[Image from pewresearch.org]
One definition before we get started: when I say the “working class,” I’m talking about people who live paycheck to paycheck, not because they’re wasting money but because wages are low and living costs are high.
Now onto the post.
The ideal community to create a strong LDS ward (in the USA) is a neighborhood where a majority of families own their homes and only need one income to raise a family (that actually creates strong communities for any purpose, but we’ll focus on the LDS motive). Home ownership means stability, so the ward doesn’t change 50% of its membership every three years. Wages high enough to support a family on one income means that there is a higher likelihood of a stay-at-home parent with enough energy to work for free in callings or other volunteer opportunities, and that the earning parent only works 40 hours per week and so has enough free time to also work in a calling. The confidence and financial stability that comes with knowing you can pay your bills lets parents decide to have more children if they want them.
Ah, the good ol’ days. Back in the 1950s, union membership was at an all-time high, and the unions won the victories that gave us the 40-hour work week, livable wages, and time-and-a-half overtime. Back in the 1950s, the highest marginal tax rate was 91%, set for wages over $400,000 (about $2.3 million in today’s wages) [if you don’t understand marginal tax rates, please just ask. Basically it means that income below that $400,000 amount was taxed at a lower rate. The govt only taxed income over $400,000 at the 91% rate]. This meant the CEO wasn’t making 235 times the wages of his employees and the gap between the rich and the poor wasn’t as big.
Hard work and frugal habits aren’t enough anymore. Unions are making some progress with organizing, but it’s slow going due to the union-busting. Republicans keep slashing the taxes for the wealthy, which has produced more billionaires per capita in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor gets larger. People go bankrupt due to medical bills, while health insurance companies post record profits.
I know a woman who really did want to stay home with her children. Her husband could earn enough to pay the bills, but he was self-employed, which meant health insurance is crazy expensive and doesn’t cover everything. She has to work because she needs the health insurance from a big company to pay for her chronic health problems.
I am mystified by the Church (and other conservatives) who believe that the breakdown of society is caused by sexual issues rather than economic issues. I am also mystified by the conservative conviction that the government should heavily regulate sexual issues and not regulate the economy. I mean, not to point out the blindingly obvious or anything, but a government could be a lot more effective in economic regulation than it can be in sexual regulation. For a fun thought experiment, let’s reduce the difference between Democrats and Republicans down to what areas they believe the government should interfere and micromanage in. Republicans want the government interfering in and micromanaging peoples’ bodies, reproduction and sex. Democrats want the government interfering in and micromanaging things like spreading resources fairly, taxing billionaires out of existence, and writing safety regulations so businesses don’t kill their workers and pollute water and air.
I posit that economic laws that spread resources fairly will do a lot more to strengthen home, family and communities than laws about sex and gender issues.
The scriptures spend more time on economic morality than they do on sexual morality, and it’s a shame that churches (all churches) don’t spend a lot more time pounding the pulpit about the morality of economics.
Let’s start with the Book of Mormon. Remember the “pride cycle” Sunday School lessons?
[Image attribution: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/image/the-pride-cycle-76fd0d1?lang=eng ]
The pride and wickedness portion of the pride cycle included classism, wealth inequality, and inequity in education, among other sins. See 3 Nephi 6:10-12; 4 Nephi 1:24-26; Mormon 8:36-37. Greed is dangerous to society’s stability.
Laws against oppressing the working poor have been baked into the scriptures since Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt. “The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning” (Leviticus 19:13). Meanwhile, wage theft in the USA affects the working poor more than any other group.
“Woe unto him that … useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work” (Jeremiah 22:13). We could have an entire discussion about this scripture in the context of ward members who want other ward members to work for free. Helping out is great, as long as it’s voluntary. But the richer the Church gets, the more of a skinflint it is for not even paying janitors.
“And I will be a swift witness against … those that oppress the hireling in his wages” (3 Nephi 24:5). In Utah, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has not been raised since 2008. I’ve been happy to see wages rising as businesses have to compete for workers in what have always been low-income jobs, such as retail. It’s sad to think of the reason for the scarcity of workers though. Of the 1,082,388 people in the USA who died of covid, most of those were low-income workers. Yeah, we ought to be paying essential workers much much more and I hope wages for retail and warehouse work, and the like, continue going up until an essential worker can afford a decent standard of living from just one full-time job.
If I was an apostle, I’d become one of those apostles who talks about the same topic in every single General Conference. Picture me pounding the pulpit: “My brothers and sisters, record profits are unpaid wages! Greed is a sin. Wo unto those who oppress the hireling in his wages! Christ told the parable of the rich man, who had so much he didn’t even have room to store all his riches. So he pulled down his barns to build bigger barns, to have room for all his possessions. “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee!” Luke 12:20. Rich people who hoard wealth while their employees can’t afford medical care will someday stand accountable before God. It is not enough to donate a fortune to charity when that wealth was earned on the broken backs of employees who were crushed under inhumane working conditions and pittance wages! We encourage all members of the Church of Jesus Christ to make your voices known to your elected representatives that oppression of the working class shall not be tolerated! Some question why the Church is speaking out on economic issues. Aren’t economics solely the realm of politics? Let me be clear: economic issues ARE moral issues. Christ’s concern for the poor was one of the defining features of his earthly ministry. Nearly every prophet in the Old and New Testament expressed concern for hirelings, what we would today call the working class. We cannot call ourselves Christians unless we are passing laws to protect and help the working class!”
- Do you think sex and gender issues are the biggest threat facing the family today? Why or why not?
- Do you think economic issues are the biggest threat facing the family today? Why or why not?
- Do you think economic issues are moral issues and churches can/should speak out on this topic?
- Why do you think churches focus on sexual issues instead of economic issues?
