News Brief - November 7

Friday, November 07, 2008 | News

Poverty

Survey focuses on rural poverty

“People who are low-income or living in poverty are clearly disadvantaged with numerous factors impacting their health and access to health care.”

Then let’s start talking about helping everyone overcome those factors. 
Taxing citizens into poverty
“But it is clear something needs to be done to prevent poor Alabamians from falling further behind.”
You mean like dropping the poverty frame?

What Obama’s Next Steps Should Be…
“Eliminating poverty sets the bar too low and, as a national goal, it simply will not work to achieve our shared hopes for a strong nation.”

 

Economy

The economics of single motherhood
“If we have that many children born to single mothers, the standard of living is low not just for them but for all of us,” said Walley. “The high number of single mothers fundamentally changes the way our economy works.”

Mass. a model of healthcare reform, hurdles
“Some healthcare analysts and leaders in the business and insurance industries say Massachusetts‘ experience offers tangible proof that overhauling a massive system is possible.“
 

Wages

Bloomington plans to explore living wage
”By a decisive 65 to 35 percent margin in an advisory referendum, they want a “living wage” of about $9.81 an hour paid to city workers who aren’t making that much.“

Killer living wages
Run for your lives!
”What’s the opposite of a living wage? Presumably a death wage.“
 

Paid Leave, Time Off

Milwaukee Voters Approve Paid Sick Leave Referendum
”The referendum brought by a coalition of union and community groups gives full-time workers between five and nine sick days a year, depending on the size of their employer.“

Paid sick leave referendum wins big
”We knew this was an issue that resonated with people in the city who understand it’s so important for families to have the ability to work and care for their families,“ she said. ”We believe business will find this will be good for them too because the costs of retraining and rehiring will be offset.“

Business Owners Unhappy About Paid Sick Leave
…apparently forgetting that they are part of the most entrepreneurial, innovative workforce in the world.

 
Election Day in US should be a holiday
”Low turnout doesn’t occur evenly across all demographics. People with higher income, occupational standing and education, for example, are more likely to vote. They’re more likely to have the time, leisure and resources to vote.“
 

News Brief - October 31

Friday, October 31, 2008 | News

Paid Sick Leave

Employers fear paid sick leave will raise their costs
“It’s going to be a killer,” Maliszewski said of the proposal. “Once you start taking away the creativity of small business by forcing them to do certain things, you take away their ability to compete.”
You know what else is a killer? Disease. Especially when workers can’t afford to take time off to treat it.

Wages, Economy

Time to make Vancouver a living wage city
“And if all this sounds expensive, consider this. Better pay translates directly into a healthier local economy. Low-income families spend almost all their money close to home. And businesses that have adopted the living wage report higher productivity and reduced turnover.”
Some things cost more because they are high quality items.

Battlers for a living wage demonized

A new type of capitalism
“The top 1 percent of earners in the United States gained $600 billion annually in income while the bottom 80 percent lost that same $600 billion from 1979 to 2008.”
(…not to mention the $700 billion wealth transfer that is taking place in ‘08.)

The Futility of Class Warfare  

“This pervasive belief in the American Dream — the notion that everyone has a shot at the brass ring — is the most formidable constraint on the effectiveness of the class-warfare card.”

Poverty, Crime

Candidates walk tight line on poverty
“…for a Democrat to talk too much about poverty sounds like talking about welfare – which is not popular with the middle class voters that he’s [Obama] trying to court.”
Poverty talk is divisive and unpopular. Why are we still trying to walk that line?

People are poor in America because they lack values, morals, and ethics
How can you really have a rational discussion when this is the propaganda used against you?

Many States Tax Working-Poor Families Deeper into Poverty

Federal report analyzes crime in 28 cities
“A new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that unemployment and low wages do not have a significant effect on crime - at least in the short term.”

News Brief - October 28

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | News

Wages

“The Working Poor group knows that it is a political hot potato to call for public policy to improve wages and  benefits and increase training programs to help lift low-wage workers out of poverty.”
That potato would be a lot cooler if you dropped the “poverty” and kept up the inclusive rhetoric. 

Young workers in unions earn $4 more per hour than non-union, study shows
“Even though they’ve done everything right – finished high school and college at higher rates than in the past, young workers have been the hardest hit by stagnant and declining wages over the last 30 years.”

Workers unite for human rights
“The rally called attention to the plight of poverty-level workers who say they lack health care or educational opportunities to improve their job prospects.”

