I am the other Son

November 24, 2008    By: Matt W. @ 9:58 am   Category: Life

Ok, I am assuming we all are aware of the story of the prodigal son, and I am willing to bet we’ve all spent some time thinking about the other son.

Well, that’s me. I’m him.

It drives me crazy that the government is bailing out my brothers and sisters, when I have busted my but working hard and made huge sacrifices so I could keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. I didn’t follow my dreams. I took a practical job. I didn’t go on vacation, but instead I paid the mortgage. I drive an economy car. I bought the cheapest house we looked at. I eat beans and rice from the food storage when times are tough. I’ve never had cable, and my TV is over a decade old.

So yeah, I’m pissed about all these bailouts. Why the crap do we keep perpetuating the problems of our society by sustaining it. I was here when all the Katrina people got off the bus and we had to confiscate all the guns they brought. I was here when they were given $500 check cards and 30 minutes later we were having arrests a block away as they tried to trade them for crack.

I read the headlines about AIG and Ford and about people who bought too much house and are mad because the economy is bad and they want to keep their house. And It just drives me crazy.

But I know I am wrong. I know I should think: “If I have, I will give” and should rejoice in my prodigal brother’s survival. But I just don’t believe that what we are giving is helping. “Prodigal” was a ungrateful moron yesterday, and he’s still gonna be that way tomorrow. All we’ve done is help him not learn and continue to survive without learning.

So how do I change? How do I not be the other brother? What helps you deal with an unfair world?


  1. But in the story of the Prodigal Son, didn’t the son first have to wallow in the mire for a while, and then in a fully repentant attitude return to his Father?

    How different that is from the Big Three CEOs flying to DC in 3 private jets with tincups in their hands! In the former, the Prodigal Son suffered and lost everything. He was repentant and willing to be a servant.

    Today, we have few that are actually repentant or humbled. When we bailed out AIG, what was their first order of business? A $400K vacation retreat?

    Sadly, I don’t think those who have caused this mess are truly sorry for their sins/crimes/bad choices. I wouldn’t mind helping out, IF these individuals didn’t feel it was due them. The Prodigal Son was willing to be a servant! How many of these have offered to give everything up, quit their CEO positions with no golden parachute, and leave themselves totally at the mercy of others?

    I’m all for mercy. But for these people are not seeking mercy. They are demanding their entitlement to be bailed out. “We’re too big to fail” does not sound like a remorseful plea. Perhaps if we first allowed them to fail and flounder for a while, and then assist them afterward, we would have a people worth saving.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 24, 2008 @ 11:23 am

  2. Matt W., I “get” your desire to be a little less bitter, but I hardly think this parable applies. In the parable, the prodigal son “came to himself,” and left the former life behind. In my mind, these Wall Street bail-out beneficiaries are still scrounging around with the pigs.

    Comment by Hunter — November 24, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  3. In prodigal son’s father willingly sacrificed HIS calf and put HIS robe/ring on the prodigal son. The father didn’t hold a gun to his neighbor’s head and ‘collect taxes’ to order to afford his son’s return.

    Yes. Individually give (as directed by the spirit).
    No. Taxes which take from some and give to others.

    Comment by ed42 — November 24, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

  4. I agree with the above.

    Matt W., what dreams would you have followed if you didn’t have to get a practical job? That part of your post made my heart hurt for you. I wonder just how common that is, among the “other sons?”

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — November 24, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

  5. I hear ya. I live in Southern California. I didn’t buy a house with a loan I couldn’t pay because I wasn’t that stupid. Now I’m paying for everyone else who was that stupid. And I’m still living in a crappy apartment.

    Comment by Susan M — November 24, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  6. I don’t think Zion-like virtue means that the responsible do all the responsible things for all the irresponsible people. D&C 42:42 “…he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.”

    Comment by Hal — November 24, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  7. Life’s not fair. A fair’s where you buy pigs.

    I try to remember that the chaos around us are all signs of the times and to just keep doing what I need to do to keep myself and family where we need to be. I am grateful for the house that I have and know that I will not lose it. I have no credit card debt.

    I’m glad I don’t have to answer to being the prodigal.

    Comment by MontanaMuse — November 24, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

  8. Well, the “other son” did not have his inheritance spent up by the prodigal. The only way to float this $700B is not only upon your dreams, but upon the dreams of your children. They’re the ones who’ll really pay.

    I think you chose a path that allows you to finance your dreams, rather than shifting the funding to others – if you really want to pursue those dreams. However, I think the reality you’ve received (your MIL’s cooking to begin with – and she makes some danged good red beans & rice) is probably better than your dream.

    Comment by mondo cool — November 24, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  9. Well, on the one hand I am glad to not be alone in feeling angry, but, the Other Son didn’t think the rules of love and understanding applied to him either.

    The thing is I give my money to the Government with the understanding that they are going to do what is best for all of us collectively. The Prodigal son gave of himself to his Father with the understanding it would benefit him in the long run. The Government and the Father do what they will with their money, which is theirs, and I, the other son, have no right to tell them what to do and not to do, I have my ability to vote, but that’s it. (And yes, I know my vote is meaningless, all you skeptics!) And I say, hey, that’s my fatted calf! I was gonna feed my children’s children with that!