Good post w good questions. One obvious problem here in the USA is the already-too-high cost of housing. This, IMHO, is a direct result of the economic inequity, which allows the upper class to purchase dwellings that are then rented out and used as income streams. If I were in charge, I would make it illegal for one party to profit from another’s need for shelter/housing. And yes, I have seen both sides of this argument – I have been a renter, a homeowner, and a landlord at various stages in my life.
Why do churches focus on sexual issues instead of economic issues? Because most men leading large churches are millionaires and advocating for economic justice would be adversarial to their hoarded wealth.
Hmmmmm, churches focus on sexual issues because rich donors don’t like to be told they are sinners for being greedy as Mr. Scrooge.
And yes, economics are breaking up families, because economics/money are/is the #1 thing couples fight over. The other things that cause divorce sometimes come back to economics in round about ways. For example, man grew up poor, swears he will never be poor again, works 80 hours a week, his wife feels neglected and has an affair. Is the real problem sex, or the man feeling he has to work long hours to avoid poverty? One led to the other, but it started with fear of poverty.
But, the problem of keeping the church coffers full, means clergy must not criticize the rich, because let’s face it, the widow’s mite doesn’t pay the church’s heating bill. The widow sacrificed more, but the rich man actually gave more, and while Jesus likes the widow more, your general authority is rich himself, do you honestly think he will criticize the methods that got him rich? If our church president had done heart surgery real cheap, do you honestly think he would have made it to church president.
Call me cynical, but Janey, you won’t ever get to bash the church’s wealthy from the pulpit.
My dad was a poor grad student 35 years ago with four little girls to raise, the oldest of whom were in the middle of elementary school. My mom stayed home because it wasn’t worthwhile to work when all her income would have gone towards paying childcare anyway. Their only income was my dad’s small grad student stipend. They paid a higher percentage of their income towards housing than was recommended for “affordable housing” at the time.
How much did they pay for housing? 25% of their income. To rent an entire house large enough to raise four kids.
35 years later, I am a poor grad student with no dependents. My only income is my small grad student stipend. I am currently paying 30% of my income towards a single room in a shared house, at well below market rate. I am looking for somewhere else to stay, a studio or one-bedroom apartment. Those will cost me 50-60% of my income, at market rates.
Is the greatest challenge facing the family today economic? Maybe, maybe not. Just getting married is hard enough, depending on your social environment and your personality. But is a great challenge facing the family today economic? You bet it is. Look at those rents, and tell me whether you think I can afford to raise a family like my dad did.
We talk past each other, because conservatives in the church actually *define* breakdown of the family and social calamity as synonymous with the wanton sexuality of crazed stoats and Russian princesses and cue JCS. Sexual deviance is both the threat and itself the feared outcome. Meanwhile progressives are here looking around for all the calamitous outcomes associated with gay marriage or premarital sex, and are like, where’s all the calamity, economics is a far bigger problem.
Great post. I think Anna is spot on about rich people not liking being called out for their greed. We have a huge blind spot in this church around “worthiness” and “moral cleanliness” (a euphemism for sexual purity) in part because chastity and sexual purity, as well as other personal spiritual issues, have been preached so much that we have this bizarre notion that having more than one sexual partner, or smoking weed, or seeing an R-rated movie is somehow more damaging to society at large than things like the wealth gap, exorbitant health insurance prices, and the economic (and political) gap due to gender inequality, not to mention a host of other issues. It’s as if some Christian conservatives, including many in this church, seem to think there’s some kind of magical thing that happens to a culture at large if someone wears more than one pair of earrings or has sex outside of marriage.
I think Republicans and Democrats and TBMs and x-Mormons can all agree on this: a 10% tax on your earnings doesn’t help.
Economic oppression is the great social sin of Western culture. This oppression is realized not through the minimum wage but by the exploitation of government to give corporations excessive market power and financiers the ability to socialize risk while they privatize gains. The Covid policies that enabled corporate retailers to be deemed “essential” while the small business was forced to close is demonstrative of the unequal playing field.
This corporate capture of government for self-enrichment, at the expense of the consumer, is demonstrated in the chart linked in the following article. The clear and undeniable observation is that “The greater the degree of government involvement in the provision of a good or service the greater the price increases over time, e.g., hospital and medical costs, college tuition, childcare with both large degrees of government funding/regulation and large price increases.” And now housing is joining the list of highly inflated goods. And why? Because government regulation is making it all the more difficult and costly for new homes to be built.
The world is built for families of four with two working parents. Full stop. With a family of six, we have to get two hotel rooms when we travel, rent a bigger car that usually costs 5x the amount of a sedan, and have to pay per person for the privilege of flying together and not foisting our toddler on complete strangers (the airline industry truly hates children). However I have a good career so don’t cry for me.
If the Mormon Saturday’s Warrior message does not change, Mormons will cease to be influential in the future as they simply won’t have the means. For that reason I’m glad my kids are out. They will avoid the BYU pressure to forgo education, marry and have kids young, and pay into a system that doesn’t need the money. Here’s hoping this will give them a fighting chance to succeed as adults.
I really wish we would talk about solutions to these problems at church instead of constantly blaming Hollywood for everything (a favorite pastime of Sunday School participants on the other side of the orange curtain). Can you imagine a Sunday School lesson where we talked about living wages, resources, charity that isn’t tithing, the role of social safety nets without invoking the c word (communism), and how to raise our children to be fiscally successful? I might attend.
By the way, the application of the “conservative” label to LDS leaders and members is presumptive. Those who lean socially conservative, as is the case with self-professing Christians, are not necessarily welcoming of the Principles of Liberty. This is manifestly demonstrated by the advocacy of LDS church leadership who openly make the argument that the Church as an institution deserves privileges for which individuals do not qualify.
