Eight Republican Small Government Arguments Debunked

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When the Republican Party opposes laws that protect us from the life-ruining effects of corporate greed, they tend to argue that such laws create big government, which, they say, is evil. They advocate for small government instead, which allows the corporations to exploit workers, consumers and the environment. They employ several well-rehearsed arguments in an effort to convert voters to their way of thinking. Here are some of those arguments and why they are wrong. [The following is an excerpt from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason”]

1) Government regulations always have negative unintended consequences.

Imagine you’re on a camping trip. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a black bear approaching from the opposite side of your tent. He doesn’t seem to know you’re there. You realize that if he gets too close, he could become startled and attack you. You’re in danger. You need a solution. One solution is to do nothing. The bear will then enter your campsite and likely harm you. Another solution is to run away. If you do, you’ll ensure your demise, because bears love to chase, catch and maul other animals, including you. Another possible solution is to bang pots and pans together before the bear gets too close. Since bears dislike loud noise, the bear will turn and walk away from you. Life saved! Of these three possible solutions – doing the right thing, doing the wrong thing, and doing nothing – only doing the right thing worked. Doing nothing was nearly as bad as doing the wrong thing.

Unfortunately, anti-government Republicans, especially of the libertarian variety, usually insist that we must do nothing to address the harmful effects of greed in the business world. They repeatedly claim that the government makes every problem it addresses worse, so the government should limit its actions to the defense of property rights. Yes, sometimes governing officials choose wrong solutions, making existing problems worse or creating new problems worse than the original problem. This is a part of what decision-making is all about – choosing between solutions that work and those that don’t. People in power make mistakes just as all humans do. It’s up to us to vote for the best decision-makers. But to vote for those who refuse to make decisions altogether is to let the devil have his way.

Thanks to the thousands of decisions our government has made over the years, it’s easy for anti-government types to sort through them and find some bad ones to use as examples of how government decisions always have negative unintended consequences.

However, countering their argument is even easier. All we have to do is identify laws and regulations that do far more good than harm. For example, most business regulations that protect workers and consumers from harmful chemicals in the workplace, in our food, or in the environment do a tremendous amount of good. Child labor laws are also good. The only negative consequence is that the business owners make less money when not exploiting children. Republicans warn that business owners will pass the extra expense on to consumers in the form of higher prices, making life worse for everyone. (They’ve made this claim in opposition to child labor abolishment, to the auto safety regulations of 60s, the Clean Air Acts of 1970 and 1991, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. And yet, economic doomsday failed to materialize every single time.) But this can only happen if consumers are willing pay more for that product or service. The truth is that most households have a limited amount of income to spend, so they must make choices where to spend it. If business owners raise prices, consumers will choose to buy less, which hurts the business’s sales and profits. So, in many cases, businesses simply must keep prices where they are, leaving the owners no choice but to earn fewer millions. This is what corporate powers fear. That’s why they promote the unintended consequences argument.

One industry in which the benefits of regulations have been far greater than the unintended consequences of them is banking. Before banking regulations were enacted in the 1930s, widespread banking industry collapses afflicted every generation throughout the previous century. Once the regulations were implemented, our banking industry was catastrophe-free for over 50 years. Then along came banking industry deregulation of the 1980s and 1990s, and following soon after were the Savings and Loan bailouts of the late 80s and the bank bailouts of the Great Recession in 2008-2009. Without regulations, our banking system proves to be a disaster that robs depositors and tax-payers of their money. So it’s not government regulations of greed-driven business practices that have negative unintended consequences; it’s what the government allows in the name of enriching the wealthy that has negative unintended consequences.

2) Regulations kill jobs.

Even after the deregulatory disaster we call the Great Recession, Republicans continued to oppose financial industry regulations designed to prevent another collapse and future bailouts. They, of course, called these “job-killing regulations.” They apply this term to most financial, environmental, workplace, and consumer product regulations. They claim these regulations will cost businesses extra money, and that they’ll have no choice but to cut jobs, since they’ll no longer be able to afford to pay their employees.

Indeed, they are correct in saying that regulations cost more. For example, if a power plant’s owners allow poisons and neurotoxins to run into a river, that costs them next to nothing. However, if government regulations require that toxins be stored in special containers and shipped to government-approved toxic waste dumps that keep toxins out of the general environment, this costs them a lot more. They must buy the containers, pay a company to haul them away, and pay for maintenance of the dump. If the power plant is in poor financial shape, this could force the owners to cut some jobs. Although, if it’s in good shape, the jobs will remain, since the plant needs all of its employees to service its customers. Here’s what the Republicans fail to tell us: Either way, the money the plant pays in obedience to the regulations goes to other U.S. companies; it does not leave the economy. This money creates jobs that build and maintain the dump, manufacture the containers, and haul the containers away. Thus, the regulations create jobs; they don’t destroy them. Some businesses may be worse off thanks to regulations, but remember that they were enriching themselves at the expense of others, anyway. So they don’t deserve that money. Also, without the regulations, many of these businesses would simply pay the money saved to their owners who are likely to sock it away in commodities or investment gambling rather than create jobs with it.

3) For every regulation we add, we must take one away.

“The impact of any proposed new regulation must be offset by removing another regulation of equivalent cost.” This is a quote from Mitt Romney while on the campaign trail in April of 2012. Out of concern that government regulations cost the corporations he represented too much money, he and other Republicans have proposed that we simply refuse to add any more laws that protect us from the harmful effects of greed; if we do, we must remove existing laws of equal cost.

Since regulations are simply laws that pertain to businesses, it makes sense to imagine how such an approach would work if we applied it to laws for individuals. For example, in recent years, Americans tend to disapprove of texting while driving, because it causes deadly accidents; therefore, many states have made it illegal. So if we apply the “if you add a law, you must take one away” principle, then we would have to simultaneously make drunk driving legal in order to keep the number of personal laws from increasing. This, of course, is absurd. The reason the new texting law has to be added is because a new technology came along that enabled people to endanger one another in a new way. Offsetting this new law by legalizing drunk driving simply increases the number of road deaths. This defeats the purpose of having laws, which is to protect people from the harm caused by those who throw caution to the wind. The only way to keep road deaths low is to add the new law without repealing the old ones. The number of laws is not important here; the well-being of people is.

In the business world, not only must we protect ourselves from a financial industry that never stops scheming to get people’s money, but in North America, over 1,200 new chemicals are developed each year.  Manufacturers continually add new, potentially dangerous chemicals to cleaning agents, pesticides, beds, cosmetics, and, of course, food. In addition to that, businesses continue to invent new technologies, which, like weapons, can be used for good or for harm. Imagine if our government had adopted the “for every new regulation, take one away” mantra before the computer age, or the television age, or the automobile age. We would have no speed limits, drivers’ tests, minimum driving age, drunken driving laws, standards for vehicle safety, or requirements to stop at red traffic lights and stop signs, because adding these regulations would have supposedly added to the size of government and limited our freedom.

4) Regulations take away our freedoms.

This is a statement designed to appeal to the lazy mind. If you don’t think about it, it makes sense that the more rules we have, the less freedom we have, since rules take away our freedom to do whatever we want. What conservatives fail to realize is that regulations, which are nothing more than rules for businesses, actually increase our freedoms, as well as the freedoms of businesses to prosper.

Let’s go back to the life insurance example I used in the Pure Capitalism chapter. Imagine buying a Whole Life policy at the age of 25 that will pay $200,000 to your family when you die. And let’s imagine that you pay all of the premiums over the course of 20 years, and then the insurance company goes bankrupt before you die, so that your family will never receive any benefits for all of the premiums you’ve already paid. You will have thrown away thousands of dollars and gotten nothing in return. If this were the norm in society, you (and most other people) wouldn’t buy life insurance, since doing so would be a risky gamble, because the insurance companies would have to stay in business your whole life in order for you not to lose all of your money invested in premiums. Without government intervention, the life insurance industry would barely exist, because no one would trust it.

Fortunately, government regulations have come to the rescue. First, as I previously stated, all states have guarantee funds that pay your claims if your insurance company becomes insolvent. But that alone would not be enough to save the industry. It would be easy for companies that behave irresponsibly to exploit the guarantee fund for the sake of excessive short term profits. For example, a company could specialize in charging high premiums to high risk customers (those with health conditions that make them likely to die within the next few years), pay out enormous profits to themselves in the short term, and then declare bankruptcy when the claims come due. They would then walk away with millions, while the insurance companies who’ve behaved responsibly would pay the irresponsible company’s claims through their mandatory contributions to the guarantee fund. This scenario would have the effect of driving up the cost of insurance for everyone, and it would encourage companies to behave badly in order to come out on the winning side of the guarantee fund. In fact, companies who behave responsibly would probably leave the industry out of frustration over the fact that they have to fund the claims of those who behave irresponsibly.

This is why states have heavily regulated the insurance industry. Their regulations keep the insurance companies solvent by requiring that they follow ethical practices. These regulations, combined with the guarantee fund, strengthen consumers’ trust in the industry and its products, so that the industry has the freedom to thrive, while the consumers have the freedom to buy the insurance they feel best fits their needs.

Ask any Republican politician about a scenario like the one I just described, and they will likely reply that they don’t oppose regulations like these. And they are correct. This is why Republicans don’t abolish these regulations when they have control of federal, state, and local governments. The Republicans, whether they admit it or not, understand that many regulations are good for business. What Republicans oppose is not all regulations, but regulations that might limit the profitability of the handful of industries that control their party – namely the oil, coal, and gas industries, the banks, the pharmaceutical industry, the defense contractors, and a few others. When Republican politicians and pundits say that regulations take away our freedoms, what they really mean is that regulations take away the freedoms of big industries to hurt consumers, employees, the environment, and sometimes even smaller competitors for the sake of even greater profits.

