The evidence is irrefutable. Whether through one of "his" subsidiaries - Islam Catholicism or Christian Evangelical - it's clear that God believes in one world under capitalism and demands of his minions a healthy investment portfolio of stocks and mutual funds, and an unquestioning faith in the corporate purveyors of greed and corruption. God is extravagant in tastes, paternal in his worldview, and relishes the publicity he gets on US currency and in daily recitals of US Pledge of Allegiance. He is thrilled at the building of palatial houses of worship around the world at the expense of the hundreds of millions of those who are impoverished and struggle to find food, clothing and shelter. Is their any doubt that God favors the ruthlessly powerful and wealthy: the Bushes and Bin Ladens, the Murdochs and Alsauds, the Rumsfelds and Cheneys? God has no problem with income disparity and the brutal competition that is capitalism. In fact, he encourages it, applauds it. His beloved imbecile, US President George Bush II, spoke recently for God when he said that all matters political come from God and that God should have a say in appointing judges to America's courts. But there's more. The President owes God because God helped him become a real capitalist by helping him become a millionaire. With so many poor, so many middle-income households struggling to make ends meet, can their be any doubt about where God's priorities are? Is it any surprise that God is hard at work through his corporations lobbying the US Congress for more tax breaks, manipulating world financial markets, changing tax codes everywhere to favor his wealthy minions, and making sure that corporate executives receive immunity from prosecution? Saintly Investments At Crown Financial Ministries "God's Financial Principles" are taught to practitioners. According to Crown, God suggests that disciplined financial management comes from investing according to the financial advice in the Bible. No econometric models here. "It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it" (Proverbs 10:22). With that advise, Crown provides religious leaders and their flocks with the necessary tools to invest and manage money for easy living and, of course, turning earnings into donations back to the God's bureaucracy. God invests through his various subsidiaries making money on everything including hip replacement gear, video games, soft drinks, genetic engineering and defense contracting. Over at Christian Stewardship Funds, God's investment managers are pretty picky about "evil doers" who might get their hands on God's money. Christian scrubs its funds and shuns investments in stocks or bonds of companies involved in abortion, alcohol, gambling, pornography, and tobacco industries. Christian claims that it is the only index mutual fund family with these screens. But wait! The Timothy Plan goes one step beyond the Christian financial offering and claims that it is "is a family of mutual funds offering individuals, like yourself, a biblical choice when it comes to investing. If you are concerned with the moral issues (abortion, pornography, anti-family entertainment, non-married/same-sex lifestyles, alcohol, tobacco and gambling) that are destroying children and families you have come to the right place." Oddly though, one of Timothy's portfolios includes investments in BioGen, a company that develops drugs through genetic engineering and Electronic Arts, purveyors of violent video games. Also in the mix is KPMG Consulting, the firm with many US defense contracts and responsible for the flaky audit of Xerox. BusinessWeek reports that KPMG is under investigation by the SEC here in the US and is getting hammered in Germany. "On Apr. 24, KPMG Germany was forced to disavow the financial reports of former client Comroad, a small software maker based near Munich. The embarrassing reason: On Apr. 23, a new auditor found that 97% of Comroad's reported sales in 2000 came from a nonexistent company. Former Comroad CEO Bodo A. Schnabel is in jail, awaiting trial on fraud charges. In an attempt at damage control, KPMG has said it will re-audit all 35 clients whose stocks trade on Frankfurt's tech-heavy Neuer Market." Nothing like some good old time Christian fraud. But it's the return that counts, no matter whether it's tinkering with the genetic code (obviously God's not concerned about that anymore) or the linkage to malfeasance that many of Timothy's investments have. Show Me the Money! "In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful" reads the banner at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Founded in 1975, the Bank's purpose is to promote "economic development and social progress of member countries and Muslim communities individually as well as jointly in accordance with the principles of Shari'ah i.e., Islamic Law." The bank helped get the attention of Wall Street and subsequently in 1999, the Dow Jones Islamic Market index was created which contains roughly 1,862 Shari`ah-compliant stocks from 34 countries with a market capitalization of US $11 trillion. The FTSE Islamic Market Index contains 660 Shari'a-compliant companies and includes notables such as Coca-Cola and Microsoft. Islamic financial advice, like their Christian counterparts at Crown, are laced with quotes from "holy" works reminding the investor or borrower of the gravity of investing with God or borrowing from God. "Be fearful of a day when you shall be returned to Allah, then everybody shall be paid, in full, what he has earned. And they shall not be wronged." That admonishment appears on an Islamic-banking site after a discussion of finance and borrowing. According to the Qur'an and the Bible, messing around with God's money - not getting a good return - can get one into a lot of trouble and cause problems on judgement day. Of course, no look at God's finances would be complete without the Catholic Church. The Catholic Values Investment Trust puts God's money into roughly 100 Blue Chip stocks but the money can only be invested after the Church Magisterium and the Trust's Board of Advisors reviews the stocks to make sure that the companies represented by the stocks adhere to God's teachings. The Board has as its members Margaret Heckler, a former Congresswoman, Ambassador and US government bureaucrat, and two former ambassadors to the Holy See in Rome. Investments include defense contractors General Electric and ITT Industries, Alcoa Aluminum, American Express, Coke, Pepsi and oil and energy conglomerates. Put up US $ 1,000 and you can get in on the high yields of the Catholic Trust. In the immortal words of Pastor Simon of Cheltenham UK, "We see God - far from being averse to money - gives power to get wealth. Power to get wealth is available with God. So what do we need to do? We need to remember God and recognize His plan for wealth in the hands of godly men and women." So get out there and be the best capitalist taskmaster you can. And remember when you put your soul up for auction on E-Bay, drive a hard bargain with God. After all, he's a capitalist too. John Stanton is a Virginia-based writer on national security affairs and Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist who writes and comments frequently on civil liberties and human rights issues. John Stanton and Wayne Madsen
Within the context of some narrowing of Europe's inequalities, Portugal is a country with evident relative impoverishment.