Adventus

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Idiots will be with us always, too....


Last week, Perry studied income inequality and economic mobility with experts Scott Winship, Erin Currier and Aparna Mathur. In the Post interview, he was asked about the growing gap between rich and poor in Texas, which has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.

“Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion,” he said. He cited statistics showing that since he took office in 2000, wages have increased among all four income quartiles.  He said a young man who dropped out of high school in South Texas could make more than $100,000 a year as a truck driver.

 Perry acknowledged that the richest Texans have experienced the greatest amount of earnings growth, but dismissed the notion that income inequality is a problem in the state, saying, “We don’t grapple with that here.”
Perry is probably thinking of this:  "For ye have the poor with you always."  Mark 14:7a.  But Jesus was clearly thinking of this:
For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
Deuteronomy 15:11

And why will the poor never cease out of the land?  Because God has ordained poverty?  Or because humans are sinful and selfish, and not even the children of Abraham ever tried to establish the year of Jubilee?  Besides, Perry leaves out the rest of what Jesus said:

For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
It's true that, in Texas, "We don't grapple with that here."  But it hardly makes our indifference Biblical.

The Bible would call it "sinful."


6 Comments:

Blogger ntodd said...

Amen.

11:58 AM  
Blogger alberich said...

Well if what Perry is trying to say about the TX economy is indeed true, well what then does it matter that the rich are getting so much richer so long as the lot of the poor is better as well? Which is a better, more moral course of action: (i) a course which lowers income inequality but which does nothing to actually improve the real income of poor folks or (ii) a course which benefits the very rich very much and increases income inequality but which also results in an increased real income for the poor? I would have to say that if the TX miracle helped the poor (and middle classes ... and if it scaled), we should all follow the lead of TX no matter how much it increases income inequality.

But that's a big if. As they say, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Notice how careful TX's straight-talkin', not-too-bright governor is in the words being used (I have added emphasis and comments):

He cited [which?] statistics showing that since he took office in 2000, wages [although he could have said "# of jobs" as well but note that he did not say "income"] have increased among all four income quartiles

I can't find 2000 data, but in 1999 US census says media TX household income was $39,927 (http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/c2kprof00-tx.pdf) which is $55,830 in 2013 dollars (http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm). Meanwhile in 2013 the median income was $51,704 (http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/texas/). And that is just for one quartile (the median). I betcha that the lowest quartile did even worse.

Perry isn't lying. It's true that TX has added many low wage jobs and those low wage jobs pay slightly more than they used to pay (even adjusted for inflation). However, when it comes down to brass tacks, what matters is not your (hourly) wage but your actual income: and that's down for the majority of Texans.

As to your larger point, though, there are two counter arguments to

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

(A) the Bible says "you" not "the government"
(B) the Bible says "your brother" or even in some places "permanent resident alien" ... it doesn't say "illegal immigrant"

IOW, the argument is that we only have to take care of our own, and that we should take care of our own out of a sense of morality and charity. If anything, the argument goes, by enforcing wealth re-distribution, the government is (to use econ speak) crowding out charitable giving.

Of course, given the legal nature of the Torah texts (and, if you are Christian, other comments by Jesus), it is clear that the "charity" being spoken of is not actually a matter of individual choice but rather is an obligation to redistribute your wealth to others in your land. And history has shown that government-based wealth redistribution is an optimal way to do this in modern economies.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

Thank you, alberich. I couldn't have said it better.

1:07 PM  
Blogger ntodd said...

"history has shown that government-based wealth redistribution is an optimal way to do this in modern economies."

Amenagain.

I'll just add that we're seeing local (Bible Belt) governments not crowd out charity, but legally prohibiting charitable acts like feeding the homeless. They hate us for our freedoms...

4:14 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

ntodd--

Reminds me of the disciples who told the beggar "Don't bother the master!"

And Jesus said: "Thanks, guys. I mean, homeless people, amirite? You can't encourage that kind of thing."

5:30 PM  
Blogger ntodd said...

It just makes them like wild animals, which the Park Service Jesuses tell us is bad.

5:59 PM  

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