God to Rich: Read the Fine Print

bible“If you have taken a pledge from the poor,” says God to the rich, “do not say he is your debtor and you are therefore justified in retaining his garment. Remember you are my debtor, your life is in my hand. I return you all your senses and all your faculties after your sleep every day.” —Midrash Tanhuma

Fr. Jon Pedigo: Discerning Values, Discerning Vote

Fr. Jon Pedigo serves Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in San Jose, Calif. He’s written a wonderful and insightful piece for PICO National Network on how the outcome of elections impacts his community:

I’m a Catholic pastor working in a Mexican immigrant community in the east side of San José. My community is less than a 15 minute drive away from some of the wealthiest real estate in Silicon Valley. Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is in the neighborhood formerly known as, “Sal Si Puedes” (“Leave If You Can”). Though we are minutes away from some of the wealthiest dot-com tycoons, we might as well be living in another country. In my community only two out of 100 children graduate from college and more than half of the students drop out of high school. I am writing this article one week after we buried three murder victims. My community has dozens of families affected by deportation. On my first day at this parish – just this past July – two parents were deported leaving behind four children. The oldest is 14, the youngest 20 months.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is mired in poverty, deportations, a failing educational system and violence. This community, however, is resilient. They regularly engage in society through community organizing. Over the recent past we have had small victories built upon small victories that have resulted in the establishment of charter schools, a change in police and city policies that are more immigrant friendly, and more positive police engagement in our neighborhoods. Obviously we have a long way to go and not all our problems can be solved by community actions. Our community must also engage in the electoral process.

The Catholic Church regularly publishes, “Faithful Citizenship,” a handbook for Catholics designed to help us engage in the political process. Catholics are encouraged to consider their faith values – (and I add and emphasize the word, “all” faith values) – when we vote. Moral theology also teaches that we must also consider the context of our life when applying these values. The context that we must consider is the growing economic gap between the rich and poor and all the social complications that happens when there is gross inequality and how marginalized communities such as mine, are affected by budget cuts that result in fewer police officers on our streets, closure of after school programs, and larger class sizes. We must consider how our national budget will affect the people who depend on entitlement programs and the ways that immigration policy affects our children. To my community, these are literally issues of life and death.

Conscientious Catholics are aware that our faith values are not captured by any single political party or in any single candidate. We must therefore tread very carefully through the political process. Some Catholics have a suspicious and even negative view of the political process. Other Catholics take on a rather simplistic approach when voting, applying only one or two faith criteria when voting. To vote “single issue” is not responsible voting. We must use a discernment process before we enter the ballot box. … —Fr. Jon Pedigo

Read the rest of Fr. Jon’s reflections here.

Video: Time for the Tobin Tax? Bill Nighy Says Aye

Thanks for Marc Batko over at Demandside for pointing out this hilarious video with Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) and Bill Nighy (“The Constant Gardener” and “Love Actually”) promoting the Tobin Tax or Robin Hood Tax (“robbing the rich to give to the poor”) campaign in the U.K.

Tobin Taxes are excise taxes on cross-border currency transactions. Any national legislature or financial regulatory commission can enact them — and multilateral agreements can be made to enforce them. The revenue is explicitly dedicated to basic environmental and human needs.

According to Jim Tobin, the a Ph.D. Nobel-laureate economist at Yale University who first introduced the idea, such taxes will “help tame currency market volatility and restore national economic sovereignty.”

Read the whole article from The Guardian here). What do the financial experts say about how this kind of tax would work?

Experts’ view of the Tobin Tax:

Joseph Stiglitz, professor of economics at Columbia University: “A tax structure that does not reward short-term, very speculative gains would be good. If you were investing for a year or five years or 10 years it would be a small tax but if you were holding it for just one minute it becomes a very high tax. The important question is implementability. It’s designed to tackle high frequency activity for which it is hard to find any societal benefit. The only question is, can it be effectively implemented? Will it be circumvented? There’s a growing consensus it can be implemented, if not perfectly, effectively enough to make a difference.”

Ann Pettifor, fellow, New Economics Foundation: “The proposed currency transaction tax (CTT) represents the tiniest grain of sand in the wheels of global, mobile capital, and places very little restraint on the movement of international capital. For that reason CTT will be welcomed, ultimately, by international financial institutions. The proposal lacks a framework of democratic, accountable governance for the disbursement of funds collected under a CTT scheme. NGOs and treasuries are debating whether funds should go, for example, to national treasuries; to the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, or to the UN for mitigation and adaption to climate change. Until disbursement and distribution of CTT revenues are accounted for in a democratic, fair, and transparent way, the CTT will be vulnerable to attack.”

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce: “It may have potential. I’m not sure it’s the most appropriate thing. I think the main argument against it is that it’s most unlikely to be implemented globally. If a tax could be applied it would have beneficial effects … My reservation is that for the UK to engage in this unilaterally would be a very dangerous thing to do because it would destroy the country’s financial sector. People and businesses would migrate to other places. If the US and big European countries implemented it as well then it would not harm our financial sector as much.”