One Man’s Effort to Save the Economy

One Man’s Effort to Save the Economy

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In the midst of economic despair, Tom’s town is the story of a future America.

There is a man from Carpentersville, Illinois, who embodies the character America needs right now if it is to recover from its economic depression. Sadly, he is one of a dying breed—and that has big implications for America.

Tom Roeser is fighting the battle of his life. Tom is the president and co-owner of Otto Engineering, the biggest employer in Carpentersville. Tom is battling to prevent his hometown from turning into a post-industrial slum. It is a tough, frustrating fight. He was handicapped by local laws, uncooperative county and state officials, and aid organizations unwilling to commit to battle.

But Carpentersville was Tom’s town. That meant something to him. He wasn’t about to let it die like Detroit.

Tom’s crusade began in 2005 after a condominium near his factory was hit by a wave of foreclosures. Soon the whole neighborhood was blighted with crime, graffiti, gang activity and vandalism. Property values plunged as unkempt, overgrown, dilapidated properties spread.

“It really was neglected,” said Tom. “I went to the town, the county; I went to Habitat for Humanity; I told them that we needed to do something about this neighborhood. I couldn’t get help from anybody” (cnnMoney, April 2).

So Tom took action himself—despite all the bureaucratic roadblocks, mounds of codes, and over-burdensome regulations that seemed to be stacked against him. He began by buying up the run-down foreclosed condos and fixing them himself. It was a lonely fight against long odds.

Then in 2008, the economic crisis struck and an even bigger flood of foreclosures and abandoned homes hit the market. Carpentersville was one of the hardest-hit cities in the country, with official unemployment spiking to 12.5 percent—and real unemployment closer to 20 percent.

But Tom didn’t quit. Between 2008 and 2009, Tom was the only person to buy property in the 5,000-home neighborhood.

Instead, he expanded his vision to other parts of Carpentersville—and started rehabilitating more homes. Blighted properties destroy property values and lead to other people letting their property run down. And that can lead to migration and other sorts of social problems, he noted.

“We can’t just fix one,” he said. “We have to fix them all.”

It was either an act of faith, or desperation, but where he led, maybe others would follow.

And follow they did. “It’s been quite a catalyst,” according to Village President Ed Ritter. “Every neighborhood in which he has bought and rehabbed homes seems to prosper. Other homeowners see what he has done and improve their own homes.”

“It is the pebble in the pond. If he does 100 houses, then there are five houses around every one of them that starts improving their property,” he said.

So far Tom has purchased around 150 single-family homes and 70 condos. Some he has had to tear down to the studs to rebuild, others he has completely demolished before putting up a new structure.

“We want the home no one else will buy. If someone else will buy it and fix it, it probably is nice,” says Tom. “I want a house that is in horrible condition so we can fix the neighborhood.”

Tom evidently takes pride in his work too. When he fixes or builds a house, he puts up a sign saying Otto Engineering is rehabilitating the home to help retain the value of the neighborhood. He stakes the reputation of his company on the quality of the work being done. He wants people to know that the house they buy or rent from him is built with the same level of quality as the switches and high-precision electrical controls his company is known for.

And he wants residents to understand that they are not alone in their fight. “We want the homeowners to know that there is a future for the homeowner in the town, so that they don’t abandon their home, and so that they can continue to invest,” he says.

Tom obviously isn’t a fan of the “its the government’s job to fix things” socialist philosophy, but his story also dramatically differs from today’s capitalistic America.

Tom didn’t buy the houses for a quick flip to sell to investors from Australia or China. He wasn’t looking to build a rental empire for the profits. He bought those crumbling homes with the purpose of rebuilding his community.

When he sells a remodeled house, he prices it to cover his costs—and no more. He just wants out what he has put in, he says. To veterans, he cuts $10,000 from the listing prices. With the properties he rents, he leases them for around $200 per month below market value.

