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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Faith Can Be More than a Biblical Lesson

March 9, 2009

It is difficult to write about religion as it relates to politics - but there are lessons to be learned from both.

Some people find that the most difficult concept in Christianity is to accept that Christ is God - as it takes a leap of faith because you cannot see Him to know for sure.

Having this faith is what being a Christian is all about.

The New Testament deals with this phenomenon. In Hebrews, Chapter 11, the Bible says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

This is a lesson that can be applied to politics as well when voters are asked to have faith that a particular policy will work -- despite outward signs that they might not.

President Barrack Obama is asking that we have faith in his economic policies -- although some outward signs do not suggest that things are getting any better.

The most notable example of a politician calling on the faith of the people occurred during the 1981-82 recession when President Ronald Reagan announced that government wasn’t the solution – but "government was the problem" of our economic woes.

When Reagan took office the economy was in shambles - the country was going through double-digit inflation, high employment (7.6 percent), and 21 percent interest rates. The country was being asked to downscale its expectations from Reagan’s predecessor Jimmy Carter and many were starting to believe that the job of the Presidency was too difficult for just one man.

At the heart of the Reagan economic plan were tax cuts - and oddly Reagan was influenced not only from his own experience in Hollywood - but also by the words of an ancient Muslim philosopher named Ibn Khaldoon - who wrote, "At the beginning of the dynasty taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments."

Simply put, Reagan believed that when tax rates were low, revenues were high; and when tax rates were high, revenues were low. He also remembered from his Hollywood days that he was once taxed at 94% - that he reached a point where he took home only six cents out of every dollar he made – with the government getting the rest. "Something was wrong with a system like that," he said.

So it was that President Reagan set about putting his economic recovery in place. He cobbled together a majority in Congress to cut taxes and cut the rate of federal spending. He accelerated depreciation for business investment in plants and equipment and loosened federal regulations on business that he felt was strangling capitalism – and he worked with the Federal Reserve Bank to stabilize the financial markets.

Much has been written about the Reagan plan. Some called it supply-side economics or a "trickle-down" theory where the wealthy benefitted and the less fortunate got the dregs from their prosperity. The media called it "Reaganomics" – but they stopped calling it that once it started to work.

Reagan discounted all his critics. He was an economics major at Eureka College and it was his long-held theory that the government stifled ingenuity – that, in effect, the government punished people for working hard and coming up with new ways of delivering goods and services.

He endured an uneasy White House staff, Congress and country – and even a sometimes a doubting Nancy Reagan – as the economy still worsened. Yet, he never wavered in his faith in his economic plan. "Stay the course," he told everyone.

Few could see it at the time – but when the country came out of the recession in December of 1982 – it was headed for 86 straight months of unparalleled growth and prosperity and we never looked back, until now.

There is much talk these days about keeping ideas of church and state separate – yet the Bible is a great instructional guide – and the idea of having faith – believing in something you cannot see - is a good political lesson too.

It is one that President Obama is asking us to believe in now.