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Written by Jim Jordal   
Friday, 05 December 2008

SHARING THE WEALTH

By Jim Jordal

"If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God."

Jubilee provision for treatment of the poor, Lev. 25:35-38, NRSV

The above passage clearly indicates God’s will concerning how His people should deal with debtors and poor people. It provides an antidote to the greed, selfishness, and ego-driven world of modern consumerism and the use of debt to virtually enslave much of the world’s population. The motivation for such altruism is that, since God delivered His people from abject slavery in Egypt, He now expects them to practice the same deliverance principles in the new land that they now possess. Could this principle of joyfully returning to others a small portion of God’s gifts be as relevant at this Thanksgiving Day as it was then?

One major charge hurled against president-elect Barack Obama during the recent campaign was that he favors spreading, or sharing the wealth of the U.S. This charge could be made because his program favors increasing taxes on incomes of over $250,000 per year, while incomes below that amount would generally receive tax reductions. I think most people consider this to be fair, but many of his more strident opponents went so far as to describe his tax policies as dangerously socialistic.

The top marginal income tax rate today is 35 percent (that’s the rate paid on an extra dollar of income by the top income bracket). When Ronald Reagan took office in early 1981 the top rate was 70 percent. When Bill Clinton left office it was 39.6 percent. So, over the past 28 years under mainly Republican administrations the top income tax rate has been cut in half. And it’s even worse if you consider that top hedge fund managers making several billion dollars per year have managed to slash the rate paid on much of their earnings to the 15 percent capital gains rate.

What has occurred over the past three decades has been a massive (and dangerous) transfer of wealth from the American middle class to the few percent at the top of the income pyramid. The practitioners of supply-side economics, also known as Reaganomics, told us that extra money given through tax cuts to the already-rich would filter down through the society, creating benefits for all, especially large numbers of new jobs paying living wages. Of course, if this were true, we should now be awash in a vast sea of new jobs coupled with prosperity; not slogging through bankruptcies, layoffs, foreclosures, declining living standards, and a looming deflationary spiral.

The extra income given to the top groups has created anything but prosperity. The trillions of dollars now possessed by this group have instead provoked worldwide economic instability as they flow by the stroke of a computer key in search of ever-increasing profits. They are now an engine of instability as evidenced by the speculation and wild price swings occurring in commodity and real estate markets as hedge funds attempt to protect their profits by dumping losing investments and cornering good ones.

So when Barack Obama speaks of spreading the wealth he’s not promoting socialism, but a return to something approaching normalcy and common sense in the matter of taxes, wealth sharing, and sound investing. His plan would return the top tax rate to what it was under Bill Clinton (39.6 percent), and would attempt to renew prosperity for the middle and working classes by selective tax cuts and the use of another economic stimulus to increase purchasing power. Doesn’t sound very socialistic, does it?

So why the furor? History shows that the favored classes will do virtually anything to protect their privileged position—purchase legislators, subvert democratic governments, steal elections, hire private armies, corrupt markets. But God challenges them with His opposing values of honesty in government and finance, transparency in policies and actions, equitable sharing of wealth (fairly, not equally) and justice for all. Our way has led to disaster. Perhaps it’s time to try God’s way and to support political ideas and actions moving in that direction.

 

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 05 December 2008 )