Oxfam America launches "Voices on US Poverty" to ignite national conversation

By Mary Babic

WASHINGTON, DC – International relief and development organization Oxfam America today launched a new project, Voices on US Poverty, that shines a light on the shocking reality that over one third of Americans live in or near poverty. The project begins with a series of thought-provoking essays, which will appear in US media outlets and online over the next few weeks, with the goal of igniting a national conversation about poverty. The series kicks off today in Politico.com, with an op ed by Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

Over two dozen voices – economists, faith leaders, journalists, advocates, and former military leaders – open a national conversation with bold perspectives on how Americans must work together to come up with new solutions to the huge and growing problems of poverty and low-wage work. Americans are urged to join the conversation, and share their stories and ideas through oxfamamerica.org/voices and social media.

“More than 100 million Americans live in or near poverty, struggling every day to make ends meet,” said Offenheiser. “America has long presented itself to the world as the model of successful, inclusive growth that lifts millions into the middle class. While that was true during the decades after World War II, it is simply no longer the case.”

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. Fifty million Americans live on incomes below the federal poverty level ($11,722 for an individual and $23,497 for a family of four) and another 50 million are in near poverty, with incomes less than twice the poverty threshold. Most of these people work, earning wages of less than $14 an hour. Children bear a huge burden, with 44 percent of them in or near poverty.

“As a global anti-poverty organization, we believe poverty is about power, not scarcity,” continued Offenheiser. “It’s time to tackle this injustice head on. We need a robust national conversation about how we can right this wrong.”

Voices on US Poverty seeks to bring issues of economic and social justice into the national debate about the future of the country. Oxfam America will post all the essays on the website (oxfamamerica.org/voices), publish them in a booklet, and host an event in Washington, DC, in May.

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