Health Care, Housing

Premiums soar; wages stagnate
“As health care becomes less and less affordable, Georgians face difficult choices in trying to provide health coverage for themselves and their families.”

Report: Energy efficiency key to housing affordability
“As we look at the age of homes and concentrations of low-income households, we see that the very people least able to afford high consumption live in homes built without energy efficiency measures.”

Economy

In race for president, economy passes war and health care as key issue

Keep the playing field level 

“The economic climate has affected us all, regardless of social standing, and if communities are going to survive, we had better start working together to make ends meet.”

Poverty

Task force tries to redefine poverty 

“Poverty is high,” Dillon said, agreeing that the numbers being used to set guidelines don’t take into account people trying to pay utilities on $7 and $8 an hour jobs. “You can’t pay all the necessities to live” on those kinds of wages, he said.“

Then let’s cut the Sympathy Frame, and have a conversation about sufficient wages, and better jobs for everyone.

Campaign offers little on how to aid the poor
”All three are upset that poverty — affecting more than one in 10 Americans — is rarely spoken about on the presidential campaign trail.“
Allow me to direct you back to that whole ‘hot potato’ thing.

Crises on many fronts

”No one knows how to quell the uncertainty. And no one is even talking about the poor.“
Plenty of people are talking about the poor – no one is listening.

Report: Indiana working poor numbers grow
”Investing in job training programs, increasing the minimum wage above the federal wage standard, and initiatives such as paid parent leave for family and medical needs resulted in some states reducing their number of low-income working families, the report said.“  

Looking at the Economy through a New Lens

Wednesday, October 01, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Or “The Big Price of Bad Jobs”

Margy Waller, Jonny Finity, and Sandra Gustitus
The Mobility Agenda
for
The Community Action New Narrative Initiative

 

There are a lot of places to point fingers when trying to assign responsibility for recent failures of major corporations and the perceived need for a “bailout” of other institutions.

Among those who deserve some of the blame are employers, particularly those who pay low-wages and don’t offer employment benefits like health care and paid sick days. One in three jobs – over 40 million in our economy – pay low-wages, and most of these are without benefits.

In recent years, wages for these jobs, like too many middle income jobs as well, have been flat or even declining. At the same time, costs for gas, food, and other everyday expenses have continued to rise.

Workers were forced to go into debt to cover this loss in purchasing power. People at all income levels borrowed against the home equity that they had accumulated within the housing bubble in order to pay for cost increases. This debt, over time, artificially inflated the economy to levels sustained only by consumers’ willingness, and need, to assume more debt. Workers across the country have found themselves spending on credit to survive while saddled in a spiral of ever decreasing net worth – and for it, everyone has suffered.


Our colleague Dean Baker, at the Center for Economic Policy Research, put it this way:

The main cause of the economy’s weakness is not insolvent banks and lack of credit; it’s the loss of $4 trillion to $5 trillion in housing equity as a result of the bubble’s partial deflation. Families used their equity to support their consumption in the years from 2002 to 2007, as the savings rate fell to almost zero.

With much of this equity now eliminated by the collapse of the bubble, many families can no longer sustain their levels of consumption. The main reason that banks won’t lend to these families is that they no longer have home equity to serve as collateral. It wouldn’t matter how much money the banks had, they are not going to make mortgage loans to people who have no equity.

And house prices are not going to come back. This is like Pets.com. We are not going to get the price of $200,000 homes in central California back up to $500,000.

The main problem in recovering from the recession will be finding ways to boost demand other than household consumption…. In the short-run, we will have to rely on government stimulus to help spur growth and reduce unemployment…. demands for stimulus were not extraneous to the legitimate goal of a bank bailout bill. Fiscal stimulus must be central to any serious effort to boost the economy.

With workers stuck in bad jobs and prices soaring, no one’s debt is going to disappear. It will take bold policy changes, to effect the kind of change we need.

To strengthen the labor market, policymakers could 1) make changes and extensions to unemployment insurance options, 2) invest in good jobs created to strengthen our infrastructure, build green, and improve transit options, and 3) guarantee paid sick days for all workers. Any of these improvements would strengthen our economy for all of us.

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News Brief - September 5

Friday, September 05, 2008 | News

Benefits

Group pulling Ohio sick leave measure from ballot

Study: Few California Workers Aware of Family Leave Law
And fewer have taken time off. 

