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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 14 March 2013

REDISTRIBUTION FOR WHOM?

By Jim Jordal

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has now distanced himself from his rather unfortunate comments at a fund-raising event on the 47 percent of Americans that he said paid no taxes, had lost control of their lives, saw themselves as victims and were dependent upon government handouts. Granted that it was an off-the-cuff remark uttered in what was supposed to be a private fund raising gathering, it still was a direct assault on about half of the American people, including some of the Secret Service agents protecting the candidates or their relatives.

The issue of wealth distribution is a third-rail political topic because it brings into conflict two very dedicated and powerful groups: the one percent of Americans who hold about 40 percent of the nation’s assets, and the other 99 percent that struggle for what remains. Unfortunately, it’s the one percent that recognizes and uses their political and economic power to gain their goals while the remaining 99 percent complain, but fail to organize in any effective manner.

So the issue of wealth distribution now enters the political debate as party positions seem to solidify around this all-important issue. It’s important because it strikes at what we call democracy and the American way.

It brings into conflict two clearly different views of what the role of government should be. The conservative view is generally that government should play a minimum role limited mainly to promoting national defense and providing a very limited safety net for people overtaken by catastrophic illness or other unplanned and unaccountable misfortune. It loudly and firmly asserts, as Romney’s comments indicated, that the poorest Americans are mostly to blame for their plight and that they had best get off their lazy behinds and take responsibility for their lives.

The liberal view tends toward identifying society and its flaws as the major cause for most human suffering and thereby advocates corrections in legal, economic, and governmental process as the cure. Government is viewed, not as the enemy, but as the only viable source for the funds and policies necessary to create a better society. Government therefore tends to get bigger as human problems increase due to an evolving technologically oriented society. In such as a society fewer and fewer people can make it financially because of educational lacks and personal abilities. Therefore government must do more if we are to remain a compassionate and viable democratic society.

The redistribution of wealth occurring over the past generation has been almost entirely upward. The figures grow dismally worse every year as the vaunted engine of wealth creation has jumped the tracks for the middle class and has never even been on the tracks for the poor. Originally, economists thought of wealth creation as being connected to efficiency, or the continued production of more goods with less effort. That is where automation and robots come in; they boost output with less input. We used to think that labor deserved a fair share of these economic gains; but no more because the owners of capital have absconded with the vast majority of whatever gains were available. They did this with governmental cooperation courtesy of compliant, business-oriented legislative bodies controlled by special interest group campaign contributions.

Unfortunately, neither side is correct because their identification of problems and projected policies are created and operate totally within the "box" of existing political and economic ideas. No one thinks outside the box as to what might be available should we stretch our limited perceptions a bit. That’s where God comes in.

Were we simply to practice the second greatest commandment that we should love our neighbors as ourselves we would be headed toward a solution to our biggest economic, political and social problems. To do this, however, we would have to get outside the box of greedy self-interested thinking and the prevailing view that this character flaw is what drives capitalism. Yes, capitalism is a growth engine of unprecedented proportions. However, it is also the engine of massive human suffering as wealth flows in ever-larger amounts to the owners of capital. But God has an answer, even if we don’t.

The Millennial Kingdom of God on Earth will use the Jubilee principles of the Old Testament as its basis of operation. These principles include an equitable (not equal) distribution of wealth as one avenue of economic and political deliverance. Should someone in leadership today attempt to apply this principle in even a small way, great progress could be made toward gaining the form of government envisioned by most Americans. Think about it!