Thursday, July 30, 2009

What recovery?

Ben Bernanke, of the Federal Reserve, admits finally that things are really, really screwed up. The end of half a million people losing their jobs every month isn't anticipated until sometime NEXT year (they hope). That means not only is money not going to fall from the sky to pay tuitions, shul memberships, and everyday expenses (much less every simcha), we need to anticipate receiving less than we're getting right now - and figure out how to survive on it.

Jul 26, 2009, 10:21 p.m. EST
Bernanke: This may be worse than Great Depression
By Greg Robb, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke discussed the economy with average Americans on Sunday, saying the current financial crisis could be even more virulent than the Great Depression.

"A lot of things happened, a lot came together, [and] created probably the worst financial crisis, certainly since the Great Depression and possibly even including the Great Depression," Bernanke said at the start of a town-hall meeting in Kansas City...

...The dialogue marked the first time that a sitting Fed chairman has sat down to answer questions on the record from the public. For the first 80 years of its existence, Fed officials operated under the rule that the less said, the better.

...Asked when "this [recession] is going to end," Bernanke said growth would return in the second half of 2009, likely at a 1% pace. The unemployment rate won't peak until next year, he said.

...Maybe because his earlier answers were on the scary side, Bernanke then tried to be a cheerleader, saying that the U.S. economy "couldn't be held down" and would eventually return to a strong growth pace...

Let's stop right there - that means the number of people losing their jobs every month is going to CONTINUE to rise until sometime NEXT year, at which point it will BEGIN to decrease when less people lose their jobs some month next year than people who lost jobs the month before.

That means, class, that MILLIONS more people are still in the pipeline to lose their jobs - and there are NO industries gearing up to hire the 8+ million adults who have ALREADY lost their jobs, MUCH LESS an additional 2-3 million MORE.

And those who do manage to keep their jobs are likely to have their hours and/or wages cut - not maybe, likely.

Jewish schools, charities and shuls need to realize that they cannot depend upon the income they used to receive in the past - everybody is going to have to set a realistic budget and stick to it. That is going to mean cutting expenses, eliminating some services, cutting all extras, toning down everything else, and admitting that some previously sacrosanct priorities aren't really.

It's going to be ugly, class. We need to get into downward mobility. The way it's always been done isn't going to work now. The sooner we admit that and make changes, the more chance we have of not losing everything to the banks or an angry government.


SJ said...

Ahava, Do you really predict that much of an economic free fall in the religious community if things keep going the way they are?

And if you do, how much time do you predict before the shit totally hits the fan?

Ahavah Gayle said...

Our federation is looking at being completely out of operating cash in 6 weeks or less. They have planned a black-tie fundraiser ($1000 a head) for late August but it remains to be seen how many people will actually register. Even at that, it will barely scrape us by until Nov/Dec when people start making their end-of-tax-year donations. It's likely the staff will have further reductions of hours (I'm already being paid for only 2 hours of work a day, but I usually worked 4 hours until recently, when I started coming in only on Mondays and Wednesdays instead of Mon-Thurs).

We don't anticipate getting any big donations for the High Holy days - most people here give those to their synagogue (for tickets) or directly to their favorite charity. Our situation is typical of other federations, and many schools are in much worse shape.

Nobody has been taking this problem seriously until now, when we're getting down to the wire. We've talked about the revenue shortfall in countless staff meetings this year. But the attitude of the board has been that money will magically appear and they just keep on with their regular programs and activities.

But more and more people need emergency help and the money is going out way faster than it is coming in (not to mention many people have pledged less than they pledged in previous years, and there aren't any sugar-daddies waiting in the wings to take up the slack, not here or in any other metro area). The expenses for the summer camp have gone up (that's going on right now), and we can't put them off.

Once the "end of year" pledges come in, they will have funds for the 1st quarter of 2010. Our usual pledge drive is in march. This year's pledges were not enough to cover operating expenses until the fall, nor will next year's be, most likely (especially with more and more people getting their hours and wages cut back, not just Federation employees).

In other words, if they can hang on until June of next year without going completely broke I will be mildly surprised, but I expect the crisis will come long before the end-of-year donations begin this year, probably in September or October, two months before the main end of year donations come in.

And as you see, even with all this the Federation is now living "paycheck to paycheck," meaning it will take only one problem to throw everything into total breakdown and disarray. We asked the landlord for a reduction in rent, and he replied he would temporariloy, but we have to pay all the forebearance back. So much for generosity from a fellow Jew.

As for the schools, many of them are behind on taxes and mortgage payments - which means they're in a slow motion train wreck, so to speak. They've been short of operating funds for a while but simply choose not to pay teachers, because they can guilt them into staying on "for the kid's sake."

It really is a big mess. Unless a miracle really does happen and the economy starts to turn around almost immediately, I don't see how the schools and federations are going to survive.

SJ said...

I can tell you right now where Jewish leaders are fucking up. And this is not even mentioning the corruption.

