Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


February 11, 2014

Lion and the Lamb: Living in different worlds

CROSSVILLE — Oxfam is an international alliance of 17 organizations that are working in 94 countries to build a future free from the injustice of poverty. Last month, on January 20, Oxfam released an astonishing report: the 85 richest people in the world now have as much wealth as the world’s 3.6 billion poorest people who comprise about half of our planet’s entire population.

The report goes on to state: “Wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game. ... Policies successfully imposed by the rich in recent decades include financial deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, anti-competitive business practice, lower tax rates on high incomes and investments, and cuts or underinvestment in public services for the majority.”

A document prepared for last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos details the pernicious impact that widening inequality is having in both developed and developing countries, helping the rich undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of everyone else.

Oxfam challenged those gathered at the Forum to pledge six things: (1) Support progressive taxation and not dodge their own taxes; (2) Refrain from using their wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens; (3) Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners; (4) Challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education, and social protection for citizens; (5) Demand a living wage in all companies they own or control; (6) Challenge other members of the economic elite to join them in these pledges.

Unfortunately, the prospects are that there won’t be many nations or global corporations willing to make such a pledge, given their high regard for self-interest and the importance of giving priority to profits over people, not to mention being committed practitioners of good old-fashioned greed. It seems that most wealthy individuals and corporations have found ways to escape paying taxes, one of the main ways we have of joining together in a community’s efforts to support our common life and structures.

For instance, stock options, dividends, and performance pay of corporate CEOs are all either tax-deferred or untaxed or taxed at the capital gains rate. The “Double Irish” is one of the favorite CEO ways of tax avoidance: shifting revenue to Bermuda tax havens, and then employing tax loopholes to bring the money back to the U.S. without paying taxes on it. The top twenty richest Americans, with a total net worth of almost two-thirds of a trillion dollars, have taken wealth from the public or from employees, or through low taxes or untaxed inheritances.

Mike Rivage-Seul, a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest who recently retired as director of Berea College’s Peace and Justice Studies Program, reminds us how important the taxes of the wealthy can be: “In 1998, a UN Development Report said that a tax of 4 percent on the world’s richest 225 people would provide enough resources to feed, clothe, house, cure, and educate the entire Third World. To the wealthy, such taxation is unthinkable. As a result, 30,000 children die of absolutely preventable starvation each day.”

Rivage-Seul also points to the fallacies about poverty commonly subscribed to by the rich—that the blame for poverty lies with the poor, and that the solution to poverty lies in reforming the poor and educating them for the hi-tech jobs that will emancipate them from poverty. Recently Pope Francis has been reminding us that economic questions--considerations of social justice and equality—are central to the Christian faith and that the dream of the poor and dispossessed of the earth for a redistribution of the world’s resources and common wealth is also a Dream of God.

Rivage-Seul goes on to state, “In the eyes of Pope Francis, tolerating such needless deaths is sinful, and runs entirely contrary to any pretensions of those identifying themselves as ‘pro-life.’”

What does being “pro-life” in such a world mean to you?

• • •

This column by local writers is dedicated to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world of peace and justice.  Opinions expressed in “Lion and Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff.  For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.

Text Only
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar