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Archive for the ‘The Economy–Wealth & Poverty’ Category

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is not an ATM Machine


by: on October 16th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

Today in the Roman Catholic church we celebrate the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century French nun. Jesus not only appeared and spoke to St. Margaret Mary, a nun of the Visitation order, He let the nun, like St. John the Beloved at the Last Supper, rest her head on His heart. Some outside of the Catholic church mistakenly believe that we Catholics worship the saints. Nothing could be further from the truth: we venerate the saints. Indeed, every Christian, Catholic or not, whose Christian life has been enhanced by devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has great reason to thank St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about St. Margaret Mary today, not only because it’s her feast day, but because I think if the nun lived in the world today, and in this particular money-obsessed country, the poor woman would have had to go on Xanax. The financial exploitation of Jesus Christ not only occurs in every region of the United States of America, it is has become entirely normative.

Equally devastating, American Catholic bishops, who otherwise never hesitate to inject themselves into any number of modern-day events and issues, remain largely mum about the galloping spread of the total lie that is called the “prosperity gospel.” For decades, as televangelists have reinvented, refocused, and altogether sharpened their tool of spiritual destruction known as the prosperity gospel, Catholic bishops have been out to lunch. Perhaps the reluctance to forcefully challenge the purveryors of this naked distortion of Christ’s teaching is rooted in fear: How can Roman Catholic bishops throw stones at prosperity gospel preachers when some of them are living in glass mansions themselves?

Yet I think it is important to emphasize to all spiritual progressives, regardless of faith tradition or no tradition, this particular point: When Roman Catholic clergy, and I would include Mainline Protestant clergy also, keep mum in the face of the spread of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” your lives are undoubtedly impacted as well. For if we, in the name of religious freedom, consent to living in a society where Jesus Christ can be turned into a personal ATM machine without anyone standing firmly against it – or at most just give a roll of our eyes at the practice – don’t be surprised when you find yourself living in a society that is simply brimming with people who are trying to turn you into an ATM machine as well.


Politics, Humility and Homophobia: The Strangest Bedfellows of All


by: on October 14th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

I opened my email to the news that Governor Brown had vetoed AB 1229 which would have allowed local governments to require a smidgen of affordable housing along with luxury developments. Immediately, I felt tense and angry, outraged that rent control is illegal in California, and now this further setback. I was despondent and disgusted that a liberal governor would veto one tiny step toward affordable housing.

Then I opened another email about a community college inviting for-profit education companies, at least one of whom had said public education was “broken,” to hold a conference on campus.

My stomach tensed. My forehead ached. I felt antagonistic, judgmental, enraged and ready to shout.

Once this state of mind didn’t trouble me. I may even have welcomed the adrenaline.


Chuck Hagel: Not a Dot-Connecter


by: on October 12th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Over at The Atlantic, Steve Clemons has an in-depth interview with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. It is well worth reading. Clemons, who has opened up avenues of U.S. foreign policy discourse that were virtually nonexistent ten or fifteen years ago, is an unabashed supporter of Chuck Hagel. Therefore, don’t expect a Mike Wallace-style interview should you read it. Nonetheless, Clemons does draw Hagel out on a “whole host of issues” – as our dapper president would say – and that may not be such a great thing for Chuck Hagel, or the country. Indeed, if our nation’s enemies learn what a terrible dot-connecter the Secretary of Defense really is, we’re in more deep doo-doo than we thought.


Gandhi, Trusteeship, and the Commons


by: on October 10th, 2013 | Comments Off

As much as I have read and heard about Gandhi for years, it is only recently that I have become acquainted with the complex vision he had of trusteeship. In essence, as I understand it, Gandhi proposed that anything material that goes beyond the elusive notion of need satisfaction (which I discussed last week) be viewed as held in trust for service.

