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Who Won the War on Poverty?

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In this April 4, 2013, file photo, a group of boys walk past a partially collapsed row house in Baltimore. The nation’s poverty rate stood still at 15 percent in 2012, the sixth straight year that it has failed to improve. The Census Bureau reported Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, that 46.5 million Americans were living in poverty in 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

In this April 4, 2013, file photo, a group of boys walk past a partially collapsed row house in Baltimore. The nation’s poverty rate stood still at 15 percent in 2012, the sixth straight year that it has failed to improve. The Census Bureau reported Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, that 46.5 million Americans were living in poverty in 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – President Ronald Reagan quipped: “In the 60s we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won.”

Did it?

This month, 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, effectively kicking off the War on Poverty, is a good time to answer that question.

Today, the Census Bureau reports that 49.7 million Americans are living in poverty. That’s 15 percent of the nation, a poverty rate that has persisted since President Clinton left office. The child poverty rate, which had also plateaued around 18 percent before the Great Recession, has now crept up to 23 percent. The number of people in deep poverty – those who’d have to make twice their current earnings to meet the federal threshold of poverty – has hovered around 5 percent since 1973. Today, that figure doubles for children.

For Black Americans, the poverty rate is 25.8 percent. A staggering 40 percent of Black children live in poverty as of 2012, the most recent Census Bureau data.

But it’s also true that poverty has dropped from 26 percent to 16 percent since 1967, if measured with the inclusion of income from government assistance. If the Census Bureau measured poverty without that inclusion, today’s poverty rate would be closer to 30 percent. During the Great Recession alone, the poverty rate would have jumped three percentage points in two years (24 to 27 percent).

In other words, safety net programs such as Social Security, the Earned Income Tax Credit, housing vouchers, and so on have stabilized the poverty rate, even during the Recession.

Whether the war is being won or not, it’s clear that the battle is still underway. And just as poverty is still thriving, so too is the debate on how to eradicate it.

Former vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is taking aim at the topic with the release of “Expanding Opportunity in America,” a discussion draft from the House Budget Committee, which he chairs. The proposal lays out a plan to fund assistance programs “more wisely” by consolidating the most successful ones – Head Start, food stamps (SNAP), housing assistance vouchers, and others – into a “Grant Opportunity” program.

Under this program, states would receive the same amount of federal funding for safety net programs, but states would be allowed to allocate those funds among the programs as they see fit.

To receive the Opportunity Grant, states must create a plan that moves people from poverty to independence; requires all able-bodied recipients to work or “engage in work-related activities” in exchange for benefits; encourages innovation among services providers; establishes a third-party evaluation method.

Ryan would like to pilot the Opportunity Grant program in a few to-be-determined states on a voluntary basis.

“The goal is to make it easier for low-income families to get the assistance they need and to find work,” the proposal reads. “Right now, families must visit a variety of offices and providers to get aid. Under this proposal, they will work with a single provider for all their needs.”

The proposal also seeks to strengthen Earned Income Tax Credit benefits and other work incentives; reform education provisions such as Pell grants and curricula models; reform the criminal justice system, including loosening mandatory minimum guidelines; and require Congress to review regulations that may disadvantage low-income Americans.

Not everyone is impressed.

“It’s filled with little gems. It proposes to take up to 11 programs and put them into this block grant. The Congressman says we would hold the money the same. But you should note that Congressman Ryan hasn’t taken back his budget,” says Peter Edelman, professor at Georgetown Law Center and faculty co-director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy.

“For four years in a row he has proposed cutting $5 trillion over 10 years, and 69 percent of that is from programs that help low-wage, low-income people.”

Poverty is a complex problem. This complexity is a major reason it persists, and is also why some advocate a crafted, multilayered approach.

For example, underemployment and unemployment are one aspect of the problem. Stagnant wages are another. At the same time, housing, childcare, and higher education costs continue to rise. There is also the link between race and poverty.

A chief criticism of this multilayered approach is that there are already too many costly state and federal agencies and programs, with questionable effectiveness. A recently released report from the House Budget Committee, titled, “The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later” describes the current safety net system as “duplicative and complex.”

“There are at least 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans. Congress has taken a haphazard approach to this problem; it has expanded programs and created new ones with little regard to how these changes fit into the larger effort,” the report reads. “Rather than provide a roadmap out of poverty, Washington has created a complex web of programs that are often difficult to navigate.”

