Saturday, February 23, 2008

Link to read the actual Global Poverty Act

Look what I found! The Global Poverty Act itself. If you would like to look at it for yourself, take a gander at this link.

I just read it and, as promised, it has no mention of any specific amount of money to be put into a Presidential plan for development assistance, despite what Limbaugh and Kincaid might be saying. Here are the meaty parts of it:

It is the policy of the United States to promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.

(a) Strategy- The President, acting through the Secretary of State, and in consultation with the heads of other appropriate departments and agencies of the United States Government, international organizations, international financial institutions, the governments of developing and developed countries, United States and international nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, and other appropriate entities, shall develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.
(b) Content- The strategy required by subsection (a) shall include specific and measurable goals, efforts to be undertaken, benchmarks, and timetables to achieve the objectives described in subsection (a).
(c) Components- The strategy required by subsection (a) should include the following components:
(1) Continued investment or involvement in existing United States initiatives related to international poverty reduction, such as the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (22 U.S.C. 7601 et seq.), the Millennium Challenge Act of 2003 (22 U.S.C. 7701 et seq.), and trade preference programs for developing countries, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (19 U.S.C. 3701 et seq.).
(2) Improving the effectiveness of development assistance and making available additional overall United States assistance levels as appropriate.
(3) Enhancing and expanding debt relief as appropriate.
(4) Leveraging United States trade policy where possible to enhance economic development prospects for developing countries.
(5) Coordinating efforts and working in cooperation with developed and developing countries, international organizations, and international financial institutions.
(6) Mobilizing and leveraging the participation of businesses, United States and international nongovernmental organizations, civil society, and public-private partnerships.
(7) Coordinating the goal of poverty reduction with other development goals, such as combating the spread of preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, increasing access to potable water and basic sanitation, reducing hunger and malnutrition, and improving access to and quality of education at all levels regardless of gender.
(8) Integrating principles of sustainable development and entrepreneurship into policies and programs.
(d) Reports-
(A) IN GENERAL- Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President, acting through the Secretary of State, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the strategy required under subsection (a).
(B) CONTENT- The report required under subparagraph (A) shall include the following elements:
(i) A description of the strategy required under subsection (a).
(ii) An evaluation, to the extent possible, both proportionate and absolute, of the contributions provided by the United States and other national and international actors in achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.
(iii) An assessment of the overall progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.
(2) SUBSEQUENT REPORTS- Not later than December 31, 2012, and December 31, 2015, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees reports on the status of the implementation of the strategy, progress made in achieving the global poverty reduction objectives described in subsection (a), and any changes to the strategy since the date of the submission of the last report."

Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, but we're not there yet!

On the February 14, Rush Limbaugh read part of an inaccurate blog post by Cliff Kincaid on Accuracy in Media where Kincaid falsely stated that the Global Poverty Act, sponsored by Obama, "would commit the U.S. to spending 0.7 percent of gross national product on foreign aid, which amounts to a phenomenal 13-year total of $845 billion over and above what the U.S. already spends."

Wow, Rush! Thank you! If I had any criticism of the Global Poverty Act (which I don't really), it would be that the Act actually doesn't say that. I WISH it said that and was getting passed quickly. 0.7% of national growth is what I write about and dream about our country stepping up to provide for poverty-focused development aid. But beyond my own dreams, it is actually what our country already committed to providing when the United States signed on to the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. It's not the just audacity of hope that leads Obama and 9 other bi-partisan senators to co-sponsor this's the audacity to live up to commitments we, as a nation, have already made to the world. The actual Global Poverty Act would put the MDGs into US Foreign Policy and require that the president come up with a strategic plan to support the MDGs and report to Congress about it. No funding, no appropriations. It would require us to coordinate our existing departments to provide better foreign assistance and spend less of Rush Limbaugh's, Cliff Kincaid's, yours and my tax dollars on inefficient practices.

I hope someday we actually get to have the debate Rush was fearing, but we're not there yet...not yet!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Global Poverty Act Misrepresented by Right Wing Media

I feel the need to give space to some ridiculous rumors about the Global Poverty Act that are circulating in blog-land. Someone even brought this subject up as a comment here, but since "anonymous" referred to the legislation by the wrong name and gave no specifics, I didn't know what they were talking about at the time.

