Yesterday, President Obama quoted Pope Francis on income inequality.
During a Wednesday speech on income equality, Obama remarked, “Across the developed world, inequality has increased. Some of you may have seen just last week, the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length.”
He went on to quote a line from Pope Francis‘ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” asking, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
Obama called the growing income gap the “defining challenge of our time,” along with the increasing difficulty of upward economic mobility, AP reported.
I think it is a theological and practical mistake to speak of income inequality as a problem in and of itself. As a Catholic, I am called to minister to the poor and to do what I can to alleviate the suffering of those in poverty. I am emphatically NOT called to foster a system in which everybody has the same income.
I understand that in the Pope’s mind, poverty and income inequality are linked and he sees the former as a cause of the latter, all evidence to the contrary. It can be clearly seen that in those places with the greatest income equality also have the greatest poverty.
But leaving that aside, I am not called as a follower of Jesus to force equality of income on the world, I am called to care for the poor. I am convinced that when you promote the former, you exacerbate the latter. This is principally because big government is the preferred (only) method of enforcing income equality. When any government derives its power ostensibly to help the poor, it is in their vested interest to always make sure there are lots of poor. Poor equals power.
I think we should go back to speaking about genuine poverty and the most effective ways to mitigate its ravages rather than promote socialist utopian dreams that make things worse.