|Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons|
Over the weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry led 30,000 people in prayer at a rally in Houston he dubbed "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis." 30,000 may seem like a lot of Christians in one place at one time, but even more remarkable than this, they endured seven hours of prayer and religious tinged politicking and anti-abortion hysteria. The gathering was sponsored by the American Family Association, according to Democracy Now, which opposes same-sex marriage and has condemned Muslims, and the International House of Prayer, whose founder believes that Oprah Winfrey is a Satanic religious leader.
At the same time, Democracy Now reported, just seven miles away, 100,000 people attended Houston’s first-ever, back-to-school event, where they received free backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, haircut vouchers, immunizations, and fresh produce. The demand was so intense that officials had to end the event early at 10:00 a.m. and turn people away.
Many of the people attending the back-to-school event were no doubt pious, perhaps even evangelical Christians. But when offered a choice between praying for an end to their privation and receiving free handouts, Texans by and large made the rational decision.
These two events were a stark reminder of the desperation and anxiety gripping so many Americans, with unemployment now worse than during the Great Depression and no visible light at the end of the tunnel. While some are turning to religion to help assuage their anxieties, ultimately they need financial relief. Instead, we are getting threats and punishment by S&P for not slashing government spending on social programs sufficiently or quickly enough.
The downgrading of the U.S. credit rating has been portrayed as an economic disaster for all. In reality, it was a cynical move to exacerbate an existing crisis to justify and speed up the imposition of austerity on the American people. S&P was asleep at the wheel during the housing crash, having provided AAA ratings to numerous lending agencies that collapsed under the weight of bad loans. Its assessment of the U.S.’s ability to repay its debts can hardly be taken seriously.
At the same time, while millions of Americans continue to struggle daily to make ends meet, they remain indignant over the fact that trillions of dollars were readily available to bail out Wall Street and Detroit, and trillions more continue to be spent to slaughter civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, while virtually nothing is available to help keep them in their homes, maintain their schools and feed their children.