Tag Archives: help the poor

A Governing Lesson for the Trump Administration from God

Which Does the Bible Say Is Better? Helping the Rich Distribute to the Poor, or Helping the Poor Directly?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The events of this past week inside the Beltway in Washington, DC have been a reminder to us all that the super-rich have taken over our country in a bloodless coup. The first step has been taken to repeal the national health insurance passed by the previous presidential administration known as “Obama-care”. In actuality, had both the presidential candidates in last year’s election endorsed Bernie Sanders’ idea of simply putting the whole country on Medicare, this entire discussion, not to mention this past week’s legislation of “Trump-care”, would be unnecessary. But sadly, that is not the case. So, what has occurred this week is that roughly 38 million people will lose their health care coverage while corporate America and the Wall Street billionaires get a $500,000,000.00 tax break.

President Trump, a man whose own qualifications to be president are becoming increasingly open to question, is the one who has spearheaded this entire series of events while conservative white Americans have been cheering at Trump’s every move. This, my dear readers, is what America has devolved into – an all-Caucasian oligarchy! Slavery may have been abolished in 1865, but starvation wages still prevail. If “Trump-care“ passes into law, the bottom 20% of wage earners in America will lose their health care coverage, but not so much for everyone else. This is the reason the “Occupy” Movement has remained so popular, except that it has evolved into Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, S.D. and the fight for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, among other things. And why is it that the rich have taken over the whole country while the remaining 99% of us languish in poverty? I can sum it up in one word – debt! The rich have buried the remainder of us under a mountain of debt. Today’s American consumers are faced with being forced to borrow just to pay their bills. We have upside-down mortgages, upside-down car loans, never-ending student loans, usurious title pawn loans, payday loans and a whole host of other predatory practices that are fundamentally unfair.

So I got to wondering what the Bible has to say about this topic. After considerable thought, prayer, study and meditation God has shown me which Scriptures to use for today. So let’s go back in the Old Testament to the Book of Nehemiah chapter 5 (for you newer readers, Nehemiah is between Ezra and Esther). I will start at verse 1, but I’m going to break this passage up into a couple of parts so that I may do the best job I can at breaking this down for everyone. “Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. So were saying, ‘We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.’ Others are saying, ‘We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others are saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 1-5)

The people during Nehemiah’s time were experiencing a severe food shortage, and whatever food was available was priced so far out of the reach of the working people and the farmers that they were having to mortgage everything just to feed their families. As you can see, government assistance during hard times was nonexistent during this time, and people were really suffering as a result. “Others are saying, ‘We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others are saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.” In today’s terms, credit cards, student loans and 30-year mortgages – combined with stagnant wages that are stuck at 1960’s levels – are the new famines and new insurmountable debts of the 21st century.

“….we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.” Show me a people who have had their economic power taken away by debt, and I will show you a people who have lost their political clout as well. Plus, the slavery back then for the daughters and at least a few of the young men was sex slavery, of that you can be sure. God will never be pleased with us as long as this we allow this kind of bad behavior among humankind! It’s up to us to take charge of this situation and turn it around! What are we waiting for? And now let’s move on to the next few verses, starting at verse 6.

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said, ‘As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them – the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 6-11)

Just like in verse 6, when I see people having to file bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills, or becoming homeless because of that, or maybe a job loss, I too get angry. It is fundamentally unfair to be living on the streets, or in your cars if you are lucky enough to still own one at that point. But let’s put this into its historical context for a moment. The sentences, “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say….”, are referring to the then-recent release of the Israelites of old from the Babylonian Empire, where they had been held captive for the previous 70 years by King Artaxerxes before being released so they could rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. All this was done at Nehemiah’s request, which he formally made to the king, not unlike a modern-day petition to the government. The request was granted (see chapter 1 of Nehemiah), the Israelites – who had just spent the previous 70 years in Babylonian captivity – went back to what was left of Jerusalem to rebuild the temple there. So this entire conversation is actually taking place long after everyone has returned, but before the first crop has matured enough to be harvested. Nehemiah is giving those in charge of the rebuilding a stern lecture on fairness.

