Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a better idea of economic justice

From Sarah Zylstra of Christianity Today...

A prominent Christian advocacy group has reversed its previous support for the farm bill and spent the last few months lobbying members of Congress for major reform. Bread for the World, along with more than 25 denominations, is now working to cap subsidies given to farmers at $250,000 and to channel more money into food-assistance programs. The anti-hunger organization traditionally supported the massive legislation due to certain provisions contained in the bill, such as funding for food stamps.

"After the last farm bill went into effect, we started hearing from church leaders in Africa," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. The 2002 bill tied federal subsidies to production, Beckmann said. The excess flooded world markets and undercut poor farmers in developing countries, he said...

Wow! Not nearly as far as I would go, but still a major step forward (and quite a turn-around in the group's thinking)...

The Acton Institute has worked on this issue for some time, including some provocative ads on the same principles applied to used clothes, protectionism and other unjust and inefficient government policies, entrepreneurship in less-developed countries, and so on.

Cutting back on subsidies to the wealthiest farmers may be a wise move economically, said Duane Bajema, professor of agriculture at Dordt College in Iowa. But it's not necessarily a Christian move, he said.

"We have an obligation to the poor," Bajema said, "but how we fulfill it is debatable." Some developing countries support U.S. subsidies, he said, because they can buy cheap grains imported from America.

Huh? It sounds like Bajema may have been smoking another crop! How is it biblical to advocate taking money from taxpayers, increasing prices for consumers, locking poor foreign farmers out of the wealthiest market in the world, and undercutting other foreign farmers with our subsidized products?

You might also want to check out the Environmental Working Group's amazing website and my earlier blog entry applying the data to famous people.


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