An Overwhelming Religious Mandate

My greatest problem with Republicans is their total disregard for the environment. For me, that’s the number reason to vote Democrat, even though Democrats don’t have a particularly good track record here, either. If I thought a Republican had a much better record than a Democrat on this issue, I’d vote for him.

It’s obvious, though, that Carter’s greatest issue with Conservatives is their neglect of the poor and emphasis on serving the richest people in our society. Carter seems particularly upset by religious conservatives:

There is an overwhelming religious mandate, often ignored by fundamentalists, to alleviate the plight of those who are in need. Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, reports that he and a group of other seminary students searched the Bible to find every verse that referred to wealth and poverty. They were impressed to discover that one out of sixteen verses in the New Testament, one in ten in three of the Gospels, and one in seven in the Gospel of Luke referred to money or to the poor. In the Hebrew Scriptures, only idolatry was mentioned more times than the relationship between rich and poor.

Though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I know that both of my parents, Christians who experienced the Great Depression, always saw helping the poor as one of their Christian duties. In fact, I still donate regularly to The Salvation Army in memory of my mother.

I think Carter is right on when he argues that:

Our entire society is becoming increasingly divided, not necessarily between black, white, or Hispanic, but primarily between the rich and the poor. Many of us don't even know a poor person. If we have a maid or yardman, we would probably not go to their house and have a cup of coffee in their kitchen or know the names of their teenage sons or, God forbid, invite them to come to our house or to take their children to a baseball game with our kids. Even those of us who accept an all-inclusive Christ as Savior are strongly inclined to live separate lives and avoid forming cohesive personal relations with our neighbors. Rosalynn and I have been equally susceptible to this failing.

Unfortunately, since moving to Tacoma I don’t know hardly anyone except through the virtual world of blogging, but it’s unlikely I’m going to meet many poor people in my neighborhood when my $340,000 house is the cheapest house in the neighborhood.

Of course, we Americans love to assuage their democratic feelings by telling themselves that “we are the most generous people in the world.“ Carter suggests otherwise:

Despite all the goodwill and generosity that exist among American citizens, the amount of foreign assistance going from our government to the poor is still embarrassingly small. Predictably, much of the U.S. government's foreign aid goes to friendly nations and military allies, and Washington restricts many other kinds of assistance with all kinds of political strings. It is distressing to see our great nation defaulting on its obligation to share a respectable portion of our wealth with the most destitute people on earth.

and backs it up with statistics:

Sharing wealth with those that are starving and suffering unnecessarily is a value by which a nation's moral values are measured, and there is a strange and somewhat disturbing situation in our country. Americans are willing to be generous in helping others and they believe that our government gives as much as 15 percent of our federal budget in foreign aid. But we are, in fact, the stingiest of all industrialized nations. We allot about one thirtieth as much as is commonly believed. Our gross national income (GM) is about $ 11 trillion, of which we share with poor nations only sixteen cents out of each $100 If we add all the donations from American foundations and from other private sources to the government's funds, the total still amounts to just twenty two cents per $100 of national income.

Isn’t that “chump change?” And this under a “Christian“ administration !#!?

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at how little money is spent on helping the world’s poor when we see how Republicans treat the poor in our own country:

Under the tax cuts pushed through Congress since 2000,for every dollar in reductions for a middle class family, the top 1 percent of households will receive $54, and those with $1 million or more in income will benefit by $191 During the first three years, the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 3.5 million, while the income for the four hundred wealthiest Americans jumped by 10 percent just in the year 2002. Another indication of the growing division between rich and poor in recent years is that the salaries of corporate chief executive officers have gone from forty times to four hundred times the average worker's pay. Even though there was strong growth in corporate profits, wages for the average worker fell in 2004, after adjusting for inflation the first such drop in many years.

When executives get paid multi-million dollar bonuses for cutting expenses by laying off workers rather than for finding ways for them to produce more income for the company, you know something is wrong. In the good-old-days those kinds of leaders would have been fired for a lack of leadership, not rewarded. Hell, in the State of Washington they brag about how they saved thousands of jobs and use their $28 million dollar bonus to run for the U.S. Senate.

Still, the Republicans are consistent, if nothing else:

Despite touting concern for working Americans and private home ownership, key political leaders in Washington have successfully blocked any increase in the minimum wage, which has been held at only $5.15 per hour for eight years and not indexed to accommodate inflation. (In comparison, in U.S. dollars and based on currency values in April 2005, the minimum wage in Australia is $8.66, in France $8.88, in Italy $9.18, in England $9.20, and in Germany $12.74.)

Assuming fifty weeks at forty hours per week, this sets the U.S. minimum annual income at $10,300, below the poverty level, for tens of millions of Americans who have full-time jobs.

Even the rich can ill afford to eat out if they have to pay exorbitant wages to those serving them and working in the kitchen preparing the food. Who knows how expensive motel or hotel rooms might be if the people who changed the sheets and cleaned the rooms got paid huge wages? After all, you can’t outsource those jobs to third-world countries. Or can you?

2 thoughts on “An Overwhelming Religious Mandate

  1. As hard as it is to have this story to tell, I’m feeling more and more inspired to write about my journey to poverty and back, though the return has just begun. I think many people may know more people living in poverty than they realize. There are so many levels and so many masks.

    I’m also wondering if the reasons a person is perceived to have ended up poor may have some bearing on the generosity of others, too. This isn’t an easy issue, is it?

  2. At least in the United States I think there are many middle class workers who’ve lost their jobs because they’re being shipped overseas, or they’re being downsized.

    Most people, particularly if they’re single, are in serious trouble if they’re unemployed for a few months.

    I encountered several cases like this when I was working as a tax preparer.

What do you think?