Pastor Rick Warren, who heads an evangelical megachurch in Orange County, California, talked to ABC's Jake Tapper yesterday about a variety of topics, but it was Warren's thoughts on the economy that struck me as especially important.
The host asked what he tells members of his congregation who are struggling, and Warren said the "root" of our problems have a "spiritual" cause. "We have overspent," the pastor said. "The biggest problem for all of our economic problems is our inability to delay gratification. 'I want it and I want it now. And I'm going to buy it even if I can't afford it.' And not only have people done that, the government has done it."
At an Orange County megachurch, this may lead to a lot of nodding heads. In reality, the policy details point in a very different direction.
Warren seems to want Americans to believe our economy would be healthier if our government invested less. Indeed, the pastor's argument seems to be that the Great Recession -- partly the result of lax regulations and poor government oversight -- would have been better if the public sector left more American families to fend for themselves. This is backwards, as the public-sector layoffs, and their drag on the national economy, help demonstrate.
But Steve M. raised a good point about what else Warren said in the interview: "The only way to get people out of poverty is J-O-B-S. Create jobs. To create wealth, not to subsidize wealth."
Then I suppose the conservative pastor has a problem with developments like these?
Across the country, work force centers that assist the unemployed are being asked to do more with less as federal funds dwindle for job training and related services. [...]Federal money for the primary training program for dislocated workers is 18 percent lower in today's dollars than it was in 2006, even though there are six million more people looking for work now. Funds used to provide basic job search services, like guidance on resumes and coaching for interviews, have fallen by 13 percent. [...]Employers who want to hire often complain that the jobless do not have the necessary skills. In such an environment, advocates for workers say that cutting funds for training and other services makes little sense.
Warren's rhetoric may have a folksy charm, but his assessment of the economy is deeply misguided. He didn't address these federal job-training programs in particular, but he nevertheless articulated an ideology that Republican policymakers share: the jobs landscape will improve if the nation invests less in those who need jobs.
It's not a "spiritual" mistake, but it is a policy mistake.