On Tuesday, a new bipartisan group called the Poverty Forum released a series of specific proposals aimed at reducing domestic poverty and keeping Americans hit by the economic crisis from joining the ranks of the poor. The group of 18 leaders – headed by the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, and Michael Gerson, President Bush’s former speechwriter and policy adviser – has worked since November to develop concrete antipoverty policies they hope will gain widespread support.
“We wanted to transcend political differences and find ‘what’s right and what works,’ as opposed to what’s left or right, or what’s liberal or conservative,” says Mr. Wallis, a progressive Evangelical.
At the same time, Christian Churches Together (CCT), the most inclusive ecumenical organization ever formed in the US, reached agreement on a poverty initiative last month, which it presented to members of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council. “For a group as diverse as ours – left, right, middle – to reach a consensus on on-the-ground strategies is significant,” says Richard Hamm, CCT’s executive administrator.
The movement has its detractors. Mark Silk writes, “this is best seen as yet another effort to carve out common ground on which some pretty darn conservative folks are prepared to stand.” Peter Larmaan says, “Only a churl would call dismiss the Poverty Forum’s issues as unworthy. The problem is that they are so small-bore, so cautious, and so very deferential towards a regnant conservative ideology.”
Dr. Mary Hunt, feminist Catholic theologian, says “When Jim Wallis is seen as progressive, the so-called religious left is off the planet somehow.” And then there are questions about Gerson’s bona fides.
One tenet of the regnant conservative ideology its opposition to the minimum wage. For one explanation of that position see this Cafe post.
Another tenet is family and marriage. A federally-funded ad campaign began that totes the benefits of marriage launches this month.