Archives For poor

One thing that has struck me and so many others as a very deadly thing to our country is the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. Another is how many in the rich category seem to be uncaring and even callous to those who don’t have the luxury that they have.

That fact struck me at a personal level when we were recently on a visit with some relatives. I know the age old mantra to not discuss religion or politics at family get-togethers but sometimes we foolishly ignore that advice. During some discussions with a niece the rich/poor gap came up. She basically started railing about all “those” people who are milking the welfare system. She seemed to totally reject the idea that not everyone who needs help are freeloaders.  My niece has a pretty good job that supports her husband and child with many luxuries in life. She is by no means rich but she also doesn’t have to worry much about day-to-day expenses. So when recently I came across this article it got my immediate attention. Here are some snippets:

2015-01-02_09-01-08WHAT IS CLEAR about rich people and their money — and becoming ever clearer — is how it changes them. A body of quirky but persuasive research has sought to understand the effects of wealth and privilege on human behavior — and any future book about the nature of billionaires would do well to consult it…

The people driving expensive cars were four times more likely to cut in front of other drivers than drivers of cheap cars. The researchers then followed the drivers to the city’s crosswalks and positioned themselves as pedestrians, waiting to cross the street. The drivers in the cheap cars all respected the pedestrians’ right of way. The drivers in the expensive cars ignored the pedestrians 46.2 percent of the time — a finding that was replicated in spirit by another team of researchers in Manhattan, who found drivers of expensive cars were far more likely to double-park…

There is plenty more like this to be found, if you look for it. A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below 25 grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those earning more than 150 grand a year give away only 2.7 percent. 

SOURCE:What wealth does to your soul – The Week.

The behavior exhibited by my niece is what I call “I’ve Got Mine So Screw You”. There are many people who just don’t seem to care about those who are much worse off than they are. I guess it didn’t surprise me too much that those same people are more likely to treat others in a subservient manner. They are also likely to keep more for themselves than to give to others.  They are simply the Takers instead of the Givers…

On the next post we will delve into some of the surprising findings of just why this trait is applicable to so many of the “better offs” among us. I want to close here by narrowing my brush and say that not all who are wealthy are greedy, careless people. Many give very much of themselves and their money…

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86 percent of strident conservatives think the poor ‘have it easy’ Illustrating the deep divide between GOP versus Democratic support for policies most benefiting the poor, a new Pew survey finds that a whopping 86 percent of steadfast conservatives think the poor “have it easy.” Similarly, business-minded Republicans 77 percent and young Republican-leaning adults 81 percent feel the same way.

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That sentiment underpins Republican arguments that programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits should be cut because they disincentivize work. And indeed, the same survey finds that at least eight in 10 Republicans from all three aforementioned demographic subgroups agree with the argument that government aid to the needy “does more harm than good.”

SOURCE: 86 percent of strident conservatives think the poor ‘have it easy’ – The Week.

This kind of information never ceases to astound me. I sadly think this mentality is due to ignorance rather than all these folk having a hardened hearts. The poor “gaming the system” is all that they have been exposed to. I am a firm believer that until you put a face on something it continues to be an abstract thing. Very few of this group has likely come face-to-face with anyone who is poor. If these folks want to see how “easy” it is maybe they ought to try and live on $1200 a month or less.

I really don’t know how large the “strident conservative” population is but I suspect it is something in the neighborhood of 20% of the overall population and of course most of those in that group are ardent Fox News viewers. That fact goes a long ways in telling us why they have the beliefs that the poor have it too easy.

I know one strident conservative who basically parroted the above beliefs but then went on to say that his sister was on welfare and Medicaid. He says she is an exception to all those others in those programs. She needs the help and all the rest are just gaming the system.  I wonder how many in this polls have similar experiences?

Many say that religion and politics don’t mix but this is one of those areas that I thoroughly mix them. Jesus made it abundantly clear that we are to be our brother’s keeper. We are to literally give him the shirt off our backs if he needs it.  Being a follower of Jesus I therefore align with helping those less fortunate in life than myself. I don’t see how I could do otherwise.

I know there are those, especially in the above group, who say it is the church’s job to help the poor not governments. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that I know it is not even a remote possibility. I am very aware that most churches spend more than 90% of their income taking care of the church/clubhouse and keeping their congregations comfortable. Even if they managed to reverse that ratio they would be quickly overwhelmed by the needs.

