Julian Omidi discusses on article about the success of the War on Poverty and how Congress should focus on creating new jobs.
This week marks two anniversaries. The 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty and also the 1,100th consecutive day the Republican House of Representatives’ refusal to vote on a single serious piece of jobs legislation.
Both of these anniversaries are a study in contrast: Johnson’s legacy symbolized how government can be effective in empowering people to improve their circumstances. The House Republicans’ anniversary reveals the tragic consequences of government failing to act.
When President Johnson’s War on Poverty was fully funded in the 1960s, the share of Ameicans living in poverty fell from 22.2% to 12.6%. By bringing billions of dollars to low-income schools, building infrastructure in poor or forgotten places, training doctors and social workers, and empowering low0income students to attend college.
The War on Poverty programs transformed America for the better. While many of these programs were defunded during the Reagan era, their positive impacts are with us to this day. Infant mortality fell by half. Social Security continues to cut the portion of the elderly Americans living below the poverty line from 44% to 9%.
It is a different story for Congress’ current war on the unemployed and working poor. By pursuing reckless budget cuts, forcing a government shutdown, and ending emergency unemployment insurance, Republican leaders are not only subjecting struggling Americans to needless hardship, but also putting a serious drag on America’s economy.
Independent analysts have shown that the fiscal cliffs, dept-ceiling standoffs, and budget cuts that have consumed Congress since the GOP takeover in 2010 have cost the United States an estimated $700 billion in economic growth, enough to launch a completely new War on Poverty as well as generating more than 2 million jobs.
In the context of declining collective bargaining power, mass offshoring of American industry, and a historically low inflation-adjusted minimum wage, the impacts on low-income Americans have been atrocious. The results being ill-heath, anxiety, homelessness, food insecurity, and lost lifetime opportunities.
With 50 million Americans, including 13 million children, living in poverty today and only one job opening for every three applicants, Republicans are finally asking how we can extend unemployment insurance in a fiscally responsible way. Extending emergency unemployment insurance would not only protect struggling families but also boost consumption, leading to an additional 200,000 jobs in the coming year.
Passing a serious employment agenda such as the American Jobs Act of 2013 would create up to 2 million more jobs, ultimately booting the tax base, reduce the debt, and eliminate the need for government assistance. A serious bipartisan jobs bill would not only increase the needed public investment, but also empower people to fill the existing vacancies by closing America’s growing skills gap, which is the growing mismatch between talent, training, and employers’ needs.
By Julian Omidi
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