Sick and Fired: US Workers Struggle Without Paid Sick, Parental Leave
“A new report finds the United States ranks at the bottom of 21 high-income nations in providing parental leave for workers.”
In spite of the revelation that…
American Workers Overwhelmingly Support Paid Sick Days

How does Swedish parental leave work?
A jealousy-inducing example of “elsewhere.”  
 

Labor Market, Economy, Wages

Struggles for worker justice take on new urgency, intensity
“As we enjoy barbecue picnics and time off from work, we should also remember the most fundamental aspect of Labor Day: honoring workers and their struggles for rights.”

Tough economy worsens struggle for workers, job seekers
It’s a recurrent story – wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, it’s harder to recover from job loss, and job security is fading. It will take better jobs to build the economy we so wistfully remember.

For others, Census data paints a rosier picture:
The Real Economic Scorecard

Let’s Stop Minimizing Minimum Wage
“Two years ago, more than 650 economists, including five Nobel Prize winners, signed a statement saying state and federal minimum wage increases can ”significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed.“

Health Care

Cost of caring for Missourians without health insurance impacts everyone in the state

Kids of Stressed, Low-Income Mothers Prone to Weight Problems
Making jobs better – and ensuring that hard work earns a living wage – is not only good for workers, but for the health of their families and communities as well.

Absence makes baby’s brain grow softer: Call for two years paid maternity leave

Education, Housing

Economic Diversity: Why We Measure It
US News ranks colleges according to the economic diversity of their student populations.

Affordable housing hard to come by on coast
Hurricanes: conveniently gentrifying neighborhoods for the wealthy everywhere.

Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is back in the public eye, with poverty, not Palin, apparently to blame:
Poverty, not sex ed, key factor in teen pregnancy
Cause for Alarm? Understanding Recent Trends in Teenage Childbearing

News Brief - August 29

Friday, August 29, 2008 | News

Workers, Wages, Economy

Let workers choose: Giving workers a voice is the purpose of unions

Report: Worker productivity up, pay down
“When it comes to efficient, profitable production, the men and women of the American work force have a lot to be proud of. But when it comes to being rewarded for the work they do, the skills they’ve sharpened and the contributions they’ve made, well, that’s a different story,” Mr. Bernstein said.

US household incomes fail to grow
“Despite an economy that expanded by 18% since 2000, real income for the median family fell by 1.1% from 2000 to 2006.”

PA Research Group Offers Economic Plan to Obama and McCain, Scorecard to Voters

Transportation


Insurance Commissioner Poizner Sets Framework For Environmentally–Friendly Automobile Insurance, Increased Options For Consumers
Pay-as-you-drive auto insurance option hits CA.

Family

Families in Economic Freefall – and Off the Political Radar
“As the country prepares to elect the next president of the United States pundits and politicians will certainly talk about ”working families“ —”middle class families“ -– and ”poor families.“ Isn’t it time we address the needs of America’s families collectively?”

And poverty, poverty, poverty

The Census Bureau released poverty data for 2007:
Census: Uninsured down, poverty up
“Both liberal and conservative experts say the economy is the main driver of the nation’s poverty and health-care problems…”
Why focus on a symptom when we agree on the cause?

(AK): State’s 07 poverty rate up to 17.9%
“The poverty and income numbers are from the American Community Survey and are not the only way the government measures poverty and income. The government’s Current Population Survey showed the number of people living in poverty nationwide increasing.”

Poverty rate dips in ‘07 (CO)
…in Fort Collins city.  But in the county, “The rise in the number of people living below self-sufficiency levels in our community should be a concern for all of us,” Thibedeau said.

Poverty Rate Held Steady Last Year, Census Says
“Census officials and health insurance advocates attributed the decrease in the number of uninsured to the growing popularity of government-sponsored health insurance, including Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).”

Changing economy, changing society fuel poverty increase
“…when those manufacturing jobs disappear, uneducated workers are often faced with low-paying service jobs as their only options.”
All jobs are NOT created equal.

For many, it raises questions…
Who’s Poor?
New York unveils regional cost-of-living measure.

What is poverty?
The US poverty measure is outdated.

Taking on Poverty and Inequality
“…there is a powerful need for Obama and Democrats to put poverty back on the national radar.”
Yeah, right. Maybe if they want the next forty years to look exactly like the last forty since the “war on poverty” began.  What do you expect?

