Archive for September, 2016

The Iowa Folk Singer

September 28, 2016

Ran across an old friend the other day. Not in real time. On the radio. Surfing around the dial while driving through the cornfields of Iowa, I happened on an old Prairie Home Companion episode and heard the rich baritone of Greg Brown, “the Iowa folk singer.”

Greg grew up in southern Iowa and has had a pretty good career singing his original songs of the Heartland touring small clubs, town halls, and churches around the Midwest. He’s recorded mostly on his own label, but got his big break from Garrison Keillor which provided him with a larger audience around the country.

I used to listen to him for hours as I drove across that same Iowa landscape when I was bishop in this “Beautiful Land.” His poetry and music provided the background, and actually helped me understand, the delight and heartbreak of this complex and fascinating state I have come to love. A few song titles may give you a flavor of his work:

The Iowa Waltz…Counting Feedcaps…Out in the Country…Walking the Beans…King Corn

And this haunting lyric from Our Little Town:

“I don’t need to read the news, hear it on the radio; I see it in the faces of every one I know; boards go up, signs come down; What’s gonna happen to our little town.”

He tells the story of the economic devastation brought on by corporate farms and the “Walmart-ization” of Iowa. Little towns which used to depend on a dozen or more family farms surrounding them are drying up as huge farms, sometimes owned by out-of-state folks, use more technology (and chemicals), employ fewer people, and drive down the price of corn and soy beans by their enormous yields.

Walmart puts up its big box store on the outskirts of town and, by under-pricing local merchants because of the economy of scale, drive the small groceries, clothing and hardware stores, and small businesses out of business. Young people in rural areas, seeing the limited opportunities for employment, take their fine Iowa high school and even college educations and move to Des Moines, Minneapolis, Chicago or one of the coasts for jobs and a future.

That’s not the whole story of course. Like every other place, Iowa is adapting and will have to adapt, to advancing technologies and automation. But it does not come without a price. And Greg Brown catalogs the pain of that price in so many of his songs.

But there is also the beauty of small town and rural life, fishing in the local creek, and the priceless support of family and friends. Iowans are a strange mix of straightforward simplicity and sophistication; populist politics and global awareness.

I was adopted by this state and I have adopted it back. And, since I’m now a member of the family, I’m proud to get back in touch with my long-lost brother:

Greg Brown…the Iowa folk singer.


God’s Mercy and Pity?

September 26, 2016

I must admit that yesterday’s Collect, or prayer, for the day in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer is one of my least favorite. Like many others, it is a Thomas Cranmer re-write of an ancient Gelasian prayer and has itself been re-worked several times. In its current form it reads:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The overall point, I assume, is that God’s power is mainly the power of forgiveness and love, that we need that love on our earthly pilgrimage, and that we one day hope to end up in God’s nearer presence. With all that I would agree. But surely there are better, and less destructive, ways to say it!

First of all, while there are plenty of passages in the Old and New Testaments which depict God as the ultimate judge before whom we should cringe, begging for mercy and pity, nowhere in the four Gospels does Jesus describe God as looking upon us with mercy or pity. When those words are used by Jesus, they are describing the kind of attitude we should have toward one another. God is Love but that reality is so much bigger and more mysterious than showing “mercy and pity.” We do not need to grovel before the One who created us in Love. We do not need either mercy or pity.

Secondly, we do not need to ask for grace which is the unmerited love and favor of God. It is all around us! Theologians used to speak of God’s “Habitual” Grace, the love which is the very nature, the “habit,” of God. What we need to do is to recognize that very nature and align ourselves with it so that we are going “with the flow” of the universe and not against it as we live into the reality of the reign and sovereignty of the Holy One.

Finally, “running to obtain (God’s) promises” is the very opposite of a Christian life. Paul’s great contribution to Christianity was recognizing that we do not try to live a good life in order to earn God’s love. Rather, we trust that God loves us and, in response to that love, try to live a good life. And, our final “reward” is not to obtain some kind of “heavenly treasure” (whatever that might mean), but to live under the king-ship of God in this life and the life to come.