But Tom’s action isn’t just altruism. There is one important stipulation attached to his transactions. Whoever buys or rents one of his properties must agree to take care of and upkeep the property, especially the exterior that has such a big effect on property values and on how other people maintain their property. He has dozens of people lining up, so he can pick and choose who he wants to put in his houses.

Everyone benefits: realtors, mortgage brokers, property appraisers, framers, roofers, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, local businesses, buyers, homeowners, renters, city tax collections—who all get work and get paid—and yes, Tom Roeser too.

By helping rebuild Carpentersville, not only does Tom deter crime, but he helps insure the existence of a safe, stable and affordable community for his workforce and their families. Additionally, according to Tom, he also ensures that his customers, like Motorola, John Deere and the U.S. military, don’t get turned off by the urban decay when they come to visit.

It really is a win-win situation.

And it is a potential win-win situation that more community leaders and individuals like Tom need to aspire to if America is ever to prosper again.

Sadly, that won’t happen.

As Charles Murray, author of the book Coming Apart, notes: Back in the 1950s and ’60s, America’s elite—the Tom Roesers of society—were much more integrated with everyday society. The doctors, the lawyers, the scientists, the politicians, the PhDs, the ceos, lived in or near the very same communities that their employees and fellow workers did.

Murray gives the example of the Maytag Corporation, which was headquartered in Newton, Iowa. Originally, the owner, ceo and other executive officers lived in Newton, along with their employees. They got paid a bit better, and had slightly larger houses, maybe a swimming pool, but despite their “status” they weren’t really that different from everyone else. They were part of the local clubs, they attended community functions, their children went to the same schools as everyone else’s.

When problems hit their communities, America’s “elite” had a vested interest in finding a solution.

But over the years, corporate America has transformed. America’s elite have segregated themselves into isolated populations divorced from the reality faced by the rest of America.

In Maytag’s case, after the death of F.L. Maytag ii, it wasn’t long before the next generation of executives moved out of Newton and into more cosmopolitan regional centers. Soon thereafter, all the executives lived in far-away big cities.

Then, Maytag was sold, and the new owners shut down the Newton factory and moved it to Mexico.

In so much of America, the links between employee and employer are broken. Today, millions of American workers never see, never meet, never once interact with the executives they are working for. And as far as executives are concerned, their employees are merely a cost item on a balance sheet.

When company towns decay, corporate executives and America’s elite do little—not because they are greedy and callous, and not just because they don’t have the strong emotional and community attachments of previous generations who lived in the communities—but because they often aren’t there at all to notice what is happening in the first place.

Wall Street is divorced from Main Street. Even when a corporate executive may want to help, his first duty is often to his shareholders. Maximizing shareholder profit doesn’t necessarily align with employee welfare.

Despite the fact that America’s elite are wealthier than ever, there just aren’t as many Toms with the ability, the awareness and the desire to help reverse the decay.

That is not a good thing because more and more communities are going the way of Detroit.

I, too, live in a neighborhood that needs people to stand up and take responsibility for their families, community and property. Many people may not have the money backing them that Tom did, but it doesn’t need to take a lot of money to make an impact either.

What it takes is people willing to put in the work to mow the grass, and pull some weeds, to trim some trees and plant some flowers, to splash some paint and some cheer. What it takes are people willing to serve their neighbors, as well as themselves. What it takes are people willing to step out and lead by example—to be catalysts for their neighborhoods and catalysts for their nations.

Where are America’s leaders? Where are the rest of America’s ceo and big business owners? America needs leaders, not mere managers who are only interested in their jobs and concentrating on short-term profits. America needs people willing to not only talk the talk of helping the middle class, but walk the walk.

It’s the time- and energy-consuming walk of putting others ahead of self-interest that is important.

Tom is not quitting. He has found rebuilding Carpentersville so rewarding that he is expanding. He is taking the battle to neighboring East Dundee with a plan to help regenerate storefronts and other commercial buildings.

