God's Politics

God's Politics


Sweet Beginnings: How Work Can Work by Jim Wallis

posted by God's Politics

Last week I received an interesting package in the mail from Sweet Beginnings LLC, a Chicago-based neighborhood non-profit “committed to training and employing residents who are often locked out of the traditional labor market due to past criminal records and other barriers to employment.”


Opening the large cardboard box, I discovered two of their signature “beeline” products: homemade beeswax body cream and lip balm. I met Brenda Palms Barber, the CEO of this remarkable organization, at the Aspen Ideas Festival last month.


The Sweet Beginnings story is one worth sharing—an example of success against some pretty incredible odds.


North Lawndale, a neighborhood on Chicago’s west side (where the organization is based), has seen its share of challenging circumstances in decades past. With six in 10 residents having been in trouble with the law and one in four currently unemployed, the community faces some of the most troubling realities confronting urban America.


Experiencing an alarming rate of “white flight” in the years following World War II as government housing policies favoring white Americans incentivized mass migration into new suburban communities, North Lawndale saw its white population drop from 87,000 to 11,000 between 1950 and 1960, while its African American population increased sharply, from 13,000 to over 113,000, during that same time.


Moreover, “the next two decades [saw] a series of economic and social disasters for this increasingly isolated, segregated community. Riots followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, destroying many of the stores … accelerating a decline that lead to a loss of 75 percent of the businesses in the community by 1970,” according to the Steans Family Foundation—the Lawndale-focused foundation enabling Sweet Beginnings to get off the ground in 1999.


Confronting the twin challenges of rampant unemployment and the difficulty of finding work for individuals with a criminal record, Sweet Beginnings provides job opportunities for once-incarcerated community members while equipping them with the skills, experiences, and hope necessary to sustain and pursue work in the future.


As I’ve often said before, “Work works,” but only when it empowers people to meet their needs while affirming their dignity as image-bearers of God. When people are given the right information, the right education, and sufficient economic opportunity they are far more likely to make good choices.


For more information, please check out the Sweet Beginnings Web site here.


Additionally, Sweet Beginnings and their Beeline products were featured on the CBS Evening News awhile back. Check out the story here.



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Wolverine

posted August 14, 2007 at 12:35 pm


Jim Wallis wrote:
“Work works,” but only when it empowers people to meet their needs while affirming their dignity as image-bearers of God. When people are given the right information, the right education, and sufficient economic opportunity they are far more likely to make good choices.
There’s really very little to argue with here, for once. I would simply point out that almost any work, even at low pay, can affirm human dignity by transforming the worker into a contributor to society.
As for the rest, the “right education, the right education, and sufficient economic opportunity”, I agree with Wallis about the importance of these things, my main disagreement is over how to bring these conditions about.
Wolverine



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Deryll

posted August 14, 2007 at 12:52 pm


[Sweet Beginnings provides job opportunities for once-incarcerated community members while equipping them with the skills, experiences, and hope necessary to sustain and pursue work in the future.]
So Wolvie, what’s the problem with “Sweet Beginnings” providing job opportunities and equipping once incarcerated folks with skills, experience, and hope? and how then would you suggest fostering (right education, the right education, and sufficient economic opportunity)?



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Wolverine

posted August 14, 2007 at 1:51 pm


Deryll,
I’m not aware of any “problems” with Sweet Beginnings.
Wolverine



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Deryll

posted August 14, 2007 at 2:38 pm


[I’m not aware of any “problems” with Sweet Beginnings.]
Wolverine
So, why then say you disagree. JW’s article simply gave some history of a neighborhood and presented “Sweet Beginnings” as an effort to address part of the problem. I pray for the success of their efforts and am puzzled by your disagreement with their methodology.



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Wolverine

posted August 14, 2007 at 3:57 pm


Deryll,
My disagreement wasn’t with Sweet Beginnings, but with Jim Wallis — and in this case it was a relatively small one.
Entrepeneurship can be a very positive thing, and I’m pleased to see Wallis acknowledge that.
Believe it or not, I’m not always picking fights.
Wolverine



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Deryll

posted August 14, 2007 at 4:09 pm


Wolverine
Odd way to not pick a fight. JW is wrong for opening his mail? and sharing the story of “Sweet Beginnings”?
Perhaps you could disagree with something that’s actually in the article, next time.



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jurisnaturalist

posted August 14, 2007 at 5:10 pm


Sweet beginnings sounds like believers using a market based voluntary solution to resolving several problems at once.
Jim missed one condition obviously at work at Sweet Beginnings: Incentives. The workers at this firm have been offered an excellent set of incentives for their labor. The challenge is to prevent the state from offering dis-incentives to work.



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Mick Sheldon

posted August 14, 2007 at 7:31 pm


have been offered an excellent set of incentives for their labor. The challenge is to prevent the state from offering dis-incentives to work.
Posted by: jurisnaturalist
And everyone said Amen



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DHFabian

posted August 14, 2007 at 10:46 pm


Sweet Beginnings is a good example of what actually can be accomplished. However, I disagree with Wolverine’s comment that “… almost any work, even at low pay, can affirm human dignity by transforming the worker into a contributor to society.” The minimum wage has deteriorated dramatically over the past quarter century, jobs have been stripped of such benefits as insurance and labor protections, while the wealth and power of the richest 1% continues to soar. Those who are poor today will remain poor, no matter how hard they work. The message that gets driven home to low wage workers every single day is that they have no value as citizens, or as people. Every low-wage paycheck is a confirmation of the contempt felt for the hard-working poor, and there is certainly no dignity in that.
And why would the working poor have any interest in being a “contributor” to the very socio-economic system that has caused so much harm to America’s working class?



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TimR

posted August 14, 2007 at 11:27 pm


“Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return.”
-Ayn Rand
Individuals in the bottom quintile perform 4.3 percent of all the work in the U.S. economy, while those in the top quintile perform 33.9 percent. The fact is, it is very difficult to work ANY job fulltime for over a year and remain under the poverty line. It is also nearly impossible to get paid minimum wage at the same job for over a year.
Some truths about welfare in 1995:
The 4.7 million families currently receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) have already spent, on average, six-and-a-half years on welfare.
When past and estimated future receipt of AFDC are combined, the estimated average length of stay on AFDC, among those families currently receiving benefits, is an astonishing 13 years.
(http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/BG1063.cfm )
Let’s say your made up stat is right…six years!?!? Whenever you pay someone to not be productive…they are not going to be productive. It is not that difficult of a concept to understand.



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Joseph T

posted August 15, 2007 at 12:36 am


This is off topic from Jim’s fine article. It is about the stand on torture taken by the NRCAT. This seems like an important development and an important issue. Has sojourners or Jim lent support to this effort?
” A coalition of more than 125 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other religious organizations – collectively known as NRCAT, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture – is conducting an increasingly robust and sophisticated lobbying and grassroots action campaign to override an executive order by President Bush that permits the Central Intelligence Agency to use undefined “alternative interrogation techniques” in questioning alleged terror suspects.
According to NRCAT’s organizer, the Rev. George Hunsinger, a professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary, “More than 20,000 people of faith have endorsed NRCAT’s Statement of Conscience,” entitled, “Torture is a Moral Issue.” ”
I am worried that major moral issues are being neglected in a rush to embrace more feel good political issues. Right now the political gears are stalled because the US Senate is still under the sway of a “conservatism” so extreme that it embraces torture, extroardinary rendition, suspension of habeus corpus, and spying on Americans, a Congress that it is still unwilling to demand congressional oversight of all agencies of government as prescribed in the Constitution.
Reform is the order of the day. We have a sick body politic , under the sway of milataristic patriotic swill, corporate bribery, and influence peddling.
Anyway I am diverging from my core question, which is where does Jim stand on the NRCAT’s efforts to end torture and are you going to call for support on this issue, or at least put it before GP readers.



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James Palmer

posted August 15, 2007 at 9:10 am


“The fact is, it is very difficult to work ANY job fulltime for over a year and remain under the poverty line.”
Really? The fact is that there is about 17 million people in this country who are working and still live below the poverty line. Another fact is that most of these people will probably stay there. I live in a major metropolitan city in the South where I have had the opportunity to work with some of the city’s poor and homless. I help serve breakfast to folks early in the morning on Tuesdays. The one thing that stands out for me is how many of them are on their way to work! Most of them have been coming in for years and years for breakfast.