If I were to re-write the prayer, it might look something like this: O God, your power is the power of love. Today we desire to open ourselves to that love which pervades all things and which alone can sustain us and enfold us into your eternal presence; through Jesus the Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Not as beautiful as Cranmerian English but, I believe, better theology.



Mothers Die Too

September 22, 2016

New research funded by the Gates Foundation demonstrates that, while maternal mortality rates continue to fall around the world, deaths of women due to complications from childbirth in the United States, is actually on the increase. How can this be in the wealthiest nation on earth?

First of all, it needs to be said that there were “only” 28 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in the U.S. but that is three times that of Canada and increases such as ours, according to the New York Times article “are extremely rare among rich countries.” Again, how can this be?

Some of the main causes are apparently heart problems and other chronic medical conditions like diabetes. And here’s what caught my eye, “Researchers have theorized that an increase in obesity — particularly among poor black women, who have much higher rates of maternal mortality than whites –– may be contributing to the problem.” (today’s Times article).

And why is obesity more of a problem “among poor black women?” Because of the cheap, non-nutritious fast food many of them are forced to eat and serve because that’s all they can afford. Many of these women are likely single moms, working a job or two (or perhaps receiving some kind of assistance to make ends meet) to keep food on their families’ tables. Raising several kids and working long hours hardly provides the time to prepare and serve nutritious meals. So? Fast food.

It is also likely that many of these families live in some kind of “food desert” where simply getting to a grocery store which might possibly sell fresh, natural foods is a virtual impossibility. But, of course, there’s likely to a McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken joint within easy walking distance to provide plenty of fat and bad cholesterol for both mother and child. This is just one more example of how systemic racism leads to generational poverty which in turn leads to health problems of all kinds.

Much attention is paid these days to the slaughter of young black men particularly in our nation’s inner cities either by gang violence or police misconduct. Much attention is also paid to the tragically high rates of abortion in some of these same places.

Why can’t we pay similar attention to the vicious effects of systemic racism and white privilege which continues to consign so many women and men of color to the “separate but unequal” society our nation continues to be?


Why Won’t Grassley Really Debate?

September 21, 2016

Chuck Grassley is 83 years old and has served in the United States Senate for 35 years. Those two facts alone, in my opinion, would be sufficient reasons for supporting his opponent in Iowa’s 2016 Senate elections. But, there are so many more!

Initially seen as a down-home populist who spoke for the majority of Iowans and brought a certain common sense to Washington, DC, as the years have gone on, he has drifted inexorably to the right. As the so-called evangelicals of the right wing replaced the honorable and traditional moderate Republicanism of Iowa, Grassley decided he needed to carry their water on virtually every issue in order to be re-elected…time and time again. What do they say about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely? Case in point.

Today, Chuck Grassley is the embodiment of a Republican majority in Congress who have made it their sole purpose in life to oppose, defeat or at least block every initiative Barack Obama has brought forward. He is Mitch McConnell’s staunch ally in this and his latest contribution to the gridlock which has made this the most unproductive Congress in my lifetime makes that clear.

As head of the Senate Judiciary Committee (though not an attorney) Grassly has seen to it that any attempt to have a straight up and down vote on Obama’s latest nominee for the Supreme Court — Merrick Garland — is doomed to failure (at least until the results of the 2016 presidential election are known). He brags about this on the campaign trail in Iowa.

For the first time in recent memory, Grassley is opposed by someone who might actually be able to beat him. Patty Judge is a life-long Iowan, a farmer, a nurse and a dedicated public servant. She has served in Iowa’s State Senate, as Secretary of Agriculture under Gov. Tom Vilsack (now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) and as Lieutenant Governor under Chet Culver. While Grassley campaign ads would have us believe that he invented wind energy as surely as Al Gore invented the internet, those discussions began way back when Judge was a State Senator, continued under her time as Secretary of Agriculture and Lieutenant Governor and now as she serves as co-chair of America’s Renewable Future.

While she is not flashy and her age is against her too (73 as opposed to Grassley’s 83), I was very impressed with her knowledge, commitment, and platform at a small fund raising event I attended here in Davenport yesterday. Since she will never be able to win the battle of the high-priced TV advertising which Grassley has already dominated, it is essential that her voice be heard and that she be able to take him on one-on-one where people can hear her.

