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February 10th, 2009
03:57 PM ET

President Obama's Ark

Pres. Obama steps away from the podium after his press conference on his economic stimulus plan.

Pres. Obama steps away from the podium after his press conference on his economic stimulus plan.

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

Now that President Obama has warned over and over that this economic crisis could turn into a “catastrophe” if Congress doesn’t act quickly on a stimulus package, I'm trying to get an image in my head of what “catastrophe” means.

The Oxford English Dictionary led me to a synonym - “cataclysm.” And right there at the top of “cataclysm” in the Oxford English Dictionary is this sentence: “A great and general flood of water, a deluge; esp. the Noachian deluge, the Flood.”

The ultimate example of a catastrophe or cataclysm may very well be the story of Noah and The Flood. Genesis 6:5 – 8:22. We are already experiencing a flood of job losses. Nearly 600,000 jobs cut last month, following a similar number in December, certainly qualifies as a deluge. As President Obama said accurately, our economic problems “are accelerating, not decelerating.”

Some Republican opponents of the stimulus plan say they’re more worried about a different kind of flood – a flood of taxpayer dollars being spent in ways that are not guaranteed to work – a flood of debt passed down to our children. That’s a legitimate fear that must be addressed. But there’s no questioning the flood we face right now.

As told in Genesis, God floods the earth intentionally in the time of Noah “… because all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.” Whatever your views of religion and the Bible, each one of us can probably come up with our own list of how human corruption led to our current economic crisis, our current flood of joblessness and dearth of trust.

In Genesis, it is said that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. But, if you haven’t read the story recently, you may have forgotten that the flood waters did not come only from above. “All the fountains of the great deep” also opened up. So, according to the story, the earth was flooded from above and below. Again, I can’t help but think how apt that image is for our current crisis. This is not just a top down phenomenon. From the highest level Wall Street tycoons who disguised the risks of their new investment devices, to lower income Americans who piled up debt they couldn't afford, Americans from all walks of life have contributed to this Flood.

President Obama this week is visiting places that have the highest water levels, to deliver a message to the high ground of The Capitol. Monday it was Elkhart, Indiana, whose unemployment rate has tripled in the past year to over 15 percent. Later this week, President Obama will visit a Caterpillar factory in Peoria. Caterpillar is one of the world’s great manufacturers of heavy construction equipment. But the construction industry, like so many others, has hit the brakes. Caterpillar has announced 22, 000 job cuts in the past few weeks.

This is not The Flood of Noah’s time, a flood described in Genesis as inundating the entire earth to “the tops of the mountains.” In America, and the new world of global competition, the path to the top of the mountain is education. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now confronting an education crisis that mayors (and parents) across the country are facing. Mayor Bloomberg said this past week that it was losing more than 800 million dollars in state education aid for its public schools. That amounts to 14,000 teacher jobs. He hoped to make up for that with federal aid channeled through the state. But now, we’re told, federal education aid may be severely curtailed in the revised stimulus package. The path to the top of the mountain is becoming muddy.

Noah had a big advantage over President Obama. Noah got precise instructions from God on how to build the ark that would save humanity. “…three hundred cubit the length of the ark, fifty cubits its width, and thirty cubits its height.” President Obama has repeatedly warned us not to expect that every dollar of the stimulus plan will produce its intended effect. After all, there are no architectural plans being handed down from up high.

The comedian Bill Cosby had a funny routine about Noah talking to God. God gives Noah the dimensions of the ark. Noah’s response: “What’s a cubit?”

For those of us who begin to tire of all the bad news, tire of the uncertainty, tire of the sacrifices we’re asked to make, there’s this passage from the Cosby routine.

Noah: Well I'm sick and tired of this! I've had enough of this stuff! I've been working all day! Working on it for days and days! I'm sick and tired of this!
God: Noah!
Noah: Yeah?
God: How long can you tread water?

Finally, I want to share a portion of a letter from a man named Paul Bianchi, the Headmaster of Paideia, a prestigious private school in Atlanta. Obviously, well-endowed private schools are better positioned to weather this storm than public schools. Nevertheless, I believe the Headmaster’s letter to parents captures the spirit of how America can get through this crisis and emerge on more solid footing than ever before.

