Good morning. I’m John Podesta, President of the Center for American Progress. Thank you for joining us.
We need to look no further than the daily news to know that ordinary citizens everywhere are grappling with economic uncertainty.
Our great nation is built upon the American Dream—a notion that everyone who works hard can get ahead. Yet that opportunity seems unreachable to many Americans.
Let’s consider the current economic state of our nation:
Inequality has reached record highs in the past few years with the richest 1 percent of Americans earning more than 20 percent of the nation’s income in 2005.
Meanwhile, 36.5 million people live in poverty–that is one in every eight Americans and 5 million more people than when President Bush took office.
So, how do we meet these challenges and promote an opportunity agenda?
Well, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in order to address the challenge of poverty head-on, the Center for American Progress convened a diverse group of national experts and leaders to examine the causes and consequences of poverty in America and make recommendations for national action.
This Task Force on Poverty, co-chaired by Angela Glover Blackwell and Peter Edelman, set out to outline a policy agenda to cut poverty in half over the next 10 years. Our taskforce released their 12 recommendations in a report entitled, “From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Goal to Cut Poverty in Half.”
I won’t list off all the recommendations, suffice to say the Urban Institute modeled four recommendations: raising the minimum wage to half the average wage; expanding the earned income credit, particularly for adults not raising children; making the child tax credit fully refundable and available to low-income children; and making child care assistance available to all families with incomes below 200 percent of poverty, about $40,000 a year. They concluded that these four steps would reduce poverty by 26 percent, bringing us more than halfway toward our goal of 50 percent.
Our challenge now is to build an anti-poverty movement and I believe the timing is right to do so.
Hurricane Katrina was a rude awakening for the American public about poverty in our nation, but today the housing crisis has renewed concern for the economic stability of our nation.
Additionally, all the presidential hopefuls—Senator Clinton (D-NY), Senator Obama (D-IL), and Senator McCain (R-AZ)—have promised to address the issue of poverty in their administrations. This has created a unique political moment to take action against poverty.
Given this political and public attention on the economy, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make big policy changes.
That is why we are here today—to announce a campaign that can seize this movement and turn it into a movement.
Building on the research and recommendations from our report, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, CAPAF, the Coalition on Human Needs, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the LCCR Education Fund are seeking to develop and coordinate a multiyear, multifaceted public education and advocacy campaign to accomplish the task force’s recommended goal.
Our four organizations bring together a wide range of assets and our collaboration will magnify each group’s individual strengths.
Together, we have proven expertise in the areas of local, state, and national advocacy, organizing, policy development, and communications, as well as significant professional networks that can be coordinated and combined to drive the fight against poverty more effectively than any one organization could do alone.
To give you more details about the campaign, now I’d like to turn the mic over to Deborah Weinstein, the Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, one of our partnering organizations in this effort.