Getting, spending

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America is all about freedom. And President George W. Bush made clear what that freedom means in a document called “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America” in 2002.

The aim of the United States, it says, is to: extend the benefits of freedom across the globe… If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person — or a nation — to make a living.

So that’s the real freedom. Like they have in China, where you can make money and spend it, so long as you don’t say anything that offends the government, so long as you don’t want to practice a religion the overnment doesn’t like.

They’re not like you and me, those folks who think that freedom is getting and spending. Real freedom is the freedom to worship as we please, to speak our minds, to make moral decisions, to have health care, to have enough to eat, to have a place to sleep, to have an opportunity to learn. And you can add to this list with all the other freedoms we hold dear.

The rich see the world in terms of getting and spending. The free market is somehow going to ensure that no one sleeps on the street and that sick people are cared for. That’s their fantasy because it relieves them of the obligation, the human obligation of compassion, of caring for others, of seeing that for anyone to grow we must all grow, for anyone to be safe we must all be safe.

The rich are different from you and me: They’ve got it, they want to keep it, and they know that they can only keep it if we don’t ask for too much. Somehow the market, the invisible hand of many businesses with concern only for their own profit, will guarantee that people earn a living wage.

So our governor who is a champion of the rich and powerful — which she calls good business — vetoes a bill to raise the minimum wage to enough so that two parents working full-time could raise their children.

The real freedoms are those we can have only through our community, and our larger community of our state, and then our nation. We, all of us, can guarantee that no one needs to sleep on the street, that no one needs to go hungry, that no one needs to have a serious illness untreated, that no one needs to forgo college because it’s too expensive. The freedom from want, the freedom to have enough even to be able to make moral decisions, can be guaranteed only by all of us, by all of us as a community, caring for one another, not grasping but giving.

Yes, we all want to have a good life, but only the rich believe they can have a good life while others are struggling and hurting.

We’re different. We tell our children that you have a choice. We let them decide: When you grow up do you want to be rich and powerful, or do you want to be known for having a good heart? Only the rich, comfortable in their good homes, believe you can be both.