Why are the Poor Paying for the Tax Cuts?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Why does it seem like this current administration is completely funding its huge tax breaks on the backs of the poor?  Maybe because of all the efforts to reduce the social safety net.  Here are some examples:

  • The administration is considering changing the way the government measures poverty which could result in millions of low-income individuals and families being removed from assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and Head Start. The current poverty line for a family of four is about $26,000. Each year, the government adjusts for inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI). The administration is considering using a version called“chained CPI” which is lower than regular CPI. Chained CPI assumes that as prices of goods go up, people substitute less expensive items lowering their overall expenses.  Most poor are already using the cheapest good/services they can use.
  • The administration has proposed increasing work requirements or eliminating/reducing state waivers for safety net programs such as SNAP and Medicare/Medicaid.
  • The administration is pushing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. This question is likely to reduce the number of immigrant – documented or undocumented – responses which will reduce the official number of individuals in that city or state. Since government funds are allocated based on the census numbers, cities with large immigrant populations will receive less funding than they need.
  • This administration has made dismantling the Affordable Care Act a hallmark of it tenure. These actions have eliminated or reduced the healthcare available to many working poor who are not eligible for Medicaid.
  • The current trade war with China is certainly impacting farmers and manufacturers who sell to or buy materials from China.  The next phase will be putting tariffs (taxes) on consumer goods such as clothing, furniture, etc.  These price increases will result in the poor using a larger percentage of wages going for these products.
  • Individuals with disabilities who are often likely to have low incomes will be impacted by the proposed budget that slashes funding of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by $72 billion. This is only one example of budget cuts that will impact low income families/individuals.

These are only some of the many efforts that are being proposed/implemented to make up the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that were implemented last year. Perhaps instead of catering to the rich, the administration should consider Proverbs 14:31:  Those who oppress the poor revile their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor God.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Why Boycott Wendy’s?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Now that the weather has gotten warmer and dryer, I’ve been doing some weeding and planting in our garden. The new House of Welcome in Columbus is blessed with a big lot and some wonderful beds for vegetables and flowers. I haven’t gardened in a few years and forgot how back breaking it can be. Muscles that had lain dormant reared their sore selves.   What must it be like to do this type of work hour after hour, day after day?  What would ensure that at least the working conditions and wages were fair?

There is a program call the Fair Food Program (FFP) developed by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker based human rights organization.  They describe the FFP as “a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations.”

It’s pretty simple. Retail food companies agree to pay $.01 more per pound for tomatoes (or an agreed to amount for other fruits or vegetables). That money goes into a pot to increase the wages of the workers and pay for programs/legal help for any abuses that occur to the workers.  Growers agree to implement the Fair Food Code of Conduct on their farms, to cooperate with monitoring, and pass along the Fair Food Premium to their workers.

There is also a Fair Food Standards Council that monitors the development of a sustainable agricultural industry that advances the human rights of farmworkers, the long-term interests of growers, and the ethical supply chain concerns of retail food companies through the implementation of the Fair Food Program.  It’s really a win-win-win-win for growers, retailers, farmworkers, and consumers.

Sadly, two big companies are missing from the list of participating retail food companies that participate in the program – Kroger and Wendy’s. Neither has agreed to purchase from Fair Food suppliers and/or pay the additional penny per pound for their tomatoes.  This is why many are boycotting Wendy’s and Kroger and letting them know about it by giving a letter to the management of their local outlet.  Giving up your favorite grocery or fast food store might be tough but consider how hard it is to grow and harvest the food we eat. It’s time to let Kroger’s and Wendy’s know that we want farmworkers to be treated with the dignity they deserve.

(Copies of letters you can use for Wendy’s or Kroger’s are in the Justice Updates for May 7, 2019.)

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

“Speak the truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.”

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of Catherine of Siena, a great Dominican and promoter of justice extraordinaire. As I reflect upon Catherine during this time of great divide in our world, I am especially mindful of her quote “Speak the truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.” How do we as Dominican sisters and associates of Peace live out this wisdom?  How do we “speak with a million voices” today?  We can follow Catherine’s example and write letters and emails, tweet tweets, and make calls.

What do we need to write about?  We can write against war and violence.  Catherine once wrote to Nicolo Soderini, a leader in Florence plotting against the pope that “It doesn’t seem to me that war is so lovely a thing that we should go running after it when we can prevent it.  But is there anything lovelier than peace?”  With so many conflicts in the world and violence in our communities, don’t we all long for the loveliness of peace?

We can hold our lawmakers – local, state and national – accountable. She scolded King Charles V of France, “Make peace, make peace! Make peace! God will hold you and the others responsible for this at the moment of your death, because of all the foolish apathy of which you have been and are guilty every day.”  Shouldn’t we also scold our Senators for failing to move forward legislation passed in the House?

