The Cause and Impact of Poverty In America
IntroductionMany Americans have been led to believe that poverty is a natural, inevitable condition brought on by the poor themselves. And that belief is part of the "Gospel of Prosperity" which was been sold as being a "patriotic and religious" political platform, as if it was justified by America's Founders and by Jesus of Nazareth.
The truth, however, is that such self-serving right-wing ideology actually betrays the intent of America's Founders, just as it betrays the intent of Jesus.
The Preamble and Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution state that the government shall promote and provide for the general welfare of the people, and key Founders wrote extensively about that.
For example, Thomas Jefferson was adamant about it, and even his one-time political foe John Adams agreed with Jefferson about it, as Adams' own words make clear:
"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.” -- John Adams
Furthermore, all religions teach that we should care for the poor, and treat even the least of our brethren as we ourselves would want to be treated if we were in their circumstances. Even the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity make it very clear, and here are just a few of hundreds of passages that speak to that (and others can be found in the sidebar).
“The righteous consider the cause of the poor, but the wicked care not to know it.” – Proverbs 29:7
“Is it not your duty to break the bonds of wickedness, to set free the oppressed, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the poor into your house? – Isaiah 58:6-7
“If a brother or sister is naked and hungry, and one of you who are warmed and filled says to them, ‘Depart’ and do not give them those things which the body needs; what does it profit you? Therefore, faith without works is dead, being alone. Yes, a man may say, you have faith, and I have works, but show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” -- James 2:14-18
Now, predictably, the most sane of the wealthiest few Multi-Billionaires in America have realized that they cannot deny the facts any more. They realize they have to sweep the facts aside and try to control the narrative, and they realize the need for a public relations campaign to swing public opinion back to their side.
They realize that the rich have been given a bad name by the most greedy of the Multi-Billionaires --- such as the right-wing extremist Libertarian Republican Tea Party founders David and Charles Koch, along with the super-rich top executives at large banks, hedge funds, financial institutions and corporations. That is why Multi-Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet started a "Good Billionaires' Club" and are doing their best to make a show of being “philanthropic.”
Now granted, real philanthropy and charity should be appreciated, in whatever form, and Buffet should be given credit for admitting that he should not be allowed to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. However, no one should be misled by a show of generosity by those who have gained so much more than they could possibly need, and they don't realize the error of their ways.
Everyone should understand that they are trying to ease their conscience while in effect trying to protect the status quo and the unfair economic policies that enabled them to get so incredibly rich.
Even the commercial media is misled. For example, in July 2014 the CBS Sixty Minutes program aired a segment about the “philanthropy” of American Billionaires. It was about a so-called “Golden Age of Philanthropy” and a “Giving Pledge” started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. And the lead-in to the story stated that “since government can no longer deal with the nation’s problems, these Billionaires are uniquely qualified to step in and solve the huge problems.”
That is extremely ironic, because the truth is that government cannot deal with the nation’s problems because the wealthiest few and their corporations have been allowed to pay far less than their fair share of taxes.
The historic record is very clear. In 1971, to combat the influence the American “New Left” had gained in the 1960s, corporate CEOs established the “Business Roundtable” which became a powerful lobby for American corporations. Between 1971 and 1981 the number of companies and corporations with lobbying offices in Washington, D.C went up from 175 to 2,445. And when Ronald Reagan became president, the trend of corporations buying influence and power in Washington, D.C., escalated tremendously.
In 1981 President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts lowered the top personal tax rate for the richest few from 70 to 28 percent. But that was just for starters. Reagan also cut capital gains and corporate tax rates, and he provided many tax loopholes and shelters so that the rich could avoid paying "too much" taxes.
When Reaganism and Reaganomics really kicked in, the Reaganite war on organized labor and collective bargaining heated up and the advantage was given to employers to the detriment of workers. Workers found their benefits and retirement steadily diminishing and in some cases vanishing. (In fact, employee share of retirement costs went from 11 percent in 1980 to 51 percent in 2006 as President Bush perpetuated and expanded Reaganism. And Democrats have done little to correct the situation.)
Since 1982 tax cuts for the rich have added a Trillion dollars per decade to the incomes of the wealthiest few. And the fact is that people who are incredibly wealthy today have gotten wealthy by taking advantage of a political economic system that has entitled the wealthy and enabled most of the nation’s wealth to “trickle up,” out of the pockets of the vast majority and into the hands of Multi-Millionaires, Billionaires and Multi-Billionaires.
