A Loan Is, Well, Still A Loan

Recently I’ve been struck by how often President Obama talks about loans being a solution to problems.  Small businesses aren’t growing?  The federal government will help them get loans.  People can’t afford college?  The federal government will help them get loans.

If the federal government wants small businesses to hire more people, why not just cut the minimum wage?  And wouldn’t it be better if the federal government cut taxes (or refrained from raising them come January 1, 2011) so that small business owners could use their own money to expand their businesses, or families could use their own incomes to pay for their children’s college?  If people kept more of their own money they wouldn’t need to borrow (or at least not as much), and therefore could avoid adding a liability to their personal balance sheets, avoid having to make interest payments, and avoid having a debt hanging over their heads for years into the future.

What the President doesn’t seem to get is that many people are very leery about taking out loans — indeed, the would-be borrowers appear to be at least as skittish as the would-be lenders.  Many people have friends and acquaintances who have gotten overextended and had the roof fall in when times got tough.  They don’t believe the “credit relief” ads that seem to dominate the airwaves are a realistic solution to crushing debt problems, either.  As a result, they conclude that it would be foolhardy to borrow a lot of money when the economy is in the dumper and no one knows what Congress might do next.

Can anyone really blame them for being conservative about their personal finances in these difficult times, and for not lining up to incur more debt?

To Mosque or Not to Mosque


Last week Mayor Bloomberg gave what I thought was an excellent speech regarding the building of a mosque a few blocks from ground zero.

I happen to come down on the side of allowing the mosque to be built for all of the reasons that Mayor Bloomberg pointed out in his speech. We need to continue to uphold the fundamental rights and values that our country was founded upon. We need to allow for the freedom to practice religion and we need to continue to show tolerance and respect to minorities.

What we often forget is that the people who attacked us on 9/11 were Muslim extremists not your average muslim. I happen to be a Christian, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with many of the views or actions of Christian conservatives.

From what I have read the Imam behind the Muslim Community Center near ground zero has been attempting to offer a liberal interpretation of Islam and he argues that America is actually what an ideal Islamic society would look like because it is peaceful, tolerant and pluralistic.

If these are in fact the Imam’s views then shouldn’t we be encouraging his efforts as opposed to discouraging them ?

Should Mark David Chapman Be Paroled?

Yesterday the press reported that Mark David Chapman’s upcoming parole hearing has been rescheduled for a date in September.  Chapman, who gunned down John Lennon in cold blood in front of the Dakota apartment building in New York City three decades ago, has served almost 30 years in prison.  He was sentenced in 1981 to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.  Since 2000 he has tried, unsuccessfully, to be paroled every two years. Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, opposes any parole because she believes that Chapman poses a threat to her family.

Should the fact that Chapman murdered a colossal musical and cultural figure like Lennon, as opposed to an average person, factor into the decision on whether Chapman should be paroled?  I think the answer is a resounding yes.  A thought-provoking book called 1,000 Years, 1,000 People:  Ranking the Men And Women Who Shaped A Millennium tried to come up with a formula to measure whether a person was influential.  One of the factors was the degree and extent of impact that a person had on the world.  Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, was rated number 1 because of the extraordinary, game-changing nature of his invention.

Lennon was no Gutenberg, but he clearly had an enormous, and continuing, impact on the world. Can anyone seriously dispute that Lennon was a hugely influential musical figure?  The Beatles forever changed the direction of popular music, thanks in large part to John Lennon.  His contribution continued in his solo career, with songs like Working Class Hero and Imagine.  Anyone who still treasures songs like Twist and Shout, A Hard Day’s Night, Sexy Sadie, or Come Together, among dozens of others, knows in his gut and in his heart of the impact of John Lennon.

Who knows whether John Lennon would have made any further contribution to popular music or modern culture?  The point is that he never got the chance to do so, and the rest of us were deprived as well when he lost that opportunity — thanks to Mark David Chapman.  Yoko Ono and Lennon’s children, family and friends have suffered the most due to Chapman’s crime, of course, and Ono’s wishes concerning Chapman’s request for parole should be respected.  The authorities also should consider, however, that the ripples from Chapman’s act fanned out to touch all of us.  For inflicting such a terrible, senseless loss, I think Chapman deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.