What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them.” I could modernize those first 2 verses by writing, “You’re charging too much interest, and it financially cripples the entire population! This is grossly immoral! And so now, in the interest of fairness and ethics, you must give back all the properties, cars and trucks you have forcibly taken even though the debtors were making serious efforts to make good on those debts. This is a ‘cease and desist’ order to stop this unethical practice immediately!” This also includes credit cards, which people often must use to pay for groceries, clothing, medical bills and utility bills. People should not have to pay interest just to be able to feed their children and pay their power and phone bills! And now let me conclude today’s message, beginning at verse 12.

‘We will give it back’, they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’ Then I summoned the priests and and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ At this the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’, and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Nehemiah 5, verses 12-13).

This is exactly what the Big Five banks and Wall St. investors need to do, and the same goes for the IRS. Let go of the strangle hold, Washington and Wall Street, that you currently have the American people locked into! Not just a head-lock, mind you, but a stranglehold! That’s felony assault and battery the last time I checked. If any of us were to do any such thing to an individual, we’d be in jail for assault. If any of us were to do that to a business or other financial institution, we’d be charged with extortion. But if the government does that to any of us, then it’s called “taxation”. The warning from God is clear here. The governmental and financial systems must start treating the population – and each other – fairly, or we will find ourselves judged and will be found wanting in the presence of God. Trust me, you don’t want to go there, that’s for sure! So the lesson for today is only this: Stop mistreating each other for profit! And governments, starting with America’s, enact better laws to protect working people so that the problem of economic inequality can be permanently solved. If none of these things are done, and if things are allowed to continue on for much longer, the whole country is going to turn into a powder keg. Then again, maybe that’s the only choice the American people have left if we’re going to be able to take back our country.

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How Badly Have Our Politicians Lost Touch? This bad.

Five Biblical Concepts Our Political

Leaders Just Don’t Understand

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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Right-wing Evangelical Fundamentalism, as well as much of America’s conservative political leadership, claims to return to the roots of Christianity. Few of these fundamentalists care much about the early church, the four Gospels, the apostle Paul’s letters, or St. Augustine. Rather, they blend Southern Conservatism, bastardized Protestantism, Aryan heresies, gross nationalism and a heavy dose of naive anti-intellectualism for a peculiar American strain of what I will tactfully call spiritual sophistry. As a pastor by the name of Reverend Cornell West has noted, “the fundamentalist Christians want to be fundamental about everything, except ‘love thy neighbor.’” I couldn’t agree more. So, I decided to make that this week’s commentary (I never liked the word ‘sermon’, it seems too stiff and formal to me). Here are some verses we liberal Christians wish they would get more “fundamentalist” about:

1. Immigration: The verse: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34, KJV.

Bogus ‘Christians’ hate this verse because fundamentalists are almost universally xenophobic. The truth of the matter is religious fundamentalism is only a reaction to the multiculturalism of a liberal democracy, and particularly in multicultural churches. Rather than seeking a “brotherhood of man,” religious fundamentalism longs for a colonial community, without the necessary friction from those with foreign beliefs, cultures and customs, and especially with different skin colors. We are called to discern among “sojourners”. The original meaning of this word in this context is ‘those who move about from place to place’. This looks to me like a euphemism for what some call ‘illegal immigrants’. People looking for a home have been around ever since humankind began to explore the earth. (the New International version translates ‘sojourners’ as “aliens”, which has a more familiar right to it) There are currently 11 million illegal immigrants who want to become citizens, with likely an additional 20 million family members as new citizens within about a decade. What does God say about those who hate without cause and mistreat foreigners? “I will be a swift witness against… those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against … those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:5., KJV

2. Poverty: The Verses: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24, NIV.

Now listen, 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 ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” James 5: 1-6, NIV

