“Inequality for All,” a documentary with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, considers the priorities of the US over the last century and offers some interesting observations. When has our country prospered and created the most comfort for the most people? How have government regulations affected different people? Who has been helped by the rules and who has been hurt? Although the film is not presented from a faith perspective, after viewing it three times, I find myself thinking about the sheep and goat story in Matthew 25 with my eyes on the division of nations I wonder where the US would end up if Jesus were to divide us today.
I read in the Coalition for Human Needs (CHN) news last week that a representative noted some irony in our priorities. In this article were stories of folks struggling without unemployment insurance which Congress just can’t find the courage to renew at $10 billion for 10 years.
From the July 11 CHN news: Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) had it right when he made this observation in the Ways and Means session: “I don’t know if anyone else sees the irony of what’s going on this week. Tomorrow we are going to have a bill on the floor that will permanently extend the bonus depreciation (tax break) at a cost of $280 billion over the next 10 years and not a nickel of it paid for, not a nickel of it offset, and here we are scratching and clawing and scrimping together a $10 billion package for 10 months for the infrastructure needs of our nation today which is wholly inadequate.”
One might also think of irony in priorities for a request of $3.7 billion for desperate refugee children which is labeled ‘too big’ and remember the words of Rev. Jennifer Butler of Faith in Public Life, “Jesus was a child refugee. That which we do to the children fleeing to America right now, we do to Him.”
“Inequality for All” notes that today the richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half the US population. In the documentary, Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist whose income is between $10 and $30 million per year (an amount he considers ridiculous), notes that wealthy claims of being job creators are actually claims on status, privilege and power. Hanauer says that customers are the job creators.
Reich emphasizes since the late 1970’s jobs have not decreased but wages have and productivity has continued to increase. Workers have lost their voice and unions have declined. What would Jesus say? What is the response to workers who don’t make enough to pay rent and provide for their families? What is our response to abandoned babies because mothers are desperate to provide for them? How do we in the faith community react?
In the words of Richard Rohr, “Jesus is only and always loyal to human suffering.” What are we loyal to in the USA?
If you would like to borrow a copy of “Inequality for All” to show to your church group, let Sandy Irving know, firstname.lastname@example.org.