Advocates wanted President Obama to say a word about poverty in his State of the Union address. And he did — four times. Obama also talked about raising the minimum wage, making preschool universally available and “rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods.” But he didn’t say the magic words they wanted to hear. Obama did not call for a new National Commission on Children to combat child poverty in the United States.
First Focus president Bruce Lesley told me via e-mail, “It was encouraging to hear the president focus several times on creating opportunity for every child, but America needs – and voters want – a comprehensive plan to cut child poverty in half within 10 years.”
“The president made a strong case for universal early education in America, along with raising the minimum wage,” said Irwin Redlener, president and co-founder of Children’s Health Fund. “But his commitment to eliminate extreme poverty and save children from preventable deaths was focused on children of the world. All of this is, of course, laudable. But we hoped to hear a commitment to eliminate child poverty in America, where more than 16 million children are facing grim challenges right now that undermine their futures – and the future economy of the nation.”
Mark Shriver of Save the Children had this to say: “Tonight, the President called for new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, with investments in early education and livable wages. But we need more rungs on the ladder if we are to help children and families truly escape the pockets of poverty that pervade this country.”
As I noted yesterday, these advocates have the money to set up a commission on their own. They should consider moving ahead without Obama’s rhetorical sign-off. With or without it, their work is vital to the plans the president laid out and for their overall goal of taking concrete action to lift children and their families out of poverty.
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