So there's this blogger-dude Cliff Kincaid that took it upon himself to write a post on Valentine's Day for a site called "Accuracy in Media." His post was, shall we say...inaccurate at best. I'm not even gonna get into the main accusations he made about Obama being a socialist (which he's not). This is the Anti-Poverty Blog, so let's focus on the anti-poverty parts. He said:

" an Obama bill, "The Global Poverty Act," has just been rushed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with the assistance of Democratic Senator Joe Biden, the chairman, and Republican Senator Richard Lugar. The legislation (S.2433) commits the U.S. to spending hundreds of billions of dollars more in foreign aid on the rest of the world, in order to comply with the "Millennium Goals" established by the United Nations. Conservative members of the committee were largely caught off-guard by the move to pass the Obama bill but are putting a "hold" on it, in order to try to prevent the legislation, which also quickly passed the House, from being quickly brought up for a full Senate vote. But observers think that Senate Democrats may try to pass it quickly anyway, in order to give Obama a precious legislative "victory" that he could run on. "

WHAT?!?! Has Kincaid ever heard of This is not what S.2433 is about.

The Global Poverty Act has no funding provisions in it. It neither authorizes nor obligates the federal government to spending new money. It is a vehicle for us to make it US law to promote (not pay for) 3 things: reduction of poverty, elimination of extreme poverty and the achievement of the MDG's. Through it's requirements for the President to develop strategies for this and report back to congress, it commits our government to efficiency, consistency, and coherence in our efforts to reduce global poverty. Please see my post for Thurs, Jan 31st, 2008 for more detail or better yet, do what Kincaid failed to do and look it up "S.2433" on

Now, "Obama bill"? Hardly. I am proud as an IL resident that he introduced it and is an original co-sponsor, but nine other senators are co-sponsoring it. It has support from both Republicans and Democrats; the legislation was shepherded through the House last year by Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus from Alabama.

It's one thing to take a swipe at a presidential candidate with "swiftboating" type lies and emails. It's quite another to misrepresent a piece of easily checked, poverty fighting legislation that has 10 bi-partisan co-sponsors just because one of them happens to look like he's winning an election. If Kincaid's assertions about the Global Poverty Act are this wildly off and off-putting, how accurate do we think his assertions about Obama are?

I am in the New York Times! (online)

Yahoo! It ran on the website! Now, the printed version did not run it, but the 2 well-written letters in the paper are right beside mine on the web. I feel there is no shame in having to cede print space to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi! In fact, it may well be _because_ she wrote that the NY Times chose to run responses to this particular op-ed. Despite how she behaved on the Farm Bill, I am still honored to share space with her on this issue. Here are the 5 letters that ran on the web, including mine...

To the Editor:

“Poverty Is Poison,” by Paul Krugman (column, Feb. 18), echoes what members of Congress heard at a national summit meeting about child development that Democrats convened last year. Children who grow up in poverty have a much lower chance of success in school and in life, but investments in early childhood development help to even the odds, offering hope and opportunity where little existed before.

The despair that poverty brings to millions of American children compels us to take a serious and sustained national approach. Last year’s bipartisan revamping of the Head Start program to focus on early intervention was huge progress; now we need to do the hard work of making sure this important initiative is financed.

Other solutions can be found in our tax policy — we can reward parents struggling to lift their families out of poverty.

Democrats insisted that the recent economic stimulus package include rebate checks for 35 million families who work but earn too little to pay federal income tax, and we included additional benefits for families with children. The approach of these recovery rebates is similar to that of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is widely recognized as one of America’s most effective anti-poverty policies.

Poverty is indeed poison — to the children who fall prey to it, and to the future strength of our nation. With a singularity of purpose, America can develop an antidote.

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
Washington, Feb. 20, 2008

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman is right that the “War on Poverty” 44 years ago had a positive effect by reducing poverty, particularly among children. That this effort to improve the lives of millions of Americans was derailed by reactionary politics couldn’t be more true.

In the late 1960s, I was responsible for coordinating federal antipoverty programs for the six states of the Northeast at the United States Office of Economic Opportunity. I saw firsthand the positive effects of programs like Head Start, the Job Corps and the Neighborhood Youth Corps — designed to help children and teenagers.

