With the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other:
1. Low-income students now make up a majority of school-children in the South and West:
“But by 2011, almost half of the nation’s 50 million public-school students — 48 percent — qualified for free or reduced-price meals. In some states, such as Mississippi, that proportion rose as high as 71 percent.”
2. Fast-food companies profit by paying less than a living wage. The difference is made up by taxpayer subsidies:
“More than half of the nation’s 1.8 million “core” fast-food workers rely on the federal safety net to make ends meet, the reports said. Together, they collect nearly $1.9 billion through the earned income tax credit, $1 billion in food stamps and $3.9 billion through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to a report by economists at the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center and the University of Illinois.”
3. Targeted anti-poverty programs work. Lessons from Canada:
“Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario are not alone in their fight to tackle poverty directly through a comprehensive, long-term approach. All but two provinces in Canada, (B.C. and Saskatchewan), now have poverty reduction plans or are in the process of developing them. The examples here highlight the fact that poverty reduction plans that include targets and timelines, and a coordinated set of policies, have been shown to deliver results in the Canadian provinces where they have been implemented.”
4. Economic inequality is a political choice.
“…the trend [towards inequality] was not universal, or inevitable. Over these same years, countries like Chile, Mexico, Greece, Turkey and Hungary managed to reduce (in some cases very high) income inequality significantly, suggesting that inequality is a product of political and not merely macroeconomic forces. It is not true that inequality is an inevitable byproduct of globalization, the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services, and technological change that favors better-skilled and better-educated employees.”
5. It’s time to focus on all poor people, not just those we deem deserving:
“Traditionally, Medicaid, and other government anti-poverty programs, have largely ignored childless adults under the antiquated rationale that only children, their parents, older Americans and the disabled are deserving of help. The sheer number of childless adults in poverty defies that notion, as does compassion and economic necessity — an economy cannot thrive with a significant share of the working-age population stuck in poverty.”
The Gospel this week (Luke 18:1-8) reminds us of the power of persistence. Jesus tells the story of a persistent widow who continually badgers a judge until she receives justice. Sometimes it feels like instead of knocking on the doors of the judicial and political system of our day we are instead banging our heads against the walls. Yet this too is a form of persistence. The judge in the story relents not because of any moral compunction, but simply because he is tired of being bothered by the widow. In the midst of the insanity in D.C. it is good to hear a message about the power of persistently seeking justice.