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HOW MUCH IS A FAIR SHARE OF THE NATION'S WEALTH? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Friday, 30 November 2007

HOW MUCH IS A FAIR SHARE OF THE NATION'S WEALTH?

By Jim Jordal

 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming on you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be for a testimony against you, and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up your treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of those who reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Armies. You have lived delicately on the earth, and taken your pleasure…

James 5:1-5b (WEB)

"The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits; the preservation of the environment over uncontrolled industrial expansion; production to meet social needs over production for military purposes."

Pope John Paul II, as quoted in Faith and Fortune, by Marc Gunther, p.126.

Although you may heartily agree with the above statements concerning economic justice and wealth distribution, and agree that all Americans should share in the nation's wealth through some form of Guaranteed Minimum Income or national dividend, you may still have questions about just what is a fair share of this wealth. Today we attempt to determine some factors or principles that may contribute to a determination of what is fair.

First, some recent facts from the web site Too Much:

  • The top 300,000 Americans have more income than the bottom 150 million
  • A parking problem exists at the exclusive Nantucket Island (MA) airport because 250 corporate jets arrive each weekend carrying their billionaire owners to a few days of respite from the rigors of "earning" hundreds of millions annually.
  • According to Moody's Investment Service, a company that rates the credit worthiness of some 12,000 corporate entities, the recent boom in private equity fund takeovers of "underperforming" firms has a dark side. These private raiders borrow up to 90 percent of the funds needed to purchase their acquisitions. They then load this debt onto the acquired firms, which then must attempt to service the debt by improving their financial performance so that they can again be sold to the public. And how do these debt-ridden firms generate the necessary cash flow? The Moody's report does not say, but the New York Times and several worker advocacy groups explain that around Times Square are perhaps 50 companies controlled by private equity groups, most of them paying workers barely a minimum wage and offering no pensions or health care and few other benefits. For orchestrating these "beneficial" acts, executives in some private equity funds reap rewards totaling hundreds of millions, even billions per year.
  • The salaried earnings of such titans are taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent, courtesy of a compliant congress. The people who clean their toilets pay a rate as high as 35 percent.
  • Income distribution expert Edward Wolff of New York University stated in a new book that between 1984 and 2004 the inflation-adjusted net worth of the top 1 percent of Americans increased by 78 percent. During the same period the bottom 40 percent of U.S. families suffered a decrease of 59 percent in household net worth.

Read enough to become angry? I hope so. Some people erroneously think Christians should never be angry, but they ignore the reality of the prophet Amos thundering against economic injustice; the Psalmist asking God for vengeance upon his enemies; and the anger of Christ overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple. There is a definite place today for righteous anger as the excesses, perversions and injustices of our economic system become more evident.

Here are some principles relating to the question of what constitutes a fair share of the economic pie for each American:

  • Adults working at any legal, full-time job should earn enough to rise out of poverty.
  • Natural resources are gifts of God and exist for the benefit of all citizens, not just for owners.
  • Medical advances are also gifts of God, and should be available to all citizens.
  • Even animals and birds have homes; so should all people.
  • People should be able to rise as far as their abilities will take them.
  • Creditors should not push debtors further into poverty.
  • Wealthy persons should consider that God gives them power to get wealth, and should not insist on outrageously inequitable rewards for their efforts. If individual morality fails to ensure equitable distribution, then government can do this through taxation.

So hopefully you get the idea that what passes for economic justice in this world is dreadfully out of touch with what God says concerning this subject. More next week.

Last Updated ( Friday, 30 November 2007 )