Greatest Poverty Eliminator Is a Job, Panel Says

Marguerite Bowling | July 19, 2014


Photo: Getty Images

With June bringing the best jobs report since the recession began, one economist says the time is now to eliminate abject poverty in America and abroad.

Speaking recently at a panel at The Heritage Foundation on biblical ways to alleviate poverty, Anne Bradley, a co-editor of “For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty,” acknowledged there was a lot of work ahead–2 billion people live on $2 or less per day, she said.

The solution offered by Bradley, who also is vice president of economic initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics, was to encourage Christians and others to focus on understanding how wealth is created, and bring more poor Americans into the job force, rather than focusing solely on providing money or aid.

Other panelists endorsed the idea.

“We need to be addressing poverty not just through foreign aid and giving—although that’s important in emergency circumstances—but to do it in sustainable ways,” said Art Lindsley, a book co-editor and vice president of theological initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics.

The panel challenged the concept that welfare programs and other aid best serve poorer populations. In addition to generating a mindset of dependency, generous aid given to a community can compete directly with legitimate businesses, putting them out of work, Lindsley noted.

Michael Craven knows all about this. He runs The Good Works Co., a nonprofit organization with for-profit subsidiaries that employs economically and socially disadvantaged residents in Dallas.

Craven said his organization has to compete against the lure of federal benefits when trying to offer solutions for their workers who often have health, addiction, incarceration and other issues.

“You have competition in the inner city, and it is the federal government paying anywhere from $13 to $14 an hour in equivalent benefits,” said Craven, who serves as chairman and CEO. “So coming in and trying to offer jobs at $7 or $8 an hour offers little incentive to break that cycle of dependence and pursue economic freedom.”

Craven said The Good Works Co. pays new employees $12 an hour.