Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

Though on MyDD it seems to have been lost in the debate over whether he uses the "D" word enough in his emails, yesterday Senator Obama gave a speech in Washington, D.C., in which he outlined a $6 billion agenda to fight the problem of urban poverty in America. The plan is quite bold and comprehensive, and as is often the case with detailed policy proposals, has been difficult for reporters to digest and analyze beyond dollar figures and catch phrases. However, it offers a new perspective on tackling urban poverty in America, and is very much consistent with the Family-based Progressivism attributed to Obama and Policy Director Karen Kornbluh. Since nobody's actually taken it on in a diary or post, I thought I'd take a stab at breaking down the specific proposals offered within the speech, and the rhetoric used to introduce and support those proposals.

If you don't have time to read the extended entry, here are the highlights from the plan:


1. A massive initiative in the 20 largest cities in America to implement programs aimed at children. Such a program would be modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone:
If you're a child who's born in the Harlem Children's Zone, you start life differently than other inner-city children. Your parents probably went to what they call " Baby College", a place where they received counseling on how to care for newborns and what to expect in those first months. You start school right away, because there's early childhood education. When your parents are at work, you have a safe place to play and learn, because there's child care, and after school programs, even in the summer. There are innovative charter schools to attend. There's free medical services that offer care when you're sick and preventive services to stay healthy. There's affordable, good food available so you're not malnourished. There are job counselors and financial counselors. There's technology training and crime prevention.

2. Expand assistance programs to low-income parents

I'll pass the plan I outlined last year that will provide more financial support to fathers who make the responsible choice to help raise their children and crack down on the fathers who don't. And we'll help new mothers with their new responsibilities by expanding a pioneering program known as the Nurse-Family Partnership that offers home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income mothers and mothers-to-be.

This program has been proven to reduce childhood injuries, unintended pregnancies, and the use of welfare and food stamps. It's increased father involvement, women's employment, and children's school readiness. It's produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. It works, and I'll expand the program to 570,000 first-time mothers each year.

3. Help people find work, and make work pay

I will invest $1 billion over five years in innovative transitional jobs programs that have been highly successful at placing the unemployed into temporary jobs and then training them for permanent ones.

To make work pay, I will also triple the Earned Income Tax Credit for full-time workers making the minimum wage. This is one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in history and lifts nearly 5 million Americans out of poverty every year. I was able to expand this program when I was a state Senator in Illinois, and as President I'll do it again.

4. Bring businesses back to the inner cities

A long time ago, this country created a World Bank that has helped spur economic development in some of the world's poorest regions. I think it's about time we had something like that right here in America. Less than one percent of the $250 billion in venture capital that's invested each year goes to minority businesses that are trying to breathe life into our cities. This has to change.
When I'm President, I'll make sure that every community has the access to the capital and resources it needs to create a stronger business climate by providing more loans to small businesses and setting up the financial institutions that can help get them started. I'll also create a national network of business incubators, which are local services that help first-time business owners design their business plans, find the best location, and receive expert advice on how to run their businesses whenever they need it. And I will take steps to help close the digital divide and increase internet access for cities so that urban America is just as connected as the rest of America.

5. Give more Americans access to safe, affordable housing

As President, I'll create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that would add as many as 112,000 new affordable units in mixed income neighborhoods. We'll also do more to protect homeowners from mortgage fraud and subprime lending by passing my plan to provide counseling to tenants, homeowners, and other consumers so they get the advice and guidance they need before buying a house and support if they get in to trouble down the road. And we will crack down on mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud by increasing enforcement and creating new criminal penalties.

6. Appoint a new Director of Urban Policy to oversee and report directly on the progress of such efforts

Before getting into the details of his plan, Obama sought to define American poverty in moral terms, borrowing on a question asked 40 years ago by Robert Kennedy:

It's been four decades since Bobby Kennedy crouched in a shack along the Mississippi Delta and looked into the wide, listless eyes of a hungry child. Again and again he tried to talk to this child, but each time his efforts were met with only a blank stare of desperation. And when Kennedy turned to the reporters traveling with him, with tears in his eyes he asked a single question about poverty in America:

"How can a country like this allow it?"