“We expect there may be school families hit particularly hard with a temporary need for some relief. These families might be those where there has been a job loss or dramatic decline in job income. Previously, income and/or assets would have made these families ineligible for our traditional financial aid program, but now income has been slashed and assets, such as a home, might not be a source of income in the short term. The Board has allocated a portion of the school’s limited reserves as a special fund to try to help some families in this situation bridge what we all hope will be a relatively short span of time.”

In other words, we’re all in the same ark.

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Filed under: Economy • Michael Schulder • President Barack Obama
soundoff (183 Responses)
  1. Terri

    I just heard that tax cuts for buying cars and homeowners have been taken out of the bill. Nothing I have heard, in regards to this bill, that will make a hugh difference in the lives of the low and middle class americans. I'm so tired of government not hearing the people. You have to create jobs and give more tax breaks in order to stimulate the economy. All I have to say, if this bill doesn't create enough jobs and doesn't stimulate spending, pack your bags Democrats and the few Republicans that voted for this bill because I will be voting you out as well as I'm sure there are others that will do the same and you will not be returning to government any time soon. If you want to be elected, this bill had better be close to perfect. You are spending hugh amount of money that belongs to the people so you should and will be held accountable so no excuses if this doesn't succeed. We can not afford to fail.

    February 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  2. Bob Rock

    S Callahan,

    There is no God. Religion is wholly man-made.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  3. Bob Rock

    Voting against this bill will be the DEATH BLOW to the republican party. I foresee 30 years or more of democratic rule by the Dems. Republicans need to get in line or get the heck out of the way.

    Once Republicans figure out that you can't dictate social religious conservative principles on the American people, they may see their party come back to life. However, I don't see that happening.

    These self-righteous bigots don't give a damn about the middle class. They believe in taking care of the rich and wealthy.

    Their motto should be: I GOT MINE, SCREW YOU.

    Mark my words....Unless the Republicans stop listening to Limbaugh and Hannity and change their platform to include everyone (not just the rich) they will never see political power again.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  4. Roger Early

    Let's not forget that none of this matters, we're all going to be dead, or our world will be turned on its ear, after 2012. This is the last president we're ever going to see and the fact is he DOESN'T know what hes talking about.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  5. eric wolf

    At last we have a leader. He is holding the rich accountable for there stealing tax payers money unlike bush who handed them the money with no strings attached im sure them bounces felt great when they was sticking all that money in there deep pockets while millions was losing there jobs they should be charged and thrown in prison along with bush chenny madoff and anyone that be stealing billions while the rest of us are worried about feeding our families good ridiance to bush and all the republican that ran our country in the ground

    February 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  6. Tracy

    In my opinion Obama's new policy should include school uniforms for every child in America.
    Why?
    Because school uniforms tend to eliminate social barriers by keeping more children in school. Further more, all uniforms can be supplied right here in the USA adding much needed jobs! Tracy Riggs.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  7. Melissa

    We are definately not all in the same boat. The rich keep supporting the rich while the poor and middle class suffer. This country was created for equality, it was not created for the bourgeousie (sp?) to destroy people by milking them dry. Its this kind of behavior that caused the creation of unions in the first place.

    February 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  8. Isa

    Isn't it ironic that when someone is being realistic and speaking the facts such as waiting will lead to worse economic conditions, (as has already been proven by the last three months, or longer), some people call it "fear mongering?" Well, what do we call an American people and a Congress who stood around for at least 2-8 years of being mongered by threats that engendered fear and did nothing until this election when a real leader gave hope and inspired millions? Whether Obama and his administration can get us all on board and help us tread water, we are already in deep water...the flood is already here, is yet to be seen. If the economists who are advising aren't correct (and that is a lot of knowledgeable people) then we need to prepare for some stark realities that Americans have not been ready or willing to face. (Some Americans are still not willing to see that we have been deep in a recession for over a year. Bush finally admitted it in Dec.) We need to wake up and get real. Americans like to live in Lala Land and play Pretend. It is time to play another kind of Pretend - pretend we are already sinking and do what is necessary to stay afloat...put food on the table and a roof over our heads.
    Name calling will never get us out. Nor will standing still and waiting for perfection. Nor will having ideologies that may or may not work. Action is required to tread water and to stay afloat. At least this Administration is not Lame but actually working on solutions. At the very least this President has inspired millions to stand up and take an active part in their communities. This is a start to see government by the people for the people...not a few special interest groups.

