Monday, September 21, 2020

Of The People

 

We are told that the upcoming election is the most important in our history.  The future of America hangs in the balance.  As if the politicians are the ones determining the country’s direction.  I’m not so sure about that.  What I am sure of is that, FOR THE POLITICIANS, this IS the most important election in their political careers. 

While the upcoming election matters, it may not matter all that much.  Since 1952 the Executive branch has had more Republicans than Democrats.  Congress has been more Democrat than Republican, although in recent years the Republicans have gained ground. (And has it really made much difference?).  Since the 50’s the Supreme Court has become decidedly more conservative.  (And, again has it really made much difference?)

News flash, POLITICIANS ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, or bring hope and change or establish a more civil discourse or solve the racial divide or cool down the planet.  Our government still represents we the people.  You may not feel like they represent you or your political party or just you and your Facebook friends.  But ultimately, we still have a government of the people and by the people.  It just may not be FOR the people.  But whose fault is that?  WE ARE THE PROBLEM...WE ARE THE PEOPLE.

The breakdown did not happen overnight. It took time, a generation or two at least.  It took time for a people to put being rich ahead of being honest.  To make being popular or famous more important than being honorable.  To pursue personal freedom and happiness at the expense of duty and responsibility.  To choose the present over the future.  Appearance over substance.  And, in the end, feelings over truth.   Plant these seeds, or just allow these seeds to be planted, and they will grow.  Provide fertile soil and a bit of fertilizer and they will grow faster and become larger. 

It’s not complicated.  When families start breaking down, when schools no longer educate and churches become just another form of entertainment or civic organization; the hard lessons that must be learned are no longer taught.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  And what we do know is either wrong or incomplete or we simply do not care. 

The next election will be a reflection of who we have become.  And either way, it will not do much to change the course of this nation.  We lost our way long ago.

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."

--President Dwight D. Eisenhower


Sunday, September 13, 2020

The World As It Is

 

 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’

– Numbers 14:18

Let the offspring of the wicked, never be mentioned again.
Prepare a place to slaughter his children for the sins of their ancestors;
they are not to rise to inherit the land and cover the earth with their cities.

– Isaiah 14: 20-21

Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

-Ezekiel 18: 19-20

 

So how does it work?  Do the sins of our ancestors have consequences for us?  These Bible scriptures would seem to say yes and no.  There are several other passages on the subject that appear to say yes (Deuteronomy 5:9, Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:7).  Yet still there are others that would seem to say no (Jeremiah 31 29-30, Deuteronomy 24:16, 1 John 1:9).

If you don’t care what the Bible has to say, then I suppose it doesn’t matter.  But, if you do believe, as I do, that the Bible is the inspired Word of our Creator then it does matter.  However, I am not one of those who takes every word literally.  I don’t think God Almighty dictated the books of the Bible.  But I do consider the message to be God-breathed and the Truth.  Even when, in cases like this the message appears to be mixed.

 

So how does one reconcile these seemingly contradictory scriptures? Do we pay a price for the sins of our ancestors?  And will generations that come after us reap what we have sown?  Or is every person’s slate wiped clean when they confess their sins, repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?  To the first question, how does one reconcile these scriptures, I would answer with much prayer and discernment.  To the other three questions, the answer is yes, yes, and yes.  Yes, we pay a price for the sins of our ancestors.  Yes, those who come after us will reap what we have sown, both good and bad.  And Yes, every person’s soul may be saved by confession, repentance and following Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

 

But in the meantime, we live this life, for a short time, in this world as it is.  And, to a large degree this world as it is, as well as each of our own little worlds, has been shaped by those who went before us.  Increasingly, science is finding that a great deal of who and what we are is in our genes.  We can’t pick our parents, but we live with what they gave us.  And what their parents gave to them and back on down the tree, limb by limb.  That’s about as arbitrary as it gets.  Our hardware is determined before we take our first breath and see the light of day.

