The administration is defending some of its budget cuts, including some that directly impact programs like “Meals on Wheels,” and job training programs. The White House Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney says “we can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. We can’t defend money on programs that cannot show that they deliver what they say they will deliver.”
Mulvaney cited after school programs which feed kids; the philosophy is that if children are able to eat, they will do better in school. Mulvaney says there is no evidence that the program is working
We are trying to focus on the recipients of the money and those on whom the money is spent. He says the administration is being compassionate by taking the taxpayers seriously. What he is not saying is what the elderly, for example, who receive meals, are supposed to do. Where is the compassion for them?
Money will be taken from American tax payers to build “the wall.” Billions of dollars will be collected and spent to build new detention facilities.
What are the children, the poor, the elderly supposed to do?
Mulvaney seems to think that states will take care of their own. They will receive community development block grants (CDBG) and that they will find a way to take care of “the least of these.”
But that seems unlikely. States looked to the federal government in the first place because the states were not able to take care of them.
So, the question is, who is the recipient of this “compassion?”
It seems like the compassion is being offered to big corporations. It seems that there is a great amount of time and energy being paid to protect the very rich, at the expense of the poor. The administration seems not to care that under the proposed new health care act, literally millions of Americans will no longer have access to to heath care.
They say that the goal is not to make sure more people have access to health care. The goal is to save money.
I would add that the larger goal is to make sure insurance companies are able to make big money. The health and health needs of the people be damned.
Is this compassion?
I guess I am confused.
On second thought, I am not.
I can see clearly, and what I see is a group of people who do not care about those who are striving to survive in this country which has little toleration for the them.
American politics is an immoral endeavor, a reality which uses money to protect the rights and interests of the few over the many. But if ever there was and is a time for “we the people” to speak up and make our voices heard, it is now.
Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz …are all saying obnoxious things. Trump’s statement about Mexican immigrants ended up being widely criticized, but didn’t stop his rise in the polls. Mexico, he said, is not sending their best. Said Trump: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.” In spite of offending Mexicans, Trump has refused to apologize.
Mike Huckabee said that President Obama is basically leading Israelis “to the door of the oven,” as he criticized the pending “deal” with Iran. He, like Trump, has refused to apologize to any Jewish people whom he might have offended.
The offensive remarks will continue as the wide field of GOP presidential hopefuls gears up for the fight that will be necessary to win the Republican nomination. That’s politics.
But there are two facts that are infuriating. One, I would bet that not one of these guys will seriously deal with the crisis in America that has been growing in scope since the murder of Trayvon Martin. Across the nation, the Black Lives Matter movement has been loud and vocal, protesting the deaths of black people at the hands of police, mostly white. A huge swath of American people, African-American men, women and youth – have been crying out for justice as the police officers who have killed unarmed black people have done what they’ve done with no accountability. The latest claims by police that Sandra Bland and Kendra Chapman died by hanging themselves by hanging while in police custody have only added fuel to the fire. One more black woman, Ralkina Jones, died while in police custody as well. All three women died while in police custody within the span of a month – and yet not one of these political candidates have addressed the issue. That is a problem.
The second fact that is infuriating is that all of these candidates are spending literally billions of dollars on their campaigns. Billions. There are children in this nation who are homeless and hungry and these guys are spending billions of dollars. There are people who once had jobs and lost them, their homes, their livelihood and their hope …and these guys are spending billions of dollars on …what? Television ads which will spew their negative rhetoric against each other, working to manipulate American citizens and get them to vote for them …while masses of American citizens languish in poverty, despair and injustice.
We will hear a lot in this campaign about the Iran deal, how it’s wrong. We will hear about same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act, and how those laws need to be repealed. We will hear about how there will be a wall built between America and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.
But I would bet we will hear little to next to nothing about a justice system which is not just, but which appears to be a tool for the system to put African-Americans away. I would bet that we will hear little to next to nothing about how American policies and practices have created the cradle to prison pipeline; we will hear little to next to nothing about police malpractice, and about a system which allows police to do basically what they want with whom they want with no fear of having to answer for it.
We will not hear about how something must be done to stop the slaughter of unarmed black people by police. We will hear nothing about the substandard schools in America’s cities and in its rural areas. We will hear nothing from those who say they are pro-life about how they ignore the issue of life once a fetus becomes a baby with needs. We will hear nothing about how poverty in this, the land of the free and home of the brave causes millions of children to go hungry in the summer when there is no school.
It is disgusting, the way these candidates ignore the cries of “the least of these,” and basically blame them for their plight, and it is troubling that they will not feel obligated to address America’s very real problems which are based on and come from, racism and class differences.
