|Print | Back||May 22, 2012|
The Dismal ScienceOur Moral Obligation to the Poor
by Adam Smith
"He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker:
but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor"
In the late 1980s, I was working for a company that was losing a lot of money. Because of the company's financial situation I was laid off from my job. Three months later I had a new job with a great company. But during those three months I learned how depressing it was to be out of work and unable to provide for my family.
Unemployment eats away at a person's self-esteem and self-worth. What is our moral obligation to those in the United State that find themselves unemployed or underemployed?
The scriptures consistently tell us that taking care of the poor is our responsibility. As we look around our communities and neighborhoods in the United States, it is very rare that we see people living in abject poverty as many people do around the world.
Being poor in the United States is not the same as being poor in Bangladesh. In the United States, the poor may live in smaller dwellings, but likely those dwellings are air conditioned and have at least one television in the home and a car parked outside.
We live in difficult economic times in the United States. The start of the current recession and stagnation came as a result of greed, good compassionate intentions, poor management, and academic hubris. There were so many individuals, organizations, and corporations responsible that everyone could point to someone else as the cause of the problem. During the last half of 2008, the economy in the United States (and the rest of the world) teetered on collapse.
By mid-2009, the crisis had been averted and while we were in a recession there was going to be no collapse.
The employment report from the government just came out and said that unemployment is at 8.1%, a decrease of .1%. The government likes to use percentages because percentages are just numbers. It is harder for people to translate the percentages into people. Real people. People with husbands and wives and children. People who love each other. Parents who love their kids and want to provide and make a better life for their kids.
That same jobs report said that 115,000 jobs were created during the previous month. Although it is better than losing jobs, this is an anemic and very disheartening report. When you add up the unemployed, underemployed, and those who have given up looking for work, there are 23 million people going to bed tonight not sure what their economic future might be.
Although abject poverty may not be prevalent in the United States, we do have a responsibility to those 23 million people. We have created safety nets in our society so they can eat and can have a place to live. However, our responsibility goes beyond providing for their basic needs.
Creating an economic environment that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs each month and allows these 23 million to move on with their lives must be our (government and citizens) number one priority. It is the best way that we can fulfill our Christian duty to care for the poor. Safety nets are essential to catch those who find themselves in troubling times, but if there is no way for them to use their own energy and abilities to right themselves, then we are sucking the drive and desire out of them and we are no better than the people in The Book of Mormon that turned their backs on the poor.
We can no longer have other issues as a higher priority over creating jobs. The environment, alternative energy, pay disparity, all of them (and others) may and probably should be addressed. But today is not the time. Placing these issues above job creation can only be viewed as immoral. Anytime we place issues over people, children of God, we have lost our way.
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