5) Government must not increase regulations or taxes unless waste and fraud are eliminated.

Would you refuse to heat your home if you found that three percent of the heat escapes through windows and the opening of doors?

If so, stop heating your home! Almost all homes allow more than 3% of indoor heat to escape. For some, the number is probably closer to 30%. So why do you still choose to heat your home? It’s because staying warm is of far greater importance to you than eliminating all waste and inefficiency. You know that some waste is inevitable, so you do the best you can to minimize that waste. But you pay for heat despite the waste, because your body needs warmth to live.

In 2013, we learned that the Pentagon wasted $1 billion of taxpayer money on a logistics support system that never materialized.  This waste reminds some of us of the $600 toilet seats and $400 hammers the Pentagon purchased in the 1980s, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.  So do we cease to have a national defense because of government waste and inefficiency? Of course, not. That would be suicidal! We need a national defense!

Likewise, our nation needs to tax its people to pay its bills. It needs agencies to regulate and inspect businesses for the sake of our protection. The Republican argument that we must eliminate or reduce these, because of bureaucratic waste, is downright absurd. Waste will always exist. There will always be inefficiencies. We must do the best we can to minimize these. I think both parties agree on that. Unfortunately, the cost of completely eliminating waste is often more costly than the waste itself, because it often requires micro-management, which means hiring more government workers to oversee the government. Nonetheless, government agencies must continue to do their jobs, regardless of waste, because the well-being of people is of greater importance than the elimination of waste and incompetence.

It’s on this last point where the parties differ. Republicans desire to eliminate many necessary institutions in the name of waste reduction.

Generally speaking, Democrats care about needs; Republicans care about nuisances. Democrats care about people suffering from lack of food, shelter, and medicine. They care about children getting an education and having a fair chance to live a life fitting for someone created in the image of God. They care about protecting workers, consumers, and the environment from disease-causing toxins, physical dangers, and thieving scams. Republicans care little about these things. Instead, they care about the nuisance of having to pay taxes or the nuisance of having to do paperwork required by regulations. They care about the fact that government is sometimes inefficient, corrupt, or incompetent. Yet when Republicans totally control government, as they did for 6 years under George W. Bush, these nuisances fail to disappear. If anything, Republicans have made government more corrupt. History has proven them to be guilty of this past century’s worst scandals: Teapot Dome (Harding), Watergate (Nixon), Iran-Contra (Reagan) and the Iraq War (Bush). So how can they insist that those who oppose corruption vote for them?

Republicans have also made government more incompetent by underfunding agencies and underpaying government workers. Then when their budget-slashing causes problems, they effectively say, “See! We told you government is incompetent! Vote for us! Because we hate government!” If you vote Republican because you hate government waste, fraud, and incompetence, you may want to ask yourself if they’ve ever made much progress in eliminating them when given the chance.

6) Free enterprise is more efficient than government.

This may be true (although I’ve worked for some incredibly inefficient corporations). But it’s beside the point. It’s just another distracting argument. Few Democrats argue for socialism in which the government owns businesses. Most of what the government does, free enterprise cannot do. Free enterprise cannot run our law enforcement and judicial system. If it did, corruption would abound, and the wealthy would rule far more than they already do. If free enterprise ran agencies like the EPA, OSHA, the FDA, and the SEC, they would be useless, because the business community would effectively oversee itself.

Even infrastructure, which has historically been built by government, has sometimes been turned over to private ownership with disastrous consequences. Such was the case with the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Canada. The government had allowed the bridge to be privately owned, operated, and maintained after it was built. In 2012, Detroiters got to vote on a proposal to let Canada build and pay for a second bridge that would shorten commutes for citizens living on either side. However, this would mean decreased tolls and profits for the owner of the Ambassador Bridge. So he launched a fear-driven add campaign to get the people to vote against the second bridge.  Fortunately, the majority of people did not fall for it. Nonetheless, this proves that private ownership of infrastructure can work against the common good, because private interests can stifle competition by manipulating the government.

7) Our government is power hungry.

Imagine yourself as a major shareholder or executive of a company that’s profiting at the expense of the well-being of others. And imagine that U.S. citizens want to elect leaders willing to pass legislation to stop you. Will you stand idly by as you’re in danger of losing millions of dollars for the sake of humanity? Your greed simply won’t let you do that. You, and all other corporate predators facing similar challenges, will use your wealth, power and influence to place politicians in government who look out for your interests. This may include encouraging those who represent your interests to run for office, donating to their campaigns, and backing a propaganda machine that distracts the public from your power grab by accusing the government of being power hungry. Such a campaign may claim that Democratic politicians are power hungry control freaks who want to take away our freedoms like Hitler would.

But does such a claim have any basis?

How much power does a congressman really have?

In order for a congressman to exert his power through legislation, he must get 217 House representatives and 51 senators and a president to agree with him. That’s not much power at all. The checks and balances of our system limit individual power among government officials.

One might argue that congressmen enrich themselves with bribes and kickbacks. Indeed, this happens from time to time. However, as we learned in the Rob Blagojevich scandal (in which he tried to sell a vacant Senate seat), the penalties for such crimes are significant. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.  Most politicians are unwilling to risk so much just for extra cash.

Only through working together as a political party can politicians have a lot of power. But even then, it’s not really the politicians who have the power; it’s those who control their party. In the case of the Republicans, that appears to be big industry. The corporate wealthy can appoint their representatives who vote for their interests. Of course, who knows their interests better than politicians who come from the corporate world? Not only will they vote for the interests of their peers, but they can campaign as “job creators,” and thus, distract the populace from their true agenda.

In the 2012 election, coal industry executive and multi-millionaire Bob Smith (R) ran against incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (D) for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Bob Smith was a Tea Party “job creator” who railed against big government. In some of his campaign ads, he said he favored changing the law so that if Congress could not agree on a budget, congressmen wouldn’t get paid. They would forgo their salaries.

At first listen, this sounds good to the average voter: it’s the job of Congress to pass a budget, so if they don’t do their job, they don’t get paid. But upon further examination, Smith’s idea was really a plot to give the upper hand in budget negotiations to wealthy congressmen from the corporate world. Congressmen who come from a public service background, or who have little wealth, need their congressional salaries to support their families. Wealthy corporate executives and investors who become congressman need no salaries, since they are already wealthy. This gives the wealthy Republicans power over middle class Democrats in budget negotiations. If the Democrats want to eat, they have to give in to the Republicans.

Politicians from the corporate world have numerous ways of paying themselves. They often use the government to enrich themselves and the big business owners who fund their campaigns. First, they vote for massive tax cuts that can add millions of dollars per year to their wealth, so their enormous tax savings dwarf their congressional salaries that only pay them thousands of dollars. Someone like Bob Smith might vote to remove safety and environmental regulations from the coal industry at the expense of the environment and the safety of workers – all in the name of greater profits for himself. And, of course, politicians can vote for the government to give money, in the form of subsidies or contracts, to businesses they own and invest in or that fund their campaigns.

Corporations excel at one thing: manipulating their environment to maximize their riches. Therefore, corporate executives elected to government excel at one thing: manipulating their environment to maximize their riches. That environment is our government. “We the people” have a choice: We can elect officials who represent our interests, or we can elect officials who manipulate the government to benefit the wealthy. When we elect these anti-government types from the corporate world to run the government, it’s like electing a mobster to run a police department. A mobster will weaken and corrupt the police department so it’s unable to protect the city from the mob. If the mobster police commissioner is particularly sly, he may even manage to turn the city’s population against the police, giving the mob even more power to do evil and freeing it from the only force that can protect its victims.

8) Big government increases corruption.

This argument implies that small government prevents corruption. History shows this not to be the case. One of the most corrupt politicians of all time was William Magear “Boss” Tweed. He was the head of New York’s Tammany Hall political machine in the 1860s and 1870s, the supposed good old days of small government. Yet it was the small government environment of that time period that enabled Boss Tweed to have so much power. On multiple occasions, Tweed used his power to legislate advantages for railroad magnate, Jay Gould, who, in turn, gave Tweed a major share in his companies. Tweed served as director of numerous businesses and manipulated government to serve them. In 1877, Tweed was convicted of stealing between $25 million and $45 million tax payer dollars through his schemes. This is over a billion dollars’ worth of money today.

Tweed was not the only corporate manipulator who changed laws to place competitors at a disadvantage. In 1890, the Republican-dominated Congress, led by Senate Finance Committee Chair, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, passed the McKinley Tariff, which eliminated the Sugar Tariff on imported sugar. They did this, because the Sugar Trust in the Deep South wanted to weaken their San Francisco-based competitor, Claus Spreckels, who sold cheaper sugar that he imported from Hawaii, which was exempt from the old tariff. The Sugar Trust imported their sugar from Cuba, which was not exempt from the tariff. Since shipping sugar from Cuba was cheaper than shipping from Hawaii, the Sugar Trust was back on top once the tariff on raw sugar was eliminated. That however, cost the government about 50 million dollars per year in tariff revenues. Add to that the permanent subsidies the government had committed to pay the Sugar Trust as part of the deal, and the U.S. government went from having a budget surplus to having more than a 100 million dollar per year budget deficit (note: the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which committed the government to buy 50 million dollars’ worth of silver per year from American mining companies also played a major role in the deficit).

Notice, again, how politicians with close ties to the corporate world are the most corrupt. When government fails to police corporations, corporations control our government. When we vote for politicians who have close ties with the corporations, like Boss Tweed, Mitt Romney, or Tom Smith, we vote in favor of corruption. Corruption existed in the past; it exists today; and it will exist in the future. While it’s difficult to quantify how much corruption existed in any given period, it seems to me that it was worst in the past when government was small.

