News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The Poor Will Always Be With You

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Poor Will Always Be With You

If you had any doubts about who pays more in taxes, the following should lighten your worry and doubts: The poor end up paying more in taxes than the rich... Yes, this is percentage of income, as if that mattered.

Tax Policy Center Releases Revenue and Distributional Impacts of Current Tax Law
Okay, the quote from the Bible, above: I'm reluctant to reduce all our problems to socio-economic ones. Every time you start talking about money and how much people make, there's a little noticed, rather ugly, mechanism that starts to kick in for many Americans. I call it envy of others.

It works this way: we can spend all day askig how much so and so makes and whether they are worht it, and comparing it to what I make, what she makes, and whether it's right or not.

The reason I call it ugly is because it's an unethical as well as downright unseemly sentiment. It makes us want to gauge everything by comparing ourselves with what the other guy has or doesn't have. It causes secret and dark desires of resentment that get played out on the social stage more often than we'd like to admit.

So, this is one aspect of reducing everything to money that I resist and try to remain aware of. But there's also the very real fact of injsutice and inequity in the way wealth is distributed in this country--or any other social entity based on the capitalist model. Here everything is measured in how much I have versus them. This doesn't just include money--it also includes what talents they have, what rights they have, everything gets turned into a value that is sellable.

Okay what about the Jesus saying that's the title of this? In our society, it's used to justify much injustice in the name of supposed ethical inetrests. It's used to tell the poor that their being poor is part of existence, it's something that can't be helped and in fact should not be fought since the real treasure is in heaven.

That's how I've heard people use it. But I do not think that this is what Jesus meant when he said it. Jesus laid it down as a challenge, I think, to us. It's a challenge because it states a real fact that in this world sin and oppression is what happens. He's not saying it's right--it just is what happens when people do not recognize their sinfulness.

For Jesus, being poor seemed to be a preferred way of life. This is for spiritual reasons. If you are continually measuring everything by how much you have that's the spiritual point of your life. But it spreads beyond your life and infects the lives of others. What I get above and beyond what I need is something taken from someone else--someone else has less.

The challenge in Jesus' assertion is to realize the ehtical and spiritual behind the material realities of life. Seeing that my actions affect not only me but also many others.

The fact that our society is based on this way of thinking in a way that is without parallel in history is testament to the spiritual decadence of our society. It is something to confront and remedy--not something to use to keep the poor in their places.

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