Casey Schoeneberger, Faith in Public Life’s Media Relations Assistant, came to FPL from NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby’s Associate Program after studying economics at Saint Joseph’s University. She blogs about tax and budget issues on Bold Faith Type.
Thanks to the growing publicity of the abusive practices of big banks, people around the country are fighting back by moving their money to more responsible institutions and calling for greater protections against
predatory banking and foreclosure practices. Detailing the disparities between the average American and big bank executives, The New Bottom Line, in partnership with The Public Accountability Initiative, released a report in December noting the outrageous bonuses and salaries at seven of the largest banks in America.
The report shows these executives earned a collective $156 billion in compensation in 2011, a projected increase of 3.7% over the previous year. To break that down, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America received $5,000 an hour, which could be considered “small” when compared to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who earned an astonishing $9,300 an hour.
While banks made massive layoffs this year, CEOs were rewarded with even larger paychecks and held unaccountable for behavior that destroyed the livelihoods of many Americans. Personal incentives are now lined up strictly with illegal profit-at-all-cost tactics like breaking loan modification agreements, robo-signing foreclosures, and hiding fees. This is the clearest symptom of the brokenness of an economic system that idolizes profiteering as a sign of achievement deserving extravagant reward. Any unsuspecting consumers who end up as the collateral damage in this process are secondary concerns, if at all.
While big bank CEO’s are earning thousands of dollars an hour, the federal minimum wage remains woefully inadequate at $7.25 an hour. Bank of America employees are not immune from these income disparities, with the average teller at the company requiring “11 weeks of work, to make what Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan made in one hour last year ($5,000).” The small dot seen at the center of this graphic below represents the hourly salary of the average American worker, in comparison to big bank CEO’s average hourly wage of approximately $8,000.
Source: The New Bottom Line
While these outrageous inequalities and corrupt business practices are an unfortunate reality, the Dodd Frank Wall Street regulation passed last year is taking positive, if limited, steps toward addressing them. Consumers received a boost this week with the appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he will implement consumer protections passed under the legislation. Thankfully, the act gives the bureau the authority to establish new rules for the structure of employee compensation. It remains to be seen though whether this framework can curtail the stunning abuses of power and inequality that have arisen from the financial sector.
But with continued pressure from alert consumers and greater oversight of the banking and financial industry, Americans are on the road to reclaiming the power that has been held by big banks for far too long.
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For a war that spanned nine years and took thousands of American and Iraqi lives and billions of dollars, the events surrounding the end of the Iraq War this month were oddly restrained. As soldiers return from Iraq this holiday season, the official end of the war allows Americans to reflect on the lives lost, the challenges that remain in Iraq and the soldiers that are still fighting in Afghanistan and conflicts around the world.
Below is a media round-up exploring the reactions from people of faith and peace activists across the country:
San Diego resident Fernando Suarez Del Solar, father of a fallen marine, reflects on the homecoming of soldiers and his crusade to ensure that “no more children die…”
“On one hand, I’m happy that so many American military members will be home for Christmas. On the other, many will not be home, including my son,” said Fernando Suarez del Solar.
In March 2003, del Solar’s Marine son, Jesus, stepped on a U.S. cluster bomb and became one of the first casualties of the invasion of Iraq.”
Rev. Chuck Currie on the Christian churches’ response to the Iraq invasion:
The National Council of Churches and nearly every other Christian body in the United States and across the globe opposed the Bush’s administrations rush to war. But Democratic presidential candidates gearing up for the 2004 and 2008 presidential races – including John Kerry, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton – backed President Bush and the result was nine years of war – nearly 5,000 Americans killed, many more wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed and wounded.
Tom Hayden at the Los Angeles Times gives thanks to those who opposed the Iraq War from its onset in 2003 and pushes activists to keep demanding an end to the war in Afghanistan:
Now the challenge will be to bring the war in Afghanistan and the drone strikes over the border in Pakistan to an end as quickly as possible. Obama may have convinced himself that these are not “dumb wars” carried out by mindless conservatives, but the PhDs at the Pentagon and the State Department cannot prevent a deepening calamity.