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jurisnaturalist

posted August 15, 2007 at 9:50 am


Tim,
I’m going to dismiss your statistics outright because they came from that Right-wing bastion the Heritage Foundation. And your Ayn Rand quote is arrogant, conceited, and takes no thought of others.
James, where can I get this free breakfast?
Nathanael Snow



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Wolverine

posted August 15, 2007 at 10:05 am


DHFabian,
You are confusing dignity with wealth and self-respect with status.
At various times in my life, I have worked at low-wage jobs. Obviously my material status, my access to creature comforts and toys was diminished by this, but my ability to look myself in the mirror was largely sustained by the simple fact that I was supporting myself and doing something constructive during the day.
Your comments illustrate perfectly the materialism of the left: the conviction that one’s value as a person is reflected precisely by the size of his or her paycheck and that one cannot have dignity unless one has (1) benefits and (2) stuff. That is an understandable mistake — I won’t pretend that we conservatives don’t fall for materialism ourselves. But it is still a huge fallacy.
Yes, taking on menial work (it’s happened to me, more than once) really does suck, but it’s not a disgrace to take a low-wage job and you are doing the working poor no favors by suggesting that it is.
Wolverine



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Wolverine

posted August 15, 2007 at 10:28 am


James Palmer:
Really? The fact is that there is about 17 million people in this country who are working and still live below the poverty line. Another fact is that most of these people will probably stay there. I live in a major metropolitan city in the South where I have had the opportunity to work with some of the city’s poor and homless. I help serve breakfast to folks early in the morning on Tuesdays. The one thing that stands out for me is how many of them are on their way to work! Most of them have been coming in for years and years for breakfast.
First of all James, I appreciate your willingness to give your own time to assist the poor. If nothing else you deserve credit for that.
I am curious, however, as to how you know that many of them are on their way to work? I’ve served breakfast at soup kitchens myself and never got that impression. My turns on the serving line were more sporadic though, so maybe I missed something?
Wolverine



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Rick Nowlin

posted August 15, 2007 at 10:57 am


Yes, taking on menial work (it’s happened to me, more than once) really does suck, but it’s not a disgrace to take a low-wage job and you are doing the working poor no favors by suggesting that it is.
I don’t think that’s what he was talking about. Until I got my present job I was always a memeber of the “working poor,” but I always showed up. Rather, I think his issue is that they have less and less employment security no matter how hard they work, and it’s beyond wages. And I also agree that it’s virtually impossible to move up the ladder today, especially since rich and poor tend to live in separate neighborhoods (even attending separate churches) and thus the poor are not acquainted with the folks who make the decisions about hiring and promotions.
I am curious, however, as to how you know that many of them are on their way to work? I’ve served breakfast at soup kitchens myself and never got that impression.
They could be in uniform, or maybe it came out in the conversation.



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Joseph T

posted August 15, 2007 at 11:28 am


Ayn Rand hardly qualifies as a Christian voice. Her “truth” has nothing to do with the teachings and example of Jesus. Wolverine and Kevin are rooted in something similar: basically social Darwinism as interpreted through Calvinism/Puritanism. Arguing with them continues to be a dead end.



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kevin s.

posted August 15, 2007 at 11:38 am


“The fact is that there is about 17 million people in this country who are working and still live below the poverty line. Another fact is that most of these people will probably stay there.”
The majority of those who are working will stay below the poverty line? Where do you get this information?
“Wolverine and Kevin are rooted in something similar: basically social Darwinism as interpreted through Calvinism/Puritanism. ”
I am marginally an open theist, though I don’t see why Calvinism in particular would compel me to be politically conservative. Can you unpack that a little?
And I don’t see where modest policy differences w/r/t entitlements and the tax code constitute the difference between social darwinism and not. Let’s move beyond the catch phrases, eh?



