How the Phrase “Let Them Eat Cake” Still Rings True in 2020

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Paris for the first time. As I toured the city and went to the Louvre and Versailles, I began to have a better understanding of the French Revolution. The opulence that the ruling class was living in, spending the tax payers’ dollars while their citizens lived in squalor would make anyone want to revolt. As I’ve watched the American government continue to disregard the struggles of its’ citizens I can’t help but be reminded of the story of Marie Antoinette after she is told that people are starving and cannot afford to buy bread. Her response is “let them eat cake.” And while historians have long said that she probably never uttered these words, it goes to the mindset of someone who cannot understand what it means to be poor and lack. If I cannot afford bread, then how could I afford cake or afford the ingredients necessary to make a cake? 

            This year as a pandemic has ravaged the world, here in America we have received ONE stimulus check in March for $1200 with additional money if you have children. It’s now almost a new year and many of the protections that were put in place are set to expire. Congress argues amongst themselves about how much each American deserves to get. Major corporations have received billions of dollars in not only revenue but government aid. While for many people, they were unable to celebrate the Holiday season this year. As our government finally drafted a bill that would give each American under a certain income bracket an additional $600(half of the last stimulus in March), the President vetoed the bill saying it wasn’t enough. He then boarded the Presidential helicopter to spend Christmas at his beach side estate in West Palm Beach. 

            Many members of Congress argued that $600 would be helpful. Many members of Congress are also millionaires, and make over $200,000 a year. People online have argued that $600 is better than $0. Which is true, but I would argue that they are not in a position where they need government aid, or they wouldn’t qualify anyway. So, it’s of no consequence to them either way. 

The median rent in most major US cities is $1200. Meaning this aid could not help you pay one month’s rent. I live alone with no dependents or anything to take care of but myself. Six hundred dollars would pay for my bills, not including my rent, and I would have maybe fifty dollars left over to buy basic groceries such as milk, eggs, and bread. For a family, this is a drop in the bucket and it’s an insult. The French Revolution was over two hundred years ago, and yet we’re still being told to let them eat cake. And what’s worse is that during the French Revolution they had a King, we have a government appointed by the people, but who does not work for the people. 

As I watched this week, as the same members of Congress who doubted the Coronavirus were first in line to receive the vaccine, I was disgusted. I am disgusted. As I’ve watched the Church argue and fight over their right to meet in person, I have heard less from Christians about their Brothers and Sisters who are suffering this year. I imagine if Jesus walked amongst us, he would be saddened to see what we’ve turned his teachings into. A person cannot hear the Gospel if they are cold and hungry. When the 5000-needed food, Jesus didn’t feed them spiritually, he fed them literally. Our needs to be clothed, and feed and have shelter are not abstract they are tangible and real. 

There has been a lot of talk about privilege in terms of race, but privilege applies to many different areas. Economic, social, racial, and the list continues. Congress can get away with these disrespectful acts of penance because we the people are too busy arguing amongst ourselves about whether it’s helpful, instead of demanding that they do better. This week if a bill is not signed, millions of Americans will lose their unemployment benefits, rent and mortgage protections, and the government is at risk of shutting down. Hope you have some cake to celebrate! 

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