That is why there are now more than 460 Billionaires in America and most of the nation’s wealth is held by the wealthiest few, while before Reaganism took hold in the early 1980s there were only 13 Billionaires in America. And it’s no coincidence that as the rich have gotten incredibly richer, every one else has gotten poorer, because Reaganism has been perpetuated and even expanded by Republicans and Democrats alike.
The impact of Reaganism is also revealed by the fact that by 2012 for every dollar earned by the average worker, CEOs got $354, whereas back in 1965 for every dollar earned by the average worker, corporate CEOs got only $20. That is one of many facts that reveal just how unfair the growing income disparity really is, and why the rich keep getting richer while everyone else continues to become financially worse off.
BUT, that's not the most shameful thing about all this.
The most shameful thing is how some rich people blame the poor people and the victims of poverty.
Today very preposterous assumptions regarding the poor are rampant, especially in America. But the poor are not merely being criticized by the rich. During the last 34 years the poor have increasingly been falsely accused and labeled, and even demonized and criminalized by wealthy people.
It's even gotten to the point where scientific studies of social class based on annual incomes and education-levels have found that wealthy people ranked their social class according to the following erroneous beliefs:
The erroneous beliefs held by most rich people:
1) Social class ranking is meritorious and determined by a just and fair society and world;
2) A "deserving wealthy aristocracy" should naturally govern; and
3) Poor lower-classes claim society is not fair just so they can blame someone else for their problems.
Such preposterous claims would sound crazy to the 79 percent of American children who live in poverty-stricken households where at least one adult is working full time!
But such preposterous claims are made by many rich people who believe in misguided Reaganite thinking. And the fact is that, because they cling to such misguided and self-serving beliefs to justify themselves, the accusers and critics of the poor -- which include right-wing Republican and Libertarian "think tanks" and political action groups like The Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the "Americans for Prosperity Foundation" and so many others -- simply blame the victims of poverty.
They even claim that the poor in America aren't really very poor and don't know how good they have it. And the consequence of this propaganda is that now about half the American people think poverty is a natural, inevitable condition brought on by the poor themselves!
Sure, there are some lazy poor people. But among the poor and working poor population, the number that are lazy are few. There are over 100 million poor Americans (and their numbers are increasing), and it should be said again that in about 97 percent of poverty stricken households there is at least one adult working full time.
So clearly the problem is not "laziness," as Ronald Reagan claimed. The real problem is insufficient meager wages, and not enough jobs because corporations and industries are allowed by Reaganism to "outsource" and give American jobs away to people in foreign countries where labor is cheaper.
Furthermore, while right-wing politicians claim that the working poor simply need to work harder to improve their education and skills, that is now very difficult to do, and even if they could, someone would have to do the jobs they are doing now!
Therefore, the problem is clearly an unjust, inequitable political economic system that entitles the rich at the expense of everyone else, and especially at the expense of the working poor.
That's why America has one of the highest rates of child poverty among all industrialized nations. That's a huge problem that has gotten increasingly worse since 1981, and it got much worse in 1996 when a Reaganite Congress passed the ostensible "Welfare Reform" legislation (and President Clinton mistakenly signed it out of political expediency). And the problem has gotten much worse since unbridled greed and corruption caused the economic crash of 2008.
The latest UNICEF report on child poverty showed that 23.1 percent of American children live in poverty, giving the United States the second highest rate of child poverty out of 35 developed countries. Only Romania ranked higher in child poverty. And, in recent years, 20.5 million Americans have been living on less than half of the federal poverty level.
Even though under Reaganism the assumption is that poverty is a natural and inevitable condition caused by the poor themselves, the cause of growing poverty in America is actually insufficient and inadequate wages doled out to the working poor. Moreover, it is caused by a general failure of government to regulate commerce, promote the general welfare and care for and help the disadvantaged, the elderly, and the disabled.
In other words, America is not what its Founders intended, because the U.S. Government does not promote the general welfare, and it does not ensure domestic tranquility by establishing fairness, equity, and justice for all the people.
How did this happen?
How do the richest few who caused the problem keep getting richer and richer while the middle class shrinks, the working poor population grows, and everyone else keeps being knocked down further and further and becoming more and more worse off financially?
