Broken World, Current Events — March 30, 2011 at 9:40 am

Crumbs From the Rich Man’s Table

by

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously everyday.  And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table.” (Lk 16: 19-21).

For years now, many faith leaders have been making the argument that the Federal budget is a moral document.  The argument is simple: the choices we make reflect what our national priorities are.  Federal and state budgets are behemoths; their size and complexity makes it easy to feel disconnected from what they do and who they impact.  But the principles that go in to them are exactly the same as the principles in a family budget.  We put money into the things that are most important to us; where our treasure is, there are hearts are also.  What, then, does it say about our country that the vast majority of cuts to the federal budget that Congress is proposing are to domestic and international programs that aid the poorest among us?

Let’s be honest, the poor are easy to pick on.  Unlike CEOs or multi-million dollar industries, the poor rarely have anyone to speak for them or people working the system to their advantage.  They face monumental obstacles of systemic injustice, inadequate housing, education, high crime, unemployment etc.  Then, when middleclass Americans get screwed over by crooks on Wall Street, they are sold the story that it is social programs for the poor that are draining our economy.  When the budget debate is framed that way, who can blame blue collar parents struggling to put food on the table for thinking America can’t afford to help the poor?  As much as we would love to help people in need, now is the time to tighten our belts (or so the argument goes).  When the middle class and poor are pitted against each other for the same resources, the poor are going to lose, every time.  Never mind that both are fighting over crumbs from the table while the rich feast sumptuously.

The proposed cuts in foreign aid are a prime example.  The majority of American’s erroneously believe that around 21% of our budget is dedicated to foreign aid (and when asked what would be a more appropriate percentage, say around 10%).  In reality, funding for foreign aid makes up only 1% of the federal budget. Yet, this is what Republicans want to slash drastically.  Foreign aid includes funding to respond to humanitarian disasters, like the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.  It also includes food and water assistance, development aid for impoverished areas, and adaptation funding, which helps build resilience among those most affected by floods and droughts caused by climate change.  Michael Gerson puts it best when he asks, “These reductions were intended to be symbolic, but what do they symbolize?”

On the domestic front our priorities are no better.  Programs on the chopping block for massive cuts include funding for children, low income housing, job training (because with record unemployment, naturally we should cut programs that help people get jobs), and women’s health.  The moral bankruptcy of these cuts is only further compounded when they are viewed in light of the extension of the Bush era tax cuts.  The Center for American Progress put together a compelling chart that can only be understood as a catalog of our social sin when it comes to our budgetary priorities.

The numbers being discussed in foreign aid and domestic social programs are not abstractions.  For millions of men, women, and children, they are their next meal, a mosquito net that prevents malaria, heat for their homes, and their HIV retroviral medication.  At home and abroad, we are literally taking food from the mouths of starving children for no other reason than to spare the uber rich higher taxes and make symbolic reductions to our deficit.

Not only are these actions sin (pure and simple), they’re ineffective.  These proposed cuts actively harm our nation’s self-interest.  We’ve bought in to a false dichotomy that we must choose between pursuing our moral interests or our self-interests.  But the fact is, more often than we think, the two are aligned.  Combating poverty through social programs at home and humanitarian and development aid internationally builds stronger communities, promotes stability and peace in war torn regions, decreases crime, and increases the rates at which our children become productive members of society.  The cost of providing food to the hungry is far lower than the cost of peace keeping missions or building more prisons.  As a nation, we cannot afford protracted military action in another poverty stricken war zone; we can afford a bag of rice and a mosquito net.

