Sunday, February 06, 2005

Flak

I get flak for my comments about the wealthy. There is, I am told, nothing wrong with being rich. And indeed I have no argument with those who profit from their labor, their talent, or their entrepreneurial skills. But two things have to be asked: 1) how much is enough, and 2) what about those who inherit their wealth?

How much is enough cannot be answered, really, because it will vary from person to person. But surely those who have benefited from living in this country should pay for the privilege. No man is an island, and surely no businessman is. There really is no such thing as a "self-made" millionaire. Without our infrastructure, without our defenses, without our laws, flawed as they sometimes are, the kind of wealth many Americans enjoy is simply not possible. To point out one example, unlike many other countries, bribery is not a normal cost of doing business in the US, nor is ponying up to the local strongman/dictator. Taxes in the United States are, frankly, compared to the rest of the developed world, ridiculously low. I know many will disagree. But increasingly we live in a country where the infrastructure is being permitted to degrade, where the poor are kicked to the curb, and where wealth and the wealthy are creepily worshipped. To claim to be a Christian country at the same time is laughable. Jesus' concern was for the poor, not the wealthy. And as for taxes, Jesus, asked by his disciples if they should pay tribute to Rome, took from them a denarius, pointed to the stamped head of Tiberius Caesar, and said simply, "Caesar's things to Caesar. God's things to God."

As for inheritance, I find it truly sickening that Americans watch a show in which Paris Hilton and her equally parasitic friend flounce around making fun of the hoi polloi. The joke this season is that they're interns. Ha ha, how funny, Paris Hilton pretending to work (cripes, no wonder Southeast Airlines went under!)! Should parents be allowed to pass wealth on? Certainly, but again, the question as to be, how much?

Our priorities are obscenely wrong. We worship wealth and hate the poor - the opposite of Jesus, who so many Americans claim to worship as Lord. Jesus is Lord, and we play with fire by taking pride in being the fattest hogs on the block. Yes, I am angry, and part of the reason is that I fear for my country. Until we truly live up to our small-d democratic ideals and our religious yearnings, no matter our religion, we all should.

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