To paraphrase Karl Barth, one should preach with a Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other. To make that easier, we’re continuing to bring you the top stories in poverty for the week, and we’ve added some brief commentary based on the Revised Common Lectionary for each week. As always, leave a comment if you think we missed a big story.
1. The Senate passed a Farm Bill. The House is expected to vote later in the month.
The bill “would cut $24 billion from farm spending over 10 years, including a $4 billion reduction to food stamps….The House is working on a rival, $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years, with $20.5 billion of the cuts coming food stamps.”
2. The Farm Bill includes an amendment that would prevent felons from receiving nutrition assistance.
“If it becomes law, not only convicted criminals, but the children and other family members who depend on them will be affected — by one estimate, as many as 500,000 low-income households will have $90 less a month to spend on food.
It will make no difference if the crime was committed long ago; or if it was committed when the person was a child; or if the ex-offender has lived a law-abiding life ever since; or that he has already spent time behind bars and paid his debt to society.”
3. Brazil’s poverty rate has dropped from 22% to 7% and it’s Bolsa Familia program is the largest single anti-poverty program in the world. What can we learn from Brazil?
“Brazil still has millions of people living in poverty, and subsidising the basic needs of so many people is not cheap. But it all comes down to basics. Better-fed, healthy people contribute more to a country’s well-being. Malnutrition does the opposite, costing lives and resources. So what can the rest of the world learn from Brazil?”
4. The future of poverty may be in agriculture.
“California’s San Joaquin Valley is one of the richest agricultural regions in the world, with Fresno County farmers receiving a record $6.8 billion in revenues last year. But the region also consistently ranks among the nation’s most impoverished. Sometimes called “Appalachia of the West,” it’s where families, especially Hispanic immigrants and their children, live year after year in destitution.”
5. The safety net performed well during the recession. But it may not be able to continue.
“The U.S. safety net performed a lot better than you thought during the recent downturn, which was the deepest since the Depression. Thanks to expansions to the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and unemployment insurance—all beefed up by the $840 billion Recovery Act—the safety net almost wholly mitigated the rise in child poverty. Even middle-income households saw most of their income losses substantially offset by tax and transfer policies that sharply ramped up to help them.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of the Recovery Act’s outlays have now been spent, and pressure to reduce deficits leaves other spending on children and families under assault.”
In this Sunday’s first lesson (1 Kings 21:1-10) we hear the story of Naboth’s vineyard. Jezebel has Naboth killed for refusing to sell his land to King Ahab. Often overlooked is why Naboth refused to sell.
1 Kings 21:3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.”
Naboth is referring to Leviticus 25, which lays out the rules for property ownership. Property can be temporarily leased out, but is to be returned to its ancestral owners every 50 years as part of the Jubilee. This was one of the ways that Israel reduced inequality and made sure that families did not get trapped in cycles of poverty, as each new generation would be able to start with its ancestral land. I recommend Richard Horsley’s Covenant Economics as a good introduction to economics in the Bible.