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  • Congressional Black Caucus

    by Representative James E. Clyburn

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    CLYBURN. I thank the gentlelady for yielding me the time.

    Mr. Speaker, when President Johnson stood in this Chamber 50 years ago and declared war on poverty, the richest country in the world had a poverty rate of 19 percent. President Johnson cautioned us on that evening that the war on poverty would be a long one and not an easy one. Yet, 9 years later, in 1973, the poverty rate in this country had dropped to 11 percent. We were most definitely winning the war on poverty.

    Unfortunately, after its initial success, many politicians found success running down the achievements the war on poverty had on many Americans. Politicians scapegoating so-calling ``welfare queens'' furthered a narrative that the war on poverty was not worth fighting. Yet, I can show you firsthand examples in my home State of South Carolina where the war on poverty did, in fact, succeed.

    For example, Medicare and Medicaid, both war on poverty initiatives, have made a tremendous difference in the health security of older Americans and those of modest means. In fact, at the time of the institution of Medicare, the poverty rate among seniors was over 30 percent. Today, the poverty rate among seniors has dropped to beneath 10 percent.

    {time} 1715 It is important to remember that, a year after President Johnson made that speech, we passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That, to me, was to empower poor people, to empower people of color to go to the polls, to get registered and to vote to make their own statements as to how to fight the war on poverty.

    Today, we in the Congressional Black Caucus have been calling for our government to do across the board what we did in our so-called ``stimulus bill,'' and that is to institute a 10-20-30 initiative to direct funds to targeted areas so that 10 percent of all of this money can go into those communities where 20 percent or more of the population have been locked beneath the poverty level for the last 30 years. If we were to begin to target these persistent poverty counties, we would, in fact, eliminate poverty, and we would see all of our people who are living in poverty get beneath the 10 percent that we think will be tolerable over the next 10 years.

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