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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

CEO's and the Anti-Christian Right

It is quickly becoming apparent (as if it weren’t crystal clear already) that CEO’s are worried about nothing but their personal enrichment. They don’t care if they bankrupt the company, drive investors into bankruptcy, or destroy the retirement of the people that work for them. All that matters is that their pay continues to increase.

By all accounts, 2004 was not a bang-up year financially. Most companies suffered somewhat, several announced huge layoffs, profits and sales were down, and the overall economy sent mixed signals. According to the Common Dreams news letter (click here), the Executive Pay Watch is reporting that CEO pay rose by an average of twelve percent.

It’s one thing to see your pay boosted when stocks are flying high and profits are rising. How do you justify doing it when your company is doing worse? The Common Dreams newsletter cites Business Week as saying this twelve percent rise in pay was “moderated … by corporate reform, shareholder revolt over astronomical pay levels, and pending accounting changes”. Twelve percent a year is moderate?

The average worker, meantime, saw their wages rise a staggering 2.9 percent. While the average worker makes around thirty-three thousand a year, almost 40 of the nation’s top executives make over $20 million per year. That doesn’t even include the CEO’s profit from selling stock options, either. That’s basic pay.

The tax code used to discourage such crimes. However, the single biggest legacy endowed by Ronald Reagan has been the incestuous marriage between the Republican Party and the anti-Christian religious right. Somehow, lower taxes for the wealthy are somehow seen as being Biblically upheld as a moral good. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible does have a lot to say about money. However, it doesn’t say anything about helping the wealthy save even more money. Instead, it specifically speaks of donating money to the poor, to widows and orphans, to the dispossessed and the weak. It warns that on Judgment Day that many will find out that they turned away God when they turned away the poor and hungry and weak.

Specifically, in the fifth chapter of James, it warns of three sins of the wealthy – hoarding wealth to live in luxury and self-indulgence (forsaking the Biblical lifestyle), cheating workers out of just wages, and condemning and murdering innocent people. The first two are evident from the skyrocketing level of CEO pay (as well as sports and entertainment figures) and can be witnessed from The Simple Life to MTV’s CRIB. The last may appear to be too extreme for modern America at first glance.

A closer examination shows that poor people necessarily take riskier jobs. Low wages for long work are sometimes called, “working someone to death” where I was raised. Surely stringing someone along on the bare minimum they need to survive is condemning them to a life of subsistence poverty.

Any number of politicians can be heard almost daily decrying the state of American morality. It’s true. We are sinking in a bed of slime that we created. It isn’t the abortions or the gay marriages that is sending our country straight down a path of destruction. It’s an immoral tax code that punishes hard work and rewards fiscal trickery.

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