This morning, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico took some time away from his preparations for Acton University to speak with Jim Engster, host of The Jim Engster Show on WRKF radio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discussing how to address the issue of poverty in society, and the approach taken by Pope Francis and the church in general to that and other issues. They also discussed the problems with the ObamaCare model of health-care reform, among other issues. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below.
It is not often that Sojourners president Jim Wallis puts forth ideas that align with those of the Acton Institute. However, in a recent interview, Wallis (touting his new book, Uncommon Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided) said that he recognizes that there are three keys to ending poverty: work and economic activity, innovation, education. He also says his hometown of Detroit has a big lesson to teach us:
Detroit shows that the government isn’t enough,” said Wallis. “The book talks about how we’ve got to talk about the common good as societal ethic which means our congregations, our neighborhood organizations, our non-profits, the private sector … and government.”
What Wallis is talking about, of course, is subsidiarity: the tenet of Catholic social teaching that says the smallest and closest entity to a problem should be the one to take care of the situation. A family raises a child, not the state. A school board decides curriculum, not the national government. Wallis wants to split issues and ideas into “conservative” and “liberal” camps, but really there are only good ideas and bad ones. For instance, he says personal responsibility is a “conservative” fix for poverty, and “social responsibility: taking care of not just ourselves but taking care of each other” is a “liberal” idea. Yet both of these are part of subsidiarity: we take care of ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our communities. (more…)
C) remained the same
The right answer is B: extreme poverty has decreased by more than half. Yet according to a recent Barna Group survey more than eight in 10 Americans (84 percent) are unaware global poverty has reduced so drastically, and more than two-thirds (67 percent) say they thought global poverty has risen during that period.
Additionally, more than two-thirds of US adults (68 percent) say they do not believe it’s possible to end extreme global poverty within the next 25 years. One exception to this pessimism is practicing Christians. Defined by Barna as people who have attended a church service in the past month and say their religious faith is very important in their life, practicing Christians under 40 are the most optimistic at nearly half (48 percent), with practicing Christians over 40 slightly higher than the general population (37 percent compared to 32 percent of all adults).
The reason for the pessimism about eradicating extreme poverty generally fall into one of five categories:
I don’t know any terrorists, but they seem to be very fearful people. They are afraid of new ideas, other religions, air strikes, and bathing. Nicholas Kristof, of The New York Times, says that what terrorists are really afraid of are educated women.
Kristof points out that the Boko Haram did not choose to bomb a church or go after politicians. They targeted a girls’ school. The biggest threat to a terrorist is a woman who can read, write, work, and raise educated children.
Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. The greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books.
In that sense, Boko Haram was behaving perfectly rationally — albeit barbarically — when it kidnapped some of the brightest, most ambitious girls in the region and announced plans to sell them as slaves. If you want to mire a nation in backwardness, manacle your daughters.
In a marvelous speech on the origins of economic freedom (and its subsequent fruits), Deirdre McCloskey aptly crystallizes the deeper implications of her work on bourgeois virtues and bourgeois dignity.
For example, though many doubted that those in once-socialistic India would come to see markets favorably, eventually those attitudes changed, and with it came prosperity. As McCloskey explains:
The leading Bollywood films changed their heroes from the 1950s to the 1980s from bureaucrats to businesspeople, and their villains from factory owners to policemen, in parallel with a similar shift in the ratio of praise for market-tested improvement and supply in the editorial pages of The Times of India… Did the change from hatred to admiration of market-tested improvement and supply make possible the Singh Reforms after 1991? Without some change in ideology Singh would not in a democracy have been able to liberalize the Indian economy…
…After 1991 and Singh much of the culture didn’t change, and probably won’t change much in future. Economic growth does not need to make people European. Unlike the British, Indians in 2030 will probably still give offerings to Lakshmi and the son of Gauri, as they did in 1947 and 1991. Unlike the Germans, they will still play cricket, rather well. So it’s not deep “culture.” It’s sociology, rhetoric, ethics, how people talk about each other. (more…)
From the fiscal to the familial, conservatives have the right answers, says Kevin D. Williamson:
The conservative hesitancy to put the issue of poverty at the center of our domestic economic agenda, rather than tax rates or middle-class jobs, is misguided — politically as well as substantively. Any analysis of the so-called War on Poverty, officially at the half-century mark this year, will find that the numbers are very strongly on the side of the conservative critique of the welfare state: We spend a great deal of money, achieve very little in the way of measurable positive good, and inflict a great deal of destruction on families and communities in the process. Addressing poverty in a meaningful and robust way calls for a response from every part of the conservative coalition, because we have a generation’s worth of social-science research documenting that poverty is only partially an economic phenomenon. Poverty is complexly intertwined with marriage and family, with childbearing habits, and with the prevailing norms in local communities. The cause-and-effect relationships here can be complicated, and they operate at the community level as well as the individual level: For example, poor children with married parents experience better long-term economic outcomes than do those with single parents, but the more significant variable, according to a fascinating Harvard study on the subject, is the prevalence of marriage in their communities. It matters whether a poor child has married parents, that is, but it matters even more how many of his friends and classmates have married parents. The free market is part of the solution here, but it is only a part of the solution. But whether the question is the organization of our families, the organization of our tax code, or the organization of our schools, conservatives are well-positioned to step in and do something about the mess the Left has made of things, if only conservative leaders — and, especially, Republican elected officials — were more inclined to do so.