So, I asked her about the debate schedule and she said that she had proposed four televised debates, one in each quadrant of the state. They heard nothing back from the Grassley campaign so they pressed him on it. Finally, the counter-offer came: one televised debate (on public TV) in Des Moines (on October 20! Way too late) and one radio debate. This is a race for the United States Senate! That is simply not adequate.

Chuck Grassley would much rather rely on his 99-county annual visits (some of which have now been called into question), his familiarity to Iowans, and his overwhelming support in conservative, western Iowa than to pit his record and ideas against Judge’s in open debate. Incumbents often resist larger numbers of debates. And it is usually for the same reason. They are not confident that their record will bear up under scrutiny or their ideas in open and honest debate.

Join me in urging the senior (and I do mean senior!) Senator from Iowa — perhaps on his ubiquitous Twitter account @ChuckGrassley — to have the courage of convictions and to defend them in four, accessible debates across the state he purports to serve.


Don’t Waste Your Vote!

September 19, 2016

This morning I shared an article from the New York Times entitled “Vote as if it Matters.” It was an encouragement for voters, especially perhaps younger voters, to think carefully before casting a vote for one of the third (or fourth!) party candidates, or deciding not to vote at all. I would like to say a little more about that here.

First of all, it is easy to see why some people are dissatisfied with the Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency. Both of them are flawed. Readers of this blog will know that I believe one of them to be more deeply, indeed fatally, flawed than the other, but clearly we do not have the “perfect” candidate for whom to vote this time around. When have we ever?

Many idealists have been brought into the conversation during this election season. That is a good thing! Part of the problem in Washington is that too may have lost their idealism and their commitment to find ways forward and to seek the common good. Young people (like those who flocked to the Bernie Sanders’ rallies and even some who are drawn to Donald Trump) want to see change…and to see it now! How I empathize with that. I remember my support of Gene McCarthy and later George McGovern in the 1970’s Viet Nam era.

I wish we had more perfect candidates this year. But I extend a plea to all those who may read these words or those who may hear similar counsel from others — do not waste your vote in this all-important election by voting for the Libertarian or Green parties or by staying at home on November 8. The stakes are too high!

Neither the Libertarians nor the “Greens” have any possible chance at winning this election. But enough “none of the above” protest votes could well tilt the election to Donald Trump or once again throw it to the Supreme Court or House as we saw once before.

I have absolutely no doubt that Ralph Nader and the wonderful idealists who supported him in the year 2000 essentially gave the election to George W. Bush and therefore gave us the Iraq War…and perhaps indirectly Daesh. I do not know exactly how Al Gore would have responded to the attacks of 9/11 but I am confident that he and his advisers would have followed a much more thoughtful and considered approach than did Bush and his ne0-cons like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

The world remains a very dangerous place today at home and abroad. We cannot afford whatever the foreign policy decisions a man like Donald Trump might make. And we cannot afford deepening the great economic divide which continues to separate us as Americans in these days. If you do not think your vote matters, or if you are so frustrated at “business as usual” in Washington that you are considering opting out or voting for the alternative parties, please re-consider!

This is not the year to play (quite literally) “Russian roulette” to determine the occupant of the highest office in the land.

Loving, Liberating, Life-Giving

September 16, 2016

The presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, has begun describing the mission of our branch of the “Jesus Movement” as “loving, liberating, and life-giving.” This alliterative summary of the qualities desired of Christians will prove, I believe, very helpful. Just as it was recently when Bishop Curry said, in a not-so-veiled reference to the current climate of the presidential election process,”If it’s not about love, it’s not about God!” Just so.

The First Letter of John is the New Testament says that “God is love” and an ancient, but familiar Christian chant reads, “Ubi caritas et amor; ubi caritas Deus ibi est.” Where love and charity are, there is God. The Jews have always known that they were recipients of the love of God and even a cursory read through the four Gospels will reveal their central figure, Jesus of Nazareth, as one motivated by love of God and love of other people. This can be seen in his words and in his actions…which were often one and the same.