They are being too strict.

They sound like wackos when they talk about cosmology and ontology.

They are failing to convey a NEED for religion.

They are utterly failing a need to convey a real tangible benefit for following halacha, that the secular world does not offer.

They are failing to convey what they have to offer that the secular world does not have to offer.

They are completely utterly unequivocally failing to convey Judaism as something enjoyable.

Ahavah Gayle said...

People have an innate need for religion or its equivalent, as any psychologist can tell you. People who feel they have no purpose in life suffer from various degrees of anxiety and depression. True, many people fill that need with devotion to some other cause, such as animal rights or fighting poverty, but the need itself is programmed into the human psyche. Those who feel no such need to be attached to a higher purpose and are completely self-absorbed are called sociopaths for a reason. They value nothing outside of themselves, and they're mentally ill (and dangerous to others) because of it.

I would agree that the Rabbis aren't making Judaism relevant to many people's lives, and are insisting on stringencies that make them backward and unappealing. But UO or Chereidi Judaism isn't the only option out there.

What the secular world does not have to offer is any explanation for the millions of people who have had personal experiences with the divine/spirit realm/supernatural and prophecy. Your position, like that of David Hume, seems to be that since you've never had one, they aren't real. But millions of people have had such experiences, and they aren't all insane. Science just can't explain everything.

Granted, new age, occult, and other religious traditions have explanations for these things, and its true the Rabbis aren't engaging those other options in a way that makes Judaism look appealing, either.

As for Judaism itself not being enjoyable, again, UO/Chereidi isn't the only flavor out there. I and millions of other people do in fact enjoy Judaism, so again, just because you haven't experienced it doesn't mean it isn't possible. Maybe you're looking in the wrong place.

Try not to confuse a relationship with God as being the same as a relationship with the Rabbinate (or the Oral Law). The two are hardly one and the same. And God isn't nearly the OCD nit-picking control freak they claim. They're projecting their own dysfunctional paradigm onto everyone else, including God.


SJ said...

Ok I'll go one point at a time. I guess firstly, people are going to have to deal with the empirical truth the way they see it. If that empirical truth is God does not seem to be extant, then so be it.

There aren't millions of people who claimed to have had supernatural experiences. I'm quite sure that's exaggerated, i'm not saying it's on purpose though, hey that's how rumors work.

As far as biblical prophecy, let's talk about that. It's either, super vauge like using animal imagry that commentaries say refers to countries which the book of Daniel exemplifies (if memory serves), or it's a self fufilling prophecy creating a desire for followers to return to Israel and then prophesying that Israel will be rebuilt, or it's political commentary saying that Egypt Babylon Tyre etc. is gonna be of diminished power or totally fucked up; or biblical prophecy is pie in the sky everything's gonna be just fine stuff which is a self fufilling prophecy because that's ultimately the goal of modern technology.

One can take a guess reasonably that if the shit hits the fan between the USA and China over Taiwan, that both continent wide countries are gonna be fucked up by the war. Does that make the person a prophet? No.

One can take a wild guess that the shit will hit the fan between the USA and China overe Taiwan and everything is gonna be fucked up. Does that make the person a prophet? No. These seems to be largely what the bible does.

Ahavah Gayle said...

It's not intellectually honest to claim that nobody has had prayers answered, prayers that they in no way influenced the outcome of in any physical way by actions or inactions - Prayers that are wildly improbable occurrences in and of themselves. Things like cancer disappearing have been documented, it's not a secret. Or people have had premonitions out of the blue, or dreams that came true, and other evidences that science cannot explain. I have, and so have many millions of other people - there are books and more books and blogs and webpages and seminars and lectures all over the place where in people give their own personal examples. I do not believe those numbers are exaggerated - if anything, they are understated because not everyone recognizes a brush with the spiritual world when they experience it.

Biblical prophecy can be and is very specific in many ways - take Zechariah, I believe, who saw a "plague" that rolls the sky up like a scroll and it's effect is to dissolve people away where they stand, and leave the rest doubled over in agony. There is nothing in his experience that could have led him to imagine a nuclear bomb going off and the effects of radiation poisoning of those outside the blast radius, and yet he describes one perfectly. And the technology didn't exist for that vision to come true until today, some 2500 years later. Just because prophecies sometimes take a long time to come true doesn't mean they're "vague" or invalid.

If you look at the xian book of Revelation (which was, after all, written by a Torah observant Jew well before the sect broke off from Judaism) you will find that Yochanan predicts a "mark" being put into people's hand without which they cannot buy or sell. A tattoo or other non-electronically controlled mark could never work for this prophecy - anybody could and would ignore it for their family and friends, or simply traveled to another country to escape the edict. It was not until the age of microchips, passports and controlled travel today that this prophecy could come to pass and actually work as described - can you not imagine a day, relatively soon, when people who refuse to be "marked" will not be able to hold jobs or buy anything? Already, chipping is required at certain security clearance levels in the US government. Just because Yochanan didn't understand the technology or know the name of what he was seeing didn't mean he couldn't do his best to write it down.