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James Palmer

posted August 15, 2007 at 11:39 am


WOLVERINES!! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
You said: “I am curious, however, as to how you know that many of them are on their way to work? I’ve served breakfast at soup kitchens myself and never got that impression. My turns on the serving line were more sporadic though, so maybe I missed something?”
I talked to them actually. I was lucky enough to be able to actually have conversations with many of them–most were men and most were regular day laborers. It’s not like they are jetting through on their way to the “office.” One guy was just a regular laborer who worked for a landscaper.
My point was that it’s naive (and, I think, wrong) to say as Tim R. did that “…it is very difficult to work ANY job fulltime for over a year and remain under the poverty line. It is also nearly impossible to get paid minimum wage at the same job for over a year.” The fact is that if you are uneducated and poor, you are likely to stay at or below the poverty line–which for 2006 was I think around 16,000 for a family of 3. That’s just the way things have–and continue, to trend. We are also living in a time when real minumum wage continues to decrease while the real average wage continues to increase. This means that the ever-expanding rift between rich and poor continues to grow while the middle class continues to shrink.
Also, according to David Brady at Duke who teaches a course on poverty “…U.S. poverty is nearly twice that of Canada and the U.K and about three times that of many European countries. My students are surprised to learn that the richest country in the world has the most poverty of any industrialized democracy.”
I find that incredibly sad–especially for a country like ours where the power of the individual to better themselves is so celebrated. One encourageing thing that I find, though, is that a lot of churches are taking note and stepping up to help provide for people left out.



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Moderatelad

posted August 15, 2007 at 11:43 am


Looking online at Sweet Beginings I see nowhere that says that they offer benefits – could this be true?
Blessings –
.



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Wolverine

posted August 15, 2007 at 1:07 pm


Joseph T. wrote:
Ayn Rand hardly qualifies as a Christian voice. Her “truth” has nothing to do with the teachings and example of Jesus. Wolverine and Kevin are rooted in something similar: basically social Darwinism as interpreted through Calvinism/Puritanism. Arguing with them continues to be a dead end.
I’ve never been a follower of Ayn Rand, who is considered a fringe character even among conservatives. Nor am I much of a Puritan/Calvinist. I am actually a high-church Anglican, which is about as far as one can get from Puritanism and remain Protestant.
Nor do I hold to social darwinism. I see the market as a cooperative structure as much as a competitive one, because trading goods, services, or money is a cooperative action.
By contrast, social darwinism and socialism are not as mutually exclusive as they are presumed to be, because even in a centralized society there is likely to be competition for advancement within government.
Other than that, you’ve got me all figured out.
Wolverine



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Wolverine

posted August 15, 2007 at 1:21 pm


James Palmer wrote:
The fact is that if you are uneducated and poor, you are likely to stay at or below the poverty line–which for 2006 was I think around 16,000 for a family of 3.
I think the key distinction here is “uneducated”. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that poorly educated people find it particularly difficult to leave poverty even if they work — for a wide range of reasons that are not limited to low starting wages.
To the extent that’s the case, that suggests to me that the key is to improve education, especially in large urban districts that serve students from poor families. But doing that means butting heads with teachers unions, and I don’t know if Wallis and Sojo are up for that.
Wolverine



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aaron

posted August 15, 2007 at 1:33 pm


It could also mean taking advantage of the many existing government programs that offer methods of paying for advanced skills training or college. But not everyone eligible tries, alas, sometimes cigarrette wrapper warnings aren’t enough.



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James Palmer

posted August 15, 2007 at 1:54 pm


W wrote:
“…that suggests to me that the key is to improve education, especially in large urban districts that serve students from poor families.”
Well, yeah. Of course it means improving education. It also means, for instance, not cutting programs that help poor kids who get good grades in high school get into college–GA’s Hope scholarships spring to mind. It ALSO means that you don’t cut school lunch programs. It ALSO means that you make it easier for poor children to have access to healthcare so that they can actually GO to school. It ALSO means that we have to make it easier for preschool aged children to have access to solid Pre-K programs. Etc.. Etc…
“I think the key distinction here is “uneducated”.” Wrong, the key is POOR. POOR POOR POOR. And from a Christian perspective, Christ tells us (in Matthew) the the poor will always be with us. Also Rev. Wallis was writing from a faith perspective–citing an example of a ministry working in service of the poor, and not from a perspective of policy. The policy cause/effect with regards to poverty are myriad and I doubt whether anyone can argue that they have the definitive solution.
I will say that, in my city, I am gratified by how many ministries have popped up to help the poor. There are food banks and restaurants that are run by community outreach ministries that are not only providing great service and good food, they are doing the very works that Christ commanded of all of us.



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aaron

posted August 15, 2007 at 3:13 pm


“I think the key distinction here is “uneducated”.”
Wrong, the key is POOR. POOR POOR POOR
No, it’s uneducated. My mother has been a waitress her whole life, supporting us as children through embarassing times such as being on welfare and WIC. Last year she finished her associates degree, and now makes twice what she did as a waitress. I told her ten years ago to do it, that could’ve been 8 more years of not being poor had she done it then.
Uneducated people just don’t have the job choice, which facilitates their poordom.