News Brief - August 22

Friday, August 22, 2008 | News

Economy, prices

Voters in Polls Want Priority to Be Economy, Their Top Issue

Compare that to poverty/hunger/homelessness, which only 3% of people identified as the most important issue in a March 2008 Gallup poll.  Doesn’t it make sense to communicate in terms of an issue people really care about?

Real wages fall as record price hikes hit US workers
“…the average household now earns a staggering $1,500 less than it would if wages had kept pace with inflation over the past twelve months.”

Power rates spike in some states
Costs are increasing for everyone.

Health, Family Leave

Health, Family Leave

Paid sick-leave mandate opposed by Strickland, Fisher

Business group tallies sick-leave plan cost
Others question study results, say it represents “worst case scenario.”

Supreme Court to Review Pro-Worker Ruling on Family Leave
Court to decide whether leave applies to sick family members.

States push laws requiring paid sick days

Massachusetts law spurs rise in health coverage

439,000 more get health coverage
“In the past two years, Massachusetts has embarked on a closely watched experiment to become the first state requiring virtually all residents to have health insurance. The figures released yesterday provide some of the most compelling evidence so far that the experiment is working.”

Low-wage work

How Low-Income Neighborhoods Stabilize
Review of Cracks in the Pavement, the result of a 9-year study by UC Berkeley Professor Martin Sanchez-Jankowski on “low-income communities.”

Working poor still struggle

Budget woes in California may lead to higher taxes
“Critics call the sales tax hike regressive. It hurts low wage families the hardest because a larger percentage of their income will go towards paying sales taxes.”

Work-Life Policies for the Twenty-First Century Economy

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

In a new report released this week, The Mobility Agenda finds that the U.S. economy, workplace, workforce, and labor market have changed radically in the last 50 years, yet public and private policies have not kept up with these changes.

In the report, the authors review the evidence regarding work-life conflicts, the economic case for policy initiatives, and effectiveness of the policy options. 

“No single policy will meet all needs, which is why we recommend a menu of policy solutions to address changes in workforce, living arrangements, and society,” explains Margy Waller, Executive Director of The Mobility Agenda. The authors, Heather Boushey, Layla Moughari, Sarah Sattelmeyer, and Margy Waller present a clear explanation of the policy options and make specific recommendations for decision-makers.

For more information and to see the full report and abstract, please visit www.mobilityagenda.org/worklife

Dear Paul Krugman - The Welfare Debate Didn't Change Anything

Monday, June 09, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Team Mobility Agenda reacts to Paul Krugman’s commentary in the New York Times, It’s a Different Country

Dear Paul Krugman – The Welfare Debate Didn’t Change Anything

Margy Waller, Executive Director, The Mobility Agenda

Our research challenges Krugman’s evidence directly. He implies that the world has changed in part because the debate over welfare reform in the mid-1990s deracialized government spending issues and made it OK for government to spend on assistance to low-wage workers, writing:

If Ronald Reagan and other politicians succeeded, for a time, in convincing voters that government spending was bad, it was by suggesting that bureaucrats were taking away workers ’ hard-earned money and giving it to you-know-who: the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks, the welfare queen driving her Cadillac. Take away the racial element, and Americans like government spending just fine.

But why has racial division become so much less important in American politics?

Part of the credit surely goes to Bill Clinton, who ended welfare as we knew it. I’m not saying that the end of Aid to Families With Dependent Children was an unalloyed good thing; it created a great deal of hardship. But the “bums on welfare” played a role in political discourse vastly disproportionate to the actual expense of A.F.D.C., and welfare reform took that issue off the table.

We find exactly the opposite in our review of academic literature on this question. The evidence directly contradicts Krugman’s assertion.

In a report The Mobility Agenda commissioned and released last fall to review public opinion on poverty, welfare, and low-wage work, Matthew Nisbet of American University writes:

While core values and psychological orientations play a significant role in structuring American views about poverty, the issue is by no means “race neutral.” In fact, based on analyses of multiple national surveys, the political scientist Martin Gilens…concludes that among whites, the belief that black people are lazy is the most important source of opposition to spending on welfare and to programs that provide direct assistance such as food stamps and unemployment benefits.


Also:

…news images encourage the belief that the prototypical poor person is black. Specifically, the dominant visuals in TV stories related to poverty were blacks in organized activities like marches, meetings, or church; and blacks milling around streets, frequently pictured with police officers. Moreover, beyond images of race… poverty itself was seldom the direct subject of a news story, with reports rarely focused on low income, hunger, homelessness, low housing quality, unemployment, or welfare dependence. Instead, the focus was symptoms associated with poverty, particularly racial discrimination and problems of health or health care.


