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Ending poverty-fighting as we know it

"Ending poverty-fighting as we know it" Continued...

Issue: "Wealth and poverty," March 14, 2009

Wallis noted that Barack Obama's new Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office has named the fight against poverty its first priority, thus offering Poverty Forum participants "an invitation" to lobby for their ideas. But is there a "their" there? A liberal and a conservative collaborated on each Poverty Forum policy proposal, but press conference participants made it clear-several times-that they don't subscribe to the policies as a package, probably because those on the left and right cannot stomach some of each other's ideas.

It's a "menu of innovative policy options," Gerson said. Those at the press conference all had different opinions about the overall thrust of the Policy Forum proposals. One described them as essentially conservative, others said the approach brings the public sector back to the fore, others said it provides incentives for the private sector. Reporters at the press conference voiced demure bafflement: They wondered if some ideas were too political, and how much it would all cost. (No answer on that question.) Some demanded to know how conservatives in the group became advocates for more government anti-poverty spending.

In an interview after the press conference, Joe Loconte of The King's College asked concerning the Policy Forum agenda, "Why lend it credibility if you think some of the proposals are goofy or wrong-headed? What does this posture of unity gain you? I'm a little baffled by it."

Even if the bipartisan group is not unified on its collage of policies, liberals-now in the driver's seat on Capitol Hill and in the White House-say the problem of poverty needs collective solutions, so conservatives should come on board. Mary Nelson, a Poverty Forum member who heads the Chicago community development group Bethel New Life, said her goal is to be "like the hound of heaven. Bug our senators, congresspersons, and our administration. I will be one of those people standing there and bugging them."

Poverty Forum participants

• Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink

•Randall Brandt, formerly with the State Department

•James C. Capretta, Ethics and Public 
Policy Center

•Stanley Carlson-Thies, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

•John Cusey, formerly with the Department 
of Health and Human Services

•Chuck Donovan, Family Research Council

•Kathryn Edin, Harvard University

•Robert Franklin, Morehouse College

•Terrell Halaska, formerly with the Department of Education

•Mary Nelson, Bethel New Life

•Brent R. Orrell, Department of Labor

•Mark Rodgers, Clapham Group

•Melissa Rogers, Wake Forest University Divinity School

•Kathy Saile, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

•Ronald J. Sider, Palmer Theological Seminary

•Adam Taylor, Sojourners

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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