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THE CURSE OF ECONOMIC INEQUALITY PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Friday, 28 August 2009

THE CURSE OF ECONOMIC INEQUALITY

By Jim Jordal

Woe to you who put far off the day of doom,

Who cause the seat of violence to come near;

Who lie on beds of ivory,

Stretch out on your couches,

Eat lambs from the flock

And calves from the midst of the stall;

Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments,

And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David;

Who drink wine from bowls,

And anoint yourself with the best ointments,

But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Amos 6:3-6 (NKJV)

In the above Bible passage the prophet Amos spoke of what we might call the "Leisure Class" of his day. He describes their life as one of indolence and luxury, surrounded by furniture made of precious woods inlayed with ivory, consuming gourmet food and drink, anointing themselves with rare and precious ointments and seeking the newest and most decadent forms of entertainment.

But their chief sin was not luxurious indolence--it was that they were not grieved or troubled by the affliction or suffering of Joseph (the name Amos gives to his people because of their descent from the patriarch Joseph). Simply, they didn’t care about what happened to the remainder of their nation. Their concern was only for themselves. Maybe they deliberately and callously ignored the suffering of others, or perhaps they were good people just so caught up in their own pleasures that they did not perceive anything else. But whatever the cause, their sin was great enough for God to command Amos to pronounce His anger against them.

This same sort of economic and social inequality is a major cause of America’s present malaise. The gap between rich and poor in the U.S. has become so great that even economists (who usually measure such things but take no moral position because they believe the market will solve all problems) speak out against it. Some of them now recognize that such a gap poses great danger to economic stability, democratic ideals and the American dream.

Economic inequality takes the form of top hedge fund managers making 13,000 times what army generals do. Or the top one thousand people in the world who hold more wealth than the bottom 2.5 billion. Or the top 10 percent of people who hold 90 percent of the world’s wealth. Or corporate CEOs who only a generation ago made perhaps 20 to 40 times what their employees did and who now drag down thousands of times what their lowest-paid employees do.

I’m also speaking of the leveling-off of working class wages over the past generation and tax policies that have transferred trillions of dollars from poor to rich. It seems that political and economic power brokers fear inflation above all other economic troubles and so go to great lengths to prevent it. So when unions push wages higher they become frightened that the bugaboo of wage-price inflation will threaten corporate profits. So they and their cronies in government create union-busting laws and judicial decisions having the effect of pushing wages downward as compared to the cost of living. So the rich get richer and the poor poorer. This situation is perhaps the major reason why labor has failed over the past generation to reap its share of the benefits attributed to increased efficiency.

And I’m considering the fact that this cannot now be easily remedied because of the vast control exerted by forces of wealth and privilege over our legislative, judicial, and information-imparting processes. It wouldn’t be too difficult to review legislative acts, executive decrees and judicial decisions over the past generation and reach the conclusion that what we fear has already happened—the nation is now controlled by wealthy and powerful people and their corporate partners.

As Scripture proclaims: "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street; and equity cannot enter (Isa. 59:14, NKJV). Where in the news media or political posturing of our leaders do you hear real truth concerning economic and social conditions as well as their causes? Where in your average American church pew do you hear what is happening to our free democratic traditions based upon the Mosaic Code of the Bible and the values of the Founding Fathers? Instead, you mostly hear what I call the "feel good" gospel that transforms the living word of God from the parables of Christ and the justice-driven massages of the prophets into a God-loves-you-and-you-are-under-grace-and-that’s-all-that-matters cheap grace gruel.

It’s time for our leaders—political, economic, and especially religious to begin to get real—the people are struggling in every part of their lives, yet nobody in the bastions of Wall Street seems to care. Back in the time of Amos this inequality turned into national disaster. Will history repeat itself again here?