At a moment when the media is focused on the drama surrounding the failed bailout legislation, too little attention is being paid to the real struggles of ordinary people and the human costs of our inequitable economy. The bailout’s fate shouldn’t stand in the way of the broader economic stimulus package that is desperately needed. Though there was an effort by Democrats to make sure that at least a few of the biggest challenges people are facing are addressed before Congress recesses this week, an obstructionist GOP makes that now seem out of reach and sight. highly.
As Congressman David Obey put it, “We are trying to find discreet ways of making life a little less miserable for people who have been hit hard by the consequences of the economic chaos that has swept over the country.”
On Friday, at the request of Senator Edward Kennedy, the US Congress Joint Economic Committee held a hearing on the fight against poverty in America – or, some might say, the need for a renewed fight against poverty in America.
There is a strong connection between this bailout and any progressive proposals such as cutting poverty in half over the next ten years. As panel witness Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink and co-chair of the Center for American Progress Task Force on Poverty said following the hearing, “I know that we have to deal with this meltdown… but I do worry that it’s going to cut right into the money that we’ve been trying to get to focus on dealing with poverty and other urgent issues… As we are thinking about how to save Wall Street, we need to think about how to put in … requirements – that we deal with the foreclosure crisis, that we deal with the issue of poverty in America, and that we don’t take from a needy source in order to give to an irresponsible source. I am very worried that without an outcry from the American people that we are just going to see this money go without the safeguards that are needed….”
There was broad agreement on the panel that the priorities of the past 8 years have increased the urgency of a long-term commitment and new vision to reduce the number of people in poverty and help people cope with current economic distresstoo. David Cicilline, Mayor of Providence, said: “We are seeing as a result of reductions in investments in education, and in childcare, and in community development block grants – in all the things that support strong communities, strong neighbors, strong families – the consequences, frankly of the past number of years…. The challenges that American families are facing in cities all across this nation need to be addressed, particularly in the areas of housing, healthcare, and educational opportunity.”