Good News for the Long-Term Unemployed in a Strange Jobs Report

The headline numbers from this mornings job report are +113,000 jobs and a slight decrease in unemployment from 6.7% to 6.6%. Unfortunately, +113,000 jobs is less than the +190,000 expected, and also isn’t enough to reduce unemployment. Usually this means unemployment went down because people stopped looking for work. However, that’s not the case this month, the civilian labor force rose by 499,000, which pushed the labor-force participation rate up, meaning more people started looking for work than stopped.

The simple truth is the numbers don’t match up. The 113,000 jobs comes from a survey of businesses, and the unemployment rate is generated by a survey of households. The household survey shows 616,000 new jobs as well as a large reduction in people who were stuck in part-time jobs but wanted to work full-time (-514,000). In other words, we have a wildly optimistic household survey and a mildly pessimistic establishment survey. So what does it mean?

Usually the household survey is noisier (i.e. the numbers bounce around more) than the establishment survey. Remember that all surveys have a margin of error, and both the household survey and the establishment survey usually get substantially revised after their initial release. As part of this report November was revised up from 241,000 to 274,000 and December had an unusually small revision moving from 74,000 to 75,000. My guess is that eventually we will find January is doing roughly what the economy has been doing for the past 3 years, generating about 190,000 jobs per month, which is approximately enough to get us to full employment in 2020 or so. In other words, the economy is still improving, but is unacceptably slow for the 10.2 million people who remain unemployed and the 3.6 million long-term unemployed.

The report did contain good news for the long-term unemployed, with long-term unemployment down 232,000 since last month and down 1.1 million since last January.

longterm unemployed

 

The percentage of unemployed who are long-term unemployed has followed a similar pattern:

percent longterm unemployed

 

We won’t know for a while how to really reconcile the household survey and the establishment (business) survey, but for now this looks like a continuation of slow job growth, but some rather encouraging news for the long-term unemployed. Long-term unemployment is particularly important both because of the high financial, social, and psychological costs of unemployment and because the longer an individual is unemployed the less likely they are to be able to find quality employment again. Pushing down long-term unemployment should be a top priority for policymakers and advocates.

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Poverty in the State of the Union Address

President Obama laid out three policies to fight poverty in tonight’s State of the Union Address

  1. Fund Early Childhood Education
  2. Increase the Minimum Wage
  3. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit

Here’s what he had to say about each one:

1. Early Childhood Education: 

“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat thatrequest tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on theirown. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools,this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the countryin a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.”

2. Minimum Wage: 

Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own. Nick Chute is here tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a decision that eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.”

3. Earned Income Tax Credit:

“There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents atsome point. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids. So let’s work together to strengthen the credit,reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.”

 

Poverty News Round Up

This Week:  The battle over unemployment benefits has stalled, with two different proposals failing to pass the Senate. Republicans refused to vote to end debate (a vote that requires 60 members to pass) and so unemployment benefits were not voted on in the Senate. Republicans blame Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for not allowing amendments on the legislation. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has a good reminder of the devastating impact this has on children.

The number of children living with a parent who has been out of work for at least six months has tripled since the recession started in 2007. … The Urban Institute pointed to studies that found unemployment among parents “can hurt children’s school performance, as observed in lower math scores, poorer school attendance, and higher risk of grade repetition.”

children with long-term unemployed parents WSJ

Also, you can check out Wonkblog on the general impact of not extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed.

Last Week: Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. I highly recommend this analysis from Poverty and Policy about what we’ve learned since the War on Poverty started. It’s important to understand that there are two different types of poverty that call for very different solutions. Episodic Poverty, which is the type of poverty that’s periodic, and affects about one-third of the U.S. population; and Chronic Poverty, which is constant, and affects about 3.5 percent of the population. When we see the headline statistics of 15% in poverty we miss that there are really two groups here, and that they each need different things to help them escape from poverty.

There’s also a collection of some of the best reports published last week from the Coalition on Human Needs

Best Feature and Opinion:

1. Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed) shows that she still cares about poverty and that she still writes well in an article for the Atlantic:

The Great Recession should have put the victim-blaming theory of poverty to rest. In the space of only a few months, millions of people entered the ranks of the officially poor—not only laid-off blue-collar workers, but also downsized tech workers, managers, lawyers, and other once-comfortable professionals. No one could accuse these “nouveau poor” Americans of having made bad choices or bad lifestyle decisions. They were educated, hardworking, and ambitious, and now they were also poor—applying for food stamps, showing up in shelters, lining up for entry-level jobs in retail. This would have been the moment for the pundits to finally admit the truth: Poverty is not a character failing or a lack of motivation. Poverty is a shortage of money.

