By Ken Sehested
We have a lot of competition for our attention these days. I urge you to give a little space for this matter, which is unfolding right now in Congress.
“Any time there is a crisis and Washington is in the middle of it is an opportunity for guys like me.” —industry lobbyist on Capitol Hill
“Take Boeing. The aerospace giant of course wants a $60bn bailout. Financial problems for this corporation predated the crisis, with the mismanagement that led to the 737 Max as well as defense and space products that don’t work (I noted last July a bailout was coming). The corporation paid out $65bn in stock buybacks and dividends over the last 10 years. . . .
“But that’s not all. Defense contractors want their payments sped up, and I’ve heard they want to widen a giant loophole called ‘other transaction authority’ to get around restrictions on profiteering. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos want “$5 billion in grants or loans to keep commercial space company employees on the job and launch facilities open.” They also want the Internal Revenue Service to give them cash for R&D tax credits.
“CNBC reported that hotels want $150bn, restaurants want $145bn and manufacturers wants $1.4tn. And the International Council of Shopping Centers wants a guarantee of up to $1tn. The beer industry wants $5bn. Candy industry wants $500m. . . .” —Matt Stoller, “The coronavirus relief bill could turn into a corporate coup if we aren’t careful,” Guardian https://bit.ly/2UtSOP0
- § § §
We are all experimenting on how to maintain physical separation without spawning social distancing. (Every time I now hear those two latter words, I consciously repeat this mantra: It’s physical separation . . . social distancing is what has bedeviled us all from the beginning.)
Three practical suggestions for pastoral action:
- Unless your financial future looks disastrous, I encourage you to commit to putting a little money in your local economy, particularly in small businesses.
- Find creative ways to say thanks to those “essential” workers who are not furloughed, e.g., this morning I took a box of muffins to the wonderful people at my locally-owned, mom-&-pop pharmacy, along with a short note thanking them for the extra risks they are taking to serve the common good.
- This is a good time to give yourself space to write letters—to family members, to friends, to members of your congregation, to elected officials, to letters-to-the-editor, etc.
Finally, let some of your prayers of lament center on this collective Lenten confession: When our president was explicitly asked why wealthy people—professional athletes, celebrities, and politicians—are able to get COVID-19 testing when most other citizens can’t, he responded:
“That’s been the story of life.”
Which is true. But there is another story.
Ken Sehested is curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action.