This campaign, why isn’t poverty an issue?

As the general election rapidly approaches, Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., poses a challenge to both presidential candidates: Make the poor a priority.

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This year, amid the presidential campaigns, we've heard a lot about the middle class. We’re told that such-and-such a policy was designed to appeal to middle-class voters. Another policy will strengthen the middle class.

But there's one issue I've missed hearing from both candidates’ campaigns: I haven’t heard a word about what they propose to do for those who suffer from poverty -- here in the United States or around the world.

Both presidential candidates need to hear from voters that global poverty is a priority in this election. Both presidential candidates need to hear from voters that global poverty is a priority in this election. (Photos courtesy of Obama and Romney campaigns)

Unfortunately, the number who are poor and in need is growing. The U.S. Census recently found that 146 million Americans are living in poverty or are considered low-income.

That means that nearly half of Americans live on less than $46,000 per year for a family of four. Many of these people are elderly, disabled, veterans, or single moms -- people who work hard or are unable to work.

But as difficult as it is for many Americans today, their challenges cannot compare to the suffering of millions globally. Today, nearly 1 billion people are affected by hunger. Some regions in East and West Africa are on the brink of famine. Because of hunger and other preventable causes, nearly 19,000 children die every single day.

Certainly, families in the United States today are experiencing significant hardship -- yet I believe we still have the responsibility to address basic human needs that far too many people around the world don't have met.

As voters, I think we need to consider not only how a candidate’s policies would affect us personally, but also how they would help the poor. While there are a number of issues for voters to weigh in on during this election -- from foreign policy to economic recovery -- it is a shame that our national leaders have nothing to say about our responsibility to the growing number of people in poverty.

That responsibility to the most vulnerable applies to us not only as individuals, but as a society. As the prophet Ezekiel warned Israel:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

Note that Ezekiel didn’t name Sodom’s sexual sins, but her lack of concern for the poor.

Whenever a family experiences this kind of hardship -- due to unemployment, drought, or any other cause -- it is our responsibility to help ease their suffering and provide a helping hand. This is simply what Jesus has called His people to do.

It is often said that politicians “buy” votes by promising policies to benefit certain groups. What would happen if American Christians “sold” their votes to the candidate who promised to work for the widows and orphans, and to aid those suffering in poverty?

In an election year when appealing to the middle class seems so essential, our politicians must be advocating policies to help poor families become economically stable and self-sustaining -- both here at home and around the world.


Read related article: Fighting poverty in a tough economy

What do you think? What involvement should we have, as Christians and as Americans, in caring for "the least of these," both here in the United States and around the world? Share your thoughts as comments below.

Send a message to President Obama and Governor Romney. Tell them that you care about fighting global poverty and disease, and ask them to affirm their commitments to this cause by supporting U.S. international assistance programs.

Read more on the World Vision Blog about: advocacy Justice Issues social justice

    Comments

    I believe that "helping the poor" is from the heart - free will -not from the government. Government overhead cost to help the poor is so large, wasting our money. I'd rather give it to help whoever I choose instead of those defined by the government. I want to show Christian love. This was why I chose World Vision.

    I don't want government to define who I have to help, especially if it is against my value/belief.

    I want to help the poor, especially in education, so they can become independent. I don't want to help "lazy poor people" which I've seen, even among Christian. This is why I sponsor a few children through World Vision.

    Earning money in the honest way to be rich is nothing wrong. Even the Lord did not mind having expensive oil poured on His feet. There are always poor people.

    I don't want the government to tell me how to glorify the Lord with my belonging .

    I agree with Frida. She makes several good points, especially, "I don't want government to define who I have to help, especially if it is against my value/belief" and "I want to help the poor, especially in education, so they can become independent. I don't want to help "lazy poor people" which I've seen, even among Christian" and that there is nothing wrong with earning money the honest way. Also, we do have to have a strong middle class like we had years ago when America was at it's best. Other countries had the very rich & the very poor & not much in between. America did not have so many poor because we had strong morals & values & God blessed our country! I, too, want to help the poor in other countries - & I've been doing it through organizations like World Vision. I don't trust the government to do this. It's more important to me that the country becomes more God-centered & morally strong - then God will bless us & we will be able to help the poor better!

