Category: Poverty

01_16_2011_martin-luther-king-e1377613318307In a symposium at National Review Online about where Dr. King’s dream stands, 50 years after his historic speech, Anthony Bradley writes:

Fifty years ago, Dr. King provided America with a provocative vision, in which our republic would become a place of greater political and economic liberty for African Americans. However, in 2013, when we examine the black underclass in cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., we can see how the politics of progressivism singlehandedly turned King’s dream into a nightmare.

For example, low-income black families were obliterated by welfare programs that emerged out of the Johnson administration’s failed “War on Poverty.” Welfare destroyed the incentives for men to marry and care for their children, remain employed, and save money for the long term. Today, as a result of progressivist social visions, only about 26 percent of black women marry, compared with 51 percent for white women. In 1950, 64 percent of African American women married, compared with 67 percent for white women. Without flourishing families, low-income blacks were doomed to government dependency and cyclical poverty.

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tn-Dr.-MLK,-Jr.As we mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” we find reason for pause, for praise, and for lament. There is much to celebrate because MLK’s dream has been experienced for many blacks, albeit imperfectly, especially for the black middle-class. There have been some racial tensions along the way, but the black, middle-class, Civil-Rights generation has accomplished great things since the 1960s. The private sector has demonstrated some of the greatest gains because skill and performance do not have a color.

Black Enterprise Magazine has compiled a list of some of the most accomplished black CEOs. The magazine reports that in 1987, Dr. Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. became Chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, distinguishing him as the first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Franklin Raines became the second black person to lead a Fortune 500 company when he became CEO of Fannie Mae in 1999. Moreover, American Express, Merck, Xerox, McDonald’s, Citigroup, Alcoa and many other large companies are full of all sorts of black talent in key positions representing the best of what Dr. King envisioned 50 years ago.

The public sector, however, has been an absolute disaster. This is where we pause for much lament. Low-income blacks have experienced nothing but a sabotaged King dream at the hands of elites who not only took it upon themselves to make decisions for how blacks should live, but also used the coercive power of government to do so. For example, as predicted in 1965 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who was, at the time, a sociologist serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor and later as U.S. Senator) in “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action,” expanding welfare programs destroyed the black family in low-income areas. According to the most recent data, over 70% of all black children are born outside of the context of marriage compared to 17% for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Given what we know to be the advantages of children being reared in two-parent homes, this fact alone may explain much of the achievement gap and social mobility gap between blacks and Asian-Americans.
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omondi-68453ad8f598b8de7a754315a0074f83d4cf5f01-s40-c85Why do people live in poverty?

Sometimes the problem is structural, and the cause can be attributed to a corrupt government or economic injustice. Sometimes the problem is individual, and the cause can be attributed to poor work ethic or a dependency on drugs. Sometimes, perhaps even most of the time, the problem is a combination of structural and individual reasons.

Just as there is no one cause of poverty there can be no one solution to poverty. Forgetting this obvious point can lead us to embrace a doomed one-size-fits-all approach or to dismiss workable initiatives because they can’t be applied in all cases. Consider, for example, the idea that since the poor lack resources, the best way to help them get out out of poverty is to give them money directly.

The New York Times recently highlighted a charity, GiveDirectly, that does just what it’s name implies: gives money directly to the needy. The organization gave $1,000 in two lump payments to the various poor villagers living in rural Kenya. The results:

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, August 21, 2013

welfareIn eleven states in the union, welfare pays more than the average pretax first-year wage for a teacher. In thirty-nines states, it pays more than the starting wage for a secretary. And, in the three most generous states a person on welfare can take home more money than an entry-level computer programmer.

Those are just some of the eye-opening and distressing findings in a new study by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes of the Cato Institute on the “work versus welfare tradeoff.”

“Welfare benefits continue to outpace the income that most recipients can expect to earn from an entry-level job, and the balance between welfare and work may actually have grown worse in recent years,” say Tanner and Hughes. “The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour.”

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will-workNear the top of my long and ever-growing list of pet peeves is articles titled, “The Conservative Case for [Insert Proposal Usually Rejected by Conservatives Here].” It’s almost an iron-clad rule that before you even read the article you can be assured of that the case being made will use words that appeal to conservatives while being based on principles that are contrary to conservatism and/or reality.

Take, for example, a recent op-ed in the New Statesman by British Conservative Party politician Guy Opperman titled, “The Conservative case for a living wage.” In his opening paragraph he writes,

As a Conservative MP, I believe that lower taxes stimulate growth and jobs, that smaller government is invariably better government and that governments must “ensure that work always pays” by making sure those in work are better off than those on benefits. I also believe in hard work. Yet, for too many people in our society, a hard day’s work no longer means a fair day’s pay.

