Donald Andrew Henson II

Christian Economics 101: Starve the Poor

In American Economy, American Society, Religion and Money on March 21, 2017 at 11:56 pm

I started university a bit later than most, only after I had already tried my hand at a couple of different careers. Retail management was my first full-time foray into the workplace, car sales my second. With that background, it made sense to me that I should be a business major, so I signed up for all of the usual courses required of the freshman BBA, confident that my experience in the real world would put me a step or two ahead of my classmates.

Only problem was – I found that business, as it’s taught at university, has very little connection to the real world.

Consider my first day in Economics 101. I’ll never forget the professor building up the fact that there were ten basic principles that formed the theoretical basis upon which everything else we were to study that semester would rely. After several minutes of stressing to us how important it was for us to know these principles, he presented a slide with the first one:

Number 1 – People always make rational and logical decisions.

Needless to say, I began to have my doubts almost immediately. Of course people make irrational and deluded decisions all the time, especially with money. A lot of what I heard in the classroom didn’t match up with my personal experience in the workplace. I mean, the business model for selling new Dodge cars in the late 80s pretty much depended on the fact that the customer wouldn’t make a logical decision.

Another professor fancied himself a Marxist; yet another was a supply-side disciple. About half of my classmates lacked the ability to write a coherent paragraph, or to support an opinion with facts (which must be common even at Wharton).

I learned that there are a lot of really dumb and dangerous ideas floating around, even at the top business schools. Some of these, like the aforementioned supply-side or ‘trickle-down’ economic theory have so infected conservative political thought that all the facts in the world can’t seem to cure them – Nobel prize-winners like Paul Krugman are just considered partisan.

But if you want to hear some really horrible economic ideas, instead of going to business school, you might want to visit your local church. In fact, I believe that ‘Christian Economics’ is the main reason the GOP is able to continue persuading working class voters to vote against their own economic interests.

Jesus and the money changers

Jesus beating up the bankers – not the poor.

Listen to pretty much any radio preacher or TV evangelist, or google ‘Bible economics’ and you’ll find that the church has a lot to say about what the American economy should look like – and it ain’t pretty. I’ve chosen sections from a website called Let God Be True as a good (bad?) example, not only because the site has a lot to say about work, taxes, and economics, but also because the views espoused would be pretty typical of what you’d hear Sunday morning if you attended church in a Red State. The view doesn’t so much seem to be that work proves us to be the elect of God – not pure Calvinism – but it’s clear that a ‘sluggard’ isn’t fulfilling his Christian duty.

You’ll really want to read quite a few pages of this site if you truly want to understand where GOP/Red State economic ideas come from – no, they do NOT actually come from economics classes or the study of economic data (more on that in my next post).

Take for example the commentary for Proverbs 6. Jesus Christ is presented as the “ultimate self-starter”. Good men save their money “by the conviction of the truth God revealed to them”. “Sluggards and spendthrifts” should be starved. That’s right, people who won’t work or who waste money should be starved.

But the writer really gets going at Proverbs 13. Here’s an excerpt, scriptural references omitted for ease of reading:

Lazy people want stuff. They envy and resent the things of workers. They have many excuses why others have more than they have. They will not put in the work to get things. Instead, they whine about discrimination, luck, favoritism, etc.!

They covet much, but they cannot get their lazy backsides out of bed to get those things. They will not even unfold their arms to put food in their mouths! Work frustrates them, and they cannot figure out simple means of getting ahead. When success falls in their laps, they cannot get it in the bank!

They need a bigger house, but they turn down offered overtime. They want a nicer car, but it is more fun to play basketball than take that side job.

Basketball?!? Why not playing golf or going to NASCAR races? Am I wrong to think there’s a bit of racism here? The writer continues (this time, without even bothering to reference particular scriptures):

A sluggard is a lazy person. A sluggard goes to bed late, uses the snooze button, sleeps in late, is grouchy until noon, complains about his job, dresses sloppily, arrives late, moves slowly, slouches, is often still with hands in pockets or arms folded, would rather talk than work, takes frequent breaks, complains about difficult tasks, stands around unless forced to action, never asks for the next assignment, looks for shortcuts, leaves early, makes fun of hard workers, and is always talking about his last or next vacation.

There are pages of this stuff. Again, the clear, scriptural antidote to this behavior is – you guessed it – starve the bastards! Note that this all assumes that there is indeed work to be had – an assumption that may already be untrue for some groups of workers, and will certainly be untrue for many more in the future.

But notice how this feeds into our current political debates – even as I write this, the GOP has inserted language into their healthcare bill meant to appease conservatives, such as stipulations that the able-bodied must work to qualify, and that the poor receive tax deductions instead of tax credits (to keep from giving anyone a hand-out).

And remember when Tea-Partiers cheered at the hypothetical 30 year old dying because he didn’t have healthcare?

Make no mistake about it – conservative Christians aren’t really worried about deficits, or that healthcare will cost too much, or that taxing the wealthy will hurt job creation. No, not at all. They think that when government takes care of the poor by taxing the rich a bit more that it frustrates the divine will. God has rewarded the rich (contrary to just about everything Jesus ever said) and to take even a small amount from them is to interfere with God’s laws of economics. This is what made President Obama the devil in their eyes – because of course we all know who works to destroy God’s plan – Satan!

The rich of course just don’t want to pay more in taxes – politicians are expensive, don’t you know, and you’ve got to buy a lot of them if you want to keep the working man in his place. Don’t believe it when you hear conservative politicians say, “we’d like to do it – we just can’t as a country afford it”.

The GOP are philosophically opposed to helping the poor, and believe they are doing God’s work. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

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  1. There is definitely an undertone of racism. When someone is ranting about “lazy slackers”, I’m fairly certain they have a specific image in mind. Even in the rare case that they’re talking about their white nephew, there usually a “he’s no better than a (insert favorite racial slur here)” delivered in the same breath. And to clarify, racism is simply based on the fear of “the other”, not necessarily a sheathing hate, so we’re all capable and guilty of dabling in a little racism.

    The larger, more frightening point though, is economists predict that in the near future, up to 90% of humans will be unnecessary for employment, due to further automation. Where will this “let them die” world view lead to then?

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