The 99% and the Common Good
- Created on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 17:06
The past couple months, news has been filled with stories about the occupy Wall Street protests and surrounding activities. The movement that has been garnering momentum around the world has indeed become hard to ignore. From violent clashes with the police in Oakland, to the recent evacuation of Zuccotti Park in New York, to the stand-off over the eviction notice here in Minneapolis, the movement has captured the attention of the nation. Whether you agree with the tactics, methods, or message, I think the central concern, "do our social structures work for the common good of the majority, 'the 99%'?", merits discussion on this blog.
At JRLC we have a long tradition of standing for the common good of all people, protecting human dignity, advocating that everyone pays their fair share, and holding corporations accountable to social contributions beyond profit. In this regard much of our work aligns with the overarching theme of the occupy movement.
Our issue paper on Corporate Responsibility from the early 1970’s, states that, “corporations are accountable to community, employees, consumers and shareholders to work not merely for the multiplication of products and services nor solely for profitability. Corporations should serve the whole community and the individual person, viewed in terms of material needs and the demands of intellectual, moral, spiritual and religious life.” Corporations, while not people, benefit from strong and healthy communities and in return offer benefits to communities in the way of jobs, goods, and services. It is for this reason that we hold them to higher expectations than profit margins alone.
Being a coalition of Muslims, Christians, and Jews advocating on state legislative issues where we can find consensus, our work typically focuses on ensuring that our laws and social institutions defend the inherent dignity of all people.
With unemployment rates failing to decrease and wealth become more concentrated in the top income brackets, it is hard to claim that our corporations are serving the whole community. There is good reason to make the private sector the target of frustration for the occupy movement, but the public sector's involvement in assisting with and regulating how corporations serve the common good should not be ignored. What we need now, alongside the occupy movements, is authentic participation in government structures and decision-making processes.
This past session we saw further erosion of safety net programs that assist people experiencing poverty move into stable jobs and housing. In a time marked by recession, these programs are more important than ever in ensuring the overall strength of our community, yet our priorities seem to be shifting in the opposite direction. In the face of proposed service eliminations, advocates and activists worked hard to defend funding for essential social programs like General Assistance. We can't afford for our safety nets to be further reduced, and ignoring the legislative process is the surest way of having our priorities and concerns ignored.
On December 5th we are hosting an event called Taming the Rhetoric: Why Politics is Failing to Solve Problems, that will likely echo some of the frustrations being voiced through the Occupy protests and social media. In in inter-sector conversation, young people working with non-profits, businesses, and faith communities will discuss how they view our current political conversations and what real solutions to our social problems might look like. Join us, now is the time to add your voice to the public debate, our opinions are only heard to if we voice them!