A few weeks ago Pope Francis challenged unfettered capitalism. He called it a "new tyranny." The Pope is justifiably concerned with income and wealth inequality and the effects on the poor and humanity.
Ken Langone, the billionaire that is spearheading the $180 million dollar restoration of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York is concerned. He said a potential seven figure donor took exception to the Pope’s statements. The donor is concerned about the Pope’s criticizing market economies as “exclusionary.” The donor did not like phrases like "culture of prosperity" that leads some to become "incapable of feeling compassion for the poor."
Langone took his concerns to Cardinal Timothy Dolan. What was amazing is how the Cardinal in his response seemed so subservient to the concerned wealthy donor. Instead of taking on the issue and the donor by the horns, he decided to change the Pope’s message. He said the Pope was misunderstood and loves both the rich and the poor and appreciated the gratitude of American philanthropy. Langone went on to tell the Cardinal "you get more with honey than with vinegar."
For those who believe in Jesus, Cardinal Dolan made Judas and Peter seem like the bastions of bravery. What ever happened to using this as a teaching moment? It was not a moment for retreat; it was a moment to remind these “christians” about what their religion preaches in Matthew 19:25, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." He should have reminded the wealthy donor about James 1:10, “But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.”
For more on the Pope and capitalism, please read below the fold.
But let’s forget about the scripture and dive into the present. The Pope was not misunderstood. He understands that capitalism as practiced is unsustainable and that the systemic poverty throughout the world is the by-product in many ways. The Pope has lived among those in abject poverty and understands that many of the poor in his country of Argentina was a direct result of the ills of capitalism. This is best explained in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.
Dolan bowing to the mighty dollar is a travesty. He is no different than the evangelical preachers that have made capitalism their god. The actions of these religious leaders have consequences. They hurt the poor and middle class when they bow to the rich and give tacit acceptance to the selfishness and thievery of many in the wealthy class.
Where was the outcry and the empathy from religious leaders when Texas governor Rick Perry and other Red State governors sentenced many of their citizens to death by failing to accept the Medicaid expansion to Obamacare? Where is the outcry and empathy for Americans working 40+ hours a week and unable to live without government assistance? Where is the outcry and empathy for the refusal to extend unemployment compensation for the unemployed? Most are unemployed specifically because of "new tyranny" the Pope speaks about.
Governor Perry wrote an op-ed about the Affordable Care Act in the Dallas Morning News that is nothing short of evil. He continues to support junk medical insurance from companies profiting from poor and middle class premiums that don’t pay or pay little. He makes a statement that at the core sounds somewhat inconsequential. It is the new Republican ideology which seem to have tacit approval from the cloth.
Another consequence of Obamacare is the effort to cram more people into an already broken and costly Medicaid system without any reforms. Increasing income disregards, eliminating asset testing and forcing previously ineligible individuals into Medicaid all function as a backdoor expansion of Medicaid. Yet Obamacare’s own system to transfer Medicaid applicants to Texas doesn’t even work.
Within Perry’s words lay something more ominous. The statement “asset testing and forcing previously ineligible individuals into Medicaid,“ is a requirement of his ideology. It is what Obamacare is intent on eliminating. This implies that, as in Texas, one must be near destitute before qualifying for any assistance.
The shortsightedness of said ideology is profound. If one gets a helping hand without having to be destitute the ability to grow out of poverty is that much greater. One has a base to build from. In Perry’s world, the Republican world, you must be relegated to a permanent underclass or die on the path to permanent underclass seeking healthcare. This is not hyperbole. It is reality. Where is the outcry from Cardinal Dolan? The one wealthy donor sure got a response.
Unfortunately most minorities in America get no press. They suffer in silence. They feel as if they have no voice. As such they do not vote. They do not participate in the body politic. The constant attack on them by Gov. Perry and his ilk demoralizes them. The Pope gave many a ray of hope. Cardinal Dolan and many others of the cloth have proven useless as they give the American Plutocracy pseudo approval to be evil.
It is our civic responsibility as Americans who love democracy to ensure the failure of this ideology’s immoral endeavors. It is time to get up from the computer and help that demoralized neighbor, to engage them, to listen to their problems, to help them with solutions and bring them back into the body politic. It is time that all Americans know this is their country and it is up to them to take away the reigns from those that have decimated the poor and the middle class as they built up the wealth of the few on their backs. It won’t be the men of the cloth in America. It will be you.