At the beginning of this country's inception there were states that were specifically religious. In other words they had state religions. For example Maryland had staked out Catholicism and Virginia embraced Anglicanism as their state's official religion. This included taxing every citizen and paying the clergy of that particular sect directly from the taxpayers pockets. But there was a problem with state religions, they are bigoted, my way or the highway, and if you live there and don't share their values you are considered a criminal. Before our Constitution specifically stated there was to be a separation of church and state those that refused to pay the church tax were jailed. This reenacted the dramas of European state religion excesses and there were those such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson that had the foresight to take steps to eliminate this source of social disorder.
(...)the framing of Virginia’s state constitution in 1776, which exempted dissenters like the Baptists from paying taxes to support the Anglican clergy. That did not go far enough to satisfy Jefferson, so in 1779 he presented a bill to the state legislature guaranteeing full religious liberty to all Virginians—not merely tax exemptions to non-Anglicans—only to meet with resistance from those who deemed his measure too radical. Among them was Patrick Henry, who countered by proposing a “general assessment” on all citizens to support Christianity itself as the established religion of Virginia. “What we have to do I think is devoutly to pray for his [Henry’s] death,” Jefferson joked in a letter to Madison. By 1785, Madison was pursuing another strategy: he composed a petition to the Virginia legislature entitled “A Memorial and Remonstrance.”
Following Locke, Madison argued that to promote any religion was outside the proper scope of limited government. Even for Virginia’s government to sponsor all Christian religions, as Henry proposed, would establish a dangerous precedent, for “Who does not see that the same authority, which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1785) echoes a similar conviction: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there or twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
These efforts eventually evolved into the relevant passage in the First Amendment:
Amendment IThis was important to the formation of this nation. It prevented the state versus state animosity that occurs when multiple religions are trying to corner tithing dollars. Without it I highly doubt we would have managed the cohesion needed to become a Nation.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This concept was well argued and supported by court decisions:
Thomas Jefferson's reply on Jan. 1, 1802, to an address from the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association, congratulating him upon his election as president, contains a phrase that is as familiar in today's political and judicial circles as the lyrics of a hit tune: "a wall of separation between church and state." This phrase has become well known because it is considered to explain (many would say, distort) the "religion clause" of the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ...," a clause whose meaning has been the subject of passionate dispute for the past 50 years.Even though any church would not be an official church of a state the people of this country did see churches as of value. They were not taxed. Instead they were expected to take up the task of caring for the poor. This establishment of churches as the fall back position under poverty was codified in 1601 Elizabethan England. And as many English based laws and traditions this assumption that the churches cared for the poor was carried over the Atlantic on the ships crossing the ocean.
During his lifetime, Jefferson could not have predicted that the language in his Danbury Baptist letter would have endured as long as some of his other arresting phrases. The letter was published in a Massachusetts newspaper a month after Jefferson wrote it and then was more or less forgotten for half a century. It was put back into circulation in an edition of Jefferson's writings, published in 1853, and reprinted in 1868 and 1871.
The Supreme Court turned the spotlight on the "wall of separation" phrase in 1878 by declaring in Reynolds v. United States "that it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [first] amendment."
I included all the text of this poor law because it also is an example of the Calvinistic meme of deserving poor and the remedies for those deemed undeserving.
Provisions of the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601This system obviously had failings as the population exploded beyond what could be supported in England. Soon they were loading the poor on ships and sending them to outposts world wide, including North America. And we too used this template of 'churches are the fall back position' for the poor.
It [43 Eliz I Cap. 2], consolidated all the previous legislation into one massive law and made provision for
a compulsory poor rate to be levied on every parish
the creation of 'Overseers' of relief
the 'setting the poor on work'
the collection of a poor relief rate from property owners
The law required each parish to elect two Overseers of the Poor every Easter: those who were elected were unpaid and often were unwilling appointees who acted under the supervision of the JPs. However, the means of poor relief did provide a way of controlling the 'lower orders' and reinforced a sense of social hierarchy. The Elizabethan Poor Law were appropriate for the society of the time.
The duties of the Overseers were to
work out how much money would be needed for the relief of the poor and set the poor rate accordingly
collect the poor rate from property owners
relieve the poor by dispensing either food or money
supervise the parish poor-house
Two types of relief were available
Outdoor relief: the poor would be left in their own homes and would be given either a 'dole' of money on which to live or be given relief in kind - clothes and food for example. This was the norm.
the poor would be taken into the local almshouse
the ill would be admitted to the hospital
orphans were taken into the orphanage
the idle poor would be taken into the poor-house or workhouse where they would be set to work
Part of the 1601 Law said that poor parents and children were responsible for each other, so elderly parents were expected to live with their children for example. However, everyone in need was looked after at the expense of the parish, which was the basic unit of poor law administration. There were 15,000 parishes throughout England and Wales, each based on a parish church. However, no mechanism was introduced to enforce any of the measures stated by the 1601 Act and the operation of the poor law was inconsistent. The legislation did not set down any administrative standards so parishes were at liberty to interpret the law in any way they wished. There were great differences between parishes which varied between extreme laxity and extreme stringency in the interpretation of the law. Some towns, such as Bristol, Exeter and Liverpool, obtained local by-laws that established corporations of the poor: their responsibilities extended over several of the urban parishes within their jurisdiction.
