Last week I began the first of a six-part series, faith based economic justice training program in Oakland, which I am so thankful to Reverend Michael Yoshii and the great Buena Vista United Methodist Church for inviting me to be a part of. It was refreshing to hear from so many religious leaders and faith-based community groups which came from all over the Bay Area that are deeply concerned about the direction of the US.
The training opened by clarifying the role of economics which is, first and foremost about VALUES – and went on to suggest that our role as faith-based advocates, is about holding ourselves and others accountable. What was also made abundantly clear through the numerous discussions, exercises, videos and information was that as American citizens, despite our petty political, ideological and even class differences, we have far more in common with each other than not.
For example, what most citizens’ desire for themselves and their children are: economic opportunities and education as well as safety, security, health care etc. What may perhaps differ, is the way the way they believe it can all be achieved. To these ends, they instructed us to look beyond government rhetoric (of both political parties) and instead judge politicians by their budgetary policies and priorities, which quite literally effects every aspect of our lives, and provides an intimate glimpse of the values being put forward.
There was also a clear understanding and palatable anger about the ongoing injustices and growing inequity – and how these policies hit close to home for so many members of their congregations and community’s, who’s lives have been destroyed – as the disparity continues to grow.
One of the most powerful exercises demonstrated the dramatic rate that wealth disparity is increasing in this country. They went on to show how mainly due to the following factors (a few of which I’ve taken the liberty to add to myself):
– The rich, not having to pay their fair share in taxes.
– The Citizen’s United ruling, which says corporations are people and is as Berkeley City Council member Kriss Worthington put it “the single most drastic, damaging action of the Supreme Court in our lifetime. Pretty much every policy that the government votes on is going to be skewed by the super rich, who can afford to put millions of dollars into elections.”
– Those that created the ‘economic crisis’ are largely rewarded, while working class people juggle multiple jobs, just to make ends meet and are still unable to secure a future for themselves and their families.
– Meanwhile, with the military totaling over 54% of the Federal budget to conduct illegal wars and occupation, for the sake of profit for the rich/corporations, which inherently makes American’s less safe…as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s $60-billion budget (which as we see in Boston, yet still fails to protect Americans!)
– The focus on debt and austerity, which has devastated the lives of countless millions all over the world-which it was recently revealed, the rationale and justification for, such cuts in social services and spending, was built upon faulty/false data/information (*see article below, for more info).
What was also made clear was that how we think about the world, especially politicians, directly affects how the world works. By scrutinizing the government’s budget priorities-along with their subsequent policies; that demonstrate doing whatever it takes to get ahead, including being corrupt, cheating, stealing and killing – WE can hold our supposed democratic leaders accountable, and reject the values and example they have set.
In short, by looking at a lens of economics through our values and focusing less on government rhetoric, we can structurally adjust the way we look, think and speak about economics and as Americans, we can also overcome our petty political differences and all that divides us.
They also touched on a radical new approach to economics, which is called: ‘prosperity economics’ and stresses three pillars of prosperity: growth, security and democracy for ALL. We will get into the detail of that, as well as creating a Bay Area economic agenda – which I am esp. looking forward to being a part of, in the coming sessions!
More and more kids in Greece are starving due to Austerity:
4/18/13 Meet the 28-Year-Old Grad Student Who Just Shook the Global Austerity Movement, By Kevin Roose