Aiming to Cut Poverty in Half (Rep. Barbara Lee)

As co-founder of the Out of Poverty Caucus, I am happy that the House has unanimously passed my legislation, which sets a national goal of cutting poverty in half over the next ten years.

This week our nation honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of justice and equality, and in the coming weeks, we will develop an economic stimulus plan to support families struggling economically. It is then very timely that we make eradicating poverty a national priority.

Over 37 million Americans—more than the population of my home state of CA—are in poverty and the number has grown by 5 million since the Bush administration took office; one in eight Americans now live in poverty; poverty in the US is far higher than in many other developed nations; and inequality is at an all time high. The richest 1 percent of Americans in 2005 held the largest share of the nation's income since 1929 and at the same time, the poorest 20 percent held only 3.4 percent of the nation's income. Perhaps the greatest example of the critical need for action though is the devastation of hurricane Katrina and its impact – One-third of those displaced by hurricane Katrina had incomes below one-and-a-half times the poverty line.

These statistics quantify what most of us already know - we are heading in the wrong direction, and we need a national commitment to address the growing poverty crisis in this nation. This resolution helps get us back on track by setting an achievable, and in my view, a modest goal of cutting poverty in half over the next decade.

By setting our sights to tackling poverty head on we can take serious steps toward bridging the gap between the haves and have nots and also help make certain that those of modest means will be able to participate and benefit in the economic recovery that must happen.

The passage of this resolution is an important step, but only a first step. Now we must work together to make the goal a reality. I am thrilled that, on a bipartisan basis, my colleagues support the struggle to eliminate poverty in America.