Forcing children, the poor and the elderly to shoulder the burden of the Republicans’ dysfunction is not who we are as a nation, and it must be stopped. At a time when we should be investing in jobs and education, Republicans are not only threatening the fragile economic recovery but gutting programs that help low-income families the most, families who are still recovering from the Great Recession.
Experts agree, if sequestration goes through, it will push us dangerously close to shredding the social safety net that so many families rely on as rungs on the ladder of economic opportunity into the middle class. The sequester would slash programs that help single mothers get food on the table, provide child care to low-income families and support essential mental health services for underserved communities.
We must replace the indiscriminate sequester with a common-sense solution. Earlier this month, several of my colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus and I introduced The Balancing Act, a bill that would replace the sequester with a plan that achieves a balanced ratio of cuts versus revenue by closing tax loopholes for hedge fund managers, deductions for yachts and corporate jets, cutting $278 billion in wasteful Pentagon spending and ending tax credits that encourage companies to keep shipping good-paying American jobs overseas.
While we work to avert the sequester, the real crisis remains: unbelievably high rates of poverty in America.
To begin to address this ongoing poverty crisis, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and I are launching a Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. This group of lawmakers will work closely with the administration to develop support for a national strategy to eliminate barriers to opportunity and eradicate poverty, with the initial goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years.
Key principles of the Task Force include enhancing coordination and alignment of federal, state and local anti-poverty programs to maximize the impact of every federal dollar in the fight against poverty; strengthening federal oversight of anti-poverty programs by improving how we measure and evaluate the impact of anti-poverty programs, as well as the long-term economic outcomes of the Americans who receive assistance; and removing barriers and obstacles that prevent low-income Americans from joining the middle class.
The pathway out of poverty and into the middle class is what the American dream is all about, an idea without political affiliation or party identification and a core value that every American supports. It is by strengthening and growing the ranks of America’s middle class that we ensure a robust economy that works for all of us. Eliminating poverty is not just a moral imperative for the country but a vital economic one as well.
Our nation’s greatest strength is not our military might, but the freedom and equality of opportunity that built the largest and most prosperous middle class the world has ever known. We cannot allow a growing middle class to become just an American dream — it must continue to be an American reality.
Rep. Barbara Lee is a Democrat from California.
Original article on Politico