Those who think the uber-wealthy should pay a fair tax are accused of “class warfare.” Please! When someone like Mitt Romney accuses President Obama of engaging in “class warfare” it’s like the Japanese Emperor accusing FDR of starting the World War II.
Reasonable people have suggested Romney should answer for why the company he owned, Bain Capital, looted some companies, took excessive dividends and management fees and left the companies for dead, its employees without jobs. Seems like a reasonable question.
But some politicians say any criticism of this conduct amounts to “class warfare” and an attack on capitalism itself. Really? Romney made billions sitting in his office, clothed in a coat and tie, not producing anything. He bought and sold companies, helping some succeed while looting others. Is that what capitalism has become? Is that an approach to competition and productivity you want to embrace?
Henry Ward Beecher was a 19th century abolitionist best remembered for his fire and brimstone sermons on the evils of slavery. He is less remembered for his views of working people. Rev. Beecher didn’t understand there isn’t that much separating the slavery from which Moses freed God’s people and the conditions imposed on the working poor yet today.
Beecher's activism on behalf of slaves didn’t extend to the "working class.” During the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 he preached against the strikers whose wages had been cut. His notorious "bread and water" sermon included lines like, "Man cannot live by bread alone but the man who cannot live on bread and water is not fit to live.”
It was the nature of the times that made that kind of preaching acceptable but those ideas don’t square with scripture. Later it became unacceptable. The trustbusters revealed the excesses of corporate greed. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt believed Wall Street and the greedy titans were guilty of abusing their political and financial clout to get richer at the expense of the middle class. The result was the Sherman Anti-trust Act and the prosecution of greedy corporate offenders. His cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed and said, “Capitalism cannot survive without a conscience.”
Yet in 2012 those who speak like the Roosevelts once did are denounced for engaging in “class warfare.” Come on. Class warfare isn’t new. It’s just that those who have money and can hire the best lobbyists know how to wage the war. To the winners have gone the right to name it. They call themselves “capitalists” and us they call “class warriors.”
If you use your Bible for something other than thumping, you know the original class warrior was the Mother of Jesus. Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Before Mary there was Isaiah, “Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth.”
So where do those so-called “values voters” learn their values if not from Isaiah and Mary? When did preaching or politicking for economic justice become objectionable? When did it become offensive to ask greedy rich folks to share and to suggest capitalism should have a conscience? And when did we confuse Biblical teaching with partisan politics and trickle down economics?
Raising concerns about the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest is not “class warfare.” It’s Biblical.