America needs more fighters like Tom, but the Bible says it won’t find them. As the Prophet Isaiah wrote, because of America’s national sins, the strong leaders have been taken away. To understand what that means for the nation, and the incredible hope beyond America’s current decline, read Lamentations: The Point of No Return by Gerald Flurry.

UK Government Pushes Women Away From the Home

UK Government Pushes Women Away From the Home

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The number of stay-at-home mothers hits record-low level.

The number of stay-at-home mothers in Britain has hit its lowest level on record as government policies make the tax system even harder on single-earner families, according to figures published on April 17.

For years, the British tax system has made the country one of the worst places in the developed world to be a family with a single earner. It is one of the few developed countries to offer no tax breaks to married couples.

Every other country in Europe, as well as many others, like the United States, taxes married couples with children as a unit. Britain instead treats them as two separate individuals. This means that in most of the rest of the world, a family with a single earner who earns $30,000 is taxed at the same rate as a family where two earn $15,000. But in the UK, the single-earning family pays a lot more tax.

Last month, the government announced that families where both parents worked would receive £1,200 a year toward child-care costs. But mothers who choose to look after their children themselves get nothing. Laura Perrins, spokeswoman for the group Mothers at Home Matter, pointed out that the government is “willing to support all care given to a child, other than that given by its mother.”

The number of women ages 25 to 34 who are “economically active” increased by 101,000 over the past year. A statistician with the Office for National Statistics, Richard Clegg, said this could be due to the government’s reforms driving women back to work.

“Forget ‘sad,’ it’s stupid,” wrote Cristina Odone, research fellow at the Center for Policy Studies, on her Telegraph blog. “Treating motherhood as a pastime ignores the importance of the family …. Family breakdown is more expensive and its consequences more far-reaching than the closure of mines or manufacturing.”

The British government may not value stay-at-home mothers, but they are vital for the nation’s families, and therefore the nation as whole. These reforms will hurt the whole country. For more on the importance of mothers, see our article “No Place Like Home.”

Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?

Who or what is the “beast” of the book of Revelation? What does biblical prophecy reveal about world events now leading to Armageddon and the end of this age?

Web Exclusive: The Cause of Evil

This week’s headlines have been alarming. Terrorists maim and murder innocent victims with two bombings at the Boston Marathon. The horror of an abortion clinic comes to light in the heart-wrenching trial of an abortion doctor. Meanwhile, parents grope for answers after their 6- and 7-year olds were killed by a mass murderer. North Korea continues to threaten nuclear war. Iran pursues nuclear terrorism.

What is causing all this evil?

Some blame certain ideologies. Some blame certain groups of people. Some blame simple misunderstandings. But they continue to overlook the actual cause of these horrific events. In his recent Key of David program, Gerald Flurry uncovers the original source of this evil—and why it is accelerating.

Is the EU Out to Get Britain?

Is the EU Out to Get Britain?

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The European Union seems determined to destroy London as a global financial center.

London is the world’s greatest financial center. The financial services it houses are vital to Britain’s economy, no matter how unpopular its bankers may be. More than one tenth of the government’s income comes from taxes on the financial sector. It is just about the only industry in Britain which sells more to the rest of the world than it imports. Britain is uniquely dependent on its finance industry—more so than any other major power.

Without London’s financial services, Britain’s tax revenues, exports, and the economy would collapse.

Yet Britain’s “friends” in Europe seem determined to destroy, or at least cripple, London.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament voted to impose a cap on the amount of money bankers can receive in bonuses. This is socialist legislation that will do the opposite of its intended task and will damage the EU as a whole.

This cap has been in the works for several months. Britain has opposed it at every turn and at every turn been defeated. Its approval marks a watershed moment in Britain’s relationship with Europe.

