Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Faith based Bipartisanship

Yes, there is a Christian left here in the states. And they are starting to join with the more well known Christian right to fight poverty in the US.

A meeting of many Christian leaders called the Poverty Forum was held to find proposals to fight poverty that both sides can agree on. They plan on meeting with President Barack Obama to present their ideas to him. The Poverty Forum hopes to hear Obama say some of their ideas during his State of the Union speech.

From the Christian Science Monitor, writer Jane Lampman tells us more about the meeting. After the clipping, is some of the specific proposals that were agreed upon.

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.

Both groups aim to make poverty a national priority. More than 37 million Americans lived in poverty in 2007, and from 7.5 million to 10 million more could slip into poverty in the next year or two due to rising unemployment, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

"The reality of people on the margins pushed deeper in the current economic situation obligates us to work together in unprecedented ways on poverty," says forum member Mark Rodgers, who was chief of staff to former Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican.

In a bid to break down partisan barriers and offer a new model for political engagement, the forum involved antipoverty experts from such diverse groups as the Family Research Council, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Morehouse College in Atlanta.

* Federal incentives for individual savings accounts

• Business partnerships to link young adults not employed or in school to work experiences

• Financial education and planning for low- and middle-income households

• Creation of 2 million "opportunity" housing vouchers

• Increase in the federal minimum wage

• Expansion of proven prisoner-reentry initiatives to combat recidivism and crime

• Promotion of responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage

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