 

And those who raise us, be it parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters or just the village; program us to be who and what we are.  With these amazing human brains we also learn how to live, or at least survive.  We are constantly receiving and processing information, not only that which is expressed in words and ideas, but information we experience through the physical senses.  

 

Each of us is a complex, beautiful, dangerous, wonderful and tragic creation .  Made in the image of our creator, but born imperfect into a fallen world.  In God’s image with Adam and Eve’s DNA.   With the freedom and the ability to change some things in ourselves and in our world…but not always for the better.  And so, we discover fire and the wheel and that two plus two always equals four.  We create ways of communicating with each other.  We organize ourselves for mutual benefit and survival.  Yet “the apple” is always within reach.  We make war, we conquer others for the benefit and survival of our tribe.  We invent, we innovate, we take that which has been created and transform it to suit our purposes.  We make tools for good and weapons for war.  We make vessels for travel and discovery and then use them to transport others against their will to labor unwillingly on our behalf.  We make machines and generate power to run them, making our lives easier today but at what costs to our children tomorrow?

 

This world will eventually come to an end.  In the meantime, life will go on one way or the other.  What we do matters.  What we believe about what we do, or should do, or fail to do; matters.  Those who come after us may thank us or curse us for what we leave behind.  But they will not forget us, even if they try.  How will we be remembered?


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Dogs and Angels Watching Over Us


"….But once upon a time, we had a real dog. His name was Barney and he was an English Springer Spaniel. The best dog ever. He moved all over the country with us and could handle just about anything or anyone. He was smart, loyal, gentle and absolutely fearless. Not counting my wife, he was my best friend. 

But when he died I wasn’t there. Why I wasn’t there is another story and it will be someone else’s to tell someday when I’m not around. But I wasn’t there when he took that long, last ride to the vet. Thankfully my wife was there and to this day she cannot stand to watch the similar scene as it plays out in the movie Marley and Me. Maybe it was for the best that I wasn’t there. I just don’t know. 

But I do believe that our dogs will be there for us when we get to heaven. And they will come running to greet us and not only love us, but forgive us for taking so long to get there." 

 -from the HeadhunterPOV post “Barney and Me” (August 2012) 


Fast forward to Saturday August 8, 2020. It’s a blazing hot afternoon in Central Texas and we are on our way back to Grayson County, driving fast on a farm-to-market road through the Texas countryside south of Rogers.  An 8 week old English Springer Spaniel puppy, also named Barney, is buried in my wife Kayla's lap, wondering when he will be released and returned to his family. Who are these people? They smell different. I want to go home.  But I do like the cool air blowing on me. 

And then I feel it, the road on the right seems to fall away. Then I see it, the dashboard instrument panel showing a diagram…41, 39, 40 and 4. Tire pressures. 4 is a problem and it’s on the front passenger tire. I’ve already slowed down from 75 to 35 and quickly go to 10 looking for a safe, flat place to get off the road. Flashers on,  I see something up ahead on the right. Baseball fields. Must be close to town. Maybe we can make it to Rogers. Nope, I can feel the rim digging into the pavement. We pull into the ballpark. The rim is ruined.  

Google says we are still two miles from town. I’m not even sure the spare has air in it.  Besides, I’m not even sure I know how to get the spare down from underneath the pick-up bed. Haven’t had to change a tire myself in twenty years. I’ll figure it out. 

My wife is less optimistic and calls her road service number as we sit in the cool truck, engine still running and A/C blowing full blast. After 10 minutes of back and forth the road service says it will be a couple of hours. Only available service will have to come out of Temple and they have other service calls ahead of us. Heat does things to tires and there are plenty of flats today. 

Kayla, who is a successful realtor and always on the go, has a Plan B.  She tells me to call the local police, not 9-1-1-. Just the regular number. Maybe they can send someone out to help. Tell them we are stranded with a new puppy. Of course, I think this is a terrible idea. But she can be persuasive and the little dog is looking at me with those puppy eyes. So I call the Rogers Police number and get transferred to the county sheriff’s department. They say no problem, they will have an officer come by as soon as possible…could be 30 minutes, could be 2 hours. 

