Category: Poverty

Last September the New York City Board of Health approved a measure that would ban the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces. Politicians justified the action because of the city’s escalating obesity rate and research linking sugary drinks to weight gain. Overall, care for obesity-related illnesses costs the New York City nearly $2.8 billion annually, according to city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. Politicians, then, believe they have the authority to legislate how much of a beverage citizens can legally purchase at one time.

In a strange turn of events, and possibly the first time in recent history we seen cooperation of this nature, the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation are joining forces to fight government intervention in the market to try to stop the ban from taking effect March 12. The Associated Press reports:
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Just after the Presidential inauguration several leaders raised questions about whether or not President Obama should have sworn the oath of office by placing his hand on the Bible. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church—a Protestant mega-church in Seattle—after seeing Obama sworn in said, “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.” Driscoll’s comments stirred up a firestorm of controversy across the country and the Internet.

From a different angel, Dr. Cornel West, professor of Religious Philosophy and Christian Studies at the Union Theological Seminary, reacted strongly against President Obama placing his has on the Bible of Martin Luther King, Jr. in particular. From West’s perspective President Obama had no business placing a hand on King’s Bible for any reason. Obama is no King, suggests West:
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Blog author: abradley
posted by on Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Food Bank For New York recently released their annual report on the state of hunger in the city and the growing disparity between low-income New Yorkers and New York City’s professional class. The report refers to this disparity as the food “haves” and “have nots.” The report, “NYC Hunger Experience 2012: One City, Two Realities,” was released Tuesday at the 21st annual Agency Conference.

The New York Non-Profit Press summarized the key findings:
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Ernesto Sirolli says we are failing at helping the developing world, and he should know: he’s been doing this work for a long time. In this fresh, funny and insightful TedX talk, Sirolli says the key to bringing people out of poverty is entrepreneurship. Pointing out that the prevailing attitudes of paternalism and patronization don’t work, Sirolli emphasizes that we must become servants to the local passion before any development can occur. He quotes Peter Drucker: “Planning is actually incompatible with an entrepreneurial society and economy. Planning is the kiss of death of entrepreneurship.”

This is exactly the message of PovertyCure. Sirolli’s approach to development is to “shut up and listen.” In the PovertyCure Statement of Principles, it states, “Development is about more than GDP; it’s about integral human flourishing.” Without addressing local needs, customs, dreams and gifts, development fails. All we do is feed the hippos.

The Pew Center on the States is reporting that ten states voted to raise the minimum wage for workers in 2013. Teens and low-skilled workers should be protesting in response. According to the report,

Nine states will adjust the wages to accommodate the rising costs of living, as required by state laws, while Rhode Island will implement a law signed by the governor in June that raises its minimum wage to $7.75 per hour. The wage hikes range between 10 cents and 35 cents per hour, adding between $190 and $510 to the average affected worker’s annual pay.

In Washington State the rate will rise to $9.19 per hour, the highest in the nation. While this may sound like good public policy these wage increases actually hurt the very same people they intended to help. Whenever lawmakers decide to arbitrarily determine the price of labor (wages) we need to stop and ask this simple question, “where are employers going to find the money to cover the wage increase?” It has to come from somewhere. Why is that not a natural “next question?”

As I have said before, minimum wage increases hurts teens and low-skilled minorities the most because minimum wage jobs are usually entry-level positions filled by employees with limited work experience and few job skills. When the government forces employers to pay their workers more than a job’s productivity demands, employers, in order to stay in business, generally respond by hiring fewer hours of low-skill labor. Low-skill workers become too expensive to employ, creating a new army of permanent part-timers.

Washington State, for example, with its 2011 $8.67 minimum wage also had one of the nation’s highest teen unemployment rates at 34.5% in that same year. The tragedy is that lawmakers seem incapable of connecting the wage increase/opportunity dots. In the meantime, teen and low-skilled workers continue to suffer the consequences of politicians meddling in the market place while business gets blamed for being greedy.

The BBC News reports that 1 out of 10 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are struggling to cope with life. The main culprit: despair related to unemployment. The survey of 2,000 teens and young adults was conducted by The Prince’s Trust Youth Index.

The survey commentators seem surprised that education and training opportunities alone are not enough to provide hope for unemployed young people. Young people rightly want to know why they are training for jobs that do not exist. This has been particularly difficult for Northern Ireland where 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds cannot find employment. From the BBC:
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In the German newsmagazine Spiegel, Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati says that foreign aid to Africa is doing more harm than good:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…

Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, December 13, 2012

In France, more than half of the population benefits directly or indirectly from welfare payments. Not surprisingly, the result has been that that the poverty rate for the past twenty years has remained unchanged. “Despite its good intentions,” says Sylvain Charat, “welfareship has created a ‘poverty trap.’”
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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Thursday, December 13, 2012

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to present a paper at the Sophia Institute annual conference at Union Theological Seminary. This year’s topic was “Marriage, Family, and Love in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition.” My paper was titled, “What Makes a Society?” and focused, in the context of marriage and the family, on developing an Orthodox Christian answer to that question. The Roman Catholic and neo-Calvinist answers, subsidiarity and sphere sovereignty, respectively (though not mutually exclusive), receive frequent attention on the PowerBlog, but, to my knowledge, no Orthodox answer has been clearly articulated, and so it can be difficult to know where to begin. To that end, it is my conviction—and a subject of my research—that a historically sensitive, Orthodox answer to this question can found be in the idea of asceticism, rightly understood.

While I will not reproduce my paper here, I wanted to briefly summarize two of its main points that might have broader interest. First of all, what is asceticism? Second, how can asceticism be viewed as an organizational principle of society? Lastly, I want to briefly explore—beyond the scope of my paper—the relevance of this principle for a free society. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, November 29, 2012

When it comes to government programs for redistributing income, nothing is quite as malevolently effective as state lotteries. Every year state lotteries redistribute the income of mostly poor Americans (who spend between 4-9% of their income on lottery tickets) to a handful of other citizens—and to the state’s coffers.

A prime example is yesterday’s Powerball jackpot. Two people became instant multimillionaires from a voluntary transfer of wealth from their fellow citizens. The money came from the 563 million tickets that were sold, as the old adage says, to those who are bad at math.

The odds of winning were 1 in 175 million, which means that if every person in America had bought a ticket, only two would have won. The chances of a single ticket holder winning the Powerball were only slightly higher than meeting a random stranger on the street who hands you a million dollars.

Yet despite the harm it does to our financially vulnerable neighbors, Christians—who are called to seek justice for the poor—often participate and encourage this activity. Even more disconcerting is that the state not only allows, but participates, in this exploitation. Jordan Ballor explains how lotteries allow the state to prey on the poor:
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