Not long ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article by a Rabbi claiming that the Bible teaches capitalism. Coincidentally, I ran across an article I wrote for our church newsletter on Wall Street in 2008 before the election. The article was a warning of what many of us saw coming.
Wall Street Secrets
“And if you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to them, you shall not charge them interest.” Exodus 24:25
The fancy “Wall Street” section of New York is named after a wall built by the Dutch using slave labor. In 1991, it was discovered that the wall and much of Manhattan was built over the graves of Africans kidnapped from their homelands and erased from history when their graves were dug over to build offices for the wealthy. As P. Sainath of India puts it, “The first stock traded on Wall Street was human stock.”
The purpose of the original stock exchange was to limit stock traders to New York’s elite. Women were not allowed to join. Insider trading is not an anomaly, it was the purpose of the organization to begin with.
We might consider what the wall hides from us in our day. Certainly slave labor is still the mainstay of our economy, though most of it has been moved off shore. Our willingness in the United States to turn our heads from the suffering corporations have inflicted upon the third world, may now deliver us to the same preditors.
Newspapers write of the need to bail out U.S. Banks. But there are no U.S.banks of any real size. Banks, like major corporations, are international now. They cannot afford to be patriotic, though they know the prudence of appearing so. Flag lapels are just an inexpensive way of getting the camel in the tent.
The proposed “bail out” will be headed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former chief executive officer of one of the offending banks. He is a perfect fox to guard the henhouse. The recommended recover plan, like everything else in the Bush administration, is laced with secrecy, and permits almost no congressional oversight. Take a gander at one line from section 8:
“Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”
If you are waiting for the election to make everything better, think again. Remember that McCain was seriously implicated in the Savings and Loan scandal. Notice also that Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin under Clinton called for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act enacted in 1929 to curb the kind of speculative lending that contributed to the great depression and has led us back to the abyss. Rubin is now advising Barak Obama.
The reason I am talking about Wall Street in a church newsletter is that America cannot solve its economic or political problems until it solves its spiritual problem. As long as people in the U.S.believe the American dream is about money, we will be a brutal stupid people. The American dream was about freedom not amassing material goods. The purpose of government was as much about the common welfare as the common defense. The money we are spending on this recovery package, could have been universal health care. It could have been affordable housing, it could have been so many things if America did not worship at the altar of capitalism.
The Bible directly and specifically forbids impoverishing others by charging them interest. If America wants to be a Christian nation it can do so not by forcing Christian dogma on others, but by having the same bottom line as Jesus, human rights not property rights. As it stands, we are much closer disciples of Ayn Rand than Jesus, or Moses, or any spiritual person for that matter.
The “wall” of Wall Street has always hidden things that the rich did not want the American people to see. Now that the Berlinwall has been torn down, I think it is time to tear down the wall that separates the people from the common ownership of the land beneath their own feet.