To myself, at least, one of the most absolutely hilarious aspects of modern-day, far-right Christianity is its reverence of capitalism. That’s because Christ could be considered anti-capitalist, as well as Moses (see Exodus 22: 25-27, in any Biblical version you like). Consider that there is some version of the story of the rich man approaching Jesus that appears in every Gospel. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells the rich man, “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Mark 10:21) The story of Lazarus should similarly terrify modern day fundamentalists. Lazarus is a beggar who waits outside of a rich man’s house and begs for scraps. When both Lazarus and the rich man die, Lazarus ends up in heaven, while the rich man ends up in hell. When the rich man begs for water, Abraham says, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” Luke 19:25.

So-called “conservative Christians” (the very term is an oxymoron) hate these verses because the only thing fundamentalists dislike more than immigrants is poor people. Seriously. A former Tea Party congressman once said he thought the government should cut food stamps entirely, “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.” Former congressional representative Michelle Bachmann has also made a similar statement. The entire Tea Party movement is based on the idea that a huge portion of Americans are “takers” who suck the lifeblood out of the economy. Never mind the fact that the reason all those people aren’t working is because their jobs got exported overseas for pennies on the dollar, leaving them destitute. The majority of Christian “fundamentalists” insist that poverty be explained in terms of a personal moral failure, or even mass incompetence. They therefore hold that success should be described in terms of morality, when in fact the Bible says quite the opposite: “In the last days many will compare godliness with gain”. The poor are considered culpable so that they can be punished – like today’s cuts to food stamps or the public shaming of those on disability, welfare or unemployment.

3: The Environment The Verses: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:27-28

By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

Why do so many fundamentalists twist and distort these verses? In Genesis, man is given stewardship of the Earth, God’s creation. Stewardship in the Christian tradition implies protection. Man should exist in harmony with the earth, not work against it. Jesus Christ once told his followers: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Luke 16:13. Increasingly, the religious right (which is neither, by the way) is trying to do exactly that, intertwining Evangelical fundamentalism with unfettered capitalism — with disastrous results for the earth’s environment and the US job market. Thus, American political life is increasingly dominated by Christians from the extreme right who reject the religious ethos in favor of capitalist ethos. It is these same Christian right wing nuts who seeks to discredit the threat of global warming. It also claims the threat of climate change is “alarmist” and fears that efforts to clamp down on emissions will hurt the poor (read: Fortune 500 corporations). In reality, climate change will have its greatest effect on people living on less than a dollar a day who can not adapt to higher temperatures. Conservative Evangelicals are not concerned with dwindling biodiversity, the destruction of ecosystem, rampant pollution, global warming and the numerous other environmental challenges we face. Rather they, with the business community, are only concerned with the bottom line. The future is irrelevant (unless we’re talking about government debt). Thus, the Biblical command to protect the environment is quietly swept under the rug.

4. War The Verses: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” – Matthew 5: 38-42, NIV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5: 43–45.

As a religious and political movement, fundamentalists have defined themselves as a party of opposition, rather than of love, grace and mercy. Some scholars are erroneously calling this a “third great awakening”, even though it is different from the other two. This one is full of contempt disguised as piety toward those whose understanding of religion fails to meet their lofty standards. While past “Great Awakenings” have looked inward, seeing sin within the conflicted self, this new awakening looks outward, seeing sin in the wider culture. The culture, which is secular, is evil, while the church is sacred. This is why modern religious fundamentalism gravitates towards xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, etc. Fear and disgust are its motivating factors. This fundamentalism inclines some religious people toward a preemptive “war of religion” and a strong disgust (that sometimes culminates in violence) toward Muslims and gay people. Oddly enough, the Christian tradition has developed a theory of “Just War” (developed by Thomas Aquinas) which condemns war except when all other options have been exhausted and there is just treatment of prisoners (with a specific condemnation of torture). If only one of the past two “Christian” presidents had listened.