Contrary to what small government conservatives tell us, corruption often finds state and local governments to be the path of least resistance. Today, more than ever, voters pay little attention to local and state politics, because their eyes are fixed on the national media. Local newspapers are practically gone, leaving voters less aware than they used to be. But even before the demise of local print media, local government corruption managed to fly under the radar.

Take, for example, the sewer scandal of Washington Township, Berks County, PA, where I grew up. In the early 1990s, when I was away at college, homeowners throughout the township received notice that they would all have to pay about $8000 each to install a sewer system in a mostly rural township in which everyone already owned septic systems for which they had already paid. How did this happen? The township leaders, working closely with the contractors who would profit from the mandatory sewer system installations, voted it through without notifying the township’s residents. Why didn’t residents object at the meetings? Because they didn’t attend the meetings. I once attended one as required by my 10th grade social studies class, and what I observed was a boring, tedious gathering of a few old men in flannel shirts. Few people want to repeatedly endure such boredom. That, along with the fact that most people are busy raising their families, keeps people from getting involved with local government. Conservatives may argue that we should get more involved. But the reality is that people don’t, and often, those who do are business people looking to manipulate local government for personal profit.

The state level of government, while more in the public eye, is still more susceptible to corporate influence than the federal government is (although, the federal government is certainly not immune). Take, for example, the asbestos dump in Valley Forge National Park. How did a toxic dump wind up in the middle of this national treasure? According the National Park Service website, “PA [Pennsylvania] permitted Ehret [the asbestos dumper] to dispose of manufacturing waste routinely by pumping it through a slurry pipeline into the former limestone quarries in the State Park.” Valley Forge was a Pennsylvania state park, and the state allowed this asbestos dumping from the 1890s to the 1970s. In 1976, the federal government made Valley Forge a national park. The National Park Service then prohibited further dumping, roped off the site, and has since been in the process of cleaning it up.

Of course, this clean-up has been at the expense of tax payers. Ehret can’t pay for it, because they are no longer in business. Even if they were, they would not be liable, since the state made it legal for them to dump there. To sum it up, Ehret got rich, while the taxpayers cleaned up their mess. And all of this was because state governments are even more easily corrupted by corporate power than the federal government is. Both left and right wing national media organizations, especially those that millions of us watch on TV, fix all eyes on the federal government in an attempt to dig up dirt on the politicians they want to defeat in the next national election. If the U.S. Congress tries to sneak corruption past us, there’s a good chance we’ll find out about it. But few people are watching the state and local governments; and that’s the way corporate corruption likes it.

The biblical stance on the size of government

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[The article is an excerpt from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

Fear of Totalitarianism

Humans in the 20th century witnessed something the world had never quite seen before – the totalitarian state. While other powerful governments in history have muscled their way into their citizens’ lives, modern technology enabled Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to control every aspect of those lives. For example, the Soviets assigned every citizen a specific job. Career choices were not allowed. They told people where to live. They worded every radio broadcast their people heard and directed every movie they saw, all in an attempt to control their thinking. Their society sounds like something from a horror movie. But it was real.

Naturally, Republicans accuse Democrats and moderates of being like Nazis and Soviets any time they attempt to implement a solution to protect Americans from big businesses. Sometimes they’ll go as far as to frighten people into thinking Democrats actually have a master plan to create a totalitarian America. Less extreme Republicans simply accuse the Democrats of promoting big government, merely implying that Democrats desire to control every aspect of American life. Once Republicans establish this mindset of fear in gullible Americans, they offer salvation to their followers by means of the opposite extreme – small government.

Sayings like, “The government that governs least, governs best,” establish in the minds of voters that small government is righteousness; it’s a morality. If it is indeed a morality that is one and the same as Christianity, then the Bible should consistently show God condemning government power. However, when God placed Joseph in a position to instruct the Pharaoh of Egypt, Joseph commanded the government to exercise significant power in the name of feeding its people, and God didn’t object. In Gen 41:34-36, he said, “Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. And let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish during the famine.”

God had given Joseph the power to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream so that Joseph could warn the Pharaoh, implement a plan to save the people from starvation, and then bring his family to Egypt to save them from starving, too. To accomplish this, the government had to take the farmers’ crops, so they could set enough aside for the coming famine. This taking of food was a powerful act of government. A modern Republican or libertarian would label such an act as big government overreach, if not totalitarianism. If Joseph had been a libertarian, like Ron Paul, he would have let the people starve in the name of liberty and small government. God, however, was unconcerned with these false moralities; He was concerned with the well-being of people.

How Big Should Our Government Be?

If we want to establish the most righteous size of government, it makes sense for us Christians to look to God’s nation of ancient Israel for a comparison. Our initial gut response might be that God’s government was much smaller than ours, because His nation was a primitive, agrarian society. However, that point is subjective. It all depends on how we measure the size of government. If we count the number of government workers, only 0.7% of the U.S. population worked for the federal government in 2010, compared to an average of 1.0% from 1954-1991.  How does this compare to the Bible? It’s hard to say. It’s unlikely, however, that the number of law enforcers, judges, tithe collectors, etc. made up much less than one percent of the population.

If we measure the size of government by how much it taxes and spends, our government is similar in size to ancient Israel. God’s tithes for ministry, festivals, and the poor totaled 23.3% of income. Plus, God required leaving food behind in the fields for the poor, and He prohibited selling food to them at a profit. So that probably brings the wealth redistribution total to about 30% of income. As of 2010, America taxed 24% of its output,  so that’s a lower percentage than what the Israelites had to share. And keep in mind that the Israelite number doesn’t include expenditures for the military and the functioning of government. It is merely the percentage of wealth redistributed for the common good.

If we measure the size of government by the power it exerts over multiple aspects of people’s lives, God’s government was larger than ours, because He ran a one-religion nation. His laws controlled sexual behavior, diet, appearance, and rituals of worship in addition to business conduct, property distribution, and injury retribution. In a multi-religion nation like ours, legislation can only control the latter.

Some might argue that our government has more surveillance ability than that of ancient Israel, and that’s true, but that ability does not increase government power in any practical sense. Stable governments of all sizes throughout history have always had the ability to make and enforce laws and to throw people into prison or have them executed, even if it was for nothing more than questioning or opposing the decisions of those in power. If anything, our government today has less power than past governments, thanks to video and photo surveillance conducted by common citizens that broadcasts brutal acts of government and law enforcement officials to the world and incites people to react against them.

God never speaks about “size” of government in the Bible. This is probably because such an argument is of no value. In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God holds the nation of Israel responsible for making sure it follows all of His laws, statutes, and ordinances. He then gives plenty of details as to how He’ll punish them if they fail. God’s focus is on justice being served, regardless of how many people or laws it takes to make it happen.

Likewise, our focus should be the same. The size of government is irrelevant. Focusing on it simply distracts us from the issues at hand. There are good laws and bad laws; there are good regulations and dumb regulations. We should seek to pass good laws and get rid of harmful ones (or prevent their passage). If lawlessness increases, then the size of law enforcement must increase. If street crime increases, a larger police force is needed. Likewise, if corporate schemes increase, more regulations and inspections are needed. If America’s businesses weren’t so corrupt, we wouldn’t need so many regulations. We need big government to fight big greed.

When we seek to pass good laws that protect the powerless from the harmful effects of corporate greed, Republicans try to distract us by accusing us of making government bigger. They know that if they can make us fear big government, “we the people” will vote away the only power we have by turning our government over to them. They will, in turn, strip away regulations, so the corporate wealthy whom they represent will grow even richer at the expense of the innocent.

When Republicans realize that they can’t scare enough people into believing that Democrats want to implement a totalitarian government the way Stalin and Hitler did, they argue that “big government” regulations are bad for everyone. In other words, if we don’t let big business have its way, our economy will suffer, prices will rise, and jobs will disappear. Next week we’ll refute several of their arguments.

How corporations make us dependent upon them, and how that system fails

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According to the American Presidents’ Series biographies, Thomas Jefferson, as governor of Virginia during the Revolution, wanted Virginia, after the Revolution, to give 50 acres of land to every man who lacked land – a government handout, free of charge – so that every man and his descendants could be self-reliant. Jefferson dreamed of an America in which people worked hard and were self-sufficient, but he understood that a person had to first possess the means with which to work and provide for oneself in order to actually be self-sufficient.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law (which had been championed in Congress by Andrew Johnson in the 1850s, but initially vetoed by Buchanan), giving 150 acre Midwestern homesteads to eastern families who lacked land and were willing to move west and farm them. By 1934, 1.6 million families had received 270,000,000 acres (about 10% of the nation’s land) from the U.S government, so they could possess the means by which they could provide for themselves. To Johnson and Lincoln, such grants were essential to the idea of independence. They knew that you couldn’t be truly independent if you had to depend on someone else to determine if you could have a job and if you got paid enough to live. Also, you could not borrow money to engage in business if you lacked the property to put up collateral. They knew it takes money to make money, and most wealth in the agrarian past was generated by having land.

Today’s world is completely different.

This is no longer a nation of family farms. It is a nation dominated and controlled by corporations – legalized systems of stealing in which the corporate wealthy make millions or billions of dollars when their risky business ventures do well; but when they go bust, and they owe millions or billions of dollars, the owners declare corporate bankruptcy, forcing their debts on society, all while personally keeping their riches. This lucrative double standard attracts numerous owners, making corporations so large and efficient that they dominate the marketplace and take away people’s means to provide for themselves.

Most young Americans go out into the world today with practically nothing and are fully-reliant on the corporate wealthy for jobs and income. So if the wealthy provide only 180 million jobs for 200 million workers, 20 million people have to be unemployed. If 40 million jobs pay less than $10/hr., then 40 million people have no choice but to earn an unlivable wage. Those who are crushed and left out by this system cannot depend on themselves, because they have neither the farmland to live off of nor the wealth needed to start a business; therefore, they are left to fully rely on handouts, whether they be from the government or from charity (and charity has always proven to be a huge failure on a national level). The only reason Americans are dependent on government for income is that our system of dependency on the corporate wealthy for jobs and income fails millions of people at any given time.

