Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Latest Poverty Numbers a Wake-Up Call: We Must Continue to Support This President

Sep 14, 2012

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau released its latest income and poverty data for the year 2011. The major headline in most newspapers and media outlets was the notion that the national poverty rate remained virtually unchanged from the previous year. While millions of Americans continue to struggle to find work and provide for their families, it's important to take a moment to reflect on what has actually transpired under President Obama's watch, and keep things in perspective. Let's not forget that in the face of this intense opposition, he was still successful in passing health care reform, the Recovery Act, an extension of unemployment benefits and many more programs that prevented these poverty numbers from being far greater. For anyone who mistakenly thinks a Romney/Ryan ticket would somehow serve the middle-class and poor better in this country, let me give you a quick wake-up call. By now, most are aware of the magnitude and depth of the economic crisis that President Obama inherited in 2008. In addition to preventing the nation from falling off of a cliff, the President pushed forth a multitude of measures that haven't even been factored into these latest poverty stats. Non-cash government aid like food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and more aren't included in the equation when these figures are compiled. If these programs were added, millions more would have been lifted out of the poverty category, according to Census Bureau officials themselves. While we are quick to look at the 15 percent figure, we must be cognizant of the fact that it does not represent the full scope of the issue or even the correct numbers. And more importantly, as we near this upcoming presidential election, we must remember that things like the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps and other beneficial programs would all be eliminated or greatly diminished under a Romney/Ryan plan. If we care about the poor and we want to continue reducing poverty rates, do we really think something like the Ryan plan which calls for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. is the way to go? When we hear a number like 15 percent, anyone with a heart and anyone with compassion feels tremendous sorrow for those who are still hurting. But while we continue to work to create even more jobs and provide more resources, it's vital that we not forget what we stand to lose in this election. The Romney/Ryan (and Republican) mantra has been to push for smaller government and everyone pretty much fending for themselves. They want tax breaks for the wealthy, while getting rid of tax cuts for the middle and working class. The very policies that created an environment for our financial crisis are what these Republican candidates are advocating on the election stump. If Romney were elected as President, and Ryan the Vice President, we can bet that their interests would not be with the people, but rather with the wealthy 1% because they have openly told us so both by their actions and their words. It was President Obama and Democratic members of Congress who pushed for an extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks in 2009. Without this extension, millions more would have been added to the poverty rate of 2011. It was President Obama who fought tirelessly for the auto bailout and the Recovery Act, which saved or created millions of jobs. And it has been President Obama who never wavered in his advocacy for health care reform that so many Americans desperately need during these difficult days. It's important to remember that these measures and more were all done in the face of the most bipartisan Congress, and in the midst of GOP leaders that wanted to do nothing more than to see this President fail. Over the last few weeks, we observed both the Democratic and Republican conventions. It was easy to absorb the difference between the two parties' platforms and agendas for the future. One was dedicated to fighting for the middle-class and poor of this country, the other for millionaires and billionaires. As we fast approach the November elections, it's imperative that we understand what we stand to lose. And you don't need to take my word for it; just look at the details of the last four years. While there is much work that remains in improving this economy and further reducing these poverty numbers, there's no question in my mind that this President is the one who will continue fighting for us and not for the status quo. Romney and Ryan may give decent speeches and put on a good show, but facts don't lie, and history simply cannot be erased. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had once stated that his number one priority was to make Obama a one-term President. With millions of Americans suffering, this was his and his Party's focus. You can be sure that those still feeling the burden of difficult days, and those of us who care about the future of this nation, will remember McConnell's words and remember the inaction of his Party as we step into the voting booth this November.