Rising cream, sinking income

When I was a child, milk was delivered daily by the “milkman” who visited the house early in the day leaving glass bottles of milk in the box built into the house. I recall getting the bottle of milk out of the box and there was at the top of the bottle just below the cardboard cap a layer of cream that had separated from the milk and had risen to the top.

Soon thereafter they began to homogenize the milk – a process that keeps the milk fat better suspended in the liquid and more evenly distributed throughout the volume of milk.

In our society we are watching a reverse of the homogenization process economically. Recent studies are showing conclusively that the wealthy are getting more and more wealth, the middle class is shrinking and their incomes are being reduced, and the poor are increasing in number and living on fewer and fewer dollars as prices rise and the average compensation stay level or is reduced by cuts, givebacks, and the individual assuming more of the cost of health care.

In the political arena we hear the loud and repetitive cry of “cut taxes.” Who cries the loudest – those with a greater income. The very ones who more and more are getting the cream from our economic system seem to cry the loudest. They want to avoid paying a fair share of the economic cream that they are skimming off the top of the economic bottle. In conservative economic theory we are told that they will reinvest this into business and more jobs and more lucrative jobs will result that will benefit all. But the numbers tell us it is not working that way. Jobs are going offshore to boost profits.  Jobs here are hard to acquire, compensation is declining as more jobs are entry level or service positions. And the wealthy continue to get wealthier – and they lobby for more tax breaks and an end to all estate taxes. Millionaires quibble over paying several thousand dollars from their vast wealth to pay for enhanced unemployment benefits and health care for the poor.  And continuing calls for less government and fewer regulations. Government regulation has managed to protect us from the abuses the muckrakers of the early 20th century documented in unregulated industry. We have seen what the ending of regulation produced in the financial and investment markets in the past several years.

The entrepreneurial spirit of the free market will not watch out for people. It is focused on making higher profits. And the words of Amos are heard echoing across the centuries “Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,  saying,

“When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat. ..”

Over the centuries the more things change the more they stay the same…

Don

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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