Rudy Barnes, Jr.
President Trump, backed by his cabinet of billionaires, Republican minions in Congress and evangelical Christian supporters, has pledged to roll back regulations on the mega-banks and businesses of Wall Street. That paves the way for the Executive and Legislative Branches of the U.S. government to cede power to Wall Street. It is a merger that will lack public accountability and increase the wealth and power of the super-rich at the expense of the middle class.
Bigger is better on Wall Street, but not on Main Street. Over the years mega-mergers of big banks and businesses on Wall Street have reduced competition and eliminated jobs on Main Street, shifting wealth from the middle class to the super-rich. This has created disparities in wealth and power that have severely eroded the middle class and undermined economic freedom and social justice. That has set the stage for the mother of all mega-mergers.
Today the mega-banks and businesses of Wall Street are a greater threat to our freedom than big government. While government regulation of small businesses should be minimized to promote the economy, regulation is needed to protect consumers from big banks and financial institutions that have little competition, and to ensure that they do not become too big to fail and require taxpayer bailouts as they did in the financial crisis of 2008.
It is a great irony that evangelical Christians have given moral sanction to this immoral merger of political and economic power. They elected Donald Trump, a vain and vulgar billionaire and caricature of Wall Street, as their President, despite the moral teachings of Jesus that warned against the danger of riches. Money is power and power corrupts. Voters can hold elected officials accountable, but there is no accountability for the super-rich of Wall Street.
Most Americans claim to be Christians, and most seem to have put worldly success above social justice as the ultimate objective of their faith. Popular evangelists like Joel Osteen, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Paula White and Robert Jeffress promote the prosperity gospel, which represents the merger of Ayn Rand’s objectivism, the religion of Wall Street, with Christianity. Objectivism sanctifies selfishness and making a profit above all else.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was a progenitor of the prosperity gospel. He was once Trump’s pastor and was much admired by him. Dr. Peale’s mantra was the power of positive thinking, and its doctrine was, Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.
The self-centered creed of the prosperity gospel conflicts with the altruistic teachings of Jesus that emphasize social justice, especially for the least of those among us. Robin Meyers has stated the challenge for Christians in the title of his book: Saving Jesus from the Church; but the first priority of all Americans should be saving American politics from the corrupting power of Wall Street. That is essential to protect individual freedom and provide for the common good.
Banks and financial institutions have a fiduciary responsibility to those whose money they hold and manage. Banks were once held to that fiduciary duty by the Glass-Steagall Act; but it was eliminated in the 1990s to promote the economy. That lack of regulation contributed to the 2008 economic crisis, and Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to prevent a recurrence of that crisis. Now the Trump administration has pledged to gut the Dodd-Frank Act.
Donald Trump has reneged on his campaign promises to reign in the powers of Wall Street, not only by deregulating mega-banks, but also by failing to control exorbitant price increases by the pharmaceutical industry. Controlling health care costs is essential to affordable health care. President Obama also broke his campaign promise in 2008 to control such costs before making healthcare a right rather than a privilege with the Affordable Care Act.
An alliance between politics, religion and Wall Street has maintained the illusion that the regulation of big business is bad for freedom and the economy, but the opposite is true. Economic freedom depends upon curbing the avarice of big banks and businesses. Trump’s intended conversion of American democracy into a Wall Street oligarchy would cede political and economic power to the super-rich of Wall Street at the expense of the middle class.
The mother of all mega-mergers is not a done deal. Most of the voters who made Donald Trump their president claim to be Christians, but they threw Jesus under the bus. They can restore legitimacy to their religion and politics in the 2018 elections by following the teachings of Jesus summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and all their neighbors as they love themselves. That merger of faith and politics could restore American the Beautiful.
On Trump’s rollback of Wall Street regulations and gutting the Dodd-Frank Act, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-signs-order-to-begin-rolling-back-wall-street-regulations/2017/02/03/650668d8-ea30-11e6-80c2-30e57e57e05d_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1; see also https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/03/trump-to-order-rollback-friday-of-regulations-aimed-at-finance-industry-top-aide-says/?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1.
On Bernie Sanders calling Trump a fraud for rolling back financial regulations, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/02/05/after-trump-moves-to-undo-financial-regulations-sanders-calls-him-a-fraud/?wpisrc=nl_evening&wpmm=1.
On Trump’s rule changes that mean more money for Wall Street, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-rules-change-from-trump-means-more-money-for-wall-street/2017/02/03/b6c78d3a-ea55-11e6-bf6f-301b6b443624_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinionsA&wpmm=1.
On changes in the top leadership of the Federal Reserve as bank deregulation looms, see
On U.S. stocks hitting record highs based on Trump’s promise of a “phenomenal” tax plan, Quincy Krosby, a market strategist for Prudential Financial, said “ The market is saying, ‘Thank you for coming back to the very core of the reasons we have accepted your agenda.’” See http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN15P1GJ?il.
On Trump’s reneging on his campaign promise to control pharmaceutical price increases, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/02/02/trump-is-handing-democrats-a-gift-on-drug-prices/?wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1.
On Trump as a nihilistic insurgent in the White House, see http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21716026-donald-trump-rages-against-world-he-inherited-president-americas-allies-are-worriedand?cid1=cust%2Fednew%2Fn%2Fbl%2Fn%2F2017022n%2Fowned%2Fn%2Fn%2Fnwl%2Fn%2Fn%2Fn%2F8764907%2Fn.
Commentary on related topics:
On The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith, see http://www.jesusmeetsmuhammad.com/2015/01/the-greatest-commandment-common-word-of.html.
On Wealth, Politics, Religion and Economic Justice, see http://www.jesusmeetsmuhammad.com/2015/03/wealth-politics-religion-and-economic.html.
On Liberation from Economic Oppression, see http://www.jesusmeetsmuhammad.com/2015/05/liberation-from-economic-oppression.html.
On God, Money and Politics, see http://www.jesusmeetsmuhammad.com/2015/10/god-money-and-politics.html.
On Christianity and Capitalism: Strange Bedfellows in Politics, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/06/christianity-and-capitalism-strange.html.
On Health Care: A Right or Privilege, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/06/health-care-right-or-privilege.html.
On the need for A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics and make America the Beautiful again, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/09/a-moral-revival-to-restore-legitimacy.html.
On The Federal Reserve, Wall Street and Congress on Monetary Policy, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/10/the-federal-reserve-wall-street-and.html.
On Discipleship in a Democracy, A Test of Faith, Legitimacy and Politics, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/12/discipleship-in-democracy-test-of-faith.html.
On Saving America from the Church, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/01/saving-america-from-church.html.