Yesterday, the House passed H. Con. Res. 198 which expressed “the sense of Congress that the United States has a moral responsibility to meet the needs of those persons, groups and communities that are impoverished, disadvantaged or otherwise in poverty.”
Now, as Congressional resolutions are non-binding, and many can border on the absurd, it might be easy to dismiss this move as an empty gesture. Of course, only time will tell if Congress will be able to move beyond disappointing gridlock of this last session, but I am optimistic.
The resolution was based on recommendations from the Center for American Progress’ Task Force on Poverty so there’s a good deal of intellectual heft coupled with the idealistic goal. And perhaps most importantly, the faith community is ready to rally behind this cause. Poverty is a top concern for people of faith of all stripes. No other theme is as common in Scripture as society’s responsibility to care for the poor and people of faith have been calling for our government to heed this moral call for decades.
Hopefully this resolution represents the beginning of the last chapter of a great movement. People of faith have made fighting poverty a moral priority, and the House has just formally signaled its agreement with that framework. Now, let’s all do our part to make sure Congress follows through on that promise–37 million Americans living in poverty shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
Earlier this week I joined the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy’s (VICPP) Annual “Day for All People” Advocacy Event at the state capitol in Richmond. It drew over 300 attendees and coalition partners including members of the Virginia Organizing Project, The NAACP, and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations to the statehouse to advocate for policies protecting poor and vulnerable families. Their top priority this year is ending predatory payday lending, which can overwhelm already-struggling borrowers with insurmountable debt by charging over 300 percent interest. These loans are often a one-way ticket from vulnerability to poverty.
We spent part of the day with senate and house leaders to discuss payday lending legislation capping interest rates at 36 percent. While escorting my group through the capitol, VICPP’s Rev. Doug Smith, pointed out a table in the cafeteria full of lobbyists and lawyers working to protect the payday lenders from the legislation that would prevent them from squeezing borrowers out of their bottom dollars. The industry has plenty of money and resources to throw at legislators, so VICPP’s effort to rally bi-partisan support for payday lending regulation is as necessary as it is admirable. Gov. Tim Kaine, whose successful election campaign last year included a strongly faith-based message, spoke at the event and supports regulating payday lenders. Hopefully this broad coalition of religious activists and leaders can win this fight to protect the poor from predators.
Ah yes, my favorite faith and politics pundit, Fox News’ Fr. Morris. I always like how he prefaces his commentary with a feign to the high road. “Religion always has an influence on one’s character.”
Apparently, this Sunday his scriptural message is: don’t vote for the front runner, vote for limited government. Ah yes, the biblical principle of the limited role of government.
Now there’s a ideological concept that I have not learned in my last six years in Protestant and Catholic theological education. I recall Moltmann on hope, and Kant’s categorical imperative, but I missed the theological truth that limited government is a universal principle.
It sounds like politics to me. But I guess Fr. Morris kicked it off by saying that this wouldn’t be about that. . . oh, and remember the principle of don’t vote for the front-runner, who just happens to be Mike Huckabee.
Several foundations (including the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Eos Foundation) recently launched the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity Initiative. This resource aids citizens in “engaging presidential, congressional and local candidates in substantive discussions about poverty.â€ Check out the website for poverty-related research, news and campaign coverage, and statements from the presidential candidates.
The One Campaign just launched “On the Recordâ€, an online resource that compares presidential candidates’ positions on global poverty and health issues. The interactive website allows you to view a taped video response by each candidate, and compare their policy proposals to The One Campaign’s positions.