Yesterday we talked about how to prioritize which political issues to advocate. Today I promised to share my list with you.
Again, I recognize the limitations of my approach. There is still a lot of subjective analysis. Feel free to apply these in your own ways if you disagree with my assessment, I’d love to hear how you would assess them. Still I’d hope that it gives an insight in to how to prioritize. I have used this approach as a way to assess and prioritize what I want to invest in, since I believe it is a good guide to where I can most effectively bring real change aligned with God’s vision. This list is ordered from highest to lowest priority (so if you quit reading half way through, at least you will have read the highest).
Global Poverty Reduction Efforts
- Globally 1.7 billion are destitute; in absolute poverty, about 18 million die each year
- Crippling impact on life and opportunities, many die
- Large opportunity for impact. American spends about $25 billion on total development assistance, a subset of that is specifically for those in absolute poverty (a tiny portion of the federal budget), not a strong partisan issue, both conservatives and liberals have championed this. There are numerous well-understood proven efforts that we know can save lives, and do save millions of lives each year. Groups that are advocating in this area have had very significant influence on policies.
Global Human Rights Protection
This encompasses human trafficking, religious persecution, and gender inequality.
- There are currently between 10 and 27 million in slavery, millions have some religious persecution (some estimate roughly 100,000 – 200,000 a year killed for their faith), gender equality affects billions of women, about 1 million females die each year because of gender inequalities leading to neglect or direct abuse and death.
- Huge life impact, slavery, particularly slavery, is tremendous violation of a person, near death.
- Good opportunity for impact. Impact can be made through legislation, diplomatic efforts, and education ($60 million dollars is spent on the combating trafficking agency, a tiny line item on federal budget). This tends to be a non-partisan issue and some aspects haven’t received much attention. However, concrete steps to solving this problem can sometimes be elusive, we can only do so much to change laws in other countries, for example. Also fighting poverty is a key part of mitigating some of these issues.
International Economic Issues
This issue covers the various international policy injustices that keep developing countries trapped in poverty, including tax havens, trade injustice, and national debt. It is estimated that as much as $500 billion a year is lost from developing countries and transition economies due to tax avoidance.
Tax havens rob developing countries of tens of billions of dollars, and debt relief. The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates subsidies and protectionism costs $24 billion in lost agricultural income for developing countries, which is the primary income source for the poorest (here is my post on this subject). Sub-Saharan Africa pays almost $13 billion in debt service to the wealthy nations and institutions every year, undermining their ability to meet basic health care needs.
- Similar to global poverty in extent, over one billion affected
- Significantly impact on life and opportunities
- Somewhat limited opportunity for impact. These topics are rarely discussed, and advocacy can have a tremendous impact. But, our efforts can be somewhat limited due to the fact that these often involve international multi-lateral agreements to make a strong difference.
This is issue covers to what extent we are supportive of the immigrant population in America.
- Immigration provides an amazing opportunity for someone to go from poverty to real success. However, perhaps one of the most compelling and telling metrics in the story of immigration is remittances. Remittances are monies sent from foreign workers to their home country. The self-sacrificial support that foreign workers provide families in their home countries is enormous and has tremendous benefits on the recipients well-being and economic development. There is about $60 billion sent from the US to Latin American countries alone, supporting probably 10 million families. This is vastly more than all international charitable contributions combined. Encouraging and supporting immigration has a tremendous benefit for these families, and crackdowns on immigration have vast implications on human suffering due to the loss of these remittances.
- Those that have have immigrated are typically in desperate economic situations, and the employment and benefits are crucial for health, education, etc.
- Limited opportunity for impact. Unfortunately this is a deeply partisan issue, and is quite difficult to change policies on this issue. However, the ramifications are relatively clear, and it should certainly be a consideration in voting though.
- Everyone is affected by global warming to some degree, although it may be very slight for many, especially most Americans.
- This is another issue where the affects are predominantly outside our borders. America’s economy is composed of industries that are less sensitive to climate change, many people have A/C, and thus far our climate has seen relatively small changes compared to the rest of the world (2012, notwithstanding). However, the World Health Organization estimates 150,000 deaths per year can be attributed to global warming, and that this could double by 2030. This has impact beyond the human toll if we consider God’s creation to be of intrinsic worth as well (a more philosophical question).
