Ezra Taft Benson Predicts Economic Collapse of 2008-2009

The following article was posted recently at SimpleUtahMormonPolitics.com

Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was one of the greatest statesmen that has ever lived. Not only was he prophetic when it came to spiritual things, he was equally prescient when it comes to economic issues. I have read several times the economic warnings of President Benson, but his warnings have never rung more true than now--when we are in the midst of suffering for failing to heed his warnings.

Recently I wrote about the prophetic mantle of Gordon B. Hinckley as regards the world economy. With similar prophetic insight, Ezra Taft Benson authored The Red Carpet in 1962, and in 1969, he penned An Enemy Hath Done This. What follows are selections from those two books. Warning: If you feel a sense of dizzying deja vu, don't be surprised.

Care for a stimulus package, anyone? How about a bailout? When you read the following axiom from Benson, the futility of such economic silliness will make perfect sense to you.

A nation cannot spend itself into prosperity. Nor can we preserve our prosperity and our free-enterprise system by following a reckless policy of spending beyond our income...

The Red Carpet, p. 167
Do you ever wonder why Americans have become so conditioned to spend themselves into drunken oblivion? It's because we've been encouraged to do so by the profligate monetary policies of our government Treasury and quasi-government organizations, such as the Federal Reserve.
Few policies are more capable of destroying the moral, political, and social basis of a free society than the debauching of its currency.

An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 211
Free enterprise = corporations, right? No--not very often anymore. If it was bad enough in the 1960's for Benson to write the following, imagine how bad it must be today.
...corporate entities seem to lack that social consciousness proportionate to their power and the privileges granted them by the state. Some...still fail to recognize that there are social and spiritual values...that should be considered in their operations.

The Red Carpet, p. 119
In his recent book, Bad Money, Kevin Phillips observed the insanity of the United States having nearly completely replaced its manufacturing capability with a non-productive financial sector. Forty-six years ago, Ezra Taft Benson warned against such foolishness.
In the long run, a nation enjoys in the form of goods and services only what it produces.

The Red Carpet, pp. 116-117
It has been common for economic analysts to predict that the current economic collapse will ultimately be "great"er than The Great Depression. For statesmen like Benson, this was not hard to predict almost fifty years ago.
We must reverse our present dangerous fiscal policies. If we fail to do so, we will set off an international monetary debacle that could easily make the experience of the 1930's sink into insignificance.

The Red Carpet, p. 308
Much of our program of letting the government pay for it "can be described as an attempt to better yourself by increasing your pay and then sending yourself the bill."

The Red Carpet, p. 221
Ron Paul, among others, from a closer vantage point in time, had been warning about the obviousness of the pending economic collapse, although hardly anyone would listen. But it takes a prophet to notice, from five decades hence, the obviousness of something the likes of which nearly everyone else observed only when it began affecting them personally. Part of Benson's prophecy is still yet future, however. Are we stupid enough to simply count him lucky in what he has correctly "predicted" so far?
The pending economic crisis that now faces America is painfully obvious. If even a fraction of potential foreign claims...were presented to the Treasury...the rush to get rid of dollars would rapidly accelerate the visible effects of inflation... Uncertainty over the future would cause the consumer to halt...spending. ...problems of unemployment and low production will be compounded by a monetary system that will be utterly worthless.

An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 216
Benson taught that free choice should always prevail, and that along these lines, government should never insinuate unfairness between business and labor unions. Yet with recent financial and automotive bailouts, this is precisely what's happening. Big business and labor bosses are getting the cream of the crop, and the rest of us get to pay for their indulgences.
My conscience forbids me to consent to granting exclusive privileges to either business or labor unions. ...the power of government should never...force it one way or the other.

An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 237-239
What's the antidote? Free enterprise, says Benson, which we haven't experienced too much of lately.
The welfare state...not only fails to provide the economic security sought for, but [it] always ended in slavery---and it always will.

The Red Carpet, p. 308
We abolished slavery once in America. Now, unfortunately without most of us even noticing it, slavery is coming back in vogue.


A Smoker's Tax for Fat People

I used to be fat. Solidly in the CDC's obese category at 255 lbs., I last year embarked on a serious diet and exercise routine to ditch the excess weight, and now I'm down to a very normal and healthy 175-180, depending on the day. I look so different that I have been asked by 4 different people if I have cancer. I don't, but that just kills me (no pun intended) - even if I did, that's just NOT something you come out and ask someone.

In any case, I often get the opportunity to explain to people how I lost so much weight and have been able to keep it off. The whole method is explained in excrutiating detail here, but certainly the most important change for me was a very simple dietary modification - I stopped drinking non-diet soda.

I used to consume a couple cans of soda a day, which apparently isn't that far from normal - the average American drinks 35 gallons of non-diet soda a year (just over 1 can per day). And if some people are drinking no non-diet soda (like the new me), an equal number of people are drinking a lot more than 35 gallons of the stuff.

