Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thirty-one years after Romero, the poor are still being shafted

There is one rule by which to judge if God is near us
or is far away –
the rule that God’s word is giving us today:
everyone concerned for the hungry, the naked, the poor,
for those who have vanished in police custody,
for the tortured,
for prisoners,
for all flesh that suffers,
has God close at hand. (The Violence of Love)
Thirty-one years ago today, Oscar Romero, bishop and martyr, was shot while celebrating the Eucharist. Yesterday President Obama visited Archbishop Romero's tomb - a remarkable thing, given Romero's criticism of the United States and his embrace of liberation theology. (Beck, et al, will be foaming at the mouth over this one.) Both Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado's and Daniel Horan's comments are worth reading.

Romero was a strong advocate for the preferential option for the poor. You can understand, then, why I'm so angry after reading today that House Republicans are considering cutting food stamps and other anti-poverty programs in their 2012 budget, while at the same time proposing a tax holiday for corporations' overseas profits. The cut in food stamps is supposed to encourage those "stuck in the system" to find "gainful employment" - which might be a problem given that there are so few jobs available right now. The corporate tax holiday is meant to spur job growth.

So let me get this straight: We're going to get America back to work by cutting welfare programs for the poor and increasing corporate welfare. The idea, I suppose, is that tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy will eventually help the poor. That's a convenient bit of logic. More likely, though, is that the rich have political clout and the poor do not. Politicians have fits of conscience about this and dream up Orwellian fables meant to justify their neglect of the poor. "Rising tides lift all boats" and such. Economic development is good for everyone, they say - but, as Archbishop Romero said:
What good are beautiful highways and airports,
beautiful buildings full of spacious apartments,
if they are only put together with the blood of the poor,
who are not going to enjoy them?


  1. Jeremy,

    First, the Scripture's commands with respect to the poor are to individuals, not governments. Also, I'm probably a lot more skeptical about government anti-poverty programs than are you. And I'm deeply worried about federal spending and debt. If something isn't done to correct our situation in the next few years, I very much fear that we could face economic collapse and that the country could go the way of the Soviet Union. I'm quite serious about these fiscal dangers.

    While I favor deep, deep cuts to federal spending-current Republicans are even far too tame for me-I fail to see the point of cutting food stamps and other such government programs in these times. As you point out, the problem is that there just aren't many jobs to be had. More importantly, things such as food stamps are a drop in the bucket in the federal budget. We are currently spending about $300 million a DAY (yeah, you read that right, a DAY) to fight a counterproductive war in Afghanistan that we are almost sure to lose. One could also add the useless and counterproductive "war on drugs" and the billions in corporate welfare, for instance to big agriculture companies. This is all obscene.

    I'm all for deep cuts in federal spending and I'm not too bothered by tax cuts that might stimulate the economy. But we need to get our priorities straight with cuts. Food stamps and the like isn't the place to start cutting. I can think of plenty of other big-ticket items to cut first.


  2. I think we can agree on a lot here. Food stamps aren't a significant part of the budget - but military spending, war on drugs, corporate welfare, and farm subsidies are. That's where we should start.

    Of course, I expect government officials really care a lot about our opinions. ;)


About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.