    And to top it off, I see my brother saying he needs help, but what’s the first thing he does when he gets help, he parties like it’s 1999!

    I think the prodigal son does apply.

    Oh and BiV, It’s not that bad, I have new dreams, and I’m only 31. I’m not quite old enough to say I’ve wasted my life yet.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 24, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  10. Here’s an interesting YouTube clip I saw today (See here for an update interview) about the mess we’re in.

    I liked this quote from 2006: “The basic problem with the US economy is we have too much consumption and borrowing and not enough production and saving.”

    Turns out this Schiff guy was very right on several counts.

    Anyhow, I think most of the commenters here (except ed42 who managed to butcher the analogy beyond recognition) make pretty good points about the prodigal hitting rock bottom before coming home.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 24, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  11. “The basic problem with the US economy is we have too much consumption and borrowing and not enough production and saving.”

    That is why:

    1. Savings and capital gains taxes should be calculated after adjusting the principal for inflation. Taxing nominal gains where there hasn’t been any real increase in value is a sure fire way to discourage savings.

    2. The mortgage interest deduction should be eliminated and income tax rates reduced to compensate, so the average tax burden doesn’t go up. The current deduction encourages excessive borrowing and investment in housing.

    3. Tax deferred savings plans (IRA/401K) should be encouraged and the statutory limits increased.

    4. The double taxation of dividends and capital gains should be eliminated.

    5. The tax deduction for health care expenses should be transferred from employers to individuals to allow individuals to have greater control over their own health insurance.

    6. The social security system should be changed into a government guarantee / safety net for a mandatory, private, conservative investment plan. Currently Congress just lends itself the money raised from social security, spends it, and promises to raise taxes in the future to cover the difference. That is consumption now, pain later.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 24, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  12. Matt,

    I don’t think the parable is a perfect fit, but I think it is close enough that I see your point clearly. When I apply the parable to this situation as you have done, I’m not sure the message is that we should be happy about the bailouts, but I do think it tells us that if we really love the people who are in financial trouble, we will forgive them for making stupid choices and we will want to help them. That’s why I think this line is the most telling of your post:

    I just don’t believe that what we are giving is helping.


    Comment by Jacob J — November 24, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

  13. I say let’s help them move to smaller houses, get smaller cars that get better gas mileage and have them attend a financial budgeting class rather than paying 1.6 trillion to bail them out of their irresponsible stupidity. All that we are accomplishing is teaching the irresponsible that being irresponsible pays big-time.

    Once again, the parable of the prodigal son has nothing to do with coercive government bailout programs or charity. Charity is — one and all — not a coercive government program and it becomes impossible to give charity if the means to do so are already taken by the government through coercion of law. Note — government programs and charity have nothing to do with each other. When I give out of charity I decide who and how much. When the government takes to redistribute, it decides who and how much and whether. That isn’t charity folks. Failing to make this distinction is the basis for saying I don’t have to give more because I gave it all to the government who chooses to be charitable for me.

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  14. Thank goodness for government programs like TANF, SSDI, SSI, and social security for the aged.Most people who benefit from welfare are under age 5. The disabled just want to meet their bills, and the aged want to be independent as long as possible. Taxes are payment for roads, bridges, license bureaus and law and order. I am thankful we are not worse off than we are-but hold on.I think things are going to get tougher.

    Comment by Kim Reece-Lairson — November 28, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  15. Jacob: I guess I worry that the other son didn’t think what the father was doing was helping either.

    Blake: Is the parable of the prodigal son about charity (meaning pure love) either? After we give our money to the government, it is the Government’s money, not ours. The Father owned the money, not me.

    I guess I am checking my self. I do want to use my very small roll in the collective to do good, but I do not want to Covet the governments money or the “good” that the poor are getting. Doing so is backwards.

    Kim: I wouldn’t know a SSI from an SI(sports illustrated). This is part of my problem. What forms of Welfare work, and what forms just perpetuate societal ills? If we give a 5 year old just enough money and food to grow up and be a crappy adult, have we really helped that child?
    (I do understand the idea of first aid coming first, but the question is where is the line between life saving and perpetuating life)

    Comment by Matt W. — November 29, 2008 @ 7:00 am

  16. I worry that the other son didn’t think what the father was doing was helping either.

    Perhaps that’s true, but I don’t get the sense that this is the root of the brother’s complaint, or his problem. If the worst we could say about the brother was that he was worried in a spirit of love that the father’s actions would not help the prodigal fix his life, I don’t think we would speak badly about the other son in the first place.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 29, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

  17. I’m so glad I found out about D&C 42;42. Now when we are discussing whether we should give to young,fit-looking boys/men sitting in shop doorways with signs saying “homeless”,who throw away the food you give them,making more money from begging than those who go to work for a minimum wage, I’ll know just what to say.!!

    Comment by Judy Lee — January 28, 2009 @ 1:14 pm