Monday, November 05, 2012

U. S. candidates avoid talk on poverty; Part II

The candidates for the U.S. presidential election have focused on the issues important to the middle class, and senior citizens. They do that because those two groups vote in the largest numbers. So talk of poverty and the poor rarely occurs in the campaign, because those who are poor vote in small percentages.  What should be one of our most important issues gets little attention just because of polling numbers.

From the Christian Science Monitor, writer Eric Spanberg gives us this analysis.

The last time poverty was a major issue in presidential politics was the 1960s, when President Lyndon B. Johnson instituted a national War on Poverty and Robert Kennedy made a poverty tour in Mississippi. While Mr. Obama’s health-care reforms could have a profound impact on the poor – and were clearly designed to help them – they were often couched in terms designed to appeal to the middle class. 
Partly, that is because of what Mr. Johnson’s Great Society achieved. The programs led to a dramatic reduction in the poverty rate down to about 14 percent by the 1970s. While the rate has not declined since then, it has not gone up much, either, meaning the poor remain a significant minority of the population. Today’s rate fluctuates between 14 and 16 percent, says Professor Parker.  
In addition, the poor consistently vote at much lower levels than other groups, says James Henson, a political scientist at the University of Texas in Austin. “People with low incomes have a harder time finding the time and getting out to vote,” he says. “They tend to be less directly engaged, and they have less political information pushed to them.” 
 Voting participation among the poor could decline further if voter ID requirements percolating in many red states become law, Professor Henson and other experts say. The obvious conclusion for campaign strategists: Why cater to populations that vote less?

We also found this iten near the end of the article very important. Superstar economist Jeffery Sachs weighed in on how even the voices of the middle class is quited during the campaign.
The bigger problem is that money has changed politics so that it serves neither the poor nor the middle class anymore, says Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York.  
“It’s a serious distortion of our political process,” he says. “In a two-party system the poor might get neglected anyway because of an aim for the middle class. But in our political system even the middle class is relatively neglected to the interests of the affluent. They pay for the campaigns.” 
Despite pronounced philosophical differences in how to address poverty, both parties are motivated by money, Sachs says. That leads to an unwillingness to advocate policies that could hit the wealthy too hard. 

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