When Elder Oaks speaks of “Religious Liberty” he is defending the liberty of the Church. He is not defending the freedom of the baker or photographer. This perspective is encased in the Utah LGBTQ law that the LDS leadership proudly showcases. As explained in an article summarizing the 2015 Utah LGBTQ rights legislation: “Religious organizations (ie LDS church) and their affiliates such as schools and hospitals are exempt from the law.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/utah-passes-mormon-backed-lgbt-anti-discrimination-bill
The Conservatism often identified today is at odds with the Classical Liberalism and principles of Liberty espoused by Jefferson and Madison. The primary difference is that the Conservatism of today joins with Modern Liberalism in saying the Government decides what freedoms the people are allowed to have. Classical Liberalism argues that individual liberty is inherently possessed, or as Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” What the LDS church advocates is not the Liberty defined by Classical Liberalism but rather the weak imitation wherein it is assumed Government can and must restrict the rights of the people.
Raymond – that’s a great addition to the discussion. I agree that big companies that buy up housing inventory to rent it out affect housing availability and affordability. I don’t see a problem with a landlord having a few rental units, but when huge companies swoop in with loads of cash, they can price homeowners out of the market.
Anna – sigh. You are correct, of course. Churches can’t preach too harshly against wealth, since the churches need the wealth. Maybe that’s one reason Jesus didn’t found a church during his lifetime. He wouldn’t have been popular with any rich people!
I’m old enough to remember when the Church’s counsel to young people with financial concerns was to be obedient (meaning get married and have children), and the blessings would come. The Internet and shared stories have exposed that as unworkable. I know young families who can’t afford a place to live. The economic squeeze not only strains marriages, but it also means that some people who might want a bigger family won’t feel like they can provide for a bigger family. The Church would do well to look at that and maybe take steps.
Remember the Perpetual Education Fund? The Church started giving student loans to people in lower-income countries so they could gain an education and a better job. The long-term goal was to have more people in a position to take callings, rather than needing to work three jobs to pay the bills. I hope the Church is looking at the long-term economic impact of the USA’s housing crisis.
In theory, I think sexual sins and economic ones can be reduced to the sin of treating people like things that exist to gratify your needs. As a society, we have big problems with both, but Janey is so right that the economic issues are far more germane to the Church, which tends to focus on the wrong sexual “sins,” anyway. As far as I’m concerned, labeling a woman “walking pornography” is far more sinful than my friend’s happy marriage to his husband.
Also, to Chadwick’s point: Absolutely agree; two-income-two-kid-household here, and no question things are easier for us, but they are -still- ridiculously hard. Almost like religion/government/industry doesn’t care about families at all, except as the easiest most expeditious means to their ends.
There are some important points here, but one has been completely overlooked: the greed of the young families themselves.
In my day, families were content with a modest three bedroom one bathroom home. And can you imagine—children actually shared bedrooms. This lifestyle was obtainable from one income then, and it would be now.
But now, younger families want six bedroom five bathroom homes, even though there are only four family members. It is unthinkable for children to have to share a bedroom. In addition, they want SUVs and off road vehicles to create the appearance that they are keeping up with the Joneses. And let us not forget all of the extra money going for cell phones and iPads. This lifestyle is obviously not affordable for one income families.
And whose responsibility is it? Should cashiers at Dairy Queen look to the government or the Church to provide them with the same lifestyle that a doctor who spent a decade in school has earned? Or should the cashiers either better themselves through education or adopt realistic expectations?
The irrefutable fact is that not even the most ardent practitioner of free love can ignore the fact that housing is expensive because today’s young families are unwilling to live in modest homes. Thus, cities are zoning out affordable housing and only allowing new construction of McMansions. Let us look to the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.
Any objective finding in peer validated research, mirroring most prolonged deep honest subjective conversations for most topics, come down to: #1 Money and #2 Power. For those on the lower $ end, need the bare minimum $ to survive week to week. For those in the middle, they are trying to keep their heads afloat and stay out of the lower class,; as they dream of reaching the upper class. For the upper class, money is no longer the objective and they start to seek more power. More money only represents more power ! The LDS church framed a pride economic cycle. However, there is not a cyclical rotation, only a downward arrow or steady decline for many. What the LDS church teaches, does not match economics ! (“Gods ways are not mans ways ??!!?? …then why is the church in the stock market? ) A very few have an upward economic trajectory. However, the idea of the wealthy, loosing their mass wealth and becoming humble an then again gain wealth is NOT the truth or reality. I suspect many of us on here are middle class income. How many of us are noting heating gas, food, and basic commodity prices have skyrocketed in percentage to our incomes? are we not creeping down compared to 5 years ago? Who is making the gains?
For many in the LDS church, they are in the lower and middle class, and know they will not reach the financial upper class. They use their callings and the “Priesthood” in attaining their life satisfaction and power. For some LDS upper class it can be a double whammy and using their money and their Priesthood power for their self esteem and control of others. Some wealthy members are humble and use their financial means to assist others, however some use the money as a sign of God’s pleasure of their life choices and a sign that they should be a Mission President or the next GA.
It is interesting how church leaders condemn the youth for not getting married and not having kids. Meanwhile, they themselves are making $MM of passive income sources including rental housing/land speculation. They then state how much God blesses them. Then admonish young people who can not afford rent for not paying tithing and their life choices. Do they not see how they have become the new “slave master?” Does the LDS church or anybody who makes passive money, realize that that money is coming from somewhere ? For every “winner” there is a “looser”. I am not a proponent of communism. However, I do not hope that God works financial prosperity in capitalist terms, because the gain is coming from somebody else work or loss. I do not have an answer, but the greatest challenge facing people today IS ECONOMIC , NOT the LDS Sunday School answers, or the GC talk topics….and LDS church response of pay your tithing does not work for the vast majority.
