Banker objections. Those of us opposed to Ben Bernanke’s quantitative easing scheme could take solace from a new report issued this week. Bloomberg is reporting that members of the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC)—made up of high-level executives at Wall Street's biggest investment banks and asset managers—warned the Federal Reserve Board chairman that farmland, junk bonds, and mortgage real estate investment trusts were overvalued because of the “free money” the Fed was pouring into the markets. TBAC opposed the Fed's third round of quantitative easing when it was announced in September. According to Yahoo Finance, TBAC warned of “distorted bond prices resulting from the Fed’s purchases, limited impact on the economy, and ‘uncertain effects’ from an eventual unwinding of the balance sheet, including ‘risks to price and financial stability.’” For more on Bernanke and his quantitative easing program, see the profile I wrote in a recent edition of WORLD.
Prayer in schools—again. School officials cancelled two sixth grade graduations at Arkansas’s Riverside Unified School District after a parent objected to prayer being a part of the ceremony. In fairness, the school district had considered canceling the graduation anyway. According to district Superintendent Tommy Knight: “Those campuses for the last several years had discussed whether we should continue with sixth grade graduation or not. When [this controversy] came to my attention, the board and I decided to go ahead and discontinue sixth grade graduations.” The controversy began when the school received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit with a mission to educate the public “on matters relating to nontheism, and to promote the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.” In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools cannot sponsor prayer at graduation ceremonies, saying such prayers violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. However, students can express themselves during graduation and that expression can include student-led prayer.
The Left gets it. More than half of Fortune 500 companies have policies that actively promote abortion and homosexuality, according to the Biblically Responsible Investing Institute (BRII). Yet, few Christians go to the trouble to find out who these companies are and refrain from investing in them. Not so on the Left. Divestment has become a common and effective strategy for getting corporations to change policies. According to NPR, “In the 1980s, students enraged about South Africa's racist Apartheid regime got their schools to drop stocks in companies that did business with that government. In the 1990s students pressured their schools to divest in Big Tobacco.” Today, NPR said, “Student activists are targeting a mainstay of the economy: large oil and coal companies.” They’re targeting companies like Duke Energy, which operates coal-fired power plants, and coal producers. So far, the results have been limited, but if history is a guide, it’s a strategy that will work for them, and could work for Christians who are willing to put their money where their mouths are.
Southern letters. I take a break from the normal news to note that May 10 is auspicious for those of us who pay attention to Southern literature. On this date in 1990, Walker Percy died. Percy was a literary late bloomer. He started his career as a doctor, but an illness of his own forced his retirement, and he turned to writing. He published his first novel, The Moviegoer, in 1962, and it won the National Book Award. Other excellent novels followed, assuring Percy’s position as a key figure in 20th century American fiction. Also on this date in 1994, Cleanth Brooks passed away. He is less well known, but likely no less important. Brooks was a literary critic and editor, co-founding (with his friend Robert Penn Warren) the influential Southern Review. His insightful readings of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, T.S. Eliot, and many others helped readers see the greatness of these writers. Brooks was a key figure in a literary movement known as “New Criticism,” a label he personally disliked. New Criticism emphasized “close reading” of literary texts rather than modernist or post-modernist approaches such as post-structuralism and deconstructionism. The New Critics brought a degree of sanity to increasingly chaotic, surreal, and nihilistic graduate programs in literature. I would also add that I, while in graduate school, had the chance to spend some extended time with Mr. Brooks, and I found him to be a wise and inspiring teacher, and one of the nicest Christian gentlemen I’ve ever met.