Archive for April 2011
When I read in the NY Times Obituary that somebody died, I usually listen to their most famous songs, if they happen to be singers. So I listened to some of Hazel Dickens songs and one of them “Don’t Put her Down, You Helped Put her There” has quite poignant lyrics. In his Galatians Commentary Luther said that faith as the power of God creates God in us, not God per se, but in us. Perhaps I could also say, among us; so horizontally in the power of false faith we create each other: the lust of men creates the prostitute, as Hazel’s words clearly indicate. The wealthy create the stunted poor, the poor create the glamorous rich. Powerful forces of false faith make us shape each other. When will divine faith in the Holy Spirit shape us into Christs for one another? When will we learn the service that’s made out of love? That’s when we’ll get a preview of the coming attractions of the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.
Click on this URL for her lyrics:
 Luther’s famous formula “fides creatrix divinitatis,” which is to be understood: faith creates the Divinity, of course “not in [God’s] person, but in us.”  – not per se, but in us. We make God to be God, in that we give God the honor God is due.
 WA 40 I: 360.5f (about Galatians 3:6: the 1531 lectures) or LW 26: 227.
 Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology, (Tuebingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 2003), page 159, (my translation).
Dear President Obama,
where is the vision you had for our country: health care for all, bullet trains, winding down the wars, and speedy economic recovery? Has the one you began with become diluted and neutralized with your pragmatism? Your attempt to reconcile factions, republicans and democrats, red and blue states, is laudable, but that does not mean that you should surrender your vision for our country to republicans and tea party types. Some of them could be as phony as the colonists, who dressed like Native Americans in order not to take responsibility for dumping the tea into the Boston harbor. They shouted, “Taxation without representation is tyranny!” We can say, “Tax cuts that intend to decimate the government spell anarchy.”
(The words in red had to be left out, because only 2500 characters are allowed.)
As you have already said, the issue should not be big or small government, but smart and responsible government. Our government needs to be capable of a robust response equal to one that the states cannot handle themselves. When the republicans dismantled FEMA, what a sorry response for New Orleans hit by hurricane Katrina! Our government also has to keep the financial industry, business, and corporations responsible so our banks do not rob people, water tables are not contaminated for shale, no sick cows are put into our food, our Gulf Coast is not changed into an oil slick, our air remains safe to breathe around oil refineries, God forbid, we have another Fukushima. Government regulation is not needed for mature and responsible persons, but they certainly are necessary for cold, impersonal, anti-social economic forces that would otherwise immorally and irresponsibly collectivize cost and privatize profit. Thus checks and balances should also go for the profit motive and not only for the government. Without taxes and smart regulation our government cannot protect our people.
I thought FDR introduced big government to bully corporations into complying with our national interests. Spending cuts, like pruning a tree, can improve our government. Pruning, I believe, is an apt metaphor: the shoots and sucklings that use up the life, juice, and energy that should go into bearing fruit, have to be cut away. Spending cuts can make the government smarter and more responsible. But one does not cut away the fruitful branches with the wild shoots in order to stunt the tree.
The scope of the government is of course at issue. Some want the government out of social concerns. But only government is broad, systematic, and comprehensive enough to provide an approximation of justice. Private charity should be done, but justice should not be left undone. How can 40 million people be uninsured when health costs are even too high for insurance companies to pay?
We have to frame the tax debate differently: they are a patriotic duty and GE and Jeffry Immelt should be ashamed! For one, I think tax cuts are cheap bribes for re-election. Second, they have been used as a ploy to produce the deficits necessary to slash the government the way Grover Norquist would like. Anarchy is thinkable where mature self-regulation works. Was the financial industry mature and self-regulating?
Taxation is the pruning that business and corporations also require. What did the Bush tax cuts bring? This redistribution of wealth to the wealthy may well have enhanced the taste for speculation, divided the debtors and creditors of our society further, and could well have been an overlooked factor in the great recession. Tax increases would have pruned back the greed and given us a new bout of sprouting growth. A recession with unfathomable unemployment followed these tax cuts and not prosperity.
Finally what about pruning the health care industry? There are operations on mistaken patients, hospital infections, and deaths galore! (See the NPR News Hour April 12th 2011.) Our hospitals and doctors should not be making us sick and killing us. Where is our government and where the regulations, when the health care industry is not being responsible, while charging sky-rocketing prices?