We're in a safe place off the road, there is water and a little covered picnic table. Even restrooms. If it weren’t 105 degrees it wouldn’t be bad. At least we have a good breeze and we brought snacks. With Kayla and little Barney secure in the shade at the picnic table, I go back to the truck. I need to get to work and figure this out. How do I get this spare tire down and on the ground? It feels like it’s aired up. Maybe we’ll be lucky. By the way, where is the jack and tire tools? See the manual. 

As I am standing beside the truck thumbing through the manual,  a beat up old black Chevy Blazer pulls into the parking lot. I see one large tattooed arm hanging out of the driver’s window. And my pistol is in the truck. Should I make my move now or stay cool?

“Need some help?”, the young man attached to the tattooed arm asked.  Anyone under 40 looks young to me these days, but I reckoned him to be in his mid-20’s. 

I replied, “Well I think we’ve got it covered. Sheriff is sending someone out and we also have road service from Temple on the way.” 

“I can change that tire for you”.  He is still sitting in the old Blazer which is basically a rolling pile of junk filled with more junk. I was hoping he would say that someone from the sheriff’s department had sent him out. Apparently not.

“So you think you can do this?” 

He nodded and took off his sunglasses. “Yes sir. I do this all the time.” 

“I’ll pay you.” 

“That’s ok” he says as he lurches out of the Blazer.  He doesn't appear to have a weapon.  Maybe I can take him with my bare hands if need be.  Wish I had that pistol.

So the young man with the large tattooed arms goes to work. Finds the jack and tools under the passenger seat. Of course, that was going to be the first place I looked. Assembles the tool and extends it through a hole in the back bumper attaching it to the spare tire rack and quickly begins cranking it down. (My plan exactly). Spare tire on the ground, he goes to loosen the lug nuts. He’s strong and appears to almost bend the little single arm lug wrench that came with the pick-up. He goes and digs around in the back of the Blazer’s junk pile, finds an old four-way lug wrench and promptly begins loosening the nuts. He then sets the little jack in place, cranks it up and finishes taking off the flat tire. He mounts the spare, tightens up the lug nuts and lets down the jack. We are good to go. This one man pit crew really did know what he was doing. 

I had $25 cash in my wallet and would have probably given him $100 if I’d had it. I handed him the $25. He shook my hand and said, “My name is Milton. I’m from just up the road a piece”. 
 
“Thank you Milton, we really appreciate it. No telling how long we would have been out here. And with the new puppy we wanted to get back home.” 

“Glad I could help. Be careful.” And with that he drove away. 

My wife called the road service and cancelled the order. I called the sheriff and said someone came by, a local by the name of Milton, hoping they would say they sent him or knew him or something.  

“No sir. I don’t know of a Milton and we are still waiting for an officer to respond.” 

 “Old black, beat up Chevy blazer? Big guy, in his 20’s, tattoos?”, I asked. 

 “No sir, doesn’t ring a bell. Ya'll have a safe trip home."

When we picked up the pup earlier that morning, before we left the old breeder, she prayed over us. Prayed for a safe journey back home and “may God’s angels watch over you all”. My wife reminded me of that prayer as we drove back north. Maybe Milton was a good Samaritan or just a poor country boy hoping to pick up a few bucks. Or maybe he was something more. 

We made it home without further incident and Barney got to meet our other two dogs, small white bundles of soft curly hair only slightly larger than him, but not for long. He is adjusting, the other dogs are adjusting and we are adjusting. But, I knew it was time for one more “proper dog” before this life is over.  And he is definitely going to be a proper dog.  But if, some day, I do get another one…I think it will be a rescue dog.  And I'll be naming that one Milton.


                                                                     Barney Jr.