And even if a person does have reasonable wealth and opens a hardware store, their business will soon fail, because the mass efficiencies of mega-corporations like Lowe’s and Home Depot undermine small business owners’ ability to compete on price. So not only are those who would have been farmers 100 years now just employees for a corporate grocer, but now those who would have been small business owners 50 years ago are just employees for corporate retailers. They are no longer independent. They are dependent.

But it doesn’t end there.

Now that the vast majority of workers are fully-dependent upon the corporate wealthy, the corporate wealthy are replacing workers with technology. This has always happened, to some extent, but mostly in manufacturing. And since America was lucky and smart enough to build up a strong consumer base during the decades following WWII, service industry jobs were abundant enough to replace manufacturing jobs, and we survived. But now technology is replacing service industry jobs. It has already replaced travel agents, postal workers, brick and mortar book stores employees, and sales reps (replaced with websites in which the potential customers can utilize interactive demos that you once needed a sales rep to show you in person).

And the number of jobs being replaced is about to increase at an exponential rate over the next few decades. Self-driving cars and trucks will eliminate millions of transportation industry jobs. Fast food will serve itself. More effective versions of “Siri” will replace nearly all call-center sales and customer service jobs. It’s likely that 30% of the workforce will be displaced during the best of economic times by 2050. Conservatives will argue that we can stave off these job losses with impoverished wages, but such a plan will fail to stave them off for more than a decade due to the rapidly falling costs of technology (for example, a $1000 HDTV in 2009 costs $200 today in 2016).

The corporate system, due to its efficiencies and concentrations of wealth and power, has hoarded the means of survival, forced us to rely on them, and now that we do, they are taking away the jobs and income we rely on them for, so that millions of us have no hope for living anything other than an unbearable life of poverty. It’s hard to imagine a more evil system.

So what do we do about this?

We can predict what the Republican Party will do. They will likely continue to blame us workers for our neediness, while defending the means-hoarders’ rights to not have to share their wealth with the millions of us they have forced to depend on them. If their way wins, America’s future will be a calamity more devastating than we can imagine.

But for us progressives, it’s time to revive the idea of a Guaranteed Basic Income. It’s pretty much like Social Security for everyone. All Americans over a certain age (like 18) will receive a fixed income regardless of whether or not they have a job or any savings. So if, in the year 2050, 30% of the workforce is unemployed during the best of economic times, thanks to technological displacement, the unemployed will still have the means to survive, while those who have jobs will receive both their guaranteed basic income and their pay from their employer.

While this system is not as ideal as everyone having a job is, it’s where we will someday have to go to avoid catastrophe. The good news is that it is affordable. Using today’s world as an example, it would have to meet the needs of about 200 million Americans ages 18-65. If each received $15,000/year, which is about the same as the current average Social Security retirement benefit, that would cost $3 trillion per year, which would increase our current federal budget from $4 trillion to $7 trillion. So taxes would then have to rise from 18% of GDP (where it is now) to 32% of GDP, which is similar to some western European countries, today. If you add on state and local taxes, the average tax rate would be about 40%, maybe those in the top 2% of income earners would pay 50% (just like the Reagan tax rates of the early 80s), while lower income earners would pay less than 30%.

I can now imagine various detractors saying that such a system will make people lazy. This will be true to an extent, but from what I’ve seen, most people have enough pride and greed in them to desire more income than $1200/mo, so there will be plenty of competition for jobs. On the positive side, those employers who abuse their employees with power trips and unbearable hours for unlivable pay may no longer be able to do so. If they abuse employees, those employees can leave. Perhaps this will bring about a workplace culture of respect for employees rather than the current culture of abuse and disdain.

Regardless of what the problems would be with a guaranteed income, the corporate system combined with technological advancement will leave us no choice but to implement it. Otherwise, our nation will be overrun with out-of-control poverty and violent crime, while the lack of consumer spending money will cause the investments of the wealthy to go bust, crashing the world economy like never before.

I’m surprised none of the current progressive politicians have taken up this cause. Perhaps it’s because they are concerned more about the next 4 years than they are the next 40. Both Nixon and McGovern favored versions of this system in 1972; however, so its return to the foreground of progressive politics isn’t unrealistic. Perhaps it’s time for you, the voter, to pressure your representatives to look out for our long term needs rather than just their own short-term successes.

5 Reasons why Rachel Maddow’s lesbianism is NO reason for Christians to reject her show

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Since Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart left their politically-oriented shows on Comedy Central, the only cable news/punditry show I watch on a daily basis is “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC.

When I mention this to conservatives, especially of the Christian variety (although not always), they’ll say something like, “Isn’t she a lesbian?” And they say this with a crinkled nose, furrowed brow, and disgusted facial expression, as if lesbians are smelly. Their stated disapproval of Rachel’s sexual orientation is intended to invalidate both Rachel Maddow and her show. In their minds, if they can invalidate the person, then all of the information, education, and intellectual analysis that comes from that personal is also invalid, evil, and should be avoided.

Here are several reasons that Christians should not invalidate Rachel Maddow’s show because of her lesbianism.

1) Judging a person and that person’s works based on their sexuality is a major sin.

As Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’”

All of us fall short in some ways, but not in all ways. There are thousands of things a person can do right or wrong. However, most of us tend to judge a person as good or evil based on only one or two of those things. I believe this is one of the reasons judgmentalism is such a major sin. It’s not that people might not deserve some judgment; it’s that we are so bad at judging people. And we have hundreds of years of church history, where wicked church leaders persecuted now-revered church reformers, to prove it.

Naturally, the Bible allows for us to judge deeds as right or wrong. If we couldn’t do that, we couldn’t have legal and judicial systems. And it allows us to judge statements, laws, policies and legislation as right or wrong; otherwise, how could we function as a society? But judging a person as evil is the equivalent of taking our seat on God’s throne and damning an entire human life. We don’t have that right, nor do we have that ability.

When we judge a person as evil, then we ignore and reject all of the good things that particular person says or does. Likewise, when we crown a person as righteous, we become blind to their sins and their lies. This is how Christians are led astray in their beliefs. We should judge the issues, not the people who tackle those issues.

2) Lesbianism gets fewer biblical mentions than failing to wear tassels on your garments.

The Bible contains two passages telling the ancient Israelites to wear tassels on their garments as a part of their religious identity. The Bible contains only one passage addressing lesbianism. And in doing so, it says, in Romans 1:26, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural…” The word “exchange” seems to imply that the women had sexual attractions and relations with men and then chose to “exchange” them for attractions to and relationships with women; it does not technically address women who have always been attracted to those of their own sex. But that’s another debate. Regardless, this is the Bible’s only attempt to address lesbianism in any way. Heterosexual men who look at a women with lust, which is pretty much all of us, get at least as much biblical attention as lesbians do.

3) Fox News is the sexually immoral channel, not MSNBC.

As an open-minded fellow, I’ve watched about as much of Fox News over the years as my stomach could take. Of course, Fox News’ highest rated cable news show has been The O’Reilly Factor. On that show is a segment called “Waters’ World,” where a reporter by the name of Waters interviews people on the street in an attempt to show just how clueless they are about politics, history, and current events. Of course, in 2014, Waters was sent to Florida to interview supposedly liberal college students at Spring Break. So he couldn’t help but interview some girls in revealing swimsuits. But hey, if that’s what people are wearing, what can you do, right? Maybe it just so happened that the hottest girls in the most revealing swimsuits had the most interesting answers.

But then I noticed something that was pretty hard not to notice. Normally, Waters had always interviewed people in a semi side-by-side manner, so the camera could see both the interviewer and the interviewee from the front. But when Waters interviewed girls wearing thongs at Spring Break, the Fox News camera showed about half of the interview from the back, so that we TV viewers could get a really good look at the scandal of these girls’ bare bottoms.

Yet despite Racheal Maddow’s supposedly rampant sexual immorality, I’ve never seen her show us bare bottoms, busty bikini babes, or clip after clip of Beyoncé’s most sexually-enticing videos (an obsession of O’Reilly’s). For some strange reason, Rachel Maddow sticks to the important political topics of our day, while Fox News, who claims to represent Christian holiness, feels the need to repeatedly titillate their viewers. And I haven’t even begun to address the fact that their news women just happen to be more physically attractive that 98% of the female population. What are the odds of that?

Jesus says “You will know them by their fruits.” Fox News has offered up an overabundance of sexually-enticing fruit in its programming, while Rachel Maddow has not.

4) The Rachel Maddow show is as honest as it gets.

The Bible contains about three dozen passages condemning lying and deception. So Bible-believers should emphasize honesty when judging the righteousness of a given program. I can honestly say I have never found a lie on the Rachel Maddow show…no lies about economic stats and no false, unsupported accusations about what a particular politician plans to do to us. I can’t say the same for Fox News programs.

In 2014-2015, I witnessed numerous lies and deceptions on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” In fact, O’Reilly said, on the very last of his shows I watched, “The economy is terrible…Under president Obama, the household median income has fallen 20%.” Having a link to census.gov saved among my favorites on my computer, I immediately went to Table H-6, which shows the year by year history of household median income, and I saw that it had not fallen at all since Obama’s first budget year. Household Median income had actually risen from $49,777 in 2009 to $53,657 in 2014. O’Reilly flat out lied. For me, that lie was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I haven’t watched O’Reilly since.

