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Sins of the Rich and the Powerful

When I am referring to the "rich" in this context, this should be read to be the affluent as a broad social class; the author recognizes that individual rich people have varying degrees of culpability depending on their stewardship, their advocacy and/or willing participation in the social sins of their class, and their attitudes and actions towards the poor.

All people are sinners and this includes the rich. Their personal sins help build the structures that oppress the poor. Through pride, the rich assume that because they have money, they are somehow better than those who are poor. With avarice, they use special pleadings, campaign donations, and other such activities to gain political favors granting preferential treatment and direct monetary subsidies. They cash their Social Security checks even though they do not need the money and they use the Medicare system even though they can afford to pay for their own medical care. They deliberately destroy neighborhoods so that they can speculate on the property. In their sins of envy and covetousness, the rich see the welfare check or the food stamps of their poor neighbor and they cry out, "Give those to us the rich -- you the poor do not deserve them!" Through all of this operates the sin of wrath, which yields a public campaign of vilification of the poor, upon which their latest special pleadings are built.

Driven by lust, the rich sexually exploit the poor through pornography and prostitution, cruelly using the poor as objects to be manipulated, denying their dignity as human beings. As gluttons, the rich abuse the stewardship of their property, engaging in conspicuous consumption, feasting, and royal living while others barely subsist in poverty and want. By laziness -- the very sin they accuse the poor of committing -- the rich avoid their personal and social obligations to the less fortunate, refusing to do the works of mercy as commanded by the Gospel and the Church. They ignore the structures of sin that oppress the poor, and in order to escape social responsibilities, they scorn the poor and blame them for their plight, politically exploiting them without pity.

These are sins that produce the "sins that cry out to heaven," including a share of the responsibility for the murder of the innocent (abortion and other violence against the poor caused by social structures that encourage sin), social sodomy (the abandonment of society's obligation to the poor), the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt (persecuting the poor via structures of sin, such as the "War on the Poor" described herein), the cry of the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (direct sins of omission and commission toward the poor), and injustice to the wage earner (non-payment of a just living wage).

Bottom-feeders of the Marketplace

It is no surprise to discover that the rich exploit the poor economically. This has been noted since ancient times (e.g. the prophet Amos' denunciations of speculators that oppress the poor). Modern "bottom feeders of the marketplace" include pawn shops, plasma centers, check cashing centers, slumlords, drug dealers, pimps and johns, and prison labor.

Proponents of free markets often defend these activities on the economic grounds that they provide goods and services to people who would otherwise suffer without them. But this analysis ignores the role of government regulation in creating ghettoized markets where instead of a free interplay of buyers and sellers, market entry is severely restricted and a handful of preferred businesses (those with the necessary capital, contacts, systems, and skills to handle the government regulations) are allowed access to a captive population which they then proceed to loot. Since the markets these "bottom-feeders" operate in are so restricted and regulated, they cannot be seen as true market operators, but rather, as market exploiters.

For example, the interest rate charged at all pawn shops in Oklahoma City is 240% per annum. Despite the fact that there are numerous such establishments in the greater Oklahoma City area, there is not one single pawnshop with a lower interest rate. Given the nature of a free market, which should be characterized by volatility of prices and charges (that is, prices go up and down, rather than always staying the same), the author is therefore suspicious of government regulatory actions that encourage price fixing and collusion among pawnshop owners. Check cashing centers are another market in which competition appears to be minimal, despite the existence of numerous such outlets. Market fairness is easily limited or even abolished entirely by business' special pleadings and outright corruption of legislators and city government. This is a big market limitation that is rarely acknowledged by its conservative defenders.

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