Values Are For Hard Times

The motivation for a blog is often obvious to my readers. This time, I offer to you the impetus behind this edition. A Joplin Globe guest columnist, whom I will not name to preserve his shame for other forums, offered some pretty words about ‘values’. He then reverted to the frequently-used technique of parroting a politician’s pandering. He restated Rep. Eric Cantor‘s demand: “I, for one, call for no federal deficit spending to rebuild Joplin.” His fellow Joplinites, many of whom suffered damage which he avoided, are left to wonder whose side Joplin’s ‘Tin Man‘ is on.

My Mother and Dad were Great Depression fiscal conservatives, who practiced that fundamental tenant of not buying luxuries with borrowed money. A few of you may even remember Del & Ben Stone – they gave me my introduction to Joplin when Dad was Postmaster from 1968-1970. They also understood the wisdom of paying for necessities, with some financial hardship, rather than to fail to support important priorities. They supported committments to projects which required investment before receiving a cost-effective return. These were some of their values – values which they applied to neighbors as well as to themselves.

My parents’ values are values that many Joplinites are exercising as they recover from the tornado disaster. Many people who have lost much are giving generously to their neighbors. Churches, synagogues, and mosques have been providing impressive amounts of aid. Groups and individuals across America have sent help to us. My daughter, Mariam, gathered donations and brought a truck and trailer from Indianapolis! As tremendous as these friends have been, the task of recovery is vast and difficult to overcome.

That task is important far beyond Joplin. Our citizens who were not directly affected have been disadvantaged by the general and widespread destruction. Neighboring communities have lost valuable resources that Joplin provided. Corporations in Joplin have customers across America and internationally who need their important products and services. These people understand that they incurred a deficit on May 22nd. That is the deficit which must be remedied.

Our nation has a substantial habit of accepting deficits to pay for important assets. Since the fall of the Soviet Empire, and the decay of its formerly-formidable military, we have maintained a large and vigorous U.S. military. We currently maintain a fleet of 18 Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarines. We have deemed it suitable to spend about $50 million each year to maintain each of these vessels – $900 million each year, for many years. This cost, alone, is more than half of the current annual federal deficit. We also deploy nuclear fast-attack submarines, additional Navy surface vessels and aircraft, ground forces, and an incomparable Air Force. Some folks have debated the suitable proportions of such expenditures.

That is the only suitable debate about rebuilding Joplin: what is the appropriate magnitude of public resources to invest? It is probably less than $900 million – total. That such investment must be made is beyond reasonable debate. We value both what we have lost and what will replace that which is replaceable.

We will rebuild Joplin based on values. Let us assure our neighbors that those values recognize the value of lives, jobs, businesses, and property as worthy of the temporary sacrifices which will lead us to a better future.

When President Barack Obama assured us, “Your country will be with you every single step of the way”, he may have been thinking of Matthew 25:40“Whatever you did for the least of these, you also did for Me.” May it be that, in the President’s words, “It’s what Joplin has taught the world”.

3 Responses to “Values Are For Hard Times”

  1. 1 Bob Ranney
    July 15, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Couldn’t agree more. If the primary function of government is not to guard the well-being of its people what is it? If that is it, then what is the better way – military expenditure or rescue? If disaster strikes as it has in Joplin, rescue absolutely must be the first priority.

    Secondarily, you are correct in recognizing that our military expenditures are way beyond what is needed to safeguard our well-being. All this squabbling about our deficits completely ignores that reality. Reducing that spending while retrofitting the military to achieve pinpoint accuracy in combating small terrorist cells should be our number one priority. We continue military spending in a mode much more suited to the false threat of world war (or the true threat of our own military dominance) than to the real problems we face.

  2. June 17, 2011 at 9:35 am

    It is good to have you back in the blogosphere (sounds like an ex-governor of Illinois…).
    I have been reading in Isaiah a lot these days and came across a repeated refrain: “the earth will wear out like a garment”. I am saddened to think that we may be witnessing its last fraying seams, with floods and tornadoes and hurricanes and tsunamis and earthquakes, but even more so with the oil spills and the nuclear reactor disasters. We are determined to make filth of our own nest. It would be part of our general self-destruction for the people of the US to decide they couldn’t afford to help themselves rebuild their own cities. Maybe we should apply for foreign aid. Nigeria might be willing, or Venezuela…

  3. June 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    It goes to the definition of “tribe”, Jim. if we are all one people, and I say we are, then I endorse you opinion that a terrible tragedy to one’s tribe must be remedied without petty political wrangling, and the accounting be left for the wake of the remedy.

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