It seems almost providential that these debates are being carried out during the season of Lent, a time in which Christians are called to reflect, fast, and repent.  As we seek to follow Jesus on his way to the cross, we are compelled to see who he chose to walk alongside.  Only twice in the Gospels does Jesus speak of hell as we popularly conceive it (with flames and souls in agony) and it’s interesting to note the context for each of these.  The first is in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that we will be judged by what we do – and fail to do – for the least of these among us.  The second is Luke 16 and the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  Out of his anguish in the afterlife, the rich man cries out to Abraham for mercy.  But Abraham’s response is, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are in agony.”  In Luke, Jesus is doing everything he can to hammer home the message, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled . . . But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Lk 16: 21-24).  We proclaim a Christ who took his place among the poor and afflicted.  They will find comfort in him, in this life or the next.  And we will be judged by where we choose to stand, either alongside Jesus offering aid to the poor, or at the banquet of the rich.

As Christians, we should be entering the budget debate with one prayer on our lips, “Christ have mercy.”  In response to the proposed cuts targeting the most vulnerable among us, Ambassador Tony Hall began a fast this week and is calling on others to join him.  You can learn more about the fast here.  As we continue through Lent, and seek to be a faithful witness to our leaders as they make difficult decisions about the spending priorities and values of our nation, may we remember these words from the prophet Isaiah, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice… to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house” (58: 6-7).

20 Comments

  • Well said. The sad reality is that these budget cuts tend to be faceless transactions. So here are some faces selected semi-randomly.
    Uberrich: Bill Gates, Jennifer Aniston, Goldmann Saxs Executives

    At-Risk: Failing inner city students in Minneapolis, children in the slums in Kenya.

    Lets take a hard look at the budget for the land of the free and the home of the brave

  • While I have a heart for the poor and appreciate your convictions, you should not be so quick to “Deal out death and judgment.”
    To conclude by saying, “Not only are these actions sin (pure and simple), they’re ineffective” is unwarranted. Perhaps some conservatives want to slash the budget and selfishly do so at the expensive of the poor.
    But I know conservatives who want the budget slashed (and with that public programs to help the poor) because it is not the business of the government to relieve the suffering and oppression of the country or the world.
    Unfortunately what I found so lacking in your post was any comment on the proper role of the church in caring for the poor and the Gospel as the only means of really ending oppression. You can have all the social reforms to aid the poor that you want, but they certainly do not have a “get out of hell for free card.” And the context of Matthew 25, it is important that Christ the glorious Judge does say, “Whatever you have done to the least of these brothers of mine.” Brotherhood with Christ is only through faith – it is not founded on those who are oppressed, outcasts, or the dejected of society.
    I think as Christians, we ought to show the poor we care for them MORE than some civil government that doesn’t and can’t carry a message of complete freedom from oppression. And we need to fill them with more than programs that waste billions of dollars a year.

    • Michael,

      Thank you for your thoughts and response. You are certainly right that not everyone who supports budget cuts – including to social programs – does so with malicious intent toward the poor, but instead because of their views of the proper role of government. But that doesn’t make these cuts right. I do not accept that the government has no responsibility to the poor and oppressed. As I stated, the decisions our leaders make about our budget are inherently moral. I think the prophets are pretty clear on this. Consider Isaiah 10:1-2, “Woe, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor people of their right.” Isaiah is speaking directly to government rulers who make laws, same with Jeremiah 22:15-17. This is certainly not the case for everyone who argues against government aid to the poor, but it is remarkable that many of the same people who want to legislate morality in the bedroom put away their Bibles when it comes to economic arguments.

      You are also right that this post does not address the failings of the Church to live out the Gospel in word and deed, mostly because I see that as a separate (though related) issue. Government is not the solution to all our social ills for the very reason you stated, only the church offer living water. But saying government isn’t the whole solution doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be part of it, especially when it provides vital safety nets. The simple fact is, these social programs wouldn’t exist if the Church was doing its job. The government isn’t providing social safety nets because it desperately wants to; its doing so because others don’t exist. Government wouldn’t be providing Section 8 Housing if there were enough Habitat homes. And until the church steps up and fulfills it’s role of caring for the least and last, I think arguing that the government should not provide a safety net is the equivalent of saying to the starving and naked, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill.” The fact that having government meet people’s basic needs is not ideal is not a sufficient argument, in my mind, to say safety nets should be removed all together. To me it is far worse to let the hungry go empty than have my tax dollars go to food stamps.

