Posts Tagged ‘wealth’

Reason #6: Social Responsibility Isn’t Socialism

October 30, 2008

While I’ve written a bit on this before, I just have to return to the idea of wealth. Who has it and wants to keep it, who doesn’t have it and wants to taste just a morsel of the pie of life.

Perhaps it is the minivan I see almost daily at my daughter’s school that has a large “No Socialism, Vote McCain” painted on it by hand.

Perhaps I’m thinking about this a lot because last night I was subjected to the latest Palin ranting, “Barack Obama is going to redistribute your wealth.” Then, of course, she linked this redistribution to taxes (click here for a nice break-down of the two candidates’ positions, complete with a cast of characters).

Whatever the reason, this wealth redistribution stuff, which is being uttered a lot in the waning days of the campaign, strikes me as offensive on many, many levels. However, let’s just examine two points:

1. This doesn’t make sense! All of these claims of socialism and redistribution are sensationalistic ploys. As Obama has said, time and time again, he defines “wealthy” as those making $250,000 or more per year. So do I. I just firmly believe that those who are doing pretty well financially, who can make their mortgage payments and have food on the table every night, have a social and moral responsibility to help out those who aren’t in this state. I have had countless advantages in life – a stable family, a great education, good physical and mental health, and a solid support network of friends, to mention just a few – and I’m not making $250,000 per year even with these advantages! Imagine those who haven’t had the half of this.

Its just a big lottery of life, and we need to take care of those who didn’t get the lucky numbers. That’s why Obama’s idea of wealth and taxes, which would work toward closing the gap between the haves and the have nots, doesn’t offend me or incite fear as it does in the Republician ticket. It’s the socially responsible thing to do.

2. This brings me to my second point – the recent comments about “wealth distribution” really irk me on creepier, more insidious level. This is because it seems that McCain and Palin are trying to shift our value system as a society. It appears they are trying to strip us of our empathy towards others.

I’m not the only one with this view. Here are a few takes on that line you’ve probably heard about how a society will be judged by how it treats its poor…

From Confucius:
In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of.
In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.
From James Baldwin (an African American writer):
Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.
From Jean-Paul Sartre:
When the rich wage war it is the poor who die.

And, one of my favorite’s from that little powerhouse of a nun, Mother Teresa:

At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.’

Herein lies what really scares me about the position the Republicans are taking toward wealth – they can’t picture themselves as hungry, naked, or homeless. Even today, in an economic crisis that is scaring the bejezus out of many folks, they insist that we don’t need to consider those less fortunate. And that, to me, just seems wrong.

– Colleen, mother of three from Boulder, Colorado, who hopes she can become proud of how our country treats those occupying the lowest rungs of the economic totem pole.

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Reason #20: Of Plumbers, Wealth, and Government

October 17, 2008

The other day a friend mentioned a conversation he had just had with his father. In a moment of somewhat spirited debate between them his dad sputtered out, “Well, If Obama was in office now, all of our money will be going to the poor people!”

Wow.

What struck me about this comment was the visceral fear it unmasked. People are scared. They’re scared that “the government” will take their hard earned money, like a caped guy with RH on the back, coming in the dark of night. They’re scared that capitalism will turn into socialism.

Most of all, they’re scared that the American Dream – work hard and you’ll be duly rewarded – will sail away from them to some other promised shore.

Then, last night, we met Joe the Plumber. Perhaps he is cousin to Joe Six-Pack?

Joe is scared too, like my friend’s dad. His fear is even paralyzing him from deciding who to vote for this election. The problem, however, is that Joe is supposed to represent the “every-person” of this election. Your neighbors. Yourselves. We are supposed to identify with him because (a) his name is “Joe,” and (b) he’s a plumber. Not a lawyer or a banker or a doctor, but a regular guy (apparently, most of us have an antiquated view of plumbers…).

And of course, Joe is a man.  I wonder if John McCain would’ve put air quotes around Joe’s “health?”

But let’s just think about Joe’s hard earned wealth for a moment.

First off, as we’ve mentioned before, definitions of what is rich differ vastly. As we know, for Obama wealth is defined as earning more than $250,000 per year. McCain puts it at $5,000,000 per year (no, no, the zero key on my computer didn’t get stuck).

So yes, by Obama’s definition Joe, our dear plumber, is kind of a wealthy guy if he truly does earn more than $250,000 per year as a plumber (is anyone else predicting that there will be a run on applications for plumbing trade school this coming year?). And I’d suspect most of us would agree that $250,000 a year doing pretty well. As another friend said recently, if you’re making this much, why wouldn’t you want to spread it around a little?

Well folks (said in my best Palin accent), I’m urging you to pause amidst these debates on Joe and wealth to remember the reason we’re so fired up about this election. The point of this whole process is to decide what YOU want your government, and your money, to stand for.

Behind “the government” loom real people with real ideals, values, and, dare I say, even some expertise (I know, I know, despite the jokes about “government workers” and “good enough for government work”!)? As Bill Maher said on Larry King Live tonight when discrediting Palin’s qualifications for the Vice Presidency, it used to be that “you had to know things to be in the government!”

I encourage you to pause for a brief moment and reflect on what your ideal government would look like. This election is our chance to move, a little bit more, in this direction.

Think about who’s ideals and values and integrity you’re most aligned with.

Then think about privilege.

Think about whether, if you arrived at the $250,000 annual salary, perhaps it was because you landed on one of those squares in life that came with certain – random – privileges like class, race, education, upbringing, geography.

Then think about those “poor people” that my friend’s father is scared of. Is it just possible that they landed on another square in the game of life?

Is it even possible that we can have other definitions of what makes a person wealthy? Things like education, health…even service to others.

So as you lie down tonight, ponder the meaning of government. And dream about what makes you rich. I’m betting its about much more than money.

– Colleen, mother of three in Boulder who is rich in family and friends.