5. Women The Verse: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Although the right often claims the Bible supports their absurd ideas about gender roles, such sexist claims have been thoroughly debunked by theologians. Generally, when you’ll hear an explanation of why women belong in the home, it’ll rely on a misreading of one of Paul’s doctrines. In contrast to Paul, Christ rarely concerned himself with sexual mores, although he clearly was against divorce. He was far more concerned with fighting oppression and injustice. Fundamentalists want to keep women submissive and subservient, but Jesus won’t let them. In Luke, for instance, Jesus is blessed by a priestess named Anna. He praises a woman who stands up to a judge and demands justice. It’s worth noting that in a time when women could not testify in a court of law, all four resurrection stories have women arriving first to Jesus’ tomb. Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at a well even though Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans, and he praises Mary Magdalene for listening to his words (see Luke 10:38-42). These verses are powerful and I believe that they should be carefully considered.

I’m becoming increasingly concerned that Christianity and religion in general is represented by its most ultra-conservative, fundamentalist elements. Remember that Karl Marx drew his inspiration for the famous quote “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” from the example of the early church (Acts 4:32-35). But once the moral potshots are finished, we all have to face the fundamental and aching deprivation of having been born. We can continue to have a fun time berating those who believe the Bible explains science. The Christian message doesn’t contradict science, and nor is it concerned with American politics. Ultimately, Christianity is about transcending politics and fighting for social and economic justice. Think of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Malcolm X – all of whom were influenced by their religion to change the world. Jesus saw how oppression and oppressors consumed the world. He has, as always, sided with the oppressed. This Johnny-come-lately of skewed fundamentalism I’m writing about is radically new and far removed from true Christianity. True Christianity offers us a far superior doctrine — one of social justice, love and equality. When we practice all of these, we are following Christ regardless of religious denomination.

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Twenty Five Uncomfortable Truths

You Shall Not Bear False Witness: 25 Uncomfortable Facts The Mainstream Media Wouldn’t Discuss in 2015

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The Ninth Commandment, as it written in the Book of Exodus chapter 20 along with other nine, is very explicit – you shall not lie (or “thou shalt not”, if you prefer). Yet for its entire existence, humankind has developed a remarkable propensity for ever more sophisticated forms of deception. For example, during the Hitler dictatorship in Germany from the 1930’s up to the mid-40’s, there was a branch of the government called “The Ministry of Propaganda” that dished out a torrent of profane distortions about Jewish people, and later the outcome of the war itself. It was headed by a guy named Joseph Goebbels, who committed suicide at the end of the war rather than face capture, which would surely have been followed by a death sentence at the Nuremberg Trials. Today in America, we have a similar position within the White House staff that we call the Press Secretary, who can be seen regularly on the evening news. He serves the same function, he just has a far more innocuous title than “Propaganda Minister”. This person’s job – and I have noticed regular personnel changes – is to spoon-feed the media the information du joir of the day. Everybody knows that the media is told what to say and how to say it, and yet there were remarkably few protests about it up until about 2011 or so. This was during the mushrooming of the Arab Spring, which led to the “Occupy Wall St.” and “we are the 99%” Movements, and more recently into the “Black Lives Matter” protests, all of which are still very much active today. So this week’s message is my small contribution towards demanding some genuine truth and authenticity from our news sources. No more US Government propaganda please, we’re all fed up with the government! Not so much America, mind you, just the government.