This sounds reasonable enough in theory. But when formulating public policy we have to have to use more precise terms. For instance, what do the phrases “hard work” and a “fair day’s pay” mean when it comes to determining a living wage? Does the difficulty of work automatically mean that the work is deserving of a set level of pay?

Opperman seems to believe that if a person is working a full-time job, that they are thereby entitled – regardless of the work they are doing – to receive a living wage:

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small bizFr. James V. Schall, S.J., in an essay for The Catholic World Report, offers some points worth pondering regarding Christianity and poverty. Entitled “Do Christians Love Poverty,” Schall insists that we must make the distinction between loving the poor – actual people – and loving “poverty” in some abstract way. For that to happen, we have to be holistic, realistic and concrete in our intentions and actions.

It would seem that our love of the poor, in some basic sense, ought to include not just our helping the poor in his immediate needs but mainly inciting his capacity to help himself. We want him not to need us to help him except in the sense that we all need an economic and social system that works for everyone. We want this system to be growing; we do not want a stagnant system which always produces the same or lesser amounts of available goods. We want and need people who do not think solely or mainly in terms of distributing existing goods, which they often conceive to have been ill-gotten simply because someone has more than others.

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One of the unintended consequences of the church growth movement was the narrowing of an understanding of how Christianity contributes to the common good by reducing what Christians contribute to the local church. While the church remains vital for the moral formation of society, there are other aspects of human flourishing that require the development of other institutions as Andy Crouch recently explained at Christianity Today.

This reduction has been adopted in some platforms that currently promote church planting. This church planting emphasis, in some cases, has led to an atrophied historical understanding of the Christian tradition’s emphasis on seeking the peace of the city through multiple institutions like schools, hospitals, professional societies, etc. While many churches are being planted in America’s most “strategic” cities, there seems to be little interest in coupling church planting with the creating of Christian schools to provide alternative education opportunities for children trapped in substandard public schools.

Let’s take New York City as an example:

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As we noted yesterday, rock star Bono is now preaching the good of capitalism in alleviating poverty. James Pethokoukis at AEI illustrates exactly what happened in China when the power of entrepreneurial capitalism was unleashed.

china

Bono spoke on the topic of capitalism and poverty at the 2012 Global Social Enterprise Event at Georgetown University:

male homeless sleeping in a streetTo adequately address the problems of the lowest economic class, Christians must agree on a holistic definition of poverty that includes relational and spiritual elements.

The best solutions for alleviating poverty, if not eradicating it, will involve collaborations among institutions that can address poverty in many different ways. World Vision president Rich Stearns says that poverty is a “complex puzzle with multiple inter-related causes.” As a result, the best solutions (and indeed, there are many) will “help a community address their challenges on multiple fronts: food, water, health, education, economic development, gender, child development and even leadership and governance.”

Broken relationships lie at the root of all of these things, so solving poverty demands that we meet more than just material needs—and that isn’t easy. Generally Christians today have engaged in one-way giving and service amounting to little more than charity in the end, which is only part of our calling. And the result? Christians and the church have been relatively ineffective at providing lasting opportunities for the poor to overcome their situations.

Read more . . .

13317570-indoor-crime-sceneEmily Badger at The Atlantic Wire posts a common sense story regarding the debate about whether or not the dispersing of poor people out of inner-city housing projects into suburban neighborhoods, through government housing voucher programs, increases crime rates. The article reflects recent research by Michael Lens, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA.

A growing stack of research now supports [the] hypothesis that housing vouchers do not in fact lead to crime. Lens has just added another study to that literature, published in the journal Urban Studies. He looked at crime and housing data in 215 cities between 1997 and 2008 – controlling for national and regional crime trends, demographic and income variables, employment rates and more – and found “virtually no relationship” between the prevalence of Housing Choice Voucher Program households and higher crime at the city level or in the suburbs. In previous research, Lens and colleagues had investigated the same question at the neighborhood level.

“Although communities with a higher prevalence of voucher households appear to be higher in crime,” Lens writes, “there is no evidence that this is due to voucher households increasing crime.”

Lens’ findings should not sound too surprising given the fact that poverty does not cause criminal behavior in the first place. In fact, immoral behavior has never been a function of class but a matter of moral fortitude. Granted, poverty most certainly introduces particular temptations (Prov 30:8) but so does wealth (Prov 22:16). Poor people do not have more moral limitations than those who are wealthy. To assume such is make human dignity a function of class and once we cross that road, the poor find themselves the victims of patronizing oppression.

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