By Geoff Kennedy
Political activist and syndicated columnist, Jim Hightower, describes our political/economic system as “Dooh Nibor,” Robin Hood spelled backwards. He argues our country increasingly robs from the poor to give to the rich.
I argue that systematic favoring the politically powerful violates the rights of all Americans to equal protection under the law and therefore breaks the Seventh Commandment and Jesus’ Second Commandment.
Consider the bankers who bamboozled poor people into buying homes they couldn’t afford and then lied about the quality of those loans. The bankers didn’t (with one exception the last I checked) get punished but got federal handouts rewarding them for their crimes. CITI Bank used some of the handouts to pay the New York Mets for naming their stadium after it. And who financed the handouts? Taxpayers whom the bankers bamboozled.
Glenn Greenwald’s book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some,” cites a 2009 study by Dutch and American researchers concluding “those in positions in power not only violate rules much more readily but feel far less contrition about their violations because their power leads them to a consuming, blinding sense of entitlement.”
That sense of entitlement infects our cultural values. Greenwald notes a case in point when Colorado District Attorney Mark Hurlbert declined to charge hedge fund manager Martin Erzinger with a felony after his car hit a bike rider and he fled the scene of the crime. Hurlbert’s excuse: “Felony convictions have some pretty serious implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession.”
Since Greenwald wrote his book, David Petraeus got sentenced merely to probation for passing along state secrets to his mistress, while Bradley Manning told the American people about crimes our government committed and is still in jail.
Closer to home, Alaska Dispatch News columnist Elise Patkotak criticized the 2015 legislature for favoring pork over people: “I’m willing to guess that if we look at the money flowing out of Juneau, we will find a lot more flowing to the already wealthy than the already poor.”
David Cay Johnston wrote a couple of books about how the IRS collects taxes. Johnston says IRS agents get rewarded, not for the money they collect, but for how many people they collect money from. So they go after poor people because: they can’t afford to fight back; billionaires pay clever lawyers to find loopholes; and billionaires and mega-corporations have political connections that keep them off limits to IRS agents.
Even the tax system itself requires those working for a living to pay a higher tax rate to subsidize those living off their investments. Some politicians yelping about poor people on welfare want rich people to pay no taxes on investment income.
We as church need to address our increasingly immoral political/economic system and culture because Matthew’s Last Judgment passage reminds us that neglecting the poor and powerless sends us to hell. What will our punishment be if we actively transfer wealth from those who need it the most to those who need it the least?
The writer is a parishioner at St. Benedict Church in Anchorage.