But there are other ways to resolve poverty without cutting programs or spending more money. Last week, Edelman and Cook served on a panel sponsored by the American Bar Association to explore the question: What is the role of government, advocates, and more specifically, the role of lawyers, law schools, and the organized bar in addressing poverty? Edelman, Cook, and the other panelists agreed that the best path toward alleviating poverty is through both government action, and community partnerships/strategies.

“One has to continue to put pressure on the powers that be to construct and envision new innovative policies that really work at the ground level,” Cook explained. “But also we’ve got to work at the grassroots level. When both of those emphases meet you have potential for a powerful, and potentially transformative situation.”

In the meantime, the War on Poverty continues unabated.

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Committee Chairs Request Information from Consumer Bureau on Efforts to Protect Student Loan Borrowers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), is the Chairwoman of the House Committee of Financial Services

Chairs Also Request Documents from Education Department, Loan Servicers

WASHINGTON – Today, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), sent a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen Kraninger requesting information and records concerning the CFPB’s efforts to protect consumers from unlawful student loan servicing practices.

In the letter, the Chairs raise concerns that “…the Consumer Bureau has taken actions that weaken its ability to fulfill its mission to protect student loan borrowers,” and that the agency is “…providing potentially harmful and conflicting advice to student loan borrowers.”  The Chairs request records from the Consumer Bureau by no later than September 9, 2019.

Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

The Chairs also sent a letter to Betsy DeVos expressing deep concern over the Education Department’s failure to protect students and families from student loan companies. The letter addresses recent reports that the Department is shielding student loan servicing companies from state law enforcement and undermining the CFPB’s oversight of these companies. In March 2019, an independent watchdog found that the Department failed to establish policies to properly conduct oversight of student loan servicing companies.

“As Chairs of Committees with oversight responsibilities over the student loan industry, we are very concerned by reports that under your leadership, the Department of Education has failed to adequately oversee student loan servicers,” the Chairs wrote. “Reports indicate that improper practices by these servicers—including inaccurate determination of monthly payments, forbearance steering, and other practices—directly impact millions of Americans and have ripple effects on their families, communities, and the economy as a whole.”

In addition, the Chairs sent letters today to federally contracted loan servicers seeking information about their operations, including any strategies or policies that push students into more expensive repayment options.

The full text of the letter to the CFPB is available here.

The full text of the letter to the Education Department is available here.

The full text of the letter to Navient is available here.

The full text of the letter to Nelnet is available here.

The full text of the letter to Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is available here.

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Ohio State Sen. Cecil Thomas: Tracie Hunter’s Conviction is Unlawful

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “No one is above the law, including judges and prosecutors,” Thomas said. However, in an Aug. 13 letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Thomas said Hunter’s prosecution and subsequent conviction violated the law.

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“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Tracie Hunter told NNPA Newswire during the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) annual convention in Cincinnati.
“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Tracie Hunter told NNPA Newswire during the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) annual convention in Cincinnati.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Judge Tracie Hunter, who became Hamilton County Ohio’s first black juvenile court judge, is receiving support from Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, who argues that her conviction should be overturned.

Thomas said Hunter didn’t receive a fair trial and that she appears to have been the victim of corruption.

After being convicted of providing confidential documents to her brother in an attempt to help save his job as a corrections officer and exhausting her appeals, Hunter was literally dragged off to jail last month.

“No one is above the law, including judges and prosecutors,” said Thomas. However, in an Aug. 13 letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Thomas said Hunter’s prosecution and subsequent conviction violated the law.

On Sept. 17, 2013, Prosecutor Joe Deters filed a motion requesting special prosecutors for the case against Hunter.

On that same day, Judge Beth Myers filed an entry with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts appointing special prosecutors, to fully investigate Hunter.

“By filing the motion without due diligence, Judge Myers subsequently appointed Prosecutor Joe Deters’ lawyers and friends who have represented [Deters] in personal litigation,” said Thomas.

One of the attorneys is a partner in the law firm that represented Deters in his divorce, the senator noted, adding, “There are numerous examples that will show just how close these attorneys are to Deters.”

When publicly questioned regarding the appointments, Myers said she “dealt with things as they were presented to me. I will continue to do that,” according to Thomas.