This year, Rep. Lee orchestrated a Democratic National Committee resolution calling for a more rapid Afghan withdrawal, but so far the president has committed only to handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014. The peace movement should push for a faster pace.
John Dear, S.J at National Catholic Reporter asks us to reflect on what we can be done differently as America moves forward:
Christmastime invites us to reflect on our nation’s wars and our efforts, however modest, to stop them. We need to reflect upon our work for peace, specifically our work to end the long nightmare of our war in Iraq. What did we do? How can we empower others to speak up for peace? How could we have responded in a more loving, nonviolent spirit? What does the God of peace think about our efforts to make peace? What can we do now to oppose the ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan and the ever-expanding U.S. war machine?
Mario T. Garcio at National Catholic Reporter believes the Iraq war should serve as a lesson to activists working against the backdrop of potential future conflicts:
Instead of trying to somehow justify the Iraq war, President Obama should have used the removal of the last of U.S. combat troops to reflect on the tragedy of the war and to vow that, at least under his watch, no such unnecessary interventions would take place. In the end, only the majority of us can assure preventing such future wars by our protests and struggles against imperial adventures.
Drew Christiansen, S. J., editor in chief of America, reflects on the responsibility academics, activists and faith leaders have to place judgment, not just critiques, on war:
“The Just War is too often used as an academic tool with no practical or pastoral force. In 1983, the U.S. Catholic bishops urged the public to “say ‘No’ to nuclear war.” In 2003, they warned President Bush that “resort to war would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for the use of military force.” Yet, once war came, they never condemned the war as unjust. As a political and pastoral tool, public use of the Just War tradition must move from analysis to judgment.”
And most importantly, a call from The Mercury News to not abandon our service men and women as they return home:
“It’s arguable that we failed the Iraqi people, but we must not fail our own. Men and women who fought for us deserve a bright future at home….
The United States’ volunteer army draws heavily on young people of low to middle income who want to serve their country and believe it will benefit them in the long run. So it should. The least we can do is guarantee that their wounds, physical and mental, will be treated and that America’s concern for their well-being does not end the moment they turn in their weapons.”
Peace activists, theologians and everyday American citizens must not become numb to the realities of war. Engaging with our fellow citizens and elected officials on how to prevent these conflicts going forward is the least we can give to the service men and women serving around the world, and returning home, this holiday season.
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A CBS News poll out last week garnered lots of attention for showing that Newt Gingrich led Mitt Romney by 14 points among likely Iowa caucus-goers, but the most interesting news from the survey is the finding that Iowa Republican voters don’t see social issues as a top priority this election cycle.
Iowa-caucus goers don’t see social issues as paramount: 71 percent overall say candidates should be judged on economic issues, while just 14 percent point to social issues. (13 percent said the two are equally important.) Just 25 percent of white evangelical Republican caucus-goers and 18 percent of Tea Party Republican caucus-goers say social issues matter the most in their vote, while 55 percent of white evangelical Republican caucus-goers and 65 percent of Tea Party caucus-goers cite economic issues as paramount.
As the payroll tax cut debate continues to take center stage in Congress and millions of Americans stand to go home with less money in their pockets next year, presidential candidates should take note that conservative voters are paying close attention to how candidates plan to handle these tough economic issues.
As a number of polls and actions show, voters across the religious and ideological spectrum are primarily concerned with ensuring that there is enough food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads. Clearly, slowing the passage of the payroll tax cut extension does nothing to help Americans weather these tough economic times, nor will it play well on either side of the aisle during this election season.
Photo Credit: League of Women Voters of California/Flickr
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Beau Underwood, FPL Partnership and Outreach Coordinator, discusses the role of faith in the public square during a great interview this week with Liz Essley at The Washington Examiner:
You’ve been doing some work with the Occupy movement. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently said that Jesus would be among the Occupy protesters in London. Do you agree? Would Jesus be camping with Occupy DC?
