Christians, Capitalism, and
“ It is ironic that the United states of America, which claims to be a predominately Christian nation, adopts a governmental system that strongly promotes capitalism.”
Moreover, according to George Soros, a billionaire and contributor to liberal causes, capitalism which is not constrained by government and morality leads to greed and avarice making some people very rich and most of the people very poor. Soros goes on the say that markets are inherently unstable and in a system of laissez-faire capitalism, goods and services are not distributed fairly. We know that we can see it all around us and yet we behave as if it’s inevitable, that’s just the way it is. No, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s up to us to change this way of thinking.
Right after the tragedy of 9/11 Mayor Giuliani encouraged New Yorkers to “go shopping, eat out, catch a Broadway Play.” Yeah, we’ll show those terrorists, they can’t keep us from our favorite pastime, consuming. We heard more of the same from our President Select who also encouraged us to “take a trip, go to Disneyworld and, oh yeah, hug a loved one.” During the meltdown in California which eventually lead to a recall election, Schwarzenegger, the actor turned Governor, told the people of California to “buy a car;” preferably a Hummer, just like his. This kind of leadership in times of crisis brings tears to my eyes; such courage, such moral leadership. No sacrifice, no heavy thinking about what got us into these situations in the first place, no looking within at what kind of nation we are or appear to be to others in the world; nothing that a new car or trip to Disneyworld can’t fix. To be an American means to consume and consume and consume….. feed the monster. The hungry beast that keeps us running on empty. Our productivity may be up, but at what cost, and who is benefiting; the average American? Not according to statistics.
Real median income has fallen by approximately $1,500 in the last two years. Personal indebtedness has increased by 14%, while personal bankruptcies are up 12%. Interestingly, business bankruptcies have dropped by over 15%. So, business seems to be fairly healthy; that’s good, especially if they are individually owned businesses. The wealthiest 20% of Americans earn more than 50% of the nation’s income; the poorest 20% of Americans earn only 3.5%. The pay of CEOs increased by 535% during the 90s, while the middle class has struggled to keep ahead of inflation, usually one paycheck away from disaster. A 535% increase, can you believe that? Productivity is up; CEOs are making out like bandits and hiding their profits in shell companies overseas so as to avoid paying taxes. The average person is working longer hours than their counterparts in other industrialized nations, with less time off and paying more in payroll taxes than ever before. What kind of a Christian nation is this? WWJD, what would Jesus do? Would he be on the side of corrupt corporations and politicians or would he be for the average guy that is getting screwed by both. Hmmmm, I wonder.
We are a nation of mega-cities, strip malls, franchises and chain stores. Businesses like Wal Mart and McDonald’s are some of our nation’s largest employers. As of 2001 McDonald’s owned approximately 28,000 restaurants worldwide; they open about 2000 restaurants each year so as of 2004 the figure is more like 32,000 restaurants. Although overseas many McDonald’s are closing. Here is an interesting fact; McDonald’s is the largest owner of retail property in the world!!! As a matter of fact the majority of its profits are not from its product, food, but from the rent it collects. McDonald’s spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other brand and is the nation’s largest distributor of toys. Read Fast Food Nation by Erich Schlosser and you will never want to eat at a fast food place again, ever. You will consider it a patriotic duty to pass them by.
According to Ray Kroc the founder of McDonald’s “we cannot trust some people who are nonconformists…We will make conformists out of them in a hurry…The organization cannot trust the individual….” Beware the individual that thinks for him or herself, very dangerous. Franchises or chain stores do not require creativity, you merely buy into them, it only requires access to capital. They, franchises and chains, are a threat to small businesses which are usually the dream of an individual; their business represents their personal vision which is unique and special. Diversity is grand. Diversity is interesting. Franchises and chains homogenize the landscape and obliterate regional differences. How boring. It’s bad enough that this happens in our own country but fully criminal when they export this cheesiness of American culture to other parts of the world.
Jose Bove, a cheese maker from France, had an answer to our Americanized brand of eating that we have tried, with some success (unfortunately), to export to the rest of the world. In 1999, Jose staged a protest in France with a little help from his friends. It was a great media event with cameras rolling. He and his friends, other farmers, dismantled a McDonald’s that was under construction and picked it up piece by piece and loaded the whole nine yards onto several farm vehicles and deposited what was left of our favorite franchise on the lawn of the government offices in the town of Millau. I love this guy. Local ladies handed out Roquefort snacks to the gathered crowd. For this he was sentenced to three months in jail. Since he had some time to kill he wrote a book called The World is not for Sale. Bove has traveled all over the world rallying local farmers against globalization.
