, and they are using FINRA to eliminate competition and capture more assets for the brokers at the larger firms.
I hate to dump this on you, but I knew you were a good person for this problem being a very experienced Washington policy maker .
PS Your assistant, who got the unlucky job of reading through this tale of woe, certainly deserves a clap on the back. .... ........................(prepared by Hugh Murray on 1/20/2011)
Christians are Especially Blessed to have a Triune God - There are three monotheistic religions Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The first two have a vision of God which is singular and not very nuanced. God has spoken, His commands are set forth, His relationship to man is along a single axis, life defined by one route to God.
In Christianity God has established Himself as a unified God head with three distinct persons within that unified Godhead. Out of this comes a highly variegated, nuance, and individualized religious experience.
Of course, every Christian acknowledges that God is in every way perfect. The three person God head is therefore possessed of all perfection within itself. Included are perfect coordination, perfect communication and perfect accord on all decisions and of course all action. So why does God present to the world with three persons? Of course, there are His words about the various unique roles which each person fulfills. This information helps our comprehension, but it also helps us to think about our human nature, which was also created by God. How do the various persons of God strike our human nature?
With these questions in mind, it is time to review each person of the Trinity and see how that person's "role" strikes our human nature. In order to focus this process a bit, the particular problem of free will, combined with its corollaries, the choosing of a course of action, the falling into sin, and the practice of virtue, will frame the discussion.
God the Father is the creator, the ultimate father figure, the one to whom monotheistic believers have always offered sacrifice: seeking atonement for sin, in thanksgiving for past benefits, and in petition for future needs. He is the one who will eventually decide each person eternal fate. Loving but little apart, a little foreboding, God the Father impacts human nature with a sense of thankfulness for the gift of life and yet disquiet about perhaps not being found good enough to make the cut on judgement day. Like the Father in a more traditional family everyone knows that they are loved, but Father is just a little apart; he is not someone to be trifled with.
God the Son is a different matter, He became flesh, he was born of Mary, He grew up like every human: loving His family, learning a trade, etc. He suffered and died for all mankind, he was both man and God; but He was like us, he had a human nature a human's life. He had to say hard things; the way we sometimes have to say hard things (remember the Pharisees or the money changers), He had relatives that made demands (remember the Wedding at Cana), He had a proud Father who crashed the party unannounced (remember the Baptism by John), He had fickle, frightened friends (remember Peter denying Him three times), etc. Now here is a person to whom every man can relate. His birth, life, and death are the most re-enacted events in drama, pictures, stature, and relief. God became a man, enduring life's vicissitudes even unto a painful death - all for the love of His fellow men - all done to relieve the burden of sin and to build a infinite storehouse of grace to help man deal with sin and life's difficulties to the end of time. For the average Christian, Jesus Christ is like a super hero, super loving big brother who is always ready to take up the difficulties of his younger siblings.
However there is a third person of the God head, this person is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is identified by Jesus as the one who will be with man to help man till the end of time. The Holy Spirit gives “on going” life to the Church. The Holy Spirit is God acting in the world. From the beginning, the Holy Spirit was present. When St. Peter gave his talk about "who Jesus was" to the assembled Jews from across the Roman world (Acts Ch. 2), the Holy Spirit allowed each person present to hear Peter's remarks in his own tongue and announced His presence with tongues of fire in the air. Before that the Holy Spirit showed himself in the burning bush that Moses saw when the Ten Commandments were handed down. The Holy Spirit has remained active through the centuries involving himself in every person's daily life, each person's daily tasks, each person's many decisions, etc. Offering grace to help people seek the good and avoid evil, but always allowing people to exercise their free will. The Holy Spirit is the person of the God head that is with each person always. His involvement is recalled by millions who attend Mass and hear the priest say that this sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered to God the Father "through the Holy Spirit". For all his activity and involvement the Holy Spirit is the least known the least publicized member of the Godhead. It is almost as though the Holy Spirit shuns publicity . A God person who prefers to operate behind the scene. How mysterious, how wonderful for each man to have such a powerful, quiet, secret, loving helpmate for every difficulty.
