A Call for A War on Poverty, Again

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In the past week, there has been widespread debate and discussion about no-fly zones over Libya and the impact of that declaration on peace.
 
While we are debating peace and democracy abroad let’s not forget our commitment to “life, liberty and happiness” at home.  More hard working families face foreclosure, millions of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, jobs are more scarce than job seekers, high school dropout rates are high and the demand for human services exceeds their availability. Local and state human service providers are reporting an increase in demand from families who have never sought food and rent assistance before. The economy has waged war against millions of Americans who are sinking deeper and deeper into poverty everyday. Increasingly Americans are barely hanging on rather than striving and thriving.

In 1964, when the poverty rate had fallen from 24% to 19%, President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty and focused federal investments in early childhood education, redevelopment of the blighted urban core, workforce development programs and training. In 2009, President Obama set a goal of 1 million summer jobs for America’s youth. The City of Atlanta hired nearly 1,800 young people through a summer jobs program. Young people learned and practiced job skills, earned money to save for college or to contribute to their families. Aside from young people earning wages, small businesses, local governments and not-for-profit organizations benefitted from employing summer workers. No such program is funded for this summer. In fact, House Republicans eliminated job training funding in the House Continuing Resolution, HR1. Now it is left to Senate Democrats to defeat HR1 and to rally their members to fund job training as every Congress has done since 1968.
 
As most states and cities struggle to recover from the prolonged recession and slow job growth, this isn’t the time to cut federal job training funding. No more than this is the right time for Georgia to decrease education funding. Decreased state education funding and no federal funding for a summer job-training program. If we do the math on that formula, it makes for a long hot summer.
President Obama on a recent visit to a high performing inner city school in Boston, called for an increased investment in public education and technology as a long-term strategy to rebuild the country’s economy.
 We have to learn to reward elected officials for making the smart long-term decisions with our support even if we have to make sacrifices to achieve our goals. Few of us would argue over the value of a quality education but we all argue about who pays for it. We complain about taxes, we threaten to withhold support from elected officials who don’t promise to do more with less. In this time of unprecedented economic challenge we must also make the necessary changes in our own lives to lay a strong foundation for our country’s future, to achieve our goals.
 
Here’s hoping that the Senate Democrats don’t just defeat HR1 but muster enough support to fund job training and to invest in America’s human development.

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