It's because greedy, selfish people have been very cunning, and most other people are very gullible and easily fooled. For example, because Reaganism was deceptively sold as if it were a "patriotic and religious" ideology, most Americans bought it, and many still believe in it. Consequently, when Americans have learned certain facts about poverty, most don't want to face it. Instead, they look the other way and justify themselves with the idea that "you will always have the poor with you."
That rationalization is very convenient, of course, but when Jesus of Nazareth said that he was talking about the reality then and during the passing age. He knew it will change when prophecy if fulfilled, when the poorest among humanity will at least not suffer from poverty, hunger, or homelessness.
Jesus also taught about how we should treat the poor. He rebuked the rich. He rebuked the greedy money lenders and profiteers. And he rebuked people who honor rich men dressed in fine clothes while despising poor men who are poorly dressed. And all the biblical evidence quoted in the sidebar confirms the Universal Divine Imperative to care for the poor.
Unfortunately, the Republican “religious right” and other Christian Dominionists simply ignore all the scriptures that don’t suit their purposes. For example, they simply ignore Exodus 22:25-26, which essentially says that if you lend money to people who are poor and needy, do not treat it as a profit-making deal but instead charge no interest to the poor.
That makes sense, because it is fair and reasonable that poor people and the working poor with low incomes should be able to borrow with little or no interest charged. And that is consistent with what Jesus of Nazareth taught, being an advocate for the poor and a harsh critic of profiteering money lenders.
You don't hear any Republican or Libertarian or Tea Party member or leader of the "Christian Right" saying anything like that, because they are bible thumping hypocrites.
In spite of all the evidence that proves them wrong, they simply ignore what the Bible says about how we should treat the poor, and they instead swallow the misleading right-wing claim that poverty is an inevitable, natural condition brought on by the poor themselves. And they swallow that claim because it was made by Ronald Reagan.
Whether they are actually religious or not, they cling to the idea that "God helps those who help themselves," because that idea is deeply ingrained in the American culture. However, even though there is an element of truth in that idea, it has been distorted into a self-serving ideology that is very convenient for those on the partisan political right. They use it to justify themselves and rationalize that we all get what we deserve -- that our lot and status are the consequences of our actions and behaviors -- that we all reap what we sow.
That is very convenient because there is truth in that as well, at least in a just, equitable, fair society. However, it has proven to be not true in this unjust, inequitable, unfair society, because it is rigged to favor and entitle the wealthiest few, to the detriment of the majority.
After all, wealth has actually "trickled up" during the last 32 years to the point where now the wealthiest few hold 95 percent of the nation's wealth, while 80 percent of us are expected to get by on the remaining five percent. And it's getting worse in that regard.
Furthermore, it is not true that we reap what we sow given the present political economic system that rules our society. The people who are the innocent victims of inequitable, unjust political economic systems, or crimes, fraud, disasters, catastrophic events and misfortune, do not deserve what they are forced to suffer.
That fact escapes many self-serving rich people who serve "Mammon" and yet claim to serve God, unaware that their religion has been distorted to suit the purposes of the rich.
See, the right wing Reaganite "Gospel of Prosperity" actually turned Christianity up-side-down since Reaganism took hold in 1982, because it was closely aligned with Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's so-called "Moral Majority," and since then Reaganites have believed that you are on your own, that it's every one for their self, and that you get what you deserve.
All the other right-wing televangelists since then have been preaching the same thing, serving to justify the right-wing politicians. And what's worse, they act as if government's role is not to promote the general welfare to ensure domestic tranquility, even though the Founding Fathers said it is!
That is why especially during the last 32 years we have increasingly seen politicians ignoring the plight of the working poor, the poor, the disabled and the elderly, preferring to declare people should be self-reliant while at the same time providing the wealthiest few with so much entitlement and privileges that critics have called it "welfare for the rich." And politicians who cater to the rich claim that it is the patriotic and Christian thing to do.
The truth, however, is that their claims are contrary to and in violation not only of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and all the other great spiritual teachers. They are also contrary to and in violation of the intent of most of America's Founders!
You've seen John Adams quoted above, and there are countless other examples. Indeed, in a letter to James Madison in 1785, Thomas Jefferson even suggested that taxes could be used to reduce "the enormous inequality" between rich and poor. He wrote that one way of "silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise." And Madison then said using laws to "reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity (referring to the middle) and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort."