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aaron

posted August 15, 2007 at 3:16 pm


Of course you may be talking about the culture of poor, where poorer people tend to emphasize creativity less in their children and foster conformity instead, or other bad habits passed on such as food choices, money allocations, etc. And all those programs you mentioned aren’t gonna matter one bit if the parents in charge of the children just don’t care that much.



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James Palmer

posted August 15, 2007 at 3:42 pm


Aaron said:
“No, it’s uneducated. My mother has been a waitress her whole life, supporting us as children through embarassing times such as being on welfare and WIC. Last year she finished her associates degree, and now makes twice what she did as a waitress. I told her ten years ago to do it, that could’ve been 8 more years of not being poor had she done it then.”
That’s wonderful for her and I compliment her hard work. The sad fact is that most people who are living well below the poverty line aren’t able to go to school to pursue advanced degrees and thus aren’t able to escape their very “poordom.”. They just aren’t.
That aside, I mentioned before that the causes/effect of poverty are varied and it’s naive to simply say, “Education” is the answer. Education is just one perspective.



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Wolverine

posted August 15, 2007 at 3:53 pm


Well, yeah. Of course it means improving education. It also means, for instance, not cutting programs that help poor kids who get good grades in high school get into college–GA’s Hope scholarships spring to mind. It ALSO means that you don’t cut school lunch programs. It ALSO means that you make it easier for poor children to have access to healthcare so that they can actually GO to school. It ALSO means that we have to make it easier for preschool aged children to have access to solid Pre-K programs. Etc.. Etc…
To pick out just one item on the laundry list here, for most of mankind’s history medicine has been far inferior to what we have today (even with the horrors of the free-market!) and there are historians who will argue that it wasn’t until the mid 1800s that doctors could be relied on to do their patients more good than harm. And yet we managed to build schools and teach kids to read and write.
Food programs, health care, pre-K, college scholarships — those all have their place, but sound basic education is not dependent on any of them.
Wolverine



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aaron

posted August 15, 2007 at 4:00 pm


The sad fact is that most people who are living well below the poverty line aren’t able to go to school to pursue advanced degrees and thus aren’t able to escape their very “poordom.”. They just aren’t.
I wouldn’t call an associates degree advanced. I bet many who you say aren’t able actually are, it’s just a matter of will. Some, actually can’t, I’ll grant that.



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squeaky

posted August 15, 2007 at 4:37 pm


aaron
“No, it’s uneducated. My mother has been a waitress her whole life, supporting us as children through embarassing times such as being on welfare and WIC. ”
Could it be the reason she didn’t go to school earlier was that she was supporting you and your siblings? I get the impression that she is also a single mother? Make no mistake, school is not easy, even going part-time, and it is not easy to balance it with family and job. I have seen many students try it at the school where I teach, and although some are able to do it, many others are not–single mothers have it especially hard. I don’t know your family’s situation, but would you say it was a matter of will for your mother to stay out of school, or was it a matter of time (or money for that matter) she simply did not have because she was supporting you guys? For many single mothers, poverty isn’t really a choice because they simply do not have time or resources to attend school while they are working two jobs to support their families.



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bren

posted August 15, 2007 at 6:02 pm


Changing the subject totally for a minute, to correct something Wolverine wrote. He wrote: “I am actually a high-church Anglican, which is about as far as one can get from Puritanism and remain Protestant.”
In fact Anglicanism is traditionally not a Protestant faith, but a third-way, different from both Protestants and Catholics.
I write as another Anglican.



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aaron

posted August 15, 2007 at 6:27 pm


Squeaky,
It was will, she didn’t think she could “do” college. Waitressing would have been the ideal job had she have gone then, it has the most flexible hours.



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James Palmer

posted August 15, 2007 at 8:18 pm


“I wouldn’t call an associates degree advanced.” Probably right. I was considering anything past high school advanced. I may have misspoken…
Still, education–or lack thereof is one of a whole potpurri of reasons why people may find it hard to get ahead. There are hundreds of other issues to consider–issues that vary from region to region, state to state, county to county and so on. I will again say that it is naive to suggest that the answer is simply “education.” Simply put, trends show that if you are living below the poverty line and working, the chances are that you will most likely stay there.
The central point I made–which seems to have been lost, is the growing rift between the very poor and the very wealthy and the shrinking middle class. There is a growing disparity between the real minimum and average wages which demonstrates that minimum wage is not a living wage and people who MAKE minimum wage face an ever growing list of challenges. Bottom line, we need to make the minimum wage a living wage.