The Elizabethan legislation was intended to help the 'settled' poor who found themselves out of work (for example) because of illness, or during a hard winter or a trade depression. It was assumed that these people would accept whatever work or relief the parish offered, whether that was indoor or outdoor relief. Neither method of assistance was seen as punitive or harsh. It was intended to deter or deal with the 'sturdy beggars' who were roaming the roads, robbing travellers and generally posing a threat to civil order. The increase in the numbers of beggars was probably the historical background to the nursery rhyme
Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark!
The beggars are coming to town:
Some in rags, some in tags
And one in a velvet gown
The first adaptation of the 1601 Act came in 1607 and provided for the setting up of Houses of Correction in each county. Here, work was provided for the unemployed at local rates of pay; work could be forced on the idle and on vagabonds. The Houses of Correction were not part of the Elizabethan system of poor relief and were totally separate from the parish poor houses because the law made a clear separation between the settled and 'wandering' poor.
3The economy had boom/bust cycles regularly from the time the Bill of Rights was ratified until Social Security was initiated. This country had 16 business cycles* between 1854 and 1919 alone. From reading American writers of that time we can see that poverty was horrific. But fortunately then, unlike now, there was the option of living off the land. That has been criminalized by making basic human activities illegal in our contemporary culture. Cooking outdoors for instance, has been severely curtailed. But in the past this ability to live off the land made it so churches were able to at least try and help. As such our culture never thought to expand beyond having churches provide these services.
Churches and religious organizations, like many other
charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from
federal income tax under IRC section 501(c)(3) and
are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contri-
To qualify for tax-exempt status, such an
organization must meet the following requirements
(covered in greater detail throughout this publication):
the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes,
net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any
private individual or shareholder,
no substantial part of its activity may be attempting
to influence legislation,
the organization may not intervene in political
the organization’s purposes and activities may not
be illegal or violate fundamental public policy
But something else happened in that time period. Industrialization. It was the age of mechanization. Huge factories were created and they required hands to operate them. Thousands upon thousands of people as they became economically stressed off of their land or homestead; depending on property situation. These people sought work, these factories provided that work. Cities formed in once former outposts because they were shipping points and ports. Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis are some of those cities that exploded in the Industrial Age.
This changed things in regards to caring for the poor. Instead of the occasional family in one township falling on difficult times or the more frequent collective misery due to crop failures. When the factory was not paying their employees because there was no work all the employees needed help. And to make things even worse these employees were not producing their own salvation on their own cropland, they had no land.
Many lived in hovels and factory towns that were designed to extract every last cent of the employees paycheck. Many became indebted to the company and could not leave the factory town. But besides small insufficient gardens food was to be bought in the company store. The business as usual bust cycles created poverty unheard of to these primarily rural and immigrant transplants. Churches were overwhelmed by the sudden nature of the economic drought.
When income taxes were introduced in this country it was decided parsons would not have their housing and maintenance costs taxed. This was not seen as acrimonious as the churches at the time were struggling to solicit donations perpetually to care for the deplorable treatment of the workers. Not uncoincidentally this was also the age of the itinerant preacher/snake oil salesman. Churches struggled along until the Great Depression hit.
World Wide poverty on a scale unimagined:
1935 image, look familiar?
Food line in New Zealand
1930's Welfare to Work- Hence the term 'ditch digger' as an indication of lazy work ethic.
Look at him pull himself up by his bootstraps. Oh wait!?!
I do have to note all the signs also say different things.
The churches charities crumbled under the pressure of the hungry millions. Expecting the benevolence of everyone to care for the poor does not work when those that do donate are also too poor to care for their own needs.
Then, instead of now, the term General Welfare as referenced in the Constitution was used by politicians to enact policies that would alleviate the suffering and hopefully stem the inevitable social unrest that accompanies hunger and deprivation. WPA was one of these projects. We can thank WPA for many of the enduring infrastructure improvements in this Nation. Another was the Social Security Act. The SSA recognized we will always have those that can not compete. And that by leaving them to the mercy of the free market our society will collectively suffer.
On August 14, 1935, the Social Security Act established a system of old-age benefits for workers, benefits for victims of industrial accidents, unemployment insurance, aid for dependent mothers and children, the blind, and the physically handicapped.