Forty years later, we're still asking that question. It echoes on the streets of Compton and Detroit, and throughout the mining towns of West Virginia. It lingers with every image we see of the 9th Ward and the rural Gulf Coast, where poverty thrived long before Katrina came ashore...

Obama returned to the question posed by Kennedy to introduce the moral thesis of his address:

How can a country like this allow it?

No matter how many times it's asked or what the circumstances are, the most American answer I can think of to that question is two words:

"We can't."

We can't allow this kind of suffering and hopelessness to exist in our country. We can't afford to lose a generation of tomorrow's doctors and scientists and teachers to poverty. We can make excuses for it or we can fight about it or we can ignore poverty altogether, but as long as it's here it will always be a betrayal of the ideals we hold as Americans. It's not who we are.

Drawing on the campaign of Robert Kennedy seems to be the popular thing to do these days. A cynical man might point out that Obama's speech was given on the same day former Senator Edwards was wrapping up  a poverty tour meant to draw parallels with the Kennedy campaign of 1968. However, it should be noted that if poverty has become the cause of Edwards' life, that certainly has always been the case for Obama as well, as he mentions in his speech by hearkening back to his days as an organizer:

This kind of poverty is not an issue I just discovered for the purposes of a campaign, it is the cause that led me to a life of public service almost twenty-five years ago.

I was just two years out of college when I first moved to the South Side of Chicago to become a community organizer. I was hired by a group of churches that were trying to deal with steel plant closures that had devastated the surrounding neighborhoods. Everywhere you looked, businesses were boarded up and schools were crumbling and teenagers were standing aimlessly on street corners, without jobs and without hope.

The first sentence of that quote could possibly be interpreted as a "subtle jab" at the Edwards campaign, though Jonathon Prince and Joe Trippi did not seem to see it that way.

In any case, Obama used this part of the speech to draw on his personal experience with the issue. Such experience is invaluable, and was obviously designed to lend credibility to the proposals made later in the speech:

What's most overwhelming about urban poverty is that it's so difficult to escape - it's isolating and it's everywhere. If you are an African-American child unlucky enough to be born into one of these neighborhoods, you are most likely to start life hungry or malnourished. You are less likely to start with a father in your household, and if he is there, there's a fifty-fifty chance that he never finished high school and the same chance he doesn't have a job. Your school isn't likely to have the right books or the best teachers. You're more likely to encounter gang-activities than after-school activities. And if you can't find a job because the most successful businessman in your neighborhood is a drug dealer, you're more likely to join that gang yourself. Opportunity is scarce, role models are few, and there is little contact with the normalcy of life outside those streets.

What you learn when you spend your time in these neighborhoods trying to solve these problems is that there are no easy solutions and no perfect arguments. And you come to understand that for the last four decades, both ends of the political spectrum have been talking past one another.

With his description of the litany and complexity of problems facing the urban poor, and his acknowledgment that there are no "easy solutions" or "perfect arguments," Obama is clearly setting himself up for major proposals and sweeping reform. Before doing so, however, he drew on the lessons learned from the war on poverty. In doing so, did something that often frustrates many here: he acknowledged the past failures in policy from liberals and conservatives:

It's true that there were many effective programs that emerged from Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. But there were also some ineffective programs that were defended anyway, as well as an inability of some on the left to acknowledge that the problems of absent fathers or persistent crime were indeed problems that needed to be addressed.

The right has often seized on these failings as proof that the government can't and shouldn't do a thing about poverty - that it is a result of individual moral failings and cultural pathologies and so we should just sit back and let these cities fend for themselves. And so Ronald Reagan launched his assault on welfare queens, and George Bush spent the last six years slashing programs to combat poverty, and job training, and substance abuse, and child abuse.

