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Passions in Poetry

Equal Outcomes or Equal Oppotunity? What is the common good?

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Jason Lyle
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since 02-07-2003
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With my darkling


25 posted 09-28-2003 02:04 AM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

arent they all?
Denise
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26 posted 09-28-2003 08:33 AM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

quote:
Was Jesus really dispassionate about the plight of the impoverished?  If so, what percentage of starving children do we think he thought was acceptable?  Ten percent?  Five?  Twenty?


Not dispassionate at all, L.R., he was merely stating a fact of life, putting things in perspective when Judas, under the guise of caring for the poor, disparaged an act of love by a woman who poured expensive perfumed oil (most scholars believe it was her dowry,implicating the extent of her act of love, inasmuch as she now had nothing to offer enabling her to marry in that culture) on Jesus' feet, in view of his imminent departure, physically, from this world, but that we will always have plenty of opportunity to help alleviate the suffering of the poor of this world. And to add a point, notice that it was hers to do with as she chose.

Followers of Jesus are reminded in the New Testament to feed the poor. This is of course, in context, on a personal and voluntary level, in light of all that we have been freely given by God, and does not speak to goverment programs. People were also given the admonition that if any man among them refuses to work, don't let him eat. In other words, if you are capable of working, do so, and don't take advantage of charity fraudulently.

[This message has been edited by Denise (09-28-2003 09:48 AM).]

Local Rebel
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27 posted 09-28-2003 10:04 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

On this point we find agreement that Jesus' statement comes in the context of a story that really has nothing to do with the poor directly.  But when you referenced it you didn't tender it in that context.  You were responding, as many Christians do, when confronted with the problem of poverty, in a manner that's meant to shut out and shut down.

Of course Jesus didn't mean that poverty is something we should tolerate just because it's the way things are, or just a fact of life.  This kind of defeatist attitude generated by some conservative viewpoints is one of the reasons I bristle so readily at literal (mis)interpretations of scripture.  It was this same attitude and deaf ear to social injustice the church held in Europe that lead to Marx's famous 'opiate of the masses' statement.  

Some scholars would suggest that Jesus' comment is made in reference to a passage from Deuteronomy, reminding the disciples that the only reason there are poor in God's ABUNDANT creation is because of human sin and self-centeredness. The disciples were more concerned about scoring favor with Jesus than they were worried about the poor. "The poor you will always have with you," was a REBUKE to the disciples. The passage in Deuteronomy closes with a command. After the verse, "There will always be poor people in the land," we find this: "Therefore I COMMAND (my emphasis) you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." (Deut. 15:11)

Another school of thought suggests 'the poor' referenced here were actually the disciples and the group of followers that went around with Jesus as he traveled since the believers referenced themselves as 'the poor'.

In either case this passage in context has no bearing on a discussion of equal outcomes vs. equal opportunities.

It's interesting though that in the system set up in the bible that all property was returned to the original owners every seven years -- leveling the playing field -- to start the business cycle over again -- an economic re-boot of sorts.

But, Christian and other faith based organizations DO go a long way toward alleviating the suffering of poverty.  Two excellent groups come to mind -- the Salvation Army and Saint Vincent De Paul.  In fact -- if someone does need just some quick help out of a jam these organizations are much more flexible and able to respond than government agencies are.

You, apparently , have first hand knowledge of the rigorous hurdles that people are put through Denise to qualify for government assistance.  The fact that you ultimately didn't qualify shows that the system does 'work' in at least the measure of determining means.  Would you have accepted the assistance if you'd made 20 dollars a week less?  Although it seems unfair that a person so close to the line should be denied help there would be borderline cases no matter where the bar was placed.  

Before the governmental safety nets were in place we had a system that was entirely made up of faith-based-initiatives.  The failure of this idea is obvious to anyone who knows what happened in the great depression.  Just an illustration of community/church based charity systems at work comes in an anecdote from a former employee I had years ago.  His mother was widowed during the great depression.  Without a job and no means to support her three children she went to the local churches for assistance.  They gave the assistance she requested -- they gave her a room and a job washing laundry -- but since it couldn't support her children they took them away from her and split them up among a few wealthy families in the community.  Of course it didn't always happen that way.  They were lucky.  Some children were sent to orphanages -- the solution favored by Newt Gingrich.

