Thursday, November 21, 2013

Poverty - not an intractable problem

According to Luke's gospel (6:20), Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor." Matthew's gospel spiritualizes that saying (5:3), reporting that Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The affluent tend to find the latter more comfortable than the former because spiritualizing Jesus' teaching saps those teachings of their revolutionary demands that we care for the least among us.

The United States, by any measure, ranks among the elite top handful of the world's wealthiest nations. Yet a staggering 1 in 6 of its citizens – about 16% – live in poverty.

We can change this immoral situation. For example, John Sutter, an economist who writes for CNN, recently proposed 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
Sutter's seven points may not be a panacea but offer a starting point for public discourse about how to close the income gap and decrease wealth inequality, problems that threaten the foundations of democracy and thus its very survival. I've advocated several of these positions in previous Ethical Musings posts.

What will you do to reduce the unconscionable gap between the affluent and the poor?

1 comment:

Stan Theman said...

Your own church runs some of the most exclusive private schools in the US; why don't you teach the children of the poor instead of rich kids?
You've know about this for years and yet you haven't done anything.