5) Rachel Maddow opposes greed and oppression of the poor.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, the Bible contains over 100 passages condemning greed and oppression of the poor, including some passages calling on God’s people to take political action (for more on the social justice verses, see http://politicallymoderatechristian.com/7-bible-quotes-of-social-justice-as-a-purpose-of-gods-law/). It’s the most frequently addressed societal issue in the Bible. The half a dozen passages addressing homosexuality and abortion combined pale in comparison. Rachel Maddow, along with most of the Democratic Party, calls out and condemns corporate tyranny and oppression, as well as the Republican Party’s excuses as to why they refuse to do anything to stop it.

I have no idea what Rachel’s religious beliefs are, but I know her intent and messages are far more in alignment with the Bible than those at Fox News. So it’s time that Christians pay attention to what she has to say.

Do Republicans prefer a boom-bust economy?

 

Wall Street Crash...The front page of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper with the headline 'Wall St. In Panic As Stocks Crash', published on the day of the initial Wall Street Crash of 'Black Thursday', 24th October 1929. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Finally, a wealthy Republican business man has said openly what I’ve suspected for quite a while. In an interview with the Globe and Mail in 2007, Donald Trump said, regarding the collapsing housing market: “People have been talking about the end of the cycle for 12 years, and I’m excited if it is, I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.”

This is eye opening news. Could Trump try to place the economy on a crash course for the sake of increasing the wealth and power of the Trump Dynasty?

It seems more likely than not.

But don’t be misled into thinking that Trump is the only industry captain to believe in this approach. I’ve believed for quite some time that the Republican Party intends for us to have these boom-bust cycles.

For example, in December of 2014, as the Republican-led House had to pass a spending bill to keep the government from shutting down, they snuck in a last minute provision that would repeal the Dodd-Frank ban on tax payer funded bailouts of banks that engaged in risky derivatives speculation. The measure had been an essential part of Dodd Frank, because the purpose of that law was to keep America from again having to bail out banks that become “too big to fail” with billions of tax payer dollars so that the economy doesn’t again collapse under a frozen financial system. The government bailed out the Savings and Loans in the late 1980s to the tune of about 150 billion dollars (about 400 billion today) and then bailed out the banks to the tune of about 800 billion dollars in 2008 and 2009.

You would think that any leaders of a nation that wanted what was best for that nation would desire to put an end to such exploitation of the American people, especially leaders who continually attract votes under the guise of opposing taxation and spending. Yet the Republicans were so eager to return Wall Street to its predatory position that they couldn’t even wait until the Democrats officially gave up their majority in the Senate come January, 2015.

The question is why?

Why do the Republicans want to set up the economy for another crash?

I believe the answer is that they prefer a boom-bust economic cycle.

Steady, continual economic prosperity with as few downturns as possible may benefit the working class. But that’s not what benefits the ultra-rich. Certainly, when an economy is booming, the rich get rich. The stock market booms. Profits soar. Dividends are paid to owners. The working class enjoys greater prosperity, and the rich enjoy the greatest prosperity. But when the economy goes bust, as it did in the Great Recession, the rich don’t suffer like everyone else. And it’s not because they have riches to fall back on.

First, the richest of the rich use the economic downturn to eat up their competitors. For example in the banking industry, there were 13 major banks before the recession. Afterward, there were 6 banks. The ones who had been the largest and most powerful to begin with effectively doubled their share of the industry as a result of the recession. Now as the economy picks up, they will earn at least twice as much this time around. The same goes for Trump. He expands his piece of the market pie when the economy contracts, and then when it expands again, he makes even more than before the crisis.

Second, businesses can buy capital at fire sale prices during an economic downturn. Prices of equipment fall when smaller competitors go out of business. Commercial property drops in price as well. For those who are well-prepared for the recession, the weak economy is simply a buyers’ market.

And finally, every economic crisis pushes wages lower, and they never quite recover. This happened in the late 1800s. The 1870’s depression was followed by the 1880’s recession and then the 1890’s depression, and wages fell further each time. Every time there’s high unemployment, workers competing for jobs have no choice but to accept lower wages, and employers are more than happy to offer them. By the 1890s, the workers wore so impoverished that the Democratic Party embarked on an entirely new course under Christian preacher William Jennings Bryan, known as the Progressive movement, which sought livable working conditions and pay for employees.

The same is true in recent decades. We saw household incomes increase by 62% in the 30 years following WWII. But the recessions of the mid-1970s and the early 1980s pushed wages down, and a lot of people never recovered. Then the minor dot-com recession of 2001-2002 set wages back a little more before the Great Recession knocked them back even further. It’s quite likely  the corporate wealthy realize that with each recession they impose upon us wages will take another blow from which they are unable to recover. Recessions allow them to exploit the American people, something the Republican Party has been doing for them since the 1870s.

(For years by year household median income data, check out table H-6 at the Census Bureau website: https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/household/ )

The biblical case for the rich being the least righteous class

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[This is an excerpt from my book, Rescuing Religion from Republicans]

 

Are the Rich More Righteous?

According to 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, the corporate capitalist free market system “not only produces wealth but also virtuous people whose worldly enterprise complements the work of the Creator.” Unfortunately, many Christians hold this same naïve, deceptive view. The Republican politicians and pundits they admire paint a picture of the corporate wealthy as righteous hard-workers who give us the products, services, and jobs we love. The say their contribution to our well-being is so great, and their righteousness so excessive, that their excessive wealth is well-deserved.

As I shared in the Pure Capitalism chapter, I’ve worked in corporate sales for 18 years. I’ve witnessed to a great extent the lure of wealth that chokes out the fruits of the Holy Spirit. According to the Bible, “Better is the poor man who walks in integrity, than he who is crooked though he be rich (Proverbs 28:6).” This runs contrary to Republican claims that the wealthy are more righteous, since many of the rich business executives and owners despise integrity and practice and encourage the crookedness that God condemns. This passage implies that any business owners, executives, and sales people who enrich themselves through deception are worse than poor people, not better.

Not all business owners, executives and sales people are deceptive, however. So are honest rich folks the most righteous people in America?

Not necessarily.

The Bible also condemns the love of money – the very thing that drives the wealthy in their pursuits. Here are a few examples:

Luke 12:15, “And He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’”

Hebrews 13:5, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.’”

1 Timothy 3:1-2, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money…”

Loving ourselves and loving money go hand in hand. When we love ourselves more than others, we make our desires our priorities, and then we seek money above all else. We devote the vast majority of our time, desires, and energy to its pursuit rather than to honoring God and serving others.

Proverbs 23:4, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist [NRSV].”

This last verse condemns not only the love of money, but the obsessive pursuit of it. Many Evangelical Christians subscribe to the politically conservative belief that there’s no such thing as working too much, that the person who works 15-hour days, six or seven days a week, is the kind of righteous person who makes America great. I’ve also heard business owners, especially when expressing disgust over having to share their wealth through taxation, brag about how they work 7 days a week to make money, as if their righteousness exceeds those who work less.

God disagrees. It’s a sin for us Christians to be slaves to wealth accumulation. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work hard when we work. But we must realize that God didn’t put us here to get rich and meet the world’s requirements for success. Rather, we need to put relationships and serving God, neither of which pay money, ahead of worldly business. Our focus, and a significant amount of our time, must be on God’s will. The person who gets rich focusing on wealth 14 hours a day is less righteous than the low income earner who works eight hours, honors God, serves others, and nurtures relationships.

Not only are excessive work hours less righteous than modest hours, but some professions are less righteous than other professions. The financial industry is the perfect example of a profession in which obsession over wealth accumulation is often the sole goal of daily business. Meanwhile, teachers, social workers, fire fighters, pastors, rescue workers, paramedics, and police officers have a different goal. Their goal is to help others. When they make their career choices, they choose to forgo riches in the name of doing good in the world. Some even place their lives on the line. In the eyes of today’s Republicans, they made the wrong choice; they should have chosen the selfish pursuit of riches, instead.

So, do the wealthy deserve their riches?

Some will say the rich work harder. But how many work harder than Sofia, who works 80 hours per week but only makes $40,000 a year? If the average American works 40 hours per week (the average is higher than that) and earns $40,000 per year (which is close to the median income for the nation), how does that compare to the executive who earns $4,000,000 per year? To justify his pay based on hours worked, he would have to work 4000 hours per week. This, of course, is impossible, because a week only contains 168 hours. So we cannot say the rich deserve their pay based on more effort.

Some will say the rich are smarter. Maybe they are, but that doesn’t make them more righteous. Also, how much money does a good idea really deserve? Having an idea pop into your head isn’t exactly painful, like giving birth is. Nor does it require any great sacrifice.

Some will say the rich risk their money in business investments. While this is untrue for highly paid business executives, who are hired by corporations they do not own, it is true for corporate investors. Still, this risking of excess money pales in comparison to people who risk their lives on the job, such as firefighters, policemen, bridge repair workers, and convenience store employees, all of whom earn far less.

Some will say the rich are more productive. My response is, “What are they producing? Is it something people need? Or is it something that will wind up in a landfill in a few years? Or, worse yet, is it just some tricky financial scheme that promises riches to its investors, but in reality, only brings riches to its creators?” As I stated in the Pure Capitalism chapter, I once sold lawn treatments door to door. No offense to my friends who still work in that industry, but it bothered me to push people to buy a mix of chemicals to apply to their lawns. When someone said, “I really don’t mind if my lawn has some weeds” or “I don’t believe in putting chemicals on my lawn,” I never had much of a response, because I agreed with them. Nurses, missionaries, school lunch ladies, and crossing guards all contribute more to society than lawn treatment service companies do, and they contribute far more than sports franchise and casino owners do. Sometimes the word production isn’t as positive as it sounds. In many cases, it describes the conversion of natural resources into wasteful, and even dangerous, products.