    I see where you're coming from but the reality is that absent of government intervention I believe there would be even greater disparities between the rich and the poor in this country. If it was not for government intervention African Americans would not have equal rights, it it was not for government intervention we would not have an 8 hour workday, if it was not for government intervention there would be no minimum wage, if it was not for government intervention women would not have equal rights, if it was not for government intervention thousands would likely have died during the Great Depression since Hoover insisted that charities could take care of the crisis despite the fact that they were crying out for help. I could go on and on. Read The Jungle to get a sense of what things were like before government grew its responsibility. Today, if not for the school breakfast and lunch programs thousands of kids may not even have one meal every day. If not for energy assistance thousands of children would sleep through freezing winters with no heating. Even if parents are being irresponsible, should we let the kids suffer? And much of that "irresponsibility" comes from broken places. If you were the child of drug-abusing mother who allowed all her "friends" to molest and rape you from the age of 5, can you be sure that you would not have turned to drugs yourself? I'm not making excuses, and I'm not saying that is what happens with all poor people, but I think situations like that are more common than those of us who are privileged realize. I think at the very least we should not judge, and to the full extent of being Christ-like we should show love. I don't think the question should be if the government should help the poor, but rather how can they do so more effectively and efficiently.

    I think Sue is making very good points about government interventions.We should not forget that the value of doing good is not the preserve of the individuals; governments and countries also can offer help both to their people and to outsiders. Government interventions have been necessary everytime everywhere. If the government is offering help to the poor within and outside the country, I don't see where it is telling it citizens who to help and who not to help. As christians with the passion to help the poor per the Bible, we must embrace every Tom,Dick and Harry including the governments who are out there helping the poor as the Lord enjoins us to do. America is blessed on this earth because it is all over the place to offer help and if this is stopped blessings flowing out of this will also cease. I think in America, we are gradually abusing the essence of "freedom" in our lives, trying to push the government out of every step in our ways, forgeting that universal freedowm for all of us can only be sustained by government.We need government to control our different ways of doing things to ensure the peace and harmony we need for our daily lifes. Government interventions is to help the poor is an act of worship.

    It might behoove one or the other predominant presidential candidate to at least pander to the "146 million Americans (who) are living in poverty or are considered low-income" / "nearly half of (the) Americans (who) live on less than $46,00 per year for a family of four" if only for the sake of votes. Though I work, and work hard at that, I happen to fall into these categories. And yet, I sponsor ...because I believe in it.

    The U.S. government can't ...and shouldn't... be expected to save the poverty of the entire global population. The U.S. is already in the lead with regards to global philanthropy, by my understanding --a credit to our Christianity, in my opinion (likely factual). But something definitely needs to be done to even out the playing field and reel the disparity in income up to a living wage here on U.S. soil. I call what is going on in full swing before everyone's very eyes here in the U.S. "modern U.S. slavery"-- the vast quantity of jobs that so many of us do (mostly serving our fellow men ...and women) pay less than a living wage. This will then empower those of us driven by Christian values to serve the needs of the world beyond our borders even better than we already do.

    Mr. President and Governor Romney, I care a lot about global poverty and disease and I ask you to support the U.S. international assistance progrmas! Thank you in advance!!

    This great country America is striving hard to be on top of the world. Every person will have a piece of bread to eat. I never heard anyone starving. How about in less fortunate countries? There many children who are dying of hunger, there are many elderly people without any pension entitlement who are left alone and forgotten.
    Global poverty is one of greatest enemy the world is confronting. I am wondering if those highly advanced countries are helping enough?

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