Century Marks

Century Marks

No exit

The popular uprisings that deposed autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt were initiated by people whose lives were so desperate that they felt they had nothing to lose. Before the revolts, many in North Africa thought their only hope was to immigrate to Europe. In 2007 a cobbler in Tunisia said to David Cook, a scholar from Rice University: "Do you think that any of us would be here if we could move to France? Everyone would be gone in a week if they would let us in!" (Hedgehog Review, Fall).

Tax free

A comprehensive study of the 280 most profitable Fortune 500 companies shows that 78 of them paid no income tax in one out of the past three years and 30 of them had a negative income tax rate during that three-year period. In the 1950s a quarter of federal outlays were paid by corporate taxes; in fiscal year 2010 corporate taxes paid only 6 percent of federal government expenses. The report, done by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, notes: "Most Americans can rightfully complain, 'I pay more federal income taxes than General Electric, Boeing, DuPont, Wells Fargo, Verizon, etc., etc., all put together'" (Salon, November 3).

Church too big to fail?

Megachurches in South Korea have become big business. The Yoido Full Gospel Church is the largest congregation in the world with over a million members. Cho Yong-gi, its founder and leader since 1958, has family enterprises that include newspapers and private universities. In late September an investigation was launched into Cho's finances on the basis of allegations from 29 church elders that he embezzled $20 million of church funds. A TV documentary claims that the money was used to buy real estate in the U.S. Cho also made a controversial statement following the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami, saying it was God's warning to a country known for "idol worship, atheism and materialism" (Economist, October 15).

Back of the bus

When Melissa Franchy sat at the front of bus B110 in Brooklyn, she was told by a Hasidic Jewish man that she needed to move to the back. When she asked why, he said that this was a private Jewish bus and that it was decreed by God that men and women should be separate. The bus, which runs between Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, is operated for the city by a private company. The city has said that the practice of gender segregation is against New York civil rights laws and has asked the private bus company for an explanation (NPR.org).

The Wounded Right

Jon Meacham says the religious right has attacked Mitt Romney's Mormonism because it has already lost some culture war arguments, such as prayer in school and abortion, and is likely to lose the battle over gay marriage. "A wounded foe is always more dangerous than a healthy one," he says. Meacham believes that "American believers may have to step up" to oppose religious tests for office in order "to save religion from the religious." The separation of church and state protects the church from the corruption of the state as much or more than it protects the state from the church's influence (Time, October 24).