In preparation for writing this piece, I had a long discussion with a friend, let’s call her Nadine, about the ramifications of what this approach could possibly mean. Nadine, a woman who lives in great simplicity, far beyond any I can claim, was talking about a computer she had acquired some time ago, and what it truly means to view herself as holding this computer in trust. At present, it seems straightforward: since she is using the computer almost exclusively for the purpose of supporting her service work in the world, she is at peace. What would happen, however, if she stops doing her work? Would trusteeship mean that she would be obliged to give her computer away to someone else who would use it for others’ benefit? Would she be able to part with it, to undo, within herself, the visceral sense that this computer is “hers”? That was the moment we both understood deeply that trusteeship calls into question one of the most sanctified pillars of a market economy: the institution of private property. Trusteeship means we don’t own anything; we consume what we need, and the rest is ours to use for the benefit of all.


Wow, in 15 Minutes I Could Save a Lot! ObamaCare


by: on October 3rd, 2013 | Comments Off

Last week, while listening to the doom and gloom about what would happen if the Affordable Care Act wasn’t stopped dead in its tracks, and the other gloom and doom about what would happen if Congress failed to pass a “Continuing Resolution” to keep the government open, I had a few minutes to spare and decided to see what ObamaCare might do for me. Spoiler alert, there’s neither gloom nor doom in what I discovered when I visited Covered California at coveredca.com

I spent some time looking at the small business pages, because Derrick Kikuchi and I are both married AND we own a small business. We’ve been covered by a small business plan through Kaiser and can continue that coverage if we’d like. If we hire one more person we can get that same coverage, with tax credits thrown in to help us pay for it, through Covered California. Despite rhetoric from those who oppose the Affordable Care Act, there’s actually an incentive for us to hire someone as a Pa and Pa business! But, for now, with just the two of us, I needed to look at the possibilities of individual/family coverage.


Gandhian Economics, Universal Well-being, and Human Needs


by: on October 2nd, 2013 | Comments Off

As this entry is being posted, it’s Gandhi’s birthday. Given how much I have been influenced, even transformed, by learning from Gandhi about nonviolence, I wanted to write something to honor his legacy. Because I’ve recently started a mini-series on money, I decided to focus on a lesser known aspect of Gandhi’s work: his views about economics.

At first sight, many of Gandhi’s basic economic thoughts seem entirely irrelevant to our very different time, culture, and context from the one in which he operated and wrote. For example, the idea of village cottage industry, which might have been feasible in early 20th century India, is very hard to imagine now as a primary way forward for industrialized economies. Delving into it a bit deeper, I see a number of convergences between his ideas and the direction that many are advocating today, such as simplicity, localism, and decentralization. Rather than an exhaustive introduction to Gandhian economics, which can be found through a search on the web, I chose, instead, to look more deeply at two core principles that resonate deeply with me and the path I am on with regards to thinking about money and the economy. This week, I am looking at the question of what constitutes universal well-being and how we approach the conundrum of attending to human needs. Next week I plan to look at Gandhi’s notion of trusteeship and connect it with current unfolding thoughts about the Commons.


The Psychodynamics of the Tea Party’s Success in Closing the Government — and How to Beat It


by: on October 1st, 2013 | 4 Comments »

After many years as a psychotherapist studying the psychodynamics leading Americans to move to the Right, (before I became a rabbi and editor of Tikkun), I began to understand why a fringe and extremist group could be so successful in gathering support that would eventually lead to its ability to shut down the functioning of the government. If you read to the end of this letter, I promise you’ll get some new perspectives on what is happening right now in American politics.

tea party

Tea Party members protest in Washington. Credit: Creative Commons/theqspeaks.

I’m writing to you, as a reader of Tikkun Daily, because I need your help in getting a new perspective into the public arena so we can build an effective movement to counter the Tea Party before it is too late. I’ll lay that perspective out below.

That help can take two forms:

a. donating to Tikkun Magazine and/or our public education arm, the (interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming) Network of Spiritual Progressives;


b. joining our network and possibly even coming to the training we will be doing in January 2014 to prepare people for the struggle ahead to stop the plunge toward the Right before it becomes overtly fascistic both in style and content (read more about this at spiritualprogressives.org/training). If you read this letter through, it might hopefully contribute to understanding why the right-wing extremists are winning and what we could do (with your help) to change the picture dramatically.

