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What are we to make of the Obama-brokered deal on debt and spending? It was certainly what the Germans call eine schwere Geburt (a difficult birth); it was one of the few times I would have favored abortion.
I am reminded of a sermon that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave during the turbulent 1950s, in which he peered into the future and issued a prescient warning:
"A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan."
In promoting and then signing the so-called "deficit reduction" legislation, President Barack Obama has definitively confirmed that he stands in the ranks of those spiritual-death-dealing, "soft-minded" men about whom Dr. King warned so ominously.
In my view, even dyed-in-the-wool Obama supporters will now have to let the scales fall from their eyes. The new one-sided "compromise" so clearly promotes the interests of the wealthy over those of the poor that, in Biblical terms, it can readily be seen as a Goddamned deal.
I want to share some thoughts with those among us -- believers and non-believers alike -- who shudder at the prospect of our children and children's children inheriting a country far different from the one promised by the American Dream, a nation approaching "spiritual death."
If you are not greatly concerned with the growing disparity between the rich and poor in this country, take another minute to ponder another warning from Dr. King in the same sermon:
"Passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil."
It is a bitter pill -- and a great disappointment -- that the President has turned his back on those about whom the Hebrew and Christian scriptures express the deepest concern, the anawim. This frequently used Biblical word denotes not just those on the margins, but the despised, hated, poor, often said in Scripture to include the widows, the orphans, the strangers.
My atheist friends regularly remind me to widen my perspective. The scriptural mandate to care for the widows, the orphans and the strangers springs from the highest of human instincts, and neither requires nor presupposes a faith perspective.
In modern American history, it also has been shown that having a vibrant middle class is good for business, while a society of a few rich and many poor is prone to destructive boom-and-bust cycles.
A huge majority of economists concede that America has been sliding into a land of haves and have-nots for the past several decades and that the "deal" Obama signed into law on Tuesday will do little, if anything, to improve the lives of our fellow citizens deprived of work, shelter, medical care and other necessities.
In sum, Obama -- again put in a corner by Republicans who appeared ready to force the United States into default if they didn't get their way -- reneged on a promise not to let the burden for coping with the economic/fiscal mess fall primarily on the backs of the poor.
The immediate deficit-cutting plan excludes any additional tax revenues from the rich, a line in the sand drawn by Republicans who were determined to protect even an extravagant tax loophole for corporate jet owners and special tax breaks for oil companies recording record profits.
And Republican leaders have made clear that they will be equally adamant against any new tax revenue from the recommendations of a special congressional committee, meaning that the United States will soon face another budget crisis in which the Republicans will demand even deeper spending cuts.
Demons and Scripture
Scripture contains a lot of stories about demons. These texts were always a stretch for me, until I found myself investigating my country's use of kidnapping, torture and black-site prisons -- not to mention targeted assassinations. No longer could I make light of the demonic.
Lessons from the various indignities visited on many of my friends in inner-city Washington have served as confirmation. Ex-offenders are especially prominent among the anawim of our nation's capital.