“…. and they will come running to greet us and not only love us, but forgive us for taking so long to get there. “ 


Monday, July 20, 2020

Hearts and Minds




“What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” – Thomas Cranmer


If you want to change a culture, you must change its people. And to change its people, you must change their worldview. If you’ve been around more than 40 years, you’ve been a witness to the most rapid cultural change in human history. If you’re over 60, the world you grew up in would be unrecognizable and unimaginable to those less than half your age.

For most of human history culture change has been driven by natural forces, or violence or new inventions, discoveries and break-through technology. Major climate change, floods and volcanic eruptions have forced change and adaptation throughout history. And certainly violence has been a major factor in change, often erupting in response to other change agents. Some will win and some will lose.

But in today’s world, culture change is largely a matter of ideas. Technology plays a major role in change, but it’s not at the core of what we are experiencing. Today it’s more about transforming worldviews from the inside out. Some claim this is all part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy launched and managed by a select group of global elites, or the Illuminati, perhaps with ties all the way back to Free Masonry, working behind the scenes to bring about a New World Order.

I think not. We humans just aren’t that competent. It is a conspiracy, no doubt. But it’s roots extend well-beyond the dimensions of this temporal world. And it has its own modus operandi which consists of four fundamental steps: Minimize, Criticize, Ostracize and Replace.

Whether it’s religion, politics, economics, the arts, education, medicine or science; it’s the same pattern. Sometimes it’s for the better and sometimes it’s for the worse. Sometimes it’s good in the short run, but bad in the long run. The pattern may play out in a matter of a few years or it may take several centuries. Remember the strings are being pulled by forces far outside of our time and space.

First they must minimize or discount the opposition. This is the preferred strategy when dealing with deeply rooted ideas and institutions. Christianity in the West has been going through this for over 300 years. One doesn’t replace a religion overnight or even in a generation or two. It takes time. Eventually, when the idea or institution has been minimized enough or essentially ignored (the old time preachers would say “watered-down”), it may then be criticized. Some will push back, but since there has already been some replacement in values (freedom over faith or independence over authority), the criticism will lead to more replacement (pro-choice over the right to life). Finally, when the remnant of those attached to the old ideas and values are outnumbered, they are ostracized. Their beliefs are wrong, so they are cut off (main stream media, social networks.) Now you can replace all of the old “bad” stuff with the new good stuff (equality, social justice, inclusion, reparations, clean energy and the best stuff of all…FREE stuff.).

But to make the change complete and effective, you must replace economic systems, political systems, educational systems and social systems. Consider the changes over the past 50 years in the way we educate and socialize our children. Do you think perhaps that might have something to do with the state of things in our nation today? Allow politics to be run by money and special interests and you end up with a dysfunctional system that can no longer legislate but only campaign for the next election. Increase entitlements and expand the welfare state in the name of fighting poverty and creating a “Great Society” and you end up with more people unable or unwilling to support themselves or a make positive contribution to their community.

In the later stages of replacement, they rewrite history and destroy the images of those who symbolize the “old bad stuff”. The goal is justice. And judgment day can only belong to those who got the short end of the historical stick. And so we find ourselves in the latter stages of a culture war. A war that is likely to go on until some event overshadows it. Perhaps it will be a pandemic much worse than Covid 19 or anything else humans have ever experienced. Perhaps all out nuclear or chemical warfare. What if the E.T.’s finally show up and turn out not to be so friendly. And what if the Biblical prophecies are correct? If the One who created everything in the beginning decides our time is over? Whether natural, man-made, other worldly or holy and eternal; it will be an event of epic proportions that totally transforms civilization. Make no mistake, we are racing toward the finish line and have been doing so for thousands of years. The world has always been and will continue to be a battleground…until it is no more.