Liberation, of course, is a theme throughout the entire Bible. From the people of Israel being led out of slavery into freedom to Jesus’ non-violent resistance to the Roman occupation of Palestine and his own peoples’ leaders as complicit in their own oppression, to Paul’s dramatic statement in Galatians that “there is longer  Jew nor Greek, no longer slave nor free, there is not longer male and female; for all of your are one in Christ Jesus.”

And the giving of life is likewise a dominant biblical category. The ancient creation story speaks of God breathing life into humankind. The prophet Ezekiel has a vision of God’s spirit breathing new life into the dry bones of Israel. And, according to Christian teaching, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead becomes a kind of “first fruits” of the general resurrection awaiting all of us on the last, great day.

Love, liberation, and the giving of life. Qualities of the Jesus Movement articulated by our presiding bishop.

There is another bishop of The Episcopal Church who has reached a similar conclusion albeit by a somewhat different path. John Shelby Spong (happily now recovering from a recent severe stroke during a preaching mission to the Diocese of Norther Michigan) has been pilloried for years by many inside and outside The Episcopal Church for his controversial positions on many issues.

Most shocking to many has been his call for a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief away from certain traditional doctrines. He has even posted, in Martin Luther fashion, “Twelve Points for Reform” which shake traditionalists to their core (and go considerably father than I myself am willing to go, while recognizing the legitimacy of many of his observations).

Nonetheless, Spong has mellowed somewhat over the years and, in any case, has been proven to be on the side of the angels in most of the controversies which have faced our church over the last decades from civil rights to the ordination of women to, famously, his early advocacy for the equal place of gays and lesbians in the church. In his recent books, Spong returns again and again to his own tripartite  summary of Christianity at its best.

He often writes, “If God is the Source of Life, we should live fully each day. If God is the Source of Love, we should love wastefully each day. If God is the Ground of our Being, we should strive to be all that we can be each day.” Life…Love…Being all that we can be. Sound familiar? While in a different order, I believe they line up pretty well with Michael Curry’s contemporary challenge:

Curry: Loving             Spong: Love Wastefully

Curry: Liberating       Spong: Be all that you can be

Curry: Life-Giving      Spong: Live fully

Two bishops. Each seeing themselves as “evangelists” to today’s culture. Formed in the same generous Anglican tradition. Different in so many ways. United in the important ones.



The Episcopal Church As Canary In The Coal Mine

September 14, 2016

According to the former editor of the official journal of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate, “the church has become an instrument of the Russian state. It is used to extend and legitimize the interests of the Kremlin.”

And the Russian Orthodox Archbishop of Maldova “has warned worshipers that new biometric passports, required by the European Union in return for visa-free access to Europe, were ‘satanic’ because they contained a 13-digit number. He also tried to torpedo legislation extending protection against the discrimination in the workplace to gay people, warning that this would draw God’s wrath and sunder relations with ‘Mother Russia.'” (The New York Times, September 14)

This sad state of affairs is not news to those of us deeply involved in ecumenical relations and certainly not Episcopalians so involved. In the 1980s and 90s our church had extremely good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, when the Soviet Union dissolved and, along with it, the officially atheistic stance of the Russian government, we were contacted to have our Bishop of the Armed Forces and Federal Chaplaincies assist in advising the Russian government about how a military chaplaincy might work in their new context. The Episcopal Church happily complied.

About midway through my time as ecumenical officer for our church, I assembled a small delegation to continue our warm relations  by engaging in informal dialogue in Moscow with the Russian branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church and — while we were there — to check on the status of an ambulance provided by Episcopal Relief and Development for one of their medical facilities. We had pictures taken with “our” ambulance and conversation in formal meetings and over festival meals with lots of ice-cold vodka!

We had always known that the Russian Church had been largely silent and complicit in the days of Communist rule. But we had cut them some slack, knowing just how risky resistance and protest might have been and realizing that, sometimes, under such circumstances, the best Christians can do under oppression is to hunker down, go underground, and preserve the Faith until better days arrive.

That appeared to have been a successful strategy in the early days of their relative freedom. When we were there, the churches were full as were monasteries and theological seminaries. However, with the rise of Vladimir Putin, the dark underbelly of such cozy relations between church and state began to be made clear. It used to be an embarrassment to Russian Orthodox Christians that some of their bishops were actually members of the KGB. Today, that appears to be more and more accepted.

