Signs of the Times (posted Fridays)

Praise Report

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark First Amendment ruling clearing the way for governments to accept permanent monuments of their choosing in public parks. This decision represents a resounding victory for government speech.  The decision gives government the right to speak for itself and the ability to communicate on behalf of its citizens.  It’s a significant decision that clears the way for government to express its views and its history through the selection of monuments – including religious monuments and displays, even the Ten Commandments!

Economy

Despite optimism over stimulus plans, the U.S. economy continues to slide toward depression. Is this the Third Horseman of Revelation 5 of just more of the “beginning of sorrows” from Matthew 24? Only time will tell. However, we are clearly in the last stages leading up to the Tribulation.

  • New jobless claims escalated to 667,000 last week and the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits was 5.1 million. Egads!
  • Meanwhile, durable goods orders fell 5% indicating we haven’t reached the bottom of this recession yet.
  • New Home Sales in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 309 thousand. This is the lowest sales rate the Census Bureau has ever recorded (starting in 1963).
  • The economy contracted much more sharply than initially estimated in the fourth quarter, government data showed Friday, as exports plunged and consumers cut spending by the most in more than 28 years. The total output of goods and services within U.S. borders fell at an annual rate of 6.2% in the October-December quarter.
  • U.S. banks reported a net loss of $26.2 billion in the final quarter of 2008. Fully 252 commercial banks and savings institutions, with total assets of $159 billion, were termed problem banks at the end of last year. By comparison, there were 76 troubled banks with $22 billion in assets, at the end of 2007.

Government Budget

President Obama’s $3.5 trillion budget as submitted to Congress yields a $1.75 trillion deficit (highest ever) while laying the groundwork for spending $634 billion on expanded health care coverage. This budget is supposed to be the result of “hard choices” that will “halve” the deficit by the end of his first term.

  • What are those people smoking in the White House? This is either the biggest pipe dream or the greatest scam of all-time. With bailout spending continuing to rise, this is probably an “optimistic” estimate of the deficit. When did health care become an entitlement? Before the 1940s, health insurance was scarce.

In the proposed 2010 budget, Obama suggests bringing back the top two Clinton-era tax rates of 36 percent and 39.6 percent for the nation’s highest earners. Those taxpayers currently pay 33 percent and 35 percent. More than 2.6 million Americans would be forced to pay the higher rates, according to Bloomberg News. Tax rates on capital gains and dividends will rise to 20 percent for top earners, up from the 15 percent rate set by former President George W. Bush in 2003.

  • As if the rate changes weren’t enough, Obama also proposes punishing the rich by stopping the scheduled repeal of the controversial estate tax next year. The president suggests imposing a 45 percent tax rate on any family’s estate worth more than $7 million.

The Obama tax hikes also include new restrictions on itemized deductions for families that earn more than $250,000 per year. Deductions for things like charitable donations, mortgage interest and investment expenses will be capped at 28 percent for the wealthiest taxpayers, some 30 percent less than they currently get. The changes would be phased in gradually over the next few years, according to an analysis of the budget by the Wall Street Journal.

  • This all represents a trillion dollar tax hike! By 2020, taxpayers in the wealthiest households will pay $636.7 billion in additional taxes according to estimates in his own budget proposal. The remainder of the $1 trillion tax hike would come from $353.5 billion in additional levies on businesses, especially U.S.-based multinational corporations.

Creeping Socialism

Despite Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke’s disclaimer about not seeking to nationalize banks, the latest plans call for greater ownership stakes, just not majority positions – yet. New World Order socialism continues to gain traction. Citigroup has struck a deal that allows it to shore up a key financial measure while giving the government up to a 36% stake in the beleaguered bank, vs. 8% now. Citigroup and has agreed to share losses on $301 billion of troubled bank assets.

  • Share with who? Share with us taxpayers, that’s who!
  • The problem with “creeping socialism is that it never stops creeping until it has gobbled up all semblances of a “free market” economy. With this budget and the bailout/stimulus plans, we have gone past the tipping point. Capitalism (not God) is dead.

Mexican Chaos

Many media outlets are reporting that it is getting too dangerous for tourists. Newsmax reports that more than 5,300 people were killed on both sides of the border in 2008 in violence tied to Mexican drug gangs, compared with fewer than 2,500 in 2007. Over 1,000 have been killed in drug-related violence this year already.

Around 950 people were kidnapped in 2008 versus 630 the previous year. More than 22,000 jobs near the U.S. border have been lost this year already due to severe decreases in exports to the U.S. Estimates of illicit Mexican narcotics range from $40 to $100 billion a year.

Mexican drug cartels are shipping more than massive quantities of drugs north of the border. Increasingly, they’re also exporting bloody mayhem. Seeking to stem the growing influence of the Sinaloa cartel within the United States, federal agents arrested more than 50 suspects in raids Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at different ends of the country. The raids capped a 21-month operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration that rounded up 755 suspects and seized more than $59 million in criminal proceeds.

Middle East Events

Israel‘s new leader, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, sat face-to-face Thursday with a man whose vision of Israeli-Palestinian relations is radically different from his own: the Obama administration’s new Mideast envoy. Netanyahu thinks negotiations on Palestinian statehood are pointless. But envoy George Mitchell wants Israel to resume negotiations to establish a Palestinian state.

  • Netanyahu is right. There is no historical or Biblical basis for a Palestinian state. It is a contrivance fostered by Muslims who will not stop until Israel is destroyed. The U.S. is on the wrong side of this equation, because this is not God’s side.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Mutineers in Bangladesh surrendered, but only after killing 54 officers, with many others still missing. They were protesting poor pay and rising food costs.

  • Expect to see more rioting and violence as the worldwide economic downturn contines

Weather Signs

Scientific studies show glaciers are melting even faster and over a much wider area than expected. Global warming? Could be. Or it could be just a short-term cycle. Some scientists see evidence of a coming ice age. In either event, it is primarily a cycle of nature only slightly exacerbated by human-generated greenhouse gases.

  • The problem is that we only have worldwide temperature measurements going back to the 1890s. Too little data to be declaring long-term trends. However, end-time weather will continue to become more unstable with wilder extremes, eventually resulting in monstrous hailstones (Rev. 8:7, 11?19, 16:21)

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