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  • Fifty Years from Selma

    by Representative James E. Clyburn

    Posted on 2015-02-03

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    CLYBURN. Mr. Speaker, in one of his great books, Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the question: Where do we go from here--chaos or community? Mr. Speaker, today, 50 years after Selma, that question is still in need of an answer.

    One area in need of aggressive action is persistent poverty, and I want to thank President Obama for sending us a budget that equalizes the Tax Code and that, if substantially enacted, will move us closer to what Dr. King often referred to as the ``beloved community.'' Statistics show that there are nearly 500 counties and thousands of communities in the United States that are classified by the Census Bureau as ``persistent-poverty areas.'' They are certified because 20 percent of their populations have lived below the poverty line for the last 30 or more years. They are diverse communities, including Caucasian communities in States like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee; Native American communities in States like South Dakota, Alaska, and Oklahoma; Latino communities in States like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; and African American communities in States like South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. They are urban communities in States like New York and heartland communities in States like Missouri.

    There are 139 of these counties that are represented in this House by Democrats, 331 by Republicans, and 18 are split between the two parties. Combating persistent poverty should matter to all of us regardless of party, geography, or race.

    In early 2009, as we were putting together the Recovery Act, I proposed language to require at least 10 percent of funds in three rural development accounts to be directed to efforts in these persistent-poverty counties. This requirement was enacted into law. In light of the definition of ``persistent-poverty counties'' as having at least 20 percent poverty rates over 30 years, this provision became known as the ``10-20-30 initiative.'' In using the 10-20-30 formula, the Recovery Act funded a total of 4,655 projects in persistent-poverty counties, totaling nearly $1.7 billion. I saw firsthand the positive effects of these projects in my district. We were able to undertake projects and create jobs that would have otherwise languished. Among these investments were a $5.8 million grant and a $2 million loan to [[Page H710]] construct 51 miles of water lines in the rural community of Brittons Neck in Marion County, South Carolina.

    There are many other success stories. In Lowndes County, Mississippi, $17.5 million was spent to install a water line, elevator tank, and two wastewater pump stations, providing potable water to rural Mississippians and creating badly needed construction jobs.

    In 2011, I joined with our former Republican colleague, Representative Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, to introduce an amendment to the continuing resolution that would have continued 10-20-30 for rural development and would have expanded it to 11 additional accounts throughout the Federal budget to enhance economic development, education, job training, health, justice, the environment, and much more.

    I want to make one thing clear about the 10-20-30 approach. It does not add one dime to the deficit. It simply targets resources from funds already authorized or appropriated.

    Over the past 30 years, the national economy has risen and fallen multiple times. During these economic downturns, we have been rightly focused on getting our economy, as a whole, on track. We have not given adequate attention to these communities that are suffering from chronic distress and Depression-era levels of joblessness.

    Mr. Speaker, I would hope that, as we undertake this budget, we will find ways to work together to move our Nation closer to Dr. King's dream of a beloved community.


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