“Whether or not you think there is a concerted assault on Britain, the fact is that for the first time in EU history a major country has been overridden in a field where it is the dominant player and has a vital interest,” writes the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. “The rules of the game are that Germany is never threatened on the car industry, nor France on agriculture. This principle has been breached. It is a declaration of economic war.”

And don’t forget, this is an economic war on an industry vital to Britain’s economy. The EU is attacking the financial health of the nation.

The bonus cap interferes with pay in private companies in a way that most thought ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. A banker’s bonus is not allowed to be any more than his salary, though this limit can be raised to twice his salary with the explicit approval of shareholders.

This may still seem like a huge amount. But surely it is for individual companies to decide what they pay their staff, not the government and least of all the European Union.

The reason why bankers receive so much of their money in a bonus is that it’s related to performance. If they do well, they get a lot of money. If they don’t, they lose out. And if they appeared to be doing well at the time, but were later found out to be engaging in some dodgy practices, there are ways for banks to get the bonus money back. Salaries are much harder to raise and lower and much harder to recover in cases of malpractice.

Under EU caps, bankers will receive higher salaries instead of the bonuses, and be rewarded whether the bank does well or not. Star performers who are capable of earning a lot of money—and therefore large bonuses—will go elsewhere.

“Not to put too fine a point on it, the bonus cap is a piece of economic lunacy that reflects tellingly on why it was a huge mistake giving the pointless hybrid parliament in Brussels any legislative powers at all,” wrote Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “This is a vengeful and self-defeating attempt to pick on London. We don’t try to cap the pay of oil executives or football players. I can see why people rage about what happened with the banks, but this is an attempt to knock London off its perch, and we’re not going to let it happen.”

The trouble is, within the EU, there’s not much Britain can do to stop it.

And this isn’t Europe’s only attack on London. Eleven EU nations plan to introduce a financial transaction tax. This means specific trade industries must pay whenever they buy or sell shares, bonds and other financial instruments. Here, Britain succeeded in blocking this at the EU level. But Europe still found a way to make it hurt.

If shares in a company that has signed up to the transaction tax, like France or Germany, are sold in London, Britain would be required to collect the tax and pass it on. The same would be true for trades in New York. But the EU can legally force Britain to hand over the taxes. If America refused to hand the money over, there’s little the EU can do, bar sending gunboats up the Hudson. Some parts of the world will refuse to cooperate with Europe, and business will leave Britain.

How the EU will collect this tax is unclear. But it is already obvious that the EU would be cutting off its nose to spite Britain. France introduced a financial transaction tax last August. Its finance industry is now dying, and the tax has raised only a third of the amount the government predicted it would. The director of the French debt agency Maya Atig said that any extra revenue raised by the tax would be lost, because the government has been forced to pay more to borrow money as a result. French newspaper Les Echos quoted an anonymous banker saying the tax was “a weapon of mass destruction that is going to ruin our financial sector.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the tax to be adopted by 11 EU states next year “sheer madness.” The European Commission’s original analysis is that the tax would slow the EU’s economic growth by 1.75 percent, and cause half a million people to lose their jobs.

The tax forces traders to hand over a huge amount of money. Terry Smith, chief executive of Tullett Prebon, the world’s largest broker of European government bonds, stated at a recent meeting of the Bruges Group that his firm earned around £50 million (us$76 million) a year in fees for brokering those bonds. The amount of tax its clients would have to pay under the new system is €600 million ($783 million). It increases the cost of trading in these bonds tenfold.

That tax, as France has found, will have a huge effect on bond markets. Traders won’t actually pay €600 million—they’ll simply trade in something else, trade somewhere else, or not trade at all.

Members of Britain’s House of Lords Sub-Committee on Economic and Financial Affairs said that they were “astonished by the paucity of thinking exhibited by the [European] Commission.” They warned that there could be “far-reaching adverse consequences for UK resident financial institutions.”

“Some in London appear to hope that by closing their eyes to the proposal it will go away,” they said.

