Wednesday, August 10, 2011

“Trickle-Down economics?” How about “Waterfall-Down economics!”

There is an interesting article on regarding the social and behavioral habits of the wealthy.  Citing studies by Psychologist and social scientist Dacher Keltner, writer Brian Alexander tells that the rich really are different, and not in a good way: Their life experience makes them less empathetic, less altruistic, and generally more selfish.”  Not exactly a positive statement, but it was the next paragraph that really got my attention. The “philosophical battle over economics, taxes, debt ceilings and defaults that are now roiling the stock market is partly rooted in an upper class ‘ideology of self-interest.’”  Wow!  I wasn’t shocked by the conclusions, but by the fact that this is actually making headlines; many of us have known this for quite a while. 

These days all we hear in the media it seems is the constant drone of the political talking heads speaking so positively of the “job creators” and how raising taxes on them would be “class warfare.”   The purpose of this blog isn’t so much to address purely economic issues but rather discuss current conservative economic policy and conservative Christians.

In the current political and religion climate, conservative Christianity has wed itself to Republican ideology (I would say they were in bed together but I know that conservatives aren’t real big on pre-marital sex…).  This marriage is such that conservative Christian theologian Wayne Grudem can write Politics According to the Bible; a book which basically puts a divine stamp of approval on Republican policy.  I’m not sure how it came to this, my guess would be it started with Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” (We’re both Alumnae of the same college!) and Ronald Reagan’s wooing of Evangelicals via all his “God-talk” and such.  Somehow the “Trickle-Down” economics thing just slipped in there and became as important as the “pro-life” thingy (Really it should be called “pro-unborn” because they don’t really care about other human rights issues).

Perhaps my biggest problem with the “Christianization” of Republican fiscal policy is that such policies are built on the assumption that greed is good.  Isn’t greed one of the “seven deadly sins?” Yet greed is the bedrock of capitalism; it’s said that if we raise taxes, the rich won’t be motivated to work harder because they’ll see less of their money, yet we’re supposed to believe that by taxing them less they are going to actually give up some of this money? What am I missing here? The greed that compels them to earn more will suddenly switch off and allow them to let their money trickle down? (Who came up with the phrase “trickle down” anyway? I’d totally buy into “waterfall economics!”)

It’s also interesting when reading the aforementioned article that we can find biblical examples affirming the giving nature of the lower class and the stingy nature of the upper class. How about 2 Corinthians 7 were Paul praises his readers for giving “beyond” what they could afford to help the Jerusalem church.   Perhaps also the story of the widow’s mite in Luke 21, here the rich are criticized for their stingy giving while the widow is praised to her sacrificial giving. 

This whole idea of Jesus as a Jewish carpenter makes us think Jesus was a hard working middle class guy (making nice modern tables in The Passion of the Christ). Too bad modern scholarship is telling us that he was more likely a day laborer, a poor peasant who scraped by working for the rich land owners.   Yeah, he wasn’t too fond of those rich folk; being that they had through their wheelings and dealings created a whole poverty level class by their land dealings (I don’t have space to go into all of it).  Perhaps that’s why he told the rich young ruler (Luke 18) to give up all his money and follow.  Perhaps that’s why he said that “salvation has come to this house” after Zacheaus (Luke 19) promised to repay 4x’s what he had stolen and give away half his stuff (How’s that for soteriology??) The “kingdom of God” as he called it, or God’s ways of doing things, didn’t (and still doesn’t) allow for such economic disparity.

The wealth of the upper class in Jesus’ time came at the expense of the lower class, and in the new way of living that Jesus promoted, that just couldn’t continue; look at the initial communities in Acts 2, selling what they had and giving it away to meet each other’s needs.  I’m not saying there is some ideal “New Testament church” model we can all strive towards, rather that stuffing Republican fiscal policy into the pages of the Bible doesn’t make it divinely sanctioned.  Jesus isn’t a Republican! ( He’s Democrat)( JUST KIDDING!!)  sorta ;)

Link to Wayne Grudem’s book:

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