Poverty News Round Up

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

1. The new face of unions:

“The Workers Defense Project is one of 225 worker centers nationwide aiding many of the country’s 22 million immigrant workers. The centers have sprouted up largely because labor unions have not organized in many fields where immigrants have gravitated, like restaurants, landscaping and driving taxis. And there is another reason: many immigrants feel that unions are hostile to them. Some union members say that immigrants, who are often willing to work for lower wages, are stealing their jobs.”

2. Prison reform might finally be happening:

“This week Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s attorney-general, declared that America has an “unnecessarily large prison population” (see article). That is putting it mildly. The Land of the Free has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners. In all, about 2.2m Americans fester behind bars: one in every 107 adults. Minor crimes are punished severely, serious ones ferociously. The cost is staggering: $80 billion a year, or $35,000 per inmate; not to mention “human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate”, as Mr Holder put it. America’s prisons are often harsher than those in other rich countries (see article), as the protests against solitary confinement in California illustrate (see article).”

3. The testimony that wasn’t included at the congressional hearing on poverty, testimony from someone who actually is poor.

“Gaines-Turner discusses a familiar story — low-income families working “two-to-three jobs to make ends meet,” with “wages so low and expenses so high” that sometimes work “may not be enough to even pay for the expense of child care.” She also describes what some call the “cliff effect” — when government assistance (such as child care) is taken away at the very moment someone begins to get ahead.”

4. The SNAP bill is being debated in the House again:

“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is masterminding a new SNAP (food stamp) proposal that’s supposed to cut the program by around $40 billion over the next 10 years. This is nearly twice as much as the version in the Farm Bill that went down to defeat in mid-June.”

5. Social Mobility in perspective:

“If there’s one issue on which both the left and right agree, it is the crisis of declining mobility. The American dream at its core is that a person, no matter his or her background, can make it here. A few weeks ago, four economists at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley released a path-breaking study of mobility within the United States. And last week the Journal of Economic Perspectives published a series of essays tackling the question from an international standpoint. The research is careful and nuanced, yet it does point in one clear direction.”

The Bible:

When I first started including lectionary commentary in the poverty news round up, my wife asked me what I would do if there was nothing about poverty in the lectionary for that week.  I told her I would simply say the lectionary didn’t address poverty, and choose one of my favorite Bible passages to write about instead that week. However, the lectionary has never failed to discuss poverty. With four readings to choose from, it seems that one, or frequently more than one has always had something to say about poverty. The plight of the poor is central to the Bible.  Jim Wallis of Sojourners counts more than 3,000 verses about poverty. This week, we hear from the psalmist (82:3-4):

“Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”


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