Typical of the EU, these proposals are chaotic. Some provisions of the financial transaction tax may be illegal. And the European Commission has not given many details on how it will force other countries to collect the tax.

Bankers also seem confident that they can get around the bonus cap. The Telegraph’s cartoonist paints a picture: “We can’t give you a huge bonus,” he shows a banker saying, “but the bank would like to buy your tie for £3 million.” It is doubtless banks will have less entertaining—but more practical—ways of getting around the cap.

Still, bankers in Britain will know they’re not welcome. The EU has shown it’s out to get them. Business will begin to seep away to freer countries. And now the EU has set the precedent of interfering in Britain’s financial industry, its laws will only get worse.

Britain bears some of the blame for this situation for becoming so dependent on financial services. It created a strategic weakness that Europe is now exploiting.

The government’s solution appears to be to court Germany for help. That may work for a time. German politicians are starting to wave olive branches in Britain’s direction.

But Europe’s attack on London shows it is not Britain’s friend. Britain’s EU membership has steadily weakened it.

“Britain is going to look back on Monday, January 1, 1973, in all probability, as a most tragically historic date—a date fraught with ominous potentialities! For that date marked the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Community,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong at the time (Plain Truth, March 1973).

Already, many in Britain are looking back at that date with regret. By going after Britain’s finance industry, the EU threatens to wreak havoc on Britain’s whole economy. Bring down London and you bring down the UK.

Mr. Armstrong was right, and soon the whole country will look back on its EU membership as a tragic mistake. The European Union is not really Britain’s ally, and this attack on London proves it.

Merkel-Cameron Talks Foreshadow Britain-EU Split

Merkel-Cameron Talks Foreshadow Britain-EU Split

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In a foretaste of things to come, a real divide issues from German-British talks.

Reports emanating from weekend talks between Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron reveal the increasingly irreconcilable differences in the separate visions that these leaders have for the future of the European Union.

It has been rather agonizing at times watching the inevitable unfold in relations between these two nations. Ultimately, Britain was always destined to either leave or be thrust out of the European Union. It’s just taken a painfully long time for the inevitable to occur. Yet, last weekend’s talks between these two leaders only served to emphasize the deepening rift between the two. It’s just a matter of time before the bust-up occurs.

The differences between the German vision for the EU and that of Britain run to the core objectives that German elites have had for Europe since the closing stages of World War ii. Germany’s view of the EU has been as a means to a clearly identified end—the imperial dominance of the Continent by Teutonic power—this time by economic means rather than, at least initially, by military aggression.

A review of this issue in the Trumpet archive will reveal that we have consistently publicized its reality, supported by the views of some of the most articulate secular observers of Germany’s objectives. Indeed, as our mentor, Herbert Armstrong, preached, published and broadcast for over half a century—from the latter years of World War ii to his death on Jan. 16, 1986—the biblical prophecies have declared this for over three millennia. And it is not possible to break any Bible prophecy (John 10:35; 2 Peter 1:19). They are guaranteed to happen, underwritten by the eternal Word of God!

But just as the prophecies demonstrate that Germany is destined to head one final resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire, so the same source declares that far from being part of that entity—revealed under its present cloak of European union—Britain and its fellow Israelitish nations are destined to be enslaved by it.

Following the recent meeting between Angela Merkel and David Cameron, think tank Stratfor mused that “in the long term, the countries’ conflicting goals for Europe will cause them to push in opposite directions” (April 17).

This is simply a situation where “east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet.” Whereas the Holy Roman approach is universalist and collectivist, the Anglo-Saxon approach is embedded in the sanctity of national sovereignty.

“London wants to restore some power to national governments in the European Union. The British government believes the European project has moved too far from its original purpose of creating a European common market and is now threatening the sovereignty of its member states” (ibid).

