We don't seem to get it. Changing the poverty rates in our country requires a different response. In the midst of dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina we have also learned that the nation's poverty rate increased to 12.7 percent. Unfortunately that reality was brought to us on every media outlet as we watched the tragedy in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We saw the effects of poverty up close and personal. People who didn't have one dollar to their name had two equally unsafe options for evacuation - a storm-damaged athletic facility and a convention center.
Poverty does not have to be a given. There are hundreds of reports and studies that document valid ways to lift people out of poverty. We know, for example, that we need to invest in education and technical training so the poor have a chance to find living-wage jobs; we know that we have to invest in early childhood education so the children of the poor receive the "head start" afforded those in other income groups; we know we must fix health care; and finally, we all know we have to make reducing poverty a national priority.
All of the above are common-sense investments for all of us. It is in our best interest as a nation to have more citizens who earn a decent livelihood and pay taxes; it is in our best interest to have fewer young people on the streets and in jobs; and finally, it is in our best interest not to waste the mind and potential of one American. If seven in 10 Americans say that poverty and homelessness should be an important legislative priority in 2005, I say "let's listen."