Before the 1930s, support for the elderly was a matter of local, state and family rather than a Federal concern (except for veterans’ pensions). However, the widespread suffering caused by the Great Depression brought support for numerous proposals for a national old-age insurance system. On January 17, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a message to Congress asking for "social security" legislation. The same day, Senator Robert Wagner of New York and Representative David Lewis of Maryland introduced bills reflecting the administration’s views. The resulting Senate and House bills encountered opposition from those who considered it a governmental invasion of the private sphere and from those who sought exemption from payroll taxes for employers who adopted government-approved pension plans. Eventually the bill passed both houses, and on August 15, 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.
The act created a uniquely American solution to the problem of old-age pensions. Unlike many European nations, U.S. social security "insurance" was supported from "contributions" in the form of taxes on individuals’ wages and employers’ payrolls rather than directly from Government funds. The act also provided funds to assist children, the blind, and the unemployed; to institute vocational training programs; and provide family health programs. As a result, enactment of Social Security brought into existence complex administrative challenges. The Social Security Act authorized the Social Security Board to register citizens for benefits, to administer the contributions received by the Federal Government, and to send payments to recipients. Prior to Social Security, the elderly routinely faced the prospect of poverty upon retirement. For the most part, that fear has now dissipated.
With the introduction of Neo-Conservatism was a mandate from the Religious Right to cut social services and other efforts to help the poor. Although just under the surface this is a transparent attempt to re-institute racism as backlash to the Civil Rights advances of the previous decades. There was also seen a push to eliminate the safety net because church attendance had tanked since the Age of Aquarius and afraid and uncertain people with economic instability are routinely directed to churches for help.
As Neo-Conservatism progressed through our political ranks, services and programs for the needy had their budgets starved and their programs disbanded. Instead of the steady and predictable formulations used to determine things like unemployment, inflation, and cost of living were manipulated or outright disregarded as to slowly reduce the value of the benefits in real dollars. This is still being done today.
With the Bush Judicial Coup we saw another facet of Neo-Conservatism, the payoff. Churches were now able to compete with non-secular organizations for charity dollars. The fact churches already receive those funds in the form of a tax break was never raised in mainstream media. This left organizations that were acceptable to the entire spectrum of Americans competing with those that loudly and proudly express bigotry. This is called Faith Based Initiatives.
Now to compensate for the obvious problem of churches displaying socially corrosive polices as a group, it was mandated that they are not to express those thoughts when providing Federally Funded services. No oversight was put in place to ensure this.
Also with the Bush Era, the tab for mercenary adventures in the Middle East was borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund. We were told the war would pay for itself. They failed to advise us who's pockets that pay would fill and now we have what is called a deficit.
Which brings us to the Grand Bargain. Yet another hack at the way we ensure that those in need are adequately cared for.
As I have outlined here we do need Social Security. And instead of designing ways to make those with the least get just a little less we should be doing the opposite.
*business cycles- Our economy because it is capitalism based inevitably has boom/bust cycles. These are euphemistically called business cycles. Without controls on capitalism having economic busts are inevitable.
DailyKos Blogathon -- Week of April 8th
(All times are Eastern, diaries published by the Pushing back at the Grand Bargain group)
Monday, April 8
10:00 a.m. Roger Fox
12:00 noon eXtina
2:00 p.m. Guest crosspost by Yves Smith
4:00 p.m. Horace Boothroyd III
6:00 p.m. slinkerwink
8:00 p.m. joedemocrat
Tuesday, April 9
Wednesday, April 10
Thursday, April 11
Friday April 12
1. Call your senators and representatives and tell them "Hell No!" with a priority on contacting senators. U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can find email contact information here
2. Contact the White House and tell them "Hell No!". Switchboard: 202-456-1414. Email contact page is here.
3. Petitions. There are a number of petitions available. Choose from the following or preferably sign them all.
a. White House petition calling for no cuts to Social Security.
4. Social Media. Share this diary and promote this blogathon on Facebook and Google+ using the buttons at the top of the diary. Send this out on Twitter and add the hashtags #HellNo and #NoGrandBargain.
Blogathon diaries you might have missedMonday:
Hell No! #NoGrandBargain: "Pushing back at the Grand Bargain" by Roger Fox
Hell No! Chained CPI will reduce eligability for EITC #noChainedCPI by Roger Fox
Hell No! Dan Pfeiffer: "The President's Budget Shows That He is Serious About Solving Deficits" by eXtina
Guest Crosspost, Yves Smith: Obama Wants to Be the President Who Rolled Back the New Deal by Yves Smith via joanneleon
Hell No! Stop crushing the poor by Horace Boothroyd III
Hell, No! Social Security Contributes Nothing To Deficit by slinkerwink
Hell No! No Grand Bargain: Chained CPI: Social Security Means So Much To So Many by joedemocrat
Hell No! No Grand Bargain Liveblog 2014 Budget press conference by joanneleon