I’m not exactly sure how tonight’s town hall-style debate will work—whether Candy Crowley will have the opportunity she surely deserves to push President Obama and Governor Romney further in their responses to questions posed by the audience.
If she does, I hope she will consider these questions below. They are just fourteen (and one posed by me) of the thirty-one questions offered by experts and also families that have lived in poverty as part of The Nation’s “#TalkPoverty: Questions for Obama and Romney” campaign. Most of these were offered before the first debate, but since they weren’t asked or answered, we’re asking again. Thank you Peter Edelman, Mariana Chilton, Jessica Bartholow, Tim Casey, Lisalyn Jacobs, and Equal Voice families for all of your great questions.
The Nation encourages you to tweet this article to @CrowleyCNN and your networks—who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and a town hall participant will read it too. Use #TalkPoverty to push your own questions about poverty during the debate and to weigh in on whether the candidates are taking this issue seriously enough.
Finally, join Nation writers, editors and readers tonight for an online debate watch party complete with humor and analysis.
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1. More than 20 million people in America have with incomes below half the poverty line—less than about $9,000 for a family of three. That’s up from 12.6 million in 2000. What will you do to address this growing problem?
2. One-fifth of US children are poor. Do you agree that national policy should assure an above-poverty income to all children whose parents are willing to work?
3. One in five children in the United States struggles with hunger. As president, what would you do about our growing hunger crisis in America—especially for young children?
4. Poverty rates are 30 percent higher for women than men. What would you do to reduce the gender poverty gap?
5. Rural poverty persists as a blight for people across the country, from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta and the Alabama Black Belt to the colonias of south Texas, and Indian reservations in many places. What will you do to help reduce the poverty in these places?
6. Investments in early childhood are key to children’s prospects for productive lives. Yet federal assistance for childcare currently reaches only about one in seven of those who are eligible. What will you do to increase the availability of quality childcare to more low-income children?
7. Government statistics show 106 million people with incomes below twice the poverty line—below about $46,000 for a family of four. This reflects the large number of low-wage jobs in the nation. What will you do to increase the income of these people who are struggling to make ends meet every month?
8. What is the appropriate role for the government in improving the likelihood that an honest day’s work earns a living wage?
9. Despite their above-average employment rates compared to single mothers in other high-income countries, single mothers in the United States have higher poverty rates. What would you do to reduce poverty for single mothers and their children?
10. Urban concentrated poverty has climbed again close to the high point it reached in 1990. What will you do to help improve the quality of life of people who are currently isolated in America’s inner cities?
11. As you consider changes to the tax code, what types of tax credits do you envision creating, retaining or eliminating that focus on low-income families (e.g., earned income tax credit, child tax credit, low-income housing tax credit, others)?
12. What will you do to make sure that veterans are supported in their re-entry into civilian life—with vocational support that translates their skills into good jobs with good wages; and to support veterans whose opportunities have been limited by physical or mental injuries?
13. How will you ensure that all children—especially children from families who cannot afford to pay for postsecondary schooling—can earn an advanced degree?
14. The unemployment rate for 18 to 29-year-olds for August 2012 was 12.7 percent. How will you help young parents who need the opportunity to earn a living wage for their families?
15. Bonus: According to AARP, 9 million people age 50 and over are at risk of hunger every day. What will you do to focus on this problem, and especially hunger among seniors?