Archive for the tag “entitlements”

The real poverty behind America’s crisis

povertyThe fundamental crisis in the United States is not political or even financial, but cultural — the deterioration of a society into herds of utterly self-absorbed souls, focused entirely on getting what the commercials, pundits, and demagogues tell them they need, completely clueless about how to make good lives for themselves, much less how to create and govern a healthy society.

The moral crisis that has so absorbed conservative evangelicals for four decades — as serious as it is — is but a symptom of the underlying disease. Christians who want to see justice done for the poor and oppressed (and for the broader society as well) must attack the root cause, sharing not only a verbal witness to the abundant, eternal life Jesus offers, not only mercy ministries that help people in desperate need, but also the knowledge and habits they have used to make their own way in the world. Poverty, at its core, is a poverty of relationship with people who know how to not be poor.

Sohrab Ahmari interviews Harvard University political scientist Harvey Mansfield about the 2012 election, the real cost of entitlements, and why he sees reason for hope:

The Crisis of American Self-Government

… “The Democrats [during the recent election] said nothing about their plans for the future. All they did was attack the other side. Obama’s campaign consisted entirely of saying ‘I’m on your side’ to the American people, to those in the middle. No matter what comes next, this silence about the future is ominous.”

At one level Mr. Obama’s silence reveals the exhaustion of the progressive agenda, of which his presidency is the spiritual culmination, Mr. Mansfield says. That movement “depends on the idea that things will get better and better and progress will be made in the actualization of equality.” It is telling, then, that during the 2012 campaign progressives were “confined to defending what they’ve already achieved or making small improvements—student loans, free condoms. The Democrats are the party of free condoms. That’s typical for them.”

But Democrats’ refusal to address the future in positive terms, he adds, also reveals the party’s intent to create “an entitlement or welfare state that takes issues off the bargaining table and renders them above politics.” The end goal, Mr. Mansfield worries, is to sideline the American constitutional tradition in favor of “a practical constitution consisting of progressive measures the left has passed that cannot be revoked. And that is what would be fixed in our political system—not the Constitution.”

… “Democrats have their cultural argument, which is the attack on the rich and the uncaring,” Mr. Mansfield says. “So Republicans need their cultural arguments to oppose the Democrats’, to say that goodness or justice in our country is not merely the transfer of resources to the poor and vulnerable. We have to take measures to teach the poor and vulnerable to become a little more independent and to prize independence, and not just live for a government check. That means self-government within each self, and where are you going to get that except with morality, responsibility and religion?”

Read this important article by clicking here.

“Where are you going to get that except with morality, responsibility and religion?”

Where are they going to get that, except through transforming relationships — with God through Christ and with the people of God who can model for them the abundant life in all its dimensions.

Let others waste time venting bile on Facebook

In light of Paul Ryan’s dishonest speech about poverty, faith leaders and national poverty experts are speaking out against his misguided policies.

That’s how members of the Faith in Public Life Action Fund styled their response to an Oct. 24 speech by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan at Cleveland State University. Faith in Public Life is “a strategy center for the faith community advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good,” formed by “a diverse group of 40 religious leaders” after the 2004 US election cycle, “in which faith was often deployed in service of a narrow and partisan agenda.” PFL’s board includes representatives of the Presbyterian (PCUSA), Congregational, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Jewish faith traditions, as well as organizations such as Teach For America, the Service Employees International Union, and the Center for American Progress.

During the Cleveland speech, Ryan said, ““In this war on poverty, poverty is winning. We deserve better.” Ryan made an argument against a government-centered approach to combating poverty and offered “a comprehensive case for a vibrant civil society that cares for its poor on a local and personal level,” according to a report from The Weekly Standard. “With a few exceptions, government’s approach has been to spend lots of money on centralized, bureaucratic, top-down anti-poverty programs,” Ryan said, according to the report. “The mindset behind this approach is that a nation should measure compassion by the size of the federal government and how much it spends. The problem is, starting in the 1960s, this top-down approach created and perpetuated a debilitating culture of dependency, wrecking families and communities.”

