Christian Piatt 08-15-2012
photo   © 2009   Clementine Gallot , Flickr / Wylio.com

photo © 2009 Clementine Gallot , Flickr / Wylio.com

I’ve said before that privilege often is invisible until you don’t have it. So in that light, I’m doing a little experiment in a few days with our family, and I encourage you to join in.

A lot of us never know what it’s like to try and live below the poverty line, and I tend to think the statements we hear about the poor that lack sensitivity for their situation point to this. It’s easy to say things like, “people on public assistance are lazy” (in fact, 47 percent of SNAP recipients are under 18; a majority of the remaining recipients have other income from work, and this doesn’t account for seniors and those who are disabled) and that food stamps are a “free ride” that are so attractive, it keeps people from wanting to work and get off of the assistance.

So let’s find out just how easy it is.

“SNAP” stands for “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” which is the new name for food stamps. Basically, families receive $4 a day per family member to cover food costs, so the SNAP challenge is pretty simple (in theory, at least): Live on the same amount with your family for a week.

the Web Editors 08-14-2012
 Photo by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Sister Simone Campbell on Capitol Hill calling for a 'faithful budget.' Photo by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Sister Simone Campbell sat down with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to discuss her organization's push for a faithful budget.

Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, recently invited presidential candidate Mitt Romney to join the Nuns on the Bus in some of their charitable work with the poor. 


James Colten 07-26-2012
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) at a May news conference. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, members of the House spoke out against the House Agriculture Committee’s vote to cut SNAP benefits to working class Americans. On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) rallied on the Senate-side to restore balance to the budget debate and avoid sequestration in conjunction with a report on the effects of such cuts.

The premise of the current debate is that all the cuts have to come from the non-military, discretionary budget. Harkin reported that since we last had a balanced budget (Clinton-era), discretionary funds have risen 0 percent as opposed to a 73 percent increase in the Pentagon budget.

We have two sets of rules, he said. One set for the rich, and another set for the rest of America. This equals out to tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the poor and middle class.

James Colten 06-28-2012

Today the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) presented a forum for congressional representatives to talk about a more faithful response to the pending sequester this upcoming January.

Sequestration as we know it was meant to be a last resort – if Congress could not agree on a budget, then programs would be cut, or sequestered, across the board. The problem with the current sequestration agreement is that it does not protect programs that affect the poor, uninsured, and unemployed.

Christian Piatt 05-27-2012

I’m coming to terms with the realization that I’m a big, fat fake. But at least I’m in good company.

Amy’s birthday was last Sunday. We had just arrived in Portland, so we went to a fancy-pants restaurant, situated several hundred feet above the skyline, with a view of the entire surrounding city, the Willamette River and Mount Hood. We shared a bottle of wine, enjoyed outstanding service and indulged on gourmet food to celebrate her ever-growing tenure as an occupant of our planet.

The bill for the night was nearly enough to cover groceries for our family for up to two weeks.

We could manage it; we knew it was pricey before we got there. And it was fairly easy to justify too. We were making memories. It was an other step in the courtship, helping us fall in love with our new city. We had worked hard over the past eight years, establishing a church in Colorado, struggling to pay bills at times, and we’re now enjoying some material fruits of our labor.

What bullshit.

Seriously, how does anyone really justify spending that kind of money on one meal? After all, from our vantage point on the 30th floor, I could see scads of people below, standing on street corners, tucked in under sleeping bags and beneath cardboard boxes, walking wearily from one job to the next, hoping to pull together enough to make rent.

the Web Editors 05-21-2012

House budget chairman Paul Ryan and Senate assistant majority leader Dick Durbin discuss debt challenges and austerity on Meet The Press over the weekend.

According to Ryan: "The whole premise of our budget is to preempt austerity by getting our borrowing under control, having tax reform for economic growth, and preventing Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid from going bankrupt."

