Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice in the 2012 Presidential Election and a current member of the House of Representatives, stated that by reducing the amount the Federal Government spends on food stamps by billions we were really doing the poor a favor. This would make them more self-reliant, more anxious to go out and find some sort of job in order to support their families. Of course there have to be jobs out there to find. If the country is going through some sort of recession as it has since 2008 and there are no jobs to find then the poor have to become more creative in finding work and surviving. This to Ryan is doing women with infants who need proper protein in order for their brains to properly develop or under-employed people or those who cannot find work, or veterans, who for one reason or another, have not been able to get back into the economy a favor. Is this an American value? Is it real?
Paul Ryan’s value system, whether he knows it or not, came from our Puritan Heritage which permeated throughout the United States during most of our history. The basic tenant of Puritan belief came from John Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination.
In the 16th Century the Protestant Revolutions occurred in Germany, England, and Switzerland. Before that the only official religion in Europe was the Catholic Church. Protestantism was a protest against the abuses of the Church.
John Calvin (1509 – 1584), a French theologian and pastor, who set up a theocracy in Geneva from 1541 to 1549, promulgated, among other things, this Doctrine of Predestination. The theory states that God is absolute, and that He knows everything: past, present, and future. Consequently, He knows when everyone will be born and He knows every thought and act they will commit during their entire lifetimes. Finally, He knows, even before they are born, whether they will ascend to Heaven when they die or whether they will go to Hell. From the moment of their birth He knows if they are saints or sinners.
This is the Doctrine of Predestination. Everyone’s final resting place has been predestined from the time before they were born. The theory had been put forward by St. Augustine in his writings but the Catholic Church had never chosen to develop the theory.
In the 17th Century the Puritans, following in Calvin’s footsteps, set up a theocracy of the Elect in the Massachusetts Colony in what was then the New World. In their minds it brought the sovereignty of God to earth and allowed God’s elect, those who would eventually go to heaven, to run the colony. Today Reformed Congregational and Presbyterian Churches stem from Calvinism and Puritanism.
Their values gradually became inculcated into the American psyche and the belief that God rewarded the elect or chosen became meshed with success in our society. It followed from this reasoning that successful people were closer to heaven than the rest of society and the belief that God rewarded those who he knew would go to heaven by rendering them successful on earth. Somewhere along the line this success became tied to earning money. The rich were successful; they were the chosen ones to lead the society.
That would make Mitt Romney, a man who engaged in Venture (Vulture Capitalism, a term first used by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas) one of God’s elect, even though this man’s company took over companies, raided their retirement fund, sold off the pieces of the establishment for millions, and left the former employees without jobs.
Generally this belief is true today. While the religious aspect is presumably gone the basic concept is part of the American psyche. Success in our society can be measured in dollars and cents. This may be one of our primary social values. But is it real? Aren’t there also other values that are more important?
Unfortunately this belief has permeated throughout all levels of our society and has equally affected all levels of our society. Those who are not wealthy expect to make it at some time during their earthly existence. Many laws such as the tax codes have been passed mainly for the benefit of the wealthy. There has never been loud objection to these laws because most people expect to have a turn at being rich sometime in their lives. It’s nice to believe the unbelievable!
Looking around throughout the United States one sees other values that are far more important because they affect far larger groups of people. We tend to be a nation generally of families, parents and children, one generation trying successfully to raise another. We also tend to be a nation divided largely into three economic classes. There are the wealthy who can easily afford everything. Then those that can generally afford it, the middle class, who will more easily raise the next generation. Finally those that barely survive or don’t really survive economically and find life in this country a constant and often depressing enterprise, the lower class. There is also a fourth group, the homeless, generally called the underclass, which also include a number of children and veterans. The goal of all these groups is to successfully raise the next generation. This goal is not only dependent upon the youngsters themselves but also upon their parent(s) economic base. The middle class can, with the exception of college tuition, afford it; the lower and underclass cannot.
There should be a national priority allowing everyone in the society to be able to succeed. In a nation with a GDP of about 17 trillion dollars we can, with government help, easily afford to do this. The distribution of the National Income and the taxation system of the country favors the upper few percent at the expense of all the rest of the population. We are out of kilter; our priorities are wrong. The system opposes what it should be supporting. It is time to come to terms with what we truly consider important.
From a religious aspect we should consider that the primary gift of God is the gift or life. The proper living of that life is a demonstration of appreciation to God for his gift. To me this is a much more important value than wealth. Of course people need a reasonable standard of living to go along with this concept. A country with a GDP of about 17 trillion dollars can, with proper organization, easily afford to provide a decent standard of living for its entire population.