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Demonizing the Rich

February 16, 2009
S. Michael Craven
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In the wake of our current financial crisis, the most popular scapegoat is quickly becoming the wealthy in America, inspiring class warfare reminiscent of Marxist socialism. One popular blog writer expressed this sentiment, probably more clearly than intended, when he wrote:

The super rich can only be that way for so long, before the masses reach the critical point and take the wealth back.  Our founders knew that Revolutions are needed from time to time, and that time has long past. The anger is palpable; the formerly comfortable middle classes are being pushed over the edge. … I won't be suprised [sic] when the fires start, and the blood starts to flow. Robbery is becoming the only chance to eat, and the rich flaunt themselves at every opportunity (my TPM Blog, Feb 3, 2009).

Recent government proposals appeal to this growing resentment, which paint the wealthy as the only culprits in this debacle. Senator McCaskill (D-MO) announced a bill that would limit total compensation of any executives working for a recipient of the bailout TARP funds to $400,000. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) was so bold as to suggest that these limits ought to be applied to non-TARP companies as well. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said he would propose a “temporary economic recovery oversight court” that would give government the power to “take reasonable steps to restrain the massive self-indulgences that these masters of the universe have become accustomed to.” And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he would consider “extending at least some of the TARP provisions and features of the $500,000 cap to U.S. companies generally.”

I completely understand the anger in reaction to the arrogance, greed, and irresponsibility of certain Wall Street figures. However, there is plenty of blame to go around, beginning with politicians who institutionalized ridiculous lending practices (i.e., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) in pursuit of utopian visions of universal home ownership. But also to every overspent, debt-laden American who borrowed what they had not earned to buy what they could not afford. Suffice it to say, government intervention of the sort mentioned above will not only not remedy our current financial crisis but may also institutionalize anticapitalist principles that will weaken our economy for decades.

Recently, the White House announced the formation of a new task force “to raise the living standards of the middle class.” This is interesting, since the government does not and cannot create wealth, which is necessary to raise the standard of living. No, their only option is to take from one group to give to another—generally from those who actually do create wealth and drive economic expansion in this country: the wealthy. In actuality, cutting taxes on the rich proves beneficial to both government and the public. Economic columnist Thomas Donlan writes in his book, A World of Wealth: “After the Bush Administration … reduced the top marginal rates, the people with the highest incomes shouldered a larger share of the tax burden because they made so much more money.... Of more importance, the expanding economy generated more revenue from income taxes, sales taxes, corporate income taxes, and social insurance taxes…. By fiscal 2007, higher economic growth and lower tax avoidance covered the loss of revenue from lower rates” (Thomas G. Donlan, A World of Wealth, [FT Press: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2008]).

Nonetheless, the current financial crisis has given fodder to socialist thinkers such as David May who argues, “Only the socialist reorganization of society can reverse the accelerating polarization of the classes and finally dispense with class society altogether.” In the wake of Marxism’s complete failure during the twentieth century, you would think socialism would have died a natural death but alas, it hasn’t. Vice President Biden writing in USA Today (January 30, 2009) continues the popular appeal to classism when he writes:
Over the course of America's last economic expansion, the middle class participated in very few of the benefits. But now in the midst of this historic economic downturn, the middle class sure is participating in all of the pain. Something is seriously wrong when the economic engine of this nation - the great middle class - is treated this way.

This is very appealing if you are among the middle class. However it’s just not true and only serves to inflame class divisions. America’s unprecedented economic growth since 1980 has benefitted more people than any time in history, both the poor as well as the middle class. The Heritage Foundation publishes annual reports on the world’s standard of living; the most recent indicates that the standard of living of the poor in America today is comparable to the standard of living of the American middle class a few decades ago, and of the European middle class today.

William Pfaff, reporting on this year’s World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, underscores the growing sentiment that free-market capitalism is to blame for our economic woes when he writes:

The immediate disaster, evident at Davos, is that the American economic model of deregulated market capitalism, dominant today in the U.S. and the rest of the industrial world, cited as a vehicle of human progress, proves under examination to have been in significant part an affair of swindle, personal enrichment, looted Third World nations, international and national crime conspiracies, bank robbery and Ponzi schemes, criminal real estate practices, environmental and institutional rip-offs, and official corruption.