The writings of the Founders make their intent very clear, and they expose and refute the claims made by Reaganites, Libertarians, Republicans and "Tea Party" politicians who cling to and push their self-serving beliefs, using heartless and hypocritical rationalizations to justify and validate themselves.
One of their latest dirty tricks is waging war on the homeless and complaining about them for "aesthetic" reasons. In many cities they've even made it illegal to feed the homeless. That has made the banishment and even criminalization of the homeless even worse than it has been since Reaganism began infecting and corrupting America. And rather than helping progressives try to address the causes and the cure for homelessness, right-wing bigots again blame the victims.
Of course, we can admit the fact that there are some lazy bums, just as there are some people rich people who are certainly deserving of their wealth. That must be said. However, many wealthy people became wealthy by hook and by crook and by taking advantage of laws and policies that are unjust and rigged to favor and entitle the wealthy. And it is perhaps not surprising that they are among the most malicious critics of the poor. And even though heartless critics have the nerve to wave the flag and thump their bible as they claim righteousness, it is clear that they have no empathy, no compassion, and no conscience.
That's why we should heed the words of the most democratic Founder, Thomas Jefferson, who wanted all the people to have equal opportunity to prosper, succeed and live up to their full potential. He wanted all the people to be educated in a quality public school system and be able to go on to a quality public higher education system that would provide equal opportunity to ALL the people, regardless of their family's financial status.
That is the Real American Dream. But America has been sold a phony one instead!
Consequently, America and the world are corrupted by money. We have been and are living under Plutocracy and the rule of money --- and corruption and malfeasance in the offices of the public and private sectors is rampant because of the lust and love of money, which has been called "the root of all evil" for good reason, because it breeds selfishness and self-interest at the expense of others.
That is the situation we find ourselves in now in America, where all three branches of the U.S. Government are now ruled by and for the benefit of the wealthiest few, in spite of the fact that we should be governed by the common sense of promoting the general welfare and using the common wealth for the common good.
Why Have So Many Americans Been So Easily Duped?
All Americans need to understand how and why so many of their fellow Americans have been duped and fooled, and how and why the "Religious Right" in America was able to turn Christianity upside down by taking isolated sentences from the Bible to "prove" their right-wing political ideology was Christian.
For example, Luke 19:26 states: "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from those that have not, even what they have will be taken away."
The Reaganite "Religious Right" and Christian Dominionists focus on that (and a similar sentence in Matthew) because they think that justifies them. But it actually does not.
The statement is part of a parable Jesus told, and in the parable the person making that statement was not Jesus. The person making that statement was a very corrupt rich man who had just been made a king by those in power, and he was hated by his subjects. But the parable has been misinterpreted by those who think the statement about the “haves and have nots” is “gospel truth” told by Jesus, even though in the parable the statement is really the self-serving rationalization of a corrupt rich man.
People who think it is “gospel truth” simply ignore everything else Jesus said about the rich and poor, which qualified his teachings.
For example, Jesus said that it is wrong to reap what you did not sow, or profit unjustly because you were tempted by greed and lust for money. Moreover, he said that you should do unto others as you would have others do unto you, and treat all others as you would want to be treated if you were them -- and be fair, just, kind, charitable, and generous.
That becomes even more clear when we consider the broader context of Jesus’ teachings and understand why Jesus rebuked the money “changers” or money lenders, why he preached against profiteering and unjust financial gain, and why he said it would be easier for a greedy and selfish rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than to enter heaven.
After all, while there is nothing wrong with money, nothing wrong with wealth, and nothing wrong with banks or taxes, there is something very wrong about greed, unjust profiteering, and selfishness.
That's why it is crucial that everyone understands the core universal teachings of enlightened ones like Jesus. But it is also important to understand prophecies, because the amazing thing is that Jesus knew many people would now claim to love him but would not understand his core universal teachings.
That's why Jesus is quoted as saying: "For Isaiah said, 'You hear but do not understand; and see but do not perceive.' For these people's heart have grown gross, and their ears are dull, and their eyes do not see." And he said that they should "understand with their heart," rather than with their egocentric self-interest.
