A ‘Pinocchio’ Rating for Pope Francis

A ‘Pinocchio’ Rating for Pope Francis

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
By Bruce Edward Walker

Sandro Magister, Vatican correspondent for L’Espresso, notes in his Italian blog a recent TV program that “fact checks” the pope’s economics.

Here’s a translation of the blog post:

In his speeches Pope Francis often puts forth original theories of dubious foundations but that, for him, are of unshakable certainty and explain everything.

Take, for example, this from an interview a few days ago with the Belgian Catholic weekly “Tertio”:

“There is an economic theory that I have not verified, but I read in several books: that in human history, when a State could see that its accounts were not in good shape, waged war to balance its budget. That is to say, [war] is one of the easiest ways to create wealth.”

Or another theory in which the pope explains that the growth of poverty and inequality along with the advance of progress, made yet again in his November 13 homily in the Mass for the Jubilee of the socially excluded:

“This is the origin of the tragic contradiction of our age: as progress and new possibilities increase, which is a good thing, fewer and fewer people are able to benefit from them.”

Curiously, though, a few days ago, on December 8, during the first episode of a new RAI 2 program, this mantra of Pope Francis was gently but surely demolished.

The program is “Night Tabloid”, a late-night show conducted by Annalisa Bruchi, who is very good at simply and accurately explaining complicated economic issues.

She eventually gave the floor to Davide De Luca, a young researcher who sat in the corner of the set and gave a sort of “political grade” based on real data – “fact checking” – as to the truth or falsehood of fashionable theories.

Well, in the first episode of the series, Pope Francis was examined for the above-mentioned claims that were replayed during the broadcast.

The final grade: “kind of Pinocchio” i.e., a lie.

In the video, the “grading” begins at the 42:50 mark.

The initial question posed by the presenter to the examiner is: “Has this globalization impoverished or enriched us, and whom?”

Here’s the transcript with the final verdict.

Q. – Has this globalization impoverished or enriched us, and whom?

A. – It is a difficult question to answer, but we can try. Surely there is a part of the population of developed countries that we can define as losers of globalization, that is, those who have lost.

For example in Europe, 9.5 percent of the population is at risk of poverty despite having a job. And this category is increasing: in 2006 it was 8.1 percent. In Italy the situation is even worse, with 11.5 percent of the population at risk of poverty despite having a job; in 2006 it was 9 percent.

Some say the problem is globalization because it has opened up competition to developing countries with low-skilled labor.

Even the pope, Pope Francis, has spoken on this issue and tells us that it is not only our but a global problem: Progress and globalization are a problem for everyone. He said: “The more you increase the progress and possibilities, which is a good thing, fewer are the people who have access to them.”

The pope makes such an equation. He says, the greater the progress, the greater the people who are excluded.

And as we saw earlier, it is true, in part at least, for our countries. But if we extend the look to the rest of the world and we look at what has happened throughout the planet, this sentence does not seem so correct.

Take for example the number of undernourished people, i.e. those who do not have enough to eat. We see that in 1990-92 they were 18.6 per cent of the planet’s population. In 2014-16, that is, five years later, they fell to 10.9 percent.

We also see with extreme poverty, that is, those living on less than $2 a day, in 1990 it was 35 percent of the world’s population, one in three. Twenty-five years later, in 2013, they fell to 10.7 percent, one in ten. Is it because they all died? No, because in this same period, the world population increased by 1.9 billion to 7 billion people, who are much less poor, much less hungry.

So if we make this criticism of globalization, a bit as the pope does, an absolute one and say we have all been left behind, well, at the cost of being a bit blasphemous, we are forced to give the pope a “kind of Pinocchio.”

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