Friday, November 22, 2013

Is poverty intractible? Economist lists seven solutions

According to Luke's gospel, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor.”  Period. But many of us who consider ourselves even modestly well-off may find it easier to hear Matthew’s version, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” 

The affluent tend to find the latter approach more comfortable, Episcopal priest and retired U.S. Navy Chaplain George Clifford writes in his blog, “Ethical Musings,” because “spiritualizing Jesus' teaching saps those teachings of their revolutionary demands that we care for the least among us.”

In the midst of affluence and rampant consumerism, one in every six Americans lives in poverty.  Should that matter to the rest of us? What should we do to address the gap between America’s rich and poor? What can we do?

Want specifics? Rev. Clifford offers for our consideration a proposal by economist John Sutter, who recently listed seven ways to reduce the income inequality gap in the United States ("7 ways to narrow the rich-poor gap," CNN Opinion, October 29, 2013):
  1. Break down social barriers – when the affluent and poor see one another as real humans, the affluent generally respond with compassion and real help
  2. Improve public schools; unify public and private schools – attending public schools helps to build bridges between children from different socio-economic backgrounds; private schools sap reform drives and economically segregate children
  3. Raise the minimum wage to 1960s levels, at least
  4. Tax the rich at a reasonable rate
  5. Give workers a voice in their companies – this is good management and good for business, increasing profitability, improving operations and giving workers a stake in the business
  6. Reign in crazy-huge donations to political campaigns – if large donations did not buy influence why would the wealthy make those political contributions?
  7. Give money to the poor – maybe at random

What do you think?  No. 1 may be as easy as volunteering to help out in a soup kitchen or food pantry.  And we can act on No. 7 as individuals at any time.  The others are generally policy changes that require action through making our voices heard, to our lawmakers and in our social settings.  Are you ready for that?