I think of my government as doing the people’s business.  That is the things that we as individual citizens can’t do for ourselves.  Taking care of those who struggle in our society is part of that business. I pray that my strident conservative friends some day come to realize this fact.

I end many of my posts with the words “but I’m just a simple guy so what do I know?”  That is just my way of saying what Will Rogers said about all he know is what he reads in the newspaper. I don’t have some inside knowledge about anything I post about here.  One thing I want to make sure that you understand is that there is a world of difference between being a simple guy and being simpleminded. One of the biggest insults someone could call me is simpleminded.

The dictionary says simpleminded is:

lacking mental capacity and subtlety

syn: dim-witted, simple

This definition is OK as far as it goes but to me simpleminded really mean having a lazy mind and in my mind that is the biggest problem for humanity.  It is the root cause of most of the problems of the world. Simple minded people don’t take the time to study something but instead just parrot what their favorite talking head tells them. Sometimes it is something that they have grown up with but never taken the time to see it is really true. Lazy minds drive me crazy.

I am a simple guy in that I am just not attuned to the big luxuries in life. I tasted caviar once and hated it. I can’t see driving a $50,000 car when a $15,000 one will get me from A to B just as well.  I can’t see spending $200 on a restaurant bill when most of it goes down the toilet the next day.

I am just not a high brow type of guy. Never have been; never will be. One of the ugliest things to me is a smirk. One of our recent president was very good at that and maybe that is the primary reason I celebrated his last day in the White House.  Smirking is where a person gives you the impression that he is superior to you. I totally believes that God loves the homeless guy as much as the CEO who gets millions of dollars in bonuses each year. He loves those 50,000 little kids in foreign countries who died last week of malnutrition just as much as any kid in the U.S.

I admit that I probably have more empathy than some people. I cry regularly when I see one human being showing compassion for another. Even though I am not a Catholic I swell up with emotions when I read many of the words of the most recent Catholic Pope.

I am a simple guy with a simple purpose in life. I don’t want to be famous or stinking rich. In many ways those things cause more pain than not. I thank the Lord that I have enough to eat and a healthcare plan that I can finally count on. I thank the Lord for having something as simple as good drinking water when so many other in the world don’t.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

Helping The Poor – Reason 1

December 22, 2013

2013-12-12_12-10-451)      Jesus Calls Us to Help the Poor

Jesus wants us to help the poor—without qualifications! He doesn’t command us to help just the responsible poor, the Christian poor, the likeable poor, the sober poor, or the hardworking poor, He calls us to love and help everyone—no matter what!

It’s amazing how we’re quick to recognize that God loves us unequivocally, that His grace covers all of our sins, and yet we put so many stipulations on helping the poor. If we accept God’s infinite mercy in our lives but refuse to pass it along to others—whether we think they’re deserving of it or not—we’re the worst of hypocrites.

SOURCE: Stephen Mattson: 5 Reasons We Should Personally Help the Poor | Red Letter Christians.

On this blog I pretty much reserve my spiritual affiliations (or maybe afflictions) for Sunday posts. I am going to spend the next five Sundays going through a list of reasons from Stephen Mattson over at Red Letter Living about why we Christians should help the poor. I haven’t run across a more heartfelt list in my life.

Reason number one is that our founder Jesus calls us to help the poor.  We Christians seem to be readily able to accept God’s grace but very reluctant to do the same with each other. There should be no qualifications attached to helping the poor. Jesus didn’t stipulate which poor to help and neither should we.  There is good reason to call many who claim the Christian mantle hypocrites. This is perhaps the primary one.

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Ryan2“The Ryan budget kicks 12 to 13 million people off of nutrition assistance, cuts off pathways to opportunity, slashes job training and education, and makes draconian cuts to Medicare, which serves a majority of the disabled and the elderly,” said Boteach. “That’s how House Republicans have outlined their priorities.”

Among those who voted for Ryan’s budget: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, whose district has a roughly 28 percent poverty rate and 38 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), whose district has a roughly 26 percent poverty rate and 37 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose district has a roughly 17 percent poverty rate and 25 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), whose district has a roughly 16 percent poverty rate and 19 percent child poverty rate; and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), whose district has a roughly 16 percent poverty rate and a 26 percent child poverty rate.

