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ABSOLUTIZING WEALTH PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Sunday, 01 July 2012

ABSOLUTIZING WEALTH

By Jim Jordal

"I denounce especially the absolutizing of wealth. This is the great evil in El Salvador; wealth, private property, as an untouchable absolute. Woe to the one who touches that high tension wire. It burns."

Archbishop Oscar Romero, protesting the Salvadoran oligarchy

The Russian Czars did it. So did the monarchy before the French Revolution. So did the English mercantilists in their oppression of the American colonies. So did the land barons in El Salvador. So have most domination systems wherever they exist and whatever their source. And so do the world’s wealthy, powerful elite in their modern domination system today.

I’m referring to the absolutization of wealth, or the idea that wealth once gotten (whether legitimately or not) belongs entirely and forever to the possessors. In the modern world this belief, popularized by the writings of English philosopher John Locke, takes the form of absolute rights to private property unrestricted by government regulation, conservation ethics, decent wages, and just plain common sense.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvadore was killed in his own church in 1980 while offering the sacraments. His murderers were the Salvadoran National Police under instigation by large, wealthy land barons. The 14 families who held 60 percent of the land in El Salvador felt threatened by the stirrings of awakening within a small number of priests, lay workers, and peasants. What was being born was liberation theology with its core belief that God has a "preferential option for the poor" and that Jesus’ earthly mission was to deliver the poor and suffering from oppression.

The domination system in El Salvador unleashed a reign of terror during the 1980s and early 90s in support of the land barons and against the peasant populace. It is to America’s eternal discredit that we supported these dictators and even trained their cruel security forces at the then-named School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Today in the U.S. the struggle by the dominators to maintain their wealth and privileges is being fought with money and ballots rather than bullets, but the struggle is still desperate and dangerous. The scions of privilege seem willing to sell out the poor and the remainder of the 99 percent in their obsession with preserving their wealth and holding the line on tax increases for themselves, no matter how small or what the justification. This view makes little sense economically and no sense morally, but still manages to maintain currency with large numbers of people, including those who are oppressed but ignorant of the fact.

The dominant issue of the presidential campaign today appears to be the economy. As one wag said, "It’s the economy, stupid!" But the economy is perceived by many power brokers to be separate from the people. That’s how the economy can seemingly recover while working class people still languish in unemployment, low wages, foreclosure, and desperation. Just because sectors of the economy recover from recession does not mean that every American also does. Right now the "recovery" is slow, spotty, specialized; and relegated to certain geographical areas like North Dakota, certain groups of workers like those in medical fields, information technology, and some fields of engineering.

The recovery, whatever there is, has virtually bypassed recent college graduates in most fields, industrial workers, young people, minorities, returned veterans, and the poor in general. One major reason for this troubling situation is a lack of purchasing power concentrated in these groups. Most economists think that consumer demand drives the economy. If this is true, then the way out of recession is for government to create purchasing power when private initiative is either unable or unwilling to do so. But the continuing absolutization of wealth coupled with the crazy belief that somehow wealth amassed by the top 1 percent will "trickle down" to the remainder of society prevents this.

How? It’s well known that U.S. corporations are sitting on a stash of about $2 trillion, while banks are hoarding trillions more to fatten their reserves in case of further problems. This money is not available for job creation and in fact is a serious drag on economic development and creation of consumer demand. What drives this? The absolutization of wealth and the fear that somehow they may need the funds at a later date. The overall effect is disastrous to job creation, however.

As this struggle plays out, what can you do? Stand up for justice and the rights of the oppressed. Advocate for living wages, decent housing, meaningful employment, and continued government regulation of the banking industry, which does not seem able to regulate itself. And know the eternal truth: This too, shall pass.