2. Maria Shriver writes about the female face of poverty for the Atlantic:

Our government programs, business practices, educational system, and media messages don’t take into account a fundamental truth: This nation cannot have sustained economic prosperity and well-being until women’s central role is recognized and women’s economic health is used as a measure to shape policy.

In other words, leave out the women, and you don’t have a full and robust economy. Lead with the women, and you do. It’s that simple, and Americans know it.

The Bible:

This is one of those rare weeks when the lectionary doesn’t have a reading on poverty (by my count it’s only happened twice in the seven months I’ve been writing these brief weekly reflections…in other words, poverty is a major theme in the Bible). That means it’s a perfect week to look at the Bible and poverty in a broader context, rather than a specific text. I’ve written a review of public policy in the Bible from Genesis through the Gospels  (someday I promise I’ll cover the epistles and Revelation as well – Revelation actually says quite a bit about economics once you start to understand the symbolism). It’s a little hard to summarize, but I come to four characteristics about public policy and the Kingdom of God after going through the Bible.

“The Kingdom of God is already present inasmuch as individuals are willing to collaborate with it, to enter into it and to live it out. It is also nonviolent, it does not overthrow power with violence but instead seeks to subvert that power (Matthew 5:38-41). The way of Jesus is to enter into this Kingdom that is typified by the teachings of Jesus, and the prophets, and the law. A kingdom is, of course, a form of political order. The Kingdom of God is one in which God is king, and clearly God is a very different kind of king than King David or any of the other kings of earth with whom we are familiar. Based on the overview given above there are a few characteristics that stand out to me:

  • An overwhelming concern with and compassion for the poor and vulnerable.
  • A rejection of physical wealth and power as status symbols or a way to be secure.
  • A desire for proper relationships with God and among human beings.
  • Peace that comes through justice, not violence.”

The Fundamental Stupidity of Our Anti-Poverty Policy

Consider a game of musical chairs. Now suppose our goal is to help out the poor people who were unable to find a chair when the music stopped. We could train them to be quicker, or we could make life more miserable for the losers, or try to match them with a particular chair ahead of time. All of these policies are obviously doomed to failure. No matter how much we help individual players in the game, there still aren’t enough chairs. The only solutions are to either have enough chairs for everybody or play a different game.

Now, consider our anti-poverty policy. We could educate people, or deny them unemployment benefits to make their lives miserable, or match them with jobs in a certain sector (of course, after a two-year vocational degree and student loans there’s no guarantee that sector will still be hiring). Ultimately, however, none of these solutions will solve the problem of poverty. In an economy where college-educated individuals are taking jobs that only require a high school education, the idea that additional education will solve poverty is laughable. It might help an individual, but unless there are more total jobs it just means displacing someone else.

There’s a long debate in poverty circles between personal causes of poverty and structural causes of poverty. A personal cause might be failure to show up on time to work leading to being fired, while a structural cause is inadequate access to medical insurance (i.e. the person can’t take a job because they’d lose medicaid but and not have anything to replace it). There are also causes that are a mix of structural and personal, for instance, dropping out of a bad high school is the result of both a personal decision and a structural factor (lack of access to quality education). Increasingly though, even structural diagnoses have focused on the individual. If we remove ‘barriers to work’ by providing proper education, medical coverage, child care, a tax credit that increases wages and so forth we will solve the structural problems that prevent individuals from working.

Unfortunately, this amounts to focusing on the individual players in our musical chairs game, while ignoring the real problem: there aren’t enough (insert expletive of choice) chairs!! “But wait!” I can hear the economists object. In a dynamic economy there’s not a fixed number of chairs. By improving individuals we can increase productivity and so increase the number of chairs. Now, we could get into the nuts and bolts of economic theory, but while that would be fun for me, you’d probably prefer the much more straightforward reply, “look at history.” The economy has grown much, much faster than the population for the past 60 years…and yet there still aren’t enough chairs. In fact, saying 60 years was being generous. The U.S. economist Henry George wrote in 1871:

The past century has been marked by a prodigious increase in wealth-producing power. It was naturally expected that labour-saving inventions would make real poverty a thing of the past. Disappointment, however, after disappointment has followed. Discovery upon discovery, invention after invention, have neither lessened the toil of those who most need respite nor brought plenty to the poor. The association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our time. (From Our Land Policy)

Since 1871 the wealth of each individual in the United States has increase over 13 times. And as George points out in 1871 we’d just experienced a century of growth that should have eliminated poverty. We had enough wealth in 1871 to eliminate poverty, and today we have thirteen times as much wealth per person as we did then. And yet we still have poverty. What has gone wrong?