Amen, Janey! Super post! Just want to add a pounding fist on the pulpit for the debt slave and the prisoner from which the powerful profit. I’m white. We must remember that the good old days weren’t good for all, and that their children are further behind where we are today because of it. (Isn’t there some warning like: “Ah karma. I didn’t speak up for that group. Now their suffering is mine as well.”)
And as for sexuality, most of the above comments completely miss that point as well. It is not sexuality that it bad, it is wanton uncontrolled sexuality that is bad.
Quite frankly, young church leaders are recognizing too late that there actually should be much more sexual activity going on than there is now. It just must be focused and controlled within the bonds of marriage, whatever the sex of the spouses.
For the fact is that there are vast hordes of young men and women who spend their days alone in their parents’ basements playing violent video games or watching funny cat videos on YouTube. This complete lack of in person contact with other human beings will not lead to any form of loving sexuality between two equal participants that fosters the creation of new families.
So the good of society actually demands more sexual activity between committed adults, not less. But uncontrolled one night stands with someone encountered in the slurpee line at 7-Eleven does society no good whatsoever.
Another point that I thought of is that it is not only safer, but easier to keep people riled up about sex. I mentioned above that it is safer as far as donations for the religious right to point fingers of “sinner” at minorities, and those “other people” (liberals) who commit adultery or have abortions, even though conservatives are just as likely to do either. (In fact, some studies show that conservatives are more likely to have abortions or commit adultery and the only explanation is because they don’t think they will, so they don’t work as hard at preventing them. Denial is a killer) And, it is much safer for the rich owners of FOX news to keep the right riled up about sex, that to remind them they are being oppressed by the rich owners of FOS news. And it is just so easy for people to get all riled about sex, because it is just something about us humans that is supper interested in the sex everybody else is having.
Faith, you raise a good point. The BoM Pride Cycle is not how things actually work. For starters, there’s no good data to support the existence of Nephites let alone their experiencing said cycle. Furthermore, the idea that humility = prosperity and pride = adversity is the opposite of what Jesus said when he said God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” so there’s some dissonance with our own doctrine there.
In fact, I might argue that the Pride Cycle is just another way to describe the Prosperity Gospel—the promise of economic blessings in return for conformist behavior and financial support to the Church. From my layman’s understanding of history, the more accurate cycle that befalls humanity is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer until some socioeconomic upheaval like a depression, war, revolution, or environmental disaster. And those upheavals have less to do with the righteousness of the people and more to do with guns, germs, and steel.
The churches will not condem the rich because they need/want their money.
In the BoM cycle context if decision makers state the rich will become poor if they are proud, the LDS wealthy must be OK with God because they have no economic downfall. But the cycle gives hope to the poor…. that as soon as I am more obedient I will become part of the upper class.
Then the cycle works with missionaries mental games. Were we not all taught as missionaries/TBMs that the upper classes do not regonize the “truth” of the LDS church because of their wealth. Did not we tend to condem their weath, since we could not get into their home for a missionary discussion.
I’ve thought for a long time that the church sets people up for middle class living through the following:
* encouraging one income households
* emphasizing stay at home moms
* 10% tithing (often on gross income)
* lukewarm support of higher education (thinking is good but don’t think *too* much and don’t study liberal topics like – gasp – diversity)
* time intensive callings that take away from family and career
* many children
* marry young
Money doesn’t solve all problems but it solves many problems. I’ve never been so stressed as when I had no emergency savings and was in debt. That showed in my marriage.
Sometimes we let politics get in discussion where they don’t add much, such as we read in the OP: “Republicans want the government interfering in and micromanaging peoples’ bodies, reproduction and sex.” Notice how this is all negative for the Republicans. Then: “Democrats want the government interfering in and micromanaging things like spreading resources fairly, taxing billionaires out of existence, and writing safety regulations so businesses don’t kill their workers and pollute water and air.” While we might not like “interfering in and micromanaging,” these are all positive for the Democrats. I don’t think that all Republicans (or Republican positions) are bad, nor that all Democrats (or Democratic positions) are all good. This is a good discussion with good questions, but introducing American political parties doesn’t add. I respectfully think it detracts.
Yes, it certainly detracts! Introducing domestic politics into religious discussions is unnecessary and lowers the quality of the discourse.
I realize that the OP is about the family and not divorce per se–even so a quick perusal of the subject on google will show that the number one cause of divorce is lack of commitment or incompatibility. And the second is infidelity. Now that may not have as much to do with the struggles that intact families suffer through. Even so, inasmuch as half of marriages in the West end in divorce and that it (divorce) is just about the worst thing (next to abuse perhaps) that can happen to a family , the reasons for its occurrence ought to be considered among the greatest — if not the greatest — challenges to families in the West.
“ If I was an apostle”
Janey, if you run for Apostle I will surely vote for you over anyone currently serving.
This is an area that interests me greatly. My wife and I were married in 1970 in the Epsom chapel then the London temple in 1970. At the time there were conference talks that a RM should get married as soon as possible, ignoring education or employment. So married in 6 weeks, and unemployed. There were also conference talks about birth control; that it was satans attempt to defeat the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Our first daughter was born 10 months after our marriage. We were trusting and obedient. The church leaders were totally financially irresponsible. We lived in poverty for the first 10 years of our marriage, and my wife nearly died each time she had a baby.
I live in Australia where the minimum wage is $812 for a 38 hour week, and the ratio of CEO pay to employer pay is 132, which is still way too high. Where we have universal healthcare. The median house price in QLD is $773,000 compared to Utah $470,000.
