How much is enough? How much power? How much prestige? How much car? The automobile industry, once on the brink of disaster, now seems to have come back stronger than ever. And since the price of gasoline is going down, there’s less pressure on manufacturers to produce more economical cars. Consequently, in spite of new rules regarding the development of energy-efficient vehicles in the future, for now the automotive industry continues to focus on their more profitable models.
And they are not alone. There’s the large marine manufacturer in the Midwest that’s moving its production facilities from Wisconsin to the Netherlands, leaving longtime workers and their families behind. Almost every day the morning news carries stories of companies closing and jobs being lost as manufacturers increasingly focus more on an improved bottom line and increased stock dividends than on finding ways to keep jobs and increase productivity.
“Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers … are crying aloud.” Sales of high-profit vehicles continue to grow even as driver injuries and fatalities continue to surface. Wealthy manufacturers close their doors and move elsewhere in search of higher profits, leaving countless unemployed workers in their wake. And still they “weep and wail” over the prospect of being required to pay a just wage.
Fred and Cindy just bought a new house. Last week, Fred came home and told Cindy that the automobile plant where he works is cutting back on research and development in the areas of safety and fuel efficiency. Consequently, Fred and several other people working with alternate fuels and style modifications are being let go. They may have to sell their house and move in with Fred’s folks. Cindy started to cry.
It isn’t just the rich who are weeping and wailing — it’s the people who have made them rich. Cindy’s tears are testimony to the “impending miseries” of those who are caught in the middle. Will Fred’s industry hear their concern? Will the rich wail for them? Or will concerns for safety continue to take a back seat to profits while the workers continue to ask, “How much is enough?”
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.