Seven Grievous Sins America’s Leaders Commit Against Their Own People, and What the Bible Says About That
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
As the 2016 presidential race mercifully winds down, they are some things that need to be said about those in charge, and why every incumbent candidate or political party deserves to be voted out of office. The US is in such a state of disarray as I write this that we, the voters, need to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper. I can think of lots of things I’d like to see happen. Get the corporate and lobbyist money out of politics and outlaw the greed by overturning Citizens United and imposing Congressional term limits. Call off all the endless wars, close the bases and bring our troops home. The American people will soon need them to protect us from the government anyway. Cut the need for welfare and food assistance programs by doubling the minimum wage to a realistic level and offering free higher education without qualification. Offer low cost single payer health care by putting the whole country on Medicare, including those on Medicaid and Obama-care, and then abolish the latter two. It’s really not difficult to figure out what’s needed, all that’s required is some implementation on the part of Congress and our incoming president. If, that is, these crooks would get out of the office of their ‘lobbyist dujour‘ long enough to go to the House or Senate floor and vote on something once in a while!
I have assembled a list of every gut-wrenching, visceral injustice currently being committed by the very people that have been entrusted with the responsible and prudent leadership of what used to be the greatest country in the world, the USA., with a few interjections along the way from the Word of God regarding these matters. It has been my observation for some time now that the underpaid US workers that do have jobs, combined with the unemployed and sometimes even homeless American population, none of whom are able to find any work at all, are a ticking time bomb hidden in plain sight across America. The following is a listing of the abuses being heaped upon us, when in fact we deserve no such thing! The list doesn’t include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our own behavior at home because too many people aren’t holding their legislators – and the president – accountable enough. Let’s go over a few examples:
1. Sins against children
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for them to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves’.” (Luke 17: 1-3) Perhaps “sanctity of life” ends at birth. According to Census Bureau figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s one out of every three. UNICEF has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all measures of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education. One more fact before I move on: 1 out of every 4 American school children will rely on food stamps at some point while they’re growing up for their sustenance and nutrition. In communities of color, this figure jumps to a truly shocking – and outrageous – 1 out of 2.
2. Sins against the poor
“Now listen, all you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days! Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have flattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James 5: 1-6) The U.S. poverty rate grew from 11.3% to 15.0%, a 30% jump, in just the last 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The median wealth for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $1000.00 (compared to $41,500 for single white women). Even more shocking – For every dollar of non-home wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent. Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has dropped by 60 percent over the last 16 years.
3. Sins against students
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6: 4) Students at all levels have been losing their nation’s support. States reduced their education budgets by $12.7 billion in 2012, and here in 2016 the majority of states will be cutting spending even more. At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. Only 38% of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% in other wealthier “first world” countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more incorporated, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence. But the worst part of America’s treatment of its students has been the greed-driven debacle of over $1 trillion in predatory student loan debts, much of which can never be repaid. The same graduates who are obligated to repay those debts are the ones who can’t find jobs, or who wind up working at jobs for which they are grossly overqualified. When you enrage a nation’s youth, the seeds of insurrection have already been sown. All it will take is one good storm to make those seeds sprout, and the 2nd American Revolution will be underway. And yes, it is coming, you can be sure of that.
4. Sins against the middle class
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, for the cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 20: 21-27) The middle class, to say the least, is shrinking. In fact, America’s middle class is slowly being liquidated. In 2011, according to a Pew Research analysis, 51% of the nation’s households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%. One-quarter of America’s workers are now making less than $22,000 a year, the poverty line for a family of four as of 2012. Thirty million Americans are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour. With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. Innovation doesn’t come from the upper class. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down – over 50% since 1977.
5. Sins against the common good
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1st Peter 2: 9-10) A recent Tax Justice Network report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about 40% of the world’s most mega-rich individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical 6% rate of return, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure. Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans renounced their citizenship last year. The American Thinker Blog argued that “the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people are compelled to renounce their citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages.” Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributors to their financial success.
6. Sins against nature
“Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.” (Numbers 35: 33-34) Has it ever occurred to anyone that God lives on the land he creates? What we’re doing to the land, the water and the air, we do to God. A number of studies show that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will certainly pay off over the coming decades. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis determined that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today… are more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.” But now the prospect of cheap natural gas is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the “fracking” technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water and air. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.
7. Sins against common sense
“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: To you, oh men, I cry out. I raise my voice to all mankind; you who are simple, gain prudence, you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning, all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge more than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8: 1-11) The economic deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people… He moves fastest who moves alone.” This unflagging adherence to egocentric free enterprise individualism is consistent with Social Darwinism, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing “search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” A mainstay of the Progressive Movement is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude that has been suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years. I’m hoping this election year will change that paradigm. But if not, open revolt will be the American people’s only remaining option.