Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Time for Jubilee?

A few pieces fell together for me the other day and I have to admit, the constellation both horrified and frightened me.

Piece #1. There has been a concerted effort to mobilize the religious community in greater Santa Barbara to reach out to and care for our neighbors without homes.

Piece #2. I've read stats and seen charts about the economic division in the US... that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider, that the rich are getting richer at an alarming rate and everyone else is stagnant at best, that the wealthiest 400 Americans have about the same wealth as the poorest 155 MILLION people, that the percentage of children living in poverty is approaching 25% (here are a few graphs that point to some of this data)

Piece #3. Just when it is clear that more children are slipping into poverty, many of our political leaders call for cutting programs to help children. Just when it is clear that we are falling further behind much of the rest of the world in education (we're 9th in the percentage of YA's with college degrees), those same politicians are calling for cuts to education spending. Just as we're starting to crawl out of a terrible recession, they call for cuts in government jobs and spending which will put more people out of work. At a time of record deficits when a larger percentage of government receipts comes from regressive payroll taxes, they call for cuts in progressive taxes and for cutting the very programs that the regressive payroll taxes were put in place to fund.

Piece #4. The people seem to be rising up in response to the actions of the Wisconsin governor.

All of this got me thinking about the Year of Jubilee in the Bible. During the Year of Jubilee all debts were canceled, slaves were freed, and land returned to the families who had originally owned it. No family would permanently benefit from the hard work or luck of an ancestor nor would any family permanently suffer from the misfortune or laziness of an ancestor. There would be no trust fund babies and no permanent underclass. Every 50 years, wealth would be redistributed and everything would be equalized.

Now, as a person of European descent living in the US, I'd be more than a little leery of calling for a literal Year of Jubilee... that would put all of the property back in the hands of the Native Americans... Clearly though, it is God's plan that everything regularly be redistributed so everyone truly has a fair shake. I don't know what that might look like, but I think it begins with progressive taxes, includes programs for the poor, and values education and infrastructure above military might.

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