Skip to main content

1000 Points of Light Revisited


Gosh, We Could Use A Candle Down Here

I wonder if the US has passed the tipping point.  For decades, a thriving middle class fueled the economy and supported our democracy.  In the Bush years we decided to pay for those two wars, um... later, so the super rich could get richer.  During the Obama administration we decided the tax cuts will stay; so the poor, the sick and the elderly will pay for those wars and the tax cuts.  Meanwhile, the middle has shifted.

From Vernellia R. Randall, Professor of Law, The University of Dayton:  [In the last two decades] the gap between the rich and poor in the United States grew at the same pace as the economic growth.  Statistics show that the richest 1 percent of the US citizens own 40 percent of the total property of the country, while 80 percent of US citizens own just 16 percent.
Since the 1990s, 40 percent of the increased wealth went into the pockets of the rich minority, while only 1 percent went to the poor majority.

From 1977 to 1999, the after-tax income of the richest 20 percent of American families increased by 43 percent, while that of the poorest 20 percent decreased 9 percent, allowing for inflation.  The actual income of those living on the lowest salaries was even less than 30 years ago. tells the story in graphs for you visual learners.

And here is the way Warren Buffet tells it.

The upshot from the mental health perspective -- states are slashing mental health budgets.

After the Jared Loughner shootings, Arizona talked a lot about the need for better services.  Then it cut $36 million from its mental health budget, or 37%.  Across the nation, the average cut is 8%.  Emergency rooms, jails and homeless shelters take up the slack.

There is a lot of slack.

Home ownership, those 401K's we were supposed to use to replace pensions...  I won't linger here.  I just wonder if this income shift can be turned around.  Mostly I wonder what we will do in this new America, which will look more and more like other countries that have wealth gaps this large and the security budgets to protect the spread.  Mexico comes to mind. 

What We Will Do

We were a decade into the beginning of the shift when in 1989, at his inauguration George H. W. Bush called for 1000 points of light, voluntary organizations across the country to address human need, the homeless, children, persons addicted to whatever substance (including welfare, he said), unwed mothers.

This was the Read my lips: No new taxes guy.  So there was a certain cynicism mixed with his compassion, a rich man calling on the virtues of those with less to take care of those with even less.

It sounds different when the poor themselves say it.  And, of course, Bush was referencing the poor man who said, You are the light of the world... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (NRSV)  The guy who said that said it to other poor people who were taxed into poverty to pay the salaries of the police state that was just looking for a reason...  In his case, they found one.

The philosophical debate, to what extent should the United States of America accept a common responsibility for the common welfare, is just that, a philosophical debate.  As a political debate, it is pretty much over.  We won't.    Them that's got shall get; them that's not shall lose.  And them that's got have got the government, the means to keep the government, and no intention whatsoever of paying for the benefits they receive from the government (infrastructure, security, subsidies, an educated - more or less - work force, international trade agreements, subsidies.)

So we are back to those 1000 points of light, or rather, to You are the light of the world.  For what it's worth, the only light there is going to be.

Those voluntary organizations that Bush Sr. was counting on to pick up the tab never had the resources to do it.  And they have less now.  Voluntary organizations have been contracting since 1964.

This is candle in the wind time, folks.  But it's time to sign up.  Why?  Because it's getting dark down here, and you are the last flame.

It is time for secular humanists to get over their sense of intellectual superiority.  It is time for the spiritual but not religious to get over their allergy to accountability.  It is time for religious people of whatever stripe to get over their delusional straining for influence.  The only shot we have is to do it together.

Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us. -- Jerry Garcia.

But there it is.  Those of us who have lost our jobs, our pensions, our insurance, our health, or are bracing for the blow have to get it together and do it ourselves, have to organize, to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and in prison -- whatever kind, compassionate, fair, sensible thing it is.

Next week, an example.

book jacket for The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman from
photo of emergency room by Thierry Geoffroy and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
print of Lazarus and the Rich Man be Print by Gustave Doré, 1891, in public domain
photo of candles by Nevit Dilmen,  Permission granted to copy under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License  


  1. Most of the secular humanists I know are out there in the trenches fighting for human dignity. As for the "spiritual but not religious", they hold themselves accountable for their actions, and demand accountability from others. A relationship to a particular deity is not required to act in the world with compassion and responsibility.

  2. Oh, I figure I am an equal opportunity offender here. But I calls 'em like I sees 'em.

    Regarding the particular deity thing -- of course. Nevertheless, secular humanist Arthur C. Brooks, author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism found that religious people give more: more time, more money, more blood. He checked and rechecked and spun the numbers every way he could, because that is not what he set out to demonstrate.

    I have some theories about why that is true, which have to do with how habits are formed and maintained.

    But at this point I don't really give a damn about what people believe. The last paragraph of the post refers to Matthew 25, where Jesus says that at the judgment, the Judge will say, I don't give a damn what you said. Show me the money (and the time and the blood).


Post a Comment

Popular Posts

Loony Saints - Margaret of Cortona Edition

Every once in a while, Prozac Monologues reaches into my Roman Catholic childhood's fascination with saints, especially the ones who today might be assigned a diagnostic code in the DSM.  Twice, Lent Madness has introduced me to new ones that I share with you.

A few years ago it was Christina the Astonishing.

Today it's Margaret of Cortona.  If you're a Lent Madness regular, you'd expect Margaret to be a shoe in for the first round of voting, where her competition is a stuffy old bishop/theologian, because Margaret became a Franciscan and, more significantly, her story features a dog.  Lent Madness voters are suckers for dogs.

Mood Charts Revisited

Mood chart is one of the top search terms that bring people to Prozac Monologues.  I wrote about mood charts in July, 2010, first as a recovery tool and later as a way to illustrate the differences between various mood disorders.  Both posts promised sequels, promises that remained unfulfillable until now that I have spent several months doing cognitive remediation at  Maybe cognitive remediation is worth another post -- later.

Following last week's tale of misdiagnosis and mistreatment, this week's long delayed return to mood charts seems timely.

What is a Mood Chart

Introducing Allen Frances

Allen Frances was the editor of the DSM-IV, first published in 1990.  He is now the fiercest critic of its next major revision, the DSM-5.  For over three years, he has been blogging weekly to this end at Psychology Today.  This week I will summarize his steady drumbeat.  I hope soon to publish an open letter to him.

Frances' complaint in a nutshell is that the DSM-5 creates fad diagnoses and changes criteria of older diagnoses to medicalize a whole range of normal behavior and miseries.  The link lists these problem diagnoses and a number of the following points, in an article published all over town last December.

These issues have been discussed widely, in public and private circles.  I am not qualified to address each point, though I did give a series over to one of them, the bereavement exclusion.  The best of the batch, if I do say so myself, is Grief/Depression III - Telling the Difference, which got quoted in correspondence among the big boys.