How to Help the Poor?: The Muddy Mess of a Moderate Christian

homeless-poor-american-familyI try to avoid discussions about politics with other Christians, especially when it involves economics and poverty. The reason being is that we are very quick to assign the right vs. left label.  As soon as I give support for free markets, limited government and reasons not to raise the minimum wage, I get lumped in with the conservative/ right/Tea Party camp with the caricature of not caring for the poor. But let me talk about issues related to poverty and how some form of government support is needed, I get lumped in with the left and disregarding sound economic philosophy. We love putting people in boxes And once you’re assigned to a particular camp, it then becomes ineffective to have discussions around policy issues.

It’s messy and that’s where moderates like me find ourselves. So when I say a muddy mess,  I don’t necessarily mean in a pejorative sense. This is where I get frustrated with evangelicals who would rather assign affiliations than talk about the issues. If we’re going to have honest discussions about solutions to poverty, we can’t let them get lost in a right vs. left debate.

I’ve been a registered independent for ages. I am a capitalist and believe in the free market system. I agree with this superb article by Peter Cove, who speaks about benefits of work, any work, to lift people out of poverty. We do need to take serious the culture of dependency that’s not only created generational poverty, but the overall failure to reduce federal expenditures. So I’ve wanted to register Republican for some time now but I just can’t bring myself to full alignment. Poverty is a complex animal involving disparities in resources and skills. But these complexities tend to get overlooked regarding the solutions needed to become independent of any type of government assistance.  There’s also the working poor who fail to earn a sufficient income. Its not as simple as ‘oh they just need to get a better job’. I also find it fascinating when those who uphold total depravity are less forgiving in how that has worked itself out regarding personal responsibility. Continue reading

Why Do Poor People Need Cell Phones, Anyway?

poor person and cell phoneTypically, this question is posed with a bit of disdain because of opposition towards government programs that provide subsidies or any type of assistance for the poor. In fact, I recently saw this rather biased report that supposedly exposed the real conditions of the so-called poor. Some have TVs, microwaves and even cell phones. I think the sentiment behind this exposure is pretty obvious. If you’re really poor you wouldn’t own these conveniences.

I’m going to suggest that these unfortunate statistics and statements not only demonstrate a lack of knowledge about the real issues of poverty, but also reveal a disturbing bias against the poor.  It presumes that somehow a couple of electronic “conveniences” lifts that person out of poverty without any consideration to the much larger issues the poor have to face, such as substandard housing, lack of access to quality healthcare, deficient skills for marketable income and limited options to advance towards greater self-sufficiency.

Now, I do understand the concerns over our tax dollars going to support those who don’t want to take personal responsibility for their lives and rely on government subsidies. I sympathize with the frustrations related to big government and an astronomical federal deficit. But if you think that describes everyone who lives at or below the poverty line, which by the way is a mere $23,050 annually for a family of four, then think again. Continue reading