And finally:

By making welfare more “morally demanding,” centrist Democrats hoped to re-instill confidence in the ability of the government to help the poor. Strategists, pundits, and several prominent scholars had predicted that welfare reform would set in motion a powerful policy feedback effect, removing the taint of racism, and opening up the public to support for policies that helped the poor.

Unfortunately, in a systematic analysis comparing multiple indicators of polling data gathered between 1998 and 2004 with data from the late 1980s, [Joe] Soss and [Sanford]Schramm find no evidence for this impact. The tendency for Americans to blame poverty on a lack of effort has held steady, feelings toward the poor have grown slightly cooler, willingness to aid the poor has stayed the same or diminished, and racial attitudes still color support for assistance to the poor.

Yet, pointing to more recent polling data, influential progressives remain optimistic that the public is finally ready to get behind a campaign against poverty. In particular, a widely talked about analysis by Pew (2007) indicates a roughly 10% shift between 1994 and 2007 in the public’s agreement that the government should take care of people who can’t take care of themselves, guarantee food and shelter for all, and help more needy people even if it means government debt.

However…any comparison to 1994 is misleading, since these polls were taken at the height of the welfare reform campaign. During this period, news attention to welfare soared, with this coverage overwhelmingly negative in its tone. By 1998, however, news attention and negativity had both sharply declined. In reality, absent very salient messages attacking welfare programs, what the 2007 polls reveal is a normalization of public attitudes about poverty to their pre-Clinton era levels, rather than any turning point in public sentiment.

And then there is this, from our presentation on these issues:


Sadly, it seems the welfare debate of the mid-1990s reinforced public opinion rather than serving to shift it. We should expect the same of any debate over a goal to end poverty in the next administration

It’s the Same Country: Different Language, Different Leader

Sarah Sattelmeyer, Senior Research Associate, The Mobility Agenda

Having Barack Obama as the first African-American nominee of a major political party is indeed a milestone in American history. And, over the last several decades, I do believe that America has gotten progressively less racist (or at least less outwardly so) to the point that a minority candidate can be a viable contender in the race of the presidency.

But, unlike Paul Krugman, Idon’t attribute Obama’s ascendance into the national spotlight as a sign that racial politics are a non-issue.The primary exit polling data and interviews from many Americans, especially blue-collar voters, demonstrates that racism and discrimination is indeed alive and well.

Rather, I think that Obama should be given credit for being the first politician in a long while to shift the dialogue and rhetoric to a message that is about all of us and not the “us” versus “them” syndrome to which Krugman alludes. If Obama is elected president, it shows not that America has put aside racism, but that a message of inclusion and economic stability is the only card that can trump prejudice.

The past isn’t history…yet

Jonny Finity, Research Assistant, The Mobility Agenda

Obama’s pre-supposed nomination as the Democratic candidate for president is historic, yes – but only because it has never happened before.Not because it signals the end of anything – racism, welfare, exclusion – in America. At least not yet.

According to Krugman, Obama’s success among Democratic primary voters suggests that America’s racial divide has been successfully bridged, and that the closing of this gap somehow translates into support for social policy like welfare: “Take away the racial element, and Americans like government spending just fine.”

In reality, welfare is debated as much now as ever along racial lines, with poor black single mothers taking center stage. Obama’s victory won’t be an indication that anything HAS changed in this regard, but rather that people are finally beginning to see the light.As long as our economy and society are discussed sectionally, with division the ruling theme, history will continue to repeat itself.

By changing the debate from one of division – along racial or other lines – to one of inclusion, everyone shares in America’s success. That is why Obama has received so much fervent support; not because his vision has already been achieved, but because his is a message, an ideal, which can put the past behind us.

Talking about Economy, not Poverty

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

For much more about the evidence on changing narratives, see our website.

The Nation magazine recently praised efforts by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D- CA), to introduce a plan to cut poverty. The detailed package of policy proposals, “The Anti-Poverty and Opportunity Initiative,” calls for:

…. $73 billion in FY 2009, increasing to $129 billion in FY 2018, to fund a comprehensive strategy to cut poverty in half in a decade, including: expanding child care and increasing Head Start funding; making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for larger families; increasing funding for Food Stamps programs; increasing housing vouchers by 200,000 annually; lifting restrictions on TANF, Food Stamps, SSI and Medicaid for documented immigrant families; fully funding block grants to states with broad anti-poverty strategies and distributing targeted grants to states for families where a parent or child has a disability; increasing funding for Indian Health Services, education, housing and infrastructure, natural resources management, and other areas impacting Native American poverty; and reversing the 20 percent cut in child support enforcement.