  • Oh how easy it is to manipulate statistics to prove any point you want. Case in point, this amended chart tells the whole truth; the truth this article blatantly ignores in order to sell us a political line: http://i.imgur.com/MSyL7.jpg

    If you ask me, I want my faith as far away from Government as humanly possible. Terrible things happen when you intertwine faith with power, as history has proven over and over and over and over again so many times that it should almost be proverbial wisdom by now. Apparently it’s not, as the writer of this article demonstrates. The truth is that the vast majority of American tax dollars go to killing poor and oppressed people abroad; “nation-building” is the official term.

    Forget that the author of this entire article doesn’t even question the legitimacy or morality of government stealing from citizens every day for all these programs;
    robbing Peter in order to pay Paul” as it were (the morality of enforcing “morality” with violence). Forget that she doesn’t seem to question the efficacy of these programs at all. Forget that the collusion of power doesn’t even seem to be a passing thought in the author’s mind. Forget that Jesus’ charge was to individuals and not states.

    Forget all that and focus on this: The author seems to miss a key narrative from the Bible, and that is the Kingdom of God is diametrically opposed to earthly kingdoms, which is the very reason Jesus came to earth.

    Driven by fear, the state machinery is inherently set up for control; enforced under threat of violence and murder. It’s morally repugnant at the core and Christians should be appalled. If they didn’t collectively give their consent through silence, allowing their tax dollars to be loaded into the barrel of the state, then maybe social programs wouldn’t be so terrible. But as it stands, they’re meager remuneration, a paltry return for the collective damage power and empire inflict on humanity.

    This article is propagandistic, unquestioning, pro-state drivel. I had high hopes for this site until I read this. Fascists. (And it’s true! Fascism comes to America draped in a flag and carrying the cross!)

    Once again, here’s the devastating image; the facts this author refused to address: http://i.imgur.com/MSyL7.jpg

  • First off, great post. I like how the graphic points out where our country’s priorities lie, which is essentially to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer. I also believe that the moves that the U.S. government makes do not adequately reflect the wishes of the American people. But after reading this article, I can’t help but draw the conclusion that the fight is between Christians and the U.S. government.

    Our government is not the enemy. Rather, it’s a pawn in this worldwide experiment known as globalization.

    Let me give you an example of what we’re up against:

    NAFTA signed in the 90s –> Trade agreements bypass approval by Congress –> Factories relocate to Mexico, a more “business-friendly” environment, knowing that they can now more easily move goods back to the U.S. and sell for less –> Americans can now buy cheap socks at Walmart and are happy –> When economy falls, Americans wonder where all the good-paying factory jobs went.

    The problem is, “business-friendly” means companies can pay their workers literally cents a day to work many hours in poor conditions with little to no breaks.

    This is why neoliberal governors around the country want to break unions up (e.g. Wisconsin), because they are the last line of defense for good paying wages and fringe benefits that we take for granted as Americans.

    If they get rid of unions and make wage negotiations more “flexible”, companies will say “business friendly, must move there.” And the state and local governments hope that business –> jobs –> money –> happy people. This is the idea behind “trickle down” economics.

    But if you look at where we rank in terms of education, healthcare, etc. etc., hopefully one day we’ll wake up and realize that the only thing that trickles downward in this country is piss.

    In conclusion, I think governments have good intentions for a game that is inevitably rigged.

    Caveat: I’m not a theologian, nor am I an economist. I’m merely a concerned medical student with an opinion.

  • Thank you so much Rachel for this timely article! People like you are giving me hope for American Christianity.

    I am posting this on my Facebook page!

  • Oh the audacious hope in Caesar’s benevolence! Audacious, yes. But wise????