The FPL press release criticized Ryan’s swing-state speech as “a clear attempt to obscure the Romney/Ryan agenda’s devastating impact on poor families.” The group characterized the GOP agenda as “slashing food programs for low-income families, weakening health care for seniors and coddling the wealthy with more tax breaks.” A Roman Catholic sister said Ryan “thinks dependency on the government is what causes poverty” and called on America’s leaders “to focus on what works, not on their political agendas.”

“Focus on what works, not on political agendas.” Now there’s an excellent idea! Let’s talk about that.

Political rhetoric aside, it’s only fair to point out that a strong faith-based perspective is integral to Ryan’s argument about combating poverty. He held up for his audience the example of a young family that not only opened a homeless shelter in their community but lived in the shelter for seven years.

“He [Brian Wade of Elyria, Ohio] and his volunteers didn’t just provide hot meals and clean clothes, though that alone would have been a lot. At his youth outreach center, he didn’t just give kids a safe place to come in from the streets. In all of this, Brian gave himself. He didn’t show people in need the right path—he walked it with them, not just as a guide, but as a friend,” Ryan said, according to The Weekly Standard. “This good man, and others like him, are witnesses, and the needy people who have encountered them feel a presence greater than just one compassionate soul. What’s really at work here is the spirit of the Lord, and there is no end to the good that it can inspire. Government can’t replace that.”

Leaders of both major parties have been guilty of cynically manipulating religion to advance their political fortunes. Authentic faith comes alongside the poor and shows them how to make a better life for themselves. Authentic faith motivates the “haves” to voluntarily leverage their wealth to help “have nots” who genuinely want to make their own way. One group of rich, powerful people using government to steal from another group of rich, powerful people is no more just than trapping people in multi-generational poverty by doling out pittances, rather than showing them a path to success.

Simply reading one book would go a long way toward crafting a strategy of welfare reform that truly would give people a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Political rhetoric aside (again), Bread for the World President David Beckmann was right when he said, according to the FPL release: “Hunger and poverty are not Republican or Democratic issues – they are moral issues affecting 47 million hungry Americans. … Churches and charities alone can’t meet all the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. Government must be a partner in promoting the common good.”

Both parties are guilty of expanding “entitlements” to make citizens dependent on — and, therefore, captive to — the government for survival needs. The welfare plantation benefits whoever controls the levers of power in the capital. The best interests of the poor will only be served when people of faith step up to love their neighbors as themselves and build the relational bridges that help people in generational poverty escape captivity.

Beckmann is right. The challenge before us is too great for any one player in society to accomplish alone. The strategy for combating poverty must be integrated and comprehensive. The five giants that oppress God’s children — spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy — can only be defeated as all segments of society marshal their respective forces and attack in unison.

The plan for P.E.A.C.E. has already been crafted. What we need to do is lay aside our “us vs. them” animosities, focus on people in need, and work the plan.

Let others waste time venting bile on Facebook and vandalizing neighbors’ yard signs. People of authentic faith must be busy today seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness.

— mk

I was hungry and you … called your Congressman

Kristin Rudolph writes at juicyecumenism.com:

There is no debate that Christians are called to care for the poor and hungry. When Jesus said “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” he made it clear that caring for those in need is not optional. How we do so, however, is a more contentious issue. For some, obeying this command means forming a “Circle of Protection” around federal government entitlement programs.

Since the federal budget debate began to heat up in the spring and summer of 2011, a group of religious activists formed a “Circle of Protection” with the purpose of lobbying President Obama and Congress to avoid cutting funding for welfare programs. Recently, Bread for the World president David Beckmann spoke to a group of “emergent Christians” about “changing the politics of hunger.” On June 20, at small gathering of Washington, D.C. based “emergent Christians,” he discussed how Christians can end world hunger by influencing “the most powerful institution in the world:” the United States government.

Beckmann explained his view that Christians ought to care for the needy in their community, but also they should make sure the government is “leading” the effort to solve poverty and hunger. To accomplish this, he stressed the importance of contacting representatives in Congress and telling them to protect entitlement programs. It is not enough, he claimed, for churches and local institutions to address these needs. He cited statistics that found if Congress made the proposed cuts to the SNAP program (food stamps), every church in the US would have to provide $50,000 each year to “fill the gap.” Beckmann stated: “it’s just not possible.”

There is evidence, however, that the growth of government programs crowds out private charitable giving.

Read the rest here.

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