I think it’s becoming very clear that Republicans really aren’t going to like this pope. Not only has he made efforts to soften the church’s stance on homosexuality and abortion (basically saying the church needs to stop focusing so much on these issues and instead focus on more important things), he’s essentially crushed the Republican economic ideology of trickle-down economics whenever he’s spoken out on economic issues – most commonly regarding income inequality.
But his most recent comments about income inequality are probably his most direct yet.
Pope Francis called for “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits,” saying the Bible requires a society that bases its economic system to help the “poorest and those most excluded.”
“In the case of global political and economic organization, much more needs to be achieved, since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens,” Francis said.
The pope referenced Luke 19: 1-10, the story of Zacchaeus. Essentially it’s a story about a corrupt and greedy individual who instantly changes his ways upon meeting Jesus Christ, promising “Half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”
Now, if Jesus were a trickle-down economics subscriber, wouldn’t he have told him not to do that? That by giving people his wealth (trickling it down one might say) he’s creating dependency?
Nope, instead Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
I already know what’s coming from the right, “Pope Francis is a socialist/Marxist/communist!” That is, if conservatives can focus on something besides Benghazi.
But I don’t think Pope Francis is calling for a straight redistribution of wealth. What I believe he’s referencing are these economic policies found all over the world that overwhelmingly favor the rich with the promise that the more the rich have, the better off it is for everyone else because that wealth will “trickle down.”
He hammered trickle-down economics a few months back, saying, “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.”
I believe it’s the economic policies Pope Francis is bashing that are based on top-down economics where the rich push for more tax breaks for themselves, while programs that help the poor continue to get gutted, promising that their growth in wealth will overflow and spread to everyone else – except it never does. It’s not a cup that fills then flows over, it’s a cup that simply continues to expand the more we put in it.
The fact is, income inequality is a major issue facing not only the United States, but the world. Right now, according to a study done by Oxfam, 85 of the richest people on the planet have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the entire population of the planet. Or just around 3.5 billion people.
Most people don’t envy the rich. We don’t even want to vilify them. We have problems when being rich isn’t good enough for them – they want to be super rich. When their growth in wealth comes at our expense. When thousands of people lose their jobs so that the CEO of the company can increase their already massive yearly bonus by another 10%.
I’m just glad to see Pope Francis taking such a strong stance against income inequality. And I loved how he used a story about Jesus’ encounter with greed, and how that person expunged greed from their life in the face of Jesus, to show the values for which he lived his life.
I’m just curious how conservatives will handle this. Will they dare bash the most powerful Christian on the planet as not understanding Christianity? Will they call him a socialist and dismiss everything he has to say? Probably a bit of both.
But there’s one thing I can say without a doubt, it’s going to be very interesting.