By Giulio Grecchi, Tucson, Voice of the Poor, Western Region Representative
In 2015, with the same party now in control of both houses, perhaps there will be less gridlock and partisan bickering. Both parties are already looking at the 2016 Presidential Election and hoping for an outcome in their favor. Will this make them choose to show more maturity and cooperation on the real issues affecting the country? Will they exhibit a more constructive and positive approach than in the past? With the previous legislature having been one of the most unproductive in history, there is a huge backlog needing attention: reform of tax policy, federal budget, wage policy, welfare, unemployment and immigration are all overdue; a consistent and coherent foreign policy is badly needed, and so on.
How is Voice of the Poor to approach advocacy in a changed political environment?
Of course, we have our position papers outlining what we stand for – they need some updating, but the basics are there. In addition, as a Society we have a deep knowledge of what is like to be in poverty; knowledge that we acquire during our home visits, knowledge that most lawmakers lack and should be keen to learn from us.
In addition, we have the social teaching of the Church as a guidepost and our faith strengthening us. As Father Allt said in his reflection at the beginning of this newsletter: “Responding to our call to serve helps us to know that the power of the Lord will work through us”.
Sr. Ephrem Hollermann, OSB writes in an article published this month in Spirit and Life: “In the stories of the Book of Exodus, we see that God could not tolerate the oppression and enslavement of a people created in the divine image. God promised and commanded their liberation at every turn. In so doing, God was shaping a people into a community of hope. Nowhere in the biblical story is this theme more forceful than in the prophets, who emphasize that the hope of future well-being and salvation is reserved especially for the poor and downtrodden, the simple and humble, for those who hope against hope”
God could have not been clearer on what He wants to see. Should this not inspire and strengthen us in our advocacy?
Perhaps, it is time to be less hesitant and more assertive during our legislative visits. Perhaps it is time to stop tolerating the political theories and the fairy-tale solutions that our politicians love to tell us, with the purpose of confusing the issues and covering-up their greed of power and money. It is time to challenge them and push back!
To be more specific, we need to refute things like supply-side trickle-down economics and its promise of creating wealth for the poor, a fairy-tale that has never happened.
We need to refute the theory that increasing minimum wage will eliminate jobs. They will tell us that some small businesses will not survive. Perhaps that it is true: marginal businesses, which stay open only by underpaying their employees, will not survive. The better question is why should uneconomic businesses stay open? How do they contribute to society’s common good? And, if there is a strategic reason for them to stay open, why should they not be subsidized with public money, rather than by underpaying people in poverty?
These are just a couple of examples to explain what I mean. We have to do our research on the obstacles that keep people in poverty, we have to share our findings with other Vincentians and meet our legislators well prepared and sure of ourselves, because “God cannot tolerate the oppression and enslavement of a people created in the divine image” and “God commanded their liberation”.
In the same article, Sr. Ephrem referring to St. Paul second letter to the Corinthians (3:1-3), writes: “Paul challenges the followers of Jesus to muster courage, and to take risks for the sake of the gospel. It is his belief that hope is exercised in living the covenant of God’s redeeming love in Christ.”
So, lets’ muster courage, Voice of the Poor Vincentians! We can help make poverty the key issue of the 2016 Presidential Elections, as Sheila Gilbert has asked us to do. For this, our call is to sponsor poverty forums in our parishes, councils, and cities, to insert poverty topics in existing public debates, to write op-eds for our local paper. “Know that the power of the Lord will work through us”. The next election cycle need to address the poverty issues!