Of course the late Margaret Thatcher saw this coming decades ago. As the Berlin Wall was breached on Nov. 9, 1989, Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor at the time, recalls her saying: “We beat the Germans twice, and now they’re back.” She later declared, in the wake of the formation of the EU, “Well, you have not anchored Germany to Europe, but Europe to a newly dominant Germany. That is why I call it a German Europe.”

Given the current scenario in Europe, only the ignorant would deny that reality.

One interesting aspect of Stratfor’s analysis of the Merkel/Cameron meeting relates to the western democracies of Europe that have a close affiliation with Britain—ethnically, politically and culturally, and in particular with respect to their individual monarchies.

Of these EU member nations, Stratfor observes: “Were the United Kingdom to leave the bloc, other countries—particularly the Nordic countries, which have a close political relationship with London—could follow” (op. cit.).

That is a pertinent observation and it is directly in line with the vision of the EU that Herbert Armstrong held.

As we have pointed out in the past, if the prophecy that the nations of Israel will be enslaved by this northern power in the future (Daniel 11) is all-embracing—that is, if it includes the Israelite nations of northwestern Europe in addition to Judah and the Anglo-Saxon nations—then, as Mr. Armstrong showed, the final 10 nations which dominate Europe must be drawn from the Gentile nations of east and west Europe!

In a co-worker letter dated Sept. 20, 1979, Mr. Armstrong stated: “[I]nstead of the coming ‘resurrected’ Holy Roman Empire including such nations of Israelitish ancestry as Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the 10 nations to compose it may include such nations—now Russian satellites—as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. … It does seem that the nations of Israelitish ancestry, in western and northwestern Europe, would likely be excluded from the coming 10-nation ‘Roman Empire’” (emphasis added).

To see an observation from a respected think tank deduce the prospect that “Were the United Kingdom to leave the bloc, other countries—particularly the Nordic countries, which have a close political relationship with London—could follow,” is very interesting indeed.

Herbert Armstrong gained this understanding from the biblically revealed identity of the Israelite nations combined with the prophecies for those nations’ future in the days just ahead. Stratfor gained it from a simple understanding of geopolitics. As usual, Herbert Armstrong was way ahead of his time.

As Stratfor concludes, the real point is—and it’s one that underlines the biblical prophecies for these times portrayed by Herbert Armstrong—“in the long run, the United Kingdom’s and Germany’s strategies are irreconcilable. As a result, London and Berlin will continue pursuing opposing goals, even if some agreements are reached in the short term” (op. cit.).

Those opposing goals have a ring of history about them. Since Count Otto von Bismarck accomplished the unification of Germany in 1871, those opposing goals have led to one inevitable result—WAR!

To hide one’s head in the sand, as do most foreign-policy exponents, and deny that this will be yet again the inevitable result of the “irreconcilable strategies” of London and Berlin, is simply a major denial of reality.

I first heard Herbert Armstrong prophesy this result over 50 years ago. I heard our editor in chief reiterate it 23 years ago. For half a century I have studied this phenomenon and written multiple thousands of words reporting on the trend. My bookshelves are replete with the very best of published analyses on the phenomenon. Now it is becoming a reality, day by day. Yet still it’s hard to break through the blinding stupor which seems to prevent the masses, and in particular the leaders of the masses, from seeing it.

I simply have no truck with those who are willingly ignorant of the obvious, and continue to state a contrary case based on an overwhelming absence of knowledge on the subject.

The sad fact is that most will feel its terrible effects before their blindness is removed—the effects of the rule of an enslaving tyrant, one more time, before a merciful God intervenes to cut short those inevitable effects (Matthew 24:22).

Then will follow a miraculous time. A time when the nations of Israel will be joined in peace by their old and ancient enemies—enemies that enslaved them both in ancient times and modern—old Assyria in its modern garb as the German peoples, and Israel’s ancient nemesis, Egypt. Any previous “irreconcilable differences” will simply be eliminated! (Isaiah 19:23-25).

What a time that shall be!

To learn more about the prophecies of that great time of coming universal peace, read our booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.