Poverty News Round Up

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

The newspaper(s):

1. The House voted for drastic cuts to SNAP (food stamps):

“The House approved legislation Thursday that would cut $39 billion in funds over the next decade for food stamp programs. Members approved H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, in a close 217-210 vote. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 15 Republicans voted against GOP leaders.”

2. This is what those cuts would mean, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The House SNAP bill is harsh.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it would deny SNAP to approximately 3.8 million low-income people in 2014 and to an average of nearly 3 million people each year over the coming decade.  Those who would be thrown off the program include some of the nation’s most destitute adults, as well as many low-income children, seniors, and families that work for low wages.

3. And this is what is likely to happen next:

The measure has little chance of advancing in the Senate, and Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called it “a monumental waste of time.”

(Editorial Note: Though this prediction comes from a partisan source, as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee Senator Stabenow has the votes in the Senate to prevent the bill from passing).

4. The U.S. Census Bureau released the results from the Community Population Survey and the American Communities Survey. Not much has changed between 2011 and 2012, but we’ll have more analysis of the new data next week.

5.  It’s time to rethink early childhood education:

“While education is a great equalizer of opportunity when done right, American policy is going about it all wrong: current programs don’t start early enough, nor do they produce the skills that matter most for personal and societal prosperity.

The cognitive skills prized by the American educational establishment and measured by achievement tests are only part of what is required for success in life. Character skills are equally important determinants of wages, education, health and many other significant aspects of flourishing lives. Self-control, openness, the ability to engage with others, to plan and to persist — these are the attributes that get people in the door and on the job, and lead to productive lives. Cognitive and character skills work together as dynamic complements; they are inseparable. Skills beget skills. More motivated children learn more. Those who are more informed usually make wiser decisions.”

The Bible:

This week Amos gets angry about exploitation:

8:4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
8:5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,
8:6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
8:7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

In addition to the obvious condemnation of false balances, the passage also deals with cycles of debt. Sandals were given as collateral and marked a completed business transaction (remember that Deuteronomy forbids taking a cloak as collateral, but says nothing about sandals). The poor were thus trapped in a cycle of debt, This practice remains in place today (minus the bit about the sandals), and just this week the NY Times ran a very good story about it.  People are still making money off the poor, and it is still wrong.



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