In 1992, while a scholar at the Heritage Foundation, Marvin Olasky wrote a book called The Tragedy of American Compassion.” His book is about how the misguided policies of political leaders, continually trotting out the word, “compassion,” to justify their actions, did not really help the needy to a better life but multiplied their number. Such misguided compassion also multiplied the tax burden on most Americans. The influence of Olasky’s book at least slowed the growth of the Great Society Welfare State.
Compassion is an important Christian virtue, but like any virtue, it can be applied unwisely. Biblical compassion is not a license for permissiveness, which often makes human conditions worse.
Thoughtless, “feel-good” compassion frequently ignores important facts, conditions, and reality. It makes the thoughtless feel good but blindly hurts innocent people. True compassion requires an analysis of its likely consequences, and analysis requires facts and numbers. It cannot be based on a few emotional anecdotes—a communication style especially favored by demagogues. It must represent as near and objectively as possible the total truth and must attempt to see secondary as well as immediate consequences. Shallow, feel-good compassion has proved one of the great failings of American politics.
Of course, feelings of compassion are by no means exclusively Christian. However, I hear appeals to compassion addressed specifically to Christian audiences to justify political policies and actions that actually turn thoughtful compassion upside down.
A 1922 book by Presbyterian seminary professor J. Gresham Machen, with the provocative title, Christianity and Liberalism, made a strong Biblical case that Christianity and theological liberalism are not the same thing, the big difference being liberalism’s growing disdain for the authority of Biblical truth. Theological liberalism has adopted humanism in place of Biblical Christianity. Machen expressed it even more forcefully in asserting that Christianity and liberalism are two different religions. Machen was comparing theological rather than political liberalism with Christianity, but today the overlap between theological liberalism and political liberalism is very great. Hence the values of political liberalism often run counter to Biblical Christianity. In addition, a high percentage of political conservatives base their conservatism on a Biblical worldview.
Machen also pointed out that liberal theology retained most of the vocabulary of traditional Christianity but with altered meanings. This makes knowledge of facts and intellectual and moral discernment critically important to evaluating both religious and political persuasion.
Misguided, shallow, and feel-good compassion are dangerous enough, but the involvement of strong economic and power-driven partisanship magnify the danger immensely. Big money and political power are inclined to distort and cover-up facts.
Some recent radio ads playing on Christian and politically conservative talk-show programs have been aimed at convincing Christian listeners that amnesty for 12 million illegal immigrants is the compassionate and therefore Christian thing to do.
The ads called for prayer that Christian principles would be used to resolve our immigration problems and “provide a path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants.
Amnesty was not mentioned, but amnesty is a necessary step before citizenship. The radio ad claimed an evangelical and implied conservative identity. It is inappropriate, however, to ask people to decide on that question by abstractly balancing considerations of law and compassion without the pertinent facts, numbers, and a rigorous analysis of historical precedents and future consequences. The ad also confused individual responsibility for a forgiving heart with government responsibility for justice and social order.
Lets look at a few facts regarding immigration.
According to Edwin S. Rubenstein Economic Consultants, since January 2009, when President Obama took office, foreign-born employment increased 1.651 million or 7.6 percent, but native-born employment increased only 20,000 or .02 percent. Essentially, approximately 1.6 million native-born American workers were displaced by lower-paid immigrants. Yet no one seems to have any compassion for these American workers and their families.
A very basic rule of economics is that a shortage of goods or labor drives prices or wages up, but that an excess supply of goods or labor drives prices or wages down.
According to Harvard’s George Borjas, the cost of unprecedented numbers of both legal and illegal cheap foreign workers flooding our labor markets has been enormous to American workers. It has accumulated to a $402 billion or $2,800 per worker annual loss. On the other hand, the American corporate and individual users of cheap foreign labor profit $439 billion per year. The corporate lobbyists spend $150 million per year to sustain these cheap labor advantages. What Americans are hurt the most? The burden falls on almost every level, but those hardest hit are the unskilled poor, minorities, and new college graduates, even those with technical degrees. This is scandalous cheap-labor greed driving bad policy. Where is the compassion for these American workers, whose living standard has not risen in over a dozen years?
According to a recent report by the Heritage foundation, amnesty would cost $6.3 Trillion dollars added to our already dangerous national debt of $16.5 Trillion. We are already running annual deficits of $1.0 Trillion per year. The U.S. does not have the money. We will have to borrow all of it, probably from the Chinese.
The average net household debt of benefits less taxes paid for illegal immigrants is $14,387 per year. Their average education is only 10th grade. Amnesty will eventually run the cost to $28,000 due to more benefit eligibilities. States and local communities pay most of this. It basically represents a subsidy for employers of illegal immigrants. Cheap labor users win. Big cheap labor using corporations win big. Taxpayers and American workers and their families lose. Compassion?
Yet the Schumer-Rubio-Obama amnesty and open borders bill will result in 33 to 50 million more immigrant workers over the next decade, not counting millions of “temporary” guest-workers. Once they are made citizens, an estimated 75 percent of them will vote for big-spending Democrats. That doesn’t look good for American workers, their families, or taxpayers. What sort of compassion is this? Counterfeit compassion and tyranny!