Saturday, October 25, 2008

REDISTRIBUTION of WEALTH and Centralized Planning of Society is Often BIBLICAL, i.e. NOT NECESSARILY SOCIALIST only

REDISTRIBUTION of WEALTH and Centralized Planning of Society is Often BIBLICAL, i.e. NOT NECESSARILY SOCIALIST only

By Kevin Stoda

There has been a lot of misguided anti-socialist mudslinging in terms of progressive taxation and government role in our lives lately.

McCain has called Democratic voters and Obama socialist in nature—as though socialism is anti-Christian or anti-American.

I know Socialism and Obama is no Socialist. Many other political economists around the U.S. and the world certainly agree.

Publisher Richard MacArthur of Harpers magazine states, “You could make the argument that Barack Obama always puts Wall Street first.”

Moreover, on the charge that Obama is socialist, MacArthur chuckles, “Barack Obama is a socialist like Harper’s Magazine is a media conglomerate. It’s the most preposterous charge I’ve heard in a pretty crazy campaign. When they keep saying that Barack Obama puts socialism ahead of entrepreneurship, I keep thinking of the vast amount of money he’s been collecting from Wall Street for his campaign. His number one bundler is Goldman Sachs, which is—has given him up to this point I think about $740,000. The New York Times, just the other day, has revealed that there’s a new way the two campaigns have come up with to get cash out of Wall Street, and this is Democrats and Republicans alike, with these joint campaign committees. Twelve Goldman Sachs employees were revealed in this latest report to have given more than $25,000 apiece to Obama’s campaign.”

Obama, according to the Harper’s editor McArthur, “This [current Obama tax proposal] is a very modest, very, you might even say, timid response to what’s, in the last fifteen years, been a redistribution of wealth from the bottom up to the top. What is the mortgage crisis, except Wall Street picking on people who don’t know better, who are not very well educated about the finance market, and really robbing them, taking the money up to the top? That’s redistribution of wealth, upwards.”


MacArthur explains that the two top parties are nowhere near discussing basic socialist (or even right-wing) tenants of state overall intervention in the economy.

Since the current housing market- and banking recessions are the worst in nearly a century, progressives are needed in Washington at a massive level.

McArthur explained in his recent Democracy Now interview, that historically “since 1912, when we instituted an income tax, when the top—remember, the top rate in 1964, the last time we had this kind of crazy debate between the Goldwater Republicans and Lyndon Johnson, the top marginal rate was 91 percent. Barack Obama is only proposing to raise or restore the top marginal rate from the current 35 percent to 39.6 percent, which is what it was under the Clinton administration.”

MacArthur states that we Americans need a coherent planning mechanism—not a Soviet Union style plan.

He explains, “[T]here are a lot of things we could do, short of outright government takeover or outright socialism or communism, that could improve the situation.”
In Harper’s magazine’s November publication, a large number of economists weigh in on a variety of topics related to the economy and what the role of government should be. These include former Nobel Prize laureate, Joseph Stieglitz, who says “a simple regulation requiring mortgage originators to put their own money at risk in each transaction—say, 20 percent of the loan amount—would curb some of the abusive practices that have taken place.”

Moreover, in Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi also chime in with the “suggest[ion of] the creation of a consumer product safety commission for financial products. . . [T]hey talk about how we’ve had these tremendous advances in consumer protection when you buy a toaster, but not when you buy a mortgage, so to speak, or a stock or a bond.”

That is we have protections on physically produced products but note on bank, security, mortgage, and other financial notes.

Finally, the most important thing continues to be now that America needs to think globally but act locally. One theorist of this old mantra is Bill McKibbens who notes that “relocalizing the economy” is the key. McKibbens has explained, “We’re wasting vast amounts of money using fossil fuels to transport—thanks to ‘free trade,’ quote-unquote—to transport products all over the world, so that they can be made by—in cheap labor locales and then sold in richer areas. The cost of fossil fuel is going to continue to go up. It’s going to continue to diminish as a resource. We need to localize. We need to grow food close to where we eat it, for example.”


The news is more than in the wind.

Americans are hot-under-the-collar about all the lack of responsibility by the nation’s banking and business leaders from ENRON to Worldcom to CitiBank to Wall Street.

Americans want more fairness from are government—whether we are talking about income redistribution or whether we are talking about bad economic subsidies and bad laws that deform the economy. Those subsidies promote jobs going overseas. Those bad laws or lack of regulation allows companies and banks to flee from responsibility.

Naturally, we want fairness and better treatment from our financial and business sectors.