    February 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  9. Alice Fried

    For goodness sake. Where was all of this concern about "too much spending" when the Republicans were voting to finance the wrong war? Weren't we all in the same boat then? Where was the fair and balanced reporting then? Anderson, I like you. I like that you come across as a journalist rather than a media actor. This is too critical a time. Americans have hard choices to make. Please give us information that can help us make those choices wisely.

    February 11, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Mary G.

    You said it best Carol McDaniel !

    February 11, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  11. Mike, Syracuse NY

    I've seen a lot of irresponsible numbers thrown out for the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact is that currently these conflicts have cost about $800 billion, not $3 trillion as some have claimed. Most Americans agree that since Al Queda did attack us, and was headquartered in Afghanistan, we were and are right to continue this conflict. You can debate Iraq, but if we had not invaded, a large troop presence in the area would have been needed indefinitely to enforce the UN resolutions and deter Saddam Hussein. This would have cost hundreds of millions. So let's say that the incremental cost of Iraq to date is $400 billion, or one half the proposed stimulus package. Let's also not forget that the money spent on equipment goes largely to US companies and does provide tens of thousands of US jobs. Bottom line is that this stimulus will cost us much more than Iraq has to date.

    February 11, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  12. Terri

    $50 more a month to low and middle class will not be enough to get people regularly spending. It is apparent (by this action) that government does not have a clue as to how much it costs to meet everyday basic needs. All it will do is to create more debt that the current and future generations will have to carry. Why not give a bulk of money to the everyday person so they are able to pay off bills, buy a house, buy a new car, re-invest money that has been lost in retirement accounts, or give the people who have lost their job some breathing room until they are able to find a job? Not to mention, I live in Illinois which is behind on giving funds to the schools so, my district is exploring the option to close schools. My district most likely can not afford to pass a referendum (since one just passed a couple of years ago), but with more money to pay off bills this would free up people's available cash so may be our schools could be helped. Perhaps the government does not want the majority of people to be financially independent. This bill shows that the government truly wants to keep people in their place (the poor staying poor, people stay struggling, and the rich keep getting richer (ex: $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers, banks, etc. the list goes on).

    February 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  13. answer to Cathy nonsense

    you asked on – Cathy February 10th, 2009 7:08 pm ET

    Please – will someone at CNN please ask the following question:
    If we want to stimulate the economy with spending, why not “loan” every taxpayer one million dollars? - “Keep it simple, stupid!”

    Well because if 200mln gets only 4K each -the total would be 800Bln, so get a calculator next time!

    February 11, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  14. NYC2TX

    Have you ever met or seen someone and almost immediately you could tell their affiliation? Do you know someone so well that you can communicate with them without even saying the Word and they know exactly what you are saying and visa versa? Some of us know the Truth. Some of us know "where our Bread is buttered". Mr. Cooper, something tells me that you are well aware of where all "this" is going. In closing, depending on one's Affiliation, there is One that has Peace.

    February 11, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  15. Jenny

    I am very glad that the banks are being taken to task on the taxpayers' money that they have received. JP Morgan Chase bought Washington Mutual with whom I have a credit card on which I made my monthly payments deligently. I was laid off so I asked to have the account frozen so as not to incur any interest and/or fees while I aggressively search for another job after which I would resume payments. I DID NOT ask for a bailout or write-off of the debt, yet they informed me that they cannot freeze the account and have continued adding, interest, late fee and now over limit fees.
    HSBC with whom I have an adjustable rate mortgage and have tried converting it to a 30-year fixed rate, has told me that I do not qualify, but since I am laid off was willing to modify the monthly payment to 80% of my unemployment, for 18 months after which it will revert to the ARM rate. Keep in mind HSBC already has the loan and I am seeking the fixed rate loan from it NOT somewhere else. I thought this would be a win-win for both HSBC and me but I guess greed is more important to HSBC.
    Bonus is a share of profits, the executives of banks and financial institutions that made a loss, got bailout funds and took bonus should be DEMANDED to return all the bonus they took and/or fired, they are already ripping off the institutions with their excessive pay packages.

