Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half. It offers a 12 point agenda designed to reduce the poverty rate in half in 10 years.
Perhaps what's most exciting about this report is that there's nothing terribly exciting in it. Pretty much all of the recommendations have been made before: raise and index the minimum wage, expand the EITC, make it easier for workers to join unions, provide universal child care subsidies, make college more affordable, encourage savings, rebuild the safety net. But the point is that it doesn't take geniuses to figure this out. The report makes clear that we're not missing ideas about good things to do, but the political willpower to do them.
Poverty is finally starting to get some attention again. It's one of the key elements of John Edwards' presidential campaign. Bloomberg is focusing attention on it in New York. The House Ways and Means Committee had a hearing on it today. But even Charlie Rangel said that he's focusing on getting rid of the AMT before he thinks about EITC expansions. So don't count on anything happening unless we build public support for it. So go write your members of Congress and urge them to commit to reducing poverty.
The folks over at Inclusion have been pushing their argument that we should be talking about "Social Inclusion" rather than reducing (or eliminating) poverty. While I understand their argument, I don't agree. First, I think that no one in the US has a clue what "social inclusion" means. If we've got someone willing to give us 2 minutes of attention, I'd rather say "eliminate poverty" and spend the next 110 seconds pitching the main policy proposals than say "promote social inclusion" and spend all my time trying to explain what I mean by that. Second, and more importantly, I think there's a real risk of playing into the hands of folks like Larry Mead who think that poor people's problem isn't lack of money but that they are "outside the mainstream" and aren't working a lot. And finally, when the media is finally paying some attention to this issue, I'd like the coverage to focus on the proposals, and not on liberals' perennial attraction to circular firing squads.