Well we know that's not the answer. When you're in these neighborhoods, you can see what a difference it makes to have a government that cares. You can see what a free lunch program does for a hungry child. You can see what a little extra money from an earned income tax credit does for a family that's struggling. You can see what prenatal care does for the health of a mother and a newborn. So don't tell me there's no role for government in lifting up our cities.

In referring to the failures of programs of the War on Poverty, Obama is likely talking about the job training and education programs that failed to have a substantial impact on employment possibilities for the populations they servhttp://www.mydd.com/submit/Diary
MyDD :: Direct Democracy for People-Powered Politicsed, as well as the inefficiencies associated with the welfare programs which were improved, albeit only slightly and certainly inadequately, by the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion and welfare reform of the 1990s. The successes of the War on Poverty he refers to should be obvious: Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, and Legal Aid were all programs born out of the Johnson-era social policy reforms. It is important to be honest about the successes and failures of past measures if we are to improve upon the work that has gone on in the past 40 years.

However, Obama notably saved his sharpest criticism for Ronald Reagan, the Republicans, and the Charles Murray school of social policy disastrously advocated by Republicans since the rise of Reagan. He again draws on his personal experiences in combating urban poverty to discredit such a laissez faire attitude toward to the nation's poor, and also brings up popular and unassailable (except maybe to the most radical of right-wing ideologues) government programs to provide an example of how the war on poverty has helped American families and, importantly, children. By acknowledging past failures of the left along with his attacks on the right, Obama is introducing the Dr. King philosophy of "both-and" that has become a central theme of his campaign:

So there are no easy answers and perfect arguments. As Dr. King said, it is not either-or, it is both-and. Hope is not found in any single ideology - an insistence on doing the same thing with the same result year after year.

From there, Obama moved on to describe some of the work he did in Chicago using the "both-and" approach, and tout recent examples of innovative urban poverty programs that have found success.

Obama Urban Poverty Plan Area 1: Children's Services

If you're a child who's born in the Harlem Children's Zone, you start life differently than other inner-city children. Your parents probably went to what they call " Baby College", a place where they received counseling on how to care for newborns and what to expect in those first months. You start school right away, because there's early childhood education. When your parents are at work, you have a safe place to play and learn, because there's child care, and after school programs, even in the summer. There are innovative charter schools to attend. There's free medical services that offer care when you're sick and preventive services to stay healthy. There's affordable, good food available so you're not malnourished. There are job counselors and financial counselors. There's technology training and crime prevention.

You don't just sign up for this program, you're actively recruited for it, because the idea is that if everyone is involved, and no one slips through the cracks, then you really can change an entire community. Geoffrey Canada, the program's inspirational, innovative founder, put it best - instead of helping some kids beat the odds, the Harlem Children's Zone is actually changing the odds altogether.

Obama argued that such a program should be replicated on a national scale in order to serve the children of America living in poverty. This represents the first point of his urban poverty plan:

It's time to change the odds for neighborhoods all across America. And that's why when I'm President, the first part of my plan to combat urban poverty will be to replicate the Harlem Children's Zone in twenty cities across the country. We'll train staff, we'll have them draw up detailed plans with attainable goals, and the federal government will provide half of the funding for each city, with the rest coming from philanthropies and businesses.

Now, how much will this cost? I'll be honest - it can't be done on the cheap. It will cost a few billion dollars a year. We won't just spend the money because we can - every step these cities take will be evaluated, and if certain plans or programs aren't working, we will stop them and try something else

But we will find the money to do this because we can't afford not to. Dr. King once remarked that if we can find the money to put a man on the moon, then we can find the money to put a man on his own two feet. There's no reason we should be spending tens of thousands of dollars a year to imprison one of these kids when they turn eighteen when we could be spending $3,500 to turn their lives around with this program. And to really put it in perspective, think of it this way. The Harlem Children's Zone is saving a generation of children for $46 million a year. That's about what the war in Iraq costs American taxpayers every four hours.

