Economic Justice

No program has broken the cycle of poverty in the last fifty years? How about the programs over the last three hundred years that perpetuate the cycle of poverty?

Poverty, ignorance, and desperation are not necessarily the fault of the poor as any Irishman should know. After the conquest by Cromwell, the Irish Catholics and Presbyterians suffered under the Penal Laws designed to force them to join the Established Church. Some of these laws endured until 1920 and their effects persist in Ulster.

The Penal Laws deprived Catholics of citizenship, land, education, political power, and the free practice of their religion. Consequently, Irish Catholics became aliens in their own land. They were abused, starved, and ridiculed. Their grievance against England festered for hundreds of years. Some Irish escaped to America, but others were sold as slaves or indentured servants. America treated them with disdain—No Irish need apply. Political cartoons represented the Irish as ape-like creatures. Literature and the press branded the Irish as traitor more loyal to the Pope than the Constitution.

In the Southern States, when it was necessary to work in alligator infested bayous, slaves were considered too valuable–according to Noel Ignatiev, the author of “How the Irish Became White–so Irishmen were hired. If something happened to them, it was no great loss.

The Irish were kept poor, uneducated, and marginalized for much of American history. They worked and fought their way into the melting pot and now—for better or worse—seem no different from other whites.

The same English landlords that suppressed the Irish ran colonies around the world on the backs of slaves. Slavery was the effective equivalent of the Penal Laws. It kept Africans poor, uneducated, and desperate. When England and later America banned slavery, Jim Crow Laws became the effective equivalent of the Penal Laws. When the Civil Rights movement ended Jim Crow Laws, James Crow, Esquire emerged using dog whistles terms like “the undeserving poor,” “Law and Order,” and “Entitlement Programs,” to target programs that help the poor, including poor Blacks break the cycle of poverty. Reverend William Barber documents in The Third Reconstruction that the same the rich and powerful Americans who back Conservative candidates, continue to perpetuate the cycle of poverty that has plagued the poor for centuries.

Arthur Powers describes how the population of rural Brazil was driven from their farms to the metropolitan slums until the land beneath their hovels appreciated to the point that wealthy developers pushed the slum dwellers to even more remote and unlivable quarters. The wealthy care more for profit than the commandment to “love your neighbors as yourself.”

Pope Francis sets the tone for Pro-life Catholics by calling for an equitable distribution of the worlds riches rather than their concentration in the account of the few. The cycle of poverty will continue until the rigged capitalistic system gives the poor and middle class access to their share of the world’s wealth. Those who pass lavish tax breaks to the top one percent of the wealthy, by definition impoverish the majority of humanity.

Remember the questions, “When did I see you hungry and not feed you, or thirsty and not give you something to drink?” Siding with the top one percent put you in this camp.

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