Both Isaiah and Jesus actually and literally advocated for those who were financially poor, and they criticized the rich. Jesus even rebuked the money lenders and merchants who were profiting unjustly and had turned the temple into a "den of thieves." And Jesus said that during the age he ushered in, and especially now at its end, a corrupt, wealthy, powerful few would corrupt society (as Reaganism and Thatcherism have amply demonstrated). They serve not God, but Mammon, worshiping wealth and material possession. And they take more and more so that the majority and the poor have less and less.
The problem, of course, is the attitude of those who think their wealth or religion or race makes them superior, and that is partly the result of a human ego's tendency to judge others as inferior. However, it is mostly the result of carefully crafted political propaganda cloaked as religious truths. And it was not created by accident, or by coincidence. It was created and spread deliberately.
That was because Ronald Reagan led many Americans to believe in the superiority of the rich and the inferiority of the poor. (And for historic, factual evidence of that, read Ronald Reagan's Real Legacy and Record.)
The fact, contrary to what Reaganism claims, is that many people throughout history who were poor financially were rich in spirit and were very superior and highly talented and skilled in various endeavors. Many of them died financially poor but their good works lived on to benefit the world. And many of them did receive financial reward, not because they sought it as their goal, but because it was a natural result of their beneficial good works.
Reaganism claims otherwise, which is why are there so many poor people suffering in poverty who are unable to work because they are elderly or disabled, or unemployed through no fault of their own, and why are most poor people in the working poor population working full time for a living but not paid a fair living wage.
Indeed, the records showing American incomes and wealth inequality show a major shift in the trend lines and a widening of the gap between the richest one percent of the population and the rest of us since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. (See the article on The American Economy.)
The income gap and the share of income going to the wealthiest few began to steadily grow during the Reagan years. It continued during the 1990s when Reaganite Republicans controlled Congress (and President Clinton often went along with them out of political expediency), and it became extremely high in 2007 just before the Reaganite/Bushite greed, corruption and folly caused the economic crises and crash of 2008 and caused the Great Recession the economic crises from which we still suffer.
In January 2014 a report by Oxfam, an international group of organizations working globally to find solutions to poverty and related injustice, reported that even though economic inequality in the world is the second greatest threat to humanity, it is rapidly increasing and has reached the point where now the wealthiest 85 people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest half of the whole world’s population. Furthermore, the report confirmed what other research has been showing, that almost half of the world’s total wealth is now owned by just one percent of the world’s population.
Reaganite Claims and Denial vs The Facts
Amazingly, despite all the facts of the matter, Reaganites in America during the 2012 presidential campaign had had the gall to claim there a "lazy dependency class" that has been made dependent on government assistance and food stamps.
They conveniently ignored that the people they slandered and belittled are like people who lost their jobs since the 2008 economic crash, ignoring the fact that the economic crises were caused by the greed, corruption and vain folly of the wealthiest few, and especially the big banks and financial institutions. They also slander the unemployed who had to rely on unemployment insurance, ignoring the fact that those who lost their jobs had paid premiums for that insurance in taxes all their working lives.
Rich Reaganite Republicans also slander people like poor Walmart employees who work full time but are paid so little that they qualify for and use food stamps. For while the owners of Wal-Mart are among the wealthiest ten Multi-Billionaires in America, many Wal-Mart employees need food stamps because they are not paid a living wage and cannot afford even the average necessities of life.
Even worse, the lowest paid Wal-Mart employees receive the least because they are allowed to work only 34 hours per week so they cannot be listed as “full time” employees. That trick is pulled by many unscrupulous employers (even in the public sector) because they are able to deny part time employees the much deserved benefits that some full time employees are granted. But because of Wal-Mart’s business model, American taxpayers have to subsidize the low wages at Wal-Mart, and while that increases the drain on the U.S. Treasury, it helps the richest family in America keep getting even wealthier.
However, speaking of "Food Stamps" (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), Americans should know that even though that program is a favorite target for the Reaganite Republicans who want to destroy it, the fact that it is highly beneficial, not only to the poor, but to the economy!
A Census Bureau report showed that the food stamp program helped keep four million Americans out of poverty in 2012, and related research studies revealed that there are many other widespread benefits to the food stamp program. And yet, in spite of its clear benefits, just two days after that report came out the US House of Representatives approved a $39 Billion cut to the program over the next decade – and according to the Congressional Budget Office, that would result in 3.8 million people being removed from food stamps in 2014.
