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John D.
Democrat MD 6

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  • Congressional Black Caucus

    by Representative John K. Delaney

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    DELANEY. I thank the gentlelady for yielding me this time this afternoon and for her leadership on this issue.

    Mr. Speaker, as we all know, today marks that historic day, the 50- year anniversary of President Johnson declaring a formal war on poverty. And on such a day, we must take note of the progress we have made and remind ourselves of the work that has to be done. Across 50 years, if you take into account the effects of programs this government has put in place to target those on poverty, we have significantly reduced the rate of poverty. We have in particular reduced the rate of poverty for our seniors. These facts are first evidence of the notion that the government can make a difference against this problem.

    But we also know that more has to be done. Fifty million Americans live in poverty, including about a quarter of which are our children, our most vulnerable citizens, children who have their whole lives in front of them and are struggling in poverty. We must make a difference against this, and to do that we must do three things.

    First, we need to continue to fund the programs that are proven to make a difference in the lives of those living in poverty like food stamps, like funding Head Start.

    Second, we need to raise the minimum wage in this country. Right now in 2014, in the wealthiest country in the world, in many States if you work 40 hours a week and earn the minimum wage, you live below the poverty line. That just doesn't pass the look-yourself-in-the-mirror test. The minimum wage for decades has significantly trailed the growth in our economy. We need to raise the minimum wage. That will make a meaningful and impactful difference in the lives of those struggling in poverty.

    And, finally, we need to create jobs. Jobs are the most direct way to lift people out of poverty; and through a job, people have personal dignity. To make a difference in the jobs crisis in this country, we need to invest in education across the long term. That will make a disproportionate difference in terms of the number of people living in poverty. But in the short term, we need to do things to get people to work now, like investing in our infrastructure. This is very important work for us to do, Mr. Speaker.

    I will close by reflecting on some of the words of President Johnson. He said this fight would not be short and easy, and he was right. We have been at this for 50 years.

    He also said no single weapon would suffice, and he was right about that as well. We need to be raising the minimum wage. We need to be investing in jobs. We need to be funding critical programs like food stamps and Head Start.

    And then he said that we must not rest until this war is done. And to honor the tens of millions of people who have lived unfortunately in poverty over the last 50 years and the tremendous number of people who have fought this battle, and to live up to the standard of our maker, we must recommit ourselves to this battle.

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