It is shocking that in the richest country in the world, nearly 1/3 of our people are poor or near-poor. Nearly 40% of Americans would struggle to meet an unexpected expense of $400, according to a report by the Federal Reserve.¹ The poverty level is $25,750 annual income for a family with two adults and two children.² The Census reports that over 41 million people were poor in 2018.³ That means more than one in eight Americans live below the poverty line. Poverty rates are higher for African Americans and Native Americans - over 20 percent compared to 8.7 percent for non-Hispanic whites.⁴ When you include the near-poor, the figures rise to over 93 million people (about 29% of all people) that have income below 200% of the poverty level.⁴
The good news is that programs designed to alleviate poverty are helping. As the anti-poverty organization Results reports,
• The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) lifted 8.9 million above the federal poverty line, most of them children.³
• SNAP lifted 3.2 million people above the poverty line.⁵
• Housing subsidies lifted 3.0 million people above the poverty line.⁵
• Social Security continues to be the largest anti-poverty program in the U.S., lifting 27.2 million people above the poverty line last year.⁵
We need to do more.
Marianne Williamson has a robust anti-poverty plan. She understands that we all do better when we all do better. We can redirect our wealth to create conditions for people to thrive. Elements of this plan include the following:
• Strengthen Democracy: Enfranchise voters, stop voter suppression, enact automatic voter registration, protect election security, and reform immigration. More voting power gives people more clout with government decision makers.
• Lift poverty wages: a $15 minimum wage would raise pay for 49 million workers by a combined $328 billion a year.
• Strengthen the safety net: Restore Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to previous funding levels. Provide paid family and medical leave. Provide a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 a month for every adult 18 and over.
• Restore Block Grants Return the current Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) back to its original form under the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA), which sent federal funding directly into communities via their local Community Action Agencies to eliminate poverty, expand educational opportunities, increase the social safety net for the poor and unemployed, and tend to the health and financial needs of the elderly.
• Make Education affordable: Offer free tuition to public college including community college and four-year colleges. Offer free trade school tuition to work in occupations such as a carpenter, plumber, bus mechanic or electrician. Those trade schools will coordinate with organized apprenticeship programs to give students real-world experience.
• Forgive all student debt: Students are too often burdened with school loans that hold them back from following their dreams. Forgiving all student debt will allow students to work in a career they love, launch a business, or buy a home.
• Rebuild our infrastructure – roads, bridges, public transportation - creating millions of good jobs.
• Offer Reparations. I would invest $500 billion in Reparations for slavery, to be applied for economic and educational renewal. Not only is this the right thing to do morally. It would create serious funds to uplift African American and Native American communities. See details here https://www.marianne2020.com/issues/the-reparations-plan
• Enact fair taxes on the wealthy, corporations and Wall Street, and reduce taxes on working people. Repeal the 2017 tax bonanza where 83 cents on every $1 cut went to the top 1%. Restore the estate tax to fortunes over $5 million. Add a tiny tax on Wall Street trades. Put a 2% tax on wealth over $50 million, and 3% on wealth over $1 billion.
• Increase Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits kept more than 27 million people out of poverty last year. Increasing benefits will help uplift more seniors. We can pay for it by Scrapping the Cap on the payroll tax, so those earning over $132,200 pay the same percentage as those earning less.
• Prove affordable health care for all. I will offer universal health care at affordable rates for everyone. Please see my upcoming health care plan.
• Reduce cost of prescription drugs by repealing the law that blocks the government from negotiating lower prices. If pharmaceuticals don’t lower prices, activate the “march-in rights” under the Bayh-Dole Act that allows government to license a patent to another party who charges less for medicine.
• Invest in clean energy and clean water, which will create jobs, address climate change, and address the needs of the poor and people of color who already feel the effects of climate change.
• Increase access to affordable child care. Train apprentices to expand the quantity and upgrade the quality of competent care providers.
• Shift away from military-first responses to peace and diplomacy, which will make us safer and make hundreds of billions of dollars available at home. Cut $350 billion from the military budget for fighting endless wars, maintaining 800 military bases worldwide, stoking arms races, and subsidizing for-profit corporate contractors. Our budget would still be bigger than China, Russia and Iran combined.
• Strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax credit to help ensure that someone working a full time job does not live in poverty.
• Offer UBI The Universal Basic Income would provide all adults with $1,000 per month income. This will create a floor of income stability for essentials such as food and housing.
1. Report on the Economic Well Being of U.S. Households in 2018, https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2018-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201905.pdf
3. Census Bureau, Table A-1: Number and Percentage of People in Poverty Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2017 and 2018.
4. Census Bureau, POV01: Age and Sex of All People, Family Members and Unrelated Individuals Iterated by Income-to-Poverty Ratio and Race: 2018.