Some will say we choose to make the rich wealthy when we “vote with our dollars” by purchasing their products and services. In other words, if I buy a package of hamburger at Wal-Mart (I normally do not shop there), I’m voting for its executives and major shareholders to earn millions, while their cashiers and shelf stockers earn little more than minimum wage; and I’m also voting for similar pay disparity at the farm that raised the cattle, at the plant that packaged the meat, and at the trucking company that delivered the meat to the store. And here I thought I was just buying hamburger. A logical continuation of this argument says that if I don’t like Wal-Mart’s pay disparity, I can go to Giant or Kroger where the same disparity may also exist. Depending on which product I’m looking for, I may have no choice but to buy it from a big corporation. That doesn’t mean, however, that I approve of, or am even aware of, its inner-workings and pay structure. I’m simply buying the product wherever I can get it.

So there’s really no moral reason why the rich deserve so much more than the rest of the human race. If anyone deserves that much, it’s people who risk their lives to help and save others. Those who deserve it least are those who use their existing riches to game the system, short sell stocks, play the real estate market, or time commodities prices. Even those who own businesses or invest in business growth, and therefore play a crucial role in the economy, play no more of a crucial role than their workers and customers do. No large business can succeed without owners, workers, and customers. Take away any one of these three, and any given business fails.

Movie “God is Not Dead” escalates culture wars rather than turning the other cheek

[I wrote the following article a couple years ago after seeing the original “God is Not Dead”, but never published it. Now that “God is Not Dead II” has come out, and there has been some controversy over it and SNL’s parody of it, I figure there’s no time like the present to publish it, because the damage done by such films needs to be addressed. I hope to view “God is Not Dead II” eventually, but I can’t go to theaters due to my severe LED and fluorescent lighting sensitivity here in my post-Lyme years, so I’ll have to wait for the DVD.]

Upon recommendation by numerous fellow Christians, I rented the popular Christian movie, “God is not Dead.” For those of you unfamiliar with it, the movie tells the story of a Christian college student whose philosophy professor tries to make every student sign a paper stating that God is dead, so they can skip the topic of religion in the class, and as a reward, every student gets an “A” on that part of the course. The Christian student refuses and is forced to make a case in front of the class in favor of Christianity, while the professor threatens to fail him if he fails to convince the class of the existence of God.

The premise of this movie paints a picture of Christianity under attack – innocent Christians being persecuted by academia, despite having done nothing wrong to inspire such attacks. But the movie goes further. It paints every non-Christian character in the movie as a horrific human being, from the non-Christian who dumps his girlfriend the moment she tells him she has cancer to atheistic university professors who scoff at Christians and speak to them in condescending tones. Meanwhile, the Christians in the movie are presented as nothing more than innocent people with hearts of gold who just can’t understand why anyone would want to persecute them. Naturally, this is an oversimplification of human nature, because I’ve known my share of friendly professors and condescending Christians over the years. Worse yet, it’s the sin of judging people (judgmentalism) as being evil simply because they are out of alignment with the Bible on a single issue. The truth is that there are thousands of things a person can say or do right or wrong, so it’s a major sin to judge people on just one or two of those things, as this film does. When we do, we effectively take our seat on God’s throne, doing what only God has the authority to do.

The movie also promotes stereotypes by going as far as to feature a cameo appearance by Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, who is verbally attacked by a reporter from a publication called “the New Left,” whose bumper stickers read, “Meat is Murder” and “I Love Evolution.” She asks him how in the world he can be proud of killing ducks and then, with a sour sneer on her face, asks him if it’s true that they pray to Jesus on his show, as if that’s the most despicable, audacious thing a person could do. So, all in one character, the movie manages to lump democrats, vegetarians, and those who believe in a universe older than 6000 years into the same evil cesspool as atheists who have a seething hatred for Christianity.

This movie could have been a good one, because the arguments made in favor of the existence of God and intelligent design are good. In fact, I would have been much happier with a movie that spent all of its time on the existence of God debate. Instead we got a movie that spent 20 minutes on the debate and the rest on inflaming the culture wars.

What I want to know is how the evangelical church expects to recruit people to the faith (which is the meaning of the word “evangelical”) by attacking vegetarians, non-Christians, Democrats and scientists. Do they really think that non-Christians who see this movie will want to join the faith after they’ve been portrayed by Christians in such disparaging and stereotypical ways?

Unfortunately, evangelism has been rendered worthless and ineffective, because Christians have failed to turn the other cheek. Yes, the church has come under attack by atheists at times. But let’s not forget, it was Christians who once made it illegal, to the point that a person would go to jail, for teaching evolution in a school (this is what led to the famous Scopes Trial of 1925). We Christians have also tried to block mosque construction and gay marriage, because they violate our religion, even though we live in a nation that has, since its inception, guaranteed its people religious freedom in which no one can be forced to obey someone else’s religious beliefs. Yet, when these persecuted groups lash out against Christians, conservative Christians act as though they have no earthly idea why anyone would want to attack us (reminds me of U.S. foreign policy). They then strike back with attacks of their own, as the producers of “God is not Dead” did, which only makes matters worse.

What Jesus called us to do when insulted or attacked by others is to “turn the other cheek.” That means we Christians need to be the bigger person. If those we’ve persecuted in the past lash out, we need to let it roll off our backs rather than return fire. Others who verbally attack us, or even legally attack us, as has been the case with lawsuits that seek to remove all Christian symbolism from our nation’s landscape, are to be dealt with in a biblical manner, which is one of respect. If others truly persecute Christians, and we Christians respond peacefully rather than vengefully, then society will see the Christians as righteous and those who persecute us as evil, and people will turn to embrace Christianity. This is what happened in ancient Rome and later in Africa. But if we Christians go on the attack, we will be seen as the persecutors, and people will turn against the faith. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s been happening over the past several decades.

Why it’s wrong for Christians to blame the poor for their poverty

poverty americans

No one better summed up the modern-day Republican stance on personal responsibility than Herman Cain did while running for president in 2012. He said, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself! It is not a person’s fault because they succeeded; it is a person’s fault if they failed.” Yes, society has freeloaders who fail. But this statement goes beyond that. It says that anyone who’s unemployed during a recession is to blame for their situation. This includes teachers and police officers who were laid off due to budget cuts. This includes architects and construction workers who lost their jobs due to a collapse of the housing market. This even includes sales reps who fail because they refuse to tell the lies it takes to succeed in selling products and services for dishonest companies. This statement also says that those who are not rich are at fault. In other words, if people struggle financially because they’ve chosen low paying jobs that help others, like teaching or social work, they’ve done wrong; meanwhile, those who seek riches above all else are righteous, even if their schemes bring more harm than good to society, as was the case in the financial industry crisis that sparked the Great Recession.

Is Cain’s view consistent with the Bible?

Let’s examine Exodus 22:21-24 which says, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict [‘take advantage of’ in the NIV] any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”

Unlike Herman Cain, God does not blame the poor for their poverty in this quote, nor does He blame them (or accuse them of class warfare) for being unsatisfied and crying out. He blames those who place them in such a situation, namely the rich and powerful. To God, poverty and oppression result from evil committed by the powerful, not from choices of those unable to support themselves.

Cain made his statement in response to Occupy Wall Street protesters who cried out against the sins of the financial industry and the corporate world that have expanded the nations disparity of wealth over the last 30 years. While not everyone at those rallies was poor, they represented lower income Americans, some of whom had it pretty hard. Rather than heed the cries of the poor and their representatives, Republicans like Cain have turned a deaf ear to them. This behavior defies Proverbs 21:13, which says, “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.” Some of us might read this verse and imagine an ancient world where the poor literally cry in anguish as wealthier people walk by. But this is not how poverty looks in the real world. In the real world, the poor usually cry out in an organized fashion. They organize politically to cry out for help in paying for health care. They organize into unions to cry out for fair wages – wages that provide food, clothing, shelter, basic enjoyment (yes, having some pleasure in life is a necessity), and a wage appropriate for their contributions to their companies’ successes. They even cry out to the government to organize itself to protect them and their environment from the harmful effects of corporate greed.

Rather than close our ears to the cry of the poor, the Bible requires that we have compassion on them. For example, 1 John 3:17 says, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Republican Christians will respond to a verse like this by saying they do have compassion on the needy. Indeed, many Christians give money to help those in foreign nations. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, when it comes to the American poor, their hearts close. Some will say they choose not to help the American poor, because we have a system to meet their needs. This is true. However, it’s this system that Republican Christians, especially those of the Tea Party persuasion, are hell-bent on abolishing. They tend to believe that America is the land of opportunity; therefore, those who finish last deserve to suffer for not taking advantage of America’s opportunities.

Let’s remember, however, that opportunity is only opportunity. Opportunity combined with hard work doesn’t assure prosperity. Many try their best and still come up short. The formula for prosperity is hard work, plus opportunity, plus God-given ability, plus knowing the right people, plus luck (changes in market conditions, etc.). Only hard work is within our control. The rest is beyond any person’s control; therefore, we must not arrogantly close our ears to the cry of the poor and working class in our country. Much of their suffering is beyond their control. Here’s a short list of opportunity destroyers beyond any person’s control:

1) Competition – A wave of spiritualism, promoted by books like The Secret, has immersed America in a can-do spirit that conflicts with both the Bible and reality. This religion teaches that those who focus on something they want badly, such as money, good health, or a career in a certain field, will receive what they desire if they dwell, to the point of obsession, on positive thoughts of desire and avoid negative thoughts. Some call this the Law of Attraction.

The Law of Attraction, unfortunately, is a lie. It’s invalidated by a much more powerful force, something I like to call the Law of Competition. My Law of Competition says that if you obsessively focus on becoming president of the United States in the year 2020 and never doubt, and 1 million other people do the same, only one of you will become president in 2020. It won’t necessarily be the one who wants it most or thinks most about it, it will be the one who competes best. The rest of the presidential hopefuls will fail, despite all of their positive thoughts. This Law of Competition applies to any situation where an object of desire exists in smaller quantity than those who desire it.