I also witnessed the cynical, systematic attacks on these programs by Richard M. Nixon and his point man, Spiro T. Agnew. The phony rhetoric they used to stigmatize the programs was passed along by the media. Thus, “economic opportunity” programs became “minority” and then “welfare dependency” ones. The reality was that two-thirds of the poor being served were white.

Nixon severely weakened the national initiatives, and then Ronald Reagan abolished the coordinated federal effort altogether in 1981. (At the time I was chairman of the president’s National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity.) The consequence: four million Americans were driven into poverty, most of whom were women and children.

Poverty is poison, and politics can be toxic.

Arthur I. Blaustein
Berkeley, Calif., Feb. 18, 2008

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman helps shatter the myth that there is nothing we can do about poverty. Too many people think that the state of poverty in America is inevitable, never questioning what we can do to change it nor looking at the inspiring progress of other industrialized nations.

I believe that it is possible not only to end poverty in the United States, but also to end extreme poverty around the globe within our lifetime. Our country can help make this happen by passing the Global Poverty Act and holding ourselves accountable for our part in achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.


To the Editor:

Having worked in Newark for over a decade, I am bewildered that people could believe that poor Americans are not that poor.

Poverty anywhere is not a fixed notion but a relationship between the resources available to the general public and the resources available to the poor. From health care and nutrition to transportation and access to good schools, poor children and their families struggle every minute of every day. Those who do climb out of poverty have done so with immense and uncommon personal effort. Not everyone is so gifted.

John Edwards did indeed set the stage for Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to follow on this matter.

Jo Ann Joseph
Glen Ridge, N.J., Feb. 18, 2008

To the Editor:

In a new study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, cognitive neuroscientists found that while stories were being read to children of poverty, they were “less able to screen out noises embedded in the stories” than were children from more affluent families. Such evidence suggests that cognitive skills are strongly influenced by environment.

Since distractions of all kinds, including those that stem from difficult home environments and antisocial street behaviors, are a constant in the lives or many poor children, it is no wonder that their reading test scores suffer. Nor is it then surprising that as a consequence, dropouts and suspensions are disproportionate among minority children, especially black boys.

Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, now all but forgotten, needs to be revived by our next president.

Jerrold Ross
Jamaica, Queens, Feb. 18, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Getting Closer: Could I be in the NY TImes soon?

I got an email that the NY Times is considering a letter of mine today! It might be published in the paper, on the web, both, or neither. My letter to the editor was in response to the "Poverty is Poison" op-ed that ran this week (see earlier post to read about that) and here is my response that may run. Whee!

To the Editor:
Paul Krugman helps shatter the myth that there is nothing we can do about poverty. Too many people think that the state of poverty in America is inevitable, never questioning what we can do to change it nor looking at the inspiring progress of other industrialized nations.
I believe that it is possible not only to end poverty in the United States, but also to end extreme poverty around the globe within our lifetime. Our country can help make this happen by passing the Global Poverty Act and holding ourselves accountable for our part in achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Global Poverty Act: Is your senator a co-sponsor?

The Global Poverty Act has passed through the Senate Foreign Relations committee and will move to the Senate floor soon.

This is the legislation that would make the eradication of extreme poverty an objective of US foreign policy. It would be the first time the Millennium Development Goals appeared in US law. It would require a coordinated effort of government agencies (including Treasury, Commerce, Ag Dept, etc) to make sure the efforts to alleviate poverty are not undercutting each others programs. In the push for "more and better" poverty-focused development aid, this act is the "better" part of that equation.

Here is a list of the 10 senators who are co-sponsoring the GPA. Obama is listed as "sponsor" and introduced it into the Senate with a couple of others...

Sen. Barack Obama [D-IL]
Sen. Joseph Biden [D-DE]
Sen. Maria Cantwell [D-WA]
Sen. Christopher Dodd [D-CT]
Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL]
Sen. Russell Feingold [D-WI]
Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D-CA]
Sen. Charles Hagel [R-NE]
Sen. Richard Lugar [R-IN]
Sen. Robert Menéndez [D-NJ]

If your senators are among them, a thank you note would be appropriate if you are so inclined. If they are would be a good time to write them a hand-written personal letter making sure they are aware of this legislation soon to be voted upon and that you care about it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bread for the World Credo: Charity alone is not enough

Why do I advocate? Why do I do what I do? Why am I a member of Bread for the World? This passage doesn't tell my whole story, but it hits pretty dang close to home for me. Especially the part about "charity alone is not enough." If this rings true for you...and I am not necessarily referring to the biblical references...please consider becoming engaged in the effort to feed hungry people and end extreme poverty in our time. (christian advocacy resource) (secular advocacy resource)

Bread for the World Credo

We are moved by God's grace in Jesus Christ
To work for justice for hungry people.
They may be in the next house. Or in the next country.
No matter where they live, they are our neighbors.
And we have the power to help.