I don't see how rolling the clock backwards is going to improve society.

Are there people that bring poverty on themselves?  Certainly.  But, we have to remember that our system is set up primarily to give aid to CHILDREN who have no control over the situation.  

The fact remains that votes may be equally distributed in our system but power is not.  Therefore it cannot be and will not be egalitarian. Democracy arose from the ideals of liberty AND equality. Liberty empowers you to do what you want, and that includes using your skills and/or luck to become rich.  Or to not and be poor.

Equality, however, requires some apparent narrowing of liberty: the state has to take from some and give to others.  There has always been dynamic tension between these two pillars of democracy. It has been resolved in our culture by aiming for equality of opportunity rather than outcomes. Fundamental rights are granted to all , including equality of votes and equality before the law.

The estate tax mentioned previously does not re-tax money that a person earned during his lifetime.  It taxes rather the transfer of that wealth to a person who DID NOT EARN it.  It was designed this way because, again, wealth and power will concentrate and upset the whole idea of our little experiment in democracy.  It worked for nearly a hundred years.  Of course, most wealthy people were able to shield themselves from the tax by utilizing trusts anyway -- and 98 percent of the population never even had to worry about the tax to begin with -- although the Republicans did their damnedest to try to convince everyone that they did.

Do we really think that the wealthy don't owe a unique debt to the society that enabled the creation of their wealth?  

I've yet to hear why a social net of Faith Based Initiatives is better than making it a matter of government policy?  If so -- to what extent are we talking here -- you want to abolish what? Unemployment insurance?  AFDC?  Food Stamps?  WIC?  SSI?  Medicare?  Medicaid?  Public Infrastructure?  Farm aid?  Corporate Welfare?  College Loans?  Pell Grants?  Federally insured mortgages?  Section 8 housing?  The Tennessee Valley Authority?  The public highway system?  You think faith based initiatives can fill all these gaps?


[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (09-29-2003 12:00 AM).]

Jason Lyle
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since 02-07-2003
Posts 1519
With my darkling


28 posted 09-29-2003 01:26 AM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

I have to agree with most of what you have said LR, I would not eliminate a single program you mentioned.I would even go further and support national heath care of some sort, and a guaranteed education system.I like the model some countries use of 2 years of civil service in exchange for a college education.
But I do not believe that the burden of these programs falls on the wealthy.
This is why I believe taxing estates and higher incomes at higher rates is unfair.
Scenario...I manage a restaurant, my salary is a small fraction of its profit.If I eventually reach my goals, in 5 years or so I will purchase my own.I will end up working 60 or 70 hours a week for 10 or 15 more years, I will also provide jobs for a couple hundred people, I will contribute both to the economy and the community.If I am successful, I will sell it all after about 15 years and retire.throughout this entire process, my reward will be a higher tax bracket, inevitable petty lawsuits, an unfair share of the tax burden(infrastructure of the Government), and also higher income, higher standard of living, more toys, etc.

My contribution was made in jobs provided, charities supported, careers developed, in health insurance that kept families well.Life insurance that allowed someone to keep their house after tragedy.

and then one day I will die, and 100% of what I will have accumulated, should go to my children.Not 40%, how is that justified?

We should take care of our own, no argument there.It just needs to be a fair and just system.Not a system of well they have more than me, so they owe more than me.I work as hard as the man I work for for far less.He has earned it.We all have an oppurtunity to succeed.

Jason
Local Rebel
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since 12-21-1999
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Southern Abstentia


29 posted 09-29-2003 08:43 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Ah, well Jason, while I don't feel the proclivity to dive into the actual percentages I think the overall philosophy is pertinent to the topic at hand.

I'm going to bet, not much -- but I'm willing, that you feel anti-trust laws are a benefit to the common good.

If so -- why?

Second question -- what is the other element required in a democracy that goes hand-in-hand with anti-trust to prevent the system from devolving into a plutocracy?
Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


30 posted 09-29-2003 10:00 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Frankly, I think you guys are just talking at cross purposes. LR is thinking in terms of society and JL is thinking in terms of the individual (not that these are advesarial but that's a different thread). On the other hand, this strikes me at odd:

quote:
But I do not believe that the burden of these programs falls on the wealthy.