The all-but-dictator Putin has embraced the ultra-conservative moral posturing of his church and made life extremely difficult if not dangerous for the LGBT community in Russia and wherever their church makes its witness. “A fervent foe of homosexuality and any attempt to put individual rights above those of family, community, or nation, the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights.” (today’s Times article)

The Episcopal Church may well have served as the canary in the coal mine, had anyone been paying attention. Our embrace of women’s ordination and equal rights for gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church and world led to our “fall” from a most-favored-status in ecumenical relations with the Russian church to a pariah! I once witnessed one of their leading ecumenical voices, one Father Chaplin, on the floor of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches question whether or not the Episcopal Church could even be considered Christian anymore because of our decisions on these issues of human sexuality.

This kind of ignorance and bias is tragic enough when the field of play is within one faith community and involves their relationships one with another. When such intolerance becomes the official policy of a re-emerging world power, wrapping itself in the gorgeous vestments of its puppet-like state church, everyone has something not only to regret…but to fear.

A Psalm For Hillary

September 12, 2016

1 Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me;
all day long foes oppress me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many fight against me.
O Most High, 3 when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?
5 All day long they seek to injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk,
they watch my steps.
As they hoped to have my life,
7 so repay[a] them for their crime;
in wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will retreat
in the day when I call.
This I know, that[b] God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I am not afraid.
What can a mere mortal do to me?
12 My vows to you I must perform, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
and my feet from falling,
so that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Psalm 56 (NRSV)



Jeremiah and 9/11

September 11, 2016

“I looked on the earth, and lo; it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins…” (Jeremiah 4:23-26b)

“I don’t suppose any of us who were alive on that day will ever forget the morning of September 11, 2001, fifteen years ago today. I was living in New York City, serving as ecumenical officer for The Episcopal Church. A number of us were in the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the Church Center for Daily Morning Prayer. Someone burst through the door and said, ‘A plane just hit the World Trade Center!’

We finished our prayers and took the elevators back to a small break room on our floor where there was a TV. Initially, we assumed like everyone else that this was some tragic accident or perhaps some misguided soul committing suicide in a dramatic way. As the morning unfolded and we watched, with the whole world, the awful events of that day, the cold grip of fear entered our hearts as we realized that we were a nation under attack – from whom, we knew not.

My initial concern was for (my wife) Susanne, who was staying at General Seminary and attending a meeting of deacons. The phones wouldn’t work and it took some time finally to make contact, to know that she was safe, and that they too were watching the events from the seminary which was actually closer to what later became known as “Ground Zero” than I was. All morning long, we watched not only the television, but from our eighth floor windows looked down on lines of people, some still covered with ash, walking in a dazed fashion north and away from the charred ruins of what had been The Twin Towers. There was an eerie silence in the city.

The next days were chaotic for New Yorkers, citizens of the United States, and around the world really.  Of course, all flights were cancelled in and out of New York, Washington, and elsewhere, and our first thoughts were how to get Susanne home. We finally secured tickets for her on an Amtrak train back to the Midwest, and when I took her to Penn Station, it looked like a railroad scene out of an old World War II movie.  Everyone was milling around, looking for family and friends, and trying to get out of New York. We got her onboard and she arrived home two days later.

The Bishop for the Armed Forces and Federal Chaplaincies, George Packard, had put a sign- up sheet up at the Church Center for clergy willing to serve as volunteer chaplains for rescue workers, first responders and others, and I believe I was one of the first to sign up.  It took days … to get all that organized though and the effort would last for many, many months.

As not only, ecumenical but interfaith officer, I began getting calls for educational material about Islam once the “jihadist” word began to spread.  Clergy and lay leaders wanted to help their people understand that, if these were indeed Muslim terrorists, they did not represent mainstream Islam and that Muslims were not our enemies. Even President George W. Bush made that clear in the early days.

