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  • In Who is responsible for the poor? Fred Smith mused about whether helping poor people is a proper thing for governments to be doing, and seemed to conclude that government "entitlements" aren't good because they let citizens off their Christian hook. He cited the 41st Psalm, which begins "Blessed is the man who considers the plight of the poor" and wondered whether enough of us still do that. We probably don't, but even if we are shirking, that doesn't mean solving the problem is entirely our responsibility.

    Given the grim statistics Fred cited, we aren't all that good at addressing the plight of the poor. Poverty in America decreased from the mid-70s onward, but started up again in this century, so that now we are back to where we started, or even worse in some cities and regions. On top of that, income gaps got worse as the well off got wealthier (see image).

    Many of the sorrows so many Americans now face were created by government policies, actions and inactions that deregulated, subsidized and otherwise favored large industries such as fossil fuel companies, aerospace, engineering, logistics and other military contractors, banking, finance, real estate and insurance companies. Washington went on to reduce taxes on wealthy individuals and their estates, the theory being that by giving these entities additional resources, everyone's boat would be lifted.

    Well, it didn't turn out so high a tide for anyone making less than about $50K per year, and a lot of middle class folks flowed into that bucket. Fred asked what has happened to compassion and individual responsibility. I have a problem believing that lifting up the new and old poor is the duty of citizens. Not only has the Federal government supported corporations that don't provide American jobs or fleece Americans with usurious interest rates after enticing them with deceptive mortgages and credit cards, it changed the bankruptcy rules to make it more punitive to be penniless.

    Anyone who claims that individual charity is the answer to poverty hasn't been noticing how poverty gets created and sustained. Let's face it, government subsidies, tax loopholes and deregulation aside, corporations are not judged on their good works. Markets whipsaw them every quarter if they fail to meet over-sized expectations for increased share prices and dividends. The only social contract they observe is with investors. Too many of us accept that situation, as if the primacy of profit is God's law. Communities, workers, the environment and customers be damned.

    So as income gaps continue to widen as a result of all this, the last thing I think anyone should be saying is that to help the poor we need more charitable acts when what we really need is to stop manufacturing poverty and stop asserting that government can't solve the problem. If government action enabled poverty, why can't it disable it?

    We can do that by getting fierce about political corruption and corporate welfare. Let's take David's lead and, using the levers of government, beat that anti-human corporate system into righteousness. As he said, "My enemies will not win, Lord, for You have shown me their destruction."

    Remember, David was King, not CEO. He WAS the government.


    @image: From Social Science Statistics Blog: "It is worth remembering that such extreme displays of economic inequality have not been permanent features of the U.S. economy. Rather, inequality has grown substantially over the last four decades. Watch it spread from the South across the country and intensify everywhere in the figure [above]."
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