Saturday, August 13, 2016

So Much for the Poor

We have friends in Northern Ontario who are American politics junkies and travelled to the States for at least one of the two conventions (Democratic?) which took place over the past few weeks. They love the drama of US presidential elections, although I wonder if they are holding their noses this time around. Canadians have been busy despising Donald Trump and claiming they would vote for Hilary Clinton, as much by default as anything. But other than being aware that Trump hates anyone who isn't white, isn't armed to the teeth, and isn't nominally a Christian, and that Clinton has murky dealings involving an email server, what makes up their party platforms?

Apparently practical concern for the poor isn't a priority for either candidate. An article in the New York Times by Binyamin Appelbaum  entitled The Millions of Americans Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Barely Mention: The Poor points out that Hilary stabs Donald for favouring the rich and both make noises about supporting the middle class, but there is essentially nothing in their economic strategies to lift Americans out of poverty. Trump is hideous in his "survival of the fattest" approach but Clinton essentially said boo about the poor in her convention acceptance speech. One observer offered:

“It’s not at all unusual for people running for president not to talk about poverty because the poor are not necessarily the swing voters you’re trying to pick off,” he said. “But I actually think a lot of her proposals would help — she just doesn’t always connect the dots to poverty and low-income workers.”

To be fair, Canadian political leaders gassed on about "hard-working middle class Canadians" during the election last Fall but offered little hope to those living in poverty. The Poverty Roundtable in Belleville had a candidates meeting on poverty and the Conservative candidate let us know that he wasn't going to show up. I encouraged our Bridge St. members to put pressure on him to participate and heard the grumbling for my efforts. Why, I wonder? Jesus was all about the poor and dispossessed, so why wouldn't Christians want to know what the strategy of their party was on poverty? The other candidates did participate but the emphasis kept leaning to the benefits for the middle class.

This year our Bridge St. meal ministries will likely distribute 10,000 meals, and our numbers keep growing. While I'm glad we're meeting a need and proud of our volunteers, this isn't getting to the core of the systemic problems related to poverty in our region and in this country.

What do you think about the silence of politicians on issues of poverty? Is it our responsibility at Christians to hold their feet to the fire?

1 comment:

Frank said...

Poverty will never be high on the list of electoral candidates unless their "feet are held to the fire". It is not popular. People want to play it safe and not to rock the boat. People object to the church "getting involved in politics".
But if politics is the arena where values are debated and policies and priorities are established, just what else are we supposed to do?
I find it amazing how some people can compartmentalize their attitudes, and fail to acknowledge some very fundamental connections (eg. income security --> poverty [food and housing insecurity], etc.). How we can address these issues should be central to our debates, not that we should ignore them in some perception of "separating church and state". We need to find some way to "walk the talk".