Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lobbying for the poor

The Mobilization to End Poverty event is going on now in Washington D.C. The coalition of 60 faith based anti-poverty groups are storming our government with prayer vigils and demonstrations. In addition, they are sending lobbyists to meet with members of Congress to tell them to keep the needs of the poor in mind with budget issues.

From World Magazine, writer Edward Lee Pitts tells us what the lobbyists are asking Congress for.

The group is calling for all hands on deck to address poverty and to them that includes a larger role for government. Organizers, led by Sojourners, marked the day by sending the activists to meetings in the offices of 82 senators and 215 House members.

Noting that with the nation’s poverty rolls growing by as many as 10 million this year in the face of the ongoing global economic crisis, those lobbying Congress Tuesday stressed the urgency of action: “This is a new experience for a lot of us,” said Jonathan Bettle, 24, of Akron, Ohio, soon after emerging from a meeting with the staff of Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. “We are not lobbyists. But the Gospel calls us to look out for the least of these.”

For Bettle that translates into calling on government to improve education, access to health care, and the quality of life of its citizens. He said those in the nation who are better off have a moral obligation to welcome tax increases if it means greater support for the nation’s poor.

Beyond this call for increased federal funding and the general rallying cry for cutting the nation’s poverty numbers in half, activists had trouble articulating specific legislative steps that could be taken.

The effort’s printed call to action includes a broad declaration to “protect and defend budget priorities that will reduce poverty” and to “support passage of health care reform protecting the most vulnerable.”

Specifically rally organizers hope to: Expand child tax credits as well as spend at least $4.2 billion to expand access to early childhood education such as Head Start. The Mobilization to End Poverty also wants lawmakers to protect budget priorities that increase federal spending in low-income housing, education, job training, and veterans services.

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