Groups mobilize to keep poverty a priority
The group, The Mobilization to End Poverty, plans to bring thousands of religious and community activists to Washington later this month to urge President Obama to make the poor a priority and continue his goal of reducing domestic poverty by half in 10 years.
Both are reachable goals, said House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., who joined religious leaders to kick off the effort on Wednesday (April 1).
"This budget is a major shift in the right direction," Clyburn said. "We're trying to preserve the president's priorities, and in doing so, we have to get the people to understand we must all be active advocates for reducing poverty."
The loose knit group brings together a number of different groups, from the progressive Christian group Sojourners on the left to the evangelical relief group World Vision on the right.
Sojourners president, the Rev. Jim Wallis said he has seen the issue of poverty unify the faith community across the political spectrum and is encouraged by the efforts in the budget to prioritize "the needs of the lowest."
"We're all unified in that what happens to poor people is a matter of faith," Wallis said. "We're getting behind the effort to put poor people back into the agenda."
Bob Greenstein, executive director of the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said if the current recession follows the patterns of the past three, between 7.5 and 10.3 million more people could end up in poverty, especially if unemployment reaches 9%.
Greenstein praised the recent economic stimulus for increasing refundable tax credits for low-income families. He said putting more money into the pockets of low- and moderate-income families is vital to awakening the economy.
While combating poverty, the group might also help the "pro-life" movement rediscover that conservatives need to focus "not only protecting the child in the womb but the child fighting in the slums," said Dave Donaldson, president of the Christian relief agency Convoy of Hope.