As it turns out, poverty is not something that can be solved by technology or economic growth. And while we can (and should!) make life less miserable for the poor by providing a social safety net the roots of poverty go much deeper. We comfort ourselves with the though that poverty in the midst of affluence is an enigma, or a paradox that will go away if only we have enough scientific know-how. Poverty is rooted in the very structure of our political economy. As long as political and economic power is unequally distributed, so too will political and economic outcomes be unequally distributed.

This leaves poverty researchers with some new tasks. As Alice Connor writes in Poverty Knowledge:

The first task is to redefine the conceptual basis for poverty knowledge, above all by shifting the analytic framework from its current narrow focus on explaining individual deprivation to a more systematic and structural focus on explaining- and addressing – inequalities in the distribution of power, wealth, and opportunity. A second is to broaden the empirical basis for poverty knowledge – recognizing that studying poverty is not the same thing as studying the poor – by turning empirical attention to political, economic, institutional, and historical conditions, to the policy decisions that shape the distribution of power and wealth, and to interventions that seek to change the conditions of structural inequality rather than narrowly focusing on changing the poor.

One of the most frustrating things for advocates about going down this path is that the answers aren’t clearly defined. We know that a well-designed social safety net can alleviate misery. We don’t know which institutional reforms can change structural inequality without having intolerable side effects. (There are some pretty good ideas out there, and some of them even have decent evidence from other countries, but we’ll leave that for another time). Of course, what’s frustrating for advocates is exciting for researchers, as long as they remember that the study of poverty is not the study of the poor, but rather the study of a social, political, and economic system that produces poverty. Perhaps at one time poverty was produced by natural scarcity, but that is clearly not the case today. The solutions to poverty exist, but they are political, ideological, and social rather than technological and scientific.

A non-technical introduction to problems in measuring poverty

This week marks is the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. Before we can even begin to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in our fight against poverty we need to understand what we mean by poverty and how we measure it. This will not be a post full of technical details or mathematical formulas, it will just cover some of the basics about how we think about poverty.

Poverty measures can be absolute or relative. An absolute measure of poverty looks sets a fixed level of real income (the ‘real’ part of real income just means that it is adjusted for inflation each year). A relative measure of poverty sets the poverty level based on the income level of the rest of society. In most of Europe poverty is defined as making less than one-half of the median income. Critics of relative measures of poverty tend to argue that it is actually measuring inequality, not poverty. However, the idea that relative poverty matters goes back to well before anyone even had a poverty line to argue over. In Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith argues that a linen shirt and leather shoes were necessities of life, even for day-laborers for social reasons. Merely having biological needs met, and defining poverty solely in terms of food and shelter doesn’t capture what we really want to know. Is this person/family deprived of what they need to be a healthy and functioning part of society?

Poverty measures can also be based on consumption or income. They have historically been based on income, in part because it’s easier to measure. However, this causes us to miscount non-income benefits like medical care (through Medicaid or Medicare), or certain forms of housing. You can adjust incomes to try to capture this effect, but many economists have argued that we should instead measure poverty based on the amount people consume. This has the further benefit of not counting someone with high savings and low income as poor. (However, someone could have high income and choose not to consume very much of it by saving or giving it away, in which case a consumption measure might incorrectly categorize them as poor).