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TimR

posted August 15, 2007 at 10:06 pm


I am not an Objectivist. I would never use Rand as a moral compass, but she is dead on about the value of work. Payment for work has to be a voluntary exchange with two parties. If anyone feels devalued by how much they get paid, you can quit! If you think you are more valuable than what you are getting paid you are free to find a new job that pays you what you think you are worth. What doesn’t work is having the government invent and assign value to one’s work.
James Palmer and Jurisnaturalist:
You disagree with my statistics, but provide nothing to dispute them. It is more convenient to think that ALL poor people are working and working hard. Unfortunately the facts show otherwise.
Wasn’t it “Social Darwinism” that made the light bulb maker put the kerosene lamp maker out of business? Should we have stopped those immoral light bulb makers?



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James Palmer

posted August 15, 2007 at 11:10 pm


Tim R–
Your assertion that “…it is very difficult to work ANY job fulltime for over a year and remain under the poverty line. It is also nearly impossible to get paid minimum wage at the same job for over a year.” is simply wrong. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Dept. of Labor, and the Dept. of Health and Human Services bear that out. If you are a part of the working poor population in 2007, that is making $9,645 a year, you are likely to STAY part of the working poor population in 2008. The cost of living is increasing. The price of goods and services is going up and wages aren’t keeping up with these trends.
I know that ALL poor people aren’t “working and working hard.” I also know that a lot of very WEALTHY people aren’t working and working hard. So what? Being poor is no more a virtue or a sin than being rich. I am merely stating that to have a minimum wage that doesn’t constitute a LIVING wage is injustice.



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Anonymous

posted August 16, 2007 at 12:21 am


The U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) reveals the following:
Among poor families with children, one-quarter to one-third have zero employment throughout the year.
The fact that nearly three-quarters of all poor families with children have less than full-time/full-year employment indicates that child poverty could be sharply reduced if adults in these families worked more. Indeed, if all currently poor families with children had full-time adult employment throughout the year (at least 2,000 hours), the child poverty rate in the United States would be cut by 72 percent.
When you ask for a minimum wage you are asking for the government to involuntarily assign value to another person’s effort. How is paying someone according to a voluntary agreement unjust? Equality and justice are not synonyms.



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TimR

posted August 16, 2007 at 1:02 am


When you ask an employer to pay an employee a “living wage” you decide you are asking the employer to pay their employee more than their work is worth. You could say this is benevolent altruistic, or philanthropic, but it is not just.
I know I sound coldhearted, but the point is I don’t want a government that tries to be philanthropic by taking away freedom. I just helped type up a resume tonight for a slightly mentally disabled man that goes to my church. He can work and has worked, but has just been living off his government checks for the last four months. It took me maybe an hour to do. That little time I spent was no big sacrifice, but what it did was give value to his mind and effort. He is much more motivated now to get a job because he knows I have invested my mind and effort voluntarily in him. When the government is philanthropic it is not voluntary or personal and therefore gives no value.



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TimR

posted August 16, 2007 at 1:04 am


oops that Anonymous comment was me too.



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James Palmer

posted August 16, 2007 at 7:27 am


“The fact that nearly three-quarters of all poor families with children have less than full-time/full-year employment indicates that child poverty could be sharply reduced if adults in these families worked more. Indeed, if all currently poor families with children had full-time adult employment throughout the year (at least 2,000 hours), the child poverty rate in the United States would be cut by 72 percent.”
Let’s say for the sake of argument that your figures are correct: it is overwhelmingly slanted against the notion that poor people don’t want to work and that work for poor families is falling from the sky… There can be literally hundreds of reasons why poor people can’t just “work more.”
That aside, it sounds to me like you have a philisophical problem with not only the minimum wage but a living wage as well. I have heard this argument before. My question is, how is paying someone a wage that is in reflective of the cost of living taking away someone’s freedom? Without some kind government mandate that tells employers Walmart would start paying its people in seashells…



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James Palmer

posted August 16, 2007 at 7:33 am


Next you’ll tell me that an overwhelmingly large number of homeless people are homeless by choice…



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Rick Nowlin

posted August 16, 2007 at 8:57 am


You disagree with my statistics, but provide nothing to dispute them. It is more convenient to think that ALL poor people are working and working hard.
Many are.