“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”– Revelation 21:1



Monday, June 29, 2020

Yes It Is...No It's Not



If you want a simple illustration of modernism vs. postmodernism, look no further than this old Monty Python skit known forever as The Dead Parrot.

https://youtu.be/vZw35VUBdzo

And so we find our world today. We are not just divided on the issues. We are divided on the fundamentals of the issues. If the two characters in the Monty Python skit could just agree on whether or not the parrot is dead, they might be able to move on toward some resolution or at least a more reasonable argument. The shopkeeper might simply tell the customer that he bought the parrot as is, where is and he’s yours, dead or alive. No refunds. But these two combatants can’t even get to a rational argument. And in the end, when the shopkeeper realizes that the customer is not inclined to accept his repeated and obviously false claim that the parrot is not really dead, he shifts gears and goes into a song about a being a cross-dressing lumberjack. Classic Monty Python. (You can find the rest of the skit on YouTube as well.)

For most of recorded human history, we have believed that Truth is knowable and it is reasonable to consider Truth as objective and binding upon us, at least until we have new information and conclude that it is no longer reasonable to consider some previously accepted idea as Truth. Thus we no longer believe that the earth is flat nor that it is the center of the universe. Viruses and bacteria cause illness not demons. There is no man in the moon.

When the Age of Englightenment came along, even those who believed in a Higher Power and things not seen, made room for Science and Reason. Both sides believed in the idea of objective Truth. They might disagree on the ultimate authority of Truth with regard to certain ideas, i.e. sin, the immortal soul, life after death, etc. But they could have honest debate and discussion about such matters. Science and Reason have even become part of modern day Christian apologetics. If you really want to think deeply and learn about such things check out John Lennox or William Craig Lane.

But now, we find ourselves so divided that we can no longer have a rational conversation about our differences. The postmodernists start from the premise that Objective Truth is unknowable and there is no ultimate authority. Neither a Higher Power nor Science and Human Reason have the authority to determine what is true for the individual. So we send our young people out into the world with no map, no compass…just hashtags…#UBU…#FindURtruth.

As a Boomer, I look back and cringe at the phrase: “If it feels good do it”. Like a lot of us back then, I did it and discovered that it was just one more version of the original lie: “Did God Really Say…?”. And now the lie has become “If it feels right, it’s true.” Same old lie, same old result.

This is how “the new old lie” works these days. First it has the loudest voice. It controls the narrative. The media, the academy, arts & culture…they embrace it and they proclaim it. They also enforce it and punish those who may see things differently. This gives them the power to describe and define THE PROBLEM. Systemic racism is a good example. They go on to diagnose the problem, the symptoms and the causes (inequality, the criminal justice system, white privilege...etc). They claim the right to determine how best to solve the problem (defund police departments, pay reparations, mandate equitable outcomes socially, politically and economically). And lastly, they demand immediate implementation of their solutions to the problem (protests, violent riots, take over neighborhoods, boycott or just burn down businesses, rewrite history, tear down monuments and deconstruct the meta-narratives which are foundational to the free and open society that allows them to do just that.)

Now to be clear, there is some truth in what is being said, quite a bit in some cases. Systemic racism is a problem. In fact, it may well be THE PROBLEM. The symptoms and causes certainly include issues such as inequality, our criminal justice system and white privilege. But it’s not only those things. Many of those who have studied this, including leading black scholars, point to our welfare system and predatory politicians whose efforts keep black communities down and out… and dependent. When we move on to solutions, the divergence of opinion widens. Reform law enforcement. Absolutely. Some say we need better training and better pay for law enforcement, not more after school programs and basketball courts in the inner-city. Perhaps we need both. Pay reparations? Maybe it would make more sense to establish “micro-lending” programs (not the SBA). Provide incentives (subsidies) for private investors to lend money to black entrepreneurs. Maybe offer more educational support for blacks seeking higher education in the STEM fields. And our criminal justice system does need change. Poor people, not just blacks, tend to fair badly in court. And maybe it is time to change our drug laws, mandatory sentencing guidelines and how we handle non-violent lawbreakers. But when it comes to demanding change, making the case by rioting, destroying communities and attempting to wipe out any and all symbols of “white” American excellence and achievement is definitely a misguided strategy that will only alienate those who might be inclined to support your cause. And it is definitely a strategy that will inflame those most opposed to any changes.

