By Contributor on September 22, 2010

By Brian Gilmore

Candidates this season must stop ignoring a huge moral issue: poverty.

All we seem to hear about these days is the middle class and the upper class. Democrats claim to be champions of the middle class, while Republicans are defending tax cuts for the richest of the rich.

But few candidates are talking about helping those in the rising ranks of the poor.

In 2008, 13.2 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. But in 2009, the percentage of poor people skyrocketed to 14.3 percent.

Today, one in seven Americans is poor. For our children, it’s even worse: one in five.

It’s not all the recession’s fault, either.

Poverty in the United States was rising before the current recession began in 2008. It increased during most of the time when President Bush was in office with a Republican Congress from 2001 to 2007, and it has increased since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007.

To his credit, President Obama did mention poverty recently.

“The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there,” he said.

While it is true that most of us would benefit from a better economy in these tough times, an unapologetic commitment to addressing poverty and assisting the poor is especially needed, in addition to helping the beleaguered middle class.

Obama is aware that poverty is a structural, entrenched historical problem in need of bold intervention. If he wants poverty to decrease, he needs to attack poverty directly.

There is proof that direct intervention works.

When President Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” and implemented programs to redress it, the poverty rate dramatically plunged from 23 percent to 14 percent from 1963 to 1969.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another president who tackled poverty, said it best in 1937: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

We are flunking that test today.

Brian Gilmore, a lawyer and poet, resides in Michigan. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

Section: 

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

Subscribe to The Progressive and Get A Free 2015 Calendar

Abby Scher on the race to elect Maine's next Governor

Thirty years after the title year of George Orwell’s “1984,” the Oscar-worthy “Citizenfour” features a real-life...

By Victor Menotti

At a time when most Americans agree that the country has too...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter