The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly (Proverbs 18:23).
“Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.” (Proverbs 19)
These verses from Proverbs are apt descriptions of the tenor of these political times. Wealth inequality has grown immensely since 1982 and anti-poverty programs have been shelved.
The verses lend credibility and timeliness to the Occupy Wall Street movement and a recent St. John’s University conference on economic justice and the eradication of poverty that I attended.
Pope Benedict XVI made known his views on economic justice and the global economic turmoil shortly after the conference. His Eminence called the family the “human face” that the global economy must have in order to foster the common good.
As the GOP presidential candidates expound about fundamental Judeo-Christian values, the Founding Fathers, and the traditional family, none are addressing the fundamental values that should be at the core of tax policy, responsible lending and capitalism.
These GOP candidates appeal to the self-interests of corporations and the middle class who complain of high taxes. While denouncing class warfare, these candidates stir up middle class resentment with claims that 46% of Americans don’t pay taxes. They ignore the fact that these “freeloaders” pay local taxes, sales taxes, social security taxes, and tolls.
Before becoming a professional political candidate, Mitt Romney made his fortune at Bain Capital as essentially a corporate raider. Mitt squeezed out additional “value” (i.e., profits) from the acquired companies, not by making them more efficient or innovative, but by firing hard-working American workers.
Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Ron Paul prescribe eliminating environmental and financial regulation in the name of freeing business to create jobs. Their prescription could worsen our ailing economy. Did they forget that Democrats and Republicans supported the gutting of financial regulations and government oversight that contributed to the financial meltdown that continues to cripple our economy?
Despite Romney’s assertion that corporations are people, too, corporations are not free will moral agents. Business corporations are not guided by a moral ethos. They are guided by the Gekko principle, “greed is good.”
Herman Cain voices opposition to the imposition of Sharia law in America. Perhaps, Cain should examine Sharia law’s ban on usury or interest payments on loans. He would learn that Islamic banking aims to engage in ethical investing and moral purchasing. It’s not unlike the Judeo-Christian values that promote the common good and caring for the “least of our people.” These moral values require that an economic system promote and achieve a social good. Profits can accrue to the industrious but not at the suffering of others.
Richard Madoff accrued huge profits for himself and his family but at the expense of the investors he defrauded. Madoff, like every con man, preyed on suckers. And, in a sense, so are the GOP presidential candidates who tell Americans that we have to unshackle the job creators.
Unemployed voters might be tempted to trade idleness and indebtedness for jobs. But the specter of decreased healthcare access, environmental degradation, reduced pension benefits, loss of collective bargaining rights, etc., may justify having second thoughts.
One newspaper has described the economic debate saying, “…it’s as much about attitude and priorities as it is about dollars and cents.”
In order to effectively increase employment, reduce poverty and promote human dignity, we need public policies that prioritize and promote the family – and the common good.
Putting Americans back to work will increase revenues, decrease crime and domestic violence, and restore hope for the future.
Those vying for the presidency must put forward humane policies that rebuild our economy, instead of scapegoating our neighbors. The American values of liberty, rugged individualism, entrepreneurship, and community are compatible and integral to prosperity.
The Bible says we all share a common destiny. Between now and then, we should strive to build an economy that rewards the industrious and treats every American as part of the same household.
Or, in the parlance of the hip-hop generation, we should strive for a “sucker-free” economics.
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