Shelby: The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but there are still millions living in poverty. That is when a family doesn’t earn enough to provide for the basic necessities of life, like food and shelter. So, what is the best way to help the poor? Well, as Tom Hanson shows us, there is no easy solution.
Tom: Fifty years ago this week, back in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in the United States.
President Lyndon B. Johnson: …Today, here and now declares unconditional war on poverty in America. And I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.
Tom: Fast-forward to today and poverty rates are the highest they have been in years. In 2012, sixteen percent, almost 50 million people, were living in poverty – thirteen million of those kids.
Rhiannon: My dad, he got permanently laid off from his job.
Tom: Rhiannon, her five-year old brother, and her parents are homeless. Everyday they wonder where they will get their next meal and where they will sleep. After her father lost his job, they were kicked out of their home when they couldn’t pay their bills.
Rhiannon’s dad: It was rough. We spent a couple of weeks in a hotel down here, and then we spent a night out when it was, like, the coldest night in Texas this season. And we’ve been here ever since.
Tom: And even though the economy is improving, the divide between the rich and the poor is actually increasing. A 2011 study by the Association for Psychological Science shows that the small minority of wealthy Americans own more than 80% of America’s wealth, leaving less than a fifth for everyone else in the country.
While everyone agrees that poverty is a problem, they don’t agree on just how to fix it. President Obama plans to help some of the poorest areas of the country by giving them tax incentives and federal money. Now, he is referring to these areas as ‘promise zones,’ and he is starting with five – Los Angeles, San Antonio, Philadelphia, the southeastern region of Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.
Most Democrats think the best solution to the problem is increasing government programs that help the poor, like food stamps and unemployment benefits. And a Columbia University study shows that social programs have made an impact. Here is the current poverty rate. And here is what it would look like without social welfare, adding another 40 million. That is more than the entire population of California.
But Republicans say that although the government has spent $15 trillion, it is still losing the war on poverty.
Rep. Steve Southerland: Clearly, the big government ideas of the past need to be improved.
Tom: Republicans want lower taxes and to cut back on social welfare programs. They say that will put more money back into the economy, which leads to better jobs.
Senator Marco Rubio: For fifty years now, we have tried big government, and yet too many people remain trapped in despair. Now, we must try a new way.
Tom: Meaning the debate about how to win the war is far from over.
Tom Hanson, Channel One News.