Source:  ‘Missing In Action’: Congress Ignores America’s Poverty Crisis.

I am a strong believer in our representative form of government. It is what has made us strong over the centuries. But the recent problem has been that many who go to Washington as our representative end up clinging to a party line rather than doing what is best for those they represent. To me it is shameful to see so many of the strongest backers of the GOP/Ryan budget coming from areas that have the highest rates of poverty.

It is a hard fact for me to face but the reality is that poverty in this country just doesn’t have much of a priority when it comes to our government processes. The poor simply don’t have the political power or lobbies that many other things have. Because of the power brokers in the country our military establishments drain so much of the resources away from programs to help the least of these. It seems if they have a choice of making another $50 million war plane or helping 100,000 rise above the poverty level they always choose the former.  I know the Republican party is trying desperately to re-brand themselves in to something that shows they have compassion but given the latest Ryan budget their actions simply don’t live up to their re-framed rhetoric.

One of the easiest ways to help the poor in this country is to raise the minimum wage. It has not even come close to keeping up with inflation in the last 30 years. Of course raising the minimum wage has some very fierce advocates among the GOP. They, like they always have throughout my 60+ years on the earth vehemently claim that raising the wage will result in millions of jobs lost.  To me that ancient rhetoric has been disproved so many times in the past as to have lost all credibility but there are still millions of conservatives around today that  parrot those words.

Lets be clear that the majority of the 46 million who are now living in poverty work, do not lie back and expect life to be given to them. Most are working at  minimum wage jobs, often time more than one.  If the Republican party is really serious about taking on the mantel of being “compassionate conservatives” as Mr. Bush futilely tried to label himself so many years ago they need to recognize that until the minimum wage is raised to something at least remotely resembling what it should be poverty will continue to have a strangle hold on millions of households in this country.

We are almost reaching a third world status when it comes to the number of our citizens living in poverty. Shame on us!!!

Whose Responsibility???

August 26, 2012

I got into a discussion on FaceBook recently about Church/State responsibilities.  This one started out on a good friend of mine’s page where he stated:

As a pastor I try to steer clear of citing personal preferences when it comes to politics. …. Having said that, I am certainly happy that a man of great integrity and moral character, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, is a part of the conversation.

Of course this brought on some other friends who stated it is absolutely necessary for pastors to point out God’s standards in guiding his flock in making the proper choices among the candidates.  At that point I commented that I don’t think it is God’s standard to take billions away from aid to the poor and give it to millionaires as tax breaks? Of course as an expected response I heard that it is not government’s job to take care of the poor; that is the church’s role. I think I surprised them when I agreed with them entirely.

Here are my further comments on the subject.

I couldn’t agree with you more that it is our job as Christians to take care of the poor. So why is it that we seem to only be able to do about 3% of the job? What do you propose the other 97% of the need do if we take the government safety net away from them. It is nice to sit back and talk about this in abstract but for the last nine years I have spent at least two days a week volunteering at a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Every time another piece of the safety net is torn away we get a few more people who rely on us for their nourishment.

So, lets quit spending 90% of what we collect in our churches on ourselves and do like the early Christians did and spend almost all of it on those who are doing without. They called this giving “hospitality” and it was central to their early beliefs. When that happens I will march along side you and I’m sure government will gladly get out of the way. But given how we are doing right now that will take centuries to accomplish. Lets all get out of our pews and into the community where Jesus intended us to be…

 I am struck by the arrogance of us Christians when all we do is talk about it not being government’s job and then go back to our usual ways. Every statistic shows that Christians are pretty much like everyone else when it comes to charity, divorce, riches, and other worldly things. I think Jesus is very disappointed in us in that regard. I hope you don’t respond that we are all sinners and somehow that allows us to shirk our responsibilities. Yes, the poor will always be with us especially when we Christians talk in platitudes instead of actually doing things.

One of my favorite quotes that isn’t heard much in Christian churches is 1John 3:16. It is interesting that it is so close to the other one. 
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. “

I am happy that the Lord gave me the proper words in response. I never heard anything more but I hope I at least put a tiny thought into these Evangelical’s hearts.