The only way they will address these issues – and they should be made to address them, is if “we the people” force the issue. I heard somewhere that change comes when the masses demand it. We all know that Frederick Douglas said “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Well, if ever there was a time for a demand, it is now. The young people in the Black Lives Matter movement have begun the process, but they cannot do it alone. We are in a time that is every bit as critical as was the time in the 60s when the masses gathered to demand the right to vote and to go to any restaurant or public facility they wanted. This is not the time to be quiet or to sit still.
As society has changed, the cry “We want our country back” has grown louder and louder. What is that country that they cry for? It is a country based on racism, exclusion, sexism, homophobia, militarism and materialism, for starters. It is a country where white people have been in control of everything. The cry is to go back to that America …but we cannot let that be the case. This upcoming presidential election is an opportunity for “we the people” to bust some walls down, to demand to be heard, to make the candidates address the needs, the hearts and the concerns of “the least of these.” Now is not the time to be quiet, still, or complacent.
No person should be president of this nation unless he or she is genuinely concerned about the masses of people. In order to make sure they understand that fact, the masses should demand to be heard. American politics is immoral because it ignores the dictates of the Bible so many politicians claim to love: We are to take care of “the least of these,” according to Jesus the Christ. If we cannot and will not do that, we do not deserve to call ourselves a Christian nation.
It is very hard to understand why any politician would be opposed to paying people a living wage – meaning, a wage that would allow them to live with dignity as opposed to living as virtual slaves to an unfair economic system.
It is clear that capitalism and democracy are not one in the same thing; apparently, if Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson had a face-to-face conversation, they would lock horns on principle: capitalism does not pretend to want to, or to be about, providing a level playing field for all people, as democracy purports to be about.
But to be against helping people get paid what their work contribution is really worth seems immoral. Actually, allowing poverty, or ignoring it, seems to be immoral too, especially in such a wealthy and religious nation. It seems like more and more, people are just a beggar’s cup away from abject poverty.
There is nothing “happy,” though, about being poor. There is nothing “happy” about having to choose between food and medicine, or between diapers or milk for the baby who needs the diaper. Many families cannot afford diapers; hence in some places diaper banks have been created. Many elderly do not have enough to eat. And many adults are working their buns off with hardly anything to show for it except extreme fatigue and deepening depression.
There seems to be such an insensitivity to the poor. In China, Kang Xiaoguang, Professor of Regional Economics and Politics, actually said, publicly, “Although there are hundreds of millions of workers and peasants, they don’t count. You can ignore them. You can also rob and exploit them. It’s not a problem. The most important thing is to get the powerful on your side.”
While Xiaoguang’s statement is harsh and insensitive, it is hard to believe that he is not saying out loud what many people feel. When President Obama said, in his 2013 State of the Union Address, that he wanted Congress to approve a hike in the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour, he apparently caught Republicans and some Democrats off-guard. The president said, “Today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.”
Those who are criticizing big government are not impressed with the president’s suggestion, nor are they apt to seriously consider it, and those who stay far enough from the poor to see the misery in which they live are not likely to “encourage” their state and federal lawmakers by threatening to withdraw support for them if they don’t raise the minimum wage.
If you do not see poverty, it is easy to minimize it and the suffering it causes.
Before the 2008 election, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs said, over and over, that America was losing its middle class. He seemed not to get a lot of support, and I don’t remember what his solution was to the problem, but the fact is, Dobbs correctly called that there would be a crisis of the middle class, which has come to be.
The state and federal jobs which allowed so many people to reach middle class are shrinking, as are the manufacturing jobs. There are jobs available, but many of them require technical training which the vast majority of people do not have.
“Find a way to go to school and get some training,” those who are insensitive would say, not understanding that the working poor don’t have a penny to spend and would probably not qualify for a student loan. The working poor often cannot take a day off, or refuse to take a day off, even when they’re sick, because they cannot afford to miss a day’s wages. Their families suffer, as do they, in all areas of life.
Marco Rubio, who delivered the GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s speech, said, “I don’t think a minimum wage law works.” Addressing and raising the minimum wage would threaten the creation of jobs, those who oppose big government would say, but what kind of jobs? Probably more that are wont to pay workers what their work is worth.
It is no secret that wealth often accrues on the backs of the poor, with the poor getting little benefit. But there is something inherently wrong in that. There is something wrong with a system that allows the wealthy to make and hoard more money they can ever use, while those whose labor made them rich can barely make ends meet.
Professor Susan Thistlewaite, in her book, Occupy the Bible, encourages a moral and religious response to the issue of poverty. She spends a lot of time addressing the debt students are in who took out loans to go to college. Too many of them are not only struggling financially, but they are struggling emotionally as well. To not be able to find a job, or to get a job which does not pay a living wage, is demeaning. Many former students are committing suicide, she writes.
Thistlewaite encourages the religious of our society to read the Bible and interpret it from the perspective of those who struggle with poverty and financial hardship. The struggling don’t have trouble doing that; the wealthy would probably toss it off as Liberal dribble.