We also want legislation and government agencies--with a bite--to make certain that our government has oversight and the ability to regulate--and even arrest--dangerously bad business practices and malpractices.

Americans who have been picking up the tabs all these years to bad governance and lack of responsible businessmen are saying NOW—“Enough is Enough”!!!!

Progressivism is needed with a tinge of centralized planning—not soviet style planning—but good long term planning and regulation of badly running parts of the economy. This could be in terms of housing and banking.

For example, Luigi Zingales, in The Economist’s Voice writes that U.S. congress needs to target needy areas of the country where housing prices have dropped 20% or more in recent years. This new targeted regional planning would include as a first step the passage of fast-track renegotiation downwards of mortgages allowing, say up to 30% reduction in mortgages so (1) locals will be encouraged to keep their homes instead of bailing out and (2) leaving banks with even more losses in bankruptcies.

Zingales explains that economic research already provides good background on zip code by zipcode on housing prices. (We don’t need to help, for example, zip codes with positive housing price growth or with small losses.) In turn, at the time the house is eventually resold—i.e. if resold for a good profit—, the mortgage lender could be partially reimbursed at a much later date for agreeing to the terms of providing mortgage relief of 30%.

To me, this is only a tepid response, but it indicates or typifies where thinking and acting locally can make a difference.

Similarly, targeted investment in local alternative power industries need to be done on a scale that the US did in the rural electrification sector in the 1930s and 1940s.

An aggressive government promoting progressive human needs is welcome and needed in America. Similarly, in the banking sector, the government could do more to promote local banks and credit unions over poorly run and managed mega-banks and finance houses, like Sallie Mae, Freddy Mac, and others.


In Leviticus 25 (and in Numbers), the Bible talks about redistribution of wealth. Redistribution of property and wealth is mentioned explicitly under the rules regarding Jubilee. Jubilee was a mechanism stemming from the All-Mighty’s desire that communities live in harmony and enjoy social justice and prosperity.

Simple Bible research finds that the concept of biblical Jubilee is related not necessarily related to the concept of socialism but to key words such as justice, emancipation, liberty, freedom, fairness, and social or communal harmony—as well as respect for the commands of the Lord.

Similarly, today, worldwide movements—in no case necessarily socialist movements—who look for fair redistribution of goods and resources from both liberal and conservative religious agendas.

Initially, the evangelical right in America was mixed in its response to worldwide movements related to Jubilee.

However, by 2000, many of the extreme radical right had given in and had come to support the international Jubilee movement.

In short, Catholics, evangelicals, born again Christians, Jews, Muslims and peoples of many faiths respect the concept of Jubilee--and wealth or resource redistribution on behalf of development, redevelopment. They do so by following what the biblical scriptures say on these concepts:

(1) Fairness
(2) Justice
(3) Freedom
(4) Liberty
(5) Harmony
(6) Emancipation

I see no reason why America as of 2008 cannot talk about redistribution and some forms of central communal planning for communal development and improvements--without mudsling at one another, i.e. calling somebody a communist or Soviet style dictator or even fascist just for talking about these six virtues and America’s need for redistribution of government’s role in helping coordinating a badly run supposedly free market.

This understanding of justice, emancipation, liberty, freedom, fairness, and social or communal harmony should go for (a) the progressive religionists, (b) non-religionists, (c) evangelical religionists, (d) conservative religionists or (d) whatever religionist you are.

Dear America, if socialism is a bad word and central planning is anathema too you, at least, look to your religious and cultural heritage to see that progressive taxation, government regulation and good planning belongs here—along with communities working together for fairness, justice, freedom, liberty, emancipation and harmony is a great thing to stand for in 2008, 2009, 2010 and onwards!!!!


Harper’s Magazine,

Hudson, Michael, “Thinking the Unthinkable, A Debt Write Down and Jubilee Year”,


Jubilee Debt Campaign,

Jubilee USA,

Jubilee 2000,

“McCain Calls Obama Socialist”,

Zingales, Luigi, “Plan B”,



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7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Redistribution of wealth" is built into Islam, too. One of the five basic pillars of Islam is zakat, which is paid by anyone who owns more than a bare minimum of money (and/or other goods). It is not a "gift" or a "favor" from the rich to the poor; it is considered a right of the poor on the money of the rich, and a way to purify one's wealth. Of course, Muslims are also encouraged to give voluntary charity in addition to the required zakat.

The rules of inheritance also serve to distribute wealth. A Muslim can bequeath up to one-third of his estate, but the rest must be distributed according to Islamic law, which assigns shares to various relatives, including children, parents, siblings, etc., depending on the situation.

9:05 AM  

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