Spotlight Exclusives

Forum Highlights Bipartisan Agreements on a Poverty and Opportunity Agenda

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At a forum held last week co-sponsored by Spotlight and The Brookings Institution, policy experts from both sides of the aisle came together to give their perspective about what the poverty agenda for the next four years should look like. While debates over the fiscal cliff and the extreme polarization on the Hill continued to loom large, the speakers at Wednesday۪s event, “A Poverty and Opportunity Agenda: What’s in Store for the Next Four Years,” brought a breath of fresh air to the conversation and offered hope for areas of bipartisan agreement in confronting the problems facing our most vulnerable families.


There were several areas of like-minded thinking throughout the event. For instance, the speakers often brought up what is at stake for poor and low-income Americans during federal budget debates. When discussing the fiscal cliff, keynote speaker Tevi Troy, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, emphasized that “if we have an economic collapse, the poor will get hurt first and worst.” His counterpart at the event, Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to President Obama for economic policy, explained how by 2015 nondiscretionary spending, which includes social service programs, will be the lowest since the Eisenhower administration. Sperling asserted that “you can۪t be for the poor if you don۪t care about cuts to this spending.”


The bipartisan group of speakers also included: Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden; Jo Anne Barnhart, former commissioner of Social Security under President George W. Bush; John Bridgeland president & CEO of Civic Enterprises and former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President George W. Bush; Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children & Families at Brookings; and Mona Sutphen, former White House deputy chief of staff for policy under President Obama. The event was moderated by Ron Haskins, co-director of the Center on Children & Families at Brookings and former senior advisor to President George W. Bush for welfare policy.


While the conversation was happening at The Brookings Institution, those in the Twittersphere were actively tracking what was being said using #TalkPoverty. A recap of the Twitter conversation reveals that the online audience lifted up comments and ideas from each event participant, regardless of their political leaning. Below are several Tweets from the event:


·         @TeviTroy suggests mean testing more programs to encourage work and reduce poverty #talkpoverty

·         No parent who works full time should have to raise their child in poverty. – Gene Sperling #talkpoverty

·         @isawhill identifies growing income inequality & opportunity inequality as trends preventing mobility: #talkpoverty

·         Jo Anne Barnhart, former commissioner of SS “you don’t pay your way out of poverty, you need to work your way out of poverty” #talkpoverty

·         TY Mona Sutphen for highlighting #ece, must assure low-inc families can access & address lack of affordable, quality #childcare #talkpoverty

·         What do we do about poverty in America? John Bridgeland says we need to “teach empathy” and listen to those living in poverty.#talkpoverty

·         @econjared: No better social program than a full employment economy. We can’t work full time if there’s no full-time work. #talkpoverty


We hope that the productive conversation from both speakers and the audience signifies the potential for a bipartisan policy agenda that can decrease poverty and increase opportunity for all Americans. If you were not able to attend or view the forum, Spotlight has created a new website page that includes videos and other resources from the event. To get the latest on the transition, head to our resource page, which offers up-to-date information as preparations commence for a second Obama administration.

Posted by Tamanna

Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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