Thursday, February 07, 2008

Poverty: Our Hidden Shame

Now, I've spoken to both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both pledged to me and more importantly through me to America, that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.

And more importantly, they have pledged to me that as President of the United States they will make ending poverty and economic inequality central to their Presidency. This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause.

- Senator John Edwards, from his campaign-suspension speech at New Orleans, January 30, 2008

Which Issues Sold the States on Super Tuesday?

Just as there was no clear winner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on “Super Tuesday,” there was also no clear distinction between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama on the major economic issues.

Perhaps the only difference between Clinton and Obama was in states where the poverty rate exceeds that of the nation: of the nine states voting Tuesday with that distinction, Clinton carried six. (my emphasis)


Media Downplay Widespread Support for Hillary
By Peggy Simpson, Women's Media Center

Clinton's endorsements from three children of the late Robert Kennedy had been discounted, when noticed at all, by the East Coast media. They wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece that ran soon after Caroline Kennedy's bombshell Obama endorsement that, in essence, deeds count more than poetic words. Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said she had worked with Clinton for 25 years, as had her two brothers for 15 years, on issues of children and poverty. This may have had resonance with California Latinos.



From: Deepak Chopra [Huffington Post]
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Responds to the Open Letter

"Specifically, what is your plan of action to eliminate poverty in America?"

The persistence of poverty in the richest nation on earth is one of our great shames. No one should go hungry in America. No one should be without health care in America. No one should be homeless in America.

But millions of Americans are living in poverty - and they are not only struggling day to day but they have also been forgotten by their leaders. To end poverty, we must start by ending this epidemic of indifference.

When I'm President, I'll address poverty head-on.

First, we will care for the poor, the sick, the disabled, and others who cannot care for themselves. We will do this by providing health care for all, by strengthening our social safety nets, and increasing food stamps to combat hunger.

Second, we will reward work for those who are capable of working. No parent who works full-time should have to raise his or her children in poverty. I will expand child care assistance; increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, which has been called the greatest anti-poverty program ever created; support unions, which allow workers to bargain collectively for higher wages and better working conditions; and increase the minimum wage. And I will create new jobs by investing in old and new industries, like manufacturing as well as alternative energy.

Finally, I will work to restore opportunity in America. I will create a high-quality early childhood education system so every child starts school ready to learn. I will invest in proven K-12 reforms, reduce the dropout rate, and make college affordable for everyone who wants to go. I will also provide more opportunities for lifelong learning, so those who need to acquire additional skills later in life won't be held back.

I will also help families who are struggling in today's economy - I will help put home ownership back in reach for low-income Americans, protect families from predatory lenders, provide assistance to help families pay their skyrocketing energy bills, and help people save for their future.

Eliminating poverty won't be easy, but we can do it. One of my husband's proudest accomplishments is that during his administration, poverty dropped to its lowest level in two decades and seven million families were lifted out of poverty. We've slid dramatically backwards since then, but the right policies can make a difference.

I'll bring to this work a lifetime of fighting to increase opportunity. For 35 years, I have worked to listen to those whose voices are often unheard or ignored. From representing abused and neglected children as a young lawyer to serving on the board of the Children's Defense Fund to helping create the Early Head Start program and the Children's Health Insurance Program as First Lady, I have always fought to ensure that every American can reach his or her full potential.


From Deepak Chopra [Huffington Post]
Senator Barack Obama Responds to the Open Letter

Rising poverty is one of the most serious issues facing America today, and I believe that inserting simplistic tag lines or one-dimensional goals are unlikely to be helpful in meeting this challenge. As president, I will build off of my life experiences as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer and elected official to make poverty eradication a top goal of my administration. I have spent my career fighting poverty and hopelessness. I am especially proud of my successful efforts on the South Side of Chicago to organize residents to clean up environmental health hazards and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Perhaps my most notable accomplishment to fight poverty, though, came when I was an Illinois state senator and I led efforts to create the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which put $100 million directly in the pockets of working parents. The EITC has often been described as the most successful antipoverty effort in U.S. government history, and I am proud that I was able to bring both parties together to create the first EITC program in Illinois. As president, I will work everyday to retire the phrase "working poor" from our national vocabulary. My anti-poverty plan will significantly improve opportunities for millions of poor children and their parents by strengthening the economy for working Americans and providing additional resources to programs that have proven to be effective in reducing poverty. For example, my plan will expand the EITC, which is considered one of the most effective pro-work anti-poverty programs to date, to 5.8 million more Americans. Additionally, my EITC plan will increase EITC benefits for another 6.2 million Americans. I will also extend affordable, quality and portable health insurance coverage to every American and make significant investments in early childhood education to help low-income families.

I believe strongly in ending childhood poverty. That's why I will mandate that all children have health insurance coverage and increase funding for high-quality early childhood education programs, which are considered a vital investment in improving the lives of poor children. I will also reverse the Bush Administration's repeated cuts to health care, food and housing programs that have led to an overall increase in childhood poverty over the last several years.

