Cassie M. Chew 12-15-2020

Belongings on the lawn of an evicted house in Detroit. Peek Creative Collective / Shutterstock.com

“There are a lot more people who are poor, but living above the poverty line,” said Anne Price, president of the Insight Center, an economic justice advocacy group based in Oakland, Calif. “The measure that we use is so antiquated, not just in how it calculates a household budget and what's left out, but also because it doesn't reflect real, contemporary lived experience, different household types, or regional differences.”

Bill McKibben 11-30-2020
Three large cold coins are lined up, each shaped like Pac Man. They are facing a small globe that looks like Earth, as if they are going to consume it.

Illustration by Matt Chase

WHEN WE SAY that “humans are heating up the planet,” we are technically correct, and yet misleading. Humans are indubitably driving climate change—but only some of us.

An Oxfam study released this fall showed that between 1990 and 2015—a period when we poured more carbon into the atmosphere than in all of history before that time—the richest 1 percent of humanity accounted for more of that damage than the entire bottom 50 percent of the species. In case you think that the top 1 percent is Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, remind yourself that in fact it’s anyone whose income tops $109,000 a year—that includes plenty of readers of this magazine. The richest 10 percent of humanity accounts for half of total emissions—that’s everyone whose income is above $38,000. That’s quite likely you; it’s certainly me.

These people are scattered around the world, though the biggest concentrations are in the U.S., the EU, China, and the Middle East; India is appearing in the league tables too, a reminder that inequality is as much a problem within nations as between them. But what’s really sad, of course, is that anyone with a decent income is able to insulate themselves from most of the problems they’re causing. It’s people in poverty—whether in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans or along the delta of the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh—who get hit first and hardest.

Jim Simpson 10-29-2020

President Donald Trump and former Vice President John Biden at the first presidential debate, Sept. 29, 2020. Image via Shutterstock.com

In the 2020 election cycle, most of the Democratic primary candidates provided videos, including Vice President Joe Biden. The Christian leaders in the Circle of Protection have asked for a video and/or statement on poverty policy from President Trump, but his campaign has not responded to repeated requests.

Jim Simpson 10-01-2020

Makeshift sheets displaying messages of protest contesting the ability to pay for rent hang in the window of an apartment building in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, D.C., May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Despite our immense wealth as a country, poverty has always been a problem in the United States. It remains as an insidious legacy of slavery and systemic racism as well as an ever-present barrier in largely white rural communities and increasingly among Americans living in suburban communities.

Christina Colón 6-22-2020

Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, in Washington, D.C. on May 14, 2018. Photo by Rebekah Fulton for Sojourners.

On Saturday, more than 2 million people gathered virtually to “call for a radical redistribution of political and economic power” as part of the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering. 

Aaron E. Sanchez 5-07-2020

People file for unemployment following COVID-19 outbreak, at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Ark. April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

Today's economic demons resemble the 'Panic of 1893.'

Fran Quigley 4-28-2020

People wait in line to receive free food at a curbside pantry in the Brooklyn, New York. April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Sega

Samuel Cruz didn't want to choose between faith and politics. Then he found liberation theology.

Portrait of Thomas Robert Malthus by John Linnell. 1834. 

Love him or hate him, Malthus is one of those figures who doesn’t go away.

A woman sells fried chicken at her open stall along a street, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nairobi, Kenya April 19, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

The number of people facing acute food insecurity could nearly double this year to 265 million due to the economic fallout of COVID-19, the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.

Fran Quigley 4-21-2020

Eugene V. Debs making a speech. 1921. 

'He was of the working class and loyal to it in every drop of his hot blood to the very hour of his death.' 

Trump’s daily press briefings resemble the kind of public idolatry that ancient Caesars engaged in.

A. Trevor Sutton 4-09-2020

A view of Bourbon Street amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in New Orleans. March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Jubilee is appearing all around us amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The church is called to meet Jesus in the streets with the homeless — for in a time when people are called to shelter in place they have no place to go. The church must also meet Jesus in places like Flint, Mich. where poor people who are already suffering from respiratory conditions related to contaminated water are amongst those at highest risk.

Liz Theoharis 3-18-2020

Ditlev Blunck. "The Vision of the Prophet Ezekiel." Via Wikimedia Commons

Before a plague, God always sends prophets, often sick and impoverished themselves, to tell the powerful to reject wickedness. 

A worker in a face mask walks by trucks parked at an Amazon facility as the global coronavirus outbreak continued in Bethpage on Long Island in New York. March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The federal government is big, and it intervenes. The question is, for whom?

Fran Quigley 3-16-2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden listens as Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

We don’t have to guess at the damage that will be caused by financial barriers to care.

Fran Quigley 2-11-2020

June 8, 2019: Large group of people gather for the first ever Medicare For All Rally led by Bernie Sanders in downtown Chicago. Credit: Shutterstock

“Every week, almost daily, I see patients who cannot afford care, can’t afford their medication."

Fran Quigley 1-30-2020

Photo by Joshua Davis on Unsplash

For health journalist Colleen Shaddox, capitalism is incompatible with loving your neighbor.

John Thornton Jr. 11-25-2019

Credit: Shutterstock 

Why split public and societal critique from personal care and comfort? Whose ends does this split serve?

Rev. Roslyn Bouier 11-18-2019

An abandoned home in Detroit / Erin Kirkland / Redux

“THE BRIGHTMOOR NEIGHBORHOOD has one of the highest percentages of water shutoffs—and high rates of infant mortality, due to shutoffs. The ground is dry. People are very tense. You see a lot of skin diseases and rashes, especially on kids. You see it in guarded conversations. People aren’t going to come right out and tell you, ‘My water is shut off,’ but they may say to you, ‘I can’t boil those hot dogs—they’ll have to go in the microwave.’

We hear the narrative so often that people should just pay their water bill, but you can’t budget your way out of poverty. I am a disruptor of narratives. No, the lack of water is not because of your sin, or because you’re a bad parent, or because you buy a hair weave or spend money on a cellphone. None of that is true. Why don’t people have water? Because of unjust systems—because people are commodified, that’s why. If I saw you as a human being, I would be concerned that your baby doesn’t have enough bottles because you don’t have the water to make them with.