We can hold our church leaders responsible to be good shepherds.   In a letter to Pope Gregory XI during a time of great scandal in the Church, she writes “I say that this is the very worst cruelty which can be shown. If a wound when necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and many a time death follows from it.” The current scandal of leadership must be cured.

Catherine is a model for us in so many ways. Let us follow her lead and make our voices heard so that injustice does not grow because of our silence.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Building a Community of Peace

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Meister Eckhart once said, “if the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”  I have been praying this all during Lent as sisters, associates, and friends of the Dominican Sisters of Peace have donated socks, underwear, and money for the children seeking asylum in the U.S.  We have collected more than 1350 pairs of socks and 1500 pairs of underwear for Annunciation House.  It represents for me the spirit of the sisters and associates who want to make the world a little better…  to be a part of something bigger… to bring a little peace into the lives of others.

In his book Fear, Thich Nhat Hanh says that looking at another with compassionate eyes and with a spirit of understanding, enables the kingdom of heaven to reveal itself.  “When we are a part of a spiritual community, we have a lot of joy and resist the temptation to be overwhelmed by despair… We all need a community to keep us from sinking into the swamp of despair… We need each other in order to practice solidity, freedom, and compassion so that we can remind each other that there is always hope… In community, we produce the powerful energy of peace.”  The situations facing asylum seekers are desperate and the government response is horrific but our community effort to collect socks and underwear for children in great need has highlighted a powerful spiritual family and given me a sense of hope that we can overcome fear and misunderstanding.

As you know, there are many, many children who need this clothing because their parents are determined to escape violence and live in peace.  So, our work is not finished.  We must continue to help them by dispelling myths and challenging (in a peaceful way, of course) those who criticize their actions.  We must urge our Senators and Representatives to improve the living situations in the countries where asylum seekers are fleeing through diplomacy and aid funding. We must improve our own immigration system especially by speaking out against efforts to ban any group because of their nationality or religion and by resolving the dilemma of DACA and TPS individuals who have lived in the U.S. for much, if not most, of their lives.

I was blessed to be one of the sisters who traveled to El Paso and saw with my own eyes, the love and determination of the parents to improve the lives of their children. I am blessed again to see the generous response to this project. Thank you… thank you… thank you.

A special thanks to Gaye Reissland who painted the moving picture used on our poster.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Making Peace with it All

Blog by Sr. Jane Belanger, OP

Making Peace seems like an effort.  It appears as if we have to pull opposing forces together and try to get them to shake hands.  It assumes that opposition and even strife are inevitable.  If we want peace, we have to somehow reconcile things—daunting work. And, it is a tough world out there:  survival of the fittest; dog eat dog; loggers vs. spotted owls; clean energy vs. jobs.  Yet that is the kind of binary, either-or, winner-loser thinking that is not at all what the natural world offers us to contemplate.

When we humans use words, we have to break an experience down into little parts to explain what we mean.  When we are in the natural world, our senses experience everything as a whole: sounds and smells, tactile impressions, visions close up and distant all coming into us and we are adding our own selves to the reality.  We are not humans “on” the Earth, we are beings of the Earth.  We owe our in-breath to the plants and they accept the gift of our out-breath for their growth.  We share DNA with every living thing and our bones carry the minerals spewed by the explosions of stars.  Not at some early dawning of creation but here and now.  Whether we realize or acknowledge it, we are inextricably connected to everything.  As John Muir wrote:

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Muir wasn’t just being poetic; he was being scientific.  It is as true on a molecular level as it is on a biological level, as it is on the spiritual plane—as if those realities were somehow distinct!  One of the results of our Western philosophical heritage is that we are not holistic.  This has influenced our science, education and even our religious thinking to break everything down into its parts and examine them as if each were a distinct and un-related object unto itself.  We miss the deeper—and now scientifically measurable—truth:  it is all connected.

So air and water, soils and plants, mountains and the creatures enfolded in their vast ecosystems are a whole.  They cannot exist in isolation, nor can we exist without them.  Our souls need thunder to realize how small we are.  Our minds need to be expanded beyond our ability to comprehend to glimpse the magnitude of reality.  Our hearts need the tender unfurling of a spring blossom to taste what love wants to express.

If we want to “make peace with the Earth,” it cannot be a part-time diversion from the “real” work of “making a living.”  Besides, we do not make our living, we receive it as a precious gift.  Our living is contingent upon so many other beings.  We are called to be far more than “good stewards of Earth’s resources” as if the splendor of the Universe were somehow a bank account that we must spend wisely.  Let’s turn that thinking around to recognize the oneness of all that is. Let’s be attuned to the sacred revelation that speaks far truer and eloquently than words.  Let’s breathe in the gift of life and breathe out the thanks of our own gifted life.  Water that is sacred will not be wasted or polluted or sold.  Soils teeming with nutrient rich microscopic organisms need not be blasted with deadly chemicals.  Yes, what we do to Earth, we do to ourselves.  We need to love ourselves far better than we may have yet known how to do.  Then we will indeed be at peace—with all that is.



Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog