August 29, 2012
The Huffington Post has invited our President, Sid Mohn to contribute a piece to their Shadow Convention. For those who are not familiar, their Shadow Convention has the goal of sparking a national conversation on issues that neither party is seriously addressing, including the persistence of poverty in America. You can read more below.
From Huffington Post:
This year, we're about to begin again one of the most sacred acts of a democratic country -- the election of our next president. Ads are sprouting up, the familiar posturing is once again on our screens, billboards, newspapers and websites. The last time we performed this ritual, we were a country swept up in the idea of hope and change -- the idea that when all seemed grey, there was a light. As the old adage says, though, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It turns out that's especially true if you're one of the 20.5 million Americans in poverty right now.
Even more, this year UNICEF released a report stating that the U.S. had the second-highest level of child poverty in the developed world. Only Romania ranks higher. The second highest in the developed world! If anything, this shows us that, just as some of us lost nothing in the recession, some of us gained nothing in coming out of it -- namely the poor.
Nevertheless, this isn't a topic we're used to hearing much about, especially from the candidates. Visit Romney's campaign site and you'll notice his focus on spending, immigration and defense. Visit Obama's campaign website to review the issues and you'll find his priorities around job creation, taxes and reviving the auto industry. No mention of plans to reverse course on the epidemic of poverty that dug its teeth deeper during the recession and won't let go.
I expect more from any candidate running for president. When Obama first ran, poverty was a cornerstone of his campaign. He cut his teeth as a community organizer here in Chicago, seeing the devastating effects of poverty on the south side. When he ran for president the first time around, he focused heavily on the issue, using phrases like "eradicating poverty" and "working together" to cut poverty in half in 10 years. He visited communities like the ones he organized as a young man, offering hope that things could be better. This campaign there's little to no talk about hope for the poor...
This year, Romney is our alternative. Forget it. His hack-and-slash approach to social safety net programs would leave those in poverty with nowhere to turn. His budget proposals would require massive cuts to programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to balance the budget. This shouldn't be a surprise, though, coming from a man who said to CNN that "I'm not concerned with the very poor. We have a safety net there." (http://youtu.be/lShAGXOFuQc) That leaves us in an interesting place -- with a lot of talk about the super rich and the middle class, and a whole lot of silence when it comes to the poor.
Which leaves me with one question -- how can it be that we as a nation aren't having this conversation? How can we accept the fact that we're sweeping more than 20 million people, those who are suffering the most among us, under the rug?
I can't accept it, so I'm changing that fact.