I am not defending greed and avarice, but free-market capitalism is simply that: free. This in and of itself is not the cause of any vice. It may serve as an avenue to vice but it does not compel one to immoral habits. What capitalism demands and what is increasingly scarce is moral restraint. Historically, it was the values of Christianity, socially reinforced, that provided this restraint. The rejection of this moral restraint is at the heart of what is destroying our economy and culture. It is not the continued “history of class struggles” suggested in the Communist Manifesto.

The neo-Marxist philosophy that is emerging in the wake of our present economic crisis threatens to displace the best economic system for human flourishing—free market capitalism. And, depriving people of the opportunity to accumulate unlimited wealth will not improve your or my condition one iota. In fact, it will diminish the opportunity for us all to pursue our grandest ambitions, express our best entrepreneurial energies, and maintain the greatest charitable resource in the history of the world.  

©  2009 by S. Michael Craven

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Response from : Fred Bassette  

February 16, 2009 8:25 AM

Mr. Craven's citations of other leaders comments on addressing social classism have a common theme: replacing a free-market driven class structure with a government defined and controlled one. The latter is scary ... very scary ... given past failed attempts in the world's history.

Response from : Rick Lebel  

February 16, 2009 9:53 AM

Nice try Michael. I agree with every point you have made, but IT'S TOO LATE. Free market capitalism is now over and we have to look to Christ alone as our salvation.

Response from : S. Michael Craven  

February 16, 2009 10:06 AM

Dear Rick,
I have never suggested that we look to anyone or anything other than Christ for our salvation--the issue on the table is simply that of economic freedom.

Response from : Gilbert Rios  

February 16, 2009 12:04 PM

Why can't the leaders in congress lead by example.They enjoy great benefits that the average citizen does not enjoy

Response from : Henry Blankett  

February 16, 2009 12:11 PM

It was "free-market" capitalism that exported the United States' manufacturing base -- the only real wealth generator the nation had -- out to China and elsewhere. This loss of millions and millions of well-paying jobs was replaced by millions and millions of credit card accounts and second mortgages. In truth, people have been living on credit cards and home equity simply to pay the bills and stay alive. Your sweeping statement about "overspent, debt-laden Americans who borrowed what they had not earned to buy what they could not afford," displays willful ignorance about millions of people who you do not know -- except perhaps through the economic propaganda disseminated by hired-guns "free market" public relations groups like the Heritage Foundation.

Response from : Jimmie King  

February 16, 2009 12:56 PM

I agree in theory with what you are writing here. However, your anger is misplaced. The problem is not that our government is moving in this direction. The problem is that the church has lost God's heart for the poor. God gave us money for a reason. It was not to spend on 3000 sq ft homes with three cars in the driveway. It wasn't given so we could hide in our nice gated suburbs so we can protect ourselves from the world. It's not so we can play church in nice large mall like buildings on the weekend, hidden from the sinners of the world. God gave us money so we can bless those around us. We are to use our treasures, as well as our time and talents to help people in need. We have so many resources and so many opportunities to be salt and light to the poor and disenfranchised in our own backyards. We could be the ones providing real solutions to people in need. But alas, our idea of helping the poor is showing up and Christmas with gifts, and maybe coming by during the summer for a backyard Bible club. People are turning to the government because the church has lost God's heart for those who are hurting. On the one hand I agree with you that government intervention has led to dependeny by the poor. However, this is the only safety net they have.

Let me ask you this question. If the government said starting now they would end all government programs for the poor, what do you think would happen to the poor and needy I minister to? Please don't tell me the church would fill the gap. I can't even get 6 volunteers from a church of 4000 to serve as mentors for the job training program I run. We cannot expect the world to make the correct choices. The world is full of sinners and sinners sin. Whether it's government officials choosing wrong paths for the country or the rich and poor non believers making bad decisions. None of that should matter, if the church is being the church. A church that radically loves our God and everyone around us. People would be drawn to that.

Response from : David  

February 16, 2009 1:25 PM

Dear Michael,

The only reason that I read your email newsletters every week is because they are spiritually uplifting. I did not sign up for your emails to hear your political convictions. I am a bit disappointed and surprised at your newsletter topic.

Please return to what you are so good at doing; i.e., spiritually enlightening us.

Response from : stephen peele  

February 16, 2009 1:38 PM

I sure do not want to give up even if the US is heading toward socialism. The real deal here is that we need to get a bit more focused and aggressive as Christians to hold back what would clearly be a bad thing for this country. Socialism is on the agenda because Satan would simply love to get this country in a position to uncover Israel and allow him to do his bidding...although I know that Jesus wins in the end, there is still mercy to be applied to God's people as the clock winds down.

Response from : stephen peele  

February 16, 2009 1:43 PM

Michael, that is one man's opinion (too late, not spiritual enough)...the reality is that Christians has abdicated their place in the dialogue for so long that they are no longer comfortable applying the WORD and its spiritual principles to the reality of mankinds daily decisions. For anyone to say that this is not a relevant topic or that it is "over" to me says they are out of touch and will contiune to a Pastor who daily deals with the realities of the decisions we make in this country, there is nothing more relevant than Christians re-entering the dialogue...we will not fix everything, but we will at least play the same role the Holy Spirit plays in the world even today...of restrainer!

Response from : Janet  

February 16, 2009 3:45 PM

I agree....Thank you Jesus.....jmXX

Too bad our Democrats in congress don't get it....

Response from : Corey Pride  

February 17, 2009 8:37 AM


I could not agree with you more! The path our government is taking will not only lead to worsening the economic situation but also embolden those that would do us harm (al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations). It is a sad state of affairs when the very system our country was founded on is being chipped away by those that use fear-mongering to destroy the public's confidence. Are times hard? Yes! But that doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater!! The Christian moral restraint you state in your column is essential to our development as a society. Otherwise, we will be doomed to repeat history as we have seen time and time again. It's a shame more Americans cannot see this and place the blame on those that have undermined our culture with a lack of moral direction. I pray that our Lord brings a revival upon us so that we can turn from our ways and, once again, step boldly out in faith and follow Him.

Thank you for your faith, Michael, and the courage God has blessed you with to share it with all of us!

Response from : Lori Traudt  

February 17, 2009 8:53 AM

Several of my friends, including myself, think this article would be something many would like to hear.
NPR has a program called "This I believe" and we would like to suggest that you submit your article to them. God bless.

Response from : Laurel Crawford  

February 17, 2009 11:17 AM

This is a great article. Very well said. Difficult topic, but a very important one. Thank you for this piece.

Response from : Linda Howard  

February 17, 2009 12:17 PM

Thank you for speaking out. Too few in our nation understand the implications of capping salaries. We have forgotten what it took to build this nation and how great we were. I say "were" because as a country, we are rapidly sinking into mindless drones that follow ideologies which will destroy us. Jack Graham(Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church) succintly expressed the state of our nation when he said "we are like people on the Titanic, partying on as if nothing is happening but the ship is sinking"

Response from : Ron  

February 17, 2009 3:48 PM

Michael, thanks for the opportunity to respond. I have voted Republican for as long as I can remember, but, I fear your article, although good in that it warns against over reacting, far falls short of the serious inequities between rich and middle class and poor. You have got to expand your circle to listen to the increasing numbers of people not at the top of the heap and who have not seen the benefits of trickle down economics. I personally feel blessed but I do hear the cries of others who have worked hard but have not benefited as much as others. Please, take a good long look from other perspectives. Read the New Testamenet and ask if Jesus had such a perspective on the culture. Thanks again for letting me do a quick and maybe too hurried response.

Response from : Brooks Sethman  

February 19, 2009 8:35 PM

My Brother.You are so correct about the article you wrote.Dead on when you said that their is a division between the rich and the poor.Thank GOD for END time PROPHECY.

http://Demonizing the Rich

Response from : C. Dahlinger  

February 20, 2009 2:55 PM

This is a comment to one of the readers' posted response. In regard to someone thinking that the church is not doing enough, therefore the idea that goverment has to step in. As Jesus said the poor will always be among you. Jesus said," the greatest commandments are: love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and love your neighbor." We can never do enough to solve the world's problem and poverty, but the church is still doing a far better job than the goverment. (It has no soul) As my eleven year old pointed out about the Ad on TV showing this woman who is desperately needing help on her mortage payment. Her son was in the background playing with Wii or playstation on a flatscreen TV. That's what we call spending what you cannot afford and do not need. I grew up in a third world country. I know what is poverty. The cry for poverty in U.S. is very often times misused and that is abuse for those who are in true need in this country. That is called greed- the sinful nature and only God has a cure for that.

