If The Issue Of Poverty Matters To You At All, The Choice In This Election Is Not Even Close

Indivar Dutta-Gupta is a member of Hillary for America’s policy working group on poverty and social mobility. He is writing in that capacity.

Friday, in the New York Times, a reporter argued that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have neglected to talk about poverty as part of their campaigns.

Quite simply, this is belied by the facts. Hillary Clinton has focused on improving the lives of America’s most at-risk families her entire career, and during this campaign she has put forward a detailed and serious policy agenda to lift people and communities out of poverty. Donald Trump, has not.

I certainly applaud the reporter for highlighting the issue of poverty. It is a real problem in America today that is far different, and far more pervasive, than is commonly understood. In fact, researcher Mark Rank has found that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least 12 months below the official poverty line in their lifetimes. So the notion that America’s poor are a small and perennially destitute class that is dependent on the welfare system, is just not true.

This is not to minimize the issue of persistent poverty – but rather to say that in order to truly tackle poverty in America, we must address both its persistent and intermittent forms. Doing that requires a detailed policy agenda that addresses the underlying structural causes of poverty today and ensures a strong safety net for the future. That’s why, if the issue of poverty matters to you at all, the choice in this election is not even close.

Hillary Clinton has ambitious and detailed plans to tackle the structural drivers of poverty in America. That starts with creating jobs. Research has shown that the single most effective solution to poverty is job creation. In her first 100 days in office, Hillary has committed to making the largest investment in job creation since World War II. And she has detailed plans to ensure those jobs reach people sidelined by the labor market–including investing in job supports for young people and formerly incarcerated individuals, supporting small businesses in communities of color, and establishing an “Infrastructure for Opportunity Fund” to create economic opportunity in communities left out and left behind.

That last part is key. Plans that specifically focus on underserved communities, particularly communities of color, are a particularly effective lever for combatting poverty. These communities stand to benefit the most from Hillary’s commitment to full employment, as they often experience recession-like labor market outcomes even in strong overall job markets.

While jobs are key to making progress, Hillary also recognizes we have to tackle wage stagnation too. That’s why she’s proposing to raise the federal minimum wage, and finally eliminate the penalty for tipped workers who often are left to subsist on a starvation wage. After so many years of this status quo, workers need a raise.

And there are two other drivers of poverty that are often left out of the conversation: our broken criminal justice and immigration systems. Researchers Robert DeFinna and Lance Hannon have shown that over-incarceration has been a significant driver of poverty over the past several decades. There is now bi-partisan consensus to address this issue and cut mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes. Hillary has embraced these reforms, while Trump’s “tough on crime” message actually threatens the consensus that has formed. The same is true of immigration reform. Bringing workers out of the shadows and into the formal economy, will end the ability of employers to suppress their wages. That will lift wages across the economy, and in doing so, will lift many Americans out of poverty. The difference between these two candidates on immigration could not be more stark.

While we address the structural issues driving inequality and poverty, we also must ensure a strong safety net exists for the most vulnerable Americans.

From improving SNAP and other food and nutrition programs, boosting the Child Tax Creditenhancing Social Security, and expanding Medicaid ― Hillary’s agenda, if implemented, would significantly strengthen the safety net. And she knows that helping struggling families is an investment in our future. Her child care proposal would improve the quality of early care and education, while ensuring that no family pays more than 10 percent of their income on out-of-pocket costs.

An area that I agree hasn’t gotten enough attention in this election is affordable housing. Well, as it turns out, Hillary has chosen a running mate who has spent his life fighting to reduce discrimination in the housing market.  Just this morning, Senator Tim Kaine published an op-ed that laid out his and Hillary’s commitment to increase rental assistance for low-income families, and help them choose from a wider range of neighborhoods to live. Their housing plan will boost funding for public housing, and the corresponding broader economic development efforts that are needed for those programs to be effective.

Ultimately, all of my work has shown that the two keys to substantially reducing poverty are broadly shared economic prosperity and a robust system of social protection.

Over the course of this campaign, and over the duration of her entire career in public service, Hillary Clinton has focused on creating an economy that works for everyone, with a deep and obvious commitment to the most vulnerable people among us.

It’s a record that Donald Trump cannot even begin to approach.

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