For decades, the mainstream media in the United States was accustomed to being able to tell the American people what to think and how to think it. Unfortunately for them, a whole lot of Americans are starting to break free from that paradigm and think for themselves. Contrary to what many atheists and agnostics are saying, this includes a significant number of people of faith like myself. A Gallup survey from 2012 found that 60 percent of all Americans “have little or no trust” in the mainstream media. That number is now exceeding 80 percent here at the dawn of 2016. More people than ever are realizing that the mainstream media is giving them a very distorted version of current events and human history, and they are increasingly seeking out alternative sources of information. In the United States today, just six giant media corporations control the mainstream media. Those giant media corporations own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and even many prominent websites. But now, thanks to the Internet the mainstream media no longer has a complete monopoly on the news. In recent years the “alternative media” (Alternet, Infowars, Democracy Now, Bill Moyers, Truthdig, etc.) has exploded in popularity. People want to hear about the things that the mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about. They want to hear news that is not filtered by corporate bosses and government censors. They want “the whole damn truth”, and they know that they are not getting it from the mainstream media. That’s also one of the primary reasons why people are doing away with cable TV as I have. It’s not just the money saved from unsubscribing to cable TV, it’s the fact that everybody knows everything they are watching is a load of BS!!

We are watching a media revolution happen, and many influential people in the traditional media are totally freaking out about it. In fact, some in the traditional or “lame stream” media have even begun publishing articles that mock the American people for not trusting the MSM. For example, a 2012 CNN article entitled, “Still ‘Paranoid’ After All These Years” portrayed Americans that don’t trust the media as paranoid conspiracy theorists that have left rationality behind. Ever have the feeling you’re being lied to by the news media, the authorities, the corporate world? That somebody — or something — is out to get you? You’re not alone, and you’re not losing your mind, either. Welcome to 21st-century America. Look around. Trust is hitting historic lows. Less than one fifth of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, a decline of about 40% since 2002, according to the Pew Center for People and the Press. Gallup has Congress’ approval rating down in the low teens. And the news media aren’t much better off. “Negative opinions about the performance of news organizations now equal or surpass all-time highs on nine of 12 core measures the Pew Research Center has been tracking since 1985,” a Pew report said back in the summer of 2013. The article goes on to make it sound like it is very irrational not to trust the media, but in this day and age it is imperative that we all learn to think for ourselves. Pardon me if this seems a bit too blunt, but blindly trusting someone else to do your thinking for you is both very dangerous and very lazy. Contrary to what all the conformists have been saying, it’s perfectly OK to be skeptical!

Anyone that does not acknowledge that the mainstream media has an agenda is either really naive or they’re not being honest with themselves. The mainstream media presents a view of the world that is very favorable to their big corporate owners and the big corporations that spend billions of dollars to advertise on their networks. The mainstream media is the mouthpiece of the Establishment, and the worldview being pushed on the big networks is going to be consistent with the economic, financial, political and social goals of the Establishment. The mainstream media loves to talk about things that fit with that agenda, and they don’t like to talk about things that suggest that there is something wrong with that agenda. The following are 25 facts that the mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about, because they are all ‘red flags’ that tell us that theirs is an agenda for a system broken beyond repair:

#1 The mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about the fact that gun sales are absolutely skyrocketing in the aftermath of all the mass shootings everywhere. Americans from all backgrounds are arming themselves to the teeth!

#2 They also don’t really want to talk about the fact that disarming the population has resulted in some of the most horrific massacres in human history.

  • 1911 – Turkey disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1915 – 1917 they murdered 1.5 million Armenians.
  • 1929 – Russia disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1929 – 1953 they murdered 20 million Russians.
  • 1935 – China disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1948 – 1952 they murdered 20 million Chinese.
  • 1938 – Germany disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1939 – 1945 they murdered 6 million Jews and slaughtered 34 million others.
  • 1956 – Cambodia disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1975 – 1977 they murdered 1 million educated people.
  • 1964 – Guatemala disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1964 – 1981 they murdered 100,000 Mayan Indians.
  • 1970 – Uganda disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1971 – 1979 they murdered 300,000 Christians.

#3 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that a bill allowing for the “indefinite military detention of US citizens on American soil” was quietly passed by the U.S. Senate more than 3 years ago. Never mind that it’s completely unconstitutional (see the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, namely the 4th, 5th and 8th amendments).

#4 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that volcanoes all along the Pacific ocean’s “ring of fire” are roaring to life. It seems like a new eruption is being reported every few days now, and earthquakes globally are at an all time high.

