by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC
Hurricane Sandy, like most disasters, has aroused the compassion of many people. Teams of helpers arrive regularly at Staten Island, the Rockaways, and other places hit by the storm, bearing willing hands and car- and truckloads of needed supplies, as well as the comforts of human solidarity. Three Sisters of the Divine Compassion, Susan McCarthy, Loretta Schollhamer, and Rita Doughtery, have been organizing our response and traveling to the damaged coastal areas each weekend. Other local groups have made similar commitments to aid those suffering in this crisis.
In Washington, however, as the budget negotiations begin, the needs of people whose lives have been thrown off course by less dramatic but equally devastating events are lost in the gamesmanship of political posturing.
Where are the outpourings of compassion – and calls for justice – for the victims of Hurricane Mortgage Swindle and of Skewed Economic Policies Tsunami?
Because these disasters are totally of human making, justice even more forcefully demands that human efforts must rectify the damage.
Those who caused the financial breakdown more than four years ago have been compensated for their losses by huge bailouts, paid for by taxpayers. Financial institutions and brokers seeking huge profits with little regard for the effects of risky maneuvering on the persons whose money they had been entrusted with have had their losses returned to them.
Meanwhile, ordinary workers whose pension funds were gutted, whose jobs disappeared as companies were unable to get necessary loans, and homeowners suddenly faced with debt far greater than they signed on for – these have been left to stagger under the new burdens.
Exacerbating the situation, increasingly skewed policies over the past two or three decades have funneled profits away from the workers who produce the goods and services that maintain life and stimulate the economy for the good of the overwhelming majority of the country. Recent analyses of economic trends show that from 1979 to 2007 (just prior to the recession) those in the top 1% income bracket increased their pre-tax income by 241%. Those in the top 20% increased their income by 89%., while those in middle 20% gained merely 19% and those with the lowest incomes gained only 11%. The recession has eroded even more of the sustenance of those in the lower income brackets, while it has tumbled millions of Americans into joblessness and deeper poverty.
Two unnecessary wars financed largely by borrowing with no forethought to repayment have deepened, and continue to deepen, the financial crisis.
Simple justice, let alone compassion, demands that this severely unequal system must be changed, and those who have been devastated by the human-made financial crisis must be given the means to restore their livelihoods and those who have been losing ground in spite of their labor must be given more equal opportunities to move out of poverty.
Yet, compassion and justice seem to have little part in the current budget negotiations. The programs that support those who are suffering from this “Hurricane” and this “Tsunami” are the first to be targeted for proposed cuts. Loud voices continue to argue for the unfair tax exemptions that maintain the increasing disparity between the top 1% and the rest of the country.
The practices and decisions that caused the crisis, at the same time, are being sheltered from cuts. A few weapons cuts are being considered, but at such a low rate as to make little difference, in spite of the fact that our arsenal is more than ten times larger than that of most of the other countries in the world combined. The lives and futures of our children seem to be of less importance than having more advanced weapons for imagined possible adversaries.
Even so rational a proposal as investment to increase the number of jobs meets vociferous opposition from defenders of the privileges of the most wealthy.
Bread for the World and other groups that act from religious and moral principles are calling for a “Circle of Protection” around the programs necessary for those who need our support – programs like extended unemployment benefits, aid to impoverished women and children, Medicare and Medicaid.
In the name of both justice and compassion, we must make our elected representatives hear our concerns that these Hurricane and Tsunami victims be protected. Likewise, we must demand fairer taxation rates and more equitable economic policies for the future of our country. Creating a national budget is a matter of life and death, a moral document, not a political game.