Today, it is not hard to suffer fits of despair. Dante's sign at Hell's gate seems too "spot on": "Abandon hope all you that enter." It is paralyzing to have no hope.
A text for these times is from Romans: "....suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5. And then James 1:22: "Be doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves." And James 2:17: "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."
So, by the grace of God, we have hope, because of God's action and our action. Hope comes alive in action. Paralysis is gone.
What can we do? Here are some possible actions that may give us hope.
SOCIAL SECURITY: Realize that SS pays for itself. By law the government cannot borrow from other sources to pay out SS checks. SS is solvent for decades. To further insure its stability: 1) Stop borrowing from its trust fund to pay for other needs; 2) Raise the pay-in requirement from $108,000 to $200,000; 3) Consider the possibility of means testing SS so that the very wealthy need not draw it down.
MEDICARE-MEDICAID: Expand it to include all people, utilizing public and private sources. Move to a focus on quality of care rather than fee for service. Negotiate to regulate drug prices. Negotiate to regulate prices of medical insurance to insure that all people are adequately covered. Move to establish more local, community health care centers.
CLEAN ENERGY: Make a national commitment to the development of wind, solar, geo-thermal and other non-carbon, non-fossil burning fuels. Expand the power grid so this type of energy is available to all. Develop more electric-powered vehicles. Move away from nuclear, oil, coal, and carbon-based fuels. Jobs will result from this commitment.
ENVIRONMANTAL CARE: Realize that global warming is a reality. Care for the rainforests. Better manage cutting of forests. Enact laws to protect wildlife on verge of extinction.
REBUILD OUR INFRASTRUCTURE: Repair our roads and bridges. Build a national train system. Insulate and retro-fit buildings to make them more energy efficient. Such actions will result in many jobs.
CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY: Make corporations pay their fair share of taxes. If thery want to do business overseas, require them to pay taxes. Remind the corporate leadership that it will cost if they want to do business in the USA. No off-shore tax havens. Incentivize corporations to stay in the USA. Prevent corporations from raiding workers' pensions. Require corporations to invest a significant portion of their profits in job creation.
EQUITABLE SALARIES: Share the wealth so all people can be secure. Pay for all corporate management ought to be more in line with that of regular workers. Perhaps a ratio of 10:1 rather than 400+:1. More money will be available to hire more people.
RESPECT STAKEHOLDERS AND SHAREHOLDERS: All people are stakeholders. Some people are shareholders. There needs to be a balance for the common good. Corporate profit cannot sacrifice the common good. Corporations exist for the stakeholder first and the shareholders second.
BANKS AND WALL STREET: Reinvigorant the Glass-Seagall Act which regulated financial trading. Regulate derivatives, hedge funds, and credit default swaps. Require banks and mortgage companies to work with home owners to stop and prevent foreclosures. Be generous in re-financing home loans. Require banks to be more forthcoming in making small business loans.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Require other nations to open their doors to our products and limit the influx of foreign products that adversely affect the price and availability of our products, and the employment of our people.
FOREIGN AID: More money for the building of other nations' infrastructures and economies, rather than most aid going for military purposes. The focus should be on helping other nations feeding themselves and becoming economically self-sufficient, able to fully employ their people for the betterment of their society, with reasonable, sustainable trade with other nations. Assist in the training of teachers and medical staff, the building of schools and health facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
NATIONAL DEFENSE: We cannot be the "cops of the world." Other nations need to step-up in militarty preparedness. WWII is over and our forces are not needed in Europe. Furthermore, we have over 700 bases of all sizes throughout the world and most are unnecessary. Bring'em home. We can cut our defense budget by at least 50% . Put this money towards education, health care, infrastructure, and helping other nations develop their resources, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Continue to address Al Qaeda threat, not the Taliban. Assist other nations in their quests for freedom, working with other nations. No more nation building wars!
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN +: Initiate major drawdowns and leave only a necessary force to train their armies. All except small training forces should be back home by the fall of 2012. Continue some type of action to address Al Qaeda issues.
EDUCATION FOR ALL: Enable everyone to be able to earn a college education and beyond, affordable for all. Invest more in public education and accountability.
EQUAL RIGHTS: Remove barriers to inequality. Allow LGBT folks to marry and receive equal treatment under the law.
VOTER ID: Eliminate barriers to voting. The cry of voter fraud is a canard for voter suppression.
INTERNET NEUTRALITY: Insure that all people have equal access to the free flow of information through the internet. Prevent corporate control of news.
PUBLIC FINANCING OF ELECTIONS: Level the playing field so the battle of ideas takes precedence over the ability to buy elections through the purchase of media saturation.
INCREASE TAXES: Taxes are the price of caring for the common good. Eliminate the Bush tax cuts. Increase the tax rates especially on the wealthiest and eliminate loop-holes so everyone pays their fair share. Managing our national indebtedness also means increasing our sources of revenue. All are responsible for the common good. Shared sacrifice AND shared responsibility.
MANAGE OUR INDEBTEDNESS: Be better stewards of our financial resources. See the above!
In the end, we have much room for hope because there is much we can do. Our challenges are human made, and therefore can be solved by human action. Why? Because God's grace has given us hope-filled action to transform our world and to make real the Kingdom-Reign of God.