The economic crisis of the past few years has been like living in a desert. It has left many high and dry and thirsty for change. Many find Congress’ fight over raising the debt limit ridiculous and the long debate has angered most. The fight over the budget cuts has negatively and disproportionately impacted the poor and middle class. We are living in a prophetic moment of change in America. Times are hard for the desert-poor of America.
Ahab in II Kings 18: 17 calls Elijah a “trouble maker,” and Elijah responds, “It’s not I…but you and your government – you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals.” This, to many, is what some political leaders are doing, blaming the poor, calling us “trouble makers.” As a result, for years we’ve been in a terrible drought, people are starving, hungry for jobs, housing and food.
In Miami-Dade County, the mayor is proposing cutting Head Start programs and staff and privatizing it, as if cuts in one area can solve and balance the county’s fiscal woes. Nationally and locally, the poor are first to lose retirement benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and school subsidy and to get the unemployment ax.
As a former political science major at Howard University, I know the arguments against raising taxes on the rich and the impact it “might have” on business. But I fail to understand why, in these hard times, any politician cannot see the wisdom of having all constituents suffer equally through this economic mess.
Our leaders are seeking options and solutions without reading the political weather signs. All of us should feel uncomfortable about the poverty in black and brown America, yet many of the rich — not all — are fighting against paying their fair share of taxes. There are men like Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, who publicly stated, “The solution should be a balanced approach between cutting spending and raising the taxes of the rich.”
The Pew Research Center, just released the findings of a new study showing that, between 2005 and 2009, the percentage of black Americans with negative or zero wealth has increased from 29 percent to 35 percent, while white America’s total wealth has grown to 20 times that of black America. Admittedly, all wealth has declined but white negative wealth only increased by four percent, from 11 percent to 15 percent.
The study also states this is the worst widening of the wealth gap between the rich and the poor since the Federal government started keeping track 25 years ago.
With so great an economic drought, poverty, loss of wealth, jobs and housing, somehow I can still smell the coming rain of blessings. Elijah, in II Kings 18:21, asked the people, “How long are you going to sit on the fence?” And I ask you today, “Can’t you smell the rain?”
God is answering our prayers through these political struggles and this is causing the voting public to increase their scrutiny. Politicians, especially, need to be careful, as the former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez can attest, having been recalled from office. People are not stupid; they are watching like never before. Unfortunately, so many of us remain ignorant concerning the ways of the Holy Spirit and cannot sense God’s movement in sending the needed rain.
As Elijah’s story ends (II Kings 18:41-46), “Elijah says to Ahab, ‘Up on your feet! Eat and drink – celebrate! Rain is on the way; I hear it coming.’” So, Ahab did as instructed but then said to his young servant, “You, too, on your feet, go look toward the sea.” Seeing nothing the first time, Elijah tells him, “Keep looking, seven times if necessary.” Finally, sure enough, on the seventh time, he said, “Oh, yes, I see a cloud! But a very small cloud, no bigger than some one’s hand, rising out of the sea.” Elijah tells the servant, “Hitch up your chariot and go down and tell Ahab before the rain stops you.”