Kevin Drum has responded to the interview Rick Warren did over the weekend on ABC with a post titled "Helping the Poor Is Now Apparently Anti-Bible":
[Warren] was on ABC's This Week yesterday, and Jake Tapper asked him what he thought about President Obama's suggestion that God tells us to care for those less fortunate than ourselves:
Well certainly the Bible says we are to care about the poor....But there's a fundamental question on the meaning of "fairness." Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money? Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation.
The only way to get people out of poverty is J-O-B-S. Create jobs. To create wealth, not to subsidize wealth. When you subsidize people, you create the dependency. You -- you rob them of dignity.
...while I might not be an expert in the Bible, I've read enough to know that Jesus sure didn't seem to think that helping the poor robbed them of dignity. Can someone help me out here? What part of the gospels do you think Warren is referring to?
I'll give Warren his due: he boasts about the fact that he and his church help the poor:
Well, we definitely have seen our benevolence going up this last year. We fed about 70,000 different people through Saddleback Church in our food bank. Just here in Orange County. I have 11 percent of my people out of work right now. So we’re doing everything from job training to helping people learn how to do interviews, to trying to talk about how to create secondary incomes. We do all kinds of practical things. We offer out of our church PEACE center immigration services, legal services, job training, counseling, financial counseling...
He just doesn't want the government doing this. He apparently believes that aid to the poor is fine, as long as you can't actually depend on it, which is what happens when the government creates a program with clearly established eligibility criteria. If aid to the poor comes as -- literally -- a gift from God (i.e., as a gift from his agents on Earth, such as Warren and his flock), no prob. Otherwise, it's bad. (So I guess we should get rid of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and all other government programs.)
Why are these programs bad? Well, Warren, like so many people who get all their news from Fox and talk radio, believes in the "one drop" theory of socialism. This states that if you have any government program that takes any amount of money and gives it to anyone else, this automatically results in total redistribution of all the nation's wealth. According to this view, it's literally impossible to have a limited redistribution of wealth; it's literally impossible to have an economy that mixes social programs and capitalism. You get this from the right-wing media all the time, and you get it from Warren:
Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money? Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation.
Warren also apparently believes that there's never been a society in human history in which wealth redistribution and wealth creation coexisted -- you have to choose.
I'm not sure how he would explain the coexistence of a social safety net and the planet's dominant economy here in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. Maybe he can consult Scripture and explain that to me.
UPDATE: Sarah Posner says what I tried to say here much more compellingly.