Why is the Holy Spirit so self effacing? God has not made a revelation regarding this matter, however, one might speculate a little about this. Since Christians are urged to focus intently on Christ’s birth, life, teachings, Last Supper, crucifixion and resurrection; the Triune God may have decided to reduce the exposure of the Holy Spirit in order to give greater attention to Jesus Christ.
The other two mono-theistic religions are book oriented religions, for the Jews the Torah and for the Muslims the Koran. But for Christians the focus is Christ, their brother and their Savior, and His basic message of love, forgiveness, and celebrating the Eucharist in community. Secondarily, Christianity’s focus is on writings; after all Christ never told his followers to create writings. But of course there is a New Testament, which the Church Fathers ordered created some 400 years after Christ; and there are many other important writings that Christian leaders have produced over the years. Of course, some such writings were not accepted while others were accepted and thus became part of the canon of Christian writings. The sorting out process, whereby some writings were accepted and others were not, was one of the big jobs of the Holy Spirit who guided the Church leaders in their decision making. This diversion from a strict discussion of the persons of God was done to show how the important Christian insights into religious belief came about over the centuries.
The Holy Spirit has also been active promoting, in the hearts of Christians, the practice of asking saints and angels for their intercessions with God for help with special needs and personal problems. The first Saint was of course, Mary, the Mother of Christ, but the Holy Spirit has also inspired Christian leaders to designate thousands of other Christians as Saints. These people were particularly holy in life and serve today as exemplars for believes about how they should behave in various settings. Think of St. Louis IX serving as an exemplar for Pres Obama, or St. Sebastian serving as an exemplar for a solder, or St. Philippine Duchesne serving as an exemplar for a high school teacher, etc.
The Holy Spirit has also been instrumental in allowing certain holy practices to gain popularity and wide following. Consider: the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, preached retreats, frequent private confession, attendance at daily Mass, the frequent reception of the Eucharist, regular adoration of Blessed Sacrament, etc.
Christians would say that the Holy Spirit was active when certain Christian leaders called attention to common abuses in the Church. Consider: Martin Luther who objected to the sale of indulgence, Augustine who objected to the Donatists, Athanasius who objected to the Aryans, etc.
What a loving God that gives man all of these images and persons to relate to in so many different ways: a loving, a just and a merciful Father; a sacrificing, loving divine brother; and an ever present, ever loving, ever helpful Spirit. .............(prepard by Hugh Murray on 2/7/2011)
Islam and Christianity have Different Notions of Forgiveness - In Islam the consequences of moral violations is immediate and sever. A man who steals and gets caught and loses a hand. A woman who engages in fornication and gets caught is stoned to death by her male relatives. These penalties are set out in the Koran, and, of course, the Koran contains the exact words of God, so any adjustment is a direct violation of God's specific command.
Christians, on the other hand, follow the injunctions of Jesus who preached forgiveness and mercy. Thus thieves, fornicators, and adulterers are urged to seek and accept God's forgiveness and then go forth and "sin no more".
Of course, the underlying religious values of a society will be reflected in that society's laws and penal institutions. If Muslims want one set of laws and standards for punishment while Christians want a different approach, the society will necessary collapse into irreconcilable discord over fundamental issues.
So the question for society is how do these two different peoples actually live together as part of the same polity? To ask the question is not to answer it, but without "the asking" no solution can be found.
................(prepared by Hugh Murray on 3/22/2011)
St. Louis County (Missouri) is Blessed with an Abundance of Small Communities - Lately the Supervisor of St. Louis County, Chas Dooley, has been promoting the wholesale transfer of many city functions from the 100+ communities in the county to the county government. The services contemplated for transfer include parks, police, fire, emergency medical, trash pick up, zoning, administration, street maintenance, etc.
Some economic studies show all these services could be delivered more cost efficiently if they were delivered from a larger or higher level of government. This might be true, but should this move be made. Much that is beneficial might be lost.
Here are a few of the intangible benefits that might be lost by consolidation:
1) The local city councilman who represents say 2500 people and is currently available to discussion local problems at backyard lawn parties would be replaced a remote county council member who represents 150,000 people. The responsiveness to neighborhood issues would decline. The people who have community concern and seek voluntary involvement would tend to withdraw when faced with a massive, remote county government apparatus.
