There are many challenges we face as a country, but one that is a major threat to both our economy and our democracy is growing income inequality. The gap between the very wealthy and everyone else has grown dramatically over the last 30 years and income disparity is the worst it has been since 1928. Research has shown that it is harder to climb up the income ladder in the U.S. than in many parts of Europe. With the middle-class shrinking and families falling into poverty, too many feel that the American Dream is slipping away.
The American tradition has always been that anyone who works hard can succeed, yet too many hard-working Americans are locked into poverty because they lack the opportunities with which to build a successful future. It is a national disgrace that more than 1 in 5 children live in poverty – that they lack the basic housing, nutrition and educational opportunities with which to reach the middle-class or beyond.
Along with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus and the Majority Leader's Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, I am working to solve this crisis and restore the American Dream We need to create good jobs with living wages and benefits – no American who works should be paid poverty wages. We need to expand the social safety net – providing nutrition, health care and affordable housing. We need to make sure that we provide educational opportunities (link to education page) from early childhood through higher education (including vocational school and community colleges) and job training to help individuals succeed. And we need to make sure that critical efforts – from LIHEAP to housing – are adequately funded.
As co-chair of the House Democratic Task Force on Aging and Families, I am also concerned about poverty among older Americans. Without Social Security, 14 million seniors would be living below the poverty line. Without Medicare and Medicaid's long-term care services, many would face medical bankruptcy. That is why I oppose benefit cuts that would jeopardize their economic well-being. It is also why I am a strong supporter of expanding Older American Act initiatives – from nutrition to housing – to help low-income seniors.
We can afford to fund these initiatives by asking those who can afford to pay more – the top 2% -- to do so and by implementing fair tax policies. What we cannot afford is poverty that saps our communities and prevents individuals from being productive contributors to our nation's economy.
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