According to Schlosser, “a person can now go from the cradle to grave without spending a nickel at an independently-owned business.” Yes, that’s true. It’s safe, you always know exactly what you are going to get. For some that may be comforting. What do these cookie cutter businesses bring to the table? Well, besides a lack of creativity and unbearable sameness, they bring low paying jobs, an unskilled workforce of citizens who also are probably not receiving any benefits. These are the kind of jobs that the Republicans are now touting as proof that the economy is growing. Service jobs represent the fastest growing sector of our economy, YAY! Lots of low paying jobs; just what this country needs to replace all the other jobs we are losing overseas. Many of the jobs we are losing overseas are high paying technical jobs.
Lou Dobbs has become one of my personal heroes. He proudly stands in defense of the average working man and woman in this country. He has taken on Wall Street and their minions with gusto and courage. If John Kerry should win the election he would be wise to consider appointing Dobbs as his economic advisor. He has kept a running count of businesses that have shipped jobs overseas, I believe the count is up to 800 by now. He has a list of them on his web site. Some of these less than patriotic businesses include: Intel, ITT, Intuit, Jacuzzi, John Deere, Anheuser-Busch, Avaya, AOL, PepsiCo, Priceline.com and Apple. It is our patriotic duty to avoid doing business with these people at all costs.
Lou Dobbs also has put a personal face on those millions of workers who are struggling to make it and are not able to participate in the American dream any longer. Folks like Katrina Gill, a certified nursing aid who works in a long-term care facility taking care of our elders who, like the former President Regan, suffer from Alzheimer’s. Many of us may face that dilemma someday and need people like her to care for our loved ones. We should thank her and appreciate her service. On an average night she cares for 28 patients and makes $9.32 an hour, making her salary less than $12,000 a year. Since she has no health-care benefits she and her husband, a garage mechanic, pay $640 monthly out of pocket for health care. They are working people who pay taxes and can barely survive let alone thrive. She doesn’t feel appreciated, let alone thanked.
Back in the early '80s a good friend of mine worked as an EMT in Colorado. She made just over $7.00 per hour; she would be the first person on the scene of an accident and would begin life-saving procedures while transporting the injured to the hospital. Imagine how important she was to that injured person at that moment, she was their life line, giving aid and comfort until they were received at the emergency room. Even CEOs have heart attacks and get into accidents; she would be there for them. And yet in the market place her abilities were judged to be worth a little over $7.00. Meanwhile the overfed and overpaid CEO whose life she was saving was worth millions of dollars, owned several houses, six cars, a yacht etc. etc. I always wondered about that. Surely her skills were worth more than that. She drove around in a beat up Chevy and lived in a trailer, she and her husband, who was also an EMT, could barely make it from paycheck to paycheck. She saved lives.
Joseph Schiraldi of New York, is a guard at the Empire State Building. He works long hours X-raying packages, checking IDs and patrolling the perimeter. These days that is a dangerous job, the Empire State building would be a good target for terrorism. He makes $7.50 per hour. Try living in New York on that salary. Schiraldi has no pension, no health care, and no paid sick days. According to Business Week online (May 31, 2004) there are more than 28 million people, about a quarter of the workforce that earn less than $9.04 an hour, or approximately $11,000 per year, which is below the federal poverty line for a family of four. Do the math; CEOs make 535 times that, and this in a Christian nation. Where are the Religious Right on this issue, shouldn’t they be raising a fuss about this, isn’t this immoral? Oh, I forgot they are only interested in sexual morality. Screwing the public through corporate greed is ok.
While it was enjoyable to see Ken Lay do the perp walk on TV today I have my doubts that much of anything will happen. You see, he got away with millions of dollars selling his stock in Enron at the same time he was encouraging his employees to hold onto theirs until it was worthless. Many of these employees lost all of their retirement income after years of being loyal employees. Mr. Lay will have a regular “dream team” of lawyers, because he can afford them, and will probably walk with but a slap on the hand. What he should really have to do is sell all of his assets and pay at least some of what his employees lost through investing in Enron back to them, personally. Last Sunday Mr. Lay was videotaped leaving his church: I wonder if he attends all the time or was it just this Sunday because he knew the indictments had come in? Well, bless his heart, as they say here in the south. He’s back on the streets after posting bond while pot smokers are languishing in prison for ten years. Is there something wrong here?
Anyone who has seen Fahrenheit 9/11 knows the depth and breadth of corruption in our country under this administration; an administration that the Religious Right supports. This means that it’s up to the Religious Left and secular humanists to take back our country and send this administration packing. Even then our work will have only begun, it will take years to work on our present system of governance and create a system that is answerable to all Americans, not just those who have money. We are going to have to wean our elected officials from the corporate tit. It won’t be easy, they’ve become addicted. We’ll have to be tough.
Oh, by the way, Fu** you Cheney !!
a fervent believer in community marketing, supporting local businesses, fair
trade, and green building. She can be reached at