INCOME INEQUALITY: A CHALLENGE TO OUR UU PRINCIPLES
Quoting from the UUA “Escalating Inequality” Study Guide:…consider how the legal notion of corporate personhood, which grants political participation to corporate entities as citizens, corrodes our cherished democratic process as it opens it up to be unduly influenced by corporate interest. A vibrant democracy depends on the full participation of citizens as caretakers of our shared living, in deep affirmation of our interconnectivity. To safeguard this liberty, we should reflect on the consequences of corporate personhood and the call to take action to eliminate this legal category.
A serious look at the current state of our democracy also demands that we look at how the accumulation of wealth and political power in the history of the United States has been based on structural racism, patriarchy, environmental degradation for economic production, the increased militarization of society, and other oppressions. From the very founding of the United States wealth was created from the seizure of land from indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed and exterminated, the enslavement of Africans, and the expropriation of labor from indentured servants, laborers, and immigrants.
Alongside the rise and consolidation of the property owning class and escalating inequality there has also always been the resistance of oppressed people fighting for freedom, rights, and equity. Without a narrative that confronts the frauds of meritocracy and other myths that underlie American democracy, any efforts to create a true democracy will be limited at best, and at worst will continue to perpetuate systems of oppression. While we affirm that racialized capitalism and white supremacy have heavily shaped our political system, we also recognize and celebrate progressive and revolutionary people’s movements that have fought for the expansion of democracy and the ability to gain social reforms and social justice and protect our natural resources.
We are taking action to work toward passing a constitutional amendment to protect us from corporations using ‘corporate personhood’ and ‘money as speech’ for their interests rather than people’s needs. It is our understanding that our Seven Principles give us spiritual grounding to put our concerns into action.
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
Our faith as Unitarian Universalists requires that we respond to economic injustice. We cannot ignore the harm caused when people at the top control and receive most of the resources and those that carry out the work of the world struggle to survive. We know that there is enough for all but not enough for greed and that we can create a world based on inclusive wealth creation and wealth sharing. Our sources, principles and theologies compel us to act.
Quoted from the UUA “Escalating Inequality” Study Guide
As Individuals We Can:
- Follow our own Social Justice pages at http://www.firstparishnorthboro.org/1216website/justice/ as well as http://www.uucsw.org/social-justice and http://www.uumassaction.org/
- Examine our role in the financial system and what we are willing to change.
- Track, promote, and abide by boycotts that call for a just economic system.
- Use the ballot box, letters to the editor, and calls/emails/visits with elected officials to work for a just economic system.
- Invest in micro-loan projects, crowd source funding, time banks, and other finance options outside the corporate banking and investment system.
- Advocate for more civic education schools and adult education, including teaching about recognizing fake Find ways to educate our own local 1% people about the dangers of propagating the current system.
- Disseminate info to the congregation about other groups taking action.
- Volunteer to work on projects, like Habitat for Humanity, that do the work our government cannot currently do to help take people out of poverty.
- Pay attention to legislative actions as they do happen and actively support and encourage our representatives to do what is needed to reverse the direction in income inequality.
- Stay informed about the MOVE TO AMEND action and participate as able
- Join the Economic Equity in Politics Certified Working Group at http://lists.uua.org/mailman/listinfo/EEP-CWG
- Share your story about how your life and health care could change if your pay was increased to $15/hour with Raise Up Massachusetts, email@example.com
- Sign the Declaration of Conscience on the UU Service Committee website http://www.uusc.org
On Line Resources
The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz.
Republic Lost by Lawrence Lessig.
The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, by Ganesh Sitaraman
As A Congregation We Can:
- Create & Participate in a Study Group “Income Inequality”
- Small Group discussions using “Class Background Inventory” and “Class Conversations” themes
- Public Campaigns (postcard and twitter storms, petition drives, social media networking, placard demonstrations)
- Partner with other local faith communities & justice groups on joint actions to influence legislation
- Sponsor educational opportunities
- Advocate for getting money out of politics, ending corporate welfare, reforming corporate governance, changing tax laws to be more equitable and progressive, revising bankruptcy laws, and increasing support for public education.
1. Pew Research Center reported in December (2015) that a clear majority of American adults no longer live in the middle class, a demographic reality shaped by decades of widening inequality, declining industry, the erosion of financial stability, and lack of family-wage jobs. But while much of the attention has focused on communities hardest hit by economic declines, the new Pew data, based on metro-level income data since 2000, show that middle-class stagnation is a far broader phenomenon.
…Pew’s data shows that metros with greater income inequality tend to have smaller middle classes. When the income distribution is narrower, on the other hand, more people are likely to be clustered in that middle tier between $42,000 and $125,000.
Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, May 11, 2016
And in June, 2016, according to studies by the Pew Research Center, the American middle class is shrinking and the gap between high-income and low-income households is growing. As a result, income inequality in the United States, which dwarfs that of other developed countries, is at a peak.
2. So who actually benefits from a booming stock market?
In one sense, lots of people benefit. About 52 percent of Americans own at least some stock, mostly in their 401(k)s. But Jared Bernstein argues that this oft-cited stat is misleading. After all, there’s a massive difference between owning a handful of shares and thousands of shares. As a counterpoint, he cites Edward Wolff’s research finding that just 10 percent of Americans own about 80 percent of the stock wealth in the United States….
Here’s what that means in dollar terms: “In 2010 according to Wolff’s analysis, the stock holdings of the middle fifth were worth about $9000. The holdings of the top 10% were worth $500,000, and those at the top 1%: $3.5 million.” Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, April, 2011
3. As the wealthy have gotten wealthier, the economists find, that’s created an economic arms race in which the middle class has been spending beyond their means in order to keep up. The authors call this ‘trickle-down consumption.” The result? Americans are saving less, bankruptcies are becoming more common, and politicians are pushing for policies to make it easier to take on debt…..That excess debt, in turn, increases the risk of a major financial crisis.
Brad Plumer, The Washington Post,March 27, 2013
4. Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and a half decades.
The real economy more than doubled in size…Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly…This group – the approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder – “has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s,” a 2016 study by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuael Saez and Gabriel Zucman found.
…the top 1 percent’s share of the nation’s income nearly doubled during that same 34 year period.
Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, December 6, 2016