    February 11, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  16. Mike, Syracuse NY

    C.Thomas February 10th, 2009 6:26 pm ET
    The problem is that while people are losing jobs and struggling, Republican Congressmen are playing politics. Most of them seem to be vying for political position, as if they’re all hoping for a presidential run.

    @C.Thomas, the exact same thing can be said for the House Democrats. Bipartisan must work 2 ways. The House locked the Republicans out of crafting this bill. The Senate was more practical, but by then the damage was done. It's nice Of Obama to reach out for ideas, but if those ideas are ignored by Congressional Democrats, it's a wasted gesture solely inteneded for show.

    February 11, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  17. Bill

    The republicans have offered absolutely nothing in turning the current economy around. They just want to oppose anything Obama and congress might attempt to railroad them in future elections. Lets face it, if you are a multi-millionaire and lost 50% of your holdings, you are still a millionaire. These are the same people who benefitted most under Bush tax cuts and pay a lower % of taxes than the rest of americans. If the stimulus bill was crafted by the GOP, it would consist of nothing but more tax cuts for the super rich, people like John McCain who don't even know how many houses they own.

    February 11, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  18. jarrod

    I don't understand why we would want banks lend right now they don't want to change....besides the way i understand it was'nt a CREDIT BUBBLE that bursted and got us here in the first place..................then this treasury wanting to print money to fund isn't that going to cause inflation down the road....

    PS>>>I better spend my $102.50 in my savings account by next week i may only be able to purchase a snickers bar HEY KIDS dinner's ready

    February 11, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  19. Jorge

    The recession is just a hangover of the partying american consumers did at the start of the 21st century. The only thing that will cure it is time. Everyone needs to suck it up and work where they can when they can until things start to get better.

    February 11, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  20. Tonya from Lansing MI

    This commentary was sobering, insightful and so true! GOD help us all!

    February 11, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  21. Shawn

    Well, if Obama keeps doing things like • A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers

    It will not be long until he has given 1.35 trillion in tax breaks to the rich! It makes sense though that Obama is already giving tax breaks to the rich, he is Bush's 10th cousin after all!

    February 11, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  22. Shawn

    February 11th, 2009 10:45 am ET

    Hey – how many of the republicans that voted for Bushs 1.35 TRILLION dollar tax cuts to the rich are complaining about the cost and effectiveness of this bill?

    Enough said. No credibility.

    Folks, these people are living on a different planet than the rest of us – and I wouldn’t expect someone like Anderson Cooper to be feeling any pain as a result of this economic mess.

    ---------–> Really, because last I checked, on this planet, we do not go and spend more money we do not have to get us out of debt. It sound more to me like Obama and the Senate Dems are the ones that are on another planet, and this bill, if you read it, will do nothing to stimulate our economy!

    February 11, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  23. Shawn

    Wow, we are hardly all in the same boat Mr. Obama, and if you knew anything about the voters who you said you would be there for then you would know this. I seriously doubt you are in any danger of losing your home, car, ect, and I am sure your family will be eating just fine this year! But I should not be shocked at this really, you are the same inexperienced man with poor judgment of character who picked two people who do not pay their taxes for your cabinet (someone with any real experience this would not have happened to because this would have been checked out in the vetting) and you are the same man who gave us a pork laden bill and hired a lobbyist. Since you have been in office, you have proven over and over what a liar you are! I voted for you this year, but my family and I do not plan on making that mistake again. Much more of these lies and your inexperience and this Dem will vote Republican to keep you out in 4 years.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  24. Ray Hurt

    Why is it that stimulis contractors constantly decry the cost of helping millions of American taxpayers survive the economic crisis but you rarely heard about the Trillion plus that they authorised to destroy and rebuild Iraq.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  25. JB

    Hey – how many of the republicans that voted for Bushs 1.35 TRILLION dollar tax cuts to the rich are complaining about the cost and effectiveness of this bill?

    Enough said. No credibility.