Back on our side of the fence, the same issues apply and even in reverse. All those obscure names listed in prophecy meant things to the authors who wrote them that we have a hard time figuring out, because the names have changed. Yet Tanakh describes geo-political alliances in places like Russia and Germany that didn't even exist as nations when those prophecies were written, and these alliances either already exist or are forming today. Even pakistan is mentioned by way of it's earliest known tribal names - none of this stuff is vague. It's actually very specific - but you have to be willing to follow the trail and do your homework.

But of course, you don't have to believe that if you don't want to. There is no commandment in the Torah to even believe there is an end times, much less what's happening in it.

I doubt seriously what you're complaining about is really prophecy. What you're complaining about is the mitzvot. That simply comes down to a decision to either be obedient (to God, not to the Rabbinate) or to not be obedient. Clearly, you've chosen not to because you think there will be no consequences.

Well, one of the consequences is that God will not answer your prayers or let you experience any touch of the Divine. So you have made for yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy. You refuse to obey God and then claim God doesn't seem extant to you, when the rules are laid out clearly that if you want God to be your God, then you have to be obedient.

And frankly, ultra-orthodoxy for a while when you were younger doesn't count, because they are anything BUT obedient.

SJ said...

>> It's not intellectually honest to claim that nobody has had prayers answered

The question is, are the prayers answered self fufilling prophecies, a product of human effort, or actual chance?

>> Things like cancer disappearing have been documented, it's not a secret.

Humanity's knowledge of the human body is faaar from complete. Lack of a natural answer of a phenomenon for the moment does not mean that a natural answer does not exist.

Lack of a natural answer for a phenomenon does not automatically mean it's sound to jump to a supernatural conclusion.

>> premonitions out of the blue, or dreams that came true,

Guesses, subconscious mind predicting likely occurrences? Why automatically exclude natural explanations and jump the gun to the supernatural?

>> Zechariah, I believe, who saw a "plague" that rolls the sky up like a scroll and it's effect is to dissolve people away where they stand, and leave the rest doubled over in agony. There is nothing in his experience that could have led him to imagine a nuclear bomb going off and the effects of radiation poisoning of those outside the blast radius,

Let's say there's someone that one really does not like in the year 2009. Are you telling me it's absolutely impossible for the one doing the disliking to imagine fates for the person who he don't like that don't occur in real life? And if he does think of a new horrible fate, he automatically must be a prophet?

Does a nuclear explosion roll the sky up? O.o

>> Yochanan predicts a "mark" being put into people's hand without which they cannot buy or sell.

A skeptic can call it the science fiction of the day. This isn't conclusive proof of prophecy by any means.

>> Yet Tanakh describes geo-political alliances in places like Russia and Germany that didn't even exist as nations when those prophecies were written, and these alliances either already exist or are forming today.

Alliances change. Russia and Germany wasn't always allies of course. Does the Tanach predict that?

Pakistan's game is to help the taliban under the table and to help the USA in the public eye. Does the Tanach predict that?

Prophecies have to be vague for them to have allure. Nostradamus was particularly an expert on this.

The Book of Micha says that the king of the Jews is going to be born in Bethlehem. Should we all become Christians now? O.o

Ahavah Gayle said...

I can imagine lots of things I would like to see happen to several persons I don't like - a couple of Rabbis I'd like to see roast over a slow fire, for example. But that isn't prophecy, and it won't come true - nor do I claim it's a prophecy.

The people who experienced the first deportation kept the particular prophetic books of the Tanakh precisely because they were correct about their near term prophecies. So why should we doubt the long term ones?

Predicting people will end up eating their own children isn't "vague," especially for an arrogant people who never thought they could lose against an invader...

And yes, atomic blasts have been recorded in scientific literature as having a "scroll like" appearance and every schoolkid knows what the cloud with the rolling under edges on top looks like - so do you. We all recognize it instantly. How else would an ancient person describe it, exactly?

You're grasping at straws. As I said, the issue isn't prophecy, it's obedience. Whether or not you believe in prophecy doesn't matter one whit - it won't help or stop anything from happening whether you believe or not. But concerning obedience, that issue makes a huge difference in both your present and your future (whether you believe in Resurrection or not). It's clear that neither you nor I believe in the Rabbinate - but I am not seeing how you make the leap from them to God. Just because they're slimeballs does NOT prove God doesn't exist or that God doesn't act. Why would God answer their prayers? Unlike me, God will get to roast a few of them (and is probably looking forward to it).

And lastly, I'm sure more than one person has been or will be born in Beit Lechem. As far as I'm concerned, people can believe in whatever messiah they want (though I'm guessing you're not into Schneerson, either). I believe what counts is Torah observance, not what you think about the end-times or messiahs.

SJ said...

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.