Demonstrations Whisper Of An Arab Spring In Jordan; Perfect Storm Threatens Long-Term Unemployed; Obama: Birth Control Policy Meets Everyone's Needs; Will Inequality Keep Getting Worse?; What Davos, Occupy Have In Common; On Immigration, 'Amnesty' Isn't A Four-Letter Word (OPINION); In Year Of Uprisings, Reporters Brave Crackdowns From Wall St. To Tahrir Square (OPINION).
Politics And Prayers; Senate Passes Insider-Trading Bill; What Childhood Poverty Means (OPINION); Nation-Building Vs. Al-Qaeda-Crushing In Afghanistan; Should All Americans Have To Earn Their Citizenship?; That Former Slave Who Wrote His Ex-Master Never Went Back To Him; NC's Heath Shuler Won't Seek Re-Election To House; Syria: It’s Not Just About Freedom (OPINION); Jobs Report: Unemployment Rate For Returning Veterans Fell 6 Percentage Points.
From President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address:
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.
Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.
Read the full text of the SOTU Address inside the blog...
Evangelicalism's Changing Heart On Immigration, Congress, White House Cut Heating Assistance Just In Time For Winter, Unemployment Rate Key To 2012 Election, College Kids Vow To End Slavery, The 23 Best Countries For Work-Life Balance (We Are Number 23), Rick Santorum’s God And Gays Message Falls Flat In New Hampshire.
Sen. Jim DeMint recently released a plan to cut the federal deficit with $4.2 trillion in spending cuts. And guess what he wants to cut?
Seventy percent of the cuts would come from safety net programs that assist low-income people, including eliminating the earned income-tax credit and child tax credit.
Even an analyst for the American Enterprise Institute objected, saying, "It's comprised completely of spending cuts and no tax increases, but then targets the lower-income programs while sparing the big middle-class programs. They could have designed a spending-cut program that was more balanced …”
The news brought to mind a parable from the mid-1800s.
In the opening scene of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is approached by two earnest gentlemen. "At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,'' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ``it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.''
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a letter to Congress on Monday concerning unemployment benefits. Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Toledo, Ohio, the letter's signatory, makes the argument that unemployment benefits are a “right to life” or pro-life issue.
This is a time of “prolonged and pervasive economic pain.” The letter cites the median length of joblessness as 10 months and that there are 4 job seekers for every 1 job opening. Blaire then quotes from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens:
The obligation to provide unemployment benefits, that is to say, the duty to make suitable grants indispensable for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families, is a duty springing from the fundamental principle of . . . the right to life and subsistence.
If Glenn Beck still had that black board, Pope John Paul II might end up receiving the posthumous honor of having a smiling photo added to it.
What Are You Getting Baby Jesus For The Holidays? (OPINION); Math Fail: Fox News Says 8.6 Percent Unemployment Is Greater Than 8.8 And Equal To 9; Guardian: What The Top 1 Percent Really Owns; Romney’s $10,000 Wager Dominates Post-Debate Buzz; Ben & Jerry Explain Why They Support Occupy Wall Street; Limbaugh Calls Poor Children Receiving Free School Meals "Wanton Little Waifs And Serfs Dependent On The State."
Social Muddle: Business, Justice, and the Gospel are Already Social; Obama Refers to His Christian Faith During National Tree Lighting Ceremony; Fount of Blessing, Fount of Youth: Age and the American Church; One-Third of Shelter Residents Are Newly Homeless; U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Level in Nearly Three Years; Gingrich Says Poor Children Have No Work Habits; For Afghan Woman, Justice Runs Into Unforgiving Wall of Custom.
Is The Bible A Reliable Moral Guide?; Why I Got Arrested At Occupy Wall Street; Unemployment Rates Drop In Most States;Black Friday And The Importance Of Sabbath Rest; Poor People To Get Poorer; Coptic Christians Living In Egypt Speak Out (VIDEO); Wall Street Will Never Be The Same Again; Occupy Wall Street And The Crisis Of Choice (OPINION); Candidates Face Foreign Policy Challenge; Don't Surrender To Laws Of Market, Pope SaysOut To Lunch: Congress Puts The Food Lobby Above Child Nutrition; Supercommittee Failure Puts U.S. At Risk (OPINION); Would The World Be Better Off Without Religion? (AUDIO); 'Thanksgiving To Almighty God' Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations From George Washington To Barack Obama.
Cain: God Convinced Me To Run For President. OpEd: Whatever Happened To Discipline And Hard Work? Bob Jones III Unplugged. GOP Candidates Hammer Obama On His Iran Policy During South Carolina Debate. Jon Huntsman Blasts "Sound-Bite Campaigning." OpEd: Christian Politics Create Unholy Alliances. Would Cracking Down On Illegal Immigration Really Cut Unemployment? And the Poor Are With Us, However You Count Them.
