When the musical Jesus Christ Superstar was staged, it included a scene in which Jesus is asked to justify the existence of poverty in a bountiful universe. He responds by declaring that “the poor will be with us always.” We live in a bountiful universe and yet more than thirty-eight million live in poverty in the midst of abundance. Nowadays Jesus’s declaration is a common truism. While some of us believe that poverty need not exist, we know that in our nation there is no collective commitment to ending poverty. We do what we can daily to create a culture of communalism. Our work includes both protracted struggle to end poverty and immediate effort to end the suffering poverty produces.
The poor suffer more intensely now than ever before in our nation’s history. They suffer both the pain caused by material lack and all the problems it produces and the pain caused by ongoing assault on their self-esteem by privileged classes. This assault takes the form of contemptuous treatment in all walks of everyday life, of mass media representing the poor as always and only a criminal class, and