Rising Tide Lifts Only Yachts

From “Apostles of Growth” by Timothy Shenk in the Nov. 24 issue of The Nation: “From the aftermath of World War II through the 1970s, most of the total earnings from economic expansion flowed to the bottom 90 percent of Americans. That came to an abrupt end in the 1980s. Although the Clinton years posted marginally better tallies on this front than the Reagan era, the record since 2001 has been abysmal, and the worst has come under Obama. From 2009 to 2012, the last year with reliable data, incomes for the lower 90 percent have declined, while those for the top 10 percent have increased at a healthy clip, with the greatest gains accruing to the 1 percent and above. The tide still rises, but it lifts only yachts.”

We’ve heard these statistics before.  The economy grows, but not for everyone.  Any human being with a sense of fairness would judge such an economic system to be unjust. But for so many people, the “injustice” is also “unkindness.”  It is hurting them.  Injustice causes suffering.

In the face of suffering, followers  of Jesus and Buddha feel compassion.

And in this case, compassion will insist that an economic system that is producing suffering must be fixed.  Or it must be changed.

President Obama, I don’t want to denounce you!

One of the basic principles that I try to practice as a Buddhist-Christian is to oppose without denouncing.  As a Buddhist teacher once put it to a group of Christian liberation theologians, “We Buddhists don’t denounce.” This is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most important, things we Christians can learn from Buddhists: How to oppose without denouncing.  How to offer staunch opposition and resistance without denouncing and degrading the other side and so cutting off possibilities of further dialogue and cooperation.

Recent policies by President Obama and many of his fellow Democrats have made such opposing without denouncing very difficult.  Simply stated: it seems to me that so many of the policies that the President has been following, or allowing, are undermining the very structures of our democracy.  In a recent article in The Nation, William Grieder offers an analysis of what I, and so many other liberals (yes, I’m not afraid of that word), have been feeling.  So in this blog, I’m going to turn it over to Grieder:

Political events of the past two years have delivered a  profound and devastating message: American democracy has been conclusively conquered by American capitalism. Government has been disabled and captured by the formidable powers of private enterprise and concentrated wealth. Self-governing rights that representative democracy conferred on citizens are now usurped by the overbearing demands of corporate and financial interests. Collectively, the corporate sector has its arms around both political parties, the financing of political careers, the production of the policy agendas and propaganda of influential think tanks, and control of major media.

What the capitalist system wants is more — more wealth, more freedom to do whatever it wishes. This has always been its instinct unless goverment intervened to stop it. The objective now is to destroy any remaining forms of goverment interference, except of course for business subsidies and protections. Many elected representatives are implicitly enlisted in the cause.

The administration of Barack Obama has been a crushing disappointment for those of us who hoped he would be different. It turns out that Obama is a more conventional and limited politician than advertised, more right-of-center than his soaring rhetoric suggested. Most Congressional Democrats, likewise, proved weak and incoherent, unreliable defenders of their supposed values or most loyal constituencies. They call it pragmatism. I call it surrender.

Such policies of surrender are preferring capitalism over democracy.  Capitalism is moral only when it is democratic.  If it’s not democratic, it must be opposed, and maybe  denounced.