Poverty News Round Up

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

The Newspaper:

1. Fast food workers are striking across the country.

“From New York to several Midwestern cities, thousands of fast-food workers have been holding one-day strikes during peak mealtimes, quickly drawing national attention to their demands for much higher wages.”

2. SNAP benefits to be cut in November, if Congress fails to act.

“The 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits is scheduled to end on November 1, 2013, resulting in a benefit cut for every SNAP household.  For families of three, the cut likely will be $20 to $25 a month — $240 to $300 a year.”

3.  GDP continues to be challenged as an inadequate measure of social progress.

“The G.D.P., according to arguments I heard from economists as far afield as Italy, France and Canada, has not only failed to capture the well-being of a 21st-century society but has also skewed global political objectives toward the single-minded pursuit of economic growth.”

4. More poor people live in suburbs than in the city.

“More than 15 million people currently live in poverty in the suburbs, compared with 12.8 million in the cities, according to a book released by the Brookings Institution in May.”

5. Can we actually do something about inequality?

“Connecting the nation’s schools to broadband is a good idea. So is tweaking the tax code to help ordinary Americans save for retirement.

Measured against what the president called “the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades,” however, they are less than overwhelming.”

The Bible:

 “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15

This week’s Gospel reminds us that abundant possessions do not make  for a good life. This message stands in stark contrasts not only to advertising, but also to a society that measures its success by the latest GDP numbers. I was reading Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book and while her points about gender inequality in the workplace are well taken, her view of life as a ‘constrained optimization problem’ is disturbing. Economic thinking is beginning to enter realms previously governed by social norms. I’ve written before about how social norms are being crowded out by market norms, leaving society poorer as a result. We, as people of faith, know that the good life consists of more than being able to satisfy our preferences by buying things we want. That’s a message the world needs to be reminded of. Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel argues that with little to no discussion,

…we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. The difference is this: A market economy is a tool – for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It’s a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market.

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