10 years ago I was the HP group leader, and wrote a booklet on financial awareness. Explaining the difference between income and wealth, that there is bad debt, acceptable debt, and good debt, and that for working folk the best way to accumulate wealth is investing in real estate, because your money is secured against an asset that is increasing in value. Good debt is where you borrow money to buy an asset that increases in value, and someone else makes the repayments.
When I looked up the median house price in Utah it also said the median income was $75,780, and that property values had increased by 28.5% that year. So If you owned the average $470k house it increased your wealth by 133k, you saved 130% of your income). By borrowing against the equity (133k) in your house you could possibly buy a second, third or 5th house. If you can think of a way to increase your equity more quickly, by buying a fixer upper or building your own house, or subdividing your land, and building on it, you can do better. Now property values do not rise by 28% very often, more like on average 5%.
I have never earned more than $70,000 a year (for many years my houses made more money than I did) but have traveled the world, drive a mercedes, and after selling off some houses, still own 2 houses worth $2m and the rent paid by the tennant pays the mortgage, and there is a line of credit to give financial security.
You probably can’t change the system but there are ways to make it work for you.
A number of my HP group are now relatively comfortable financially.
I totally agree with Janey.
To borrow from the TikTok trend, “that’s very interesting … but what do we do about the gays? I mean how do we get rid of them?”
I see economic issues being the biggest threat to the family- way more than anything sexual. Distracting the working class with issues like bathrooms and drag queen story time, keep them focused away from what actually is harming their families.
The temple edifice is anciently a symbol for economy—feast and festival, Jubilee, and the offerings for the temple are “made pure” by their processes (cleanliness and purity). Joseph Smith did not build a temple until the early Saints were economically consecrated. In other words, the prerequisite for a temple was economic unity, or consecration. To accomplish this, self-sufficient economy, sovereign from the economy “the world” or Babylon, was required. In other words, it is the responsibility of Zion to create self-sufficient economy.
This is where the institution has failed the congregation: multi-billion-dollar investments in stocks and dividend portfolios are NOT the path to self-sufficiency or consecration; such is a homage to “the world,” a token of loyalty to Babylon. I am not convinced the institution is worthy to build temples or cultivate Zion.
The societal ban on talking about politics is misdirected. Political policies affect us all. We ought to discuss the effects policies actually have, vs the attempted justifications for them, which often don’t hold up.
I agree with Laura (and others) that ideological issues are distractions. The right presents many issues to rile up its base. It’s as if they’re throwing Jello at people. One color might stick on personA that personB thinks is goofy. But some other flavor sticks in personB. Both are likely to vilify the “other” party, thus creating another single-issue voter.
I’m sure most of us can name numerous different issues that people close to us focus on.
While all that Jello is being slung around, policies that negatively impact working class people (those that fall under Janey’s definition, up to and including all of us that need a paycheck to survive).
The strategy has worked phenomenally well for purveyors of conservative policies. Wealth disparity is chronically & increasingly unhealthy. Wages are falling behind the cost of living. We have multibillionaires, and booming numbers of people who are unhoused.
In the US, there are currently 724 Billionaires. That’s a lot of wealth and power in the hands of a few hundred people.
Corporate power is intermingled with political power.
One example of what corporations do with a tax cut:
In December 2019, a massive tax cut ($1.9Trillion) that virtually only benefitted ultra wealthy corporations (and other similarly wealthy individuals) was passed along party lines. Republicans purported to believe that it would pay for itself by improving the economy. Responsible economists’ predictions (like that corporations would buy back their own stocks, thus increasing their wealth and wealth disparity even more) actually did happen. Google bought back 3.1416 Billion of its stock – cute, huh?
In my view, the massive tax cut was actually a quid pro quo for the self-interested wealthy campaign donors who got the Republicans elected.
It is increasingly more difficult for a family to pay the rent, even on a one-bedroom apartment. For many years I have worried about the coming wave of retirees, many which are insufficiently financially prepared for retirement. I’m left in complete despair for many many young people’s financial needs across their lifespans.
I used to believe that, of course LDS Church leaders would support policies that help families. That was a long time ago.
(This was rather rambling-y. It’s a multifaceted, intricate thing. Kudos to those who are succinct.)
Also, my apologies to Jello. I didn’t mean it in a personal way. It was a metaphor.
Sasso, I like the jello analogy! A lot of people sure like flavors that light up the sex/power areas of their brains.
All to distract us from electing people and voting for economic policies helpful to our own situations. What we end up doing in a roundabout way is paying taxes to support a bloated oligarchy. Suckers!
And see how the Church has been receptive to the ideology of one U.S. political party and even perhaps eager to support that party’s agenda. I wonder why. Watch and decide for yourself. Think of the impact on the global church as well.
https://youtu.be/z4FPVZH8fIg See esp. starting 25:56
It is true that the church seems to overlook the real challenges faced by families. Long has there been teachings that people will be blessed by the payment of tithing, irregardless of one’s economic conditions.
One factor not mentioned in the rising housing costs is the creation of Airbnb and Vrbos. When homes are used for short term/ vacation rentals they are no longer available for long term rental or family ownership. This can have a large impact in certain areas. (And, the church is into the short term real estate business. In some areas, it owns apts near temples to house temple workers, though I’m not aware if temple workers pay anything to stay at these apts).
Rising inequality continues to grow and be a problem in American society. The rich are getting richer and the middle and poor are losing ground.
(The Congressional Budget office and Center in Budget and Policy Priorities also confirm the trend).
(The 2017 Republican tax cut gave corporations a substantial tax cut, with the belief that benefits from tax cuts “ trickle down.”)
Great post Janey! President Monson agreed that economic issues are moral issues by adding a fourth mission of the Church to help the poor. It is enlightening to print out the Gospel of Luke, use scissors to cut out every verse talking about our duty to the poor, and watch Luke become a tattered rag, nearly indecipherable.
