The other night I had a dream, and then another dream...
Dream/Nightmare # 1
Since I was watching CSPAN, I assumed the balding man at the microphone was a congressman. His name appeared at the bottom of the screen—Jim something-or-other. I didn't catch his state or whether there was a D or R after his name. But I was captivated by the uncommon candor of his speech:
My fellow Americans, we are breaking faith with our deepest American traditions when we show favoritism like this. Some Wall Street bankers come to us seeking help and we invite them into closed-door sessions, adding billions to our debt to help them. But single moms and elderly folks tell us of their plight and we send them away with even less than they came with, inferring that they're lazy and selfish.
This kind of preferential bias for the rich violates the very spirit of our democracy. Look, my colleagues: wasn't this nation built through the faith and sweat of tired and poor people, yearning to breathe free? And hasn't it been the rich and privileged who have amassed more power and more wealth than ever before—convincing everyone that what's best for the billionaires is best for America?
Why do we show a preferential option for the richest one percent of American households who own about thirty-five percent of the wealth, or the richest twenty percent who own eighty-five percent of the wealth? Why do you discriminate against the eighty percent of "normal" American households—the wage and salary workers—who together have access to only fifteen percent of the nation's wealth? What have they done to us to deserve such disdain from us? Why do they keep voting for us when we treat them like this?
We claim to be a democracy rooted in the Bible, but we are in truth a plutocracy rooted in economic ideology. How can we claim to be loving our neighbors as ourselves when we show favoritism to the rich? For all our talk of faith and family values, we are showing by our actions that we are hypocrites and frauds.
Then I woke up. I looked down on my lap and saw my Bible open to James 2. I read the words of James and realized that Jim in my C-Span dream had simply paraphrased the words of the ancient biblical writer. "Lord, have mercy," I prayed. Suddenly I was overcome by drowsiness and fell back asleep. Again I saw CSPAN flickering on a TV screen before me ...
Click here for background on the economic data presented in this dream. For more on the theological data, see James 2:1-26.
Jim was again standing at the microphone, addressing Congress:
Look, members of Congress, you who favor the rich minority and push ever-greater burdens onto the backs of the middle class and poor: you'd better go to your medicine cabinets because your blood pressure is about to rise into the danger zone. An economy built on favoritism for the rich elites is not sustainable. When it crashes, your investments will disappear and your hedge funds and offshore bank accounts will go from the black to the red. When the masses see the ways you've rigged the system and manipulated them through your corporate media and political machinery, they will no longer see you as their trickle-down benefactors. No, members of Congress and the elites you represent: the curtains will be pulled back and you will be exposed as the robber barons, exploiters, and plunderers you are.
You in the top twenty percent have amassed ninety-four percent of the new wealth created in the last thirty years. Before your congratulate yourselves, imagine how the other eighty-percent will respond when they realize they've only been able to tap into six percent of the pie. You hoard opportunity along with wealth, and the hourly workers whose sweat has made you rich are not going to put up with your rigged system forever.
And since you love to profess your belief in God, stop and think about this: how does God feel when the average CEO makes as much money in one day as his average employee makes in one year? Do you think God values you all that much more? Do you think God is happy about your luxury and self-indulgence? Who elicits more compassion from God - the poor senior citizen who dies because she can't afford health-care, or you as you suffer the discomfort of your most recent cosmetic surgery, so you appear less fat without changing your diet?