Charity alone is not enough,
We must urge our government to make fair decisions
So struggling families can provide for their children.

We must write personal letters and emails to Congress
And engage our churches, campuses and other organizations.
We must change laws and structures that allow poverty to persist.

When we turn our faith into action, God uses our voices.
Again and again, we win help and opportunity.
Two fish become many.
Five loaves become enough to feed a multitude.

God is moving in our time
To end hunger,
And we are part of this great liberation.

It is our mission to help our neighbors. Wherever they live.
They are hungry.
And we are Bread for the World.

Monday, February 18, 2008

NY Times Op-ed: "Poverty is Poison"

Today's NY TImes ran an op-ed called "Poverty is Poison" by Paul Krugman. It highlights domestic childhood poverty by citing some recent studies and giving an overview of the history of childhood poverty in our nation. This one deserves some nice LTE's to let them know we want to read more like it.

Here are some quotes:
"Living in or near poverty has always been a form of exile, of being cut off from the larger society. But the distance between the poor and the rest of us is much greater than it was 40 years ago, because most American incomes have risen in real terms while the official poverty line has not. To be poor in America today, even more than in the past, is to be an outcast in your own country. And that, the neuroscientists tell us, is what poisons a child’s brain."

"Poverty rates are much lower in most European countries than in the United States, mainly because of government programs that help the poor and unlucky. And governments that set their minds to it can reduce poverty. In Britain, the Labor government that came into office in 1997 made reducing poverty a priority — and despite some setbacks, its program of income subsidies and other aid has achieved a great deal. Child poverty, in particular, has been cut in half by the measure that corresponds most closely to the U.S. definition."

Thank you to my online friend, Birdalone, for forwarding a great piece!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Anyone interested in an online book discussion here?

Here are my questions for you, dear readers...(and I know you're out there now as I've recently installed the counters to prove it!)

Would any of you be interested in doing an on-line book discussion? If so, do you know of a poverty-related book that interests you?

I was on someone's blog the other day and noticed that she was going to do a blogged book group. She encouraged everyone to get a copy of a certain book and planned to periodically blog about a section and invite people to comment. It requires no specific time for a group to meet in person, can be done from anywhere in the country. It wouldn't be face-to-face interactive, but would allow people to participate who can't normally schedule in a traditional book group.

Anyway, please let me know if you'd be interested! Thank you very much to you who have been reading this blog. I especially appreciate your comments you've made here and as I see some of you in-person. My goal for this outlet is to increase awareness and dialogue about poverty issues. When you write/talk to me about it, I know that goal is being fulfilled! Thank you! -ccyl

Grace at the Table Book Discussion

Today, I led our second week of discussion about "Grace at the Table." This book is an overview of poverty (US and global) written by Art Simon and David Beckmann, both leaders of Bread for the World (a Christian based advocacy group). It's a pretty short book written in a question and answer style that makes it really accessible. In fact, it comes with a ready-made study guide. Our group has been small but very dynamic.

A few of the questions we have discussed include:
"How do we perceive poor people? What are the negative stereo-types associated with poverty and how does public policy reflect this?"
"Why do some programs fail? Can we address multiple causes/symptoms of poverty at once to increase the chance of success? On a global or national level, how does that answer change?"
"How is poverty being addressed (or not) in the current presidential campaign?"
...and always, the questions come around to "What can we do?"

Our discussion is sometimes only loosely related to the actual questions in the book, but it is the book's statistics and key points which give us the jumping off point for our conversation. The participants have had wonderful insights and I'm benefitting immensely from the experience. If you happen to go to my church, please join us next Sunday! If you don't, please consider to using this very easy, very insightful book to start your own book discussion!