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Bankole: Clinton lacking anti-poverty plan

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Hillary Clinton came to Michigan on Thursday to discuss her economic plan for the nation and to counter the speech her rival Donald Trump gave before the Detroit Economic Club four days earlier.

But she stopped short of laying out a full-scale plan to deal with grinding poverty affecting cities all across America. Her remarks in Warren, a stronghold for Reagan-Democratic voters, touched briefly on conditions in distressed communities like Detroit and Flint without a clear cut plan to reduce poverty.

All Clinton has talked about is saving the middle class. We get it. But beyond that are the millions of poor people who wake up every day without a job and three meals a day for their children.

In Detroit alone, about 60 percent of children live in abject poverty. And for a city that overwhelmingly votes 90 percent Democrat, it is only prudent that the Democratic nominee offer a prescription for curbing poverty.

As a nation, our leaders have not done enough to address poverty, and it is unacceptable for candidates running for the highest office in the land to ignore what is at the core of the crisis facing working families.

A Pew Research study in 2015 indicated that 38 percent of African-Americans live in poverty and 4.2 million black children are impoverished.

What these figures tell us is that more than 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in his 1964 State of the Union Address, we’ve seen nothing but mounting poverty in the country.

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2014 noted that millions of people — black and white — are suffering from poverty.

“Forty-seven million Americans live in poverty today. That’s 15 percent of our population, the highest in a generation. Millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet. We can do better,” Ryan said.

Though Ryan has not offered any kind of realistic solution to the crisis beyond using it as a talking point, the government’s responsibility in dealing with poverty requires a bipartisan approach in Congress.

And if Clinton wants to be the next president to deal with Congress on poverty, she should lay out an agenda that explains how she intends to reduce poverty, the No. 1 problem facing urban cities today. The need could not be more great at a time when she is relying on black voters to win in November.

We need an anti-poverty platform from the Democratic flagbearer. The millions of poor people Clinton expects to show up for her at the polls are deserving of a plan that will help them escape the tragedy of economic injustice.

Trump during his Detroit economic speech said the city’s current state is the result of failed policies supported by Clinton. While the Republican nominee did not explain what he meant, and his blanket comments could be strongly disputed and interpreted to mean different things, Clinton should explain how she would address poverty, which is at the heart of Detroit’s economic crisis.

Just as she has made promises and commitments on a wide range of issues like the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, vowing to push for a constitutional amendment to overturn it, Clinton needs to make some commitment now on pushing for a major anti-poverty legislation in Congress when she becomes president.

In his January 20, 1961 inaugural address President John F. Kennedy said: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Clinton should take heed.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM Wednesdays and Fridays. His column appears Mondays and Thursday.