It's not the ceiling

July 29, 2011

It's not about the debt ceiling, right? I mean, we're talking about the debt ceiling, but it's not about the debt ceiling.

The issue beneath the issue is the proper relationship between government and wealth.

Conservatives are trying like hell to pry the government's hands off of people's money. After all, it's their money, right? To prove this point, some members of congress are willing to obstruct the whole machinery of government. That's powerful conviction.

But something has been smelling foul to me. Listen, I'm no huge fan of government programs (my experience with them as a nonprofit professional receiving government grants and as a parent of a child who receives public benefits has been that they are bloated and badly run). I also resonate with the general frustration that the way our government makes and spends its money is bloated and irresponsible.

But the "fix" here is not to starve the government. The way to address the problems with government money is to make the process of making money (taxation) more transparent, simpler, and more moral. Same with the process of spending the money: more transparent, simpler, and more moral.

Sounds idealistic and naive. But is it? Listen to David Cay Johnston, a journalist I have long admired for his work exposing the many ways that our government's methods of making and spending money have been corrupted.

In this interview on WNYC's Brian Lehrer, it was refreshing to hear someone speak about economics with clarity, common sense, and moral force. When's the last time you heard someone passionately defend the importance of "marginal utility," or make the case that all wealth grows from the foundation of "common wealth?"

I admit that what really struck me, apart from Johnston, was the first caller, Suzanne. She says (and I'm paraphrasing a bit), "I think we need a single progressive income tax..., capital gains should be taxed at the same level as the money you work for, now that the Supreme Court thinks that corporations are persons with equal free speech rights, they should be taxed at the same rate as persons, all political contributions from any non-constituent should be barred...."

Isn't she right? Aren't those the simple, moral "fixes" we need? Clear, fair taxation. An end to bizarre and wasteful business subsidies and tax loopholes. And above all, an election system that mitigates the influence of money in politics and puts power to make decisions in the hands of average citizens?

Our nation's big problems are financial. We are diseased financially. The debt ceiling is not the problem--fighting over it will not bring us closer to health. Not nearly.

Originally posted at A Minister's Life


Money: today's crisis in religion

The problem with the unresolvable political deadlock around the debt ceiling and taxes, is that it has become a religious issue. The Dollar has become a religious figure, it is the rise of an old idolatry, the worship of Mammon. Those who are most determined to hold on to their Almighty Dollar are also most eager to announce how religious they are.
In a sense, it is a new example of how the Chosen People have been brought out of slavery: to celebrate a golden calf and repudiate the announcement of Law that would restrain sin.
In the seeing of those politicians who have taken an oath to protect and preserve the Nation, and finding they are bound by a superior oath not to enact any more taxation, it is as Jesus observed: some persons feel they do not have to honor an oath taken on the altar of the temple, it is only when the oath is taken on the gold of the altar that it become binding! An oath taken to the person who provided winning campaign funds has become more superior than the oath taken when taking office.
Bob Collie

relationship of wealth and government

We have had another aspect of the issue in Indiana this week. At the State Fair an outdoor stage collapsed during a wind story, killing 5 people. On a front page article today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette an article was on causes.
There had been no safety regulations, no inspections. All state personnel disclaimed responsibility, claiming they had no authority to regulate safety factors concerning the buildings and structures put in on the state fair grounds.
Two things are clear:
the ideal of no government interfering with private enterprise was fully observed;
there were no tax dollars spent on the safety of anyone in regard to those buildings put up to make a quick buck during the short state fair.
Citizens needlessly died.
Bob Collie

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