Reawakening the Radical Imagination. Proposed Keystone XL pipeline route may be reassessed. OpEd: The answer is: Spend less. Cornel West keeps the faith for Occupy Wall Street. Most Americans support raising the minimum wage. Smithsonian museum on Jefferson's Bible. Poll suggests evangelicals favor redistribution of wealth. Defining poverty in a land of plenty. Is American becoming a nation of poor children? Are older Americans better off? Immigration in the South. Are unions and young people a winning combination for 2012? Unemployment claims drop for the second straight week. And Christian leaders talk about marriage and sex.
Between 1964 and 1973, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the U.S. poverty rate fell by nearly half (43 percent) as a strong economy and effective public policy initiatives expanded the middle class.
Similarly, between 1993 and 2000, shared economic growth combined with policy interventions such as an enhanced earned income tax credit and minimum wage increase worked together to cut child poverty from 23 percent to 16 percent.
We can't do this alone.
When President Barack Obama laid out his deficit plan Monday, he wasn't just trying to sell a policy. When he pressed for tax hikes on the rich and announced, "This is not class warfare," he was trying to exorcise a demon that has bedeviled the Democratic Party for decades and in the process deprive the Republicans of one of their trustiest weapons. The reaction from the right was swift and sure: "Class warfare!"
Yesterday, the U.S. and Canada celebrated Labor Day, a day honoring workers. What does it mean to honor workers at a time of high unemployment, job insecurity, and the threat of lay-offs? In the U.S., the unemployment rate remains just over 9 percent, with no decrease of the rate in August and the recovery of jobs apparently stalled. As President Obama prepares to deliver his "jobs speech" this week, he faces immense challenges.
In the U.S., the first celebration of Labor Day was held in 1882 in New York City, organized by the Central Labor Union. In Canada, Labor Day can be traced back even further, to when Toronto Typographers went on strike for a 58-hour work week in 1872. Religious leaders, both nationally and internationally, recognizing the sanctity of labor, joined labor leaders in calling for justice for workers. Pope Leo XIII, for example, issued Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor) in 1891, building a biblical foundation for the dignity of the worker.
Broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West just wrapped up their 18-city "Poverty Tour." The aim of their trip, which traversed through Wisconsin, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and the Deep South was to "highlight the plight of the poor people of all races, colors, and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible." Although the trip has been met with a fair amount of criticism, the issue of poverty's invisibility in American media and politics is unmistakable. The community organizations working tirelessly to help America's poor deserve a great deal more attention than what is being given.
The main attack against the "Poverty Tour" is Smiley and West's criticism of Obama's weak efforts to tackle poverty. For me though, what I would have liked to see more is the collection of stories and experiences from the people West and Smiley met along their trip. The act of collective storytelling in and of itself can be an act of resistance.
The rioting and rampages that spread across English cities last week have caused severe property destruction and raised public alarm. Writing in London's Guardian, community organizer Stafford Scott describes how he was among the group that on August 6 sought information from the police in Tottenham, a poorer section of London. They wanted an official statement on whether Mark Duggan had been killed by police bullets, as had been reported in the news.
All we really wanted was an explanation of what was going on. We needed to hear directly from the police. We waited for hours outside the station for a senior officer to speak with the family, in a demonstration led by young women. A woman-only delegation went into the station, as we wanted to ensure that this did not become confrontational. It was when the young women, many with children, decided to call it a day that the atmosphere changed, and guys in the crowd started to voice and then act out their frustrations.
This event is what most media accounts have identified as the spark that set England on fire, which has caught the world by surprise. Yet, says Scott, "If the rioting was a surprise, people weren't looking."
We have come to an impasse in the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling because of several conceptual errors in our public discourse. These errors were most glaring in the remarks recently delivered by Speaker of the House John Boehner in his response to President Obama. The largest conceptual error is the idea that the government of a constitutional representative democracy is different from the people. Boehner said, "You know I've always believed the bigger the government, the smaller the people."
What does this mean? The government is composed of the people, and if people are paying attention and voting according to their own interests, the government ought to work toward the happiness of the people. The problem is that too many Americans have bought into this conceptual error that the government is some kind of leviathan, a monster that exists to take away their liberties. This is nonsense. A correction of another conceptual error in Boehner's presentation makes my point.
As the time shortens for Congress and President Obama to agree to the contours of legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, I am reminded of the story of King Solomon and his judgment regarding two women who both claimed to be the mother of a child (I Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon ordered that the living child be cut in two and half a dead child be given to both women. The woman who was the true mother insisted that the living child be given to the false mother. She was willing to give up her righteous claim to save the child's life.
[Editors' note: As part of Sojourners' campaign to end the war in Afghanistan, we will run a weekly Afghanistan news digest to educate our readers about the latest news and developments related to the war, the U.S. military's strategy, and the people impacted by our decisions. Read more about our campaign at www.sojo.net/afghanistan.]
- Afghan president's half brother killed by a bodyguard: "President Hamid Karzai's half brother, the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan and a lightning rod for criticism of corruption in the government, was assassinated Tuesday by a close associate."