Such a program would be a massive undertaking. Senator Obama is talking about increasing funding and introducing new programs in prenatal care, early childhood education (preschool), child care, after school activities, K-12 education, medical services, nutrition, employment, and policing. This is an extremely ambitious plan, and it's quite surprising that it has gone relatively unnoticed on the progressive blogosphere.

It is also important to note the way Obama offers stark choices to quell the kinds of attacks such a sweeping plan is sure to incite from right-wing commentators. Obama points out that spending $3,500 when a child is young will in the long run save thousands of dollars a year if that same child can be saved from doing time in prison. He also points out that the Harlem program costs in a year what the Iraq War costs in a day. This is a brilliant way of framing the issue, and has been a common point of reference for Democratic candidates since the 2006 midterms.

Obama Urban Poverty Plan Area 2: Parental Support

The second area of the proposal also channels the both-and attitude of partnership characteristic of Obama. These proposals are aimed at strengthening resources offered to parents struggling to raise their children, complimenting the programs offered directly to the children themselves as proposed in Area 1:

I'll pass the plan I outlined last year that will provide more financial support to fathers who make the responsible choice to help raise their children and crack down on the fathers who don't. And we'll help new mothers with their new responsibilities by expanding a pioneering program known as the Nurse-Family Partnership that offers home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income mothers and mothers-to-be.

This program has been proven to reduce childhood injuries, unintended pregnancies, and the use of welfare and food stamps. It's increased father involvement, women's employment, and children's school readiness. It's produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. It works, and I'll expand the program to 570,000 first-time mothers each year.

Such plans to aid parents embody the family-based style of progressivism Obama Policy Director Karen Kornbluh has written about. Such progressivism forms the rhetorical base for the Obama campaign.

Obama Urban Poverty Plan Area 3: Helping People Find Work, and Making Work Pay

Obama plans to introduce programs offering community service jobs as transitional employment opportunities. He explained the plan and the rationale behind it as follows:

I will invest $1 billion over five years in innovative transitional jobs programs that have been highly successful at placing the unemployed into temporary jobs and then training them for permanent ones. People in these programs get the chance to work in a community service-type job, earn a paycheck every week, and learn the skills they need for gainful employment. And by leaving with references and a resume, often times they find that employment.

Having worked with urban poverty his entire career, Obama recognizes the problems associated with dead-end jobs. Such jobs kill the incentive to work, part of the reason many young men earn money by joining gangs and selling drugs, leaving communities mired in a cycle of poverty. Obama plans to create training programs to avoid such pitfalls:

Still, even for those workers who do find a permanent job, many times there's no way for them to advance their careers once they're in those jobs. That's why we'll also work with community organizations and businesses to create career pathways that provide workers with the additional skills and training they need to earn more money. And we'll make sure that public transportation is both available and affordable for low-income workers, because no one should be denied work in this country because they can't get there.

In addition, Obama calls for a tripling of the Earned Income Tax Credit, an issue he's familiar with from his work in the Illinois State Senate. While more difficult to understand than the minimum wage, it is perhaps an even better tool for lifting people out of poverty (though these two should certainly be employed together in the "both-and" model).

To make work pay, I will also triple the Earned Income Tax Credit for full-time workers making the minimum wage. This is one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in history and lifts nearly 5 million Americans out of poverty every year. I was able to expand this program when I was a state Senator in Illinois, and as President I'll do it again.

Obama Urban Poverty Plan Area 4: Bringing Businesses back to inner-cities

Obama also recognizes the importance of economic development to the health of urban areas and the battle to overcome urban poverty. In a proposal to fund business development in inner cities, he makes an interesting comparison with the World Bank:

A long time ago, this country created a World Bank that has helped spur economic development in some of the world's poorest regions. I think it's about time we had something like that right here in America. Less than one percent of the $250 billion in venture capital that's invested each year goes to minority businesses that are trying to breathe life into our cities. This has to change.
When I'm President, I'll make sure that every community has the access to the capital and resources it needs to create a stronger business climate by providing more loans to small businesses and setting up the financial institutions that can help get them started. I'll also create a national network of business incubators, which are local services that help first-time business owners design their business plans, find the best location, and receive expert advice on how to run their businesses whenever they need it. And I will take steps to help close the digital divide and increase internet access for cities so that urban America is just as connected as the rest of America.

He also talks of bridging the digital divide, an issue that could perhaps be uniquely embraced by the netroots community.

Obama Urban Poverty Plan Area 5: Access to Safe, Affordable Housing

Obviously, housing is an issue fundamental to overcoming problems of poverty. Obama's plan recognizes the essential nature of housing by offering more mixed-income housing as well as cracking down on housing practices that have prevented low-income urban Americans from breaking out of poverty:

As President, I'll create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that would add as many as 112,000 new affordable units in mixed income neighborhoods. We'll also do more to protect homeowners from mortgage fraud and subprime lending by passing my plan to provide counseling to tenants, homeowners, and other consumers so they get the advice and guidance they need before buying a house and support if they get in to trouble down the road. And we will crack down on mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud by increasing enforcement and creating new criminal penalties.

Obama also promises to appoint a director of Urban Policy to "cut through the disorganized bureaucracy that currently exists and report directly to me on how these efforts are going; on what's working and what's not." Clearly, Obama values performance and evaluation and is looking to ensure his programs avoid the fate of many of the efforts undertaken in prior decades.

Obama concludes his speech by returning to the question of morality central to the Kennedy campaign: "How can a country like this allow it?" Once again, he answers with two words:

"We can't."

The concluding remarks of the speech further channel Kennedy, but also recall the signature proposals he has just issued and turn a hopeful eye toward the promise the future could bring:

The idea for the Harlem Children's Zone began with a list. It was a waiting list that Geoffrey Canada kept of all the children who couldn't get into his program back when it was just a few blocks wide. It was 500 people long. And one day he looked at that list and thought, why shouldn't those 500 kids get the same chance in life as the 500 who were already in the program? Why not expand it to include those 500? Why not 5000? Why not?

And that, of course, is the final question about poverty in America. It's the hopeful one that Bobby Kennedy was also famous for asking. Why not? It leaves the cynics without an answer, and it calls on the rest of us to get to work. I will be doing exactly that from the first day I become your President, and I ask you all to join me in getting it done. Thank you.

Tags: 2008, Barack Obama, Poverty, urban policy (all tags)

Comments

53 Comments

Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

Excellent Post

Thank you

by BlueDiamond 2007-07-19 10:27AM | 0 recs
"make work pay"

Hmmm....is Obama copying Edwards?

by annefrank 2007-07-20 02:28AM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"
Did Edwards invent the living wage campaign?
by psericks 2007-07-20 04:42AM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"

Edwards has been using "make work pay" for eons.

by annefrank 2007-07-20 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"
"Make work pay" has been a slogan of living wage movements and union organizers for years. It's not an Edwards invention, and I don't think it's right to attribute it to him. Talking about things like a living wage and the EITC are not "copying" Edwards.
by psericks 2007-07-20 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"

the sick part of your post is you don't know how much it sounds like gore invented the internet. Or maybe you do.

by bruh21 2007-07-20 03:06PM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"
That was obviously the intended irony of my post. Edwards is dedicated to poverty issues and he's a good candidate, but he didn't invent the phrase "make work pay" or the living wage or the EITC or a lot of the elements in his plan that Democrats have been talking about for years. Obama isn't "copying" anything.
Nowhere in my comment do I claim Obama invented it, far from it, quite the opposite. I just don't think Edwards can claim a monopoly on this issue.
by psericks 2007-07-20 03:19PM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"

the point is that you choose the same approach that the press did with Gore. and in the process you miss the point. The point isn't about who has the biggest ego on this. The question is who is focusing right now on what? The fact is that edwards of the three candidates has made these issues his central campaign. It doesn't take way from Obama's past to say that or his efforts now, but it does if you are bothered by Edwards making it his central theme.

