President Bush warned in a March 8 speech to those gathered for the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Awards ceremony that we should not listen to "economic isolationists." By that, I assume he means that American voters should pay no heed to those who are beginning to wonder about the wisdom of our trade policies that produced yet another record trade deficit of $43.1 billion in January while sending more good jobs overseas. A few weeks earlier, the chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors offered the opinion that job outsourcing abroad was a "good thing."
The whole situation reminds me of a biblical story which some of my fellow Protestants may not know. It's called "Bel and the Dragon" and is found in Catholic Bibles at the end of the Book of Daniel. Set in the days of King Cyrus and the hero Daniel of lions' den fame, the tale recounts how every day the Babylonians brought six barrels of flour, forty sheep and six measures of wine to the temple of Bel. King Cyrus believed what the priests told him: If they failed to wine and dine this god, he would become angry and refuse to bless their nation. The hungry Bel might even become so enraged that he would come and destroy them.
Daniel knew there was no such god and told the King the truth, but the King couldn't understand how the flour, sheep and wine disappeared each night if Bel was not real. Daniel would have to prove his case to save his own life. That night, Daniel scattered ashes on the temple floor. The next morning when the doors of the temple were opened, the food and wine were again gone as usual, but the temple floor was filled with human footprints leading to and from a secret passageway. It was the priests who had been stealing all that the people had been sacrificing to Bel.
For years, the politicians and their high priests of "free markets" and "free trade" have been telling us that we'd better make sacrifices or our prosperity will be in danger. We've given up health benefits, wage increases, overtime pay and regulations that protect the environment and our own safety when we're at work. After all that, now we are being told that it is a "good thing" for us to give up our jobs.
We need a Daniel to put some ashes down on the floor of the "free trade" temple. My guess is that somebody is taking all that we've been sacrificing and hoping we don't notice.
Rev. Allen H. Brill is a Lutheran pastor (ELCA) in South Carolina and founder of The Right Christians (www.therightchristians.org), an organization to provide a voice for Christian progressives. He is also a member of the South Carolina Bar. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.