March 29, 2010

A Christian about Social Justice and Historic Guilt

I have been away over the weekend and a considerable work backlog, so all I do for now is retrieving this noteworthy commentary by Bruce Church from the blog bilges.
You said "America isn't doing too badly in balancing...personal freedom" and "social justice." I can tell you don't live here. It's disgusting. Here's what my commute is like. I drive home from work and see in the exurbs and countryside many McMansions and super-sized houses that must cost a fortune to heat, and then I pass the outskirts of a rundown neighborhood, and a fire station that has a sign saying there's a benefit for some family that has a child with cancer. In other words, the family already burned through its health insurance coverage fighting the cancer, and the family is bankrupt, and is in need of a donations from the community so they don't get evicted from their lowly home.

When Reagan was president, the top tax rate was lowered from 40% to 28%, and now it might be back up to 36%. What happened is many people got rich since the 1980s, but the poor remained poor. Women getting educated and entering the workforce didn't help the situation as one might suspect it would have, since the high earners tended to marry the high earners, making the couple twice as rich, thereby serving to increase the gap between rich and poor.

Because of this, the income inequity has increased in the US as measured by the Gini Index, so now the US ranks along with South American countries that have long been notorious for their poor/rich divide and lack of social mobility. This leads to a lot of crime since the poor on one continent sell drugs to the rich on another continent.

For the poor in the US, it's increasingly hard to get higher education and to break out of the generational poverty cycle.

The latest health care debate has exposed just how many people have vested interests in the status quo, and exactly how callous they are toward the poor.

Another area I've seen where the callousness is apparent is critics of aid programs don't like it that if the poor get extra money, they spend it on "sugary drinks." So they'd even begrudge the poor the simple luxury of Kool-Aid! See the links at the bottom of this post for more on that.

I seems to be bothered by the inequities of life more than other people, perhaps because I read my Bible and see that God's takes notice of, say, evicting a widow from her house in order to join houses together, the ancient version of todays McMansions that dot the American exurbs and countryside. I don't think God cares about how such deeds are laundered and impersonally done through financial "vehicles," and made to look extra-legal because the local sheriff is the one doing the evicting.

In the same way, I'm bothered when I read about Germans having great health care and spa treatments while Holocaust survivors are picking through garbage cans in Israel to get enough to eat. Also, the Germans and other European nations leave it up to America to defend the world while knowing America can only afford to do so at the expense of its poor.

One reason the US hasn't had nationalized health care is the people who would otherwise advocate on behalf of the poor already have excellent coverage via their union, or their state or church employers. Thus, pastors, union leaders and politicians actually come out against nationalized health care because they want to preserve their topnotch health care packages. For example, Mayor Rudy Giuliani of NY came out against nationalized health care because the US had slightly better prostrate cancer survival rates than the UK. What he didn't say was he survived his prostrate cancer thanks to being covered by NY City's health care package, something the average person in the US doesn't have access to. Another example is union leaders held up "Obama-Care" for months because they didn't want their "Cadillac" health care plans taxed, meaning their $25,000+ per year health care plans would be subject to a luxury tax. The compromise that got the unions' reluctant support is Cadillac plans won't have a luxury tax slapped on them until 2018. I've heard pastors say that Obama-Care will make US health care like Cuba's because more people will have access to good health care, yet the number of doctors and nurses will not increase for some years, and so the resources will be spread thin.

I don't believe in any racial component to guilt, however, there is a national and religious component to collective guilt. Also, I don't believe in trying to correct history and ruining the economy in order to make reparations, but I am for making amends where possible, and being sensitive about past historical wrongs.

I think that members of Lutheran and Catholic churches especially must admit that there is a long history of antisemitism in those churches, and that not only was this a factor in the Holocaust coming about, but it turned many people who could have stopped the evil into bystanders and even abettors. Also, in the Eastern Churches there was much Antisemitism, so in Ukraine and other places, no one put a stop to the mass killing of Jews, not even warning Jews to arm themselves or flee.

Members of nations and churches need to assume their share of the collective guilt associated with their respective church or nation, whether he/she, or his/her relatives, immigrated to a nation after the fact, or even a hundred years after the fact.

Immigrants should not be like many Muslim immigrants who, for example, move to Germany or Australia, and then disavow any connection to the dishonorable chapters of that nation's history, and have an attitude of moral superiority over the natives of their host nations. They also deny that by becoming a member of a host nation, they are in any way unfairly advantaged by past historical wrongs of that nation, and deny that they should make any personal sacrifice to make amends with the disadvantaged or victimized groups. (In the case of Australia, I'm talking about their former Aborigine policy).

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Links:

People would begrudge poor even "sugary drinks":

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22sugary+drinks%22+%22deserving+poor%22&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

http://jezebel.com/5341698/are-women-the-new-deserving-poor

They add that the world's poorest families spend ten times as much on "alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts" as they do on education, and that "if poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries."
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Reference Giuliani's cancer:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlighthealth/2002-10-14-giuliani_x.htm
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Gini Index:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/01/Gini_since_WWII.svg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/34/Gini_Coefficient_World_CIA_Report_2009.png

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908770.html
Thank you, Bruce, for this. I'll be back later.