Growing domestic poverty and inequality threaten America’s global standing

By Laura Rusu

WASHINGTON, DC – International relief and development organization Oxfam America released the results of a public opinion survey today that found sizable majorities of voters who believe we should be doing more to help the millions of Americans living at or near the poverty line. The growth in poverty, low-wage work, and inequality has negatively affected 100 million Americans and threatens the global standing of the United States.

The poll was conducted by the American Values Network and PrimeGroup on behalf of Oxfam America, and was released at an event at the National Press Club today as part of Oxfam’s Voices on US Poverty initiative, which seeks to spark a national conversation about poverty.

“America’s poverty rate is now at its highest level in two generations, and many Americans are in jobs that do not pay a living wage,” said Raymond C. Offenhesier, president of Oxfam America. “Although poverty may look different in sub-Saharan Africa from what it looks like in the US, poverty everywhere is about power, not scarcity. It is the result of imbalances in power that privilege some and marginalize others. The time to enact policies that help poor Americans lift themselves out of poverty is now, and a majority of voters agree.”

Participants at the Voices on US Poverty event at the National Press Club included Maj. Gen. George A. Buskirk (Ret.), Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK; Ai-Jen Poo, director of National Domestic Workers Alliance; and Sarah Burd-Sharps, co-director of the Measure of America project of the Social Science Research Council.  The event was moderated by Timothy Noah, author of The Great Divergence. Panelists advocated for new pro-poor policies and against federal budget cuts that will only make life more precarious for those in poverty.

“In the same way we need to reshape our military and put our troops first, we need to reshape our economic priorities to reward work over wealth and give struggling families the support they need,” said Maj. Gen. George A. Buskirk (Ret.) at the event. “We must adjust our federal budget to help restore the greatness of our values, our innovation, and our people.”

“We must begin to create the kinds of policies that growing numbers of working people need in order to be able to provide for their families,” said Ai-Jen Poo, director of National Domestic Workers Alliance at the event.  “It’s time for us to re-establish a basic floor of protections for working people, including domestic workers. And we need to make sure that the working poor have on-ramps to improving their lives: opportunities like workforce training and job development.”

Results from the public opinion survey include the following:

  • An overwhelming 84 percent of those surveyed said that addressing the problems of low-wage workers should be either a top priority or an important priority of government.
  • 61 percent said that they would vote for a candidate who said that government must help the working poor.
  • By more than two-to-one (60% vs. 26%), respondents said that government is much more likely to take actions that benefit the wealthy rather than the working poor; and
  • Two out of three Americans said that the minimum wage should be set at a level that a full-time worker can live on.

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