#5 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the use of genetically engineered seeds has caused on explosion of new “super weeds” that are incredibly difficult for farmers to kill.

#6 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that trends forecasters globally are predicting a major financial disaster in 2016.

#7 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that it is easier to get into Harvard than it is to get a job as a flight attendant in America today.

#8 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that over 500 TSA employees have been fired for stealing from travelers since 2003. Our tax dollars hard at work. Nice.

#9 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that giant corporations such as Facebook, GE, Halliburton and Citibank (among numerous others) are funneling gigantic amounts of money through offshore banking havens such as the Cayman Islands in an effort to avoid taxes.

#10 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the U.S. dollar is in danger of losing its status as the primary reserve currency of the world. If this were to occur – which is becoming increasingly likely – financial calamity would surely follow. Such a calamity would make the 2008 crash and the Great Depression seem like a daycare center in comparison.

#11 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that they should be doing a much better job keeping track of Wall Street speculators, their bankers, and all their filthy lucre. Instead, the MSM has to mention that president Barack Obama has gone off to vacation in Hawaii while the rest of the nation works multiple part time jobs.

#12 They don’t want to discuss the fact that one fourth of all homeless people in America are children under the age of 12. This one social injustice alone makes me ashamed to be an American. Moreover, like the rest of the country, I too am one check away from becoming homeless myself. For such a thing as this to be happening in what is allegedly the world’s richest country is absolutely inexcusable!

#13 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the U.S. economy is losing millions of jobs to nations where it is legal to pay workers slave labor wages. Actually, this process is already started in the US as well, due to the fact that no one can live on a minimum wage paycheck of $7.25 an hour. The mainstream media is totally married to the one world economic agenda that their corporate owners make so much money from, and so they say nothing as a steady stream of businesses and American middle class jobs continue to leave the country.

#14 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that large numbers of formerly patriotic Americans are leaving the country in droves because they are completely disgusted with what America has become – the world’s largest arms merchant and biggest bully.

#15 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that hunger and poverty are absolutely exploding in the United States at the same time that they are telling us that the US economy has ‘recovered’.

#16 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that North Korea now has a three-stage rocket with enough range to potentially hit the western United States.

#17 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the United States Postal Service is losing 25 million dollars a day and is on the verge of financial collapse.

#18 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that our biggest oil supplier in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, still kills people for changing religions.

#19 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that ‘political correctness’ is taking over America. The truth is that the media does not see any problem with that at all.

#20 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that nearly half a million employees of the federal government are making more than $100,000 a year.

#21 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the birth rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low. The elite are actually absolutely thrilled that less babies are being born.

#22 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that many major U.S. cities are seeing violent crime totally spiral out of control.

#23 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that Barack Obama received more than 99 percent of the vote in more than 100 precincts in Ohio on election day back in 2012.

#24 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that during the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. national debt grew by about as much as it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.

#25 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the Federal Reserve created the conditions for the last financial crisis and their mismanagement of the economy has now brought us to the verge of another horrible economic downturn.\According to the mainstream media, the Federal Reserve is “above politics” and should not be criticized. Maybe the Federal Reserve should be nationalized so that printing and coining money returns to the auspices of the US Treasury like our Constitution specifies (see article 1, section 8). All the US top-tier leadership needs to do is return to the original Constitution. It’s the perfect way to wipe out the so-called national debt, which really only exists on paper anyway. But they can’t because their corporate sponsors won’t allow it. That’s why the system is broken, and it’s up to us, “we the people”, to get the job done.