    The OT passages cited that admonish rulers, appears to be addressing deliberate oppression, not failure to ensure sustenance. God’s preference for Isreal was that they not even have a King–only by their insistence were they granted one. Jesus seemed to keep power structures at arm’s length–religious as well as state. Marrying the two seems the worst possible scenario. There will never be an effective Department of Generosity. We need to own that ourselves. Delegating it to the government will inevitably corrupt it.

  • There are places where the OT Law commands the wealthy to give to the poor. Landowners were required to leave the edges and corners of their fields unharvested, for example.

    I really don’t think the standard Christian argument that laws that actively support the poor are somehow ungodly, holds any water.

  • Great post. I hope people marinate on the realities of how we as individual Americans and our (an important characteristic in a democratic system, the government shouldn’t be and isn’t “them” it is “us”) government spends. The government is not a silver bullet, non-profits, churches, businesses, individuals, etc all have a responsibly to care for society as a whole. But the government is supposed to be the body that establishes and protects the culture(s) and values of the nation that is presides. Perhaps the question is not “what is the role of the government”, but what are our values and how do we operationally define them. It is apparent that Freedom, Equality, and Justice mean different things for different people.

  • Response to Kristen: I don’t think Christians argue that laws actively supporting the poor are ungodly per se. What does feel ungodly to some of us is enlisting the coercive power of government in order to claim generosity with someone else’s wages. We are also legitimately skeptical of how well the holders of ruling authority can sustain their benevolence…and how effective popular elections are at adequately selecting the managerial talent required to implement the vast service programs we seem to think are indispensable.

    What conservatives seek to “conserve” is freedom. It is a core belief that free people tend to be more generous and more intentional than controlled people. Of course generosity is a virtue to be encouraged, but if all that matters to God is a more equal distribution of resources, it would seem he could just pull our strings to make it so. Choice seems like an important element in the overall plan. Notice the OT law didn’t just assign the king’s servants to travel about and collect the corner harvest to be delivered to the homes of the poor. It was a responsibility with which the landowners were entrusted, and the poor themselves had a role in collecting it.

  • Keith,

    I am not sure you are denying that the “coercive” power of the Law was not being used to “claim generosity” with someone else’s produce. I’m not sure how this can be denied. As far as distribution is concerned, having the poor collect for themselves directly would be much more problematic in this large nation, where the poor and the rich may live in vastly different areas, where wealth is not held in agricultural assets but in banks, and so on. Some form of distributive middle-man is necessary. If you have a better idea than that it be government employees, I would certainly be open to that– so long as the government was carefully monitoring the middle-man distributor to avoid “dipping in.”

    I’m a little confused by “if all that matters to God is a more equal distribution of resources, it would seem he could just pull our strings to make it so.” Isn’t that the same sort of argument as “if God had meant us to fly, He’d have given us wings”?

    God shows Himself (esp. throughout the prophetic books) to hate oppression of the poor by the rich. It seems to me that the United States’ laws today frequently aid in the growth of greed, and do little to stop oppression– with more and more deregulation all the time, allowing more and more free rein to the worst that is in humanity as far as exploitation of one another is concerned. I do not find our current laws to be just or good in this regard. I do believe we are in the process of returning to something akin to the “robber baron” mentality of the 1890s. I do not believe this pleases God.

    • Kristen–

      I’m not sure where to begin. You and I appear to have a foundationally different perspective. To me, the essence of love is release, the opposite of coercion. The essence and spirit of the OT corner harvest law (to me) is that of release–the release of our grip on the bounty we think sustains us to see how our souls are fed as we allow others access.

      By creating us in the divine image, with an unencumbered will to choose, God has realeased us. His “laws” (literally words) are there, not to control us, but to tutor us in the ways of releasing love. Gods desire is not for us to follow laws carved on stone, but that we would live out of the law as it’s been written on our hearts. The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit of the law brings life. So, I guess I would deny that the spirit of God’s law is ever coercive. God seems only to apply force sparingly and only as a necessary evil when the forceful acts of men must be countered for the sake of justice. God’s desire is for us to CHOOSE life. He very deliberately avoids pulling our strings. If it had been important to him that we could fly, he might well have created us with wings. He did create us with a will.

