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Last month Charlie Summers, the pastor of Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, wrote an op–ed piece for The Observer that I wish I’d written. Charlie stands in an interesting place. He’s got one foot planted among the poorest folks in Charlotte, for Seigle Avenue is in the heart of housing project ghetto. His other foot, however, is in Davidson, where he teaches at the college and rubs elbows with some of the wealthier, more well–educated, and powerful members of the Mecklenburg community. Let me read to you a little of his article:


What puzzles me is that our current national prosperity is coupled with such a meanness of spirit. Business is good, inflation is low, we are not at war (hot or cold). Yet instead of celebrating these good times with thankfulness and compassion, we find angry legislators pushing to cut off aid to dependent children. Talk show hosts belittling the poor for being lazy. Letters to the editor call for taller fences along the U.S. border and more prisons in the state.


The new “welfare to work” legislation from Congress is so cold it should be entitled “Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares”... “I got mine. You get yours”....


Stock values, CEO compensation and sales of luxury autos have soared in recent years. But the wages paid to poor people for long hours of work have barely moved. Now the prosperous are going to cut off even the few benefits that make up the safety net in our nation. Do the math. A full–time job (a rare thing in itself for low–income people) at $6 an hour pays only about $12,480 a year before taxes. How is a parent going to support children on a wage like that? No wonder so many poor people have to work two jobs just to get by.


This current climate might be called an era of “Grab.” If gratitude leads to compassion then grab leads to resentment. Grab asks, “Why don’t I have more? Why does that person have a bigger car, a larger house, or a better pair of Nikes?” Grab, in its resentment, looks for someone to blame....and the poor are easy targets. The national mood has moved from a War on Poverty to attacks on the poor.

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