I observe Shabbat although in a somewhat unconventional way. In my readings this morning for the weekly Torah portion dealing with the building of Noah’s ark, I came across a piece written by Rabbi Yehuda Appel in which he states:
“In the era of the Flood, the Sages suggest a deeper malady associated with the rampant thievery. The Midrash reports that often many thieves would descend on their victim together, but each of them would take only a very small quantity of goods to insure their individual exemption from prosecution. The thieves would repeat this over and over again. The end result was that though they had become enriched, the thieves could rationalize they hadn’t really done anything wrong, for, after all, no court was demanding they stand trial.”
This insight reminded me of the role of banks and other financial institutions in our lives today. Arrogance, bullying, self-deception all play a role. It is the erosion of our unalienable rights in slow motion that keeps us from thinking about it. And it is the slow, incremental steps in burdening most of the people with debt instead of a fair wage that creeps up on us producing a world of gross inequality.
In many ways all of us pay to maintain a status quo that very few of us want. Most people in low paying jobs are supported by food stamps, Medicaid and even public housing because their employers have chosen to divert the increasing profits to themselves, rather than pay a fair wage to those workers who produced those profits. The shortfall is met by tax dollars indirectly subsidizing the business that now relies on the government to pay for the unpaid wages.
To paraphrase an old true story, “We worked hard to steal that money and we are not going to allow government intervention in our business. If you force us to pay more to our workers it is socialism! You can’t screw this up. We have a good thing going and the money we get by not paying our workers belongs to us. The government must continue to pay our workers for food, shelter and medical care.”
If 30 years ago it was suddenly announced that wages would be frozen and instead, people would be given free access to debt, it would have been denounced as the reintroduction of slavery.
If 15 years ago it was suddenly announced that people would be required to execute documents that most Judges still don’t understand and would result in loss of all household net worth, it would have been denounced as an attempt to destroy the key component of the American way of life — upward mobility.
If 7 years ago it was suddenly announced that 30 million people had to move out of their homes the next day and fend for themselves, it would have resulted in a virtual revolution!
But because it is slow, with banks dragging out the contested FORECLOSURES for as many as 7-8 years, we don’t notice it, we don’t denounce it and we don’t revolt against it.
Filed under: foreclosure