10.04.2008

A moral crisis

In a post called "Blaming Wall Street Is Too Easy," Chris makes the excellent point that Wall Street and Main Street share blame for the fiscal mess we're in. "You see, we Americans like to spend money. We don't like to cut back," he writes. "The word sacrifice is something we want our war hero politicians to have, but nothing that we want to touch ourselves with a ten foot pole."

We don't even want to sacrifice for war these days. When my dad fought in the South Pacific in WWII, the whole nation was in on it -- sending sons and husbands to war, doing without gas, and cars, and some necessities, not just luxuries. Today we give the rich tax breaks during wartime, and far fewer families feel the effects of the conflict.

Chris goes on to talk about how we can cut back on expenses and luxuries and, working from the grass roots up, lead our "leaders" to make better economic decisions. I applaud this, but it seems a very middle class solution. I can exercise restraint. I can eat out less, and I could cancel cable (TV, but they'll have to pry my internet out of my cold, dead hands). I'm already driving old, paid-for cars, and I use shoes and clothes as long as I can.

But I wonder. What about the poor? What about those who are already just getting by? What about those whose lack of access to education and capital made their pre-meltdown future look pretty bleak?

As seen on TV at the Biden-Palin debate, both parties are falling all over themselves to identify with regular folks. While they rightly blast Wall Street greed, neither seem to recognize any limits that the rich or middle class might have to live under in order to have a just economy. Only the moderator mentioned the poor.

America has been seen for (and criticized for) how it takes care of those with the most when tough times hit. I think it says much more about who we really are, and how moral we are, to look at how we will care for those who are struggling the most.

Here's what I wrote on the comments section of Chris' blog. What do you think?

You make a good point, Chris, as far as it goes. Yes, there is a lot of blame to go around. Yes, I have probably benefited from what has been going on, even without a subprime mortgage or a credit card balance.

Cutting back cable, vacations and fancy chips may be a solution for the middle class (all praise be to us). But what about the people who already look at military service as their college savings plan, who have to sit at the kitchen table and figure out if they'll pay for food, medicine or heat, who can't get college loans (which are probably less of a good idea now, anyway)? In the midst of this plenty a lot of people have been hurting, and now they're really screwed.

It is a moral crisis, that goes beyond moderating the obvious greed of recent years (or, as you so charitably put it, expecting a lot for a little). If God has truly given us enough for all, if we really believe in sufficiency rather than scarcity, then we need make sure everyone gets enough. And that's another area where we're going to have to lead house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood.

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