      We’re not very good at the releasing kind of love–we’re clumsy amateurs. We tend to want to impose our good intentions on others. That’s why God warned Israel of the perils attached to their insistence in having a human king.

      I’m a little puzzled by your use of the term “oppression.” We’re all against oppression. Life is difficult–more so for some than others. In what sense is one person oppressed by the material success of another? If some gains are made out of fraud or coercive exploitation, those acts of fraud or coercion need to be addressed legally. But, by far, most gains are the result of a series of voluntary win-win transactions. The fact that some people have skills or resources that are more highly valued by the market (you and me) than other people’s skills or resources, doesn’t make one the victim of the other.

      Real hunger, real sickness, real need does cry out for the assistance of generous hearts. And so many have willingly released their resources and hands-on effort. Government can only coerce, so I would argue that it can only interfere with genuine love. The one good thing it can do is forcibly interfere with one person’s coercion of another.

  • Keith, you don’t see how the modern corporate structure is to hold down wages for the rank-and-file workers while jacking up the amount of profits taken by the people at the top? I certainly do. I see how the disparity between the income of the richest few and the middle class and below, has grown and grown. This is not about what the market values– this is about those in positions of power amassing the fruits of the labor of those under them, for themselves. It seems that when corporations prosper, so do the corporate moguls, while wages for the rest remain flat. And when there are times of trouble, those at the top make sure that it only affects the rank and file. They ship all the jobs overseas to make greater profits for themselves, and pay no taxes on the lost revenue from their former workers who are now on unemployment.

    I don’t believe that as Christians we are under the Law at all, spiritually speaking. But what we are talking about here are laws for a nation. The laws set forth for the nation of Israel required landowners to give part of their harvest to the poor. There’s really no getting around that. Perhaps God knew that the human heart is motivated by greed and desire for power, and that checks and balances were needed. Our country seeks now to keep checks and balances only on government and to eliminate them in the private sector. As corporations merge and more and more power is concentrated in the hands of a few, checks and balances– in the form of regulations– are necessary. The nation is becoming an oligarchy. This is not good.

  • I might also add that as far as redistribution is concerned, Israel’s law included a massive, forced redistribution every 50 years, as everyone who had needed to sell their land or themselves into bondage to another, went free to return to their own lands. God is interested in human freedom, yes– but He’s also interested in equity and in keeping all the wealth from getting massed into the hands of a few.

    No, I’m not advocating for a theocracy– I’m completely against that– and I’m not saying we need to structure our laws on the laws of ancient Israel. But I am saying that those who use the Bible as a justification for having no laws regarding support of the poor or regulation controlling the concentration of resources in the hands of the wealthy and powerful, are misreading the Bible. It does contain such laws.

  • Kristen, thanks for taking the time to continue this dialog.  I appreciate the chance to understand your perspective.

    First, help me understand what led you to your conclusions about corporations in general…

    “holding down wages for the rank-and-file workers while jacking up the amount of profits taken by the people at the top”

    As a rank-and-file, bottom level exec myself (no direct-reports), at a F500 company, my salary is insignificant compared to the top management, and yet my experience is nothing like what you describe.  I am satisfied that my compensation is well in proportion to the value I add to the company.  The CEO, likewise is paid, I believe, only what the market bears for that level of leadership and managerial talent.  You seem pretty certain that the positive experience my company provides would be the exception.  But according to Gallup in Aug 2008, 90% of US workers were either completely or somewhat satisfied with their jobs – http://www.gallup.com/poll/109738/us-workers-job-satisfaction-relatively-high.aspx.  For 2010 I couldn’t find the full equivalent survey but the “completely satisfied” category remained at 48%. 