Life is harsh in Twin Branch, W. Va. Despite the wide availability of food stamps, government-subsidized health care and school lunches, life is very difficult for most of the people living there. The War on Poverty, instituted by Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago, brought a lot of help to this area of the U.S., yet life is no better now, and indeed for many, worse than before that “War.”
Trip Gabriel at The New York Times takes a look at the bleak economic landscape here. Despite all the government subsidies, this place is sad.
McDowell County is in some ways a place truly left behind, from which the educated few have fled, leaving almost no shreds of prosperity. But in a nation with more than 46 million people living below the poverty line — 15 percent of the population — it is also a sobering reminder of how much remains broken, in drearily familiar ways and utterly unexpected ones, 50 years on.
Much of McDowell County looks like a rural Detroit, with broken windows on shuttered businesses and homes crumbling from neglect. In many places, little seems to have been built or maintained in decades.
Numbers tell the tale as vividly as the scarred landscape. Forty-six percent of children in the county do not live with a biological parent, according to the school district. Their mothers and fathers are in jail, are dead or have left them to be raised by relatives, said Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission.
Kishore Jayablan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, joined host Monsignor Kieran Harrington on WOR Radio in New York on Sunday morning to discuss his personal history with Pope John Paul II and to give his thoughts on Pope Francis, with particular focus on Francis’ desire to see the Catholic Church become more directly focused on the needs of the poor. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.
There are several ways to understand that poverty is expensive.
First poor people pay more for the things they buy or they find that cheap stuff is not good. The poor find it hard to pay for housing which leads to having a harder time saving money even by cooking. The poor have a hard time using a bank or even cashing a check without high fees.
Then there are the lower wage part-time jobs that some bosses make worse by urging people to work a few minutes or more or even over lunch for free.
A second way to look at the expense of poverty was highlighted by the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. The amount spent on poverty reduction, $1t annually, is terrifically expensive. Most of that comes from 80 means-tested federal programs according to Heritage’s Steven Moore.
A trillion dollars is equal to each of 45m people having $22,222. Of course, money is not given to people, there is a vast government and private web of helpers who work hard to improve conditions for those in poverty. And they are paid well.
The third way, a way I think is better than the first two, is to count the cost of poverty in terms of wasted lives, wasted opportunity, and loss to our society.
If even 15m people went to work and earned $22,222 our GDP would thrive, tax revenues would rise and programs to help the poor would require dramatically less money.
There is dignity to work, satisfaction in working with others to meet a goal, and the pleasure of doing your job well and being paid for it. Millions are missing that opportunity and are living lives that tend toward mere passivity.
The high cost of poverty is essentially a human cost that is not limited to economic deprivation. The upside is that many who have little tend to be more spiritually rich than others though this idea is treated as a phony sop to keep people down.
It’s tax day, and though I’m sure you’ve already begun your revelry, I suggest take a moment of silence to relish that warm, fuzzy feeling we get when pressured to pay up or head to the Big House.
Indeed, with all of the euphemistic Circle-of-Protection talk bouncing around evangelicalism — reminding us of our “moral obligation” to treat political planners as economic masters and the “least of these” as political pawns — we should be jumping for joy at the opportunity. Nuclear warhead funding aside, progressive Christianity has elevated Caesar’s role to a degree that surely warrants some streamers.
Yet, if you’re anything like me, you did the exact opposite, writing off purchases, deducting charitable giving, and — gasp! — trying to get some of your money back. (more…)