Janey asks us to consider our priorities – what relative attention should we give to chastity and charity? (I narrow my focus to chastity rather than to sex and gender issues generally). We know the famous quote from Will and Ariel Durant on the importance of teaching chastity: “A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; [but] if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he … understand[s] that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.”
What is less recognized is that our capitalistic system is also a “river of fire” that must be “banked and cooled by a hundred restraints.” While this economic system has lifted millions out of abject poverty, its beating heart is greed; it cares not a whit for the poor, the disabled who cannot earn a paycheck, the elderly who cannot afford private health insurance; the children who lack food. It is truly a river of fire, warming some and consuming many. It must be cooled and banked by regulations with teeth and a robust safety net. In the areas where capitalism and the private market fails, we need socialism like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Disability, etc.
Tony Judt, the renowned economist, lamented, “Why do we experience such difficulty even imagining a different sort of society? Why is it beyond us to conceive of a different set of arrangements to our common advantage? Are we doomed indefinitely to lurch between a dysfunctional ‘free market’ and the much-advertised horrors of ‘socialism’?”
But back to Janey’s question. I loved President’s Monson’s elevation of the importance of care for the poor and am distressed to see so much silence on it now. At the same time, I agree with Will and Ariel Durant and welcome our Church’s focus on that. But we teach it all wrong, as so many insightful posts on this blog (and commentators) have pointed out for years. The “chewed gum” image must go. This blog is a font of wisdom for necessary changes, and I won’t repeat them, other to quote from a wise Jesuit Priest, James Martin, who said, “Everyone–married, single, vowed, ordained, lay, or clergy–is called to this kind of chastity, where your physical relationships express the degree of personal commitment, where you make the proper use of your sexuality, and where your sexuality is guided by love and care for the other person.”
Maybe if you all really want to help families today in the economy, you might want to blame the actual culprit for inflation monetary policy. The central bank and the “experts” have not been that good at engineering the economy, for example the dollar has lost some 95% of its value since the creation of the Fed. And are we all really better off with the gold standard?
—are we really better off withOUT the gold standard?
Margie – that’s really insightful. Sexual sins and economic sins both have a lack of charity at their heart. That inability to see the person you’re exploiting as another human being who is your equal is the character weakness that lets bad folk exploit others.
JCS – Have you talked to a young family searching for a home to buy? The only one I know couldn’t find anything in their price range at all. Eventually, they bought a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom townhouse. Townhouses are the new starter homes. Perhaps the demand for big houses is part of the problem, but when I was looking for a house, and considered building one, I couldn’t find anyone who had even heard of a contractor who would build a smaller home (the 3-bed 1-bath you mention). Contractors want the profits of big homes. There just aren’t any 1-bath homes on the market anymore. Even townhouses have a minimum of 2-bathrooms.
Faith – those are great observations, especially about the fact that the BoM pride cycle isn’t real. Kirkstall’s contribution to that discussion were thought-provoking as well. The BoM blamed the wars that humbled people on the pride and wickedness. Those wars sure seemed pretty pointless.
Georgis and ji – You can’t talk economics without talking politics. I don’t apologize for denigrating the Republican economic policies. Because of my career, I follow a lot of financial news, which tends to be non-partisan and not written to stir up outrage, but it’s really hard to miss the trend. “Republicans oppose Biden’s student loan forgiveness.” “Republicans won’t vote for a railway worker contract that offers sick days.” “Republicans are mad that the CFPB is pestering banks into dropping their junk fees that target low-income people the most.” “Republicans want to cut taxes for the rich.” Once in a while, there’s something economic and non-partisan, like even the Republicans are starting to talk a bit about busting some trusts, like Big Tech. But if you know of ANY Republican policy that would help the working class or the poor, that the Democrats won’t cooperate with, please let me know. Republicans are the party of big business and big money, and they get lower income folks to vote for them by keeping them riled up about gays and trans people.
I live in Utah, where the Republicans rule. There aren’t even any Democrats on my ballot (22% of Utah’s legislature are Democrats; 78% are Republicans). The legislature recently passed laws to make life harder for trans people. Meanwhile, Utah has the dirtiest air in the nation, and the Republicans are so adamantly opposed to passing actual clean air regulations that the topic never even comes up anymore. They wouldn’t want to make their big-business donors spend money on clean air. Republican economic policies are indefensible. That’s a moral issue that overlaps entirely with politics.
Geoff-Aus — thanks for your viewpoint. I always find your stories interesting. Seeing how other countries handle their economies is good perspective.
Sasso – Thanks, and I like your Jello analogy. I was raised Republican, and I left to become an independent in my 20s BECAUSE of the way the Utah Republican legislature treated poor people. It was Republican callousness to the poor, way back before the culture war heated up, that drove me out of the party. I spent 20 years as an independent before becoming a Democrat.
Lois – that’s a good point about VRBO and Airbnb. I’ve seen news articles about someone buying a multi-family home and evicting everyone to make it a short-term rental. Sometimes local govt wants to restrict short-term rentals, but it doesn’t seem like their efforts are successful.
Anon – I was really happy when President Monson added the fourth mission of the Church about helping the poor. I feel bad it’s gone by the wayside. The Church not only has the economic resources to really help, but it’s got so many members who want to do some real good in the world who I believe would jump right up and help if given an opportunity.
I remember that quote about sexual desire being a “river of fire” and I like how you apply it to economic greed as well. Greed must be restrained.
Mark I – abolishing the Fed is beyond the scope of this post. I’m just wishing Church leaders would see economic issues as moral issues, and support policies and so forth that help the working class.