Politico reports that Ryan's argument follows Republican arguement that cutting those programs now will prevent future economic hardship, and later on, save them.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

QR Blog Editor 05-08-2012

Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities takes a look at the economic situation for The Huffington Post and asks:

"Why are advanced economies so seemingly immune to correct diagnosis and prescription? Why are we applying leeches instead of the contemporary medicine of combined monetary and fiscal stimulus in order to once and for all hit the escape velocity that's eluded us thus far?"

Take a look at his answers here

the Web Editors 05-02-2012

"As Jesus said, 'Tough love your neighbor as yourself...get your own loaves and fishes.'" ~ Stephen Colbert

More from Colbert and Georgetown's Father Thomas Reese inside the blog.

Duane Shank 04-19-2012


Under a mandate from the budget resolution passed by the House in March, committees are required to cut discretionary programs to avoid the automatic cuts in military spending to take effect in January. The funds cut are to be moved from the nondefense to the defense categories in the budget. Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee produced its share by cutting $33 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps).

Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the Committee had this response: “You can’t have a serious conversation about getting the budget under control when you take large items like defense off the table, which is really why we are here. Taking a meat-ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of working families in this country in order to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction.” 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a cut this large would result in 2 million people losing benefits and the remaining 44 million having theirs reduced.  So here’s the equation, more hungry people = more weapons for war.  It’s clear and direct.

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor at Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter @DShankDC.

Timothy King 04-18-2012

Melissa Boteach of Half-in-Ten—the campaign to cut poverty in half in 10 years—is using the Katniss defense against the Ryan budget cuts.

The world that Suzanne Collins paints in the The Hunger Games is one in which only the strong survive. Those that can’t keep up are cut out, kind of like the Ryan budget.

One of the radical things about the ethical agenda that Jesus promoted was the place he offered to the sick, the weak and the weary. He flipped common understanding of who was “deserving” and who was “undeserving” upside down.

The Catholic Bishops have now come out with their concerns about the Ryan budget and how it abandons the poor and the hungry. Take a look at Melissa’s chart, what do you think?


Lisa Sharon Harper 03-12-2012
Fixing the Moral Deficit, YouTube.com screenshot, InterVarsity Press

Fixing the Moral Deficit, YouTube.com screenshot, InterVarsity Press

Rep. Paul Ryan’s (Chairman of House Budget Committee) FY2012 plan, A Roadmap for America’s Future, garnered princely praise in early April 2011, but it was quickly trailed by intense scrutiny when Ryan’s botched math and skewed priorities became apparent upon his budget’s review. Hailed as visionary and courageous upon submission, Ryan’s budget plan ultimately revealed his ideologically entrenched disregard for the poor.

A few weeks ago President Barack Obama announced his FY2013 Budget. Within a few weeks, Ryan will submit his FY2013 budget plan for review. Dr. Ronald J. Sider’s new book, Fixing the Moral Deficit (February 2012), comes just in time!

Sider has offered practical, balanced, and highly informed guidance for Christian engagement in the public sphere since publication of his first and seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (1977). Sider draws from his Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Sider, 1999) to lay the philosophical foundation for this latest analysis in Fixing the Moral Deficit.

Sider starts with a simple premise: We have a deficit crisis. We also have a poverty crisis. Together these crises are producing a moral crisis in America.

the Web Editors 02-22-2012

Religion And Politics Don't Mix, Major Religious Groups Tell Presidential Candidates; 25 Percent Of Super PAC Money Coming From Just 5 Rich Donors; POLL: Men, Evangelicals Boost Santorum; Southern Baptist Leaders OK 'Great Commission'; Obama Budget: Grow Prisons and Keep Gitmo; The Failure Of Austerity Politics (OPINION); Atheist Alain de Botton Insists Society Needs Guidance From Religion; Access To Good, Healthy Food Should Be A Basic Human Right; Protesters To GOP Candidates: Don't DREAM Halfway.

the Web Editors 02-20-2012

The Surprising Faith Of 8 American Presidents (OPINION); Santorum Questions Obama's 'World View,' Not Faith; Educating Two Generations (OPINION); The Inside Story On Climate Scientists Under Siege; Obama's 'Radical' Option For America's Nuclear Future; Pain Without GainFacing Death, A Top Pastor Rethinks What It Means To Be Christian; The End Of Church (OPINION).

