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DANGEROUSLY SKEWED U.S. WEALTH DISTRIBUTION PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 22 November 2006

DANGEROUSLY SKEWED U.S. WEALTH DISTRIBUTION

By Jim Jordal

 Woe to those who devise iniquity and work evil on their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away: And they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.

Micah 2:1-2 (ASV)

 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.

Psalm 41:1-3 (KJV)

So who cares if some Americans are richer than others? What else is new? Hasn't this been a fact of life throughout our history? Maybe they're luckier, or more diligent, or more intelligent, or perhaps they even cheat a bit? Who cares, so long as I get mine?

That's the view that seems to pervade our citizenry today. Everyone is out for himself, and cares little about anyone else. This value seems now to encompass every facet of American society--from sports to business to foreign affairs to our very family life.

Last week we discussed income disparity and some of its causes. This week we look, not at annual income, but at an allied phenomenon--total wealth accumulation. First let me say that a large annual income does not guarantee great total wealth, nor does great wealth guarantee a high income, although the figures do correlate to some extent. But high annual income can be used to create great wealth, and great wealth can be used to generate high annual income.

Speaking of total wealth, America's richest 10 percent own 71 percent of total wealth, while the remaining 90 percent own just 29 percent. Even more disconcerting is the fact that Americans in the bottom 10 percent own a piddling 1.3- percent of total wealth. And the disparity grows worse each year.

So, who cares? I care, and so should you if you value a decent life for yourself and your family, and if you treasure democratic representative government as your heritage. Because both these seemingly all-American institutions are threatened by the rise of an aristocratic elite able and willing to manipulate the strings of power to guarantee for themselves an ever-increasing share of the national economic pie.

Today, the issue seems polarized as congressional power-brokers and their special interest group supporters focus on getting as big a share of the growing economic pie as possible for the top few percent of Americans. It seems not to matter that these groups already own a greatly disproportionate share of American wealth. And it's not even secret any longer: The grab for wealth, power, and influence is now openly pursued by the party in power and by its influential backers.

No where was it more clearly demonstrated than by the recently-failed (but only temporarily) attempt to carry another blatant grab for wealth--estate tax cuts--on the back of a much needed boost in the federal minimum wage law. What this legislation would have done if passed was to raise the minimum wage from a measly $5.15 per hour to a still-too-low $7.25 per hour, over the next three years. In return for this sop to the poor, the power-elite would have raked in billions in estate tax cuts, which would of course impact American low- and middle-class and potentially add to the annual deficit and the exploding national debt.

One national advocacy group put it this way: "[U]nder the course that the Senate leadership is pursuing, as reflected in the House estate tax bill and Gregg bills that change federal budget rules, multi-million-dollar tax cuts for the estates of the wealthiest individuals in the nation would likely be financed by steep cuts in basic health, retirement, and other benefits for tens of millions of other Americans of more modest means" (from a paper by the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, quoted on the Coalition for Human Needs website).

So, what does God say? Are such attempts at wealth accumulation evil? If you take seriously what Scripture says, then you may understand that, while God is not against wealth as such, He certainly stands foursquare against using legal manipulation or oppression to gain or to keep wealth. Wealth gained from the suffering and degradation of others is wealth gained by evil means, and is deserving of Divine approbation and censure. So why not do as David suggests--consider the poor in order to receive the preservation, blessing, and even physical strengthening of God.