    Folks, these people are living on a different planet than the rest of us – and I wouldn't expect someone like Anderson Cooper to be feeling any pain as a result of this economic mess.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  26. Moses

    AC, you are quite a disappointment. Your vanity and self adulation is hard to miss. We must stop listening/reading folks who stand on fake pedestal to estol fake visions & fake insights.

    Enough!

    The 'Old Media' is just as bad as the 'Old Politics'. Their arrogance shows that they do not realize that the 'ground has shifted from under thier feet'.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  27. stptk11

    I can see by the posts on here there is still a lot of hatred of Americans by Americans. We are more divided now than we were in November, that much is clear. Here's is a question: How can you get out of debt by spending more than you earn?

    February 11, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  28. NY Sharma

    AC and CNN:

    I respect your right to your faith but you have NO RIGHT to assume that billions of others follow your faith. I am a religious person and respect your faith but DON'T project your faith on others under the garb of "opinions" and news.

    Stop proletysing ... religion is not marketing. Thanks CNN – hope you pay attention to the voices of the community, not a single faith or its followers.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  29. liberal lady

    TO Dale Migell.

    We need social medicine in this country. How can you say that you are an Obama supporter? I doubt that very much. Our wonderful President knows what he is doing. He has been studying and putting these bills together since the summer. He is ready to lead and doing a great job of it. Look at the trash he was left from the criminal Bush. It's going to take a while for our president to get all of his agenda through. But as Joe Biden told us on the campaign trail, we will all understand that President Obama is doing the right thing for all of us. That is why he won! To do the peoples work.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  30. coloradoman

    We've been had. President Obama and the democrats have slopped – I won't use the term "crafted" (that's a joke) because this bill is so fat with pork we'll need the massive socialized health care system to intervene as our country goes into financial cardiac arrest. As usual, ready to serve up the slobbering constituents they serve, are always siding-up to to the government teet at the expense of working people paying the bill – a bill the next generations will be stuck with as well. Unfortunately, many well-meaning people including the next generations voted for Obama and his band of thieves, looking past the facts that this is a group of people who truly believe in socialism and big government so they can ultimately get more and more insecure and uninformed Americans suckling at the government breasts and keeping them reliant on them. Keep those votes coming.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:12 am |
  31. S Callahan

    Anderson, your Bibical comparisons is right on. I might add, you surprise me that you wrote such an insightful and at some points humerous article

    One thing that can be noted in scripture is that God does speak to us through his living word, and time and again in history God did give advance notice to change ones ways. We are on notice now.

    Just like Noah, God has given us a prescription to weather this storm (or flood, if you will)

    Let not the buyer rejoice or the seller grieve for wrath is upon the whole crowd (ezekiel 7:11)
    In preparation , If you read all of Ezekiel you will learn that God tells us to stock up on items such as wheat, barley,beans. lentils,millet, spelt, water and ration it out. So he has prepared us.....the difference is, is anyone taking him seriously.

    Greed never has a positive outcome as it's pleasures are only fleeting and it's punishment is great.

    God can never be fooled but we humans are certainly vunerable...so the question lies now....are we being fooled?

    February 11, 2009 at 10:04 am |
  32. farid shakur

    Obama is the smartest coolest and greatest President since President Clinton, period!

    February 11, 2009 at 9:58 am |
  33. Dale Megill

    This is only place I've found to get my message to CNN so please forward to the appropriate person.
    PLEASE shine a spot light on the section of the Stimulus Plan that concern health care. There's an article by Betsy McCaughey in the News Journal (Wilm. DE, 2/10) that points out the Dashal solutions in H.R.1EH that give control of medical treatments to a National Coordinator of Health Information Technology instead of the Dr.., with punishment to Dr's that don't comply. It would cut even further what Medicare pays, already so low that some Dr won't take Medicare patients. It would determine how hospitals get paid and how Drs and nurses are educated.
    This should NOT be in a stimulus bill. It needs to be studied and DEBATED. Please look into this and make it a top priority to cut from the bill!! The public will be outraged just as I am if it passes. I'm a strong Obama supporter so am disappointed that he hasn't talked about this and is letting it stay hidden.

    February 11, 2009 at 9:55 am |
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