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aaron

posted August 16, 2007 at 9:53 am


Simply put, trends show that if you are living below the poverty line and working, the chances are that you will most likely stay there.
And those likely to stay there, what is the education level? How many don’t have diplomas, how many don’t have GED’s, how many have GED’s but not diplomas? I’m sorry, it may sound cold hearted, but if all you got is a high school education (or less) then you really shouldn’t be suprised at your lack of job choices. I also disagree that employers should be forced to pay someone flipping burgers a living wage.



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jurisnaturalist

posted August 16, 2007 at 11:42 am


Tim,
You quoted Rand and opened that can of worms yourself. Any Objectivist or student of Objectivism would have instantly recognized the sarcasm in my statement, “your Ayn Rand quote is arrogant, conceited, and takes no thought of others.” Rand gloried in her conceit, and did not think of others. It follows that my dismissal of Heritage statistics was also sarcastic.
Oy! It takes all the fun out of things to have to explain them so!
Rand says some things the Church ought to hear.
When she says no man can make a claim on the labor or love of another she is right.
Christ does not make a claim on us, He offers us the opportunity to make a claim on Him. He has the right to claim us, in His sovereignty, but He chooses not to, leaving acceptance of His call purely voluntary. We ought to respect our fellow man with as much dignity.
When she says that we have no obligation to care for the least of these she is right.
Only in imitation of Christ do we take on the peculiar ethic of caring for the least of these. And this is only in recognition of His sovereignty.
Do not dismiss Rand too quickly, like the folks at CCU want to dismiss Wallis, (though if you have a choice between the two Rand is much more relevant and enlightening) her logic is cutting and unapologetic. Would that the church were so intellectually honest!



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Payshun

posted August 16, 2007 at 11:49 am


I disagree w/ Aaron on that one. THere is a really great Christian owned burger company called IN-N-OUT in CA and they pay a great wage w/ quick and easy advancements that end up earning a person (that has worked there a year) a living wage. I think it just depends on the priorities of the company. If the company is about investing in their employees/associates or whatever then they will act rightly and pay people something to live on.
I agree education and degrees definitely help to advance one’s career and increase profit.
Some homeless are homeless by choice. In that they continue to choose to live on the streets when other options are available to them. I have met some, and tried to befriend them. It’s challenging.
But the idea that there is no value in governmental philanthrophic work is ridiculous at best.
Tim R said:
When the government is philanthropic it is not voluntary or personal and therefore gives no value.
Me:
Seriously your conclusion is a flat out lie at worst. I have eaten government cheese, I have seen the government feed hungry people and I have seen the value people give the food they can eat. So it does give value, full bellies and help people to live. For you to say that is valueless says a lot about what you think is valuable. In your view only individual efforts seem to translate into a commodity worth charity. I realize you dislike being forced into doing something good but I don’t. Millions of people in this country don’t. We like knowing that our money has fed someone or given them a roof over their head, or treated a disease. I can see how that might bother you but for us it doesn’t.
p



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jurisnaturalist

posted August 16, 2007 at 11:59 am


A large portion of homeless people are addicts. If drugs were legalized and made less expensive these people would have a better quality of life.
Another large group of homeless individuals are mentally ill. These are precisely the responsibility of the church. When we fail, these individuals often revert to self-medication and end up in group 1 above.
A teenager flipping burgers doesn’t need a living wage. He needs gas money and fun money. An employer will not pay him more than what the firm makes from his labor. If it is forced to, it will fire the teen first. Shall we rob this youth of the experience of a first part-time job in order to meet some arbitrary criteria? Or should we leave people alone to work out their own negotiations?



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aaron

posted August 16, 2007 at 12:04 pm


I disagree w/ Aaron on that one. THere is a really great Christian owned burger company called IN-N-OUT in CA and they pay a great wage w/ quick and easy advancements that end up earning a person (that has worked there a year) a living wage. I think it just depends on the priorities of the company. If the company is about investing in their employees/associates or whatever then they will act rightly and pay people something to live on.
Then your issue is with coporate vs. regional/local business entities and their relative responsibility to the community they trade in, not government mandated prices.