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Ending poverty is much simpler than many people think

Ending Poverty: How We Can Make God, and Each Other, Happy

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

capitalismWith about 99% of the wealth in America in the hands of a little over 1% of the population, the US has a bigger and wider gap between the richest 5% of American money earners and big business owners and the remainder of working Americans than there is in many supposedly “third world” countries. The widespread and systemic unemployment or underemployment that currently exists in the US job market is no longer just an economic problem, it has – here in the early 21st century – become a civil rights issue. The US job market has been turned into a raffle, where one lucky person gets the job while entire groups of others get left out in the cold – sometimes even literally. I am vigorously maintaining that every human being has the basic, God-given right to a livelihood and to a living wage. Anything less becomes a civil rights violation and therefore that jobless person(s) are victims of systemic discrimination. And so I state unreservedly that restarting the civil rights era protests, demonstrations, sit-ins and the occupation of whole buildings or city blocks is the most effective way of addressing the rampant inequality and persistent economic hardship that currently exists in the US.

Fortunately, this has already started here in the US, with the advent of the protests for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But these protesters are behind the curve. Because before them there was Occupy Wall St., “we are the 99%” and Anonymous. And before them there was the Arab Spring in Egypt, the summer of 2011 in Great Britain and Greece in Europe, and Libya, Syria and Gaza in the Middle East. So from a political standpoint, the current crop of protesters here in the US had some catching up to do. But that was before the rest of the world got on board protesting globally for the three murdered Americans in Florida, Missouri and New York. So now, like an echo from the fairly recent past, the protests over police violence has echoed across the globe and is still reaching a crescendo. The least common denominator to all this rage in the streets is that of being economically disadvantaged. People everywhere find themselves surrounded by wealth and opulence, luxury and self-indulgence, while they are themselves isolated from it. It is one thing to be rewarded for success and a job well done. But it’s an altogether different matter to have obscene riches flaunted in your face on a daily basis just because someone can. I think what we really need to do is find a way to end poverty. I can sum up the answer in one word: Education. Otherwise those who are poor will always remain so.

Who’s responsible for the poor? Back in the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth, English lawmakers said it was the government and taxpayers. They introduced the compulsory “poor tax” of 1572 to provide peasants with cash and a “parish loaf.” The world’s first-ever public relief system did more than feed the poor: It helped fuel economic growth because peasants could risk leaving the land to look for work in town. By the early 19th century, though, a backlash had set in. English spending on the poor was slashed from 2 percent to 1 percent of national income, and indigent families were locked up in parish workhouses. In 1839, the fictional hero of Oliver Twist, a child laborer who became a symbol of the neglect and exploitation of the times, famously raised his bowl of gruel and said, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Today, child benefits, winter fuel payments, housing support and guaranteed minimum pensions for the elderly are common practice in Britain and other industrialized countries. But it’s only recently that the right to an adequate standard of living has begun to be extended to the poor of the developing world.

In an urgent 2010 book, “Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South”, three British scholars show how the developing countries are reducing poverty by making cash payments to the poor from their national budgets. At least 45 developing nations now provide social pensions or grants to 110 million impoverished families — not in the form of charitable donations or emergency handouts or temporary safety nets but as a kind of social security. Often, there are no strings attached. It’s a direct challenge to a foreign aid industry that, in the view of the authors, “thrives on complexity and mystification, with highly paid consultants designing ever more complicated projects for the poor” even as it imposes free-market policies that marginalize the poor. “A quiet revolution is taking place based on the realization that you cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots,” the book says. “And giving ‘boots’ to people with little money does not make them lazy or reluctant to work; rather, just the opposite happens. A small guaranteed income provides a foundation that enables people to transform their own lives.”

There are plenty of skeptics of the cash transfer approach. For more than half a century, the foreign aid industry has been built on the belief that international agencies, and not the citizens of poor countries or the poor among them, are best equipped to eradicate poverty. Critics concede that foreign aid may have failed, but they say it’s because poor countries are misusing the money. In their view, the best prescription for the developing world is a dose of discipline in the form of strict “good governance” conditions on aid. According to The World Bank, nearly half the world’s population lives below the international poverty line of $2 per day. As the authors of Just Give Money point out, that’s despite decades of top-down, neo-liberal, extreme free-trade policies that were supposed to “lift all boats.” In Africa, South Asia and other regions of the developing “South,” the situation remains dire. Every year, according to the United Nations, more than 9 million children die before they reach the age of 5, and malnutrition is the cause of a third of these early deaths.