Deters has maintained that he didn’t recommend the appointments and that they were done strictly by the Common Pleas Court. However, Thomas said the appointed lawyers have twice referenced Deters’ role in the appointments.

“Joe Deters requested a special prosecutor because he had a conflict. As such, by law, his only participation is to make the request and provide reasoning,” Thomas said.

“Judge Myers’ role is to decide whether to honor the request and if so, to appoint with the assurance that there are no conflicts,” he said.

“It appears neither Deters nor Myers followed the law to assure Judge Hunter received a fair trial, free of any biases and [Myers] appears to have played a role in unlawfully securing a public contract,” Thomas said.

By appointing Deters’ lawyers, any reasonable person can conclude there are inherent conflicts, Thomas continued.

“First, the mere personal relationship speaks for itself. Second, by honoring his recommendation to hire his personal lawyers, in essence, [Myers] played a role in using her public office to secure a public contract of approximately $700,000 for the personal lawyers of another public official,” Thomas said.

A spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office said they hadn’t seen the complaint.

Yost’s office declined to comment.

As Thomas submitted his letter, attorneys for Hunter formally asked that she be released.

The judge who carried out her sentence is reportedly waiting for the special prosecutor in the case to respond before deciding.

Hunter, who’s also a church pastor in Cincinnati, has had the support of so many including The Coalition for a Just Hamilton County which is composed of members from the Interdenominational Ministry Alliance; the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP; the local chapter of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network; the Black United Front; the Southern Christian Leadership Council; the Nation of Islam and others.

“They’ve tried to stop me from telling my truth and all I have is my truth,” she told NNPA Newswire in June.

She said she had mostly refrained from giving interviews because the local media has only used sound bites to try and embarrass her.

“I’ve lost hope in the justice system which is why I became a judge in the first place,” Hunter said. “I’ve not lost faith in God even though they’ve tried to drive me out of this city.”

Stacy M. Brown

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.)

My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.
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COMMENTARY: What goes up must come down

DAYTONA TIMES — There is much to object to about No. 45’s presidency – his hateful racial rhetoric, his attacks on women and people of color, his appointment of extremely young and inexperienced members of the federal judiciary, his rollback of environmental protections, his attacks on public education, and more.

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By Julianne Malveaux

There is much to object to about No. 45’s presidency – his hateful racial rhetoric, his attacks on women and people of color, his appointment of extremely young and inexperienced members of the federal judiciary, his rollback of environmental protections, his attacks on public education, and more.

But his economic stewardship, an arena he claims to have mastered, is as repulsive as his noneconomic stewardship. Many of his minions have, albeit gently, criticized the ways he has managed the economy. His trade wars, especially with China, may stand at the top of the list.

China won’t pay

He says that China will pay when he, most recently, announced that he would impose a ten percent tariff on $300 billion worth of imports from China.  The Chinese won’t pay. U.S. consumers will. And U.S. producers and manufacturers will also pay when China retaliates against us, as they have promised to do.

To be sure, China has been a “bad actor” in trade relationships with the United States. But No. 45’s intemperate and ill-advised tantrum will not only affect many in the United States –including farmers, manufacturers, and consumers – but may also play a role in slowing down the world economy.

For the first time in a decade, the Federal Reserve has reduced the interest rate by a quarter-point. Cutting the interest rate during the early recovery from the Great Recession was an effective way to lower the cost of money and, theoretically, put more money into the economy for expansion.

No trickle-down

In reality, cheaper money didn’t trickle down to homeowners or consumers, but it did generate GDP growth. Now growth is slowing, partly because of Trump’s trade wars, and partly because his tax cuts have not trickled down, and people don’t have as much money to spend as they’d like. Interest rate cuts are a clear sign that our nation’s bankers are not confident that economic expansion will continue to be robust.

Many of No. 45’s allies tout low unemployment rates as evidence of economic strength. And the July 3.7 percent unemployment rate, unchanged from June is indeed a ten-year low. The Black unemployment rate is at an all-time low. And last month, 164,000 more jobs were created, labor force participation rose, and the number of discouraged workers declined.

Why no celebration?

Firstly, because wage growth is slow. In a tight labor market, with low unemployment rates, wages should be increasing by more than the 3 percent annual rate they are growing at now.

Further, although there is slight improvement in labor force participation, and fewer workers holding part-time work for economic reasons, tepid wage growth suggests that while jobs are available, they aren’t necessarily good-paying jobs.

