Do Not Take Advantage of Widows or Orphans

The latest poverty numbers are in. They are not good.

The picture they paint is of low income Americans slipping farther and farther behind, and the middle class not far behind.

The percentage of Americans living in poverty last year rose to the highest level since 1993, as another 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, meaning 46.2 million people now live in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it.

That means that 15.1 percent of the population–up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and 11.7 percent at the beginning of the decade in 2001–live below the 2010 poverty level for a family of four. That number is $22,113.

If you divide that number by 12, it means that four people have $1,843 to live on each month. That may seem like a lot, until we remember that housing for four is not cheap, nor is food, and transportation. It is unlikely such a family has any sort of comprehensive health insurance. All it takes is one large medical bill–and it is very easy to create those–for them to be wiped out.

And in new signs of economic distress among the middle class, median household incomes adjusted for inflation declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year to $49,400. That was 7 percent less than the peak of $53,252 in 1999.

I write about this because I am alarmed. We are on a downward spiral. It has been coming on for the past decade or so, and perhaps longer. There are enough people to blame.

But blame isn’t going to fix things.

Prayer will help. Remembering the biblical injunctions against mistreating the poor will help. Leaders sitting down in a room without the press and agreeing to stay put until they get something worked out will help.

YHWH said to Moses, here are the rules you are to establish for the people: “Do not take advantage of widows or orphans” (this is Hebrew way of speaking of the vulnerable).  See Exodus 22:22.

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