- Limited opportunity for impact. Again, this is a deeply entrenched issue, but a consideration in voting.
- Currently we are accruing roughly $1 trillion (more during the recession, less in a normal economy) in debt a year, which has economic consequences that affect almost everyone.
- The current deficit comes out to about $3,100 of financial burden per person per year. The current national debt is $16 trillion, which is about $51,000 of financial burden per person.
- Very limited opportunity for impact. The goal of reducing the deficit is a bi-partisan goal, basically everyone wants to reduce it. Yet basically everyone has different objections to the means by which we might reduce it, making it very difficult to actually achieve. Simple partisan voting is generally fruitless here, since both sides want to reduce the deficit. But, we can be guided how to reduce the deficit in a just way, and who will bear the biggest impact for deficit reducing measures, the poor, the rich, the military, etc.?
- Affects almost everyone to some degree, but biggest impact on uninsured.
- One way to measure health would be to compare with health in other developed countries. Most highly developed countries have life expectancy of 2-4 years longer per person than America, and some have half the infant mortality rate. Achieving the efficacy and breadth of healthcare available in other nations could possibly add a total of nearly a billion extra years of life to those currently living, and save about 14,000 infants per year.
- Limited opportunity for impact. Another highly visible, entrenched issue that is difficult to affect. Should be considered in voting though.
Programs for Domestic Poverty
This covers programs like food stamps, WIC, unemployment benefits, and EIC.
- About 46 million use food stamps, about 4.5 million on non-social security benefits
- Financial benefits that can be important for adequate nutrition and shelter.
- Limited opportunity for impact. Another issue that is difficult to affect. Should be considered in voting though.
Again, many of these are important and symbolic issues, but due to their limited scope or limited opportunity for impact, are characterized lower in my focus on quantified measurements.
- 12 million unemployed, 300 million people affected by the economy
- Economics impacts peoples’ finances to some degree. Those that are unemployed are financially impacted deeply, although it rarely leads to death in America.
- Extremely limited opportunity for impact. Everyone already wants a better economy and lower unemployment, and economic ideologies are deeply entrenched, and many economic issues are highly technical. Political rhetoric has lead many to believe that one party can fix the economy, but such claims ridiculously overstated, and any given policy makers influence on the economy is very limited, even the executive branch, and only one of thousands of factors that affect our economy. Again, partisan votes shouldn’t expect much better results from any one party.
There are numerous other issues that I would categorize as lower priority. Remember these may still be very important issues, but I am suggesting that they are relatively lower priority than the issues at the top. Issues like gay rights/marriage definition are important, but the breadth and severity of their impact is far less than the issues above (denying or allowing marriage licenses doesn’t result in death). Abortion receives a huge amount of attention from the right, even though it is largely a judicial or state issue, not something decided by elected federal leaders. Domestic religious protection is important as well, but the types of issues we debate in America (contraceptive mandates, school prayer, etc) are trivial in comparison to the types of religious persecutions mentioned in the global human rights issue.
Also, while I have certainly given lower priority to issues that I see as deeply entrenched, we must still remember faith in God’s often leads us to work for the impossible. While I believe that we should be strategic in recognizing potential for success, we also must reject apathy and discouragement that may come from not looking up to God who can ultimately accomplish anything.
With prioritization in mind, hopefully we can then proceed to channel our efforts and even assess candidates with much greater focus and clarity. I know that there are numerous other issues that could be assessed with this approach, as well as limitless ways of categorizing. This list is merely an example based on my perspective, and I would love to hear how you would measure other issues, or how you would assign different priorities to the issues I listed. Again, I hope it is clear that prioritization is not based on what is best for me. It is based on how we can be an effective instrument for bringing relief and support for those who are disadvantaged. I hope and pray that in stepping back and prioritizing, we may fully engage in pursuing God’s vision, a vision of a people glorifying Him as they defend the cause of the poor, feed the hungry, and welcome the stranger, both here and abroad.