We're hearing a lot about "Income Equality" these days. In fact, a carefully woven narrative has emerged in Washington DC that seems to resonate with many decent, compassionate people.
And the President is making it one of his top priorities.
Income Equality, on the surface, claims to be an attempt to ensure fairness and provide that the lower wage earners get more and those making more not get so much...creating an "equality."
That, of course, is a dramatic departure from the intent of our Founding Fathers who saw government as the "protector" of God given rights and of the opportunities that flow to all in a free society operating on a free market ideology. They did not envision a government that would become the provider and equalizer.
President Obama will most likely talk about the need for "income equality" in his State of the Union address tomorrow night.
Last year he called for an increase in the minimum wage. Progressive Democrats scolded him for not calling for more. He will probably heed their call this year.
Is a government committed to "social justice," "income equality" and the extreme expansion of a welfare state an act of compassion? Or is it a curse under the guise of compassion?
Is it a Christian act of social justice or an expansion and further intrusion of government into personal lives, enlarging power for those in leadership?
Does massive government welfare work? Has the so-called war on poverty made a difference?
What is the Christian perspective?
Since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in the mid 1960's with his "Great Society" policies and an expansion of government, we have spent $20 Trillion on the war on poverty.
Today, 50 years later, the poverty rate has stayed the same.
And the rich have not gotten richer while the poor have gotten poorer. In fact, every study shows that both the rich and the poor have gained economically.
Johnson pledged on January 8, 1964, his plan would "not only relieve the symptoms of poverty, but cure it and, above all, to prevent it."
Today, we spend $1 Trillion annually on 80 federal means tested programs that provide cash, food, housing and medical care.
It isn't working.
Yet in the progressive's version of America. to suggest anything but more of the same---continual expansion of government---is to be labeled insensitive to the poor, a hater and someone who cares not for the poor and needy--not a Christian.
Lisa Sharon Harper, writing for Jim Wallis' Sojourners, the largest and most influential religious left progressive organization in the country, said last week, "What kind of world is it where our elected leaders are always trying to take food away from the hungry?"
She was, of course, criticizing the attempt to reign in government spending---specifically those Republicans who are trying to right the ship as it continues to list left.
She and the social justice-income equality folks are specifically upset about the Farm Bill talks that funds SNAP, the food stamps program.They say there must be more money in SNAP because the number of people enrolled is increasing rapidly.
That number is indeed increasing, but a new Harvard study has found that the expansion is coming from "able-bodied-adults with out dependents (ABAWDs).
In the past 4 years, the number of ABAWD's on food stamps has skyrocketed by over 2 million. Food Stamps enrollment grew by 53% between Fiscal Year 2007 and Fiscal Year 2010---26 million to nearly 40 million---but it has more than doubled among ABAWDs during that time---from 1.7 million to 3.9 million, an increase of about 127%.
This suggests there is something very wrong with SNAP, particularly in light of the fact that the government actually spends money to recruit people to sign up for it.
The government spends $80 billion on Food Stamps.
It is creating a dependent nation. But is this dependency being created purposefully or inadvertently?
Historically, tyranny is always built off dependency. When those seeking to expand their power advocate for the poor and needy, they create a power base without ever having to advocate for their own rise to increased power.
So who is really intended to benefit from the "income equality" and war on poverty policies? If it is indeed the poor and those in need, then a 50 year look at the policies would, say, find a better way. If the policies are designed to empower those who administrate them, then they would say more is better.
A blessing or a curse?
An act of compassion or a ploy to increase the power of the ruling class?
A groundbreaking new study by renowned Harvard economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues confirm that children entering the labor market today have the same chances of moving up in their income distribution relative to their parents as children born in the 1970s.
The authors of the study explain that rates of upward mobility have remained "extremely stable".
They say the conventional narrative, one that President Obama calls "the defining challenge of our times," hinges on the notion that it is now harder to move up in America than it was in the past is simply not true.
So why not focus on creating more opportunity and less government dependence?
The answer seems to lie in the motives.
And how should the issue of poverty be addressed? There are those among us who truly need help.
While there may be a small role for government, it must be a very small one.
The religious left use the words and teaching of Jesus to further affirm the growth of government in relation to helping the poor. That is a distortion of what He taught.
New Testament teaching admonishes Christians, not the government to help the poor.
When government creates a welfare state, it not only sets the stage for tyranny, but steals opportunities from those who are drawn into the government system.
It steals the opportunity for one to achieve certain goals, it robs the individual of self respect and accomplishment.
It also teaches individuals to look to the government rather than God for help and provision. Christian churches and individuals have led in humanitarian causes for the past 2000 years.
A government under control is a better plan than a government in control. And it is more compassionate.