Economic Justice for All

Recently, Republican governors across the country have proposed controversial ways to balance their state’s budget, with Scott Walker of Wisconsin’s attempt to divest public employees of their collective bargaining rights garnering the most attention.  There are other states proposing similar measures, like Michigan’s Rick Snyder reducing unemployment insurance benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks; Ohio’s Kasich talking about selling prison’s to make up a $8 billion shortfall (because he promised not to raise taxes) or New Jersey’s Chris Christie requiring state workers to pay thirty percent of their insurance premiums.  Right about now, you may be wondering two things: 1) Are all these things so bad? and 2) what does this have to do with the God stuff I usually rattle on about.  Those are both excellent questions and the answer to both is Economic Justice, a principle which states that economic benefits (or the possibility of those benefits) should be shared equitably across racial and socio-economic lines. While the Methodist Church and I are experiencing some rough times, their support of things like social and economic justice are one place I think they get it right.  Economic justice has more than a bit of biblical background, too.  When He was here, one of Jesus’ pet peeves was rich people crapping on poor people.  In fact, you could say that social and economic justice were the cornerstones of His message.  The salvation He talked about was as much about people’s problems in the present day as it was what happened after you died.  Somehow, after reading the Gospels, I don’t think He’d care for what’s going today.

I’ve wanted to write about this ever since the Wisconsin flap started because I’m a public employee and I didn’t appreciate being characterized as a greedy fat cat suckling on the government teat.  Yesterday, I found my opening.  Lillian Daniel wrote an article for Huffington Post that said America is involved in two undeclared wars .  The first of those wars was, of course, the conflict in Libya.  The second one was an undeclared war on working people.  At first, I thought that was a little over the top.  I mean, seriously, a war against working people?  I know the rich are overly concerned with getting richer, but could you classify that as a war?  After I thought about it a bit, the answer was yes.  Republican administrations all over the country are doing their damnedest to strip away programs that benefie working people.  They’re doing this while fighting tooth and nail to keep taxes on people making over $250,000 the lowest they’ve been in years, saying that these people aren’t rich.  Seriously, I heard a pundit on Fox (Faux?) News say that if you had a mortgage and a couple of kids in school, you’d find it hard to get by $250,000.  Then, they turn around and castigate teachers in Wisconsin for making an average of $51,000 a year, plus benefits at a time when the average worker’s salary is around $38,000 a year and these people may or may not get any benefits.  So, one person is a greedy bloodsucker for making $50,000,  but someone who makes five times that is barely getting by?  I know my math skills aren’t that great, but what the fuck?

Truthfully, these cuts won’t affect some of us because, even in today’s economy, we’re okay.  Others won’t feel it because their situation already sucks; you can’t go lower than the bottom.  No, it’s those folks who are barely getting by that are going to get screwed on this.  It’s the guy who picks up the garbage all day, then goes to a second job so his family has a roof over their heads that will get the shaft here.  It’s the single mom who answers phones all day and waits tables at night to put food on the table for her children that will bear this burden.  It’s the old couple who didn’t have much of a retirement plan and live on a small fixed income that will have to eat this shit sandwich.  All these people constantly have to live on less and less because some of us are more concerned with keeping what we have than we are with the welfare of our fellow human beings.  For some people, economic justice is a code word for “redistribution of wealth”.  For these people, it’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  Shame on you for trying turn it into the train that runs them down.