Life isn’t a monopoly game. There are no “Get-Out-of-Jail Free Cards,” and no “$200 Payouts” when you pass go.”
On the other hand, the concentration of wealth seems to be a “Winner Takes All” game. How else would you explain the fact that 8 men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. Of even greater significance for us is the fact that 6 of those 8 men are Americans.
What are they going to do with all that money? They can’t spend it in multiple lifetimes, but they could solve a lot of America’s problems, if they were taxed at the same rate the ultra-wealthy have been in the past when our national income and outgo were seriously out of balance. Over the years, beginning with Abraham Lincoln who created the first federal income tax to finance the Civil War, Republican Presidents have raised taxes on the wealthy to put our economic house in order. William Howard Taft endorsed the 16th Amendment that made a progressive income tax part of our Constitution.
It is hard for us living today to imagine how tough life was during The Great Depression. Hunger stalked the land and jobs were non-existent. The depression had a permanent impact on the lives of those who lived through those desperate times. Herbert Hoover made significant contributions to leveling the playing field in 1932 by increasing the top income tax rate from 24 to 63%. After World War II President Dwight D. Eisenhower succeeded in getting a top income tax rate over 90 percent because we desperately needed a balanced budget.
They were moral budgets and moral tax increases that addressed inequality and broke up concentrated wealth. It is past time now for another moral budget, and long past time for our political parties to work together to turn this nation around economically. We do not need a top income tax rate of 90% but we do need a tax rate that doesn’t favor the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the middle class.
In a book chapter titled Prophetic Politics*Jim Wallis discusses Moral Values and the role they play in our elections. He makes the point that war, poverty, inequality, and economic injustice are moral concerns that are absolutely central to Christians. And he adds, “So those who really know the Bible wonder, how did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American? Such an interpretation of Christianity threatens both our politics and our faith.”
What makes a budget moral?
Wallis quotes Acts 10:34 – 35, “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” He then said, “The first principle of biblical politics is compassion and justice for the poor.” And, he added, “Throughout the Bible, God is portrayed as the deliverer of the poor and oppressed.”
In an earlier column I quoted Dr. William Miller on the effects of inequality** and the information he conveyed is worth repeating over and over again. He said, ““such injustice is obviously much harder on the poor, but the rich also pay a price of inequality in society. On average, as a people we are (whether rich or poor) less healthy, more obese, more depressed and anxious, take more psychiatric medications, have more teen pregnancies and infant mortality, more violence and homicide, more prisons, more alcohol/drug problems, and die younger, in direct proportion to the size of the gap between rich and poor.”
Inequality isn’t a game; it is an issue that impacts every aspect of our lives. It is time for Congress to take a giant step toward ending inequality by putting the needs of every Main Street and Rural Route in America ahead of Wall Street and long past time to pass legislation that will break up the concentrated wealth there.
Will you send that message to your Senators and Representatives today?
Blessings on your efforts,
*From: Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its poisonous Consequences, pages 258 – 267
**The Prison of Privilege is a brochure written by William R. Miller, Ph.D. and published by the Faith & Money Network. It can be accessed on this website under Recommended Reading.