Poverty as a campaign issue?

Poverty as a campaign issue?

The 2020 election is in full swing, but poverty – which directly affects more than 38 million Americans – hasn’t been part of the conversation. For politicians with solutions to offer, ignoring poverty may be a strategic mistake. As the Rev. Dr. William Barber, of the Poor People’s Campaign and Dr. Liz Theoharis, of Union Theological Seminary explain on CNN.com, focusing on the common interests of poor black, white and brown people could fundamentally change the political landscape:

This voting bloc remains largely ignored by the major political parties. They and other poor Americans rarely hear a politician call their name and speak to their conditions. In the more than 20 debates leading up to the 2016 elections, there was not a single hour dedicated to poverty or economic insecurity. This is true across party lines: Democratic candidates seemingly run from using the word “poor” or addressing poverty, focusing mainly on the middle class, while Republicans racialize poverty. As a result, 150 years after the 15th amendment, millions of voters are walking away from the ballot box.


EITC should benefit younger and older workers
The Earned Income Tax Credit lifts millions of workers out of poverty. But while the policy has been an economic boon for those who qualify, it also leaves out plenty of working people earning low incomes, including childless workers under 25 and over 64. Some states are stepping in to fix this problem on their own, while federal action is pending.  Aidan Davis of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has more: 

ITEP’s new report makes the case for three valuable enhancements lawmakers in states with existing EITCs can make to help improve tax equity and boost economic security for these workers: Expand age eligibility to include childless 18-to-24-year-old workers; expand age eligibility to the 65 and over working population; and expand existing state credits to 100 percent of the federal credit for all childless adults (including those 25-64 years old) while also expanding age eligibility.


The Black Rural South deserves special attention
After the 2016 election, media narratives turned to the “forgotten Americans” who live in Appalachia and the Rust Belt. But we haven’t heard much about the forgotten Americans who live in America’s rural Black Belt. Greg Kaufmann argues in The Nation that candidates should follow in the footsteps of former presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson with specific policy proposals to end the inequalities that face many rural black southerners:

The name “Black Belt” originally referred to the region’s dark, clay soil, before eventually coming to signify its high population of African Americans as well. Today, the region’s roughly 300 rural counties—in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia—each have populations that are between 30 and 80 percent African American. We’re just two weeks away from the South Carolina Democratic primary, on February 29; six more Black Belt states will vote on March 3. It’s time for a presidential candidate to not only engage with the needs of people living in this region but also begin to rectify a history of exploitation and neglect.

Student loans cost more if you’re black and Hispanic
Student loan debt is an increasingly visible crisis. But while reporting on student debt often focuses on the population as a whole, millions of students of color carry a particularly heavy burden, because lenders charge more to students attending minority serving schools. The Student Borrower’s Protection Center’s “Educational Redlining” report finds that found graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-serving Institutions were offered student loans that cost more than those who went to non minority serving institutions. NBC News’s Gwen Aviles has more:

“It seems apparent when you do the side-by-side comparisons that where this hypothetical borrower went to school mattered in terms of how Upstart measured their creditworthiness, and that to Upstart there’s a penalty for attending an HBCU or HSI,” Kat Welbeck, the civil rights counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center, said. Welbeck called the finding especially “alarming,” given that HBCUs and HSIs play a significant role in expanding access to higher education. Not only do they serve underrepresented racial and cultural groups, but these institutions are more likely to enroll women and older students.


Number of the Day
271,770 – The total number of adult workers that would see an income boost if Louisiana’s extended its state Earned Income Tax Credit to workers as young as 18 and older than 65, and matched more than the current 5% of the federal credit. (Source: ITEP)