Response from : Wendy Orestano  

February 21, 2009 6:47 AM

WOW!!! This article hit the nail squarely on the head. Could you please send this to every single elected official in this current "let's drive this country into the ground with our ridiculous & inane policies" administration?????

Response from : Karen  

February 25, 2009 5:17 AM

Excellent article!!! You are exactly right, it's unfortunate that the "powers that be" are blinded and can't see past their own noses.

Response from : donald harvey  

February 25, 2009 5:38 AM

I couldn't agree more on your letter. This class warfare is nothing more then jealous and is a sin and needs to stop.
The best way to get us out of this problem is to pass the Fairtax immediately. But will congress want to give up control?

Response from : Stephen  

February 25, 2009 6:33 AM

That's right Michael -- Jesus told the rick to hoard their wealth and keep if for themselves. He said that it is okay to live inscrupulously and take advantage of others. It's not like he said that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

The Cold war is over, man, and the chances that our country will go communist are zero to none. Instead of whining about how political leaders maybe went too far in trying to help poor people afford their own homes, why don't you explain to me why $400,000-$500,000 is not enough for anyone to live off...

Response from : Tired to Republican Hypocrites  

February 25, 2009 6:38 AM

Wendy, you're talking about the now exited administration, right, since it's their policies that drove us into the ground by wasting money, growing the government and the federal deficit.

Response from : Roy Proctor  

March 5, 2009 9:16 AM

I certainly agree that liberals hate free enterprise. Because they look upon government as their god and they are his gift to society, they think they have the cure all.

Democratic government though does have two things they can and should do. First, they enact legislation in which free enterprise can succeed. Second, they should be quick to prosecute fraud and shody ethics in all facets of American life.

Yet, government was never designed to create jobs or to generate wealth. Only money from producing goods can create jobs and wealth.

So, where does that put Wall Street? I think that speculation of all kinds might be looked at with suspician.

Response from : Raul Lozoya  

March 5, 2009 2:53 PM

What a wonderful article presented by Mr. Craven.

It is a shame that any person in this country can get up earlier than most, work longer than most, educated themselves more than most and invest in themselves to become more financially literate than most and yet, be told by politicians that you are the bad guy for doing all that and you have to share your wealth.
You are told you have to share the wealth with the people that are sleeping while you are working. You are told to share the wealth with the ones that complain they are tired after 8 hours of work while you continue to work and with the people that are watching TV every night while you continue to build your dream into the late hours.
But the only thing that will keep the American Entrepreneur alive and well is the passion to continue to build their dream because that one entrepreneur is the one who provides the jobs to those people that are complaining now.

Jesus Christ continues to be the opportunity maker and the hope giver for this country. The American Entrepreneur who humbles himself to Jesus Christ, has the responsibility to be a "Salt" and "Light" and has the responsibility to be the steward God has used to make it this country what it once was and with the Grace of God, can once again be.

Response from : Eldredge  

March 6, 2009 7:00 PM

You rightwing apologists just can not see the trees, even though your faces are being pushed into them. You continue to make the same arguments, even though the experience of the past year should be enough to bring enlightenment, even to a deaf, dumb, blind kid. Unbridled capitalism is merely a variation on putting the fox into the henhouse. Regardless of the virtues of capitalism, people will always cheat. Whether you or any other apologist for market capitalism likes the fact or not, no great fortune was ever come by completely legally.
So, where does the above exposition leave us? The position is very clear for anyone who is not blinded by rightwing ideology. Business must be regulated and regulated closely. Your mouthings in support of untrammeled robber baron capitalism just do not stand serious scrutiny.
You, and people like you, make a good living by being sycophants, in various ways, to the class you are shilling for in this article. One hopes that, if the revolution comes, you and your like will receive some fitting punishment for your treason against the common good and common sense.


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