It occurred to me this afternoon that, in forty years of working life, as a therapist, as a pastor, as a politician, not one time have I ever met someone, or known someone, who I thought would rather have an unemployment check than a job.
That is rather remarkable. You would think that there would be a certain negligible percentage of people who, indeed, might prefer to take unemployment than work. Maybe there are, but in forty years of knowing hundreds of families, the vast majority quite well, I have never seen one instance.
Evangelical culture warriors have enjoyed a some-time alliance with the Roman Catholic heirarchy on some social issues, but not economic ones. Most recent popes have been socialists, or, at the least, very supportive of the rights of labor. In his first lengthy missive as Pope, Francis takes a similar line:
"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."
He's absolutely right that "trickle down" has never been "confirmed by facts." Just the opposite is true. When the wealthy suck up the wealth, they are very careful not to let any "trickle down." Plutocrats are not philanthropists.
His critique of unrestrained capitalism, which may be read here, is similar to the one offered by my late friend, Fr. Francisco Fahlman, who was a priest in Moquegua, Peru for 40 years.
Fr. Fahlman was no friend of what he called "liberal economics." (It isn't what you think. "Liberal economics" is what they call free market-ism in Latin America.)
In the 1990's, Peruvian President Fujimori was pushing it, and Fr. Fahlman voted for Fujimori when he first ran. He did not vote for Fujimori when he ran for re-election because, as Fr. Fahlman acidly said it, "Liberal economics 'helps' poor people by getting rid of poor people."
From the New Deal until Reagan, when labor unions were strong and the United States toyed briefly with the idea of a safety net, income inequality went down. Wealth was still concentrated in the wealthy, but more of it was spread around.
This was an era when George Romney, Mitt's dad, paid about a third of his income in taxes and could have paid less tax than he did. He didn't take legitimate deductions because he "wanted to give something back" to the country.
It was government that taxed progressively and guaranteed union and civil rights. In order to turn things around, the 1% went on a campaign against government. With government diminished, the fat cats could play! They did and do!
Prediction: This will not get much play in the American press:
In his first major speech on the subject, Francis demanded Thursday that financial and political leaders reform the global financial system to make it more ethical and concerned for the common good. He said: "Money has to serve, not to rule!"