I’ve been watching as states try to restrict how the poor are able to spend their welfare money. They apparently don’t want them to go swimming or to eat fish. I keep wondering where these thrifty politicians were when the government spent billions in welfare dollars bailing out the mega-banks so they did not take the world’s economy down with them. The phrase they coined to justify their actions was “too big to fail.”
The use of taxpayer money to rescue the banks may have been a necessary evil, but what was even more evil was that these corporations became so big by exploiting, manipulating, and often deceiving people into taking out loans they could not afford. Lower-income Americans lost everything as financial institutions reaped bigger profits. Of course, “profit” is a sacrament by which the religion of capitalism believes the world was created and will be saved.
I think of one African-American widow whose house was in need of repair. Her husband always had taken care of it, but now he was gone. Her family was as poor as she. Working menial jobs, they barely made enough to eat. Imagine her surprise when she went to her bank for a small loan to patch the roof, and learned they would lend her enough money to buy a different house.
What they didn’t tell her was the payments would increase in a few years to more than she could pay. At first she rented out rooms, but, soon, even that was not enough. When the men in suits came to take her home, they brought security guards to ensure there would be no trouble.
The suits were not troubled, but the widow was deeply disturbed as they put her few belongings on the street. The clothes on her back, and what she could carry, were all she could take when a neighbor gave her a ride to the homeless shelter.
No politician talks about this poor widow or all of her sisters and brothers. After all, they aren’t donors. They can’t afford cars, so they don’t have driver’s licenses to be able even to vote. They have no name and no voice. None but the voice of Jesus who said:
Woe to you who devour widows’ houses and say long prayers.
Jesus seemed to have a thing for widows. Perhaps that was because he watched his mother struggle to put food on the table after Joseph died. He seemed to know that an economic system that didn’t care for the least needed to fail.