Here’s what I learned about why right-wing extremists are on the ascendency:


Inequality for All: Robert Reich’s Analysis of the U.S. Wealth Gap Hits the Big Screen


by: Adam Duhan on September 26th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Every once in a while, you get the artistic perfect storm of an exceptional raconteur and brilliant teacher, an extremely talented set of technical people, and a right-on, topical subject, all coming together. Jacob Kornbluth’s latest movie, Inequality for All (starring Robert Reich), is terrific documentary cinema.

film imageAdmittedly, when they first sought to answer the question of how the United States got into this ridiculously toxic financial mess, the auteurs had little sense of where this movie would take them. What emerged is a juggernaut of easy-to-follow data, mind-blowing graphics, and engaging interviews of hard-pressed workers and students. Their stories are yours and mine. The icing is the addition of amazingly frank and revealing interviews of the Pacific Pillow Company’s CEO and Warren Buffet, representing the enlightened upper 1 percent.

The movie is loosely based on the content of Secretary Reich’s legendarily popular University of California, Berkeley course “Wealth and Poverty,” and on his 2012 book, After Shock. It takes us through the lascivious coupling of “too large to fail” banks’ mortgage and investment divisions, the death of Glass-Stiegel, and the Congress-for-sale reality created by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.


NYT Profile of Employed & Homeless New Yorkers Is a Warning for America


by: on September 22nd, 2013 | Comments Off

Michael Bloomberg’s legacy was written this week by Mireya Navarro of The New York Times. Her painful profile of New York City residents who are both employed (some with multiple jobs) and living in homeless shelters revealed the narrative, human costs of the nation’s worst income inequality gap.

Navarro begins her piece with a heartbreaking snapshot of this human toll:

On many days, Alpha Manzueta gets off from one job at 7 a.m., only to start her second at noon. In between she goes to a place she’s called home for the last three years – a homeless shelter.

“I feel stuck,” said Ms. Manzueta, 37, who has a 2 ½-year-old daughter and who, on a recent Wednesday, looked crisp in her security guard uniform, waving traffic away from the curb at Kennedy International Airport. “You try, you try and you try and you’re getting nowhere. I’m still in the shelter.”

You try, you try and you try and you’re getting nowhere. This could very easily encapsulate the American economic experience for a majority of U.S. citizens. And not just during the last ten years.


Miracles DO Happen: Low-Wage Service Workers on Strike


by: on September 1st, 2013 | Comments Off

Even a year ago, was anyone predicting that fast food workers would be on strike? Struggling, disrespected, mostly working in small franchises without the support of large numbers, they are among the hardest workers to unionize, and as a result, organized labor has, for the most part, ignored them. Each franchise requires a separate campaign but owners have access to the big-gun union-busting lawyers of giant corporations.

And many workers don’t know their rights. Where would they find out about them? One worker who acknowledged she wanted better conditions said, “If you walk out on your job, that’s grounds for dismissal.” Wal-Mart, for example, “illegally confiscated union literature, prohibited discussions of unions and retaliated against union supporters.” Supposedly, American workers have the right to form unions and go on strike. But Amy Traub pointed out on the website Demos that, “while many workers wish to join unions, they often change their minds after an intimidating one-on-one anti-union meeting with their direct supervisor once a week or more leading up to a union election (a tactic employers used in 66 percent of organizing campaigns), after their boss threatens to close down the workplace if workers decide to unionize (57 percent of organizing campaigns), or after those co-workers who most openly support the union are fired (34 percent of organizing campaigns).”

Photo Credit: L.A. Kurth.

It seemed impossible that they would even try.

But it happened and has been happening since last November. At McDonald’s, at Wendy’s, at Wal-Mart. And it wasn’t only in New York City. Far from it. Very far from it. Workers in Indianapolis and yes, the small town of Wausau, Wisconsin walked off the job in protest and picketed, while many coworkers supported them in their hearts without daring to go out themselves.