We don’t really give a damn about the poor.
Let’s be honest…We like our freedom. Freedom to choose our own pleasures, live in communities we choose, save or spend, pick our own set of truths, and speak our mind.
We care about the things we care about. We vigorously protect our privileges, our children, and the echo chamber of our own tribes. In America, we like to feel proud, charitable, and exceptional.
God bless America!
Speaking of God, some of us like to say without fear of rebuttals that our country was founded on Christian principles by Christian men with Christian values that result in the republic that has as a core value the common good.
In his book “The Common Good,” Robert B. Reich reminds readers that while romanticizing American History is not helpful, the founders did try to produce a government that would produce virtuous people who intended the common good. In Federalist Paper no.45, James Madison claimed that “the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.”
Is the world better off when some of us are doing just fine while millions wake up hungry and go to bed without shelter? I think not. Are we willing to accept that 18% of all children in the United States (13 million) are living in poverty in the richest country in the world?
As we grappled and grieved amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 100 million more people were forced into poverty. The safety net spending bill proposed by Democrats in Congress is stuck in in-party squabbles and partisan blockade. Most Americans quietly watch as the working poor and the citizens considered less important get the shaft.
The pandemic ejected millions of women and hourly workers from the workforce. While the billionaires are shooting rockets into space, we are still putting loved ones in the ground and turning our backs on a universal pursuit of the common good.
The United States is the only rich country without a federal mandate to offer paid leave for new parents or medical emergencies. Most experts agree we would be a stronger country if we provided universal pre-Kindergarten for parents who wanted it.
Sociologists, economists, and parents know that more financial resources for families raising children reduces poverty. Safe and available childcare that is free for some and affordable for all puts people back in school and back to work.
There is a labor shortage at the same time there is a childcare shortage. Supporting a living wage and an increase in minimum wage is not radical; it is reasonable.
I will be calling my Congressional Representatives and Senators this month, and I encourage you to do the same. I get no pass on this common good thing because I pay for a storage space to store things I think are needed. I have multiple cars and a freezer full of food. And I claim to love Jesus as a Christian but refuse to sell all I have for the poor.
We all can do better. However, the things before Congress proposed by President Biden intended to help the working class citizens, parents with children, and reduce poverty are straight out of the founder’s intent to pursue the common good. It is always the right time to do the right thing.
Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church