Saturday, May 17, 2008

An Anti-Poverty Task Force

Two former presidential candidates announced the creation of anti-poverty initiatives in the early part of May.

The larger initiative, the
Half in Ten campaign, was unveiled in Philadelphia on May 13 by Sen. John Edwards. That initiative, chaired by the former presidential candidate, aims to cut poverty in country by one-half in 10 years.

This campaign brings together four organizations with the experience, knowledge, and resources to make this goal a reality: ACORN, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN), and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR).
Click here to see a video.

Four days earlier on May 9, another ex-presidential candidate, Gov. Bill Richardson, released details of his new task force
focused on reducing poverty in New Mexico. The governor announced the initiative following a round table discussion with poverty experts and community leaders. The press release announcing the initiative made no mention of any link to the Half in Ten campaign.

But it should be no coincidence that the two programs were announced within days of each other. After all, 37 million Americans are living below the official poverty threshold. In New Mexico,
350,000 residents of the residents of our state are living in poverty.

Many of us already know that Sen. Edwards is one of the top anti-poverty advocates in our country. Gov. Richardson is known more prominently outside our state borders for his diplomacy efforts and his foreign policy experience. And even inside New Mexico, the governor's public-works projects and his infamous fights with the state legislature perhaps get more press than his anti-poverty initiatives.

During the presidential campaign, activists from The ONE Campaign around the country followed every candidate from both parties to get them to commit to reducing global poverty and to support the Millennium Development Goals, also known as the MDGs. This is all part of the Vote ONE 08 campaign. (Pictured above with the governor is Michael Castaldo, a ONE activist from New Hampshire)

Richardson, a former UN ambassador, readily supported these goals, as did most of the other candidates. The governor even issued a press release supporting the MDGs.

And the governor's Task Force to End Hunger, which is now defunct, got very little attention in the press. The task force achieved one important objective, which was to keep hunger reduction a legislative priority.

But perhaps that's not enough. There needed to be some sort of follow up.
Since hunger and poverty are intrinsically related, the creation of the new task force makes sense.

Said the press release from the governor's office: The gap between rich and poor is at historic levels and many full time jobs do not pay enough to raise employees out of poverty. Strikingly, nearly a third of working women in full-time jobs do not earn enough to raise themselves and their children out of poverty.

While our state's economy is expanding, figures show the income gap is widening," said a press release from the governor's office. "We can not allow our neighbors to fall behind. We must be bold in our solutions to help struggling families make ends meet."
Task force members will consider and research a range of issues:
  • Strategic initiatives to address hunger, housing and child care needs
  • Adequate compensation and a fair minimum wage
  • Changes in the working family and child care tax credits
  • More equity in the unemployment compensation system
  • Easing access to higher education
  • Making it easier for people to move to areas with better employment opportunities
  • Assisting former prisoners in finding employment

"At this point, nothing is off the table," Richardson said. "We must attack the problem from every angle if we're going to see significant changes."

The task force is comprised of a very impressive list of academics and leaders of community organizations. I know four of those members fairly well. These experts and community leaders deal with all aspects of the poverty issue including: affordable housing, child care, hunger, wages, employment, tax policy, and community services. Mary Garcia of the Albuquerque Indian Center, Ruth Hoffman of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry, Susan Tiano, Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico, Sharron Welsh from the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust, Reverend Charles Becknell from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Melody Wattenberger of the Roadrunner Food Bank, Allen Sanchez from the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, Mike Loftin of Homewise, Greg Ortiz from the All Indian Pueblo Council, and Richard Santos, Professor of Economics at the University of New Mexico.


CCYL said...

nice post! thanks for this info!

Aditi said...

Nice to see that many campaigns are coming up in front to end poverty ..there is ONE ..endopverty2015 millennium campaign..many such campaigns can make a god dent on poverty