Justice SpeaksPoverty in America Gloria WilderBrathwaite, MD, MPH
Franklin D. Roosevelt State of the Union AddressJanuary 11th, 1944 “Freedom from fear is eternally linked to freedom from want…The overwhelming majority of our people have met the demands of this war with magnificent courage and understanding. While the majority goes on about its great work without complaint, a noisy minority maintains an uproar of demands for special favors...There are pests who swarm through the lobbies of the Congress and the cocktail bars of Washington, representing these special groups as opposed to the basic interests of the Nation. They have come to look upon war primarily as a chance to make profits for themselves at the expense of their neighbors…If ever there was a time to subordinate individual or group selfishness to the national good, that time is now!”
Status of Children in the U.S. • 37% of all children in the U.S. live in low income families (that is 26 million children). • 85% of all low income children live with at least one working parent. • Low income families make twice the “poverty” income. • 18% of all children (11 million) are “officially poor”. • The 2006 federal poverty level for a family of four is $20,000/yr . • It takes double that amount ($40,000/yr.) for parents to provide their children necessities (housing, child care and food)
How do we calculate the poverty level? • The U.S. poverty level is calculated based on a formula developed in 1960, which weighted the price of food as allotting for 30% of a families expenses. • Currently, food comprises far less than 30% of a families expenses, while housing, transportation, and child care consume the greatest share. • 36% of families who rent their homes spend more than 33% of their income on rent. • Yet we still measure poverty by the original standard developed in the early 1960’s. • The U.S. has the highest poverty rate of an industrialized nation.
The Poverty Wage • The current federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour has been in place since 1997. • Its real value is now more than 30% less than what it was in 1978. • Full time employment at the federal minimum wage yields an annual income of $10,712 (57% of poverty for a family of four, thereby putting them in extreme poverty). • The highest state minimum wage is $7.35 per hour. $14,112 per year still below poverty!
Poverty Since 2000 • Child poverty has risen substantially in the last five years after hitting a low in 2000. We have added 1.4 million children to the poverty rolls since 2000. • The largest increases have been seen in the Midwest, where 2.8 million children live in poverty. • The rise was greatest amongst parents who are employed and those who do not have a college degree. • Largely due to loss of manufacturing jobs (which pay a living wage) and the increase of service jobs (which pay the poverty minimum wage).
Poverty Since 2000 • Across the United States, white and black children experienced a greater increase in poverty than Asian or Latino children. • In the South which are “new destination states’ for immigrants. The nativity of the children’s parents was linked to rising poverty.
What can we do? • Pass a living wage amendment. Only 19 states currently have a minimum wage that is greater than the federal poverty wage. • Pass a federally mandated Earned Income Tax Credit, currently only 12 states use this opportunity to increase the value of low wage work. • Repair public education and move low income students into higher education. • Increase enrollment and matriculation of underrepresented populations in graduate and professional schools.
Franklin D. Roosevelt State of the Union AddressJanuary 11th, 1944 “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt State of the Union AddressJanuary 11th, 1944 “We have accepted so to speak, a second Bill of Rights…Among these are: • Right to useful and remunerative jobs • Right to earn enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation. • Right of every family to a decent home. • Right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. • Right to protection from economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment. • Right to a good education
“I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this ECONOMIC BILL OF RIGHTS.” “All of these rights spell security. Our fighting men abroad and their families have the right to insist upon it. It is to their demands that this Government should pay heed rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying. “ Franklin D. Roosevelt State of the Union AddressJanuary 11th, 1944
Justice Speaks New Orleans, Feb 2006 “I had spent my career caring for children who suffered and some who died in the wealthiest country on earth. They suffer not because we cannot care for them but because we will not care for them. Justice speaks to me and I am sure that poverty is wrong and I will do all I can to end it. “ Dr. Gloria 2006
John Wooley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project, University of California, http://www.americanpresidency.org National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, http://www.nccp.org To Contact: Dr. Gloria WilderBrathwaite Justice Speaks 1050 17th St., NW Suite 600 Washington DC 20036 202-496-5313 www.justicespeaks.org email@example.com References