the Web Editors 02-15-2012

You've Heard Of Evangelicals, But Who Are They?; Radical Solutions To Economic Inequality; Playing Fair In Love And Climate Change; Jeremy Lin Says Faith In God Triggered 'Lin-Sanity'; 800,000 Americans Tell Senate: Stop The Keystone XL Pipeline; 5 Things You Might Have Missed In Obama's Proposed 2013 Budget; 'Plug In Better': A Manifesto; Render Unto Caesar; Are You A Real Christian?; Hundreds Rally Against Alabama Immigration Law.

the Web Editors 02-14-2012

Four Ways To Slice Obama’s 2013 Budget Proposal (INFOGRAPHIC); Britain Being Overtaken By 'Militant Secularists', Says Baroness Warsi; Clinton: Poverty Helping Fuel Violence In Nigeria; How Much Do We Spend On The Nonworking Poor?; Making Good Citizenship Fun (OPINION); Has the President Lost His Obama Generation?; College Students Crowd CPAC; GOP Revives Pipeline Push In Highway Bill; 5 Lessons From The Rise Of The BRICs; Over 600,000 Messages Against Keystone XL Flood The Senate.

Timothy King 01-18-2012
Tea Party Jesus from AVN

Tea Party Jesus from AVN

The video will be a satirical take on the Sermon on the Mount with various quotes, signs and policy positions of the Tea Party. While I don’t think the creators of the video would argue that this same test be applied to every piece of legislation Congress considers, it is an interesting experiment.

How often do we divorce the things we say and do or the beliefs we hold from what we read in the Gospels about the person and teachings of Jesus?

This video will drive some conservative Christians nuts for two reasons.

First, because there are conservative Christians, such as Chuck Colson, who have spoken out against Ayn Rand and don’t want to be lumped in with her followers.

Second, because Rand’s influence is real and it’s not a good thing.

Rand’s extreme individualism turns Christian virtue into vice and vice into virtue. Her worldview feeds selfishness and a disregard for our neighbors. I read all 1,046 pages of my paperback copy her Atlas Shrugged and I would like at least 700 pages worth of my time back.

Elizabeth Palmberg 11-21-2011
Epic Fail. 2008 Image by Dyl86 via Wylio (http://bit.ly/uJcz6q)

Epic Fail. 2008 Image by Dyl86 via Wylio (http://bit.ly/uJcz6q)

As the finger-pointing begins over the supercommittee debacle, another epic Capitol Hill fail flew under the radar last week.

the Web Editors 11-21-2011
Image by Hans Gerwitz via Wylio (http://bit.ly/uTsCDz)

Image by Hans Gerwitz via Wylio (http://bit.ly/uTsCDz)

A special congressional supercommittee acknowledged failure Monday in efforts to cut the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. The panel’s failure was announced in a joint statement issued in late afternoon after the close of U.S. stock markets, which plunged during the day.

Duane Shank 11-18-2011
Economic Justice For All

Economic Justice For All

It’s worth remembering that in 1986, 25 years ago, the bishops at their annual meeting approved a pastoral letter on the economy, “Economic Justice for All.” It was, and still is, a powerful statement of Catholic social teaching on the “important social and moral questions for each of us and for society as a whole” that are raised by our economic life. It’s a letter that the entire church, Catholic or not, should read and affirm.

In an opening section, “Why we write,” the bishops ground their letter:  “The life and words of Jesus and the teaching of [God's] Church call us to serve those in need and to work actively for social and economic justice. As a community of believers, we know that our faith is tested by the quality of justice among us, that we can best measure our life together by how the poor and the vulnerable are treated.”

James Colten 11-02-2011

"For every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent. Poverty-focused development assistance supports economic growth, protects vulnerable people, and helps curtail desperation that may lead to violence" (Bread for the World).

On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on the budget for foreign aid. Should the proposed cuts occur, it would prove disastrous for the rest of the world, potentially leaving millions without food, education, and livelihood.

Please, contact your Senators today and tell them to continue funding poverty-focused development assistance.