Hillary’s right; we ARE all in this together…

Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t like all of this individualism stuff – the rugged individuality which is the very definition of America does not appeal to her very much. She prefers the socialist collective. Resistance is futile.

“I prefer a ‘we’re all in it together’ society,” she said. “I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none.”
That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

“There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed,” she said. “Fairness doesn’t just happen. It requires the right government policies.”

We’ll skip over the fact that the middle class is (currently) doing well in America and acknowledge that St. Benedict – whose Monastic Rule has stood for 1400 years as a perfect guideline for communal living, family building and even corporate management – would agree with Hillary that fairness requires some guidelines and policies.

I (and perhaps Benedict) would part ways from Hillary at the suggestion that “government policies” are the road to parity. The thing is, communism works in very small enclaves, in monasteries, for example, where everyone involved is entering willingly, is voluntarily looking to be denuded, is eager to “give stuff up” in an effort to attain something quite different from worldy “stuff.” Communism does not work, though, in a large-scale national situation whereby people are expected to sublimate themselves, their instincts and their ambitions for the good of the party. Socialism does not work.

There is an enormous difference between a few dozen people voluntarily giving up their worldly goods for communal living, and forcing people to participate in such a society against their will. The first brings freedom for those who choose it. The second, historically, has brought tyranny, poverty, slaughter and the gulag. When Hillary said, a few years ago,

“Many of you are well enough off that [President Bush’s] tax cuts may have helped you. We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

I and many others (and I am not a particularly materialistic person, mind you) felt that old chill wind Tim Robbins keeps warning us about blow and blow.

That quote, by the way, comes from one of the rapidly-disappearing-from-search-engines articles one can no longer find except on a few blogs who noted it, and not all of those blogs come up, either. I remember scores of blogs commenting on that remark, but in a search, today, only a few come up – mostly because of bloggers listing quotes in a book. Apparently that remark of Hillary’s is going to be taken away from us for our common good. We’re in for an interesting election year. But I digress…

Special privileges for none: A humorous note, when it peels forth from the lips of a woman who has had nothing but special privileges thrust her way for all of her life, and who is unlikely to stop living with them anytime soon…but we’ll simply smile and put that aside for a moment.

Even St. Benedict – who knew a little more about communal living than does Hillary Clinton – understood that “special privileges for none” did not work in a real world. He understood that a community, no matter how dedicated to anonymity and commonality, was still made up of individuals, that a successful monastery was built by taking into account and using each monk or nun’s individual gifts.

Rumer Godden explains it well in In This House of Brede:

“Dame Agnes, a scholar and writer, might need twenty books, while dear Dame Perpetua might need only one or, as she might say herself, none at all.”

As Benedict writes it:

Let him who hath need of less thank God and not give way to sadness, but let him who hath need of more, humble himself for his infirmity, and not be elated for the indulgence shown him; and thus all the members will be at peace.

Perhaps instead of simply lecturing
the rest of us, Hillary might do well to read this commencement address from the Valedictorian of Notre Dame’s class of 2007:

The life of someone like Fr. Tom Streit, a biologist and Holy Cross priest who works in Haiti to eliminate the spread of elephantiasis, illustrates the continued need for direct service to the world’s poor…there are Notre Dame alumni in the business world who use their skills and passion to mentor nonprofit organizations. The University also sponsors the GLOBES program, which brings together a wide array of leaders to tackle environmental problems and has expanded my idea of how one can serve the world. Such diverse possibilities represent but a few among many ways to continue what has already been started in us. Just as this University’s mission doesn’t stop with who we are at this point, we have been formed – our lives have been complicated – to embark upon a lifetime of action.

Fellow graduates, as we leave this university, many of us have the enormous privilege of being able to live relatively comfortable lives when compared to the majority of the world’s population. At the same time, whether or not we live materially comfortable lives, we are ultimately called to live complicated lives. Respecting the principles of Catholic social teaching means that the lives of millions killed around the world by treatable diseases matter, just as the economic, social, and spiritual poverty that exists in our own neighborhoods deserves our attention. Such realities necessitate concern, sympathy, and action. Though the answers to these problems are not always obvious, turning the page of the newspaper and failing to ask “why” would betray what this place, with its Catholic foundation, stands for.

Imagine that! Individual people – not “the goverment” – making a difference!

Noble behavior ennobles everyone as a rising tide lifts all boats. Restrictive behavior…simply restricts.

We are in this together, that’s true. But we are each created as individuals, each endowed with gifts meant to serve and enhance the One Body. Sublimation of the self to a secular government entity does not sound like the gig to me. As I wrote here, we are in this together, outside of time. Meaning…in God.

People often ask me why Catholics find it necessary to keep the Crucifix before them. “The victory was in the resurrection, not the death…Catholics focus on the wrong thing – the cross should be empty…”

Well, yes. The victory is the resurrection, but its gotten to through the rest of it.

