Public Square

Jim Wallis on How to Win the War on Poverty

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Yesterday on his personal blog, president of Sojourners and Obama’s spiritual advisor, Jim Wallis, discussed how he believes Americans can win the war on poverty:

The only way to win the “war on poverty” is for liberals and conservatives to make peace — for the sake of the poor. […] Making peace means replacing ideologies with solutions that actually solve the problems of poverty.

But it seems as if “replacing ideologies with solutions” is code for more government action. He says,

Conservatives need to stop saying that government programs don’t reduce poverty, because the facts demonstrate that is just not true…Government is not always the enemy, but often a valuable partner.

Despite the supporting facts Wallis claims, others disagree that the facts demonstrate that government programs reduce poverty. Robert Rector at the Wall Street Journal argues LBJ’s “War on Poverty” was factually a complete failure:

Fifteen percent of Americans still live in poverty, according to the official census poverty report for 2012, unchanged since the mid-1960s. Liberals argue that we aren’t spending enough money on poverty-fighting programs, but that’s not the problem.

IFWE’s distinguished fellow Jay Richards echoes Rector’s view and also points out that Wallis misses the point that enterprise does much more to reduce poverty than the welfare state:

Few people claim that government programs never reduce isolated pockets of poverty. That’s a straw man. What Wallis needs to address is the robust arguments that small, private sources would do a much better job of reducing poverty with the same resources, without creating the destructive effects of the federal government’s War on Poverty.

Want to know more? For more resources on how to fight poverty effectively and biblically, keep an eye out for for IFWE’s book, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty, coming out this spring.

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