But there is no “dribble” in the fact that in this nation there is an oligarchy, not a democracy. There are too many people struggling to obtain the bare necessities for themselves and their families. The Republicans have criticized President Obama for the fact that more people receive food stamps than in the previous administration, but without help, how are the poor and working poor supposed to make it? To require and expect them to work for the increase of profits for the wealthy and then to give them pittance in return …just does not seem right.
In fact, it seems that in doing that, the wealthy and powers that be are merely ignoring the poor.
The pervasiveness of poverty is not new; the society in which Jesus lived was as imbalanced economically as are the societies of China and Haiti and our own nation. But what is troubling is that it feels like it’s getting easier and easier for the wealthy to act like the poor and working poor don’t exist, that they are whiners and takers, like …they don’t matter.
Perhaps if nationally there could be a shift or an outpouring of programs that teach the poor how to compete in our global economy the picture could and would change. The poor don’t want to be poor; many of them are stuck and don’t know how to get out. Some would rather die than take government assistance. They don’t want a hand out. They want a way up and out of their economic misery. Poverty causes people to live in despair and depression; suicide is not all that uncommon for those who have simply given up hope of their lives ever getting better. There is a lot of domestic abuse amongst the poor, and children end up being ignored and neglected, which causes a host of social problems. It doesn’t make sense to ignore and/or ignore the poor. Poverty ends up costing money …but then, those who are investing in private prisons, the so-called Prison Industrial Complex, would not care about that because their wealth is built upon the backs of the hopeless and despairing.
You have to have eyes to see that, though, ears to hear it, and a heart to receive it. That, apparently, is what is missing in our great nation.
Susan Thistlewaite, Chicago Theological Seminary professor, author and scholar, gives some sobering information in her latest book, Occupy the Bible. She says that we ought to read the Bible from the perspective of the homeless, the hungry, the economically stressed.
It was from their perspective that Jesus formed his ministry, she says …and the Bible says.
In a workshop she gave, she said, “Student debt is approaching one trillion dollars. That’s more than credit card debt and if the trend continues, in a few years, student debt will be higher than the national debt. We need to read the Bible from that perspective.”
Students are stressed out and depressed. They have gone to school and gotten degrees, only to find that they are not able to get work, or enough money to pay their student loans.”Students are stressed out and depressed,” Thistlewaite said. “Some are committing suicide.”
There are a lot of reasons for the economic state of this nation, but greed is a big one, posits Thistlewaite. Greed has led banks and other financial institutions, including those which dole out student loans, to go haywire, thinking not about the people who are getting the loans they are giving out but instead by the profit they will make off people who are really trying to make an honest living.
Jesus was a revolutionary, primarily because he challenged the Roman government. He didn’t get into trouble because he taught people to love; he got in trouble because he challenged the status quo. He got into trouble because he taught people that the kingdom in which they should seek comfort was the heavenly kingdom, where there was fairness and equality amongst people, not the earthly kingdom, headed by the Romans, which led people into economic despair and support economic inequality.
“Theology begins where pain is,” says Thistlewaite. And clearly, there is pain amongst the people who are working and still cannot make ends meet. That group includes students, but also the so-called “working poor,” who, in spite of working sometimes two and three jobs, are still struggling to keep their heads above water. The economic state of our nation is slowly wiping out the middle class, and, observes Thistlewaite, there can be no democracy without a middle class.
Our economic dilemma is made all the worse as the issue is argued using the Bible as justification for both liberal and conservative positions. Thistlewaite says that “the Right thinks the Bible supports free market capitalism.” The Left, conversely, uses the Bible to support an economy which supports equal distribution of wealth. Parables, like found in the Book of Matthew 25:14-30, where a wealthy landowner gave three different “slaves” (translated from the Greek “doulos”) rewarded the two who multiplied money given to them, and cast out the one who hid the money given to him, invite two different interpretations, one from the Left, one from the Right. Who, in that parable and others, is doing the will of God, asks Thistlewaite.
One Bible. Two desperately different interpretations …and the odd men out are the struggling, working poor.
We don’t want to think about the state of our economy or what God really demands. It is totally inconceivable to me that anyone would think that God supports poverty or the abject and real suffering that is endured by the working poor, just as it is inconceivable to me that a good God would support racism or sexism or militarism. I grew up believing that a good God wanted all people to be taken care of, that God wanted economic and social justice for all people. Is that naive?
Neither the Hebrew Scriptures nor the New Testament, naiveté notwithstanding, seem to support misery, with a very few people being very comfortable at the expense of many poor people suffering. People got into big trouble with God in the Bible for not being hospitable, not taking care of widows and the poor. God didn’t change, did He/She?
