The Least, First

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Obama’s quiet gains against poverty

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Apparently, progress being made against poverty may prove to be the greatest gains in 40 years.
clipped from www.thenation.com

At a the forum “Obama at 100: A Progress Report from The Nation” held on April 21, 2009 Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change, lauded the early progress the Obama administration has made in reversing forty years of neglect for the poor.

While Bhargava, an editorial board member at The Nation, made clear that the devastating scope of the recession has mitigated the impact of the reforms, he concluded that, “Boy, it is a new day in Washington.”

Corbin Hiar

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That’s “the least, first.” And I believe it is what government exists to do.

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Why we need government to attack poverty, too

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In recessions, when more people need help, most donors have less to give.

Many not-for-profits simply collapse.  Those that remain often move away from long-term indepence-developing programs, crowded by the increase in immediate needs.

Richard Florida, the economic geographer who writes of places, people, and prosperity, described the situation like this:

clipped from www.creativeclass.com
Richard Florida, an American urban studies the...

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I spent this weekend with a friend who’s a retired corporate CEO, has a personal foundation that
supports local and international projects, and is very savvy in business, finance, and nonprofits. He said he’s heard that as many as half of U.S. nonprofits (charities) will go out of business during the current downturn […]

  • Many foundations, having seen their endowments dive with the stock market, are cutting back on large grants. In addition, they’re moving from longer-range capacity-building grants to meeting people’s immediate needs (as one foundation director put it, from philanthropy to charity).
  • Arts organizations are seeing their donations and audiences shrinking. Seasons are being cut back, shows canceled. Some of the weaker players are seeking mergers or takeovers by larger organizations.
  • Safety net organizations like free clinics and food banks are flooded with not only the poor but the formerly middle class.
  • Capital building campaigns are dead in the water.
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    I’m no economist, but I see no means to sustain an attack on poverty without resources that are more stable and more broadly shared than voluntary contributions alone could ever be.

    Do you?


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    Poverty impairs brain function like a stroke

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    I wonder how many potential Einsteins—or Beethovens or Marie Curies or Mother Teresas or Mohandas Ghandis or Martin Luther Kings—struggle for survival, unable to follow the yearning of their hearts.  I wonder how many millions of good, productive, loving people—people who would bless their world—are locked into spending all their strength battling desperate personal conditions.

    Are we not all poorer when one of us is poor? Is there anything that would improve us all as much as dragging poverty to its knees?

    clipped from www.usatoday.com

    Life Expectancy at birth (years) {{col-begin}}...
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    A new study finds that certain brain functions of some low-income 9- and 10-year-olds pale in comparison with those of wealthy children and that the difference is almost equivalent to the damage from a stroke.

    “It is a similar pattern to what’s seen in patients with strokes that have led to lesions in their prefrontal cortex,” which controls higher-order thinking and problem solving, says lead researcher Mark Kishiyama, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley. “It suggests that in these kids, prefrontal function is reduced or disrupted in some way.”

    Research has shown that the neural systems of poor children develop differently from those of middle-class children, affecting language development and “executive function,” or the ability to plan, remember details and pay attention in school.
    “It’s really important for neuroscientists to start to think about the effect[…] of people’s socioeconomic status […] on their brain function […]
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    White evangelical voters: poverty no. 1 moral issue

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    The Great AwakeningI had always been a skeptic of the church of personal peace and prosperity … of righteous people standing in a holy huddle while the world rages outside the stained glass. But I’ve learned that there are many people of the cloth who are also in the world, and from debt cancellation to the fight against AIDS and for human rights, they are on the march. – Bono

    Change is indeed in the air. As voters head to the polls (I write this on Super Tuesday, 2-5-08, in the USA), the main moral issue on the minds of white evangelicals is now poverty! That homecoming is nothing short of astonishing.

    clipped from blog.beliefnet.com
    [New York Times] columnist Nicholas Kristof quotes The Great Awakening, where Jim Wallis says, “Evangelicals are going to vote this year in part on climate change, on Darfur, on poverty.” Kristof then adds that, according to a CBS News poll, this year white evangelicals consider the fight against poverty to be the top moral issue, displacing abortion to a distant second.
    Kristoff quotes CARE’s Helene Gayle about evangelicals’ work against global poverty: they “have made some incredible contributions … We don’t give them credit for the changes they’ve made.” Similarly, Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp said, “Many evangelical leaders have been key to taking the climate issue across the cultural divide.”
    Kristof concludes, “In parts of Africa where bandits and warlords shoot or rape anything that moves, you often find that the only groups still operating are Doctors Without Borders and religious aid workers: crazy doctors and crazy Christians.”
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    More of Rick Warren’s story:

    I could see this shift in action a few weeks ago in Davos at the World Economic Forum. I got to see Rick Warren in action, motivating business and political leaders to put poverty, disease, and peace-making higher on their agenda. Kristof tells a story about Warren, who for many years didn’t pay much attention to these issues of social justice and compassion. Then, during a 2003 visit to Africa, Rick came into a ramshackle tent where a little church was caring for 25 AIDS orphans.

    Rick said, “I realized they were doing more for the poor than my entire megachurch. … It was like a knife in the heart.” Kristof recounts how Rick turned this heartbreak into action: mobilizing his church to constructive action in 68 countries, recruiting 7,500 members to pay their own way to serve poor people around the world – experiencing a transformation in their own values and priorities in the process.

    Mm-mm. That’s renewal: hearts moved toward the priorities of Jesus.

    OK, God:  Show me my place in it!


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    Written by Monte

    February 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Poverty, government, and the Bible

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    [Please note that many helps came via Ron Sider’s excellent but aging book Just Generosity: A new vision for overcoming poverty in America. This page is also saved as a post, under the title A Bible Argument for Government Aid to the Poor. The text is about the same there, but the comments of others—and my responses to them—are different. Thanks for thinking along!]



    Madison Free ClinicEvangelicals often struggle with the idea of a government role in addressing poverty. Often, I hear questions like these, from an honest blogger called RenaissanceGuy:

    • I want to hear a reasoned biblical argument for government-run health care.”
    • … if people are coerced, though the income tax code, to support the poor, then are they actually pleasing our Lord?”

    Others put it like this:

    • “Is it government’s job to care for the poor, or should the church and their families do it?”

    While sectarian government is antithetical to American democracy, people of faith in the USA do have the privilege of holding and sharing political values consistent with what they understand to be good. Those values may not well fit in either conservative or liberal camps, but there will be common ground that can be shared with both.

    In order to do that, people of faith have to be deeply aware of their own faith, and not just the arguments of right or left. So here’s an attempt to think aloud on one of those issues.

    Especially for evangelicals:

    a Bible argument for government aid to the poor:

    First, some assumptions on which I think all can agree:

    1. Jesus, as described in the gospels, is much more focused on the poor than our evangelical theologies have been. Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Monte

    January 12, 2008 at 12:24 am

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