The new president, two days ago, talked about the trickle-down effect: “We’ve seen time and again that trickle-down doesn’t work.” He was alluding to the huge tax cuts for “those on the top and [the hope] that the benefits they get would trickle down to everyone” – tax giveaways granted the richest people and enterprises over the past 15 years (it was most likely a few more years, probably reaching back to the Reagan-Administration). He now sees a need “to change the paradigm.” That’s correct.
“Eine Kraehe hackt der anderen kein Auge aus”, as the old German saying goes. Freely translated: There’s honor among thieves. Because representatives of both parties are able to wheel and deal with lobbyists from the “very top”, my fear is that in the end not the billionaires, but representatives of the higher educated class will have to pay for the bulk of a new tax burden. In other words: those who were not eligible for the latest stimulus check because they are above a certain income level. If this happens, it would be a serious mistake by the Biden administration – because it would hurt America’s innovative future.
What Joe Biden did not say last Friday in the Rose Garden is the following: It is a misconception to assume that a national economy regulates itself in such a way that there is justice in the end for the many. From this follows what already John Adams and Teddy Roosevelt knew: The state needs to implement government power to tame nefarious profiteers permanently (the true “top”, which I hope Biden meant) and protect those Americans in their rights that are toiling day after day at the edge of the society to no avail. Will it take another 20 years before a majority of Americans come to this realization?
Because he left this part out, Biden was only talking about half of a plan that would really improve the livelihoods for the majority of Americans. Or did he omit this part on purpose and is clandestinely already on a path to “social democratize” the United States – a path that most Americans seem to confuse with “Socialism?” Has anyone actually realized that the Corona crisis is the last point in which it becomes clear that the United States, with all diversity and disparity, cannot go on as before if it wants to be prepared for the future?
The churches in particular have supported Trump and hatefully painted the specter of Socialism on the wall, fearing that Satan in the form of a Democrat might come after them, brandishing the tax bill with glowing eyes. Unfortunately, it is to be feared that hardly such a thing as taxing the churches will occur, although the President also said the following: “By the way, we don’t have anything against wealthy people. (If) you have a great idea, go out and make millions of dollars, that’s fine. I have no problem with that. But guess what: You’ve got to pay your fair share.”
For many years, while living in Florida and Georgia, I have wondered why the paganic Christmas Tree (German: Weihnachtsbaum) and even Santa Claus (der Weihnachtsmann) have adapted a widespread popularity in the US, but not the equally traditional advent wreath. This observation is remarkable, all the more so because this particular wreath (Adventskranz) of German origin has a classic clerical history – as opposed to Santa and the illuminated tree used in nearly every living room nowadays in Western Europe and large parts of America as well.
Whereas a decorated tree was already known in the days of the old Egyptians and then merely revived in a modern style by Germans during the time of the Holy Roman Empire not even 300 years ago, the advent wreath has a much shorter history. Social reformer and evangelic-Lutheran theologist Johann Hinrich Wichern, one of the founders of the home mission movement and initiator of a rescue work for neglected children and adolescents in the northern German city of Hamburg, invented the wreath in 1839. Originally assembled with a candle for every day in December and larger candles for every Sunday, it later became a four-candle wreath only with the first candle lit on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve. This occasion is hence called the first of advent, followed in a consecutive order until the fourth candle is ready to light on the last Sunday before Christmas.
The original wreath from 1839 was intended to serve as a symbolic lifebelt for stranded, poor young Hamburgers, of which many where orphans. Wichern provided shelter for them in a way that was unique back then: For the first time, destitute were not kept in closed shelters penned up in a single, large room, but just a few at a time living in smaller houses instead, enjoying generous liberties such as freedom of action.
In light of grim developments in our present world I would like to include the following true piece of history in my little Christmas story – directed in particular at those Americans deeply lost with the term “socialism” that is permanently thrown at them these days by scheming gull-catchers from the political right:
The Hanseatic city of Hamburg rose to a rather flourishing place after the Napoleonic wars, but only twenty percent of the inhabitants profited from the wealth. For decades the church ignored to see the misery of the poor and their necessities as a society of the proletariat, which led to a widespread renunciation from religious services on part of the destitute populace. At the time of our story, only eight percent of the Hamburgers received the communion compared to nearly hundred percent in the preceding century. Already then the society had reached a point of secularization. Johann Wichern exhorted the churches to look closely at the plight of the poor and to attend to the social crises.
In order to finance his mission, our theologist, himself born into a family of poverty and certainly not equipped with socialistic ambitions, successfully called upon the Christian conscience of the wealthy merchants and demanded their help in supporting those in need financially .
As for our little artifact, it took several decades until the wreath went on its triumphal procession through German lands. After World War I, in the early 20’s, Christian youth associations significantly contributed to the propagation. A catholic church in Koeln (Cologne) was first to display the wreath during service in 1925. In Austria, it expanded not before the end of World War II.
When I grew up – in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the (please note!) socialistic part of Germany – the advent wreath was ubiquitous on East German kitchen tables like knife and fork for dinner; not a single household and family home have I witnessed without the Christian relict on display. In retrospect, these historic facts are especially mind-blowing to me: All the other Christian holidays were legally observed in the midst of a socialist, totalitarian regime as well – with stores closed, people home from work and fully compensated for Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost (both Sunday and Monday), first Christmas Day (December 25), and second Christmas Day as well (December 26). These were all legal church holidays back then, and they still are in Germany to date besides some more non-church holidays.
So, the advent wreath never really made it from across the Atlantic to the United States, probably for reasons of its delayed publicity in its homeland and the fact that the bulk of Germans had arrived in America long before. But it’s paganic brother, the Christmas tree, befell an enormous popularity in next to no time after German immigrants had brought the tradition with them to Pennsylvania as early as the 1830’s.
 Though German culture, tradition and history hark back more than a thousand years, German people living in medieval times were at loose ends with the term “Germany.” From the 13th Century on, only single German states, dukedoms, baronies, bishoprics, and fiefdoms with autonomous rulers existed in a loose complex of territories and a subordinate emperor with only limited fullness of power. The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman, defined by 17th century historian Samuel Puffendorf as an “unclassifiable body comparable to a monster” (see Robert B. Asprey: Frederick the Great, XV). – A German nation state as such did not exist prior to the formation of the Second German Empire, founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871.
 In view of the current (early December, 2020) debate in Congress about another stimulus package, it might be reasonable to call wealthy corporations to account in the corona crises instead of granting them immunity through liability protection and shuffling off the entire financial burden to the ordinary taxpayer and future generations. Yes, following the same principle of Johann Hinrich Wichern in 1839 toward the super-rich: Would that be foolishly called “socialism”, so be it. President Harry S. Truman was a Democrat, but history remembers his words, spoken in 1952: “Socialism is their [the Republicans] name for almost anything that helps the people” (Quote: Harry S. Truman, 12 October 1952, Syracuse, NY). As we can see, it was not that much different back then.