I will also work to tackle concentrated poverty by building off the successful efforts of the Harlem's Children Zone in New York City, which provides comprehensive antipoverty supports to ensure that chronic poverty ends with the current generation. I will create 20 Promise Neighborhoods throughout the nation in areas that have high levels of poverty, crime and low levels of student academic achievement in cities across the nation. My Promise Neighborhoods will provide a full network of services to an entire neighborhood from birth to college. The Promise Neighborhoods will seek to engage all resident children and their parents into an achievement program based on tangible goals, including college for each and every participating student, strong physical and mental health outcomes for children as well as retention of meaningful employment and parenting schools for parents. These efforts will help finally break the cycle of poverty that has lasted for too long in America, and help the next generation of children succeed and prosper.

My anti-poverty agenda reflects my experiences working directly with low-income families, government and the private sector to provide additional opportunities to more Americans. I have learned that government alone cannot eradicate poverty in American - rather, it is our responsibility to empower individuals to make responsible decisions for their well-being and to engage the private sector which has much to gain by helping all Americans succeed. That's why I will invest $1 billion in transitional jobs and career pathways programs that engage businesses because businesses often realize that helping their low-income workers succeed means that the business itself will succeed. I will also improve supports for low-income mothers and fathers, to help empower them to take responsibility for the success for their children and families. I'll pass the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act, a bill I introduced last year that will provide more financial support to fathers who make the responsible choice to help raise their children and crack down on the fathers who don't. And I'll help new mothers with their new responsibilities by expanding a pioneering program known as the Nurse-Family Partnership that offers home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income mothers and mothers-to-be. My plan will assist approximately 570,000 first-time mothers each year.

Catholic Charities USA: President's Budget Hurts Low-Income Families

With its deep cuts to key health, housing, and social service programs, Catholic Charities USA today urged Congress to reject the president's 2009 budget proposal and instead craft a budget that strengthens key antipoverty programs.

The proposed $3 trillion budget released on Monday contains significant cuts and changes to a range of programs that address the health and well-being of low-income families and individuals, including Medicare, Medicaid, and LIHEAP.

"At a time of great economic uncertainty facing millions of Americans, especially for the 36.5 million already living in poverty, more must be done to help lift families out of poverty," said Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA. "Unfortunately, the president's budget hurts our nation's most vulnerable by whittling away America's safety net."

Note that the following strong ideological views are not necessarily reflective of my own, but they do mirror the general belief among many Americans that their society has left the invisible poor far behind.

Criminalizing Dumpsterdiving and Poverty in Modesto

In January, after urging from the Modesto Police, organizations representing rich areas of Modesto (such as the La Loma Association, etc), and several city council members, the Modesto City Council in a 5-2 vote passed a new ordinance that would according to the Modesto Bee allow the police to slap dumpster divers “with a misdemeanor, issued a citation carrying a $500 fine, or both.” (1) Dumpster divers could also face up to 6 months in a jail cell just for looking through a trash can. It seems the system again has us right where it wants us, as it forces us into poverty and then seeks to criminalize us when we try and subvert that reality by appropriating (taking without paying) food.

This reality of course, is not by accident, but by design, as the economy of the rich requires us to produce massive quantities of goods and commodities as workers, yet at the same time ends up throwing so much of them away when it can’t sell all of them. Capitalists (the people who own the means of existence and force us to work for them) need to make sure this surplus of thrown away goods is not used in any way by regular people. So, they lock these items away in the garbage, leaves them to rot, or smash them in compactors.

Capitalism needs to create scarcity; it needs to keep things that we all need to survive locked up and under guard. In this way it can control what we have access to so we will be forced to work harder to earn wages and thus have money to buy things. It needs to do this because if there’s enough for everyone, why would we ever have to work so we could get money to pay for anything? If people squat homes and take over buildings - why would anyone ever pay rent? If people appropriate and grow their own food - why would anyone ever pay for it?

We can see this reality very clearly in the steady stream of economic refugees that pour into the United States from Mexico and other Central American countries. Thanks to “free-trade” agreements like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) big businesses and governments have forced people off of their lands or put them out of work. This pressure forces many working people to seek work in the United States.

Without being divorced from a way of making a living; divorced from a way of getting their basic needs met, why would anyone want to come to the US to work in near slave like conditions (and face a hostile journey and ongoing racism) picking and growing food or any of the other jobs many migrants are forced to take? Without taking the means of life from us, without divorcing us from the means to feed, house, and take care of ourselves, without protecting that system through violence (the police, the prisons, the legal system, etc), the rich have nothing, and they know it. Thus, the bosses of this economy try and control our access to land, to resources, to how we are able to spend our time, and even how we go about our very lives. Now in Modesto, they’re even doing it with trash.


GreenSmile said...

thanks for gathering these, Jude. The more of us who know what Clinton and Obama have committed to , the more they will feel presure [and they have plenty of that] to keep their word.