Such cuts in human services are reminiscent of the Reagan cutbacks to the Food Stamp program and other human services programs in the early 1980s. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported in 1984, two years into Reagan's presidency: "Low-income programs were reduced [by Reagan] more than twice as deeply (in proportionate terms) as social programs not concentrated on the poor. Overall, the low-income programs bore nearly one-third of all cuts made anywhere in the federal government even though they constitute less than one-tenth of the budget. No other part of the federal budget was cut so deeply."
Reagan also put an end to the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, which threw 400,000 people into unemployment lines. He cut Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), cutting another 500,000 people off from desperately needed assistance. And Reagan also reduced investment in Housing and Urban Development, which drastically reduced affordable housing and triggered growing increases in poverty, hunger and homelessness that have continued to the present day.
That may shock you. But, in spite of the facts, Reaganite Republicans have been following Ronald Reagan’s lead in such matters ever since his first successful campaign for the presidency when he maliciously deceived Americans about a fabricated "Welfare Queen." But even though his right-wing propaganda has since been proven to be deceptive, it was what right-wing Republicans wanted to hear. It became a huge factor in Reagan’s being elected, and it has been a huge factor in the Republican war against the poor ever since.
Reagan was successful because he was very charming and said "God bless America" after every speech. But he and following Reaganites have simply ignored the fact that human services programs have been quite successful, and the great majority of recipients actually benefit from the helping hand and have been able to escape poverty and become productive citizens because of it.
The fact is that eighty-three percent of food stamps go to households with children, seniors, and people with disabilities. In 2012, the average recipient got $133.41 in food stamps per month, which amounts o $1.48 per meal. Every $5 of food stamps spent generates up to $9 in economic activity. Food stamp spending generates local economic activity and jobs in the retail sectors and beyond. Each $1 billion spent on retail food by SNAP recipients generates $3,300 farm jobs.
The 2009 Recovery Act that increased the Food Stamp funding along with other economic stimuli. That 13.6 percent temporary boost in food stamp dollars helped more than half a million Americans escape food insecurity, and millions more to climb out of poverty—4.7 million in 2011 alone, according the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
Food Stamps benefit children who are especially vulnerable to the lifelong ripple effects of poverty—exposed to hunger, under-nourishment, malnourishment, chronic illnesses and disease. But studies show that when poor families get food stamps, children's nutrition and health improve. That is critical during infancy and early childhood, when brain development and metabolic health get their start. And sufficient nutrition in childhood creates marked health improvements both in childhood, youth, and later years.
But, in spite of the facts, Reaganite Republicans persist in their misleading, deceptive rhetoric against "spending" on human services, refusing to see it is an investment.
That is because Reaganism is merely a revival of a mentality that has been prevalent during the passing age due to a distorted doctrine submitted as being Christian. In fact, Hamiltonian Federalism in 1800 was touted by the banker Alexander Hamilton as "Christian Meritocracy" that would benefit the wealthy, and it was similar to Reaganism.
That's why we all need to remember what the Apostle James wrote: "If a brother or sister is naked and hungry, and one of you who are warmed and filled says to them, ‘Depart’ and do not give them those things which the body needs; what does it profit you?” (James 2:14)
The Universal Divine Imperative
It is part of the universal divine imperative to feed and care for the poor, and it is not merely a Christian idea. In fact, it's not even necessarily a religious idea, because in the most enlightened, successful and harmonic ancient tribes and nations of the world, the elderly, the disabled, the orphans and anyone else who needed help and support received it from the community, the tribe, the village, etc. The people took care of each other, and treated each other as they themselves would want to be treated. It was the natural, humanitarian thing to do. It was just common sense.
And it still is.
Unfortunately, the more populated and “civilized” humanity became, the less humanitarian some people became, especially those who fought for and gained great personal wealth, power, and domain in the name of religion.
That is why enlightened, conscientious spiritual teachers have always been sent by God to teach people how they should behave toward one another. In fact, that is why there have been so many great spiritual teachers who have taught the Universal Divine Imperative that we should treat all others as we would want to be treated if we were them.
Unfortunately, much of the political and religious leadership of the world’s most powerful empires and nations have simply ignored the Universal Divine Imperative even while masquerading as good, virtuous, and even religious. It has been that way throughout history, and it that way now -- and the fact is that the poverty rate in a nation is an indicator of the level of inequity its government allows.