We had almost no material on Islam as most of our interfaith dialogue had been with the Jewish community to this point; very little with Muslims at least on the national level.  Eventually, Episcopal Relief and Development provided an educational grant to my office and we were able to hire a Christian scholar of Islam, Lucinda Mosher, and she worked hard to get out educational material, develop a web site, and did a good bit of teaching around the Episcopal Church herself as the months and even years wore on.” (From With Gladness and Singleness of Heart by Christopher Epting)

Our nation made many mistakes in the wake of 9/11. But we did some things right as well. The Episcopal Church responded sacrificially right at Ground Zero. St. Paul’s, a chapel of Trinity Church, Wall Street, was somehow spared serious damage and was immediately opened as a respite center for first responders, medical personnel, and later construction workers. It was in that little church that Susanne and I, along with many others, counseled and prayed with those who were seeking to facilitate the recovery effort at what became known as “the Pile.”

Food and water, fresh socks and clothing were distributed. And, “George Washington’s pew,” a famous tourist attraction at St. Paul’s Chapel, became the location for massages and foot treatments to be given to any worker who asked for it. I always thought our first President – himself a kind of “first responder” — would probably have been pleased! We celebrated the Eucharist at noon every day there as well, praying for those who came…and for those who couldn’t.

I was proud of our church as well – and other churches and faith communities – when we tried to make it clear that whatever response the United States might make was not a “war on Islam,” but an attempt to bring the terrorists who had caused this horrific attack to justice.

Jeremiah said, in our First Lesson this morning, “I looked on the earth, and lo; it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins…” A perfect description of what 9/11 looked like! But Jeremiah didn’t end it there. The “weeping prophet” speaks the Word of the Lord as saying, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.” (4:27)

We still don’t understand all the complexities that led to something like 9/11 happening. Still less do we understand why earthquakes in Italy, floods in Louisiana, and wild fires out West take place. What we do know is that God’s grace and healing touch can take place, precisely through the compassion and heroism of those who seek to respond in the Name of God.

Particularly as Christians, we know that the way of the cross is the way of life. When our Presiding Bishop, then Frank Griswold, walked into the smoke filled Chapel of St. Paul on the day after 9/11, he saw a small crucifix on the high Altar. And he said, “It was as though those tiny arms of Jesus were opening out to the whole world, embracing all the pain, and offering his love in return.” That’s what it means for the way of the cross to be the way of life.

There is a prayer in our Prayer Book office of Morning Prayer that Bishop Griswold was probably thinking of that day. It’s for use on Fridays…but perhaps an appropriate way to end these reflections on the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Let us pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.” Amen.




Inequality For All Or Stronger Together?

September 9, 2016

Letter to the Editor in today’s Quad City Times which they headlined: “Democrats Have Solutions”

Now that Labor Day is behind us, the election cycle is gearing up for the home stretch. In case anyone out there is still undecided and would actually like to do some work instead of relying on the slander and innuendo perpetrated by particularly the cable news outlets, let me suggest some homework.

First, watch the film “Inequality for All” (available through Amazon, Netflix and elsewhere). This is a 2013 documentary directed by Jacob Kornbluth and narrated by Robert Reich which won an award at the Sundance Film Festival that year. It describes in clear and compelling terms the reasons we have the worst income inequality this country has ever seen. Two words: globalization and technology.

While not sanguine about solutions, there are some suggested which make good economic sense. If you are persuaded, or at least encouraged, by these approaches, next take a look at the Republican and Democratic platforms on their respective websites. My guess is, you will see that the Democratic platform, at least in broad brush, provides the most effective means to get us out of the economic mess we’re in.

Finally, for specifics on how Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine propose actually to begin solving the problems, order (online or hard copy) “Stronger Together: A Blueprint for America’s Future.” This is a highly readable presentation of actual proposals the Democratic ticket offers. A few chapter headings:

The boldest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II, debt free college for all Americans, rewrite the rules so companies share profits with employees instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas, and ensure that Wall Street, corporations, and the super-wealthy pay their fair share. This is just the beginning. There are sections on defeating ISIS, strengthening NATO and relationships in the Middle East, fixing our broken immigration system, keeping our military strong, etc.

These are not sound bites, my friends. They are specific proposals. Why not at least read them before you go into the booth on November 8?

Christopher Epting

Bettendorf, Iowa