Today "Fighting Poverty with Faith" - a coalition of over 40 national faith groups convened by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) and the National Council of Churches (NCC) - held a conference call with officials from the White House to discuss efforts to fight poverty in America.
Fighting Poverty With Faith is holding events across the country this month "to educate and to advocate around poverty in America." Poverty declined in the United States during much of the 1990s but after new economic policies were enacted in 2001 poverty began to grow and then skyrocket as the economy collapsed in 2008. Only President Obama's economic stimulus plan kept the country from falling into another great depression. And even though poverty continued to grow in 2009 - to 44 million Americans - another 6+ million Americans would have fallen into poverty without the stimulus plan and the plan is credited with reducing "the severity of poverty for 33 million additional Americans who are poor by lifting their incomes, typically by more than $700," according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Still, work needs to be done. The president campaigned on a pledge to reduce poverty by half over ten years. The Half in Ten Campaign - endorsed by the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Center for American Progress, among others - has outlined plans that would help accomplish that goal. We need the White House, which is already doing a lot to help alleviate poverty, to launch a coordinated effort to achieve the goal of reducing the number of Americans living in poverty by half. This afternoon I wrote the president a letter asking him to do just that and to use a major national venue - such as the 2011 State of the Union Address - to outline his plans moving forward.
We are fortunate to have in the White House a president who once worked as a community organizer - a job that had him working in neighborhoods and churches to fight poverty at the local level. Perhaps no president in modern times has such intimate knowledge or obvious commitment to this issue. It is also clear that the White House staff shares the president's deep concern about poverty.
I hope that you will contact the White House and urge them to do even more to fight poverty and to thank them for their leadership on this moral issue thus far. Finally, please visit the Fighting Poverty With Faith to learn more about how your faith community can become involved.
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