Poverty's Annoying Persistence

By Janelle Tupper 9-25-2012

It’s annoying, isn’t it, how American political debate ignores the pressing issues and instead focuses on the trivial? I’m talking about pressing issues like the recently released poverty numbers – nearly 1 in 6 Americans lives in poverty, and the child poverty rate is even higher. That’s 46.2 million people living on less than $23,021 a year for a family of four.  

Those are sobering numbers. Here’s another: a new study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting shows that of the 10,489 news stories on the campaign this year, just 17 of them addressed poverty in a substantive way. That’s a whopping 0.16 percent of coverage devoted to issues of poverty.

We need to get poverty back on the public agenda. In the richest country in the world, numbers that high should be seen as a moral crisis.  

Thankfully, the faith community isn’t ignoring these numbers. Just last week both candidates responded to a request from the Circle of Protection to share publicly their plan to address poverty. That’s a real change. Candidates listen when we unite around an issue.

A new film from Sojourners, The Line shares the stories of real people in the United States struggling with poverty and their creative, inspiring efforts to overcome the challenges they face.

The Half in Ten project and the Every Child Matters education fund are teaming up to encourage everyday poverty activists to use social media like Twitter to push the conversation in the upcoming presidential debates. By tweeting at the moderators using the hashtag #TalkPoverty, this coalition is hoping to mount the pressure for a substantive, public discussion of poverty. 

So get involved. Visit the Half in Ten website and learn about their Twitter strategy. Talk to people in your community about your local poverty data. Watch the Circle of Protection videos. Host a screening of The Line in your community. Together, we can push the public debate towards the issues that really matter. 

Janelle Tupper is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.

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