Point of Reference
by Fred Price
As a result of recurring “contractions” in our economy, deep budget cuts are often proposed that hurt most those least able to cope. (The most memorable being the “Great Contraction” of 08-09, until the most recent precipitated by the Coronavirus pandemic.) From youth programs to education, housing allowances and welfare, social security, Medicare and Medicaid; all are scrutinized for possible alteration. Which leads to heated debate, individual protest and mass demonstrations. The protestors range from those angry with being “forced” to work harder and longer than they have in the past, to those legitimately concerned with disappearing pensions and benefit packages. With the deep cuts then proposed to the “safety net” programs, many feel there is no way out and fear for their very survival.
Those who professionally debate these issues, and who are largely in no danger of being hurt by their solutions, state the options starkly. We can make painful, unpopular reforms (some of which are obviously legitimate), especially to the more vulnerable middle and lower working classes – ostensibly to increase efficiency and competitiveness for those who recruit their employees from those groups of people; or we can borrow more money. (From the likes of China no less, one of our biggest economic, military and social competitors.) At the expense of future generations of Americans.
The issue for me being the idea of an equitable sharing of the responsibility for our problems and their cure. The more reasonable among us stressing the principle of equal sacrifice, not equal giving. (See Luke 21:1-4) Not a class war or the re-distribution of wealth, not a free ride for those unaccustomed and unwilling to work nor a disproportionate break for the wealthy.
Statistics show that in both the U.S. and United Kingdom – the two wealthiest “free” countries in the world – upwards of 30% of the national wealth is concentrated in the top 5% of earners; who certainly pay thousands, even millions of dollars in taxes – even as they lobby for numerous breaks and countless loop-holes allowing them to pay lower percentage rates on their earnings than those who have far less to begin with. (Negating the idea of “equal sacrifice” altogether. Multi-millionaire Warren Buffet pointing out that he pays less taxes – on a percentage basis – than his secretary, whom we can only assume makes considerably less than he does.) That’s not to say the wealthy should be punished for working hard, investing well, exercising control of an inheritance reasonably – or being lucky; but neither should the poor and middle class shoulder a disproportionate amount of the sacrifice to be made to create a fiscally responsible environment that will spur economic growth and recovery. For even while it is absolutely true that the wealthy generally finance the business ventures that employ people from the not-so-wealthy classes, both benefit from the investment as without those hires’ hard work and dedication to the cause of their employers – there would be no hope of success for anyone.
As a result of the ever-fluctuating markets all of us need to learn that we may not always be able to afford everything we want and be satisfied with meeting our needs, however basic that may be. At times, investment returns will be low, business growth slow and highly competitive, hiring and promotions few and far between; creating less-than-hoped-for wages and revenue for employers and employees alike. (Ideally, CEO’s benefit packages reflecting the reality of their company’s circumstances as well – which is often not the case.)
Admittedly, there is no ideal solution to less than ideal situations, but if we all genuinely strive to understand, sacrifice and work together to overcome, we can. A principle Paul advocated would go a long way in helping us not only survive but thrive. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3,4What a difference that approach could make in our on-going national debate and attempts at problem-solving; from Main Street to Wall Street, at school board meetings and on city councils, from the State House to the White House.
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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