Dear Super Committee \xe2\x80\xa6

Oct 27, 2011

By Jenice R. Robinson and Hannah Matthews

Evidence of how poorly the nation's families are faring is omnipresent. Earlier this week, news outlets reported on Brookings Institution data showing poverty increased 53 percent in the suburbs. The Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday reported that in the last 30 years, income skyrocketed a whopping 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households, but grew only by 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.

Time and again, we hear stories about how many people are falling into poverty and are jobless or settling for part-time work or jobs paying significantly less than their previous salaries, yet Washington is not getting anything done on behalf of struggling families. And the tone of the debate in Congress suggests that lawmakers aren't going to address the situation with the urgent focus it deserves.

Lawmakers made a decision much earlier this year to focus public conversation on the national debt in lieu of jobs, increasing poverty, and the sluggish economic recovery. Now that the end of the year is fast approaching, much public policy debate is focused on pending recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, informally known as the Super Committee, which is tasked with cutting an additional $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next decade.

Experts' opinions vary on whether Congress has to address the nation's deficit at this moment in time and with such drastic cuts. We're happy to leave that piece of the debate to economists. But we do question why, in the face of mounds of data and abundant anecdotal evidence demonstrating that far too many families are struggling, all policymakers are not more sharply focused on providing short-term relief and long-term solutions to address poverty and inequality and put people back to work?

Wednesday, the Super Committee held a public hearing to discuss discretionary programs (non-security and security), which includes spending for programs ranging from education to workforce development to transportation and infrastructure. For low-income families, discretionary programs provide child care so that parents can go to work and young children can develop the skills they need to thrive in life. They provide access to higher education and job training for low-skilled workers to improve their success in the labor market. And importantly, many of these programs promote opportunity and help alleviate poverty.

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