But in 2020 there is no debate, no discussion of alternatives, no point/counter-point. The only “facts” that matter are the ones that fit "the narrative", even if those facts are anecdotal at best. Anything else is quickly dismissed as racist or worse. If one is not among “the oppressed” or an ally of the oppressed they have no voice and no way of knowing what is really true. THE TRUTH can only be understood and expressed by those who are WOKE. Truth has become a one-way street with only one lane.

Throughout history when people divide over fundamental existential issues the ultimate result is bloodshed, most often on a massive scale. Millions died during the Protestant vs Catholic wars in Europe that went on for over 200 years. There is the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Civil War. Then the Fascism and Communism of the last century which took more lives than all previous wars and conflicts combined. We are at a historic crossroad. We have two choices. Listen to one another and work together to solve our problems or tear each other apart. When you hit your knees tonight, pray that we listen to one another and work this thing out.


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Talk About It or Just STFU?


Ok, which is it? Can white people talk about racism or should they just STFU? If they are allowed to talk about racism but don’t follow “the script”, should they just STFU? If they are inclined to perhaps comment negatively about some things like rioting, looting or attacking police officers should they just STFU? If they acknowledge their own racism and admit to white privilege without begging or offering to buy forgiveness may they speak or should they just STFU?

You see I believe that rational human beings have the capacity to hold more than one idea in their minds at the same time. Even ideas that conflict with each other. Freedom/Law and Order. Free Will/ Determinism. Judgment/ Mercy. Taste Great/Less Filling. And so it is with most issues, especially the big ones. Issues where we find it difficult to distinguish between cause and effect, disease and symptom, cure and treatment.

So with that, I shall talk about racism. Talk about it not from ‘A’ white man’s perspective, but from “THIS” white man’s perspective. This white man who grew up in Texas and is old enough to remember white and black water fountains. This white man who was told by his parents not to use “the N-word”. That “they” preferred to be called “colored” or “Negro”. “They” were good people and God loved them, too. But they were different and it was just better for us to remain separated as much as possible. This white man who remembers the time when Martin Luther King was assassinated. A time when this white man’s father told him about running off “N-word” looters who were trying to break into the back of his truck. This white man who worked side by side and sometimes under the supervision of black men in his late teens and early 20’s. This white man who even in the 80’s while living in South Carolina saw old black men step off the sidewalk and look away when a white woman walked by. This white man who spent his management career in an industry where “management” was predominately male and very white.

This white man admits to his racism. I wish it was not there. I know it’s wrong. I do see color before I see the person. And I expect most people do, regardless of their own color. We are all shaped by our experiences, our thoughts and our hearts. My racism doesn’t cause me to dislike, much less hate black people. But it does lead me to think of them differently, sometimes even to the point of feeling sorry for them. And often pity does more damage than hate. But I am trying to do better, to be better.

This white man has always understood that in our culture whites have more privilege than blacks. That’s undeniable. It is foundational in Western civilization. We brought it with us from Europe and institutionalized it with slavery and the class system that was imposed afterward. It is what it is in every sense of the word.

So what do we do about it? We can reform law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We should do so. But that’s only changing the way we treat the disease. It only makes the pain more bearable and perhaps opens a few more doors for those who no longer get locked up and can find their way to a better life. The same can be said for “after school programs” and more “recreational facilities”. We can take down statues of confederate generals and notable historical figures who said something wrong or failed to say something right. We can all take a knee and stop singing “The Eyes of Texas”. (Yes, that is now on the “to be banned” list). But, if it does not translate into better Education and better Employment for more people of color, real change, lasting change won’t come.

Education and Employment lead to Empowerment. It takes longer to clean up a mess than it does to make one. Racism has been going on for centuries around the world and our version of it has been here since the nation began. We’ve taken some steps over the past 50+ years to level the playing field and some have benefited. We see black people in careers and living in neighborhoods that would have been unthinkable not that long ago. But we’ve also allowed, if not enabled, things to get worse for many of those left behind in poverty with little hope of a good education or a good job. Whatever steps we take moving forward, if they are not directed toward providing better education, and that includes education and training that prepares people to earn a decent living (and I’m not talking about minimum wage), then we will fail. We are just rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship.

