Subway preachers are a dime a dozen in New York. They seem especially numerous on the 7th Ave. line–the one most Commonweal staffers take to work. There’s the elderly Israeli man with the wild beard who promises a path to the pearly gates. The middle-aged Jamaican woman who preaches the peace of Christ in surprisingly aggressive tones. The thirty-something African-American man who delivers fire and brimstone to annoyed commuters. Usually I can tune them out. But when a particularly noisy one starts his routine and pulls my focus, I’ll move to another car.
I ran into one of those today. “Good morning!” the bearded man bellowed. He had the accent of a native Spanish-speaker, glasses, and he gesticulated with a file folder marked “2009.” Here we go again. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask for money.” That’s when I stood and headed for the door. “I do have a job,” he continued. “At least for the time being.” The doors opened. “My name is Austerity Nut and I preach the virtues of budget cuts.” I sat back down. Here’s what he said:
We are in a terrible crisis, my friends, because you, I, and all other working people have for too long been too comfortable and too greedy. The rich, on the other hand, are falling further and further behind, because they are being denied their fair share of the wealth produced in this country.
This is why all of us working people should welcome the opportunity to sacrifice for our suffering brothers and sisters on Wall Street. This is why our governor and mayor are cutting education, health care, and other unnecessary social services. These cuts are inevitable because we surely don’t want to tax the bonuses of our suffering brothers and sisters on Wall Street. Our mayor and governor are right to reduce their taxes. After all, our brothers and sisters on Wall Street are the main reason why our economy is in such great shape right now.
Now, it’s true that sometimes things can get hard for you and me. But it’s surely not fair to blame the rich for our own failings or to get angry at our wonderful capitalist system. Now more than ever, my friends, we must trust our politicians and the rich. They are good people–and, I promise you, they stay up a night making sure that every New Yorker has a well-paying job with good benefits; that no child goes to bed hungry at night; that no New Yorker is homeless; and that every New Yorker can afford to go to college. So let us accept tuition hikes at our public universities and fare hikes in our public transportation system. Let us accept that we don’t need unions, pay raises, or decent pensions.
And now, firm believer in free enterprise that I am, I will make this message available to you at the recession-proof price of zero dollars and zero cents. Please spread this uplifting message to everyone you know. Show it to your friends, neighbors, even your boss. Photocopy it, perform it, and distribute it as you please. And above all remember: Ask not what the billionaires in your country can do for you; ask what you can do for the billionaires.
About half the commuters on the train took a copy of his sermon. Some of them even smiled.