The initiative incorporates many policy ideas community organizations and other stakeholders have been wishing that Congress and the administration would adopt – for many years now. Individual lists might differ a bit from Congresswoman Lee’s, but any Congressional staffer from a progressive office already has a list like this memorized.

So why aren’t these proposals the law of the land?

It’s probably because supporters have reached everyone persuadable by talking about the proposals as “anti-poverty” initiatives for forty years. And all that support still isn’t enough to overcome the opponents of legislation like this. While many people want to do something about poverty—it’s not a high priority for voters. In February, the Gallup Poll asked voters about “the most important problem facing the country” and just 2 percent named poverty/hunger/homelessness.

That means friendly policymakers don’t have the political space they need to take on opponents.

And continuing to use the poverty banner means it is unlikely that this plan will generate adequate support in the future. There are a few reasons for this:

* The U.S. definition of poverty is out of date and flawed, allowing opponents to use it to limit policy solutions to a narrow very low-income group.
* Public understanding of the causes of (irresponsible and immoral behavior) and remedies (responsible personal behavior) for poverty hinders adoption of the policy solutions we seek to address it.
* Defining the problem as “poverty” opens the door to a losing scenario in the legislative debate.

In fact, when Senator Clinton announced her support for a plan to adopt a goal to cut child poverty in late February, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation took the opening to criticize and offer their alternative:

Robert Rector, senior research fellow on welfare and family issues at the Heritage Foundation, says Clinton refuses to even acknowledge the two primary causes of child poverty — out-of-wedlock births, and parents living on welfare instead of working. “What she wants to do is combat poverty by putting the responsibility on the U.S. taxpayer, who already spends about $450 billion a year fighting poverty,” says Rector, “while [at the same time] specifically avoiding the issue of changing the behaviors that are the cause of poverty.”

See the problem?

The poverty debate provides a classic example of the imperative not to sacrifice our larger policy goals for the sake of an incremental or different advance, particularly when that advance actually undermines the shared agenda for the long term. By advancing a plan to set a target for cutting poverty, elected officials and candidates set up a problematic future, and one that threatens to undermine the policy goals.

Let’s imagine the likely scenario to come. Whether or not a candidate who has promised to set a goal to cut poverty wins the White House, we can expect continued efforts by some advocacy groups and members of Congress to push for the goal and the policy to match.

The mainstream media will portray the likely legislative options as two competing proposals: one we like (a comprehensive approach to addressing inequality and economic mobility) and one we don’t (solve poverty with marriage and harder work).

Our opponents are able to push these concepts with success because they are consistent with a broad public understanding of the causes of poverty, and a widely held belief that government programs cannot really address the issue of poverty or inequality. We already lost this same fight in battles over welfare. Why would we want to engage in it again?

We don’t need to re-fight that battle. We know that some people (democrats and low-income voters) are persuaded by a sympathy lens on the issue (the one that the word “poverty” calls up for many people in this country) to support a limited set of policies. Unfortunately, this language actually decreases support for progressive policies like a living wage.

Moreover, we also know that using an economic narrative moves these same voters and others (working-class, non college-educated men, older men, Republican voters, union households, and older voters without a college education) to support more of our policy goals.

So, if there is no true demand for a goal to cut poverty and it won’t help add new support, it would be much smarter strategically to use an economic case to promote the same larger policy agenda without the damaging poverty headline. (You’ll find much more information about the evidence on the impact of using different narratives for policy results on our website.

In fact, the Progressive Caucus members have proposals that would address poverty, social and economic mobility, and inequality that they’ve put under an economy title, the “Rebuild and Reinvest in America Initiative.” They should focus on this legislation and incorporate the “anti-poverty” agenda into that legislation.

Anyone who wants anti-poverty policy to be high on the agenda after the upcoming election should stop talking about goals to cut poverty and instead talk about an economy that will work for everyone. Changing the way we start the conversation with others about this issue doesn’t mean we don’t care about the poor anymore or that our policy goals have to change at all. It’s just an acknowledgment that if we want to win, we have to change the narrative to one that works for us, and for more of the public too.

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