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Blog: Poverty and the Politics of Reelection

Sep 28, 2010 | By Stephanie Niedringhaus

Why have the politics of reelection overshadowed the urgent needs of people in poverty? Washington seems to be tied up in knots, unable to even talk about – let alone address – the enormous income gap between those who are wealthy and those who are poor. This gap widened last year by the largest margin ever. Congress, are you paying attention?

The numbers are staggering – and scandalous. People in the top fifth (i.e., those making more than $100,000 per year) received roughly one half of all income in the U.S. last year. Meanwhile, those in the bottom fifth (earning $20,453 or less) received a paltry 3.4%.

How can we ignore the needs of 43.6 million Americans struggling in poverty, the highest number in the 51 years for which poverty numbers have been published? Who can possibly justify the fact that 2.1 million more children were poor in 1999 than in 1997?

And why, or why, is Congress unable to fully fund critical safety net programs while it considers tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 per year?

Voters should ponder these questions carefully as we approach this November's election.