My Blog
  • David Beckmann

Vice President Biden has charted a course to put us on track toward ending poverty in America.

A diverse array of church leaders have worked together as the Circle of Protection since 2012 to urge presidential candidates to address poverty issues. They have now published a speech that Vice President Biden made to the Mass Assembly of the Poor People’s Campaign last month.

Biden’s speech is the most ambitious statement about poverty policy that any general-election candidate for president has made in many years. It begins with the biblical message that we are all created in the image of God and have a right to live in dignity. This moral truth is reflected in our country’s founding documents.

Biden shares his boyhood experience of near-poverty when his father’s job disappeared.

“I remember my dad going to bed at night. I could hear him rolling back and forth on his bed, because he didn’t have any health insurance, wondering what in God’s name happens if we get sick.”

He recalls the biblical “message from the wilderness” about service and good news for the poor. He describes our country’s current “wilderness” of disease, widespread economic hardship, and economic inequality. It has “ripped the blinders off the systematic racism that still plagues this country,” he says.

Biden explains how his Build Back Better program will put us on track to end poverty in America. His first priority, he says, will be a national, evidence-based program to bring the pandemic under control and provide relief to the tens of millions of Americans who have been flattened economically by the pandemic. Looking beyond the pandemic, he focuses on a strong safety-net and good jobs for low-income workers.

“If I am president, ending poverty will not just be an aspiration, it will be a theory of change -- to build a new economy that includes everyone, where we reward hard work, we care for the most vulnerable among us, we release the potential of all our children, and protect the planet.”

Biden explains that he will push for an increase in the minimum wage, plus sick leave and affordable child care for all workers. He also proposes major investments in economic development -- infrastructure (including infrastructure for communities of color and low-income communities), the transition to a green economy, and educational opportunity at all levels. These public investments will generate good-paying jobs.

Biden emphasizes preschool for all children, including three-year olds, because three-year old boys and girls who get preschool education are much more likely to finish high school and be able to make a decent living.

Finally, Biden stresses that protecting the right to vote is important to progress against poverty. He urges everyone to vote.

Biden directs his remarks to the 140 million Americans who are poor or have virtually no savings. He affirms the efforts of the Poor People’s Campaign to promote and protect voting among these 140 million people.

  • Rev. David Beckmann

Advocates on hunger and poverty issues won a surprising victory last week - a major allocation of funding for nutrition assistance. The state of our nation is depressing in many ways. But this advocacy achievement encourages us to keep working. Two huge political decisions are pending and require our involvement now.

Hunger has surged during the COVID crisis, especially among children. Church groups, food charities, and others have been working since the onset of the COVID crisis to support increases in the national nutrition programs and other government actions to address widespread hunger and hardship.

Already in March, Congress and the administration took steps that increased access to SNAP and WIC. They also launched the Pandemic EBT program, which has allowed low-income families to receive school lunches and breakfasts even when school buildings are not open.

Yet the Census Bureau’s weekly surveys still show that hunger is much more widespread than before the pandemic. The number of children who are going without needed food in a given week is more than five times what it was before the pandemic. Thus, many of us have been pushing to secure additional nutrition funding.

We have recruited support from a growing number of Republican senators. But Republican leadership delayed consideration of another COVID relief bill for several months and then proposed a much smaller package than the Democrats believe to be essential. The two parties have been too far apart on the size of the relief package to start negotiations.

The Circle of Protection has worked together to increase nutrition assistance in the next COVID relief bill. When we met last Monday, we all concurred that our effort had been stymied.

But in a happy surprise, a few House Republicans joined with Democrats that evening to add $8 billion for nutrition assistance to a must-pass bill to keep the government open. The $8 billion will continue Pandemic EBT for another 12 months and extend pandemic-related flexibilities for SNAP and WIC. The appropriation bill passed the House with these additions and seems very likely to become law in the next few days.

