Keeping them poor
I was watching Garrison Keillor interview Bill Moyers on C-span, and as they passed away the time, they said some things I was comfortable with, but they also said some things I feel compelled to comment on.
One comment on which we found agreement was the mistreatment of President Obama’s pastor, Rev. Wright, by the right wing radio talk show hosts. Modern technology makes it too easy to take words out of context and play them over and over again. It is a form of high tech slander.
As I said in a previous column, I have heard fundamentalist preachers say “if God doesn’t punish America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. This is really no different than Rev. Wright saying, not God bless America, but God damn America, which the right maligned him for.
They then begin to wonder what had gone wrong with the religious right. How had they gotten started in the wrong direction? As they started talking about this, they mentioned how President George W. Bush had started an unprovoked war in Iraq that led to the deaths of thousands.
In this, they malign Bush every bit as much as the talk show hosts maligned Rev. Wright. They believe this because they choose to ignore the history of what happened in Iraq.
It started with the Persian Gulf War when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait without provocation. The UN asked the US to intervene and liberate Kuwait, which we did under the direction of George H. Bush. Once the Iraqi army was pushed out of Kuwait, the UN insisted on a cease fire, which the US did and which Iraq agreed to.
However, a cease fire is not a surrender, nor is it the end of a war. It is only the end to current hostilities, and it comes with terms. Under the terms of the cease fire, Iraq agreed to free and unlimited inspections of their country to assure the world they were not developing weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam flagrantly violated the terms of the cease fire agreement, which means the cease fire is over and the hostilities begin again. The war with Iraq was in fact provoked by Saddam violating those agreements. It was not a new war, but the continuation of one Saddam had provoked when he invaded Kuwait.
Bush’s mistake was not that he invaded Iraq, but that he made the wrong argument for doing so. He should have argued what I just stated above. Instead, he argued he was invading because of the presence of weapons of mass destruction. When they didn’t find any, people like Moyers claimed he should not have done it. When they argue that he started an unprovoked war, they malign him.
Their second concern was that the religious right fails to show Christian compassion when they object to all the money being spent on social programs to help the poor. Again, they fail to think deep enough on the issue.
When Christ said the poor you will have with you always, he was making a psychological observation, not an economic one. The past 30 years of war on poverty should tell us that poverty is not an economic issue as we have poured enough money into the problem to make every poor person rich. If you gave every American a million dollars, within six months, some would be very, very rich and others would be very, very poor.
We do not need to spend more money on poverty to follow the precepts of the Bible. The Bible does not condemn the haves for having, it condemns those who would oppress the poor and make their lives more miserable than they already are.
Here are some examples of how we have oppressed the poor: exorbitant taxes on cigarettes; cash for clunkers, which got rid of the only cars the poor could afford; the high cost of fuel, which is a direct result of government policies; easy credit; child labor laws that favor the unions by keep poor kids unemployed; burdensome regulations that drive up the price of everything; and fostering attitudes that keep the poor tied to a welfare state.
We spend more than enough nationally, between our government and charitable institutions, to more than meet a Christian definition of charity. Our failing is that we do not prosecute those in government and business who design policies that end up oppressing the poor. One of my aphorisms states, “When something is given to us for free, it loses value in the transaction. If too much comes to us free, soon nothing has any value.” We don’t need to give more to the poor, we need to prosecute those who oppress them.