Law of Attraction proponents often speak of how we live in an abundant universe. This, too, is a lie. The necessities of life, along with pleasurable things, exist in limited quantity; therefore, we must compete for them. Among these necessities are jobs.

Republican Christians who despise government assistance programs often tell rags to riches stories to convey the point that in America, the land of opportunity, everyone can have a high-paying job if they just try hard enough. It’s certainly true that hard work can lead to great riches. However, it’s only on the individual level that hard work, etc. might lead to riches. On a national level, not everyone can be rich or close to it. Even if all Americans were to work their hardest and get PhDs, they wouldn’t all prosper. In such a situation, if our nation had 160 million workers and only 140 million jobs, 20 million people with PhDs would be unemployed. And if 30 million jobs paid less than $10 per hour, then 30 million people with PhDs would earn what is a pretty unlivable wage. The reality is that the majority of jobs in America are low-paying, and regardless of how hard everyone tries, the majority of people will be working-class poor. It’s just like a foot race; someone has to finish last.

Since capitalism has always been a system of winners and losers, it’s wrong for Christian leaders and politicians to promote the lie that every individual can win simultaneously if they just try hard enough. Instead they need to ask, “How badly must the losers lose? How badly must they, being created in God’s image, suffer for not being smart enough, well-connected enough, or cut-throat enough to make it in a dog-eat-dog economy?” We need to address the realities of our winners and losers system rather than pretend that poverty is a choice.

2) Injury, Illness and Disease – I could share with you one of many stories of people whose employment options are limited by physical disabilities or who suffer so much chronic pain that they struggle to function on the job, but I think everyone has at least seen, if not known, someone with such struggles. Sometimes we can blame someone for a disease that may have resulted from irresponsible health choices, like smoking, drug abuse, or poor food choices. But for every case like this, others suffer chronic headaches, fatigue, etc from toxins in the products they use or in the environment. Not only are these illnesses not their fault, but they are often the fault of those who enrich themselves through environmental neglect. (I, for example, found after many years that I’m allergic to chemicals used to make mattresses flame-retardant. I suffered a decade of relentless sinus infections and headaches when windows were closed over the winter. Now I sleep on an air mattress, and sinus infections and headaches are rare.)

Not only does poor health hurt job performance and limit career opportunities, but medical bills devastate family finances. Illness and injury play a major role in more than half of all personal bankruptcies. And, prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, in ¾ of these cases, the injured or ill person was insured.

3) Below Average Intelligence – Many politically-conservative Christians say, “If you work hard, and you’re smart, you’ll be successful.” This statement implies that the opposite is true: If you’re lazy and stupid, you’ll fail; and failure, according to Herman Cain, is your own fault. Most individuals can take some blame for laziness, health permitting. Stupidity, on the other hand, is different. If you attended public school, you may recall some childhood classmates who struggled to learn. In my elementary school, those were the kids in the 3rd reading group. They weren’t bad kids. Many of them behaved. They simply struggled to learn. Some really struggled. I remember coming home from college for a visit and seeing one of those kids who really struggled, now an adult, pushing a broom at the local grocery store. It’s likely that broom pushing was about as high-paying a job as he would ever find. According to many Republicans, even those who are Christians, this is an example of a bad person who deserves a life of malnutrition, squalor, and misery, all because he’s not-so-smart. If he has children, they deserve misery, too, maybe even starvation or death from exposure, all because their father lacks intelligence.

Proverbs 14:31 says, “Those who oppress the poor insult their maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor Him.” If any of us were born too stupid to figure out how to get rich, or even get a job, we are as God made us. It’s no person’s fault that they’re stupid; it’s God’s fault. Yet, God has no faults! Therefore, people are as smart as God made them, and no one has the right to judge God’s creation. When we blame the poor for their lack of intelligence, we “insult their maker” – God – for making them as they are, and we judge God as evil and incompetent. Those to whom God gives smarts, skills and lucky breaks have no business being arrogant toward those who receive a less lucrative package of abilities from Him. And nowhere does the Bible say that less intelligent people should struggle to survive as punishment for their stupidity.

4) No Time, No Money – When I think of people who have insufficient time and money to achieve business success, I think of Sofia [fake name to protect identity]. Sofia worked a 40 hour week as a teller at a bank my company partnered with. She also worked a 40 hour week as a cashier at a grocery store. The average pay between those two jobs was probably around $10 an hour. So her reward for 80 hours of hard work was $800 a week, or about $40,000 per year. At the same time, I earned $45,000 per year (working about 50 hours per week) and lived in a one bedroom apartment. On my income, I could pay my bills, save a few thousand a year for retirement and take a week-long vacation. The difference between Sofia and I was that Sofia had kids. With kids, Sofia had no opportunity to save any money or enjoy herself as I did. (Conservatives often argue that poor people are irresponsible for having kids they cannot afford. This is an anti-biblical claim. Bearing children is a God-given right. “Be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28),” is God’s first command in the Bible. I won’t go as far as the pope and say birth control use is sin, but I’m certain that choosing not to use it is righteous in God’s eyes, since it didn’t exist throughout most of human history.)

Having to work 80 hours for low pay, Sofia had no extra money to fund a business start-up or seek higher education, nor did she have time to develop skills that could lead to higher-paying jobs or dream up entrepreneurial innovations. Having come from a low income background, Sofia was stuck in low income jobs, investing all of her time and money in present-day survival rather than in future ambitions. Millions of Americans suffer similar disadvantages. Few of our nation’s millionaires, on the other hand, have ever suffered these disadvantages. Most of them have come from middle to upper class families that fund their ambitions and free up their time to develop marketable skills and dream up big ideas.

Why I, as a gun owner, now believe the NRA really wants criminals to have guns

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I know the title of this article sounds like a conspiracy theory. And that bothers me, because I hate conspiracy theories. And as a Christian, I believe it’s a great sin to assign false motives to someone else. It’s effectively the sin of slander and bearing false witness. I can’t help but see the devil in such false accusations as, “Obama wants to take all of our guns,” when Obama has said no such thing, and “Obama wants to be a dictator,” when he has indicated no such thing, and my favorite, from the comments section under a 2014 Mike Huckabee Facebook post is, “Obama wants to give us all Ebola, so he can declare Martial Law.” So I’m hesitant to assign motives to the NRA, but their actions are leading me toward one conclusion, and one conclusion only – that the NRA wants criminals and terrorists to have guns, so the industry makes more money at the expense of innocent lives.

For most of my adult life, I assumed that the NRA was just an organization of gun owners that represented their interests, and nothing more. My mom was an NRA member, and when I bought my parents’ house after she passed away in 2000, I had no intention of removing the NRA sticker from the sliding glass door. But when NRA president Wayne LaPierre propagated the rumor that Obama was coming to take all of our guns, even though Obama never even suggested so little as a ban on the further sale of assault rifles, I got suspicious. And then the NRA proceeded to oppose every one of the president’s common sense gun regulations, no matter how little those regulations would have intruded on the rights of gun owners. But that’s not what led me to first suspect the NRA wanted criminals to have guns. It started with something that predates Obama.

During the tenure of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (2003-2011), the governor promoted legislation in PA that would limit an individual’s ability to purchase a handgun to one gun per month. They could buy 12 guns per year, but only one per month. The reason for such a proposal was that some people without criminal records would buy 10 or more guns at a time, take them to crime ridden areas, and sell them for profit to ex-convicts who could not legally buy guns on their own (about 40% of guns used in crimes were purchased legally but then used by someone other than the purchaser to commit the crime). The intent of the bill was to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals. So how did the NRA and their Republican puppets in the legislature respond? You guessed it. “The NRA killed the bill in committee. It never even got to a vote,” said Rendell in his book, “A Nation of Wusses.” So the next time you hear the NRA and the Republicans say they can’t do anything to limit gun violence because Obama is just too ineffective and divisive as a president, remember that they’ve opposed common-sense, un-invasive gun laws at the state level, too – a place outside of Obama’s jurisdiction.

When you consider how little negative impact such a law would have on a law-abiding gun owner, you have to ask, “How could anyone be opposed to such a law?”

The worst that could happen to someone who wanted to buy multiple guns for their own or their family’s sake would be that they have to wait a little bit, just like someone who gets a learners’ permit to operate a vehicle has to wait to get their license. Clearly, the NRA opposition to such a bill has nothing to do with denying the constitutional rights of a gun owner or laying a heavy burden on that person. The only logical conclusion then is that the NRA wants criminals to have guns, especially when you also consider the NRA’s fierce opposition to requiring gun shows to do background checks and their refusal to deny gun and ammo sales to terrorist associates already denied the right to fly on all American airplanes. The level of inconvenience these laws would cause is minuscule compared to the value of the lives such a law would save.

NRA supporters might make the tired old argument that passing such laws would be a “slippery slope” toward the abolishment of gun rights. But such an argument is invalid. First, there is never an excuse to do the wrong thing, especially for Christians. Second, it’s not as if passing such sensible laws would somehow prohibit pro-gun congressmen from being allowed to vote against future laws that might actually infringe upon gun-owners’ rights. Third, the “slippery slope” argument is simply the argument extremists make when they know their position is evil, but they believe the position of the extremists at the opposite end of the spectrum is even more evil, so they oppose the righteous solution that lies in the middle, because they fear that any compromise on their part might be seen as a victory for the opposite extreme. Again, this is never an excuse to do the wrong thing.

The final piece of evidence that has led me to believe that the NRA is more desirous of criminals and terrorists having guns than they are concerned about the “slippery slope” is Mike Huckabee’s quote in response to the Charleston church shooting, when he said, “The one thing that would have at least ameliorated the horrible situation in Charleston would have been that if somebody in that prayer meeting had a conceal carry or there had been either an off duty policeman or an on duty policemen, somebody with the legal authority to carry a firearm and could have stopped the shooter.”