2) The areas that have been maintaining their streets and parks might find money drained away to improve the maintenance of such facilities in areas that have neglected maintenance in the past.
3) Personal policies in a small community involve a lot of interpersonal friendship between regular citizens and government employees. This interaction increases overall trust between the two groups and if a behavior problem develops with an employee the discipline can be handled quickly and locally without appeal to a massive county bureaucracy. This makes the servants of the people more responsive to the people they serve.
4)Communities have different priorities. For instance, a community with a large percentage of older people might prefer to have extra emergency medial response units and older adult vans for the handicapped. Another community with a local college in its boundaries might prefer extra police to better control the drunk driving problem.
5) There is also a very principled argument for retaining local control. Philosophers and theologians have noted for years that the most important organizing unit in society is the family - no particular brilliant insight here. But they have gone on to recognize that after the family the most important governmental units are those closest to the family, in other words, those units most responsive to the concerns of impacted families. This insight is given the name of "subsidiarily" (i.e. keeping a maximum of governmental control as close as possible to the family). This makes town government more important that county government, county government more important than state government, etc.
Surely some small amount of money might be saved by consolidation, but the loss of responsiveness and lack of control are great costs. At times like this it is important to remember the small storekeeper's saying " the lack of quality is remember long after the low price is forgotten".
Before closing it might be mentioned that the founders had to cope with exactly these same issues. They wanted to keep as much control in the hands of the locals while giving only enough power to the federal government as was necessary to keep the country safe from invasion and deliver the mail. They came up with the words "all other powers are reserved to the states and the people". (See the US Constitution - 10th Amendment).
Because of the emasculating effects of the civil war and the unrelenting power grab by the judges and pols in D.C., all legal scholars today refer to these words as "dead letters"; sadly they are correct. However, that doesn't mean the founders were wrong, no it means the country has thrown away one of the most important ideas ever presented to America.
St Louis County is blessed with lots of real local control. Much more than almost any other urbanized area in America. This blessing should not be squandered for some minimal financial gain.
.............(prepared by Hugh Murray on 3/22/2011)
The Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X Break off Discussions - It was reported in early 2011 that Bishop Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X and his interlocutors in the Vatican had broken off conversations about the terms under which the Society would return to full union.
WHY THIS BREAKDOWN?
The conversations had been focused on several items including: 1) the role of the Traditional Latin Mass would play in the universal Church in the coming years, 2) the change in Church teaching wrought by Vatican II regarding the salvation of members of Christian ecclesiastical communities (i.e. Protestant Churches), 3) the decision to fast track the canonization of John Paul II, and 4) the protections that the society might expect from Vatican interference with its practices regarding the form of the sacraments, the appointment of leaders, and the formation of its seminarians. Which of these issues was particularly difficult for the parties, was not reported, but it is fair to say all were probably difficult.
Regarding the Mass in the vernacular as the preferred form (called by the church hierarchy the "ordinary form") the Vatican was probably unable to raise the traditional Latin Mass to even an equal status. This older Mass, with a five hundred year history of near universal usage, is now called the "extraordinary form" of the Mass. The new Mass is loved by active lay people because it provides many opportunities for these well meaning folks to "get in the act" - doing readings, writing songs, helping with the communion, singing their modern music, playing guar tars and trumpets, even standing in for the priest occasionally giving oral reports in the middle Mass on this or that aspect of parish life, etc. The solemnity of the sacrifice is submerged under this "hyper activity". People think of this Mass as "nice" but not compelling - the sense of mystery, majesty, and sacrifice is mostly lost. It is no wonder the Society wanted this Mass suppressed but equally it is no wonder the current Church activists were having none of it.
Regarding the second item: the Church feels that an opening to the Protestants should yield a steady flow of conversions. Giving up the old formula "no salvation outside the Church for those who are aware of the Catholic Church”, in exchange for a doctrine that acknowledges the special presence of the Holy Sprit in Protestant assemblies, made interfaith conversations easier. Additionally, the Vatican position is currently yielding some fruit as large numbers of English Anglicans are coming to "Rome". Whether it is this change of doctrine by the Vatican or the installation of women and homosexual bishops in the Anglican Church that is prompting this movement, only pollsters can tell.