When Blacks do get “in the game” we have to lift the glass ceiling. And not just symbolically. It’s nice to have Blacks on the Board of Directors, but how many are in the C-suite leading the enterprise? I’m not talking about tokenism or promoting unqualified people. (There are already too many unqualified white guys at the C-level). I’m saying there has to be a real pathway for talented black managers to move beyond middle management or even division leadership roles. There is room at the top.

Beyond Education and Employment, hearts and minds have to change. As a Christian I have my beliefs about how that happens. Others will seek a different path. We don’t have to agree with each other to respect each other. So whatever works for you, just get right in your head and in your heart.

(And I pray that God forgives me for the ‘STFU’…but sometimes you just need to get the point across).


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Essential Work


Even in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, when so many citizens are on “lock down”, the government recognized that some work was essential and must go on. But now as the economy sinks deeper into recession, what becomes of this essential work and, more importantly these essential workers? Is essential work still essential when demand for that work dries up or there is no money to pay those essential workers?


These are the broad categories of essential industries the government identified:

Health Care
Law Enforcement, Public Safety and First Responders
Food and Agriculture
Energy
Public Works
Transportation and Logistics
Critical Manufacturing (all the supplies and equipment required to produce and support essential goods and services).
Financial Services
Community based government operations and essential services
Chemicals
Defense Industry

There are much longer lists of specific jobs under each of these industry categories. What really strikes me is that we have a lot of essential work to do all across this nation. These industries represent a huge chunk of our economy.

Funny thing though, the economy. Someone provides a product or service in exchange for money in order to purchase a product or service someone else is providing. They may purchase it directly or perhaps it comes as a result of the taxes they pay or someone else pays. But, sooner or later, someone pays for it. Even if the government prints more money and covers it by borrowing from some other country, someone pays for it…always. And when people (mostly all of those “non-essential” workers) cannot or will not work in order to provide certain products or services, either because of lock downs or just being afraid to go back to work or their employer cannot afford to pay them; the economy starts to break down. And when these same people cannot or will not purchase certain products or services, either because of lock downs or fear or because they don’t have enough money; the economy starts to break down even more.

As more people behave this way, the economic breakdown accelerates. It doesn’t take long before even some of the most essential workers lose their jobs. We’ve already seen layoffs and furloughs in the healthcare industry. A large portion of our “essential” energy industry is in the tank. Some transportation and logistics providers are laying off thousands of “essential workers” even as others are adding people, usually in lower paying jobs. State and local governments are going broke and will be forced to make cuts in “essential” services and “essential” workers. Fewer supplies and less equipment will be purchased and, as a result, many so-called critical manufacturers will be forced to eliminate “essential” workers. And so it goes.

We all agree there are essential jobs that must be done, even during a viral pandemic. But what about the so-called non-essential jobs? There are a lot of things the world can do without for some period of time…such as headhunters. But over time, even non-essential work adds value. All work that provides a product or service that people need, or even just want, is valuable… even if it’s not essential. And those “essential” workers ultimately need us non-essential workers to buy from and sell to.

We are now faced with tough questions. Is the risk worth the reward? What price are we willing to pay for safety? What level of risks are we prepared to accept for freedom and prosperity? Even if we come up with treatments for Covid-19, they won't be cures. And a vaccine will not provide universal protection. It will be a big step forward in reducing the risk, but it will not eliminate it. If, in fact, Covid-19 is more contagious and more deadly than the flu, once we go back to business as usual we could still see thousands of Covid-19 deaths annually, even within an immunized population,

Clearly, we can’t go back to “business as usual” today. But we do have to get back to some reasonable and sustainable level of business activity while managing the risks as best we can. Because from an economic perspective, all work is valuable and all workers should be valued….even those who are not “essential”.