When I saw the headline in the New York Times—“The Hidden Prosperity of the Poor”— I thought of something very different than what Tom Edsall’s commentary is actually about.
Edsall highlights an insidious and specious argument about income inequality made on the right. In essence, the cost of basic human needs has gone down in relation to income, while consumer goods have become cheaper and cheaper.
It is true, as a Century editorial recently argued, that poverty did not get the attention it deserved in the presidential campaign. Even more frustrating are the comments often made about poverty and social program when they do come up. Let’s look at three common distortions.
First of all, I'm genuinely glad to see Paul Ryan talking at length about poverty, as he did in a speech yesterday. I'm guessing that makes him second only to John Edwards in terms of how much verbage a recent presidential candidate has given the issue.
To most American voters in 1972, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota was way too liberal on many issues—and he was beaten badly by incumbent Richard Nixon. But to many fellow Methodists he was also a churchgoing humanitarian who in the 1960s directed the new Food for Peace Program and a forward-looking politician informed by the Social Gospel.
What are we doing to combat poverty
in our country and make sure that we join the voices of the prophets who speak
out against injustice? Often denominational churches work hard on these issues,
but we do it within our particular silos and we may not effectively
communicate our work.