Human Choices, Economic Realities

Sometimes that Jesus guy just gets in the way — of sleep,  of politics, of economics, of every bit of “life as it is”.  Sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t get in the way of more people’s lives. When I say Jesus, I don’t mean “The Christ”,  “the church” or “theology” which are all open to interpretation and which we can endlessly prattle on about, pressing them into the service of whatever political viewpoint we want, so that we can talk about politics in the  abstract  rather than each other in reality.

This morning, the alarm went off to NPR, and the local version (Connecticut) began talking about housing and how the average person in Stamford must make $23.00 per hour at 40 hours per week in order to afford rental housing.  Not food or clothing, mind you, but just shelter.  Further, they went on to say that 94% of people in CT cannot afford to rent if they work 40 hours at minimum wage.

Forget about socialism vs democracy. Forget about the sequester. Stop arguing for or against gun control and listen to this:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” and later … “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me”. 

Ok, maybe that requires belief that Jesus was somebody special (maybe even God) and  maybe it requires fear of a judgmental God  and you’re not into that.

What about this sentence, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself”? You can be an atheist and believe that’s a good idea,  What about this one — “Do to others as you would have them do to you”? Ditto.   

Ok. If anybody can believe those, why don’t we actually do them? How can a person, or an agency, or a hedge fund (both made up of people) charge someone more than they can possibly make for something they absolutely need? How can they require first month, last month, and a security deposit — in effect tripling  the cost of something already beyond their reach? 

I know many of us aren’t landlords, and that most of us don’t invest in hedge funds, but there are human beings all along this trail who could make choices which lighten the burden of their system on their brothers and sisters, and at least some of us are “them”.  If you wouldn’t want to be homeless, or spend all your money on a place to live, don’t charge anyone else to do the same .  

We each are a part of the economy.  if we don’t sell things, we make them, if we don’t make them, we buy them. In all of these things, we deal with each other. If we treated each other as we wanted to be treated, would we really need to make a 40% mark-up on something? If we value the worth of each human being, do we really need the most expensive car or $150.00 pairs of sneakers? If your brother or sister (either literally or figuratively) doesn’t have a pair of pants appropriate for the winter, how can you consider getting them without sharing what you have?

Do you really need another app or the most recent upgrade? Do you need to make people jealous or pressure them to have something can’t afford? If you make cars or build whatever, can you afford to not ask for a 10 cent raise or — when offered a contract where you don’t really work as much as you say you will, do you need to take it? Your  ten cents or your ethical contract can mean the difference between your brother or sister eating, or getting around, or having electricity.  

If you own a restaurant, I know you can pay your waitresses or waiters $2.50 per hour, but must you? If you know that Sally or Bill is working and not getting by, can’t you give them a raise or let them take food home or … or… Can’t you give them health insurance if they need it?  If you dine at a restaurant, do you need to be stingy with the tip? Would you want to feed your family on whatever your server makes?

Would you want to hear that people didn’t want to pay taxes to help “people like you”? If not, don’t say things like that.

Clearly, the economy is, in human terms,  messed up. People can’t afford food, clothing, or shelter. We buy water.  We pay for air we put in our tires.  We charge 30% interest on credit cards, or 500% on “payday loans”.   We spend more money on a phone bill than others do in food every month. Some of us charge more on a phone bill than budgets allow.

Do we really need to charge $50.00 for an aspirin ? Do you need to charge $100.00 per hour to fix a car?  Would you want to be charged more than you can afford? Then why would you do it to someone else? 

Then, if you’re a billionaire or a CEO, first I’d be greatly surprised that you’re reading this, but secondly and more importantly, do you really need those stock options? Jet plane? Yacht?  Do you need to be worth more than some school system’s budget for the next 20 years? 

The economic system of which we are all a part is made up of human beings. We have choices. We could live like Jesus says and think about each other or we could continue to do what we’re doing and mess up each other’s lives with no care or concern.  We could live as many religions and philosophies suggest or we can live the way we do — stepping all over each other and not caring about the pain we cause.  These are our choices, and they show up in things like politics, or the numbers on the stock exchange,  or wage structures or prices,  but in the long run they are about us and — karma or justice or God being what they are — they will come back to us.  Do we really want to be on the receiving end  of those choices?  These are the questions that that Jesus guy challenges us with, the ones that keep robbing us of sleep if we think abot them at all.






