Economic systems are how a people determine who will participate in the resources of the culture and how. An American enigma: we value democracy but practice plutocracy–rule by the wealthy. Is our economic system tilted always toward keeping the wealthy rich, toward keeping the poor poor? In recent years we have seen corporations declared “persons” who have rights to free expression. Giving money to politicians is a form of free expression. Recently in looking over the financials of various political candidates in both parties, a commentator noted that one candidate had raised 10 million dollars on his own, but his PACs had raised 100 million dollars. And we are still more than a year away from the election. Twenty individuals are currently raising and spending this kind of money in the hopes of being named their party’s nominee, and data of our electoral history indicates that the individual who received the majority of the party’s endoresements will be the nominee. Both of those candidates are identifiable at this point without another penny being spent. And yet they will all spend hundreds of millions of dollars to play the political game.
So many of the issues that we face as a nation stand on the back of poverty. We have one of the best educational systems in the world–once we correct for poverty. Finland is often lifted up as having the best educational system in the world. We rank far, far below Finland on a comparison of raw data. But, when you factor out the scores of children living in poverty, the US scores just above Finland with educational scores higher than any where else in the world. Problem? Only 4% of Finland’s children live in poverty. Just over 20% of American children live in poverty–that’s 1 in 5. In order to demonstrate how good our educational system is, we have to factor out a lot of children.
We still live in a State that refuses to allow all Georgians access to one of the most advanced health care systems in the world–by refusing to accept the federal extension of Medicaid. Having to say: I am sick, or my child is sick, and I can’t afford to go to the doctor, matters. Attitudes about our economy that shut people out of access to basic health care, housing, education and the ability to survive and thrive in the world are unjust and require our diligent work.
Talking about money, how we use it, what our relationship is to it is one of the most difficult topics for us to have. It’s just money, and yet our relationship to money goes to the heart of how we move through life. There are issues of shame and blame attached to money. There are issues of superiority and success attached to money. Who has how much money and what that does or does not allow one to participate in–matters. When we remain silent about economic issues, we allow this piece of culture to shape and influence us along the current course of its trajectory.