Saturday, November 29, 2008

LEAD, FOLLOW or GET OUT of the WAY

The above phrase is an angry mantra spoken by many a frustrated leader trying to confront real problems only to be waylaid by others who are dragging their feet. I have said it publically myself on many occassions. As I get older I save it for real emergencies--which I admit are relatively rare.
If I would list the public things I am most thankful for this year I would place the relative safety and security of living in an American suburb at the top of my list. The impoverished areas of American cities are becoming increasingly dangerous. If you are traveling in DC at night you better say your prayers and travel in a group before going out. Avoid Baltimore except Camden Yard. The terrorist attacks in India's financial district remind us of the dangers that lurk in most places around our globe.
The second thing I am thankful for is that there are only 52 more days of the Bush/Cheney regime. I find comparisons between Hoover, who handed over an economic catastrophe to FDR, and Bush, to be revealing. Both Hoover and Bush were so tied up in their ideological economic assumptions that they found themselves unable to act effectively when the house of cars starting to cascade down. They both seem to hold fast to the "Hoover doctrine" : "the economy is fundamentally sound and the market is always right." Bush and Hoover shared another disasterous distinction: they served when the inequality in wealth and income were at record levels. As Bill Moyers says in his new book :"Inequality is incompatible with democracy." Today the top 1% of Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 90%. This is a betrayal of our founding vision--the desire to leave the aristocratic lands of Europe and come to the democratic land of opportunity. Americans have until recently believed that wealth and power that is concentrated in a monied elite is an inherent evil. Thankfully we are starting to recover this founding conviction. A sign of how perverted the prevailing economic ideology of the GOP has become, Senator Obama's proposal to return us to the tax rates of the Clinton administration are labled "Socialism". Teddy Roosevelt--a man from one of the richest families in America, believed in progressive taxation (the stuff called socialism) and adamently opposed the huge concentration of wealth and power in a monied elite. Ironically we have experienced a record "transfer of wealth" in the last 8 years--from the middle to the very top 1%--actually the top 1/10th of 1% has been the greatest beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts.
Before last Wednesday's Thanksgiving Service at Temple Solel us clergy types were meeting to parcel out the assignments for the worship service. Since everyone arrived early the discussion turned to other topics. Rabbi Steve mentioned to our guest speaker, Dr.Crane, that he was enjoying a recent new translation of the Old Testament. Steve shared one well known changes from the prophet Jeremiah. The new translated had changed the old "Justice, justice my people" to "Equity, Equity." Crane agreed that equity (fairness in law and opprotunity for everyone) is the core of a society that is just. Most of a societies problems are the result of great disparity of wealth and the resulting privledge bestowed upon the wealthy.
It has not been lost on most Americans that the government has been quick to bail out the very wealthy captains of wall street and slow to respond to the devastation on main street. Few efforts have been made to stop people from losing their homes. I guess moral hazard only applies to people who bought homes in 2005 and 2006 with loans they couldn't afford and cannot sell in a down market. When Detroit comes looking for assistance to save the auto industry (and 4 million jobs) they are turned away. Yes, they didn't come with a working plan--but neither did wall street. Nor have the bankers started to loan the extra capital they were given. Detroits problems are not entirely self inflicted. They are victims of a health care funding crisis that has pushed most American manufacturing overseas. American medicine is number one in only one catagory: overall cost. We pay twice per capita of any other country and have poorer results to show for it in every catagory: most notabley life expectancy and infant mortality. Will ideology and the outdated term "socialism" once again get in the way of real reform?
The sad reality is that President Bush threw in the towel following the mid term elections in November 2006. Even before that our military leaders have complained that he is no longer as engaged as he was back in 2002-2005. Except for the "dead on arrival' attempt to privitaize social security, he has made no major policy initiatives since his first term. He has effectively blocked any effort Congress has made to initiate legislation. So Bush has not lead or followed, but stood in the way. I am thankful that Mr. Bush is helping with the government transistion..(something Hoover resisted to the bitter end). Bush does his ceremonial duties (like pardoning White House turkeys) while Mr. Obama assures the global markets that competence and non-ideological policy are on the way. Maybe Bush has learned to "get out of the way."
Jesus talked a great deal about money and fairness. His audience consisted mostly of poor people and minorities (including women and children). Jesus talked about the dangers of debt upon the poor. His model prayer, (The Lord's Prayer) asks God to "forgive us our debts" so we can forgive our debtors. I certainly welcome a serious Biblical discussion of economic issues of wealth and poverty and social justice. "Equity, equity" proclaims the prophet.

39 comments:

Steve Lapp said...

Oh my! The day before Inauguration and the hype is deeper than the ground cover in a Texas cattle pen.
At least it is positive hype, unlike the blaring Bush bashing that has become so popular. I guess we are just too timid here in our little country Lutheran church. Our pastor is one of the few Democrats among our congregation, and I cannot hear him saying such things as appear in this blog.
Maybe I am just getting old (59) , but I have tired of the blame game. In my 20's I was a Democrat, but dispised Johnson, and then Nixon even more. I still like Jimmy Carter, and would probably be one of the handful who would vote for him again. I always voted against Reagan in California, but have since become a firm Republican - and I never did hate the man. Clinton was always a joke to me, and I have never understood his popularity.
But now, on the eve of the Democrat's most auspicious day since John Kennedy's inauguration,
I am happy to forgive the past and pray for the future. The country has spoken and I support our President.
However, I do remember my history - and the greatest suffering in America since the Civil War occured during F.D.Roosevelt's extended term. Only the horrors of World War II overshadowed those of the Great Depression. I sincerely hope and pray that nothing remotely similar
will occur in the next four or eight years. Peace and prosperity is the desire of both Democrats and Republicans in this great country.
GOD HELP US! Amen.

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