Compassion is the emotion that decent people feel in response to the suffering of others that is so heartfelt it motivates a strong desire to help. It is difficult to believe that any American would ever attribute compassion to Republicans, even religious Republicans, unless they acknowledge their heartfelt motivation to help the richest Americans gain more wealth. It is and has been, after all, their raison d’être for at least the past thirty years if not much, much longer.
That compassion for the rich, and contempt for people who are suffering, was revealed yesterday by outgoing Texas Governor Rick Perry in an interview in the Washington Post. The subject was the crushing income inequality in Texas that, according to Perry, is something he, or the state of Texas, “just doesn’t grapple with.” Perry readily acknowledged that the state’s richest residents have seen the greatest spike in earnings, but that is acceptable to the avowed evangelical Christian because the bible tells him that is how it is supposed to be.
In a reference to Jesus as a means of justifying the horrible plight of poor people in Texas, Perry said “biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.” Perry’s message is clear; there is no reason to address poverty, income inequality, or make any effort to help those suffering, and people in Texas are suffering, but not because it is written in scripture. The state is ranked number one as having the nation’s highest rate of people who lack health insurance, and despite having so much wealth, it is in the top ten states with the highest level of poverty. Of course, Republicans cannot be bothered with the plight of the poor, but it is unusual that Perry would use Christ’s words to justify taking from the poor to enrich the wealthy, or reject the idea of spending even a minute, or a dollar, worrying about it.
Perry, like all Republicans just cannot, and will not, be bothered by poverty due to income inequality and did what the preponderance of “social conservative” (read religious) Republicans are wont to do with the bible; cherry-picked a phrase from his Lord and Savior’s message to fit his contempt for the poor. He was obviously citing Jesus’s words in Mark 14:7 where his lesson was not that poverty is hopeless so why bother grappling with it. Jesus said, “For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you will you may do them good: but me you have not always.” Jesus was not saying poverty is not worth “grappling with,” and Perry knows it; he was using scripture to justify keeping people in poverty to keep the flow of money going to the rich. And in Texas, the flow of money definitely is going to the wealthy.
In Texas, the top one-percent of income earners took 21% of all the income in 2011 alone, and more than half of the state income went to the top 10-percent. According to an economist and Professor of Economics at Sam Houston University, Mark Frank, Texas has the “fifth highest level of income inequality among all 50 states.” But because Rick Perry found a Jesus phrase informing him poverty is “biblically justifiable” and Perry helped most of Texas’s economic gains flow to the state’s richest citizens, it is something “we don’t grapple with here” because scripturally income inequality is not an issue.
In fact, when Perry was asked about criticism of his policies driving Texas’ nation leading rise in income inequality he said, “I don’t care about that. If that’s what comes, I’ll take that criticism.” Texas was one of the 15 states that experienced a “very significant rise in income inequality” that, according to new Census Bureau data means “people on the highest end of the income spectrum saw an increase in earnings and those on the lower end saw no change.” But that is fine with Rick Perry because “biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.” The economist Frank cited a Standards and Poor’s study that revealed the income gap will hurt state tax revenues as well as economic growth; something Perry can live with as long as the rich get richer.
Republicans have devised some pathetic reasons for either denying income inequality is even a problem, or if it does exist, making it the fault of the poorest Americans; few have cited Jesus’ words as justification for ignoring the problem. Typically, compassionless Republicans such as Paul Ryan claim the reason the nation’s wealth flows to the one-percent disproportionately is because poor people are just lazy moochers who “need to learn the value and culture of hard work.” That has been the Ayn Rand devotee’s reason for cutting programs like food stamps regardless the majority of recipients do have jobs, some in the Armed Forces, or are elderly, disabled, or child “takers.” Other Republicans, including Ryan, claim income inequality and poverty is down to the rich not getting the tax cuts they deserve that prevents the “trickle down” theory from benefitting the poor.
Few, if any, Republicans have cited the bible as a reason ignore income inequality to continue handing the wealth of the nation to the rich like Rick Perry did. Not only does Perry not want to be bothered with income inequality or the resulting poverty, he, like most Republicans, proposed a tax scheme in 2011 that cut taxes for the rich and raised taxes on the poor and middle class; something Republicans have proposed as part of their “tax reform” agenda now that they control both houses of Congress. When tax reform does come up in 2015, and it will be an issue, it will be interesting to see how many Republicans in Congress parrot Rick Perry’s contention that giving all the nation’s wealth to the rich and increasing the number of people in poverty is justified because “biblically, the poor will always be with us in some form or fashion.”