Let's run through a simple calculation. 35 gallons converts to 4480 fluid ounces, which equals 373.3 twelve-ounce cans of soda. For our purposes, let's assume each of these cans are Moutain Dew (my personal favorite), at 170 calories a piece. Some sodas have more calories per ounce, some slightly less, but we'll use 170 for our example. That comes out to 63467 calories for the year. Now, for every 3500 calories one consumes over the amount your body burns in the same time period, one will gain a pound of body fat. So assuming the soda consumed is in excess of the body's maintenance calorie level, that's 18+ pounds of body fat gained per year. For a beverage. That's pretty disgusting, and I'm 100% certain that soda played a major, starring role in my former self's obesity.

Obesity in America has become a public health crisis. In 1998, the medical costs associated with overweightitude and obesity reached $78.5 billion, or over 9% of total U.S. healthcare expenditures. (I'll provide a 12-pack of the fabulous, zero-calorie Vanilla Coke Zero to the author of the comment featuring the best one-word noun version of "overweight"). Tack on ten years of inflation and ten more years of the horrific American high-fructose-corn-syrup-partially-hydrogenated-soybean-oil diet, and you can see where we are now. Something urgently needs to be done to mitigate a problem that has reached critical mass (pun intended this time).

New York Governor David Paterson has proposed a state budget that includes what is essentially an 18% sin tax on soft drinks and other sugary beverages. Nicholas Kristof writes in today's New York Times:

Let’s break for a quiz: What was the biggest health care breakthrough in the last 40 years in the United States? Heart bypasses? CAT scans and M.R.I.’s? New cancer treatments?

No, it was the cigarette tax. Every 10 percent price increase on cigarettes reduced sales by about 3 percent over all, and 7 percent among teenagers, according to the 2005 book “Prescription for a Healthy Nation.” Just the 1983 increase in the federal tax on cigarettes saved 40,000 lives per year.

In effect, the most promising cure for lung cancer didn’t emerge from a medical research lab but from money-grubbing politicians. Likewise, the best cure for obesity may turn out to be not a pill but a tax.

My first instinct was to think that this tax was a ridiculous money grab by a politician in a time of economic crisis, but the more I think about it, the more I think it is sound public policy. One legitimate role of government in a capitalist society, no matter your ideology, is to mitigate externalities - the costs borne by entities besides those directly involved in a transaction. Excessive consumption of this stuff doesn't just affect the consumer and the producer; we all share in the cost via higher insurance premiums.

Is it perfect? Of course not. For one thing, diet sodas aren't great for you, either, but at least they don't directly contribute to obesity. And why, as Kristof writes, is there no "Twinkie Tax" to go along with it? And I'm sure I'm sure Coke and Pepsi are going to fight this tax tooth and nail. Regardless, I am hopeful that this sort of innovative nutrition legislation (not the first to come out of New York) will at least get substantive conversations going at the national level and have a meaningful, positive impact on our consumption society.


CNN just posted an editorial piece directly from Governor Paterson regarding his proposed tax. An excerpt:

In June, New York state raised the state cigarette tax an additional $1.25. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, this increase alone will prevent more than 243,000 kids from smoking, save more than 37,000 lives and produce more than $5 billion in health care savings.

These taxes may be unpopular, but their benefits are undeniable. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, for the first time in generations, fewer than 20 percent of Americans smoked. Lung cancer rates have finally begun to decline. As a result, we are all healthier.

Just as the cigarette tax has helped reduce the number of smokers and smoking-related deaths, a tax on highly caloric, non-nutritional beverages can help reduce the prevalence of obesity.


"Washington Arrogance Has Fomented a Muslim Revolution"

Are either Pakistan or India responsible for the attacks in Mumbai? No. The thing most responsible for the reprehensible attacks is the equally reprehensible foreign policy of the United States.

At least since 1953, when the CIA paid Iranian military leaders and civilians millions of dollars to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and re-install the Shah, the United States of America has been its own worst enemy. Revolution seldom has the intended consequences, and the Mumbai attacks are the latest evidence of this. In his article today, entitled Washington Arrogance Has Fomented a Muslim Revolution Paul Craig Roberts reminds us of this stark reality.

"It is not terror that Washington confronts," he says, "but revolution."

Roberts continues:

The attack on Mumbai required radicalized Muslims. Radicalized Muslims resulted from the US overthrowing the elected government in Iran and imposing the Shah; from the US stationing troops in Saudi Arabia; from the US invading and attempting to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing weddings, funerals, and children’s soccer games; from the US violating international and US law by torturing its Muslim victims; from the US enlisting Pakistan in its war against the Taliban; from the US violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by conducting military operations on Pakistani territory, killing Pakistani civilians; from the US government supporting a half century of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their lands, towns and villages; from the assault of American culture on Muslim values; from the US purchasing the government of Egypt to act as its puppet; from US arrogance that America is the supreme arbiter of morality.

If we could remember this one little concept--to avoid entangling alliances, like George Washington advised us to do--the world, and the United States itself, would be a much better place.