4 thoughts on “Human Choices, Economic Realities

  1. Did the report say how much that person would have to get paid per hour (less than $23) if approximately HALF of their money was not FORCIBLY TAKEN from them by the government, and how much less the rent would be if the landlord didn’t have to pay such a huge amount of his money in taxes (property taxes, income taxes, etc.)?

    The first step to understanding economics is taking dollars out of the equation… think of something in terms of person-hours. If you buy something for $30, then it’s likely that a total of two man-hours of labor went into that product (maybe one person for two hours, maybe 60 people for two minutes each). That could include everyone from the person digging raw materials out of the earth to someone who assembled the final product (including some time for the engineers who designed the product) to the banker who loaned money, etc… but you get the point.

    Once you do that, you can start to understand why the government taking $XX,000 from me every year, and giving it to someone else who DOES NOTHING TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY is so offensive. I am working to support people who DO NOTHING for over a THOUSAND HOURS A YEAR.

    Would a 40% markup be necessary if such a huge percentage wasn’t taken for taxes, all throughout the flow of the money chain?

    Taxes are STRANGLING this society, and you are right that our standard of living is SO much lower than it should be.

    I’d love to be able to support those in need around me and give more money to charities… but the f*%#$ing government takes more than I have!

    1. Bob:

      I’m glad to have you back as a commentator. I’m sorry the government is hosing you. I know you’d give to others, because you DO. The car help thing with your brother is ministry. That said, “average” and “uber-rich” people get greedy and rip people off as well, leaving us to fight over the scraps, just much as welfare people do. I just wanted to remind people of that.



      1. Well to be honest, one of the basic premises of capitalism is competition. But consumers don’t force these people to compete!

        We have the ability to make our purchasing decisions based on whatever we want: Price, quality, what charities the corporations do/don’t support, whether the goods are made in the USA, how much a restaurant pays their employees, etc. We can call our doctors and ask for a price, we can call lawyers and ask for a price, yet we as consumers just lie back and take it. We just make our purchasing decisions based on the word “phone” on the box, without really investigating what we are buying (and who we support by doing so).

        By the way, if you think about how much of the $100 per hour actually goes to the mechanic, go look at their house and car. Do you think they are rich? Unfortunately the cost of tools, facilities, supplies, etc., (along with the hidden cost of taxes all along the way), is where the vast majority of that $100 goes.

        As you know, I have traveled the world quite a bit. I’ve seen how *most* of this world lives, and I am still offended by American’s attitudes that they *need* an iphone. There is plenty of this world that lives with their six family members in a 12’x12′ plywood box or less!

        In my personal life, I know three people who depend on the “government” (read: MY money which the government takes from me) for their survival. Of those three, they ALL have cable TV (I don’t even own a TV), two of them drive newer cars than me, they all live in bigger houses (apartments) than me, one of them has an iPhone… Do you think that “welfare” is a successful system? Oh, and for the record, each of those people is completely capable of being a productive, self-sustaining member of society if they really wanted to be (or had to be).

        In addition to wasting money on stupid crap, we continue to enable the power-rich in congress who continue to increase the amount of money they STEAL from us.

        I’m sorry, John, but I don’t believe you for a second when you say “I’m sorry the government is hosing you.” You support policies and politicians who take more and more! Yes, YOU, John, encourage the government to steal more of my money. Don’t patronize me by apologizing for some far-away government, it is YOU who is supporting policies to steal more of my money. It is liberals like yourself who hose me!

        Economics is more than just the flow of money – it is really about the flow of human labor. Do you care how much of MY labor is for naught, since the “government” takes so much? Obviously you don’t, or you wouldn’t vote the way you do, or support the policies that you do.

        That is a very HUMAN CHOICE and ECONOMIC REALITY, about enslaving me to work for others who choose not to work for themselves. Don’t try to BS yourself or me any other way.

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