    “Oppression” of the rank-and-file is a pretty serious charge.  It seems like more of us would notice.   

    What schema do you prescribe to for setting just compensation rates, since the market admittedly won’t always recognize the true value of some people’s efforts?

    I agree corporate self-interest (greed if you will) exists.  But the only sustainable way to generate profit is to pay attention to society’s needs and wants and respond with some tangible solution.  People have the option to either buy or pass up what’s offered, so who’s the victim?  Not only have they noticed a need and met a demand, they also provided jobs, channeled additional resources back to communities and to various charities, and paid corporate taxes.  All in all they’re contributing back far more than the corners of their fields.   At what point would you be satisfied they’ve contributed their fair share?

    According to the IRS, the top 1% of wage earners contribute 40% of the total US tax revenue, which happens to also be what the bottom 95% contributes.  The top 5% contributes 60% compared to the the 40% from the bottom 95%.  The bottom 40+% don’t pay any taxes at all.  At some point they recieve a net gain in cash and services provided.

    What is charitable enough, biblically speaking?   

  • Keith, the issue in my mind is not how much tax people are paying. It’s the ever-increasing income disparity between the upper echelon of the US and everyone else. Please see this webpage, which appears to be from a scholarly source:

    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/DistributionofIncome.html#lfHendersonCEE2-042_table_018

    Here’s a quote:

    “One other factor that explains the particularly high incomes of the highest-paid people is that between 1982 and 2004, the ratio of pay of chief executive officers to pay of the average worker rose from 42:1 to 301:1, and pay of other high-level managers, lawyers, and people in other fields rose substantially also.”

    Look at that change: from 42:1 to 301.1, in the last 20 years! How do you explain this, except that the wealthy and powerful who control the corporations have held wages flat for the rank and file? I’m not sure that job satisfaction takes this into account, as many people are unaware of the size of this disparity, or that their own wages, adjusted for inflation, have remained flat for so long.

  • Kristen–  Thanks for the response and the link.  

    I think we may have worn out this topic.  I read the link and, to me, it seemed to be making my point…  

    Table-A showed that everyone’s income has increased in constant dollars–double at the bottom, triple at the top.  While the uneven increase is less than ideal, it’s still an increase.  And the income ladder appears to span all levels. 

    Furthermore, the article lists four causes for the unevenness, that have nothing to do with sinister actions by top execs.  It adds the 301:1 corporate pay differential as an afterthought, without connecting it to the 2nd and 3rd causes on the list.  

    I would suggest the specific reason for the 301:1 differential, along with self-interest (greed if you will), is the huge increases we’ve seen in economies of scale.  New information technologies and improving management models are allowing a relatively small executive team to manage more and more productivity.  To incentivize high performance, compensation for top execs has always been profit-based, while most of the rest are paid at the going rate for their skill and experience. 

    I agree that 301:1 doesn’t feel fair, but it does draw the top managerial talent, which bodes well for the sustainability of the company and job security for the rank and file.  The differential between the average person and some celebrities is more like 3001:1. That doesn’t feel fair either, but we all gladly contribute. 

    I don’t begrudge those making 300X what I make.  How do I know, in economic terms, whether their skills and effort have added 300X more value than me?  Even if that’s not the case, as long as they haven’t lied or stolen or coerced to get it, it has nothing to do with me or anyone else.  It’s just math.  The size of anyone’s bank account has nothing whatever to to with his or her value as a person, nor is it an absolute indicator of the quality of a person’s heart. 

    I’ll let you have the last word….