Remember, this was a 10 person Bible study meeting on a weeknight. Hiring 7-day-per-week security isn’t in every church’s budget (and not all Bible studies are on church property), so, effectively, Huckabee’s answer to gun violence is that tens of millions of Americans (at least 1 in 9) should carry guns on them at all times to protect themselves from mass shooters. If Americans heeded Huckabee’s words, the weapons industry would make billions of dollars from all of the people buying guns to protect themselves. Of course, the number of accidental shootings resulting from so many casual gun carriers would most likely number in the thousands, and so would the number of shootings by casual gun carriers with quick tempers. And because of the latter group more people would then have to arm themselves for protection. That’s a glimpse of what a guns-everywhere society looks like.

As a Christian gun owner who once favored the NRA, I now have no choice but to oppose it. We’re talking about innocent lives here, and the NRA getting its way will destroy thousands more of them per year. And their motive is quite simply…Money! The gun industry had been losing ground in recent decades as younger generations have found more interesting things to do than sit in the woods hunting animals, so the industry has to find other sources of revenue. Spreading lies to drive fear among those who still love guns has been their most lucrative marketing strategy.

– K. Scott Schaeffer

10 Past Evils that Small Government Failed to Stop

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[This is an excerpt from the book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason”]

As I stated previously, I worked in corporate sales for 18 years. There are things I think I know, and there are things I know indisputably. What I know indisputably is that a significant percentage of people will do anything for money if they can get away with it. For many corporations, there is no concern for right versus wrong. All that stops them from doing evil is the strong arm of the law. Here are ten examples of the innocent suffering where the strong arm of the law was absent:

Triangle Fire, March 25, 1911 – The year before this fire, Triangle Shirtwaist workers went on strike demanding sanitary conditions and safety precautions, including fire escapes and open doors to the streets. They didn’t get them. The fire killed 146 women, average age 19, because the doors were regularly chained shut by management to keep employees from leaving early or taking breaks. When the fire broke out, few could escape. No owners were ever tried for a crime. According to libertarianism, these business owners were in the right, because the factory was their property, and they could do whatever they wanted with it.

Breaker Boys – from the 1870s to the 1920s – Boys 8-12 years old would work 10 hour days, six days a week inside the entrances of coal mines, separating coal from other elements. In the state of Pennsylvania alone, there were 20,000 breaker boys in 1880. Numbers peaked at 24,000 in 1907. Labor activist “Mother” Jones complained, “Fifty years ago there was a cry against slavery and men gave their lives to stop the selling of black children on the block. Today, the white child is sold for two dollars a week to the manufacturer.” In today’s money, that two dollars equals about $40, just enough to feed the child.

The libertarian Republican might argue that the children’s parents were “free” to choose to send them to the mines. The truth was that families were so impoverished they had no choice but to make their children earn their keep. As I stated in the last chapter, money buys liberty; those who lack money have no freedom but the freedom to live a slave-like existence in a laissez-faire, corporate capitalist, libertarian society.

The Freedom Rider attacks – 1961 – The Freedom Riders were a mix of white and black Americans riding buses bound for a civil rights rally in New Orleans. The riders chose to have African-Americans sit up front as a symbol of their convictions. City government officials in Birmingham, Alabama, under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, carried out a plan to have KKK members attack the riders on numerous occasions, while the police were prohibited from intervening. Most riders were beaten to a point that they could no longer continue on the journey and had to be replaced by new Freedom Riders. Only when John F. Kennedy threatened to use federal force to protect the riders did the state of Alabama reluctantly offer some protection. The KKK was so powerful that it controlled local government, but it was nowhere near powerful enough to control the federal government. Ultimately, it was the federal government that put a stop to the atrocities against African-Americans in the South, because state and local governments, corrupted by the KKK, refused to do so in the name of states’ rights and small government.

The Leaded Gas Scare – 1920s – Standard Oil and DuPont Chemical workers suffered severe neurological effects, and even death, from lead exposure while manufacturing leaded gasoline. Had the government had workplace safety regulations enforced through inspections, these people would have been spared terrible suffering.

Hawks Nest Tunnel (Union Carbide) disaster, Gauley Bridge, WV 1927-1930 – According to a congressional report, 426 workers died and 1500 were sickened by silicosis while digging a hydro-electric tunnel and mining silica within it. The excessive silica dust inhibited lung functionality. Company management, knowing the dangers, always wore masks when on site, but no safety precautions were taken or permitted for the workers. Safety precautions would not have been all that expensive. But to the truly greedy, even small amounts of money are worth more than human life.

Today, Republicans complain about the nit-picky nature of OSHA. Having worked in a furnace manufacturing plant in my younger days, I agree that they can be a nuisance. But as we examine history, it becomes clear that we are far better off being annoyed by OSHA than we are suffering death and dismemberment at the hands of the greedy.

Shipping deaths of immigrants coming to America – early to mid-1800s – When American ships returned from delivering exports to Europe, they loaded up with European immigrants looking for a new life in America. In the late 1700s, about 10% of passengers died en route to America. So did the ship’s owners improve conditions to save lives? Not at all! In fact, they did just the opposite. They proceeded to regularly oversell passenger space, cramming up to 1000 people below deck. Conditions on board were so unsanitary that one in seven people died from cholera in the 1840s. By 1845, 20% of incoming immigrants died en route to America, more than twice the death rate from a few decades earlier. On board the April, in 1847, 500 German immigrants died. These atrocities serve as proof that lovers of money will kill for even more money.

Avondale mining disaster, Plymouth, PA 9/6/1869 – Just a few months before the disaster, politicians serving coal company interests defeated legislation to have safety inspectors and better ventilation for mines. All 179 men in the mine died, some as young as 12 years old, because a fire blocked the mine’s only entrance and suffocated the workers. In neighboring Schuylkill County, 556 mine deaths occurred from 1870-1875.

Cuyahoga River fires – 1868 to 1969 – This Cleveland area river caught fire 13 times during this period, due to an overabundance of oil and other industrial pollutants in the river. The largest and most expensive was in 1952. It did one million dollars in damage to boats and buildings along the shore. The most famous was the 1969 fire featured in Time Magazine. A 1968 Kent State study of the river affirmed that a large section of it had no animal life. Thanks to aggressive environmental legislation and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the river has been cleaned up and fires haven’t been a problem. Even northern pike and steelhead trout, which can only live in clean water, have returned to the river. According to libertarian ideology, the EPA is an unnecessary evil, because the threat of corporate lawsuits is all it takes to prevent pollution and river fires. History has proven the libertarians wrong.

Enron and rolling blackouts – early 1990s – George H.W. Bush supported 1992 deregulatory legislation that removed government price controls and allowed risky investment behavior. Within the first 6 months after the law went into effect, California experienced 38 rolling blackouts. Enron also deceived investors through acts of creative accounting, leading people to invest in a company that would soon go bankrupt.

Health insurance deception (personal story) – 1990-1991 – As I prepared to move to Nashville, Tennessee to study at Belmont University, I bought a small, student health insurance plan. The plan’s prospectus said the policy would cover “up to $5000 for surgeon’s fees,” among other things. About nine months into the policy’s coverage period, I had a hernia operation, and the surgeon charged $3000. How much did the insurance company pay? They paid $1000. Apparently, “up to $5000” meant they would pay whatever the felt like paying, but that it wouldn’t be more than $5000. It’s deceptions like these that “we the people” need to fight by means of our democratic government. This is one of the reasons that health insurance industry regulation, like that found in the Affordable Care Act of 2009, is so important.

This list of atrocities is indisputable proof of the dark, satanic power of pure, unrestrained greed – not the greed of a sole street criminal running off with someone’s belongings, but the calculated, cold-hearted greed of rich, corporate owners and executives. This greed is every bit as pervasive today as it was 100 years ago; in fact, it’s probably more so, because a far higher percentage of Americans held religious values 100 years ago. If we let greed have its way in the name of small government, our future will likely be even more oppressive than our past. We can’t let our guard down. We must be forever vigilant against greed. Our most effective defense is our democracy in which “we the people” can choose and pressure leaders to protect us through the strong arm of the law.

This is not to say that all leaders we choose to protect us are righteous heroes. If the leaders fail, we must replace them. If the leaders steal our tax money, we must watch their every move, identify the theft, and reveal the evidence to the world. If our leaders are incompetent or inefficient, then we should replace them with leaders who do a better job. Of course, to do this, we need to know who our leaders are, not just the president, not just the U.S. congressmen, but our state and local representatives, too.

Here’s what we shouldn’t do: Don’t commit intellectual suicide by saying that all politicians are corrupt and then vote for the anti-government types who say the same. They say this because the big businesses they represent are diametrically opposed to “we the people.” There’s nothing worse for predators than when their prey have power over them. That’s what democracy does. It gives the prey power over their predators. The anti-government types hate democracy, because it keeps them from funneling tax money to corporations and enabling the corporations to exploit the working class. They want you to vote away the power of democracy, so they can increase their stranglehold on America.

Small government is both incapable and unwilling to protect its people from big business. When government is small and businesses are big, businesses effectively become the government; government obeys them, not the people. If you want to replace our big government with a small one, the only way it’ll work is if we abolish big businesses. That would mean outlawing corporate liability protection, which would make corporations go away. Our landscape would then be populated with only small businesses, and we would only need a small government to regulate them. Of course, we’d no longer be able to produce cars, planes, and major appliances or distribute gasoline, phone service, and internet service. And society as we know it would collapse. But that’s the choice we have. We either return to a primitive, agrarian, small trade society run by a small government, or we embrace a democratic government in which “we the people” have enough power to protect ourselves from corporate rule.

– K. Scott Schaeffer