Is it time for the Year of Jubilee?

I don't pretend to understand the economy. But about a month ago, John Stewart of The Daily Show had what I believe is a rather brilliant idea- a Trickle Up Theory. Rather than giving all this money to the banks, why not give it to those who owe money? The money could only be used to pay off their debts to the credit card companies and banks. The banks are happy because they have the money. The people are happy because they have less debt, or no debt.

Strangely, there's been very little discussion of this proposal- even to refute it as outlandish and stupid. Gwen didn't really respond. A segment on Gwen Ifill's show, Washington Week, repeated Stewart's suggestion, but without comment. A search of the web for "John Stewart" and "Trickle Up Theory" provides only 31 hits, and most of those are simply blogs like this one. For some reason the talking heads aren't discussing this. If it was a bad idea, you'd think they'd at least point out why it's a bad idea. Of course, if it's a bad idea for those in power, they wouldn't be talking about it.

We have here a unique opportunity. We have a president currently who is one of the most devout Presidents in recent memory, squarely grounding his beliefs and policies in the politics of Jesus, namely social justice. He is perhaps the first President to not be raised in a Christian home, but to have had a conversion experience as an adult, and he came to that place through his commitment to social justice while a community organizer. So this proposal is right up his alley.

There was this idea among the ancient Hebrews. It was installed to keep those in power from taking too much power, to stop the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, to give rest for the people, to give them hope that they would not all their lives be in slavery or debt. It was a recognition that economics and justice are intimately connected, and was to take place every 49 or 50 years, depending on how you read the instructions. It was called the Year of Jubilee. And from the best of our records, it was never actually put into practice, save perhaps once, under King Josiah.

There were a number of aspects to this year. For our interest, you were not to permanently sell the land, for it belonged to the Lord. Every 50 years, if land had been sold since the last Jubilee, it reverted to the previous owner, if he'd been unable to buy it in the interim. On the Year of Jubilee, all slaves were to be released, for slavery at the time often occurred because a man had lost all his money, and had no other way to sustain himself. It is in this context that the Hebrews were counseled not to take advantage of their countrymen by charging interest on loans. Later, Deuteronomy expands on the Jubilee notion, suggesting that every seven years, all debts are to be released and forgiven! Most scholars believe this was what was referenced in the central notion of Jesus' ministry here on Earth, when he gave out his great mission statement, that he had come to bring release to the captives, good news to the poor, and, using the code words, "the acceptable year of the Lord's favor".

Now, obviously, our culture is significantly different from that of the ancient Hebrews. But is it truly too much of a stretch to suggest a resetting of the clock? In a land where we have never had a Year of Jubilee, is it too much to suggest that we now have a modified form of this, but in a capitalist manner in which everyone gains? The banks want their money, and they need it to remain viable, that we can continue to have any economy at all. We get that. But the people need not only money, but spending money, that they can continue to put that money into the economy and invest it. Without the people, the economy collapses as well. Let us then apply this rather central Biblical concept, and give the money to the banks, by eliminating the people's debt. Let us truly now do something new. Let us be the change we have been looking for.

Yes, we can.


Racism in the US Senate

We all know of Blogojevich, and how he appointed Burris to Senator Obama's former seat. The Senate swore up and down that they would not accept him, but just as with Senator Lieberman, Reid caved and showed he had no backbone, accepting Burris as a Senator. They had only one condition- be open in testifying to your relationship with Blogojevich when testifying before the Illinois Senate. They caved in large part because Burris was a black man, and when Blogojevich announced his appointment, they had another black congressional leader from Illinois, standing there saying anyone who resisted Burris' appointment was a lynching racist.

Now we know that, unlike his testimony, Burris actually did have conversations with Governor Blogojevich, with his brother in particular, but there was no conversation about fund raising or the senate seat. I mean, he did express that he wanted to be senator, but only in mentioning it, and no one talked about fundraising. I mean, they did ask him to do so, but he refused. I mean, at the same time he mentioned he wanted to be senator, he tried to raise funds, but found out nobody would support Blogojevich. It wasn't that Burris was against quid pro quo- it was that he was really bad at it.

And now there are calls by many for Burris to resign, and indications that the Senate will not expel him if he does not resign. Why? Because he's black, and the only black member of the Senate.

The Senate allowed him in because they were worried about the appearance of racism, not to avoid racism. They have cared more about how things look politically than about actively fighting the pernicious evil of racism. They are likely to continue to allow him to be a senator for the same reasons.

This is the worst kind of affirmative action. Affirmative action is a good and laudable policy, but not when it keeps people in place regardless of their actions, because of their race. The message we are receiving is that African-Americans are to be held to a lower standard simply because of the colour of their skin. It has now become quite clear that Senator Burris lied under oath- what is called perjury. I recall recently a President was impeached over this issue. But Burris is likely to receive no justice, because the US Senate, run by Democrats who can't afford to lose the black vote, are not wanting to expel a black member. (On a side note, speaking purely politically, do we really think this is possible, with a black President?)

There are many, many black politicians in Illinois who would make great US Senators and who are ethically and legally clean. Jesse Jackson, Jr., a name initially considered inappropriate because he had been discussed on the Blogojevich tapes but who was never asked for money, comes to mind. But what our elected representatives, and therefore we as a nation, are now doing is saying that an African-American man can do whatever he wants, regardless of the law, because of his skin colour, or more to the point, because we want the votes for our party. This also is racism. This is saying that African-Americans don't have to follow morality or ethics. It is implying that there aren't enough African-Americans out there who do follow morality and ethics. And by extension, it is saying that in someway African-Americans are morally inferior to the rest of society.

Senator Reid, it is time to step up. It is time to say, forgetting all the possible political consequences, you will not tolerate racism, even in the chambers of the senate. Expel this man who has no tolerance for truth and law, and show your tolerance and equality for people of all races.