David in his office.jpg
My Blog
  • David Beckmann

The House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better bill on the morning of November 19. Assuming it will also pass the Senate, this bill may do more to reduce hunger and poverty than any other legislation in my lifetime. Together with the other two big economic packages that have been enacted this year, it will make our nation’s economy more just, sustainable, and prosperous for years to come.

Here are my favorite provisions in the Build Back Better bill:

  • an extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit, including language that makes permanent a change that allows the Credit to reach the poorest families. The expanded Child Tax Credit has already helped to reduce hunger and poverty below pre-pandemic levels, and it would be tragic not to continue it.

  • important expansions of federal health insurance, including insurance for two million people with no insurance in the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

  • universal preschool for three- and four-year old children. Studies have shown that quality preschool dramatically improves how children fare in school and in life.

The House bill also makes state and local taxes deductible - in effect, a big tax reduction for many high-income people. I hope the Senate decides to take that provision out of the package.

But the rest of the package is focused on help and opportunity for struggling Americans. Congratulations to President Biden and the Democrats.

We have cause to start celebrating Thanksgiving a week early.

  • David Beckmann

I’m delighted by the bipartisan enactment of the Investment and Jobs Act. It includes major components that will disproportionately benefit low-income people, partly by allowing them to EARN more money:

  1. The biggest investment in public transportation in many years. Low-income people and people of color tend to rely heavily on public transportation. Better connections between low-income neighborhoods and employment centers are especially important.

  2. High-speed internet access for all Americans. This will create economic opportunity in low-income communities, notably depressed rural communities.

  3. Replacement of all the lead pipes in homes and schools. This will save lots of our children from the crippling effects of lead in drinking water.

  4. Good, union jobs. Nearly all the jobs created by this legislation will not require education beyond high school, which should further improve the job market for low-income workers generally.

  5. Sustainable economic growth. Natural disasters and economic slumps hit low-income people hardest, and this massive, environmentally conscious investment in infrastructure will contribute to sustained prosperity for all Americans.

I’m also proud that the church bodies and national ministries in the Circle of Protection have been advocates for passage of this bipartisan legislation. We are now pushing together for action on the Build Back Better legislation. Not all the church groups agree on everything in the bill, but we are all focused on protecting components that are especially important to people in poverty: the Child Tax Credit, federal health insurance for the two million people who can’t afford health insurance in that states that have not expanded Medicaid, and housing vouchers for hundreds of thousands of families.

Finally, I’m excited to see the videos coming out from the truly excellent guest presenters to my Union class. I pray that they reach lots of people, and that the people who watch them find the videos helpful. What’s happening in Congress right now is a clear demonstration of the importance of what these videos are about - building stronger political will to reduce poverty. It’s been wonderful to see Congress passing legislation that will make our economy more just and sustainable, but their struggles in doing so demonstrate the need for yet broader political support for these purposes.

The Poverty, God, Politics videos that I’m releasing this fall focus on effective ways to connect faith to the politics of poverty. They come from guest speakers to my class at Union Theological Seminary in New York. They are meant for people who are moved by faith to help build the political commitment needed to end hunger and poverty in our time - people who are asking themselves how they and the people they influence can be most effective.

Below are the topics this series will cover and the speakers who are addressing these topics:

  1. Legislative advocacy. I know from long experience that it works (Dave Miner and I)

  2. Election campaigns. Given the behavior of congressional Republicans this year, it is important to progress against poverty that the Democrats retain control of both houses of Congress in next year’s elections (Eli Valentin)

  3. Support for organizations of low-income people. Faith-based community organizing has a long record of success, and the Poor People’s Campaign has had a big impact in its first few years (Ralph McCloud, Liz Theoharis)

  4. Digital communication with social purpose. Digital communication and artificial intelligence are changing American religion and politics, in both negative and positive ways (Eric Sapp)

  5. Faith and justice work in specific faith communities. Five of the videos in this series are from leaders who are helping people in their traditions connect faith to justice for people in poverty.

  6. Ecumenical Protestants (Lisa Kimball)

  7. U.S. Muslims (Anwar Khan and Jihad Saleh-Williams)

  8. Evangelicals (Walter Kim)

  9. The Black Church (Lawrence Reddick)

  10. Catholics (John Carr)

  11. Religious connections across political divides. We won’t be able to sustain progress against poverty without more support from conservatives, and that depends in part on better understanding across political divides (Eugene Cho)

  12. The gospel of God’s forgiving love. We know from national survey data that people who experience God as stern and judgmental tend to oppose social safety-net programs. People who don’t believe in God or experience God as remote tend to be politically liberal. People who experience God as forgiving and present among us tend to be more strongly committed to justice for the poor than either of the other two groups (Paul Froese)

This list can serve as your program for this series of videos.