The Common Good

Candidates Silent on Poverty

Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes for The Huffington Post:

The devastating impact of poverty on American economic life is well known. It wastes the talents, energy, and productive potential of many in the work force. In some communities, it increases crime which overburdens the police, the courts, and prisons, and makes doing business in these areas more costly. It strains the health care, and the welfare system. This results in a bigger tax drain on the middle-class. It sharply reduces the ability of thousands of consumers to purchase goods and services. This further crimps business growth and reduces government tax revenues.
 
Yet, there is not a faint mention of the word poverty on the presidential campaign trail. There's a reason, in fact several reasons, for this. One is trying to define who is poor. Apart from the visibly homeless, and those rummaging around on skid row, and in some of the poorest and most recognizable urban inner city communities, one can easily be considered working, or even middle class, one day and the loss of a job, and tangible income, can quickly dump that person into the poverty ranks. This makes the poor even more diffuse, and hard to typecast. They cut across all ethnic, gender, and religious and even political party affiliation lines. There are low income persons in the South, Middle America, and the rural areas, that are conservative, and vote GOP.
 
The other reason is that the poor do not have an advocacy group to go to bat for them with lawmakers such as labor, civil rights, education, environmental, or abortion rights supporters have. This further increases their political invisibility. The only time the poor had loud champions was a brief moment during the 1960s when a small band of anti-poverty groups and organizers got the attention of the Johnson Administration. They shouted, cajoled, and actively lobbied LBJ for a major expansion of anti-poverty programs, funding, and initiatives to reduce poverty in the nation. But the anti-poverty crusade quickly fell victim to Johnson's Vietnam War build up, and the increased shrill attacks from conservatives that the war on poverty was a scam to reward deadbeats and loafers, and sharp budget cutbacks.
 
Read the full piece here