What's $700 Billion in Perspective?

Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | Friday, September 26, 2008

What's $700 Billion in Perspective?

September 26, 2008

Call it sticker shock. Across America, folks are outraged at the government’s rescue plan for the nation’s financial system. I understand—$700 billion is a lot of money.

But let’s get some perspective. Some estimate that the United States will spend more than $400 billion this year alone on foreign oil. So $700 billion is less than what we will be spending on foreign oil this year and next, putting money in the pockets of the likes of Saudi Arabia (which is an exporter of extremist Wahhabi Islam) and Venezuela (whose volatile leader, Hugo Chavez, makes no bones about hating the United States).

Talk about a transfer of wealth—it’s a bailout! Given the vast stores of oil off our shores and up north in Alaska, we don’t have to be pouring that much money overseas for oil. Finally, Congress has yielded to the will of the American public and has let the ban on offshore drilling expire. Good. Let’s start drilling and begin to make a dent in the $400 billion we send overseas each year.

That’s $400 billion that goes up in smoke, but in the rescue plan it is $700 billion actually invested in assets. That’s not a bailout. The government will be purchasing troubled mortgage-based assets at depressed prices. These are assets that are now currently clogging the nation’s credit system. And remember, if we don’t do this and the credit system shuts down, businesses and individuals will find it hugely difficult to get loans, and the economy will grind to a halt. The cost of such an event would be incalculable.

The key here, as many financial analysts have pointed out, is that the U.S. government, and hence the taxpayers, actually stand to profit from this plan. When—not if, but when—the housing market stabilizes and recovers (as it always has), the government can then sell those assets it purchased in many cases, perhaps most cases, at a profit.

So people are outraged about buying mortgages, but they seem indifferent to the fact that we’re sending $400 billion a year overseas for foreign oil.

Yes, there is risk involved in this plan. But one man’s risk is another man’s opportunity.

Just ask Warren Buffett. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has just invested $5 billion in the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Buffett, the nation’s premier investor and bargain hunter, is no fool. He knows an opportunity when he sees one. The Times of London reports that, on paper at least, Buffet’s investment in Goldman Sachs has already appreciated over $700 million dollars.

As this financial crisis spreads uncertainty throughout the markets and across Main Street, there’s another opportunity on the table—that opportunity that we Christians have to witness to our neighbors.

How you react to this crisis—in conversation with friends, in helping a family in trouble, in how you live within your means—will speak volumes about the confidence you have in Christ and in the sovereignty of God.

Now is the time for the Church to do as it has always done in difficult times: to reach out to those who are hurting, to give hope to those who fear, and to point to the God who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Now there’s an opportunity we dare not miss.

Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

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From BreakPoint, July 31, 2008, posted with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.