The economic illiteracy of the OP makes me cringe and want to click to a sensible article, but in the public interest I feel I should respond. Most families in the US make much more per capita today than in the 1950s on a cost of living or inflation adjusted basis. Working class houses from the 1950s were quite small and most today would look at a newer neighborhood, even to pay high rent prices. The unionization was high in the 1950s because many companies had few competitors and most of those were in high-wage locations in the US or Europe. (A union drive was not desired, but a strike would shutdown production and guaranteed profits) Since the 1970s unionization has plummeted in the private sector because of low-cost foreign competition. Most union plants have shut down, except the largest and most advanced that can still compete worldwide. We will not be going back to a time when the USA had 50% of the large industrial plants in the world. This is the rarely discussed, but important condition for the 20 years post-WWII economic growth and conditions in the USA. The church’s discussion of the morality of the 1950s returning is hopeful, but unlikely. Discussion of the economic conditions in the USA of the 1950s returning is absolute fantasy, unless another destructive world war, fought exclusively overseas, or similar disaster is a precursor.
Some discuss the minimum wage, but the government mandated minimum wage has little bearing on the real world. I live in a low-cost red state, yet my teens make well above the federal minimum. My HS freshman makes $15/hr now. Their friends who are 14 and work in fast food make at least $9/hr. The real minimum wage has always been $0.00/hr.(no work) Only legislation mandating full employment can change that. Not likely even in blue states.
Now medical costs are outrageous in the US and I know that studies have shown that medical outcomes are better in other countries that spend much less on medical care per patient than in the US. Greed and government regulations are both involved, surely. I have plenty of possible solutions, most doctors would disagree. (of course I was more correct about handling the last medical crisis in the US than most doctors)
If you want to discuss political differences between the parties in the US, please note that in the past few years, hundreds of thousands of people per year have been voting with their feet and leaving the blue states for better economic conditions. Democrat run states like California, NY, NJ, Illinois, etc. are experience significant out-migration to Texas, Florida, Georgia, etc. Why is that? It looks like more people like Republican economics on the state level.
I think that the church spends enormous resources on spreading the economic wealth to reduce poverty. The church welfare system is quite large and generally easily accessible for those who need it. (Differences among individual bishops, wards, and stakes may vary). One huge plus is that even the wealthiest kids have experience volunteering at food banks, the bishop’s storehouse, etc. at least in our area. Some of the church’s large recent investments have been in agriculture, keeping productive farms, and other assets going instead of being developed as some local’s have feared. While food prices have been increasing in the US, many other parts of the world have seen much worse. I wonder if the church welfare farms have helped this?
We like to talk about 4 Nephi’s no poverty situation, but I wonder if this was because the Church ensured that there was no poor among them, or if the Government did the hard work. I think it was probably the latter. Sure, it helped that the people were righteous and chose good leaders, but I think the Government had the lead on this. Like in the United States and many western countries, where we see no poverty like we saw in earlier times, or like we see today in many other parts of the world. Government can be an agent for great good. In the US, with earned income tax credit (which is simply redistribution) and a whole lot of other programs, we don’t have poverty like we see in some other countries. Like him or not, LB Johnson’s war on poverty has done a lot of good. And so has the EITC, proposed by Richard Nixon in 1969, and passed in 1975 by a Democratic congress and signed by a Republican president (Gerald Ford). The USA, and many other western countries, have almost eliminated poverty–I mean the crushing poverty that used to exist in this country. While there is more to do, I think that USA is closer to 4th Nephi’s vision than many people want to admit: we don’t have people dying of hunger, or children going to school in rags and no shoes, or dying of cold in the winter because they can’t afford wood or coal. Many people of other countries would consider themselves rich to be American poor, but that doesn’t mean that we should rest on our laurels.
Late stage capitalism is an interesting concept. The capitalism that may have worked for our parents is not working so well for our children.
It’s also worth asking how much of our nation’s wealth was gained by exploiting the resources and people from other countries. Colonialism and neoliberalism and neocolonial policies have played a large part in the accumulation of wealth in the US.
Economic inequality occurs in late stage capitalism and is likely to have devastating effects if we do not alter policies that have brought us to this level of inequality.
This post gave me a lot to think about. Thank you, Janey, for your thoughts, perspective, and for sharing your experience.
el oso – your comment makes me cringe too, but in the interest of helping our readers, I will respond.
High union membership and the good wages that they guaranteed was lost when manufacturing moved overseas because of Reagan’s and Thatcher’s free trade policies. This means that companies could exploit the weak worker protections in other countries and force desperate workers to work 14-hour days for low wages. Child labor laws abroad are also much weaker than in the USA. Slavery, exploitation and safety risks threaten much of the world’s working class, and supporting worker protections abroad is a matter of human rights.
Nowadays, unions in the USA are focused on service sector jobs that can’t be shipped to other countries, such as baristas working at Starbucks, and Amazon warehouse workers and delivery drivers. Manufacturing unions have decreased substantially because those jobs went overseas. The future of unions is in the service sector. Have you ever worked retail sales? Or fast food? Those are high pressure jobs and require a lot of on-the-job training. The person who flips your hamburger at McDonald’s deserves a living wage.
The minimum wage is mostly above the federally mandated minimum wage nowadays because of the labor shortage. If there were lots of people competing for low-wage jobs, big companies would drop wages to the lowest possible wage they could pay without losing their employees to other employers. So yes, the minimum wage is very important in setting a floor for wages. Congrats to your teens on having good jobs.
The articles I’ve seen that discussed reasons that Republicans are leaving blue states talked more about Republicans fleeing blue pandemic policies. You have to be a certain level of affluent to be able to move just because you want to move. Lower income people wouldn’t typically be able to leave Republican states due to their economic policies. Moving states is a vote that only rich people can make.