Regarding the canonization of John Paul II, the SSPX makes the following points: a) this Pope was never willing to really engage the Society on its issues regarding Vatican II, b) this Pope reacted to the laity's wholesale rejection of confession and personal sancitity by reducing the requirements for cannonanization, declaring dozens of new saints, and giving the impression that entry to into heaven could be obtained easily, c) this Pope saw many of the faithful losing their belief in the Real Presence and chose to take no serious corrective action such as re-instituting the form of the Mass proven to reinforce belief in the Real Presence.
Finally, the society has been particularly passionate about keeping control of their practices and training, because a smaller traditionalist group in Campos, Brazil had returned to the Vatican accepting the Vatican's assurance of non-interference and within a year the local traditionalist bishop was pressured to con-celebrate the New Mass and to stop characterizing the New Mas in unflattering ways.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The Vatican does not like dissent even by those who are quoting the authoritative pronouncements of prior councils and popes. The Church's longstanding teaching is that "defined teachings on faith and morals" are true doctrines because they are simply a clearer statement of what can be inferred from Christ's teaching while on earth or from the inspired word of God found in the Bible . They can be refined subsequently but never changed or abrogated . This is where the Society of Pius X has such a strong case. If Pius V was correct when he designated the Traditional Latin Mass as the Mass that would always be the Mass of the Church and available to all the faithful for all time, how can this change?
The Catholic Church has split before. In 1054 the Eastern Church, commonly called the Orthodox Church, split off from the part loyal to Rome. This split was over the amount of authority vested in the successor of St Peter as compared to the amount of authority vested in the successors of the other apostles who resided in Constantinople, Antioch, Athens, etc. Was Rome able to dictate to the others? Fortunately the split was fairly clean. There was a clear geographic separation; so the two parts were able to develop organically in their own space .
THE CURRENT SITUATION
The current situation involves another split but this time there is no geographic separation. This means the two parts will be operating side by side in the same territory. The SSPX part is about 1% of the whole in terms of adherents, but it possess perhaps 3% of all seminarians and a laity that is much more highly motivated. Over time the biggest difference will be the strength of belief in the real presences of Christ in the host at Mass. The Vatican has the money and numbers. However, because today’s police power is vested in religiously neutral secular authorities, the Vatican can’t use its money, its numbers, or its power to crush dissenters like these traditionalists.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
It looks like the long standing method of determining whose right or wrong about such things is going to play out. The faithful will decide with their feet. The Society will continue to offer the Traditional Mass said by priests trained in traditional ways with an emphasis on frequent confession and teaching a superior position of Catholicism vis a vie Protestantism. Priests, that are in union with the Vatican, will mostly offer versions of the new a Mass involving the laity presumably with lots of emphasis on God’s love and with little mention of sin or the need for confession. Which of these two formats will, over the generations, attract the most followers? Only the Holy Spirit knows. Modern man is troubled by today’s shallowness, constant change, and cultural corruption. He needs a religion that helps him find his foundation in God. The successful Catholic format will best present: 1) Christ as truly present in the Eucharist, and 2) His call for repentance, reform and metanoia. It is really pretty simple.
The SSPX has a “tried and true” format and formula for motivating the faithful; now all the Vatican has to do is develop an alternative liturgical formula that leads the faithful to an equally deep Faith. The Vatican is currently trying to split the difference. They are adding large amounts of Latin taken from the traditional Mass into the new Mass. For instance, the EWTN daily Mass, on cable tv, includes both the Kyrie and the Our Father in Latin. Pope Benedict is evidently thinking a few Latin sections in the middle of the New Mass might be enough to restore widespread belief in the Real Presence. It certainly is an improvement, but is it enough?
No doubt St Athanasius, who spent many years in desert exile waiting to see if the Arians or their opponents would capture the heart of the Church, is looking on from heaven with great interest............... ....... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 3/31/2011)
This page hopes to bring a common
sense, old fashioned view to today's news. The comments displayed
on this page were prepared by
Hugh V. Murray, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org