The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has named “austerity” the Word of the Year for 2010. Apparently
this distinction was made because of the number of searches done for the word during the course of the year. One politician asserted we are living in an
“age of austerity,” a time in which severe cuts in government programs, taxes, budget deficits and debt are proposed or imposed.
In the countries where austerity measures are being debated or implemented, the people’s emotions are running high and tension is building, precipitating resistance and protests.
Prosperity is the condition of economic well-being, the state of being successful and with abundance of money and resources. Notions of prosperity extend beyond wealth to happiness and health, as there are correlations found between wealth and prosperity, happiness and health.
It would seem that prosperity is the better alternative, but can be a challenging concept in light of the research about the growing imbalance of wealth distribution in the United States. There may be abundance, but for whom and to what extent?
Research and analysis of IRS income data publicized last spring reveals that households with income in the top one percent (1%) gained the most during the economic expansion (2002-2007). When adjusted for inflation, the top 1% household incomes came through the recession with an average of thirty percent 30% increase. During the same period,
the bottom ninety percent (90%) of households came through the recession with an
average drop in income of four percent (-4%), adjusted for inflation.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report describes a troubling scenario: ( http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3309)
Such disproportionate growth helps explain why after the first year of the worst recession since the 1930s, households at the top of the income distribution still had incomes higher than in 2002, while households in the bottom 90 percent of the distribution lost all gains from the recent expansion and had the lowest incomes they have seen in over a decade.
The Occupy Wall Street (or name a city) movement is the grassroots response from among the 99% of our fellow citizens whom are feeling the effects of this imbalance. Concerns
about high unemployment, national budgetary policy, cuts in essential supports for women, children and needy families, are bringing people together, to join their voices and to stand on the side of love and justice. (http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org/)
Faith communities and religious leaders around the country are taking an active role in
witnessing and advocacy for economic justice and fair budgetary and taxation
policies. More and more religious leaders are participating in the Occupy protests. These are religious as much as political issues when it comes to justice and protections for the most vulnerable in our society.
Here are some recent updates and resources for the journey: