By Steve Levy
The Four E's--Pope Francis and the Middle ClassUploaded: Jul 27, 2015
Pope Francis has dedicated his career to the plight of the poor and recently to the threats from climate change and global warming.
But last month in a news interview Pope Francis pledged to give more attention to the middle class throughout the world. The New York Times reported web link
"But flying back to Rome from his eight-day visit to Latin America, Francis admitted he had overlooked a group.
He has delivered few messages for the global middle class.
"Thank you," he replied, after a German journalist, Ludwig Ring-Eifel, asked about the omission. "It's a good correction, thanks. You are right. It's an error of mine not to think about this.""
This is an example where emphasizing one or two of the E's?in this case equity and environment?can lead us to overlook the importance of the other E's?economy and efficiency. Or in this case focusing on one group with economic challenges can lead us to overlook the transition in our economy that has put some middle class families at risk here and around the world.
The Pope's reminder is a good one for all of us.
In my professional work on the state workforce board and doing workforce studies, there is always great concern and many programs targeted at low income and at risk populations and we have great universities for highly talented people. But now with a changing economy and wage stagnation, many middle skill workers are struggling?a group that does not get much attention in the workforce world aside from apprenticeships.
In housing we have programs (usually with funding far below what is needed) to help low income families and usually consider that affluent families can find housing they can afford. But just as many in the middle class struggle for economic security, now many in the middle class in hot job centers around the country are finding it hard to afford to buy or rent.
California's environmental programs like AB 32 focus on the Pope's two main priorities?equity and environment. But our programs also take into account economic impacts and the law has provisions to prevent excess economic harm if the laws reduce the competitiveness of firms. And we use the funds from auctioning emission permits to fund housing and transportation focused on low income individuals and communities.
Our schools have programs for students with special challenges and for students who excel.
In all of these areas we tend to assume implicitly that middle class families will do okay and do not need special programs.
The Pope's message is a reminder not to overlook middle class challenges here and throughout the world.
Hopefully we can find ideas and programs that minimize the potential conflicts between each of the 4 E's.