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Why preach Sabbath economics

By Alexander Carpenter
Who Then Can Be
Saved?: The Reign of God as Redistributive Justice”. Talk on Mark
10:17-30 by Ched Myers, Melbourne Australia, 1995.

Check out Paul Krugman’s new blog, The Conscience of a Liberal.
He’s got a very telling graph up on the “share of the richest 10 percent of the American population in total income – an indicator that closely tracks many other measures of economic inequality.”
What’s especially interesting lies in the strong evidence that the progressive New Deal reforms created the great American middle class and the last thirty years of supply side economics in action have — on the whole — not trickled down. Period.
Krugman adds:
The great divergence:  Since the late 1970s the America I knew has unraveled. We’re no longer a middle-class society, in which the benefits of economic growth are widely shared: between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent.

Most people assume that this rise in inequality was the result of impersonal forces, like technological change and globalization. But the great reduction of inequality that created middle-class America between 1935 and 1945 was driven by political change; I believe that politics has also played an important role in rising inequality since the 1970s. It’s important to know that no other advanced economy has seen a comparable surge in inequality – even the rising inequality of Thatcherite Britain was a faint echo of trends here.

And if that’s not enough, Forbes just released its list of the 400 richest Americans. For the first time in the magazine’s history, a billion dollars isn’t enough to join the club. In fact, 82 billionaires couldn’t make it into the Forbes 400 this year.
Even Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. “has acknowledged that income disparities have increased.”
According to a study of tax returns,
“Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of
Americans — those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 —
receiving their largest share of national income since 1928. . . . The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively
enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans.”

And here’s the kicker, while the super rich mimicked the Gilded Age robber barons, ninety percent of the country actually lost, on average, over half a percent of their income or about $172. Instead of trickling down, nine out of 10 Americans actually lost money.
Religious leaders may wonder why this matters for their pastoral ministry.
Beyond the the obvious concerns over equality and economic justice this concentration of wealth among a few causes churches and institutions such as colleges and ministries to rely on a few big money supporters (who get influence) rather than allowing grassroots support to flourish.
In fact, preaching Sabbath economics not only helps the poor, it also fosters a more variegated Christian support network and like the great middle class boom of last century, a progressive economy cuts back on civic apathy and equips more people to convert their ideals to reality.

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