  • Keith, you are right that there has been a slight increase in overall wages over the past 20 years; but the same era has seen the compensation of the richest few soar through the roof. Here is an article analyzing the difference between wage growth and productivity for the average worker over the last 20 years:

    http://epi.3cdn.net/3b7a1c34747d141327_4dm6bx8ni.pdf

    Some quotes:

    “[We live in] an economy that is designed to work for the well off and not to produce good jobs and improved living standards. . . Essentially, economic policy has not supported good jobs over the last 30 years or so. Rather, the focus has been on policies that were thought to make consumers better off through lower prices: deregulation of industries, privatization of public services, the weakening of labor standards including the minimum wage, erosion of the social safety net, expanding globalization, and the move toward fewer and weaker unions. These policies have served to erode the bargaining power of most workers, widen wage inequality, and deplete access to good jobs. In the last 10 years even workers with a college degree have failed to see any real wage growth.”

    “Neither private-sector workers nor state and local government employees have seen their pay rise much over the last two decades, and what meager pay growth they have experienced has been far outpaced by growth in productivity—the increased goods and services that they themselves have generated.”

    One principle that I understand to be biblical is that people should receive the fruit of their own labors. Instead, what we are seeing now is that the top 10% of the nation in terms of wealth, are receiving the fruit of the labors of everyone else. Unemployment is still in double digits in many states, and it’s worse among minorities than among whites. This is because there are no longer any restrictions on corporations relocating their plants overseas, reaping for themselves the profits of cheaper labor while those whom they have laid off here scramble for jobs. Meanwhile, the laws that once provided checks and balances on banks merging their investment activities have resulted in huge bailouts at taxpayer expense. Unrestrained capitalism results in a market that advantages the richest at the expense of the rest of us. Whether or not the oppression is intended by the top execs, it is certainly there. It is caused by them simply doing what they are now allowed to do, regardless of what it does to the rest of us or to the country. No conspiracy need exist for this to take place– only a lack of proper checks and balances on human nature in the private sector.

    You say you are in a management field, and you are satisfied with the way things are. I’m sorry to say that this sounds like “let them eat cake” to me– though I’m sure you do not intend it so. But you appear to believe the conditions you enjoy are being shared by the majority. I suspect that my own experiences are far closer to those that most people find themselves in. My husband lost his job at the beginning of the economic downturn of 2007– a job in manufacturing which, after 14 years, was still only earning him around $13 per hour. The plant he worked at was shut down because the corporation was relocating its factories overseas. My husband went back to school on the Trade Adjustment Act (legislation which conservatives opposed), and nine months ago graduated with a degree that he is unable to use because he has been unable to find a job. Meanwhile, the corporation that shut down his plant continues to earn record profits, and those who laid him off enjoy triple-digit incomes.

    You speak of job satisfaction. I would like to point out that those who no longer have jobs, do not share your satisfaction. It’s quite likely that those workers who still have their jobs are reporting job satisfaction– I imagine they’re grateful to have jobs at all.

    Isaiah 2:7 says, “Their land is full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures. . . they worship the work of their own hands, that which their fingers have made.” Isaiah 1:23 says, “Your rulers are rebellious, and companions of thieves, everyone loves bribes and chases after gifts. They do not defend the fatherless, nor does the cause of the widow come before them.”

    We tend to think our “rulers” are only those whom we have elected. But who are our rulers if not those whom we work for to earn wages? Are not these rulers sending lobbyists to the elected ones, who chase after their gifts?

    Paul said that “you shall not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the corn” did not apply simply to oxen. He applied it to workers for the gospel, but does it not also apply to workers in general? Should those whose labor earned the profits, not partake of the fruits of their labor?

    I’ve said my piece; thanks for listening.

  • Kristen– I appreciate the exchange. I have gained some needed perspective.

    I concede it’s much easier to hold my view, coming from a position of relative job security. While I’m not exactly in management, holding a technical position in the company headquarters does remove me from the production line. So I get how I could have come off as having an “eat cake” perspective. I regret any insult that was perceived, as it was not intended.

  • Keith,

    No insult perceived. I have just found myself rethinking all of this “capitalism/conservatism is true Christianity” stuff I was taught, over the last few years, and re-examining the Bible to find that it doesn’t necessarily teach what I was taught to believe.

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