Once more, Clint Fowler's email bag has yielded a frightening gem. It's obvious to most that the gap between rich and poor in this country is widening. An article in today's Christian Science Monitor online has a cadre of economists verifying that but also saying that gap could have some consequences you might not think of:
"• The white middle class may grow less tolerant of affirmative action and other efforts to help minorities - African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.
• Reflecting public opinion, Congress could shrink programs for the poor.
• Efforts to limit immigration, already growing, could expand further.
• Reactionary politicians could win more votes and offices.
• The class system in the country could become more rigid. As it is, because education is primarily paid by property taxes, children in wealthy communities get a better education than those living in poor towns. For children, education is a prime determinant of future income and class. Recent economic research finds that income mobility has already declined in the US.
• With their wealth, the new "oligarchy" could maintain excessive influence in Washington through campaign contributions and support for lobbyists."
Read the whole article here.I think there's a real opportunity for the Church here. Not the power grab of the religious right, but the chance for the Church truly to engage those with extreme wealth with the amazing possibilities of being a servant leader with that wealth. The U.S. could meet it's 0.7% annual commitment to make the Millennium Development Goals a reality just with the money given back to those making more than $400,000 a year by the Bush tax cuts.
When you talk about large groups and movements of people, that's not where we're headed. For one thing, even when we get it right, we get it wrong. We finally put the Bush administration in thumbscrews for something ... and it's the wrong thing -- this stupid U.A.E. port fiasco, which is nothing more than xenophobia (fostered, admittedly, by this same administration) gone wild. (Are we really worried that the folks from Dubai are going to do a worse job with port security than is already being done with only 5 percent of shipments being inspected?).
No, the change is going to happen person by person. By people with great wealth having transformative experiences and relationships and their hearts being turned. One of my great heroes in this is a former student of mine who inherited tens of millions of dollars when she turned 21. I have never seen anyone take stewardship as seriously as she does. She's forming a personal mission statement and a personal giving statement. She's praying through this. She wants not just to give her money away but give it away in the best, most effective way possible.
She is an example of how we get to the other side of the CSM story. We need a lot more. Then maybe we'll be in for a real gilded age -- for everyone.