Poverty News Round Up

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

The Newspaper:

1. Nelson Mandela has passed away. Mandela was a tireless advocate for justice.

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” – Nelson Mandela

2. It’s time to raise the minimum wage, says econometrician Arin Dube,

“The idea of fairness has been at the heart of wage standards since their inception. This is evident in the very name of the legislation that established the minimum wage in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act. When Roosevelt sent the bill to Congress, he sent along a message declaring that America should be able to provide its working men and women “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” And he tapped into a popular sentiment years earlier when he declared, “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”

3. The evidence supporting a minimum wage hike is very good, says economist and columnist Paul Krugman,

“It’s important to understand how good this evidence is. Normally, economic analysis is handicapped by the absence of controlled experiments. For example, we can look at what happened to the U.S. economy after the Obama stimulus went into effect, but we can’t observe an alternative universe in which there was no stimulus, and compare the results.

When it comes to the minimum wage, however, we have a number of cases in which a state raised its own minimum wage while a neighboring state did not. If there were anything to the notion that minimum wage increases have big negative effects on employment, that result should show up in state-to-state comparisons. It doesn’t.”

4. President Obama gives a major speech on inequality:

“The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough. But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action. We are a better country than this.”

5. Minimum wage is essential to making work a viable pathway out of poverty, says economist Jared Berstein:

“In my view, there’s nothing wrong, and a lot right, with the idea that work for able-bodied adults is an important pathway out of poverty.  But the only, and I mean ONLY, way that works is if ample living wage jobs are available to all comers.  If labor demand in the low-wage sector outpaces, or at least tightly matches, labor supply.  If the minimum wage is set at a supportive level and other work supports, like the EITC and affordable health care, are solidly in place.

Otherwise, “work as a pathway out of poverty” is nothing more than a cruel construct, mindlessly repeated by ideologues with little connection to the real world.”

The Bible:

We are now in the forgotten season of advent. It is in part forgotten because of it’s radical implications for justice. As Diana Butler Bass writes,

During these weeks, churches are not merry. There is a muted sense of hope and expectation. Christians recollect God’s ancient promise to Israel for a kingdom where lion and lamb will lie down together. The ministers preach from stark biblical texts about the poor and oppressed being lifted up while the rich and powerful are cast down, about society being leveled and oppression ceasing. Christians remember the Hebrew prophets and long for a Jewish Messiah to be born. The Sunday readings extol social and economic justice, and sermons are preached about the cruelty of ancient Rome and political repression. Hymns anticipate world peace and universal harmony.

This week we hear John’s furious condemnation of the pharisees as a brood of vipers, and Isaiah’s proclamation of hope for the poor and doom for the powerful:

11:1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
11:2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
11:3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
11:4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

 

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