How many times did your parents respond to your complaints by saying, "Life isn't fair!" While annoying, their analysis is proving increasingly true. Our global economic system rewards "the winners" at the top with far more than they deserve while "the losers" (everyone else) suffer. For instance:
- U.S. CEO's are paid 380 times the amount of the average employee salary. CEO's certainly work hard, most likely harder than most of their employees, but 380 times as much?
- The richest 300 people in the world have as much wealth as the bottom 3 billion people.
- While the industrialized nations send $180 billion in foreign aid to poor nations each year, $2 trillion shifts from poor to rich countries each year through tax avoidance, trade agreements that favor multinational conglomerates, and debt service.
- 30 multinational U.S. based firms with $160 billion in profits paid $0 in taxes over a recent three year period. 25% of the largest corporations pay no taxes. And we recently learned that Apple Computers paid virtually no tax on $102 billion in profits.
The result is an ever-widening income gap (as graphically depicted in this video) in which the poor become more desperate, the middle class evaporates, the upper class struggles, and those at the very top reap the benefits of everyone else's toil. And it's all perfectly legal, but not perfectly moral.
Sadly, large segments of the Christian Church remain silent on economic justice, turning a deaf ear to the suffering of the nation and the world. Trusting more in the free market than in justice or mercy, much of the church barely resembles its namesake. The words of Jesus in Matthew 25 echo in my ear. In that passage Jesus separates true followers from the fakes based on how they care for the most needy among them. What would Jesus say to many who claim his name today?
I was hungry, and you said it was my own damn fault. I was thirsty because your company polluted my town's river in order to make a quick buck. I was a stranger, and you called me a wetback and paid me slave wages as I worked in unsafe conditions so that you could live in comfort among friends. I was sick, and you chose to start wars instead of providing me with access to healthcare. I was in prison, and you let me suffer in the hands of the prison industrial system, never admitting how your own greed led to my desperation. I tell you the truth, when you treat one of the least of these members of my family with such callousness, you have done the same to me.