Uplifting most religious traditions is concern for the underdog and care for the poor. We’re enriched by reading and hearing regularly about people who started schools, orphanages and hospitals for the sick and destitute who had nowhere left to go. In the Catholic community, we name them saints, and their lineage is inspiring.
Can we recognize the same thirst for justice when it presents a little differently? Could Mother Teresa wear a suit and speak eloquently into a mic at a congressional hearing? Setting aside superficial differences, the same strong current runs through a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QKOLydDfNg) of First-term Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) grilling JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who made $31 million last year. Chase received billions of bailout money in 2008.
She asks how a full-time, entry level employee at his bank, making $16.50 an hour for a total of $35,070/year can survive financially. Calculating minimal expenses, such as a one-bedroom apartment in Irvine, her district, she arrives at a shortfall of $567/month. This bank teller, the single mom of a six-year old, shares a room with her daughter, and must pay for after-school care, since the bank is open beyond the school’s closing time. The only options seem to be taking out a loan or running up a credit card, both solutions carrying exorbitant interest.
Mr. Dimon, who runs a $2.6 trillion bank, had no answers. He mumbled inadequately about looking at the financial picture, but avoided the obvious: Pay a Living Wage! Interestingly, JPMorgan Chase could give every one of its 250,000 employees a $25,000 raise, and it would cost the bank only about two-thirds of the profit it made just in the first quarter of this year. (See Washington Post article cited below.)
Brilliantly, Porter recorded the numbers on a white board, so any moron could see the impossibility of living on a salary so unjust it reeks. On the YouTube site, “Johnny” commented about Dimon’s squirming: “I knew his life was OVER as soon as i heard the top twist from the dry erase marker.” It may be a different version of the Lives of the Saints than we’re accustomed to, but it’s no less powerful. Porter, by the way, is a law professor with expertise in bankruptcy, author, mother of three and survivor of domestic violence. Her delivery is disarmingly dead-pan. Wouldn’t it spice up (and strengthen) our religious education, church bulletins, and sermons to insert a word from her?
Writing in the Washington Post April 12, Paul Waldman points out that as a result of the recent tax cut, “twice as many of the largest corporations in the United States paid no taxes in 2018 as had the year before, despite making billions of dollars in profit. For example, Chevron made a $4.5 billion profit and got a refund of $181 million.” (www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/04/12/this-exchange-between-democrat-ceo-should-shape-campaigns/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5af894ea1c92)
St. Vincent de Paul and St. Frances Cabrini would be whistling “When the Saints Go Marching In” and applauding Katie Porter.