Finally, my favorite approach to measuring poverty is not widely practiced but it known as the capabilities approach. It owes its existence to Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. They attempt to get at “the relation between incomes and achievements, between commodities and capabilities, between our economic wealth and our ability to live as we would like.” (Sen, Development as Freedom)

The approach begins with the Aristotelian concept of ‘functionings’, i.e. “the various things a person may value doing or being.” From that, Sen is then able to define capabilities,

A person’s “capability” refers to the alternative combinations of functionings that are feasible for her to achieve. Capability is thus a kind of freedom: the subjective freedom to achieve alternative functioning combinations (or, less formally put, the freedom to achieve various lifestyles)

This approach moves us away from income which is good only inasmuch as it allows people to obtain other things (i.e. health, education, leisure, meaning, etc.) and towards directly evaluating those things which actually make up the good life. The problem, of course, is that this much harder to measure. However, in real life things like the U.N human development index which includes literacy and life expectancy in addition to income are examples of the capabilities approach being applied. The point is not that income does not correlate with other good things, it frequently does…but by assuming it always does can lead to poor policy decisions. (One of the most neglected issues is perhaps the trade-off between labor and leisure. If we were to work fewer hours our GDP would go down, but it’s not clear to me that we would be worse off. Similarly, if we got rid of social security, our GDP would go up as a greater portion of the elderly would be forced to work, but I’m almost certain that would be a bad trade-off for society. Life expectancy would go down, as would overall health and well-being). The point here is simply that it is better to publicly debate the good life than to assume away these difficulties by relying on two or three economic indicators. (I’ve written a more thorough critique of GDP specifically that can be found here).

So, where does this leave us for poverty? From the capabilities approach poverty is the inability to achieve some minimum level of functionings (possible lifestyles/choices). This could be from low income, or it could be the result of political oppression. It can also be the case that some people will need higher levels of income in order to achieve the same capabilities (as a simple example, a wheelchair and ramps might be needed for mobility by those who cannot walk…from a purely income-based point of view making buildings handicap accessible makes no dent in poverty or well-being…but from a capabilities approach it clearly does). On this view, any quantitative measurement of poverty should be an index that looks not only at income, but also at life expectancy, literacy, medical access, employment, and general well-being.  Such an index is perhaps a dream (and on a personal note one I might work on in graduate school), but it would provide us with a much better picture of poverty.

 

Poverty News Round Up

The Poverty News Round Up is getting a new look for the new year. Instead of featuring five news stories and scripture each week, we’ll focus on one event from the week ahead and one event from last week. We’ll also link to one or two top opinion and/or feature stories that don’t fit our weekly focus, as well as provide scriptural commentary. If you have a story or event you’d like to see included in the poverty news round up, please email me at nate@faithendpoverty.org.

The week ahead:

This week is marked by the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. Wednesday, Jan. 8th, is 50 years from the State of the Union Address in which Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty (full text and audio). It’s sure to be marked by an emphasis on the ongoing debate over whether or not we won the war on poverty.

There are two very important things to keep in mind as you read and hear about the war on poverty. First, the correct comparison is not between the poverty rate in 1964 (19%) and the poverty rate today (15%). The correct comparison is between the poverty rate today, and the poverty rate today in an alternate reality where the war on poverty never happened (??%). The basic problem with evaluating all social programs is that we can never truly know what would have happened without them. (On an individual program level over a shorter time period we have some fairly decent methods we can use to see if the program is effective, but estimating the overall impact of the war on poverty is extremely difficult, or perhaps even impossible).

Second, there are a lot of problems with the way we measure poverty. We use an income-based measure, but we don’t count things like housing vouchers as part of income. So anti-poverty programs that don’t give cash (and most of them don’t) may make people better off in ways we care about, but never actually show up as reducing the poverty rate simply because they are not included in our (flawed) measure of poverty.

Last week:

Long-term unemployment benefits have expired, leaving 1.3 million people without benefits and 4.9 million with fewer benefits than they would have gotten. The worst part is that far from encouraging work, getting rid of unemployment benefits actually causes people to give up on work altogether. Evan Soltas reviews the evidence from North Carolina, which cut off its benefits early, thus giving us a preview of what awaits the nation. His key finding:

Cutting unemployment insurance apparently hasn’t encouraged the unemployed to look harder for work: It has caused them to drop out of the labor force altogether.

To get unemployment insurance, you have to actively search for work and prove that you’re doing so. The drop in the labor force suggests that this incentive was effective. Without it, more people just give up.

By the way, people dropping out of the labor force does make the unemployment rate go down, but not in the way we want it too. Don’t be mislead by someone who just looks at the headline numbers and concludes that reducing unemployment benefits reduces unemployment. We need an increase in jobs, not an increase in people who have given up on ever finding one.

