The United States has seen a major shift in concentration of income and wealth in recent decades, making life harder for the majority. While real incomes for the top 1 percent have grown 185 percent over the past 35 years, incomes for the rest of the population have increased an average of only 13 percent. Despite signs of "recovery," millions have lost homes, pensions, and jobs and are less secure.
Too many jobs pay minimum wage (or less for tipped workers), which cannot sustain a family. Women make up 75 percent of these low wage workers, and they are disproportionately women of color. Rising costs of higher education and student debt put a heavy burden on both young people and their families. Real estate booms in many urban areas have driven up the cost of housing, while low- and moderate-income housing programs are in decline. Despite important changes in health care access, a health crisis can become a financial crisis for families. Middle class jobs, such as teachers, nurses and professors are becoming more precarious and regimented.
This did not just happen on its own. Our current economic insecurity is the result of specific policy choices that have shifted wealth and income to the top: cuts in taxes for the wealthy and corporate tax cuts, cuts in public services, employer cuts to pensions and health benefits, predatory mortgage lending, stagnant wages with rising cost of living, work speed up, and shifts from the public to the private sector in everything from schools to roads to military to prisons, eliminating many unionized public sector jobs.
United Methodist Women is engaging in education to better understand these changes in economic policy and how they impact women, youth and children. We will be exploring these realities in our communities, state, and nation and taking action to seek greater equity and dignity, living wages, sustainable livelihoods and economic security for all. We will look at how inequality is a global issue. The United Methodist Social Principles affirm, "We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few." (Social Principles, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2008, p. 163).
"In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus began his public ministry with these words from Isaiah:
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' (NRSV, adapted)
Christ teaches that faith requires action for social and spiritual well-being and especially care for the poor and the oppressed. The early church understood that all were to share all that they had and especially care for the widows and orphans (Acts 2:44-245; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15)…The covenant community was called to observe sabbatical years in which the land was not worked and its produce was available to the poor (Exodus 23:10-11)…The prophets warn us that an economic system based on greed, economic exploitation, and the indifference to the needs of the poor is contrary to God's will and leads to ruin for the society (Amos 8:4-6; Jeremiah 22:13-17)." (Resolution 4052, "Economic Justice for a New Millenium," The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2012, pp. 546-547)