While having lunch recently with Harvard Professor Robert D. Putnam, I was asked an interesting question.
Putnam is appalled at the radical lack of equality of opportunity in the U.S. today, and he wanted to know if evangelical preachers would dare to say what his pastor said when he was a teenager. Putnam told me that back then, in the midst of Martin Luther King’s great campaign against segregation, his devout Methodist pastor dared to preach that “racism is a sin.”
Professor Putnam asked me, as an evangelical, whether evangelical pastors today would be ready to declare today’s great economic inequality of opportunity a sin. That’s a great question.
I believe that most people are good, decent folks who want to see their community thrive and be healthy. The can of worms with the globalized economic system we live with, however, is twofold. Firstly, it is pathologically designed to function towards injustice, and injustice implicates the exploitation, destitution, and ultimate collapse of local communities around the world, especially in the poorer countries. Secondly, this global economic system does all that it can to make “community” invisible. The vast majority of those coffee drinkers who stop by the local supermarket or coffee shop to buy a pound of coffee have no idea where there coffee came from, who picked it and under what consequences.
Thus, when one is confronted with the inevitability of making a “global” economic choice, my advice would be to take the time to think about what one would want for his or her own community, and then to question how that far-off, distant community across the world where this or that product is being produced is going to be affected. This is not going to be easy for it requires the determination to discover what is purposely being hidden by the designs of the global economic system. But that is perhaps the price we should be paying to be able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee grown thousands of miles away.
I was a nervous kid. Once, I got so freaked out by the prospect of a speaking part in my first-grade school play that my folks thought I had come down with appendicitis. But there were two times in particular that I remember descending into unmitigated panic. Both involved discussions with my dad about my career.
The first time, my dad was telling me about his year-by-year earning trends as an insurance salesman. He went from being one of several agents manning a booth in a Sears store to being the highest-earning employee in his major international company over about 15 years. He added zeroes to his income, and a passel of staffers, including my mom for a while (didn’t work out so well – they divorced thereafter).
At his height, he was earning upwards of half a million a year, and this was in the 80s. His company flew him all over the world, showered him with awards, and held him up as the high-water mark for all other agents to aspire to. I combined this remarkable achievement with the implicit cultural message that all generations exceeded their parents in earning power and went into an emotional tailspin.
How in the hell was I going to make that kind of money?
There are many reasons to support comprehensive immigration reform. As Christians, we point to the biblical call to welcome the stranger and love our neighbors as top reasons for our support. We refer to the God-given dignity of each person, acknowledging that God created and loves each person, regardless of their immigration status.
But it helps to remember that there are significant economic and political gains to be had, as well. A Politico poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans support comprehensive reform. As we push on our political leaders to make a decision this year, here are some of the other arguments we can use, as described in a recent article on Think Progress:
1. Legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would boost the nation’s economy.
2. Tax revenues would increase.
3. Harmful state immigration laws are damaging state economies.
4. A path to citizenship would help families access health care.
5. U.S. employers need a legalized workforce.
6. In 2011, immigrant entrepreneurs were responsible for more than one-in-four new U.S. businesses.
7. Letting undocumented immigrants gain legal status would keep families together.
8. Young undocumented immigrants would add billions to the economy if they gained legal status.
9. And DREAMers would boost employment and wages.
10. Significant reform of the high-skilled immigration system would benefit certain industries that require high-skilled workers.
Read the article for a full explanation of each item.
BALTIMORE — A divided Catholic hierarchy on Tuesday failed to agree on a statement about the economy after a debate that revealed sharp differences over the kind of social justice issues that were once a hallmark of the bishops’ public profile.
The defeat of the document, titled “The Hope of the Gospel in Difficult Economic Times,” followed an hour of unusually intense debate among the 230 bishops gathered here for their annual meeting. It left many of them openly frustrated that the prelates have not made a joint statement about the nation’s economic woes four years after the recession hit.
“This document is dead,” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said with obvious disappointment as he brought the gavel down on the debate after it failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed for passage.
Play along with me. If you had $1 million to spend to help stimulate the economy, what would you do? What would I do?
Give the money to a billionaire, in the blind hope that the billionaire will pass along that million to his employees in some form. Or that he’ll spend it on a nice luxury product that (hopefully) will be an American product. Or that he won’t exercise the many loopholes that still exist and he’ll give that whole amount back to the U.S. government to spend. And of course, pray that the money won’t go into an offshore investment account somewhere in the Caribbean or Switzerland.
But what would Jesus do? What investments would Jesus make that I would want to make as well?
Two words are dominating our current political dialogue: jobs and economy. Everyone seems to want more of the former and a quicker revival of the latter. Logically then, our nation should take any and all sensible and easy steps towards achieving those goals. If those actions also had positive humanitarian and moral outcomes, even better, right?
Sadly, Washington seems to be devoid of logic these days. The Center for American Progress has released a study showing that passage of the DREAM Act would create an economic boom of over $300 billion dollars and create nearly 1.5 million jobs — not to mention, it is just the right thing to do.
The politics needs to stop. The DREAM Act needs to pass. Read more about the economic difference it could make if Washington would take action by clicking HERE.
The economy continues to weigh on pastors, with a new survey showing that nearly two-thirds say it has affected their churches negatively.
LifeWay Research asked 1,000 pastors about the economy’s effect on their churches and found that 56 percent described it somewhat negatively and 8 percent very negatively. Nine percent reported a positive effect on their churches and one-quarter said the economy was having “no impact on my church.”
“Pastor views on the economy are similar to many economic outlook surveys,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. “We weren’t surprised the current perspective of economic impact on churches is predominantly negative.”
Author and academic Jeffrey Sachs argues in a Huffington Post piece:
Consider the new U.S. unemployment announcement. If you are a college graduate, there is no employment crisis. 72.7 percent of the college-educated population age-25 and over is working. The unemployment rate is 4.1 percent. Incomes are good.
If you have less than a high-school diploma, however, you are barely scrapping by. Only 40.4 percent of those without a high-school diploma have a job. Their unemployment rate is 12.7 percent. Incomes are too low to make ends meet.
There are two Americas: the college-educated crowd that may have taken a hit in their retirement accounts, but who are generally doing well. Then there are the rest, around 60 percent of the population, who are increasingly dropping out of the middle class. Nearly one-half of American households are now classified as low-income, within twice the poverty line.
Read more here
Quote of the day.
"It''s been clear since the 1870s that the government needs a warrant to read postal mail. There''s no good reason email should be treated differently." Catherine Crump, ACLU staff attorney, who has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies, asking about their policies and legal processes for reading Internet users'' emails.
Post-recession America is beginning to open its wallet to charities again, but is not giving as generously to religious institutions.
While charitable donations from individuals rose nearly 4 percent overall in 2011, according to the annual "Giving USA" report, donations to houses of worship and other religious bodies dropped by 1.7 percent — a decrease for the second year in a row.
The report, compiled by the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy and released on June 19, shows that individual Americans gave nearly $218 billion last year, $96 billion of which went to religious organizations.
David Horsey writes in the Los Angeles Times:
"The best thing that can happen is that one party or the other wins both the presidency and control of Congress in the November election. It may have made sense in a more civil era, but divided government no longer works; the divide is simply too great. We desperately need a coherent national economic policy, and even a flawed one that is fully implemented may be better than one that is permanently stalled."
Read more here
Writing for The Daily Beast today, Joel Kotkin argues:
The developed world’s youth shouldn’t expect much help from an older generation that has preserved its generous arrangements at the cost of increasingly stark prospects for its own progeny. Instead the emerging generation needs to push its own new agenda for economic growth and expanded opportunity.
Read more here
John Hudson of The Atlantic writes:
"Everyone agrees the latest jobs report is a disaster, but economists are split about the underlying cause. Did increased gas prices choke off employment? Did uncertainty in Europe? How about job cuts in the public sector?"
Learn more here
In a thought-provoking piece for Al Jazeera, Yale lecturer John Stoehr writes:
According to a study by the Center for American Progress, there is a striking correlation between the decline of infrastructure and the rise of inequality over the past four decades. In other words, the more money going to the top income earners, the more the rest of us deal with potholes, decrepit bridges, rusting rail cars and the rest.
Read the full piece here
In the latest edition of The Economist, a new theory on how to tackle poverty: offer hope.
The idea that an infusion of hope can make a big difference to the lives of wretchedly poor people sounds like something dreamed up by a well-meaning activist or a tub-thumping politician. Yet this was the central thrust of a lecture at Harvard University on May 3rd by Esther Duflo, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology known for her data-driven analysis of poverty. Ms Duflo argued that the effects of some anti-poverty programmes go beyond the direct impact of the resources they provide. These programmes also make it possible for the very poor to hope for more than mere survival.
Read more about Ms. Duflo's research here
The Hill reports on a new poll focussing on the country's economic prospects:
Voters are optimistic the economy will improve in the next year, but still hold doubts on President Obama’s economic policies, a new USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday finds. Likely voters in the U.S. think the economy is improving already, giving Obama an edge as the incumbent. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed believe they will be "better off" next time this year and 58 percent predict good economic conditions in a year.
Read more about the poll here