Spotlight Exclusives

Obama Won۪t Forget the Poor

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While poverty reduction advocates have been hashing out the best approach for pushing poverty issues forward, the Obama Administration is putting its own spin on the issue.  At the January 30 launch of the Middle Class Working Families Task Force, headed by Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama had this to say:


“And I think I should note that when I talk about the middle class, I’m talking about folks who are currently on the middle class, but also people who aspire to be in the middle class.  We’re not forgetting the poor.  They are going to be front and center, because they, too, share our American Dream.  And we’re going to make sure that they can get a piece of that American Dream if they’re willing to work for it.”


At least for now, Obama doesn’t avoid the word “poor” — but is also quick to put poverty into the frame of “people aspiring to be in the middle class” and those who are “willing to work for” the American Dream.  Advocates should take note — and pay close attention to the Middle Class Working Families Task Force, as well as to the writings of one of its chief directors in the VP’s office, Jared Bernstein (link to previous post).  Formerly a top economist at EPI, Jared was a big proponent of the inclusive frame “striving for a broadly shared prosperity.”   We didn’t mention before, but it might be worth noting now, that Jared published a new book last spring called Crunch:  Why Do I Feel So Squeezed.  An Utne review had this to say: 


“No mere populist rant, Crunch is organized as a broad primer on U.S. economics that uses inequality as a starting point for understanding this wider subject. Bernstein’s concise explanations of issues like unemployment and health care expenses are meaty and engaging, offering lay people tangible insight into how the economy functions and what it takes to ensure that those who make it work also share its rewards.”  (Utne, Book Review, May-June 2008)


Jared۪s primer is worthwhile reading for insights into how we use an aspirational frame to help low income families get their fair share of the pie. 

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