It's no secret that I get a lot of my ideas (and my story titles) from the Psalms. This morning's selection, Psalm 72, seems particularly apropos this month, with the forthcoming election and the current state of the economy. In describing the ideal king, it says "For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper." Last Sunday's reading included the Christian version of the Golden Rule: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." For the past week my mind has been contrasting that with Atlas Shrugged, which I read and found thoroughly creepy. The idea that a person could have lots of money and not help the poor and needy is repulsive to me. Despite the validity of the arguments in Stephen Prothero's book God Is Not One, even the religions that do not specifically require charity (giving to the needy is one of the five pillars of Islam, and many Christian churches ask their members to tithe) teach that helping one's neighbor is a good thing to do.
The question now appears to be who really needs help and what the best way to provide it is. Both candidates appear to agree that anyone with income greater than $250,000 a year is not middle-class, but Romney puts the floor for "middle-class" at $200,000 a year. When I heard him use the term in his speech at the convention, I did get the impression he wasn't talking about me (and I certainly grew up thinking I was middle-class), which left me puzzled. What does he think that people at my income level are? "Deserving poor"?
What about the people I consider poor: the ones without homes or jobs, or the ones with jobs that don't pay enough to live on (even if they manage to stay healthy). And if, as he said "when you lost a job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits you took two jobs at $9.00 an hour..." how long can you work two jobs without collapsing? I managed a full-time job and a full-time course load when I was getting my Master's degree, but I was in my 20s then. There's no way I could do that now.
I know quite a few people in their 50s who call themselves "retired" because they can't find a job, and they're not in the unemployment statistics because they're no longer looking for work. The lucky ones are living off their savings, and Romney looks good to some of them because they think he can help the stock market. I remember the last time we had a president who believed in "trickle-down economics." It didn't work then, and I don't expect it to work any better now.
Obama hasn't cleaned up the mess he inherited yet, but at least he has taken some concrete steps to help. The adjustment to social security and medicare withholding may seem like a little thing, but if you are making that $9.00 an hour that Romney spoke of, you need every bit of help you can get. And if you are making less than that....
As for me, I give money and volunteer hours to charities that help the poor, I'm planning to vote in November, and I pray that the economy will improve and that more of the people above the $250,000 level will help the people who really need it. If you don't feel for the plight of the poor and those who have no one to help them, remember that gifts to charity are tax-deductible.