The Welfare State Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.

A social entrepreneur in Britain shows the way.

I met Cottam in London last week and she made the point that welfare systems are often designed to manage needs, but they are not designed to build capabilities so that families can stand on their own.

Moreover, most Western systems were not designed to confront the kind of poverty prevalent today. When these systems were put in place in the 1950s and ’60s, unemployment was more often a temporary thing that happened between the time you got laid off from a big employer and the time you got hired by a new one. Now, economic insecurity is often a permanent state, as people patch together different jobs to make ends meet. Health issues for people in the welfare system are often chronic — obesity, diabetes, many forms of mental illness.

Our legacy welfare structures are ill suited to today’s poverty.

For example, Ella was asked if she would like to lead a “life team” that would help her family turn around. She agreed. She was given the power to select the eight people from across agencies who would comprise the team. She chose people from social work, the housing authority and the police force.

Members of the team spent 80 percent of their time with the family and only 20 percent on administration. Ella and the team worked together to stabilize her most immediate issue — negotiating away eviction notices. Then the team worked to improve inter-family dynamics so there wasn’t so much violence and screaming.

Cottam has designed other programs with a similar collaborative ethos. Backr is a program that takes people who are detached from the labor force and helps them join extended social networks where they can connect one another to job openings and develop skills. Circles is a program for the elderly. It brings together lonely seniors into small groups that are part social club, part concierge service and part self-help cooperative. Wellogram is a similar social structure for the chronically ill.

Basically, Cottam’s programs create villages within the welfare state. Her systems are not designed around individual clients, but around relational networks. People tend to have better outcomes when they are held accountable by a network of peers. Three-quarters of the smokers in Wellogram successfully quit, 44 percent lowered their blood pressure, 64 percent started work or went back to school.

The old legacy welfare programs were designed for people enmeshed in thick communities but who had suffered a temporary setback. Today many people lack precisely that web of thick relationship. The welfare state of the future has to build the social structures that people need to thrive. This is one way government can build community.

Poverty isn’t a lack of character; it’s a lack of cash | Rutger Bregman

“Ideas can and do change the world,” says historian Rutger Bregman, sharing his case for a provocative one: guaranteed basic income. Learn more about the idea’s 500-year history and a forgotten modern experiment where it actually worked — and imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all.

Modern day prophets. They’re not who you might think.

.. But Biblically and historically, true prophets spoke out about injustice and exploitation. They spoke on God’s behalf when his people went astray and forgot the poor.

They punched up. Not down.

They spoke truth to power, not condemnation to the downtrodden and marginalized.

(As a fun exercise – have a read through the book of Amos and see how much these words resonate, or not, with the words of the so-called “prophets” of ultra-right wing Charisma News).

There are a whole lot of people who call themselves “prophets” today. But most of them barely ackowledge poverty, expoitation, or injustice. Jesus knew this, and that’s why he warned that there will always be a bunch of false prophets and false teachers running their mouths off who will “deceive many people” (Mt. 24:11).

You will know them by their fruit, because they only have one key message – God is going to “enlarge your tent” and “expand your influence”, he’s going to “give you great favor” and “bless you mightily”. 

Bollocks.

Of course God blesses. Of course God gives people favor, and even gives them influence sometimes. But these were not the main priorities of the Biblical prophets. This did not form the core of their message.

In Biblical times, there were two types of prophets.

  1. Firstly, there were those who feasted at the King’s table because they had been co-opted to speak well of evil leaders (1 Kings 18:19). They were always bringing these smarmy words of favor and influence and prosperity to the king. And the king lapped it up. Like a sucka.
  2. Secondly, there were those who were exiled to the caves, or beheaded (like John the Baptist) because they spoke out about the injustice or immorality of their leaders (1 Kings 18:4). The king didn’t like them very much. He tried to have them knee-capped.

I would suggest to you that, the leaders of the religious right in America, Charisma News, and so-called “prophetic leaders” of the charismatic and evangelical church (like James Dobson and Franklin Graham), have become the false prophets of this generation.

 

Case in point, their support of Donald Trump – possibly the most corrupt, immoral and unjust man to run for leadership in the Western World in recent years.

This man and his evangelical groupies have led a majority of white American evangelical Christians astray. (A Pew survey showed that 78% of white evangelicals support Trump).

These false prophets claim he is “God’s Trumpet” who will restore the power they long for – power over Supreme Court appointments. They hope to feast at his table when he comes into power and are willing to turn a blind eye to things they have been talking about for decades, including adultery, sexual assault, racism, misogyny, violence, etc.

They are the very definition of false prophets. And to my mind this calls into question every aspect of their ministry and teaching. They clearly DON’T have a hotline to God, because I know that God is particularly concerned about orphans and widows and foreigners. The very people that Trump bulldozes to build his next casino.

I urge you to consider what a true prophet sounds like. Listen to people who echo the prophets of the Bible, speaking truth to power and grace and love to the downtrodden.

Here is a sampling of Biblical prophets just to remind you what they sound like:

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and destroy the poor of the land!”
Amos the prophet (Amos 8:4)

“Seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 1:17)

“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice”
Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 22:13)

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
Ezekiel the prophet (16:49)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah the prophet (Micah 6:8)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts… do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the immigrant, or the poor…”
Zechariah the prophet (Zechariah 7:9-10)

Got it? It’s pretty clear to anyone who has immersed themselves in these scriptures.

The teachings of many modern day evangelical church leaders just do not resonate with God’s heart for justice, the way the Biblical prophets did.

So who will you listen to? I’d love to know, who you see as prophetic in this day and age? Share in the comments.

Davos: A Family Reunion for the People who Broke the Modern World

For the past several decades, world leaders, CEOs, tech titans, billionaires, philanthropists, and celebrities have descended upon Davos, Switzerland with the goal of “improving the state of the world.” Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, says they are part of the problem.

Trade wasn’t working for everyone.

Dynamic scheduling, underpaid, contractors, fight minimum wage, more flexible labor, tax cults for the wealthy anti-inheritance taxes, evade existing taxes, rewards offshoring, expresses no loyalty to communities. (5 min)

I don’t think arsonist need to attend at a firefighter’s convention.

Poor people are very accessible. They want someone to bear witness. They don’t have publicists.

You can’t understand inequality without understanding rich people and the systems they use to justify themselves (10 min)

Today’s elites are among the most socially away, yet also predatory

I don’t think we have free markets, we have a capitalism of monopoly, and rent seeking

Jane Meyer’s Dark Money: how we got here.

Business didn’t have power (Nixon started the EPA) and worked to understand it. They used an alliance with evangelicals and philanthropy to build power.

History is life a mob boss: we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way.  It can go down like the civil war or women’s suffrage.

82% of new money was in the 1 percent’s hands.

It’s going to require many to become traitor’s to their class.  If Gates devoted as much to pushing an estate tax, he could have a bigger impact.

I think things are changing.  There aren’t going to be as many Goldman Sachs and McKinsey people in the next administration.