Elizabeth Warren, Pope Francis and income inequality

Elizabeth Warren, Pope Francis and income inequality

Washington : DC : USA | Dec 02, 2013 at 9:57 AM PST
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Floor Speech on the Retirement Crisis

Freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has become an icon for the revival of liberalism. So has Pope Francis. Both see income inequality as a moral issue that governments can and should address, which puts them at odds with conservative politicians pushing policies that give more to the rich and less to the poor. Which side is on higher moral ground?

The arguments revolve around trickle-down economics, which suggests that if the government takes steps to redistribute wealth to the upper-class, they will share some of their additional money with the working-class and poor. So far, it hasn’t worked out very well.

Data shows that as the rich have gotten richer, poverty has gotten worse. And since the Wall Street-fueled crash of the US economy in 2008, the gap between rich and poor has accelerated at an alarming rate.

While conservatives claim government assistance programs for the working-class is “bad” income redistribution, they fail to acknowledge the obvious problems associated with their ideology, which redistributes wealth in the opposite direction to millionaires and billionaires. Nor do they openly admit that their policies are expanding the wealth gap.

“The federal government has emerged as one of the most potent factors driving income inequality in the United States,” according to Reuters.

President Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 war on poverty has become the Republican Party’s 21st-century war on poor people.

Political propaganda from conservatives that villainizes America’s poor has been an effective fundraising tool and has garnered public support for budget cuts, but it has done little to spur economic growth or reduce poverty.

Francis, in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, blamed the world’s economic woes on the “idolatry of money” and appeared to focus his critique on America’s conservative lawmakers, who recently cut food stamp funding for more than 47 million low income Americans.

In his Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote:

“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.”

That might just be the most polite way anyone has ever called government-sponsored income redistribution to the rich a public scam.

In reality, if austerity measures worked, Europe would be thriving now. It is not. Transferring money out of the broader economy for the purpose of reducing government debt has been a monumental failure. All it has accomplished is more poverty, more income inequality, and a stagnant economy.

Warren is leading the charge to make liberalism as fashionable as it was in the 1960s. She has become a unflinching voice against the criminal activity of the banking industry, as well as austerity measures targeting America’s most vulnerable. Warren has stood out as a champion for the elderly, disabled and veterans, with her recent push to expand Social Security, in the face of Republican demands to cut benefits.

On the senate floor in November, Warren said:

“The call to cut Social Security has an uglier side to it… The suggestion that we have become a country where those living in poverty fight each other for a handful of crumbs tossed off the tables of the very wealthy is fundamentally wrong. This is about our values, and our values tell us that we don’t build a future by first deciding who among our most vulnerable will be left to starve.”

Warren, the pope and conservative Republicans are all correct; government is the problem. Where they differ is on the government’s role in manipulating wealth and its moral implications.

Should the government use its power to reduce poverty by direct means? Or use the tax code, labor laws, and environmental regulations to make it easier for CEO’s to boost profits, and rely on the “good moral nature” of capitalists to practice socialism and share their wealth?

The explosion of income inequality has made clear that millionaires and billionaires are not going to share their wealth via the “trickle-down” method, or by any morally motivated means.

That brings us back to Francis and Warren, who appear to know that those who idolize money are also masters of deception. Those who favor redistribution of wealth to the rich can’t just come out and say we don’t care about the poor. But their actions make their beliefs clear.

Followers of the Catholic Church and Christian-based religions know that Jesus was an unabashed socialist when it came to taking care of the poor. Therefore, how any professed Christian can support giving to the rich and taking from the poor remains a moral question of conscience and honesty.

Author’s note: The opinions and commentary included in this report are based on the author’s independent analysis of official documents and public information.

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itobin53 is based in Tampa, Florida, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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