Slow wage growth and a slowing economy are likely to lead to a new recession. Economist Heather Boushey says that increasing inequality makes a recession more possible than it otherwise might be.

And this administration does not mind increasing inequality. Most recently, they have proposed cuts to food stamp programs that will leave at least three million people – low-income workers and their children, people with disabilities and some older Americans, vulnerable to hunger. The Senate just passed a budget that will increase military spending by more than $750 billion and will cut spending on food.

Less to spend

Economic expansion depends on people spending money, and too many have little to spend. The food stamp cuts give some even less. Increased prices of goods imported from China gives them less to spend. And the administration team that touts economic strength on the one hand is undermining both growth and poverty alleviation, on the other.

What goes up must come down. Can the No. 45 economic team manipulate the economy to continue expansion through the 2020 election, or will attacks on the poor result in less spending, less expansion, and an economic catastrophe?


Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. Her latest book, “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy,” is available at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

This article originally appeared in the Daytona Times.

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Congressman John Lewis to Receive Thurgood Marshall Award From American Bar Association

OAKLAND POST — The American Bar Association will present Congressman John Lewis with the Thurgood Marshall Award at its annual meeting in San Francisco, Sat., August 10.

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Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
https://blackpressusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/John-Lewis.jpg

By Conway Jones

The American Bar Association will present Congressman John Lewis with the Thurgood Marshall Award at its annual meeting in San Francisco, Sat., August 10.

The Thurgood Marshall Award honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country.

Congressman Lewis is one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, a founding member and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the only one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the 1964 March on Washington still living, He is a 17 term congressional leader, and one of only two Lifetime Achievement recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

“Congressman John Lewis is one of our most revered elder statesmen. His sacrifices for civil rights, justice and equality are unparalleled,” said Robert L. Harris, Esq., former president of the National Bar Association.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

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Mayor Bottoms Urges Immediate Senate Action on Gun Safety Legislation

ATLANTA DAILY WORLD — Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined 214 bipartisan mayors from across the nation signing on to a letter from The United States Conference of Mayors urging immediate action from the federal government on gun safety legislation.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)
By ADW News

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined 214 bipartisan mayors from across the nation signing on to a letter from The United States Conference of Mayors urging immediate action from the federal government on gun safety legislation.

“Public servants—from the local level to Washington—have an obligation to protect the lives of those we are entrusted to serve,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “We need strong leadership willing to take the necessary measures to prevent heinous, senseless acts of violence. If we are truly serious about preventing one more family from knowing the pain of losing someone to another gun tragedy, we need Congress to enact commonsense gun safety legislation immediately.”

With over 250 mass shootings in 2019, the United States Conference of Mayors is urging the nation’s leaders to work with Congress, the Administration, and others to develop holistic remedies to the scourge of gun violence.

Read the full letter at this link.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Daily World

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Stacey Abrams Says She’d Serve as Vice President

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I’ve just come to the decision that my best value add, the strongest contribution I can give to this primary, would be to make sure our nominee is coming into an environment where there are strong voter protections in place,” Abrams told the New York Times.

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“I would not have publicly raised the possibility if it was not a legitimate thought,” Abrams said.
“I would not have publicly raised the possibility if it was not a legitimate thought,” Abrams said.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The overcrowded Democratic presidential field has a record six women seeking the nomination.

But one prominent individual who isn’t running for the top job has thrown her hat into the ring for vice president.

Former Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams said she would be delighted to serve under one of the 22 candidates.

“I would be honored to be considered by any nominee,” Abrams told The New York Timeson Wednesday, Aug. 14.

“I’ve just come to the decision that my best value add, the strongest contribution I can give to this primary, would be to make sure our nominee is coming into an environment where there are strong voter protections in place,” Abrams told the Times.

“I would not have publicly raised the possibility if it was not a legitimate thought,” Abrams said.

She said the current field, which includes former Vice President Joe Biden; Calif. Sen. Kamala Harris; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, is talented.

Earlier this year when Biden entered the race, he was reportedly considering Abrams as a running mate.

YAHOO! Newsreported that Abrams dismissed those rumors, noting that at the time, Abrams was considering a run for president.

Earlier this year, Booker said he believed that a woman should be on the ticket.

Another candidate, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, said he would find it “very difficult not to select a woman” as his running mate.

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