Hmmm, I just don't see people giving up their wealth in order to lose this burden.

quote:
This is why I believe taxing estates and higher incomes at higher rates is unfair.


Rich people don't pay taxes
--Leona Helmsley

quote:
Scenario...I manage a restaurant, my salary is a small fraction of its profit.


Why do think in terms of 'it' when you work for other people, 'them' when you talk of government, and 'me' when you own your own business?

quote:
I will end up working 60 or 70 hours a week for 10 or 15 more years, I will also provide jobs for a couple hundred people, I will contribute both to the economy and the community.


Good luck, the restaurant business is a tough road. But let's not fool ourselves here. You aren't providing jobs out of the goodness of your heart, you are hiring people in order to make more money for yourself (and in order to stay in business). If you hire people without that in mind, you won't last long.

And also, what particular niche in the current economy are you filling, what type of restaurant do you think is underrepresented now? Or are you going to follow the same path as others and compete (doesn't really matter, of course, they'll compete with you no matter how original and exciting, they'll attempt to destroy the niche you see)? In either case, if you're successful, won't you put other restaurants out of business?

The capitalist giveth and he taketh away.

Jason Lyle
Senior Member
since 02-07-2003
Posts 1519
With my darkling


31 posted 09-30-2003 12:45 AM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

My apologies LR, I have sent this thread in other directions.I will come back to answer these questions, but maybe in a new thread.I will come back and try to answer your original question in this thread.
Brad is right, I have answered as an individual, your question was larger than that.

Jason

[This message has been edited by Jason Lyle (09-30-2003 07:35 AM).]

Denise
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32 posted 09-30-2003 12:46 AM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

L.R. said:
quote:
But when you referenced it you didn't tender it in that context.  You were responding, as many Christians do, when confronted with the problem of poverty, in a manner that's meant to shut out and shut down.



Denise said:
quote:
Of course, we’ll always have the poor among us. I think this is where the churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and social organizations can certainly be doing more to alleviate suffering, and probably would be if the government wasn’t providing such a vast safety net. Voluntary contributions by members and programs administered and maintained by non-profits on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged would not have the detrimental effect on productivity and the economy that forced government aid does.


L.R., I made the above statement with the intent to express my views on how I think that the private and religious organizations should bear the primary burden of responsibility regarding the poor, in light of the fact that they will always be with us, not with the intent to shut out and shut down. I do believe that it is a fact of life, and not a defeatist attitude.

Yes, there are shortcomings and abuses no matter who bears the primary burden. Some government programs are necessary, some probably are not. I think that they should all be revisited to attempt to weed out the waste and abuse as much as possible.

I don't see the long term benefit to society when programs, however good intentioned, have the effect of fostering dependency, generation after generation, depriving people of the satisfaction of personal achievement. I know that the welfare reform signed by Clinton was suppossed to address this issue, but the time limits set keep getting extended and extended and extended. Perhaps in lieu of a total cut-off of benefits, a system of gradual benefit step-downs of some sort as people prepare for self-sufficiency could be studied.

Yes, of course I would have accepted the benefits if I had qualified. I know that limits have to be set at some level, but I think when someone is that close to the poverty line, some sort of sliding scale could be used to at least have allowed for food stamps for a period of time. I don't know how well I would say the system works when some have all their needs met, and some in need get absolutely nothing due to the standards utilized.

But the main point is that we managed to survive without any help. We didn't have health benefits or a prescription plan. I had to pay the full rent for my house, utilities and day care. I had to go to court without a lawyer three times. We couldn't afford a car. We wore hand-me-down clothes. Most of the time we were low on food. Church food pantries had pretty much disappeared in my area due to a decline in donations. I did get a box of food at Thanksgiving once, though, from a local church. At one point I didn't have a refrigerator for about a week when ours broke, so I had to put the perishables on the back porch in the snow until I was able to get a second-hand one from someone who had just purchased a new one (and all this while living "underground" for 2 years hiding from a maniacal wife beater.)

Looking back on those years I realize that I learned first-hand how indomitable the human spirit can be and how we can survive far greater hardships than we think we can. I guess you can't put a price tag on that.
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