The Church’s welfare system is commendable – no argument there. I think it does a better job in helping people through short-term crises than in reducing multi-generational poverty. And I am glad that higher-income people get the chance to volunteer at canneries. I don’t believe they use much volunteer labor on the farms anymore just because they need skilled labor for farming. For my last Church-sponsored “help the poor” activity, we went to the Catholic-run food bank to sort donations. I appreciate what the churches do to help get food to people who need it.
madi – thanks for your comments. Late-stage capitalism is an interesting set of factors, isn’t it? I still think capitalism could be saved if we had strong government regulation. Companies aren’t going to voluntarily save the environment or close the wealth gap.
Here’s a few random ideas I’ve had, some of them silly:
1. Mandate that big companies all hire a zero-waste influencer from Instagram and let her (they’re all women) have a free hand in reducing packaging and/or making sure packaging is recylable.
1.a. Pass the cost of recycling back to the companies. Remember when you could get money for turning in aluminum cans and newspaper? Make companies institute buyback programs for packaging, especially single use plastics.
2. Pass a regulation standardizing chargers for electronic devices. All our electrical sockets are standardized. Let’s standardize chargers so you don’t get a new charger with every electronic device.
3. Right to repair for electronic devices. Regulations should require every electronic device to have a battery and a screen that is easily replaced. Companies shouldn’t stop supporting their own products (my Chromebook is now just an expensive paperweight because Google isn’t going to keep updating security patches for it; it’s only four years old and works fine, but Google made it obsolete). Planned obsolescence should be banned. I want my phone to last for a decade (it’s already six years old, so I’m getting there!).
4. I already talked about taxing the billionaire class out of existence. Antitrust laws should also be amended to break up every company that passes the billion-dollar mark. Amazon shouldn’t be able to buy up any more sectors of the economy. I mean, seriously, they bought a pharmacy? Then they bought a whole line of grocery stores? Just stop it already.
5. Revamp all economic thinking away from a ‘growth is good’ mindset to ‘sustainable growth is good.’
6. Pass regulations limiting the size of vehicles. It’s seriously ridiculous how big trucks and SUVs are getting.
7. Stop colonialism. Stop exploiting other countries and other people to increase wealth in the USA. I think el oso’s right that manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back to the USA, but my pie-in-the-sky wish is that, as you point out, all exploitation of other countries that moves wealth across national borders in a big way should be phased out of existence. All those valuable minerals in various African countries should first enrich those peoples in the form of good infrastructure and living wages when it gets sold to other countries.
8. Passenger trains. Passenger trains all over the eastern and western coasts (to start with) and then ban all flights that are less than 400 miles.
Georgis – those are good points. American poor is still a better situation than third-world-nation poor.
I think you may be putting the cart before the horse, brother. I’d put it more like: it’s the responsibility of the saints to live up to their covenants so that they might be transformed; and being transformed they might receive a full measure of the love of God; and being filled with his love they might consider the welfare of their neighbors before their own. There must be conversion on the part of individuals before any zion-like economic system — whatever that really looks like — can truly be effective.
Also, I don’t think the church’s usage of typical financial strategies must of necessity be anymore worldly that getting an education or buying a house. It’s more about the intent involved than anything else.
Does the church have any real moral authority to talk about financial/economic matters after the SEC charges and fines? They spend so much time talking about sexual moral issues because most of us don’t have the money to be confronted with economic dilemmas but sexual moral choices are faced every day in the media and in our social interactions.But the question about what does more damage in our society seems to me to be the lack of direction on economic morality because the effects of one person’s economic immorality causes more damage to more people. Sexual immorality affects one, maybe two people at a time maybe with some residual effects on family members. Economic immorality affects families, communities, and even larger groups of people. I think it’s sad that the church spends little time and energy preaching against economic immorality, social justice immorality, and instead focuses on a narrow definition of sexual immorality. It’s little wonder that so many of our young are leaving the church when they are confronted with the economic realities of leaving home and they are feeling guilty about some sexual awakening happening at the same time.
This is a fantastic post Janey. And you’d absolutely get my vote.
I just wanted to address designed obsolescence mentioned in your comment, and which I abhor as being an appalling waste.
This is the current situation on the “right to repair” in the UK.
I recently had the battery replaced in my iPhone SE (my first smartphone and the first SE), which I have had since early 2019 bought new in a sale as it was being phased out. In order to have Apple replace the battery, at some expense, I had to travel to the next city. While I was there I asked if they could replace the battery in my older iPod touch. No, they couldn’t. Initially they had thought I was asking about replacing a battery in an iPad.. they said they can’t do that. I was appalled by that, not only given the prices of iPads, but all the expensive rare metals these devices use. Anyway I hope to get another four years from my phone before I’ll need a new battery again! Since then the battery in the iPod started to swell and as there was nothing to lose I ordered a replacement battery from a reputable site here in the UK, and my husband (having better eyesight) replaced that for me, following instructions on YouTube. Last summer my daughter similarly replaced the swelling battery in her Huawei pro phone bought second hand from her mobile provider a year earlier, also following instructions on YouTube.
For many years we kept an old washing machine going, repaired many times. We finally had to replace it, and have needed to have an annual repair and service policy in order to be sure of getting repairs now that it’s all digital. But we’ve kept that going nearly ten years now too. Literally it’s our third washing machine since we married (29 years ago this year). And still just our second tumble drier.
Some manufacturers of heavy machinery are trying to go down the route of having you rent rather than buy their products, where they will conduct repairs and servicing as a part of the contract. A situation where you don’t get to own the tools you need and rely on, and are dependent on the manufacturer…
You lost me the second you brought Politics in your narrative. I simply don’t need another “talking head” bloviating about Politics.