Paul Ryan claims to care about poor people. During a speech at a conservative conference, he said Democrats support school lunch programs so children can have “full bellies and empty souls.” Disgusting. How can anyone talk about poor children in such a callous way? I understand that Ryan and his fellow conservatives believe that the state should not provide a safety net. While I disagree with that belief, it is not the same thing as claiming that state programs empty our souls. The last time I checked good Pope Francis was teaching Jesus’ message to care for the poor. Ryan must understand the message to be that Jesus wants us to cut food programs for children – in the name of saving their souls.
Paul Krugman discusses this story in a much more intelligent way. I’m too livid to try to be rational about this. Over 20% of the children in America live in poverty. Most of the nutrition they receive comes when they are at school. Save their souls – and transfer the money to billionaires and corporations. That’s true morality.
A report in Common Dreams examines a survey of economists about the impact of inequality in the U.S. Economists across all political ideologies agree that pushing money to the top earners limits the ability of those in the middle and working class to spend. The report cites Paul Krugman, who writes: “On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis. For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie.”
Economists agree that inequality is a problem. Too many politicians, however, fear the charge of “class warfare” and ignore this problem. They are also ignoring that wealth has been redistributed for the last three decades. It has been taken from the many and given to the few. This issue should concern everyone who works for a living.
Lately I’ve been blogging about the disparity of wealth in the U.S. However, it’s a worldwide problem that had its best framing from an unusual source: Pope Francis. Since taking over from Pope Benedict, Francis has surprised many of us by speaking out in defense of poor and working people. This past Sunday, he put the problem in theological terms.
Speaking to unemployed miners in Sardina, the Pope put aside prepared remarks and spoke his heart. He said, “If there is no work, there is no dignity.” He challenged a world economic system that replaced God with an idol: money. The Pope then prayed to God to “give us work and teach us to fight for work.” Those words are powerful, especially in a world were workers are treated more and more as disposable commodities.
At what point is too much wealth too much and too much poverty too much? Pope Francis sees a world of haves and have not, and he is calling for change. May his voice – and his prayers – be heard.