Just Give Money argues that cash transfers can solve three problems because they enable families to eat better, send their children to school and put a little money into their farms and small businesses. The programs work best, the authors say, if they are offered broadly to the poor and not exclusively to the most destitute. “The key is to trust poor people and directly give them cash — not vouchers or projects or temporary welfare, but money they can invest and use and be sure of,” the authors say. “Cash transfers are a key part of the ladder that equips people to climb out of the poverty trap.” Brazil, a leader of this growing movement, provides pensions and grants to 74 million poor people, or 39 percent of its population. The cost is $31 billion, or about 1.5 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product. Eligibility for the family grant is linked to the minimum wage, and the poorest receive $31 monthly. As a result, Brazil has seen its poverty rate drop from 28 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2008. In northeastern Brazil, the poorest region of the country, child malnutrition was reduced by nearly half, and school registration increased. South Africa, one of the world’s biggest spenders on the poor, allocates $9 billion, or 3.5 percent of its GDP, to provide a pension to 85 percent of its older people, plus a $27 monthly cash benefit to 55 percent of its children. Studies show that South African children born after the benefits became available are significantly taller, on average, than children who were born before. “None of this is because an NGO worker came to the village and told people how to eat better or that they should go to a clinic when they were ill,” the book says. “People in the community already knew that, but they never had enough money to buy adequate food or pay the clinic fee.”

In Mexico, an average grant of $38 monthly goes to 22 percent of the population. The cost is $4 billion, or 0.3 percent of Mexico’s GDP. Part of the money is for children who stay in school: The longer they stay, the larger the grant. Studies show that the families receiving these benefits eat more fruit, vegetables and meat, and get sick less often. In rural Mexico, high school enrollment has doubled, and more girls are attending.

India guarantees 100 days of wages to rural households for unskilled labor, paying at least $1.25 per day. If no work is available, applicants are still guaranteed the minimum. This modified “workfare” program helps small farmers survive during the slack season. Far from being unproductive, the book says, money spent on the poor stimulates the economy “because local people sell more, earn more and buy more from their neighbors, creating the rising spiral.” Pensioner households in South Africa, many of them covering three generations, have more working people than households without a pension. A grandmother with a pension can take care of a grandchild while the mother looks for work. Ethiopia pays $1 per day for five days of work on public works projects per month to people in poor districts between January and June, when farm jobs are scarcer. By 2008, the program was reaching more than 7 million people per year, making it the second largest in sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa. Ethiopian recipients of cash transfers buy more fertilizer and use higher-yielding seeds.

In other words, without any advice from aid agencies, government, or nongovernmental organizations, poor people already know how to make profitable investments. They simply did not have the cash and could not borrow the small amounts of money they needed. A good way for donor countries to help is to give aid as “general budget support,” funneling cash for the poor directly into govenment coffers. Cash transfers are not a magic bullet. Just Give Money notes that 70 percent of the 12 million South Africans who receive social grants are still living below the poverty line. In Brazil, the grants do not increase vaccinations or prenatal care because the poor don’t have access to health care. A scarcity of jobs in Mexico has forced millions of people to emigrate to the U.S. to find work. Just Give Money emphasizes that to truly lift the poor out of poverty, governments also must tackle discrimination and invest in health, education and infrastructure.

The notion that the poor are to blame for their poverty persists in affluent nations today and has been especially strong in the United States. Studies by the World Values Survey between 1995 and 2000 showed that 61 percent of Americans believed the poor were lazy and lacked willpower. Only 13 percent said an unfair society was to blame. But what would Americans say now, in the wake of the housing market collapse and the bailout of the banks? The jobs-creating stimulus bill, the expansion of food stamp programs and unemployment benefits — these are all forms of cash transfers to the needy. I would say that cash helps people see a way out, no matter where they live.

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