I’ve known President Trump for over 17 years now. Since his election, I’ve had the privilege of spending many days working with this White House, doing my best to support the president and his staff in any way I can. My role is primarily to pray for and support this administration spiritually and to create bridges to the Christian community.
There are two opportunities my unique vantage point provides me: One is being able to advocate for social and spiritual justice; the other is being able to witness the very real progress that’s been made for average Americans.
All-too-often, this progress goes unreported – which is exactly what happened earlier this month.
President Trump signed what I believe to be one of the most important executive orders of his presidency: Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.
Reducing able-bodied adults enrolled in the system will help to ensure that the single mother who truly needs public assistance can get to the front of the line when “life” inevitably happens.
This action lays the foundation for greater reforms throughout government based upon what the administration refers to as the "Nine Principles of Economic mobility." The overarching goal is to help those Americans who have fallen out of the workforce once again find gainful employment, as well as ensure those who really need assistance are able to receive it.
So why should a pastor care so much about welfare reform?
Because it’s pastors who are so often on the frontline of economic and financial hardship.
The church I pastor for example, New Destiny Church in Apopka, Florida, is a beautiful and diverse community with a large population of new immigrants and minorities.
We spend our days serving many of the people we often hear about in government welfare statistics. When, for example, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that a “hypothetical” single-mother of two could see her income more than quadruple with a full-time job at minimum wage, we don’t need a statistic to tell us that: she tells us about it at church on Sunday. We know her name. She isn’t hypothetical to us. We love her, care for her, pray for her, provide school supplies for her kids, and make sure she has everything she needs.
As a pastor, I also see firsthand that financial hardship is often the result of some unforeseeable life event like a heartbreaking divorce, an illness or an accident, or even a death in the family. Nobody is immune – it’s just life, and it happens to us all. But at church, we don’t just help you when you’re down, we also get to celebrate when that single mother finds a good job and achieves financial independence.
That’s why when you consider that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 97 percent of adults who find full-time work move out of poverty (and that 100 percent of welfare recipients don’t), instituting public assistance reform, such as common-sense work requirements, is altogether compassionate and moral.
The president’s executive order also prioritizes and promotes marriage and family as a way to escape poverty. This is another area where being a pastor gives me a clear-eyed view of the struggles experienced by everyday Americans. If there is an intact marriage or other family members around to help, people stand a much higher chance of achieving financial independence. These relationships will now be given priority as a person’s first and best option for receiving help.
Beyond helping at the local level, this EO reverses a more than decade long national trend of ever expanding welfare enrollment.
As of this January, 74 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This number represents more than 20 percent of the entire U.S. population and a 29 percent increase since 2013. All told, 28 million able-bodied adults are currently on Medicaid – a number that has quadrupled since 2000. This comes at a time when national unemployment sits at 4.1 percent; when African American, Hispanic and female unemployment figures sit at or are near historic lows; and when industries such as construction and manufacturing, are reporting hundreds of thousands of unfilled job openings.
Reducing able-bodied adults enrolled in the system will help break through bureaucratic backlogs and delays that plague so many of our government assistance agencies. It will also help ensure that the single mother who truly needs public assistance can get to the front of the line when “life” inevitably happens.
The root causes of unemployment are myriad, and they are almost always difficult to overcome. We should approach such challenges with kindness and compassion, but also with pragmatism.
Empowering adults to return to the workforce and prioritizing marriage and family are concepts that form the very foundation of true social justice. They are also concepts that work in real life.
It’s a shame you haven’t heard more about the president’s Economic Mobility executive order, but I for one am grateful because I know the names of some of those whose lives will be changed because of it.