How Would Jesus Vote?
by John Lawrence, January 9, 2018
Republicans believe that charity or helping the poor should be a private undertaking, in the private sphere, not in the public sphere. They believe that, as long as they do some charitable acts in the private sphere but vote for a government that is intent on eliminating charity from the role of government (i.e. cutting social programs like social security, medicare and medicaid) that they are "all right with God." When Jesus talked about separating the sheep from the goats and the sheep were those that helped "the least of these my brethren" and the goats were those who only pursued their self-interest, Republican Christians still think that they are cool because religion is part of the "private sphere".
So Republicans think the only role of government is to fight wars. They are in the business of dismantling the social safety net because that represents charity and charity is the role of the private sphere. I'm sure Jesus would understand that logic. As long as you give to charity privately, you are under no compunction to give in terms of voting for a government whose only mission is to give tax breaks to the wealthy and to fund a huge military-industrial complex budget.
Bill Gates disagrees. He has the largest philanthropic foundation in the world and is going around the world eliminating disease and saving lives. I'm sure Jesus would approve. However, Bill Gates, billionaire that he is, believes that private charity cannot do the job alone. It is primarily the role and function of government to undertake this undertaking. Here's what he said recently in a Time magazine article:
Our [the Gates Foundation's] global health work has exceeded our expectations. Being part of this movement, which has gotten childhood deaths down from over 12 million a year to about 5 million a year now, going from 1990 until today, and with a goal to get it below 2.5 million by 2030, cut it in half again.
And our aid is less than 1% of the U.S. budget. So the question is, In helping to stabilize 95% of the world and prevent epidemics that would come and hit the U.S., is it a priority to spend 1% of the budget for those 95% and keep 99% of the budget for us who are a bit less than 5% of the world’s population?
The payback to U.S. foreign aid: getting rid of smallpox; on the verge of getting rid of polio; lifting up countries like South Korea, which was a huge aid recipient.
So the benefits of what we’ve done are quite phenomenal. We did a forecast that showed that a 10% cut in HIV spending would, between now and 2030, cause 5 million more deaths, because the U.S. has been so key to keeping this infectious disease in check. To reduce the money now would be horrific if killing 5 million people can be described that way.
Of all the major bad things that could happen—a nuclear war, an asteroid, a gigantic earthquake—the one that’s the most scary is a big epidemic, like a flu epidemic sweeping the world as it did in 1918. And so helping poor countries so they would detect it early—and they’d have the capacity to stop it when the numbers are very, very small—is advantageous to the entire world.
The experts that understand this stuff the best are at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and so keeping them funded so they can work with these countries—that is not just a benefit to these countries. That’s very important to us.
In the case of Ebola, because it wasn’t caught early, the U.S. had to spend a lot of money, including deploying the U.S. military while some people from the CDC went in and did heroic work. In fact, a lot of polio workers were involved in making sure it was contained to the three countries.
That’s a big success, but there will be many more like that that could be worse. The speed of infection of a flu is 20 times faster than Ebola, so some disease could go global if you took as long to figure out what was going on as we did with Ebola.
[Interviewer] Some of the things you’re talking about feel like traditionally the realm of government, and yet people’s faith in government to solve some of these problems isn’t so great.
[Bill Gates] Government is responsible for these things, and so the big money is with government. It’s over 10 times bigger than all philanthropic things put together. The role of philanthropy will often be to fund pilot approaches, to find breakthrough approaches. Funding all these young people who think they have a new approach for an HIV vaccine. Philanthropy is a very strong complement to the government in that.
Is it easier for you to fund something that’s far-fetched? I think so. Government has four-year, eight-year cycles, and the U.S. government actually is the best government in the world when it comes to funding medical research, but even they aren’t going to reach out to some wild new approach quite the way philanthropy can. So the two [government and private charity] really do go hand in hand.
Philanthropy will never take over the role of government. Making sure every child has food and education, that’s governmental.
BINGO! The role of government and private charity go hand in hand, but the government has a much bigger role. But the goal of the Republicans and the Ayn Rand inspired Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is to eliminate any governmental role for helping people either here in America or abroad. The Trump motto, "Make America Great Again" or "America First" translates to "the hell with the rest of the world" and in particular to hell with any role of government in charitable actions. That's the role of the private sphere. Not according to Bill Gates.
Gates points out that it's also in America's selfish interests to help out the rest of the world because disease somewhere else can quickly spread to America. San Diego found that out recently as Hep A spread from the homeless population into the "rest of us" population. Only then was something done for the homeless, not so much out of selfless interests but out of selfish interests. By the same token if America, instead of bombing some foreign countries and arming others, sought to make the lives of ordinary citizens of those countries better, it might redound to America's selfish interests.
But the Trump administration is intent on dismantling programs that would help others either here or abroad. I don't think Jesus would vote the same way some of these self-righteous Christian Republicans vote. From a Christian point of view it's the responsibility of the wealthy to help the poor both here and abroad not to give themselves tax breaks and then proclaim there's no money for anything else (except funding the largest military-industrial complex in the world.)