The Common Good

The Bipartisan Poverty Forum

Sojomail - February 19, 2009


The main cause of this is the Taliban. But what is the aftermath? The population doesn't realize this. They think the Americans deliberately want to kill civilians.

- Lutfullah Mashal, governor of Laghman province, Afghanistan. According to a U.N. report, a record 2,118 Afghani civilians were killed last year. Insurgents were responsible for 55 percent of the victims, but U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces killed 39 percent. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

The Bipartisan Poverty Forum

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Through the partisan fistfight of the general election, in the midst of political posturing during the transition, and moving forward in spite of a Congress split down party lines, a bipartisan group of leaders has found common ground in one thing -- God’s concern for the poor. Four months ago, and well before any of us knew who would be president, people of faith from across the political spectrum began meeting to discuss practical policy initiatives that would reflect our common belief that God has called us to care for the least of these. In what is now known as The Poverty Forum, Mike Gerson, President Bush’s speech writer for six years, and I co-chaired a group of leaders and policy experts who were convened by Sojourners and The Clapham Group. You can read more about the forum and a list of participants.

In a press conference yesterday, The Poverty Forum publically announced a list of policy proposals aimed at reducing poverty in our country. Each proposal was developed by a pair of leaders coming from different political perspectives on a wide range of issues from health care to prison reform. You can read the full list of proposals here and also listen to the entire press conference.

I recently heard a reporter comment that it just might be time to start looking at the mid-term elections for clues as to what Congress might do. I couldn’t help but conclude at how broken the logic of this city can be. Our litmus test for each policy proposal was to turn the logic of Washington D.C. on its head and ask first, “What would each policy do for the poor?”

The Poverty Forum has gathered leaders together who agreed on the end goal, care for the poor, just not always how to get there. As Mike Gerson said in the press conference today, we built relationships and trust with one another not only for dialogue but for innovation. Chuck Donovan had this to say about the group in the Wall Street Journal:

"This is an opportunity to get attention for some ideas that might not be taken as seriously if they came directly from the Family Research Council" or other advocacy groups easily pigeonholed as conservative or liberal, Mr. Donovan said.

It is my hope that this group serves as an example for what bipartisanship can achieve when the end goal is agreed upon, and I hope Congress was watching. As Steve Waldman wrote this week:

If you can strip away the political barnacles to reveal the pure idea beneath, you've served a real public purpose. That is good bipartisanship.

With an estimated 9 million more people about to fall into poverty, we need now more than ever to show that poverty is a bipartisan issue and a non-partisan cause.

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ed spivey video“It started innocently enough. An acquaintance e-mailed me and, using a new verb with which I was unfamiliar, asked if she could ‘friend’ me. Considering she was already a friend, her request was not readily understood. Is the verb ‘friend’ more intimate than the noun version? Will this involve touching? Should I consult a priest or parole officer before replying? Being the trusting individual that I am, I clicked on the link in her e-mail, followed the on-screen instructions to fill out a few lines of personal information—name, gender, criminal record—and clicked again. My life hasn’t been the same since ..."

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Top Stories:

Fight against poverty unites Christian left and right
The Christian Science Monitor
On Tuesday, a new bipartisan group called the Poverty Forum released a series of specific proposals aimed at reducing domestic poverty and keeping Americans hit by the economic crisis from joining the ranks of the poor. The group of 18 leaders – headed by the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, and Michael Gerson, President Bush's former speechwriter and policy adviser – has worked since November to develop concrete antipoverty policies they hope will gain widespread support.
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Christians on Left, Right Push Plan to Aid the Poor
The Wall Street Journal

New Christian Poverty Forum Aims to Keep Focus on the Poor
Religion News Service

Centering on Poverty
Christianity Today

Christians left, right, center promote poverty reduction
National Catholic Reporter

Putting the Priority on Poverty
Christian Broadcasting Network

Exclusive: Christian Right and Left Partner on Poverty Reduction Advice to Obama
U.S. News and World Report blog

Buscan grupos religiosos reforma migratoria integral en 2009
El Financiero

Líderes religiosos de EEUU reclaman una "reforma humana" de la inmigración
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Clergy, lawmakers launch immigration reform push
Religion News Service

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