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jurisnaturalist

posted August 16, 2007 at 12:08 pm


Payshun,
There may be value in governmental philanthropic work,but there is no virtue.



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Payshun

posted August 16, 2007 at 12:44 pm


Aaron asked:
Then your issue is with coporate vs. regional/local business entities and their relative responsibility to the community they trade in, not government mandated prices.
Me:
My issue is w/ making sure people have money to live off of. It doesn’t matter if the government mandates it or if private companies see the worth of it. I just want it done.
Juris said:
There may be value in governmental philanthropic work,but there is no virtue.
Me:
that’s a lie too. There is virtue in governments seeing the worth of their citizens and feeding them. There is virtue in governments treating the weakest and poorest w/ compassion and grace. There is virtue in governments empowering their citizens to overcome life’s struggles. I wonder how you can’t see it.
p



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Payshun

posted August 16, 2007 at 12:48 pm


Juris:
A teenager flipping burgers doesn’t need a living wage. He needs gas money and fun money. An employer will not pay him more than what the firm makes from his labor. If it is forced to, it will fire the teen first. Shall we rob this youth of the experience of a first part-time job in order to meet some arbitrary criteria? Or should we leave people alone to work out their own negotiations?
Me:
You are a great guy but sometimes I think you are a bit clueless about the poor and the role of household earnings for some teenagers. Many are providers w/n their homes that means they most definitely need a living wage because the income they earn helps to feed their families. Not all teens have it easy enough to just need gas money and fun money. Some actually have to buy groceries and help contribute to pay for rent.
p



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Rick Nowlin

posted August 16, 2007 at 12:55 pm


Christ does not make a claim on us, He offers us the opportunity to make a claim on Him. He has the right to claim us, in His sovereignty, but He chooses not to, leaving acceptance of His call purely voluntary.
Not at all true — Christ does claim us. In the Reformed view (which I subscribe to), man is so helpless in a spiritual sense that not only can he not choose Christ but won’t even want to. God does the wooing; He places markers at certain points in life; He seals for ultimate redemption — we simply respond. To say that you can somehow “choose” God without being enlightened by His Spirit is ridiculous, not to mention contradicting Christ’s words. “No man comes to me unless the Father draws him.”



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kevin s.

posted August 16, 2007 at 1:13 pm


“man is so helpless in a spiritual sense that not only can he not choose Christ but won’t even want to.”
And I’m the one who gets called a Calvinist.



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Payshun

posted August 16, 2007 at 2:38 pm


As w/ most things I agree w/ Rick on that. Man starts off as a baby whose choice for God is so unimportant that it really doesn’t matter. There is a really great passage in ezekiel that provides the basis for God loving Israel. I don’t see how that stops for the adopted church as well.
o



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justme

posted August 16, 2007 at 8:42 pm


A large portion of homeless people are addicts. If drugs were legalized and made less expensive these people would have a better quality of life.
So we should just make it easier for these people to deteriorate in their addiction? I wouldn’t call that a “better quality of life.” The real solution to getting them a better quality of life would be to make rehab/detox programs more readily available. As with mental illness, as you said, the church plays a major role in this. To that end, though, I also think the government’s drug policy could use some reforms…
A teenager flipping burgers doesn’t need a living wage. He needs gas money and fun money. An employer will not pay him more than what the firm makes from his labor. If it is forced to, it will fire the teen first. Shall we rob this youth of the experience of a first part-time job in order to meet some arbitrary criteria? Or should we leave people alone to work out their own negotiations?
Like someone said, depends on the teenager. Where I live, no, I don’t think a teenager needs to get paid a living wage because his/her parents are able to provide their living necessities. However, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any minimum wages. It all depends on the situation, though. A living wage for a single person with no children to support is less than a living wage for a single mother with three children, all of whom are too young to work. To eliminate minimum wages altogether for a system of negotiation leaves too much room for people to be exploited or left behind. We already have enough of that in the current system.



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Mick Sheldon

posted August 16, 2007 at 8:48 pm


Well the common ednominator with being poor is a very high percentage with no HS Diploma and being single parent .
I really believe if the church paid more attention to those two things , regardless of politics , things would get better for the poor and working poor .



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