America's government now allows an extremely high level of inequity, which is why one of the terrible consequences of that inequity is that more than 23 million children in American live in poverty even though 97 percent of them live in households in which at least one adult works full time.
That is why Americans need to learn why Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other Founding Fathers wanted a Democratic Republic that promotes the general welfare, and why the great Jeffersonian President Franklin D. Roosevelt once saved the country from the greed and corruption of the rich and enabled the middle class to grow large and great.
That is why Americans need to realize that Reaganism has destroyed Roosevelt's great legacy, and it's why Americans need to work on fulfilling the Real American Dream instead of believing in a distortion of the American Dream, about the individual “making good” and gaining great personal fame and fortune. That false dream produces a culture of greed and self-interest because it is based on the idea that people should be totally “self-reliant” and that government should do little and "get off our back" so that banks, businesses and corporations can be left to their own devices.
Fortunately, growing numbers of Americans are finally realizing that we need to restore and fulfill the real American Dream, because what we suffer from are the consequences of a very clever corporate scam perpetrated by Ronald Reagan, who served the forces of greed and self-interest. Many Americans have learned or realized the shameful cause of our problems. They realize that the wool has been pulled over the eyes of many who still believe in the lies and falsehoods that were sold as truth.After all, shamelessly false right-wing Republican propaganda recently claimed that nearly half of American households receive some kind of government benefit or so-called "entitlement." However, that is extremely misleading and deceptive.
According to the National Poverty Center (NPC) Policy Brief #28 of February 2012, several studies show a declining proportion of benefits go to the poor. Most entitlements go to the wealthy, and in fact, the misguided and heartless 1996 “Welfare Reform Act” ended the cash assistance program in the U.S. for poor families with children.
Consequently, millions of American parents that are unemployed have virtually no cash income. They have to depend on food banks, soup lines, and the measly and hard to get food stamp allocation -- if they can qualify. Millions of children have been made into Dickensian "Oliver Twists," saying, "Please, Sir, can I have some more?" because they are hungry.
The NPC expects that as a result of shrinking access to cash assistance and the increasingly poor economic climate, the number of households with children living in extreme poverty will increase as it has since 1996 and particularly since 2008. NPC estimates that about 23 percent of all households with children are living in extreme poverty.
Therefore, since the majority of poverty stricken households do depend on at least one adult working full time, the fact is that the problem is not "laziness," nor do the poor deserve their lot. The basic problem is insufficient, inadequate, unfair wages allowed by a political economic system that is grossly unfair and shamefully inequitable because it enables the wealthiest people to take advantage of and exploit the disadvantaged working poor population.
But, this situation was not created merely during the last 30 years, as most objective economists are saying. Since President Kennedy was assassinated and in spite of Lyndon Johnson's token "War on Poverty," the wealth of the wealthiest one percent of Americans has increased by a factor of 700 percent in terms of total national wealth.
Furthermore, while CEOs of huge corporations were among that one percent who benefited, those who benefited most were the top executives in banks, lending institutions and others in the financial services industry. And the cruel irony is that when their greed, corruption and carelessness inevitably brought their industry to total failure in 2008 and 2009, taxpayers were forced to bail them out.
However, in spite of the losses and suffering they have caused to other people, they did not suffer. They weren't even pressed to be more fair, and they didn't have to compensate those they essentially robbed and defrauded. In fact, they are even wealthier now than ever before.
Even worse, the most needed reforms and regulations have not been put in place to prevent further malfeasance and unfairness, and very crucial regulations on banking and financial institutions that had been put in place in 1933 during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, which were repealed in 1999 by a Republican dominated Congress, have not been restored.
Consequently, all the people victimized suffered and growing numbers continue to suffer, while those responsible are still enabled to indulge themselves and exploit us.
The political economic system not only enables and caters to the wealthiest few at the expense of the majority and to the detriment of the working poor and the poor. It enables the greedy and corrupt to bribe legislators and, due to a right-wing Supreme Court decision ("Citizens United"), to influence elections with a flood of slanderous, deceptive attack ads on television. And most of us suffer the consequences.
(Continued at Poverty: America's Greatest Shame, Part 2, which discusses further proof of why America's political economic system is so unfair, and how we can establish better banking. And it more fully explains why the Reaganite "Gospel of Prosperity" is deceptive and wrong.)