While the empty cross brings us hope and promise, we are still humans living human lives with all of the pain and frailty and questions and hurt that implies…and when one looks at the Crucifix, one finds not a morbid and bloody corpse, but The God Who Knows, not because he is conveniently all-knowing, but because He actually submitted to life, lived it, endured it, went through it all, just as we do.

Jesus lost his own beloved step-father, Joseph, he knows what we know. When we look at the Crucifix we see that there is no human situation that Jesus did not come to know. Feel betrayed? Feel humiliated? Feel abandoned? Feel unjustly hurt? Feel loss? There, on that crucifix is the God who has known every one of those feelings, and has submitted to them – in order to save us, but also in order to draw us near, to gather us into a consolation, a consoling embrace that says…“I know what you’re feeling…I know what you’re thinking…we are actually all in this together, and quite outside of time.”

It’s hard to remember all that. The Crucifix is the reminder.

Meanwhile, a helpful reader finds the tough-to-find piece.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Viola

    A much different “We are all in this together” mentality than what Hillary Clinton proposes.

  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    You are over reacting.

    Hillary doesn’t really mean all that drivel she spouts- that would be taking aim at to many of the bigwigs that support her in Hollywood. If she really meant what she said, she would go after and shut down the Hollywood tax loopholes worth in the tens of billions of dollars. Special treatment for Hollywood is long standing tradition.

    What Hillary wants (and says) is that she’s got the middle class in her sights.

  • newton

    “Apparently that remark of Hillary’s is going to be taken away from us for our common good. We’re in for an interesting election year. But I digress…”

    Oh, no, no, no! You’re not digressing! In fact, it is quite part of it! The less people know about it, the better it will be for her! She wants to rob the store: no one has to know that she already stated so!

    Hey! Hugo Chavez is shutting down TV stations, taking foreign oil rigs, and controlling banks and the rest of Venezuela’s infrastructure “for the common good”.

    Hillary’s in great company!

  • mwalimu_d

    What irony! I just finished re-reading Animal Farm, and was struck by the similarity to the modern Democrat Party. Al Gore’s “carbon credits”, John Edward’s uber-mansion, hedge-fund work, his demands for mandatory military service for everyone (except himself), and $400 hair cuts, John Murtha’s earmark paradise, and the Clinton’$ non-stop cashathon. “All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others.”

  • SDN

    Of course, Anchoress, we have at least one clear description of the failure of Communism under optimal conditions. I refer, of course, to the Book of Acts, 4:32 – 5:11, Ananias and Sephira. NewLiving translation.

    1. There is no doubt that they are practicing communism:”All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was
    not their own; they shared everything they had…There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them, and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.” From each according to his means, to each according to his need — Marx would have been proud to call them brother.

    2. They had as close to an incorruptible body of rulers as possible, who were proving their uprightness with miracles every day.

    3. And they had pretty close to the ultimate Auditor; when Ananais and Sephira try to cheat the system, Peter knows about it instantly, and the punishment is swift and sure: the cheaters are struck dead on the spot.

    And yet there were still cheaters, the apostles couldn’t hold it together for very long, and none of the other churches outside Jerusalem seem to have even tried it. If the 12 Apostles backed up by God couldn’t make communism work, how in the h*ll would any lesser mortals have a shot?? ;-)

  • Peter

    It looks like I got it wrong last time. The Kennedy aphorism, according to Hillary and Bill, should go: “Ask what your country can do for you, then ask what you can do for the Clintons.”

  • http://faustasblog.com Fausta

    Here’s a start: Let’s take Bill’s lecture income, and the house in Chappaqua and the house in DC with all their furnishings for the common good.

  • Joseph

    “We’ll skip over the fact that the middle class is doing very well in America…”

    Oh,no Anchoress, we shouldn’t skip over that at all! Let’s look at your link to Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution [that wonderful, fount of objective analysis!] and we can see the pea-and-thimble game of the “things are better than ever” crowd at its purest.

    First, you seem not to have read Mr.Haskins very carefully. He is not talking about “the middle class” in the least. He is talking about the poor, the people with incomes averaging $16,800 yearly and working jobs paying about $8.00 an hour. The people like me. This is, as he and his sources put it, “the bottom fifth” of the American pile.

    What he asserts is that the income of the bottom fifth “enjoyed a larger percentage increase in income from 1991 to 2005 than all other groups except the top fifth”. The “middle class” are the 3/5ths in between. It is exactly these people in the middle 3/5ths whose real wages have remained stagnant during the Bush Administration and who have been squeezed into higher and higher debt levels to manage the economic ripsaw of things like outsourcing and higher energy prices.

    And it is exactly those same folks who–when they lose jobs in their maturity, discover they are far less “employable” than they used be due to “overqualification”, and default on that debt–are suddenly precipitated into the bottom fifth, without a clue about how we manage our life down here. I meet them regularly in my temporary and part-time jobs.

    Mr. Haskins has stated matters correctly. The income rise for the poor he saw is real. And his source, which he links to, is impeccable: the Congressional Budget Office. But if you reflect a moment, fully one half of that span of time covered was the eight years of the Clinton Administration!

