Ron, Stephan --
I think there is a case to be made that addresses the morality of this issue based on religious grounds, anthropological grounds, economic grounds, political grounds, and business grounds. Let me start off with the first.
And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes."
Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways!
One minister sports a Rolex and says God has been good to him. A Cardinal wants to withhold communion if a person votes for a candidate that supports abortion rights. The mendacity of this must seem like strange contradictions to a Catholic who must then vote instead for a candidate who supports capital punishment -- which is equally against the Catholic faith, or to a Christian who reads that it's very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Evolution and Intelligent Design dominate our religious and philosophical discourse while Paris Hilton, Janet Jackson's nipple ring, Rupert's all-too-nice bid to win a million, and Donald Trump eclipse the pop culture. Our national attention is focused on gay marriage, under God, the Ten Commandments on courthouse lawns, spectacular courtroom drama, and purple hearts.
We don't particularly like our candidates but we sure as hell know which ones we don't like.
Our ways are considerably diverse and Americans are doing what they do -- pursuing life, liberty, and happiness. This is not a bad thing. But it is fantastically distracting.
If we look at the current economic picture the indicators seem even more stunningly divided. The stock market and home ownership are up, but the ranks of poverty swelled by another 1.3 million and those without medical insurance are equally on the rise. One fiscal quarter heats up. The next cools down. Productivity is up, but so is the trade deficit (imports). And job creation lags at an abysmal rate, while we're going hand over fist to see who can export the most jobs to the Pacific Rim or reward workers who come across the border illegally. The national debt is up, and so are the personal debts of the vast majority of middle and lower-income workers, while personal savings are down. Greenspan warns us sternly, again, that Social Security is in deep doo-doo while CEO compensation is up. They call it the jobless recovery. Economists scratch their heads. I think they're lying when they say they don't understand why.
Our mixed bag is full of holes.
Is it just possible that life, liberty, and happiness are in a different direction from a fat 401k and a new Escalade? Poverty in America is not an economic problem -- it is a moral problem as Pope John Paul points out:
The alleviation of the suffering of some of the poor in the ministry of Jesus is a sure sign that the Good News of the reign of God is being proclaimed to all the poor of history. It is a proclamation through liberating words and liberating actions. The Gospel is proclaimed to the poor by means of concrete deeds. When Jesus made human beings see and walk and hear and, in short, gave them life, he was giving an example for that time and mandate to the Christian community throughout history. This is what is meant by "remembering the poor" and it is something we should be "eager to do" (Gal. 2:10). There is no authentic evangelization that is not accompanied by action in behalf of the poor.---Pope JohnPaul II ,
The prophet Haggai opens his treatise chastising Israel for not getting the Lord's house built -- they're off building up their own houses doing their own thing being comfortable instead. He points out to them that what they're working for is nothing because it just comes and goes and no matter how much they have they will never have enough. To the modern Christian who follows the one who would say that 'if you do it unto the least of these you've done it unto me' it may be an appropriate admonishment that 36 million of the least, a third of whom are children, go to bed tonight in poverty while the rest of us polish our cars, eat pizza, and order a movie on pay-per-view.
The Pope's words don't get much play in the United States though, nor, I doubt do they get much attention elsewhere on this matter. But if the subject is Abortion or Gay Rights -- hey -- we can cover that. Or if he just wants to talk about watching football games on Sunday -- hey -- which candidate is going to come out against that?
Christmas time probably wasn't a really popular platform for us to hear these words either, but it's a good transition point for us to start talking about a paradigm shift in America:
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The law of the market and globalization does not guarantee justice, so there must be solidarity to give people precedence over profits, says John Paul II.
The Pope made this point today when he received the letters of credence of Carlos Rafael Conrad Marion-Landaus Castillo, the new ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the Holy See.
"In today's world, it is not enough to limit oneself to the law of the market and its globalization," the Holy Father said. "Solidarity must be fomented, avoiding the evils that stem from capitalism, which put profit above the person and make [the latter] the victim of so many injustices."
"A development model that does not take into account and address these inequalities cannot prosper in any way," he said.
"Those who always suffer most in the crises are the poor. This is why they must be the special object of the vigilance and attention of the state," the Pope continued.
"The struggle against poverty must not be reduced simply to improving their conditions of life, but to removing them from this situation creating sources of employment and adopting their cause as one's own," he added.
To achieve this, the Pope stressed "the importance of education and formation as elements in the struggle against poverty, as well as respect for fundamental rights, which cannot be sacrificed for the sake of other objectives, as this would strike against the real dignity of the human being."
In his address, the Pope responded implicitly to those who think that the Church should not speak out on economic or political issues.
"Although in her service to society it is not the Church's role to propose solutions of a political or technical order, nevertheless she must and wants to point out the motivations and orientations that come from the Gospel to enlighten the search for answers and solutions," he said.
"At the root of peoples' social, economic and political ills is usually the rejection or neglect of real ethical, spiritual and transcendental values," he added. "It is the mission of the Church to recall, defend and consolidate them."
"In the solution of these problems, it must not be forgotten that the common good is the objective to attain, for which the Church, without claiming competencies that are foreign to her mission, lends her collaboration to the government and to society," he concluded.