Marking 50 Years of the War on Povertyby Representative Eric Swalwell
Posted on 2014-01-09
SWALWELL of California. Mr. Speaker, 50 years ago, President
Johnson declared in this Chamber the war on poverty, and this is one
war that we must continue to wage.
I want to thank my neighbor in Alameda County who represents Oakland and San Leandro and Alameda and Berkeley, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is Congress' greatest champion today to continue fighting President Johnson's war on poverty, and I am grateful to have a mentor in Congresswoman Lee who has guided and helped me as I have worked to do my part.
Since President Johnson's declaration, we have made real progress. Using an accurate measurement of who is poor in America shows we have cut the rate from 25.8 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012, reducing by millions the number of Americans who are poor. Unfortunately, this war is not yet won. Almost 50 million Americans still live in poverty, including over 13 million children. In such an abundant society as ours, there is only one word to describe these stark facts, ``unconscionable,'' and we can do better.
This Congress should make it a priority to help the poor, the economically downtrodden, and the jobless. Their path to economic opportunity still remains dim. But this Congress, the people in this House, can be their light. If we are going to win the war on poverty, there are many battles today that we must win: First, we should start by extending unemployment insurance now and not putting 1.3 million Americans out in the cold; Second, we need to raise our minimum wage so those working hard and trying to earn a living can actually do so; Third, we must fight harsh cuts to SNAP and Head Start to make sure everyone has equal opportunity.
These are just a few of the small battles that we must win right now in the larger war on poverty.
This is no time to turn back or to retreat. This is a time for a surge in our war against poverty. Millions of Americans, including children, are counting on us, and we must ask ourselves a few questions: Has this war been won? Has poverty been eradicated across America? And is our middle class built out? If the answer to any of these questions is ``no,'' then we know what we must continue to do. We must fight on, and we must keep fighting until we win the war on poverty.