The Uphill Battle of Escaping Poverty

A few weeks ago I posted a study discussing America’s low economic mobility – that is, why so many Americans born in poverty remain in poverty, despite working hard to escape it. Last week, the New York Times published an article examining the same issue. Utilizing both objective data and subjective personal narratives, Steven Greenhouse suggests that the face of America’s low wage earner has changed. Today’s low wage earner is older and better educated then their 1970s counterparts – both indications that workers today are finding it harder and harder to escape from poverty, despite finding employment, working hard, and earning educational credentials that ought to help them move up the socio-economic ladder. Recently, the conversation about work, the dignity of work, and the ability of workers to provide a better life for themselves has come to the forefront of the national conversation because of Paul Ryan’s recent comments about a culture of non-work existing in America’s inner cities. While his comments have received a lot of criticism concerning what exactly he meant by his comments and whose culture precisely he was indicting, to me the most troubling aspect of such debates in general is that they are built on the unquestioned assumption that if you just work hard, you can lift yourself out of poverty. Indeed, as Ryan contends,...

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the church

Blessed are the rich [pastors].

I stumbled upon this article the other day which caught my attention: When Pastors Live in Multimillion Dollar Mansions, It’s not a Sign Of God’s Blessing – But Our Sinfulness and I imagine there are going to be a lot of people with something to say on that one. What is interesting is that the article starts in the slums of India where the author, Benjamin Corey, is literally being cautioned where to stand because, “This is where the children make their shit.” Even with a level of poverty that most Americans could hardly imagine, the people of Mumbai– the people of India in general– are some of the happiest and most generous people I’ve ever been blessed to spend time with. It is one of the many reasons I continue to go back and why part of my heart is always somewhere on a dusty road in India. In the Improv course I once took, the presenter said this about scenes, ‘If you are going to do a scene about a business meeting, start the scene with two old ladies knitting!’ – the idea being to start as far away from the story as you can and to see, as you are creating it, how the story gets there, which in improv is a huge part of the fun....

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What if we asked the right questions about poverty?

In this short and to-the-point blog post, David Rudd looks at ‘income equality’ not from the point of bashing those on the top and complaining about how they should give all their resources to those on the bottom. Rather, he frames the discussion in a way that we probably have not seen enough of. By suggesting three questions and inviting us to dialogue around those questions to hopefully find solutions or at least the beginning of them in the quest to create a fairer world. 1 – How might we enable the poor to improve their lives and earning potential? 2 – How might we protect against those who would gain wealth through fraud, deception or abuse? 3- How might we encourage all people to generously care for those around them? We would LOVE to hear your thoughts on any one of those, or even all three. In fact, perhaps you are even feeling inspired enough to write a whole blog post answering them [if you do this, please won’t you send on the link to us]. How about it? What practical and realistic [or even totally way out crazy-sounding] ideas do you have to help address the reality of Poverty that we see in the world around us?...

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The Reality of Wealth Inequality in America

One thing I’ve found in many discussions with people about the issues surrounding poverty is that not many of us actually understand very much at all about how wealth is currently distributed in our society. In fact, I thought I knew a lot about it, until I recently came across this video and read some of the supporting data. While my perceptions of wealth inequality in our country were closer to the reality than what most Americans thought, I was still way, way off about just how inequitable our current situation really is. Take a look, and see if your perceptions match reality. The video doesn’t really offer any solutions. However, any solution must start with an accurate assessment of the problem – we must change our views the world is to reflect how it, in fact, actually...

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Presenting our offering at the altar of celebrity

Remember that story, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ by Hans Christian Anderson? Wikipedia sets out the plot for us: ‘A vain emperor who cares for nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but continues the procession.’ Well in an article I read this week it seems as if the emperor is well and truly among us and Kanye West be thy name. ‘Kanye West’s line of plain white t-shirts, devoid of any imagery or special characteristics and priced at $120 each, have completely sold out virtually instantaneously...

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