Washington, D.C. – Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty,” Bread for the World welcomes a new bipartisan debate about how to reduce poverty.
President Obama gave a major address on income and opportunity on Dec. 3, and Republicans are now also talking about poverty. Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich recently distanced himself from what he called the “war on the poor” in Washington, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will both make speeches about poverty in the coming days.
“Partly because of the War on Poverty, we cut the poverty rate in half during the 1960s and early 1970s,” noted Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “But we haven’t made much progress since then, mainly because reducing poverty hasn’t been a national priority. No president since Lyndon Johnson has made reducing poverty one of his top five priorities.”
The economic crisis that began in 2008 has increased hunger and poverty. Over the last three years, Washington has been preoccupied with deficit reduction, with Republicans pushing for deep cuts in programs focused on hunger and poverty.
“Lots of people are struggling economically, and they voted in large numbers in the last election,” said Beckmann. “That has encouraged leaders in both parties to explain how they propose to provide help and opportunity for families that struggle to buy groceries.”
Bread for the World Institute outlined its own plan for ending hunger in America in its 2014 Hunger Report, released just before Thanksgiving. Bread for the World’s strategy stresses policies to reduce unemployment and improve the quality of jobs. It also urges a strong safety net, investments in people, and partnerships between community organizations and government programs.
“The world as a whole is making dramatic progress against hunger and poverty,” added Beckmann. “If countries as different as Brazil, Bangladesh, and Great Britain can reduce poverty, so can the U.S.A. Overcoming hunger and poverty should be a priority for both parties.”