Top Opinion and Feature:

1. The New York Times has an excellent interactive map of poverty in the U.S. 

2. Mike Konczal takes a look at the impact of the minimum wage not on job creation, but on overall levels of poverty. His findings hold true across multiple studies, including those by minimum wage opponents:

…raising the minimum wage 10 percent (say from $7.25 to near $8) would reduce the number of people living in poverty 2.4 percent. (For those who thrive on jargon, the minimum wage has an “elasticity” of -0.24 when it comes to poverty reduction.)

Using this as an estimate, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as many Democrats are proposing in 2014, would reduce the number of people living in poverty by 4.6 million. It would also boost the incomes of those at the 10th percentile by $1,700. That’s a significant increase in the quality of life for our worst off that doesn’t require the government to tax and spend a single additional dollar.

The Bible: 

In the Psalm of the week we hear about the expectations of good governance. The rulers (in those days the King) was expected to defend the cause of the poor and deliver the needy from their oppression. Thousands of years later we still pray for the same thing. Psalm 72:

72:1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
72:3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
72:5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.
72:7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.
72:12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.
72:13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
72:14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Poverty News Round Up

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

The Newspaper:

1. What will happen when unemployment insurance is cut off? North Carolina moved early, so we get a preview of what will happen.

“North Carolina’s labor force began to shrink. The state is experiencing the largest labor-force contraction it’s ever seen — 77,000 fewer people were working or searching for work this October than a year ago. This should, but won’t, settle a partisan debate. Cutting unemployment insurance apparently hasn’t encouraged the unemployed to look harder for work: It has caused them to drop out of the labor force altogether.

To get unemployment insurance, you have to actively search for work and prove that you’re doing so. The drop in the labor force suggests that this incentive was effective. Without it, more people just give up.

…[and turn to charity]…

Ron Pringle, a food-bank director who oversees seven counties and 230 organizations in the state’s southeast, says they’ve seen on average a 17 percent increase in need since last year. “We’re seeing requests for food from our agencies well outside of our planned growth,” Pringle said. “Some of our member agencies have been able to meet that need, but many have not.”

2. Poverty and Policy blog takes the Washington Post to task for editorializing about SNAP in their news section:

“Nevertheless, only slightly over a quarter of participants stay in the program [SNAP] for two consecutive years or more, according to the latest data analysis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By contrast, the mother the Post profiles has participated for all but nine months of her life.”

3. Would raising the minimum wage increase the price of fast food?

“I do not support my tax dollars subsidizing large and profitable companies. Raising the minimum wage to $11.33, the poverty level, effectively shifts the cost of eating greasy French fries and overcooked burgers from taxpayers to fast food consumers — where they belong.”

4. Seven stories of unemployed New Yorkers about to lose unemployment insurance:

Robert Derczo, 64
Avenel, New Jersey — Accountant

I’ve been out of work since November 30, 2012. The hearing-aid company I worked for laid me off because of lack of sales. I was in manufacturing accounting, and they said they no longer needed me. They told me, “You did a good job, Bob. Now everything’s under control and we don’t need you anymore.” That’s okay, but I’ve probably put out close to 300 résumés in the last year. I consider myself a conservative Republican, for about 40 years, and I don’t like it when they say people are lazy. People aren’t lazy. There aren’t any jobs out there — there’s a complete lack of compassion. They come out with these blatant remarks without any thought whatsoever. I’m no spring chicken — I’ve been around the block a couple of times. But I still want to work, because I’m healthy, thank God.

5. Check out this excellent graphic by the Washington Post on who does, and does not, have insurance.

The Bible:

This week, we hear about the birth of Jesus. In the midst of the story and the season, let us not lose sight of just how remarkable it is that God choose to become human and be born into poverty. God choosing to become incarnate shows us that the defining characteristic of God is compassion. Henri Nouwen writes this about compassion:

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.

Is this not what God is practicing  through the incarnation? Immersing Godself in the condition of being human. In Jesus, God is poor, hungry, sad, tired, betrayed, hurt, and abandoned. God is also laughing, having friends,  and being a son, a teacher, and a healer. God is entering into the human condition, and not just the good parts, but all of the broken places as well. Now, if God’s primary attribute were justice, then there would be no need to become human, after all, an impartial judge can dispense justice. But God is not impartial. The good news is that we are not going to get what we deserve. Instead, we get a God who is with us every step of the way as we journey through life. A God of such compassion that rather than safely observe and deal out justice, God immersed Godself in humanity in order to feel with us (the literal meaning of compassion is feeling with). This Christmas, God enters the broken places of humanity with mercy and compassion. Merry Christmas!