There’s no way that I, even as a pastor, would ever claim to speak for Jesus. Do I think that when we read through Scripture we see Jesus being extremely concerned about some of the issues that the Occupy movement has promoted? Absolutely. The Bible is laden with references to justice, concern for the oppressed, wanting to make sure that people are treated fairly. And that’s what we’re hearing from the Occupy movement — concern for economic inequality and the way that those who have suffered the most were the least responsible for this crisis. I see an echo there that’s really hard to ignore.
Where do you draw the line between what the government should be doing to help those in need and what the church should be doing?
Throughout the church’s history it has always served those in need, both here in the United States and around the globe. The church will always do that. But when we look at the magnitude of the challenges we’re facing, and the resources of the church, there just simply isn’t enough there. The church cannot carry the burden that society is facing; it’s just not possible; it’s not realistic. You can talk to pastors — they’ll be the first ones to tell you that. Churches are facing shrinking budgets and rising costs. As a pastor in a local congregation who’s trying really hard to serve his community, I’m saying that the church can’t do this all, that charity just is not enough.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
At my core, the belief that I hold dear, and that drives me in everything that I do is the sense that tomorrow can be better today, that just because things are one way today doesn’t mean that they have to be that way tomorrow.
Continue reading about Beau’s faith background and his work at the intersection of faith and politics here.
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The core lie underlying the recent rise of Islamophobia is the claim that Muslims’ loyalty to their faith makes them untrustworthy Americans. As we’ve tracked in the past, Anti-Muslim commentators (and even former presidential candidates) continue to falsely promote this divisive rhetoric, propagating the myth that if Muslims find their religion and loyalty to America in conflict, they would ultimately betray America.
With such an intense focus on the “loyalty” of American Muslims, it should serve as a surprise to anti-Muslim commentators that a new poll from Gallup finds that devotion to one’s faith before country is not exclusively a characteristic of minority religions. American Christians–particularly white evangelicals (who are least comfortable with public displays of Muslim religion and culture) actually report thinking of themselves in terms of their faith first in much higher numbers.
So why don’t pundits and politicians consider American Christians’ allegiance to their faith as a threat to American democracy? It seems unfortunately likely that some conservatives’ attacks on Muslims’ loyalty to “religion above country” has nothing to do with the significance of religion in one’s life, but is merely a pretext to cast a cloud of suspicion over the Muslim community as a whole.
David Sirota at states proposed legislation banning Islamic Sharia law, despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits the government from targeting one religion and “>Fearmongers push these fictional problems as evidence that Muslims are not entitled to the same treatment and religious freedom as every other American.
Andrea Elliott at The New York Times questions the origins of the anti-sharia movement:
Yet, for all its fervor, the movement is arguably directed at a problem more imagined than real. Even its leaders concede that American Muslims are not coalescing en masse to advance Islamic law. Instead, they say, Muslims could eventually gain the kind of foothold seen in Europe, where multicultural policies have allowed for what critics contend is an overaccommodation of Islamic law.
“Before the train gets too far down the tracks, it’s time to put up the block,” said Guy Rodgers, the executive director of ACT for America, one of the leading organizations promoting the legislation drafted by Mr. Yerushalmi.
The more tangible effect of the movement, opponents say, is the spread of an alarmist message about Islam — the same kind of rhetoric that appears to have influenced Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in the deadly dual attacks in Norway on July 22. The anti-Sharia campaign, they say, appears to be an end in itself, aimed at keeping Muslims on the margins of American life.
Herman Cain even went so far as to loyalty test” for Muslims holding government office.
All of these efforts, of course, harken back to similar periods of religious suspicion in U.S. history. In the 1960′s, John F. Kennedy had similar charges levied against him for his Catholic faith, with critics claiming he would never be able to maintain his loyalty to the Presidential office and identify as a practicing Catholic. Looking back, the majority of Americans would now find those claims to be unfounded and extreme.
It is a sad testimony to the state of religious freedom and tolerance in the U.S. that members of minority religions are regarded with such distrust, especially when Christians are treated with a presumption of loyalty.
Photo Credit: A Gude, Flickr
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