There are some things we don’t want to think about it, but we need to. Bottom line, there’s too much suffering caused by economic distress, in this, the wealthiest nation in the world.
A few days ago I was reading the story of John the Baptist, holed up in prison for having irritated Herod because “The Baptist” disapproved of Antipas’ marriage to his own brother’s former wife, and Herod feared an uprising, according to the historian Josephus. John the Baptist had apparently said, out loud, that he disapproved of Herod’s marriage “to your brother’s former wife.” That woman, then, named Herodias, hated “The Baptist,” and when her daughter Salome danced for her and Herod, Herod was so inspired that he said to Salome, “whatever you want, ask, and I will get it for you.” Herodias saw her chance, conspired with Salome, and with her mother’s prodding, asked for the head of John the Baptist’ head, delivered to her mother on a platter.
As I read that story, and talked about it with a few students, I asked them what they thought about what this story tells us about “God‘s ways.” Here sat John in prison, for doing what his loyalty to God and belief in God’s command to him to “speak truth to power,” and he apparently was not feeling the presence of God. His situation so bothered him that he sent some of his friends to Jesus, who was nearby, to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, or should we look for someone else?” That meant, to me at least, that John was feeling the absence of God when he needed to feel the presence of God most. His unasked question seemed to be, “would God really let this happen to me? Would God not send his son Jesus, who has done so much good for people he hasn’t even known, to rescue me or save me, at least, from death?”
Jesus answered, telling John’s “people” to remind “The Baptist” of how he healed the sick, made the blind see, helped the deaf to hear …basically giving a review of all he had done and was doing, which was not news to John. He knew that. His immediate unasked but internalized question, though, went unanswered. “Aren’t you going to save me?”
The answer was no. “The Baptist” was beheaded later that month, according to historian Josephus. God’s ways are NOT our ways.
There is value in studying God’s ways, even when or especially when, we do not understand something that is going on in our own lives. I would imagine that some of the parents of the children who were shot and killed in Newtown in December 2012 asked God something like, “Would God really have allowed this to happen?” I would imagine that the tragedy that left former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to be shot and severely injured left someone asking, “Would God have allowed this to happen?” So many times, in so many situations, personal and public, things happen that make people who believe in God scratch their divine-leaning hearts and ask, “Where was God? Why didn’t God stop this?”
Richard Rohr wrote that we cannot think our way into doing something different; we must do some things to get ourselves into another way of thinking. I am still pondering that thought. How would doing that make us more ably handle the things that happen to us that we do not understand, and that either are unfair or certainly feel unfair? And if we were able to do that, when we would find ourselves in a prison of pain or confusion or grief so deep that we cannot reach the bottom, would there be a peace about us, making us know that our ways truly are not God’s ways?
The truth is, sometimes, perhaps many times, God DOES allow bad things to happen to us or in our lives. God allowed Joseph to be terrorized by his brothers, left for dead. God allowed Job to lose everything except his own miserable life. God allowed the children to die in Newtown, God has allowed racism and sexism and homophobia to exist, alongside white supremacy. God allowed the storm in Joplin, Missouri, that killed so many and caused so much destruction; God allowed Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, storms which absolute wreaked havoc on innocent people, many of them too poor to be able to even jump in a car and get out of harm’s way. God allowed the Holocaust and the Inquisition and Crusades. God allows rampant gun violence in urban areas, responsible for the deaths of way too many children and young adults, but we don’t dare talk about ways to get handguns off the streets and out of the markets! God is allowing scores of children in our United States to suffer from hunger, even though it is said this country grows enough food so that nobody has to go hungry. God has allowed and does allow bad things to happen to really good people, and as we can see from the John the Baptist story, this tendency of God is not a new thing.
In a strange way, knowing that can give comfort. At least we know that this is really the same God that has always existed. Jesus’ answer to John, and God’s answer to Job, were not particularly comforting, in that neither God nor Jesus gave the hard, quick, direct answers that those men and we who have read their stories wanted. No, both deities recited all the divine work they were doing and had done…and apparently, freeing and saving John or giving Job an answer for his dilemma, was not in the Divine Planner.
And yet, these two men believed, as have countless people who have been in a fire of some sort and either come out burned or not come out at all. God blessed Job once his wager with The Adversary was done; John didn’t fare so well. But it is apparent that John, once he received Jesus’ answer about what he was going and had done, calmed down and rested in his faith.
So, since we will never understand God’s ways, we have an assignment to learn all we can about how to live in faith, regardless of what is going on in our lives. We still fight for what is right and just, because injustice is and always has been, a major problem in this world…but we fight for it because it IS the right thing to do, not because we think we are going to get a nice, succinct answer from God on why things are as they are, why they are so slow to change, or why God allows suffering to exist. We do it because by doing it it shows we are “righteous,” that is, in right relationship with God, and that has its own rewards.