If there is among you anyone in need, a member
of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God
is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy
neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet
the need, whatever it may be. Deuteronomy 15:7
of all Americans will be poor at some point in their lives.
Millions of people in
the United States
and billions around the world live their entire lives with inadequate incomes,
unable to develop their God-given talents or even thrive at a minimal level.
Great musicians never pick up an instrument. Gifted teachers don’t finish high
school. Wonderful writers can barely read. Potential nurses, lawyers, business
leaders, and scientists are caught in the trap of poverty and we are all the
worse for it. In recent decades it has become harder, not easier, for a child
in the United States to rise
above their parent’s socio-economic level, and upward mobility is less common
in the United States
than in other major industrialized nations.
not inevitable. In a rich world and in this incredibly rich nation, the poor do
not have to be with us always. The
eradication of poverty is possible.
In the United States,
poverty declined dramatically twice in the post-World War II period. Between
1959 and 1973, the poverty rate fell by half (from 22.4% to 11.1%) due to low
unemployment, rising wages at the bottom and middle of the income ladder as
well as at the top, and the War on Poverty. After 1973, the poverty rate rose and has never
again attained such a low level.
there was one other time in the post-WWII period when poverty declined
markedly. Between 1993 and 2000, over just seven years, the poverty rate
declined sharply, from 15.1% to 11.3%. The fall was driven by low unemployment
and rising wages for those at the bottom of the income ladder as well as the
top. Since then, unemployment is up and wages in the lower rungs of the
economic ladder have fallen or stagnated. Poverty has risen. But if the U.S. economy
were to again experience low unemployment and rising wages in low-wage jobs,
poverty would undoubtedly fall once again.
history shows we can dramatically reduce poverty. If we choose, we can even
eliminate it through strong social supports and economic policies that support
all of us.
UCC General Synod Resolutions and Pronouncements
For the Common Good (General Synod 25, 2005): Fair taxes,
need for public institutions and services, full employment, living wages,
adequate income for each one, affordable housing, public transportation.
To advance the cause of the most disadvantaged in the budgetary and appropriations process (General Synod 25, 2005): Support
progressive taxes, oppose cuts in social programs.
More information and ways to engage
Rank, Mark and
Thomas Hirschl, “The Likelihood of Poverty across the American Adult Life
Span,” in Social Work 44:201–16.