Sunday, February 12, 2012

What Should Jesus Do?

The protester, a bearded guy in sandals, says that the moneyed interests are exerting too much influence on the government. He thinks that it is time for those who are holding aloft the banner of God and righteousness look at how they are treating their fellow citizens.

Under the guise of liberty and morality, today's conservatives argue that minimum wage laws are anti-growth, that they harm businesses, and that they are mandates by a government that does not want the free market to determine the price of labor. They argue that child labor laws should be repealed in order to provide children work experience and money in their pockets. The conservative claim is that individuals are responsible for providing for themselves and their families, and government should not be rewarding failure and punishing success. But arguing that basic protections be denied to workers in America in order to protect or increase the incomes and profits of big business and of the wealthy is arguing that employees have complete control of their own wages and working conditions. It is arguing that any failure to earn living wages is the fault of the worker, and not of any employer.

Conservatives view taxes on corporations to be anti-business, and taxes on the wealthy to be part of a redistribution scheme designed to take money from those who have earned it in order to give it to people who have not earned it. They end up arguing that a tax rate of 15% on the wealthy, along with a cap on how much (or little) of their income is subjected to payroll taxes, is confiscatory, while subjecting middle income wages earned by working people to a 25% federal tax plus Social Security taxes plus Medicare taxes plus unemployment taxes is somehow fair.

Social Security is (or was until the payroll tax holiday) entirely self-funded by payroll taxes, yet the conservative view is that it is an unearned benefit. Social Security recipients are seen as living off of the government, and people receiving Social Security are counted along with veterans as getting mandated charity paid for by other taxpayers.

Conservatives argue that investment banks should not have to be separate from commercial banks, even though speculation by banks threatened massive losses in the last year of Bush's presidency and even resulted in the loss of more than a billion dollars in American farmer's capital accounts.

Taxes have been slashed drastically for the wealthy and for large corporations, but blame for deficits is placed on social spending, and the only adjustments being made are cuts to programs which benefit those whose incomes are low. Social spending is labelled evil because it supposedly is spending on people who have not earned it.

Conservatives claim moral failings on the part of Americans being left behind. They claim that there is a loss of traditional values. We have become a society in which less-educated men have great difficulty finding jobs with decent wages and good benefits, yet we are asked to believe that a lack of morals are behind rising unemployment, falling marriage rates, and unhappy marriages. The unemployed are told to just get a job, as if full-time jobs with living wages were available to anyone who asked.

Conservatives argue for capitalism without regulations, as if pollution never happens, people are never exploited, products never harm anyone, and politicians are never given money for legislation which favors one group or one corporation or one industry over others.

Moral law has for 3000 years condemned people who make excess profits from money without contributing to society. Yet people protesting against sharply rising inequalities, the loss of economic opportunities for American workers, and the slashing of help for those less well off, are labelled and dismissed.

What should Jesus do?

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