Wealth inequality is the biggest issue of our time. Immigration reform is coming one way or another. Healthcare has become too popular to completely dismantle. The real issue is that, by next year, the top 1% will possess more of the world’s wealth than the other 99% combined. Addressing carbon emissions and global warming, the ultimate issue, will rise and fall on how the American society chooses to handle the problem of the of wealth inequality.
In our society, the poorest Americans are already opting out of politics. 2010 midterm elections saw 69% of the most financially secure cast ballots, while a mere 30% of the least financially secure participated. Final numbers aren’t in from 2014, but preliminary numbers show that among likely voters, 63% voted, while among financially insecure only 20% participated in the electoral process (Pew Research Survey).
Apparently the rich could care less. According to the same polling data, a majority of rich people in our society agree with the statement: “Poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.” It’s an incredibly calloused statement. As a recent New York Times article chronicled, “Being poor is anything but easy.”
Wealth inequality threatens a free society. Nothing destabilizes government more effectively than wealth concentrating in the hands of a very few people.
President Obama’s plan to address the problem involves a change to the tax code. Much of what the president spoke about in last night’s SOTU speech is tied to a change in the tax code. From CBS News:
Many parts of the president’s 2015 agenda, such as providing two free years of community college and expanding access to child care, would be partially financed by closing tax loopholes. The president wants to end the practice of allowing wealthy Americans to pass on their appreciated assets to heirs tax-free, increase capital gains taxes on the top 1 percent of income earners, and impose a fee on financial firms bearing a heavy debt load. Republicans have criticized these as tax increases, and entirely different from their idea of reforming the tax code.
What does this mean? It means that addressing wealth inequality will not happen. Obamas speech is largely meaningless, because congress will never act on it. Congress is in bed with the billionaires. People like the Koch brothers can buy and sell elections and the are moving the global society closer and closer to oligarchy. They can wait the president out for much longer than two years.
The situation is so off base that it violates my Christian convictions. Anytime Israel organized their society in such a way that the poor struggled to make ends meet, God would move against them. You can’t read the prophets without this message coming through loud and clear.
Isaiah 10:1-4; “Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.”
Christians cannot defend the concentration of wealth in the hands of the top 1%. If we defend the rich as they build their bigger barns, we join ourselves to the group that God will ultimately oppose. Nothing is wrong with being wealthy. However, being wealthy and refusing to take care of the poor is a big problem. Gaining wealth by oppressing other people and ruining the planet shouldn’t be an option for the Christian. Nor should the Christian go along with it.