Who'd have ever thought it would be the biggest corporations in America who were most supportive of the welfare state? That's the only conclusion I can draw as I watch the raging debate over the minimum wage.
If we follow the issue logically, here's how it plays out. Corporate America pays its workers less than a living wage. Their workers, in turn, use the social welfare system of food stamps and AFDC to enhance their meager pay so they can feed their families. This allows those in the boardrooms of corporate America to continue to bring home millions upon millions of dollars in compensation each year. In essence, our government welfare programs support the continued obscene wealth of the top one percent of this country. You and I, through out taxes, are supporting their second homes on the Riviera and third yachts in the Caribbean.
Quite frankly, given my annual income, I have no trouble with raising the minimum wage even if it takes a billion or two out of CEOs' annual incomes. They can still afford it way more than I can afford the taxes I pay to keep them in third homes and fourth wives.
This time of year there is a lot of blather and bleating about the war on Christmas. This is usually because some people insist on saying Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas and some prefer their child not be expected to sing religious songs about the birth of a savior in whom they do not believe. This flies in the face of those who feel if you don't want to be a Christian at Christmas, you should just leave the country.
I do think there is a war on Christmas. I just don't think it's being waged in quite those terms. Christmas celebrates the birth of a man who lived in poverty, sacrificed for others and cleansed the temple of moneylenders. Christmas celebrates the birth of a man who lived off the kindness of strangers once his ministry started, and walked in peace with prostitutes and the poor.
The real war on Christmas is being waged by those who make obscene profits off the celebration of this simple man's birth. The real war is seen in the videos of people pepper spraying each other to get to the latest electronic geegaw being offered for sale at a time when people should be sitting around a dinner table with their families thanking God for their blessings. The real war on Christmas comes from those companies who look at this season and see nothing but profit at the expense of those workers who would like to be with their families but fear losing their less than living wage jobs if they object to spending the day amidst a horde of greed-crazed consumers.
I have no problem with the idea of a mid-winter festival. Especially here in Alaska where it is dark and cold and often dreary in December, this kind of celebration brightens the long winter night. But let's call it what it is and stop pretending it has anything to do with the birth of the Christ child. Call it Saturnalia, the feast the Christ child's real birthday was moved to replace. Call it a winter festival of lights and gifts. Call it anything but what we now pretend it is.
Let's end the war on Christmas by going back and re-examining what Christmas should really be about. If Christ walked this earth today, I don't think he'd be found huddled in front of Best Buy waiting to mace his fellow man to get to the Play Station first. He would be standing with the strikers demanding they be paid a living wage. He'd be expressing his outrage at workers being told by their corporation to cut their food into smaller bites if there isn't enough because that way it will seem like more (this from McDonald's!). He'd be behind the counter carving the turkey at any soup kitchen in town. He'd be standing with the poor, not the rich.
Let's end the war on Christmas and make it a true celebration of Christ by foregoing "things" and instead demanding the end of corporate welfare and the start of living wages for those with whom he walked. It's the best present anyone could give the Christ child.
Elise Patkotak's latest book, "Coming Into the City," is available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.