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Posted on October 26, 2010
By Jim Jordal
Abortion and gay rights seem to be eclipsed in the current election campaigns by the new hot-button issues of jobs, debt and taxes. Strident voices now demand jobs, reduced debt and lowered taxes while blaming the other side for every calamity and refusing to accept any responsibility themselves.
Invective and calumny are alive and well today. Non-partisan statesmanship is as dead as the dinosaurs. Lost amid the shouting is the trenchant truth that we all share responsibility for America’s chaos and we must all participate in any viable solution.
Didn’t we all share in the mad rush to consume beyond our means by maxing-out credit cards, refinancing mortgages and putting every adult in the family to work? Didn’t we vote for politicians who told us this was good? Didn’t we rush to the shopping centers to spend money we did not have? And didn’t we label as reactionary, if not crazy, anyone who called for financial sanity and restraint?
Yes, we need jobs, but not at the cost of destroying our environment. Yes, we need reduced debt, but not if we allow education and the infrastructure to decay. Yes, we need lower taxes, but not if cuts go mainly to the already obscenely wealthy.
In a 2006 interview with Ben Stein of the New York Times, billionaire investor Warren Buffet said it best when discussing conservative claims that attempts to tax upper classes more heavily amounted to class warfare against them. He said, "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."
What’s needed today is less partisanship and more statesmanship; less screaming and more listening; and less traditional thinking and more outside-the-box reasoning. Nothing we’re doing is sustainable and we need to come together to recognize this. We can’t have better education while cutting funds for schools. We can’t cut taxes and hope to escape increasing debt. And we can’t have more jobs while continuing to reward with tax write-offs those companies still outsourcing jobs.
The poor are involved in class warfare whether they know it or not, and increasingly the middle class is being dragged in. What you can do is to recognize this untenable situation and to speak out in advocacy against it. It won’t go away by itself; we need to help it go away!
Posted on October 06, 2010
If you’re like the rest of us you’ve probably fallen prey to three great economic lies of our time, all descended from the Law of Scarcity stating that because available resources are always limited society must make difficult decisions regarding who gets what. This means that a choice for more of one good or service will inescapably lead to loss of another. We cannot have more of everything!
Fund-raiser and philanthropist Lynne Twist, speaking at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis on September 30, 2010, carried this discussion deep into the heart of what money means to us all. Discussing revelations from her book, The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources, Twist dug deeply into why money has become an instrument of oppression and control rather that what it ought to be—a vehicle for expressing our deepest values of community, sharing and spiritual development.
"There’s Not Enough!" is the first lie permeating our economic thinking and decision making. Twist made it clear that for some segments of our population scarcity is an unending truth affecting their every breath. But the deeper truth is that we have all drunk of the poisoned cool-aid as we unconsciously assume that scarcity is the basic controlling fact of life and make our economic decisions accordingly.
"More Is Better" is the second. Because of our deep belief in this falsehood we accumulate money and "things" that serve only to assuage our fears that we will not have enough, rather than to enhance our lives as they should. We too often relegate everything—health, family, values, even basic decency—to second place in our rush toward getting more of everything. The cost is that we lose our real selves and destroy the sustainability of our earth in the process.
"That’s Just The Way It Is" makes up the third. In some ways, this is the worst error of all because it leads us to believe that nothing can be done about our predicament. Thus we become victims of a faulty value system and lose the incentive to correct it.
But something can be done and is already being done in communities scattered over the earth. More on this later.
Posted on September 14, 2010
IN SEARCH OF ENOUGH
A Minnesota Without Poverty, in collaboration with Bethlehem Lutheran Church (Minneapolis) and other partners, launches a Call for Art,
“In Search of Enough.”
As part of a campaign to discuss the concept of Enough—What is enough? Who has enough? Access to Enough for all—artists are invited to submit their depiction of ENOUGH—in painting, photography, story, drama, poetry, song, video, sculpture, dance, fiber.
Questions to prompt creative responses are
What does enough look like?
What does enough sound like?
What does enough feel like?
How do we experience enough?
How do we know when we have enough?
Is there enough for all?
Deadline for art entries - April 29, 2011
Information about the "In Search of Enough" Arts Search
"In Search of Enough" Art Entry Form
by Jim Jordal
Plenitude is the title of a new book by Boston College sociologist Juliet B. Schor that examines the old shibboleths of GDP, economic growth, free markets and the threats to the planet and its inhabitants posed by the business as usual (BAU) economy. Plenitude offers a doable antidote to the insanity now prevailing in the BAU economy.
Applied to the economy, plenitude means a state of fullness, abundance and completeness without the curses of poverty, scarcity, insecurity and oppression. As Schor says, "These, then, are the individual principles of plenitude: work and spend less, create and connect more. In turn they yield ecological benefits—emit and degrade less—and human ones—enjoy and thrive more."
BAU thinking defines wealth as goods or services that can be defined and measured in monetary terms. Since air, water, sunlight and wind are "free" goods according to economists, they have no monetary value and can be consumed and polluted without cost to the bottom line. Since they are not considered costs of production they need not be charged to current consumers, resulting in artificially low prices. But this "benefit" comes with a steep cost: a ravaged ecosystem and debts passed on to future generations that will suffer and pay for present wasteful and dangerous production and consumption patterns.
Neither does the BAU economy measure some of the things that make our society truly wealthy. The vital services of house wives and husbands, the value of an intelligent, educated workforce, and the incalculable gain arising from a government of laws, to name a few. In figuring the almost-worshipped GDP the BAU society does not even consider the value of these intangibles.
When we begin to discover, celebrate, measure and use our true wealth we will create a new economy based on ecological sustainability, increased leisure, more human satisfaction, reduced consumption, enhanced relationships with other people and the planetary flora and fauna, and the ending of the awesome struggle faced by billions just to survive.
The long-term answer to poverty is not more minimum wage jobs or increased consumption in a BAU economy. Yes, such things may help in the short-run; but in the long run they create more human suffering and deprivation for larger numbers of people. We cannot grow our economy forever using the BAU model.