    But matters are even better than this. When you look at the cover page of the CBO study, there is a marvelous graphic of this income rise in vivid colors. What it shows is that all of the income rise for the poor took place in the Clinton Administration, reaching a peak of about $18,800 in the year 2000, falling precipitously between 2000-2003, and making no serious gain whatever between 2003-2007 where it has remained at $16,800.

    In other words the poor have lost about 10.8% of their average income during the Bush Administration! If you go to the tables of the CBO study you will also find that the average income levels of the top fifth during these glory years of 1991-2007 rose 53.2% with no serious drop over the same span that the poor lost fully 10% of their income.

    What of “the middle class”?. For clarity, we can look at the middle fifth, whose average income is about $57,200–four times more than the poor. Their income rose about 17.3% between 1991-2000, far less than one-half of the upper fifth income rise.

    These fine people have actually lost only 3.3% of their average income under George W. Bush and a Republican Congress.

    So I guess we’d have to say that, compared to the poor, the middle class is “doing very well indeed”.

    And you shouldn’t be shy about bringing the facts to light about it in order to refute that nasty socialist Hillary Clinton who is offering the bait of middle-class success in the free-market economy as a switch for “the socialist collective”.

    Just like her husband Bill did from 1991 to 2000.

  • http://hillaryneedsavacation.blogspot.com/ HNAV

    Have you ever wondered why the Clintons don’t share their own personal wealth with others?

    They are worth millions, and yet seem to have a very poor record in regard to charity.

    If Hillary actually had some ethics, she would act upon the ‘communist’ diatribe she peddles.

    No one is stopping Ms. Rodham, or Bill, from distributing half of their vast fortune today.

    But it seems Hillary Clinton just wants to ‘take things away’ from others.

    “Do as I say, not as I do”

  • Joseph

    Having put some real facts on the table [as unwelcome as that may be, since concrete facts are what keep us from realizing that we are "outisde of time"], not in the hope of stimulating discussion with those whose minds are made up without reference to concrete facts, but as a basis for comparison with my fellow commentors back here “inside of time”, it might be profitable to turn to the rugged individualists of Notre Dame making a difference in the world.

    “Respecting the principles of Catholic social teaching means that the lives of millions killed around the world by treatable diseases matter, just as the economic, social, and spiritual poverty that exists in our own neighborhoods deserves our attention…turning the page of the newspaper and failing to ask “why” would betray what this place, with its Catholic foundation, stands for.”

    Now I must confess that I see very little asking of “why” among Catholics, or anyone else in America, about the facts from the Congressional Budget Office that I have quoted above. Or even the very clear facts that our Notre Dame Valedictorian points at.

    I’m kind of a specialist in asking “why”, actually, though my own education came merely from hedge schoolmasters at questionable institutions such as Ohio State and the University of New Mexico. Asking why is really hard, because the thing you have to ask first is “What?” In other words, the thing you have to do first is establish the facts.

    Now our fine Valedictorian certainly has a respectable grasp of facts. No one who refers so knowingly to “millions killed around the world by treatable diseases” is so far outside of time as to lose grasp of the things that really matter inside it. And it is a good thing to point anyone, even Hillary Clinton, to someone with so firm a grasp of a set of principles as clear as “Catholic social teaching”, which has always had my respect, at least, for its capacity to face and handle facts.

    Curiously, what is absent from the quotable quotations from Hillary above are the actual facts of what she proposes to do. For example, one thing she proposed in that very speech was increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit which we give to the poor. Rather surprisingly, Mr. Haskins favors this, too.

    This is the sort of thing that asking “what?” leads you to really get your teeth into, and step beyond slogans such as “we’re all in this together” or even “socialism doesn’t work”.

    Why does Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, agree on a concrete domestic policy with the spokesperson from a famous Conservative Think Tank?

    You want me to answer the question? Good grief! Haven’t I done enough work already here?

  • http://www.15grant.com/mrsizer/blog/ mrsizer

    Joseph, what you said is so at odds with what I thought I knew that I went to the CBO report. You have serious chart comprehension problems.

    Figure 2 on page 3 shows REAL income CHANGES. Every quintile is above the zero line for the entire length of the chart – Clinton and Bush. That means every quintile made after-inflation gains in income. Some more than others, true (and it’s unclear what the methodology does for people who move between quintiles), but that’s what our society is like – and how many want it to be. You know, the point of this post: Socialism is bad; Inequality of results is OK; etc…

  • T.G. Scott

    Ah, Hillary! 1. Open mouth. 2. Insert foot. Nuff said. Now, about the whole panel: Edwards, Clinton and Obama. Could it be a sequel to “A Confederacy of Dunces”?

  • katherine

    Please. Mrs. Clinton makes some very appropriate and thoughtful remarks and you read it as a tirade for socialism. Sounds to me that she has some appreciation (more than the Anchoress does) of “Christian Democracy.”