Sometimes events occur where the timing provides rare insight. A sequence offering that special clarity took place these past several days.
On Thursday evening, President Barack Obama enjoyed his 50th birthday with a dance party and barbecue featuring celebrities from sports, music, television and film. Some of the celebrants were Jay Z, Charles Barkley, Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, and others. This party followed a birthday-themed fundraiser Wednesday night in Chicago, featuring Jennifer Hudson and Herbie Hancock, and characterized by AP as a well-deserved celebration "with the arduous debt talks behind him". The Obama birthday celebration continued over the weekend at the Presidential retreat in Camp David.
On Friday, the stock market completed a week where it plunged over 700 points, the worst weekly loss since 2008. It is estimated that 2.5 trillion dollars in investors' savings were lost. After the final bell, Standard & Poor's took the unprecedented step of downgrading the creditworthiness of the United States. This is the first time in our nation's history such a downgrade has taken place.
On Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry led 30,000 worshipers in a day of prayer and fasting. There were no reports of celebrities in attendance at this spiritual "party". Perry's role in the actual event was relatively modest, though he offered this humble prayer,
"Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government and, as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness. Father, we pray for our president, that you would impart your wisdom upon him, that you would guard his family. You call on us to repent, Lord, and this day is our response."
On Monday, the market reacted to Friday's downgrade with another 635 point loss. The President and his administration responded by criticizing the rating agency and the Republican Congress. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, the last remaining member of Obama's initial economic team, led the criticism and has indicated he will stay on, despite calls for his resignation over the embarrassment of the downgrade.