It’s a little miracle -- like the spring of water at Meribah in the Sinai desert (Exodus 17). When the people of Israel were ready to give up, water suddenly gushing out of a dry rock kept them moving forward.

In fact, $8 billion for nutrition is a not-so-little thing. To provide a sense of scale, the value of all the charitable food assistance in the country is about $14 billion a year. Failure to extend Pandemic EBT would have taken away more than half that much food from needy families over the next 12 months.

It now also seems that there might be some chance for agreement on the entire COVID relief package. Both sides have made recent moves to open discussion. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be speaking at an interfaith vigil in support of COVID relief on Tuesday, September 29, at 9:50 a.m. ET. I'll be speaking and offering a prayer right after that. The all-day event will be live-streamed at

Our Members of Congress need to hear that we don’t want them to leave Washington without passing a robust COVID relief bill. The fund the administration is using to add $300 a week to unemployment insurance is running out, and families can’t wait until January to pay their bills. Many state and local governments are on the edge of deep cuts to schools and other community services. If Congress and the President fail to agree on continued COVID relief, the human cost will be severe.

We must also do everything we can to influence the upcoming election. The future direction of our nation - maybe even the continuation of U.S. democracy - is at stake. So we should make it our business to talk with friends and family about voting and voting wisely. We should make generous political contributions. We should offer volunteer time to campaigns we support. One of my sons is writing notes to people he doesn’t know in one of the swing states, explaining why their vote is important to him.

Maybe we needed a little miracle to keep us moving forward.

  • Rev. David Beckmann

Updated: Aug 30

Tomorrow, Sunday, August 30th, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Biden-Harris campaign will launch Believers for Biden, its program of outreach to faith voters Click here for the invitation from Josh Dickson, the campaign’s faith engagement director. The campaign is actively seeking the support of faith voters, and Believers for Biden is one good way for people of faith to connect to the campaign.

According to an Associated Press story, Joe Biden’s team is rolling out an array of new religious outreach efforts targeting a diverse set of communities. The campaign is holding a trio of virtual events in the swing state of Florida this weekend. They are focusing on Christian, Jewish, and Muslim voters.

Josh Dickson told the AP reporter, “We think that many people of faith are not single-issue voters as much as Republicans paint them to be, and we believe our campaign is deeply aligned with the core values that are most important to people of faith.” He added that systematic racism is a pivotal issue for many devout voters in this election.

On Sunday evening, we will hear from Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, pastor of New Hope Church in Decatur, Georgia; QuanTez Pressley, pastor of Third Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan; and other pastors who are active and important in the campaign. I’m guessing that we may also hear from a political leader who is close to Vice President Biden. We will pray together, and Josh will suggest ways each of us can help determine the outcome of this extraordinarily consequential election.

If you sign up for a Believers for Biden event, you will subsequently be kept abreast of election news, invited to other events, and asked to help in specific ways as the campaign unfolds. You may be asked, for example, to make calls to friends and other people in key states.

I find that the campaign’s frequent messages help me remain aware that we have only a few days (now 65 days) to make an impact on an election that will shape the future of our nation and world.

In addition to contributing volunteer work, I have also made a financial gift (the maximum allowed) to Biden’s general-election campaign, and I signed up to ask friends to consider gifts. Funding is important to the success of a campaign, and the Trump campaign has already raised $1.2 billion.

Donald Trump is a profoundly self-centered person, and this character flaw has led to harsh policies toward vulnerable people, blatant corruption, and a constant stream of lies. He is anti poor people, anti democracy, and anti most of the things that Jesus embodied and taught. He has managed to reshape the Republican Party in his image (at least for now), and I am appalled by his influence on the thinking of many Christians.

On the other hand, I’ve watched Joe Biden for many years and trust him. I’m impressed by his plans to address our health and economic crises, by his embrace of the possibility this moment has given us to address long-standing racial injustices, and by his commitment to opportunity for all people.

Please visit the invitation website and sign up for the Believers for Biden event tomorrow afternoon.

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