Posts tagged with: poverty

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

It’s a common misconception in public discourse that the global poor are trapped in poverty because of globalization.  We frequently hear things from our public leaders about how markets are crushing the poor.  “The reality is that the poor aren’t dominated by markets. They are excluded from them.” says Michael Matheson Miller in an article for The Stream.

Miller hits on four different problems and misconceptions of how international economic development is currently addressed.  He starts out by explaining how the current system benefits the wealthy and well-connected.

Many of the powerful and wealthy don’t have an economic incentive to build institutions of justice like clear title to land or broad access to the formal economy. They are doing well under the status quo and many of them are actually benefiting from the current situation through connections, access to special privileges, bribes and sweetheart deals on things like mineral rights.

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Today at The Stream I provide some analysis of Donald Trump’s speech earlier this week at the Detroit Economic Club. As I conclude, “The trouble for Trump’s promised future lies in the impossibility of reclaiming a bygone era.”

In Trump’s campaign there is a mix of both nostalgia and optimism, which bookend serious critiques of America’s more recent past and the legacy of his political opponents in particular. This approach is appealing to an important, and often overlooked segment of the American public. These are the new voters who Trump has promised to bring to the GOP, and who have sometimes embraced his campaign with a kind of religious fervor.

But the broader appeal of this vision is dubious. Trump’s larger economic vision certainly does bear some resemblance to Bernie Sanders’ agenda, as they emphasize nationalism, interventionist trade policy, and a revitalization of traditional manufacturing and labor sectors. It remains to be seen how many of Sanders’ supporters will migrate to the similarly nationalist approach of Donald Trump.

The real challenge for Trump is to express this hopeful vision about the future while simultaneously hearkening back to an idyllic past. If Clinton is “the candidate of the past,” it is the recent past, the last few decades of the Obama administration and bad trade deals like NAFTA. Trump, meanwhile, is both the candidate of the future as well as of the more remote, perhaps even mythic past, in which America was first: in jobs, manufacturing, global influence, leadership, and military strength.

As Trump put it in his Detroit speech, “Americanism, not globalism, will be our new credo.” Joseph Sunde pointed out the salient Christian critique of such a credo recently, and I also recommend Abraham Kuyper’s treatise Twofold Fatherland for a proper and penultimate valuation of the nation-state and national identity relative to Christian citizenship in God’s kingdom. Twofold Fatherland is included in the forthcoming On the Church volume of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology.
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dncplatformEarlier this week, I talked about the religious and economic implications of the RNC platform. As the DNC wraps up, it is time to examine the relevant points of the Democratic platform.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

We need an economy that prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking, rewards the common interest over self-interest, and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.

Minimum Wage

Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union. We applaud the approaches taken by states like New York and California. We should raise and index the minimum wage, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy. We also support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities.

Democrats support a model employer executive order or some other vehicle to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union. The $1 trillion spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class.

Poverty

We believe that today’s extreme level of income and wealth inequality—where the majority of the economic gains go to the top one percent and the richest 20 people in our country own more wealth than the bottom 150 million—makes our economy weaker, our communities poorer, and our politics poisonous.

We reaffirm our commitment to eliminate poverty. Democrats will develop a national strategy to combat poverty, coordinated across all levels of government. We will direct more federal resources to lifting up communities that have been left out and left behind, such as the 10-20-30 model, which directs 10 percent of program funds to communities where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more. We will also focus on communities that suffer from persistent poverty, including empowerment zones and areas that targeted government data indicate are in persistent poverty.

Democrats will protect proven programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—our nation’s most important anti-hunger program—that help struggling families put food on the table. We will also help people grow their skills through jobs and skills training opportunities.

Religious Liberty

Opposes attempts to impose a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the United States.

Supports a “progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”

Supports protecting both Muslims and religious minorities and the “fundamental right of freedom of religion” in the Middle East. (Read more here)

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In the wake of last week’s Republican National Convention, and in the midst of the Democratic National Convention, it is more important than ever for voters to be thoroughly educated on each party’s platform going into the general election season. In two recent posts on the Republican Party platform, (part one, part two) Joe Carter provides a comprehensive summary of the Republican Party’s main stances (we’ll look at some of the Democratic Party’s platform issues in a later post). Some of the highlights of the platform include: (more…)

bourgeious-equality-mccloskeyIn Dierdre McCloskey’s latest book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, she builds on her ongoing thesis that our newfound prosperity is not due to systems, tools, or materials, but the ideas, virtues, and rhetoric behind them.

Much has been made of her argument as it relates to the (ir)relevance of those material features as causes: “coal or thrift or capital or exports or exploitation or imperialism or good property rights or even good science.” But less has been said about her views on the spiritual/material as it relates to the byproducts.

I’m not yet finished with the book, but on page 70, she offers her view on the spiritual dynamics of what’s to come.

Contrary to popular claims that an increasingly prosperous free society will necessarily trend toward greed, envy, and idleness, McCloskey sees a future with more resources, and thus, more time and space for the transcendent. “One would hope that the Great Enrichment would be used for higher purposes,” she writes…”Enrichment leads to enrichment, not loss of one’s own soul.” (more…)

Kentucky-trade-schoolFueled by a mix of misguided cultural pressures and misaligned government incentives, college tuition has been rising for decades, outpacing general inflation by a wide margin. Yet despite the underlying problems, our politicians seem increasingly inclined to cement the status quo.

Whether it be increased subsidies for student loans or promises of “free college” for all, such solutions simply double down on our failed cookie-cutter approach to education and vocation, narrowing rather than expanding the range of opportunities and possibilities.

Fortunately, despite such an inept response from the top-down, schools at the local and state levels are beginning to respond on their own. In Kentucky, for example, PBS highlights innovative efforts to rethink the meaning of “career-ready” education and retool the state’s incentives and accountability structures accordingly.

While “college-” and “career- readiness” have become buzz words that are assumed to be all but equal, Kentucky has awoken to the reality that they ought not be so lumped together so hastily. Alas, we have tended to amplify college not only to the detriment of career, but to college itself. (more…)

A beautiful day in Grand Rapids, Michigan. | Photo by Steven Depolo, Flickr

Growing up impoverished in the Grand Rapids area himself, Justin Beene brings a unique perspective to his lecture on Community and Economic Development. He has seen first-hand the good intentions behind top-down investing to eliminate poverty and racial injustice, and the consequential damage wreaked upon such communities. Urban cities have largely been developed through three forces: gentrification, pouring resources into them, and community development. Beene asserts that we need to cut off top-down funding and start supporting neighborhoods in solving their own problems. We must do things with its citizens, not for them or to them. Instead of enacting additional programming or conducting further needs assessments, we need to eliminate the “broken vending machine” that is development today, and break the cycle of toxic charity that runs rampant in creating gratitude, anticipation, expectation, entitlement, and dependency among the poor. (more…)