Poverty News Round Up

With a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

The Newspaper:

1. Pope, in Brazil, urges social justice advocates not to give up.

“I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices. The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: it is the culture of solidarity that does so, seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters.”

2. Reuters finally notices that labor is receiving fewer of the benefits of productivity increases worldwide:

“According to the ILO, labor’s share of national income in 16 developed countries dropped from about 75 percent on average in the 1970s to 65 percent just before the financial crisis.

The mirror image of the decline in workers’ compensation is an increased share for capital, or profit.

Labor productivity has increased more than twice as much as average wages since 1999, the ILO says, and the surplus is going to the owners of capital, notably via much higher dividends.

“This is an enormous upheaval in the distribution of income in the global economy, and it has happened in an almost continuous straight line over the entire period,” Gavyn Davies, former chief economist of Goldman Sachs, wrote in a blog.”

3. The minimum wage is still not enough to live on…even with two full-time workers.

“Lost in all the bluster about raising New Jersey’s minimum wage, from $7.25 an hour to $8.25, is that neither is enough to live on.”

4. Detroit has filed for bankruptcy. Here’s how it affects the poor and unemployed:

“Daniel Rice comes to the Michigan Works! job placement office almost every day for four or five hours, searching for a job he has had no luck finding in a city that has seemed in perpetual decline.

On Friday, he found one listing, operating a forklift for $8 to $9 an hour. He’d happily take the work, even though it pays a third less than he made building axles for Chrysler before his factory shuttered two years ago. He hasn’t been employed since.”

5. Can moving neighborhoods help break the generational cycle of poverty? 

“Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.”

The Bible:

This week’s Gospel includes Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. While the Lord’s prayer is often overly spiritualized, most of it had very concrete implications for the poor. The request for daily bread is reminiscent of the manna in the wilderness, and really is simply a request for enough food to make it through the day. The forgiveness of debts fits in with the laws of Israel (Deut 15 and Lev 25) and refers not only to sin but also to literal economic debts. The request for the Kingdom to come was a request for God’s Kingdom and God’s justice to appear on earth. The Kingdom, which Jesus had come to announce was not the same as the afterlife, but rather a state of events characterized by the peace and justice of God. The poor, both then and now, tend to be just a little more serious about saying “Thy Kingdom Come” because God’s peace and justice cannot come soon enough for those who have been marginalized by our present economic and political order.

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