Don’t you just love it when a Senator nails the issue of poverty in American with a single sentence? That is just what Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) did last Thursday at the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s when he said: “The federal government is the only entity to fight poverty in America. We need to do it because we can do it and we’re the only ones who can do it effectively.”
Senator Cardin was the keynote speaker at a CAPAF event on “Strengthening Families: Developing a Progressive Agenda that Promotes Family Stability and Cuts Poverty.” The event also included a panel discussion that was made up of Racquel S. Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity, White House Domestic Policy Council; Lisalyn Jacobs, Vice President for Government Relations, Legal Momentum, and; Aisha Moodie-Mills, Advisor, LGBT Policy and Racial Justice, Center for American Progress.
Senator Cardin asked the audience what it will take for us to get involved in fighting poverty, if not the moral imperative. The answer: the economic imperative to fight poverty that is increasing everyday. The Senator quoted a recent Georgetown study that claims poverty costs the United States $500 billion a year. But the real question behind that is who is to blame: low-income families or the lack of progressive programs to fight poverty from a holistic approach?
I often hear the argument that the government should stop bailing out low-income families who ‘don’t work hard enough with all the help the government gives them.’ The reality though is what Lisa Jacobs of Legal Momentum said her organization determined: the “combined income from all the poverty support programs is not enough to uplift the families out of poverty.”
Jacobs iterated the need for the federal government to take back state programs, many of which are so regressive that they keep putting up obstacles to prevent people from even coming in through the door. Racquel Russell joined in by explaining how to bring low-income families to the middle class we need a holistic approach, where we look at transportation, childcare, family formation, job opportunities, job training, education, and nutrition for starters.
We must protect the safety net programs that allow low-income families to work. Our budget deficit, as Senator Cardon pointed out, came from tax cuts for the wealthy in 2001 and 2003, the money we borrowed for two wars, and reckless gambling on Wall Street that the government allowed. The deficit did not come from poverty programs or middle class families so “when we look to fix the problem, let us not start and end with middle class families.”
In order to have a talk about fixing poverty in the United States we need:
- A real conversation about where GOOD jobs will come from.
- To understand what is really involved in creating strong communities
- A honest conversation about family formation (policies should reflect the diversity of family structures in America)
This is where the conversation to end poverty begins.