It's like when I once told a friend I feel I am a good writer. Her response was- "oh are you saying I am bad writer." My statement wasn't about her, but her insecurity made it about her. The same dynamic seems to be at work here.

by bruh21 2007-07-20 03:27PM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"
I'm not taking issue at all with Edwards' work on poverty, I also think it's great that he's made it the center of his campaign. All I took issue with was the sentence:
"make work pay" Hmmm....is Obama copying Edwards?

It's fine that Edwards has been working on poverty. I just think it's disingenuous to claim that Obama hasn't or even that he hasn't been talking about it. Obama doesn't have the rhetoric of straight talk about poverty but he has talked non-stop in his stump speeches about the EITC, raising the minimum wage, etc. These aren't issues that belong to either Edwards or Obama, they're Democratic issues.
by psericks 2007-07-20 04:25PM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"

Then we are in agreement

by bruh21 2007-07-20 08:15PM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"

also lets be clear- edwards has been working on the minimum wage and work issues for a few years now as his central focus. It's easier to do that now that he's not in the senate, but it doesn't take away from what he has been trying to do. The point just like with Gore with the Internet- isn't that someone invented something or not. THe point is where is their focus. In Gore's point - it was that he worked on these issues when others weren't looking at them. And he was right. It's also right to say that Edwards has been working these issues in the last few years. It takes nothing away from Obama to say that.

by bruh21 2007-07-20 03:29PM | 0 recs
Re: "make work pay"

Neither is copying the other. Though, as an Obama supporter, I will admit that Edwards has been out front during the campaign with his poverty proposals. This point should be obvious--he has made poverty the theme of his campaign since 2005.

However, what I like about Obama is that he has been working in poor neighborhoods all his life, at least before being elected to the Senate (and once being elected he has had a great record on issues affecting his community).

I respect both men and am eager to see the proposals they've put out implemented in the coming Democratic Administration.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-20 08:00AM | 0 recs
This is superb
Thank you.
by horizonr 2007-07-19 10:28AM | 0 recs
thanks

by dpg220 2007-07-19 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

The LA Times had an article today about the differences between the Obama and Edwards plans.  One big one they pointed out was Obama's support of the Harlem Children Zone model, to go into an area and try to change it from within and change the whole structure of the community.  Edwards plan supports a voucher technique, allowing the people to leave the community as a way to improve their situation.  I won't even try to describe it in detail, perhaps an Edwards supporter will do that.  But it seems analogous to the debate over vouchers for public schools.  I never understood how taking the kids whose Parents are most concerned and most informed and moving them out of the school somehow benefits the troubled school. If anything it makes a bad situation worse by removing the influence the school needs the most - concerned and active parents who care about their child's education.   I can see how it helps that particular child, but I don't see how it is a solution for the school.   At first blush, that's my reaction to the poverty voucher plan.   I love the Harlem model for it's understanding of the interconnectedness of the schools and the community, not only that the communities can help the schools but also that act can help the schools fix the communities.

by Doug Tuesday 2007-07-19 10:49AM | 0 recs
cool, thanks dude

I didn't even see the LA Times article... the only thing I saw this morning that compared the Edwards and Obama plans was the CBS article I linked to, and all that did was offer a horserace narrative with a couple of throwaway quotes from staffers

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-19 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

The crux of the housing voucher idea, as I understand it, is that clustering poor people together in the same geographic area has proven to be awful policy.  The housing vouchers try to alleviate this.  

It's nowhere near the same thing as school vouchers, which basically pull the money out of low income areas by allowing the wealthy to subsidize their children's private school education with taxpayer money.

Again, this is my very topical understanding of it, if someone has a better explanation, they should jump in.  

By the way, both Edwards and Obama have good, somewhat complementary plans to reduce poverty here.  I wish these two guys could meld into one candidate. Edbama would easily defeat Clinton and then perhaps save the world.  As it is, they divide the non-Clinton vote and that's probably the only way she wins the nod.      

Max Fletcher, kudos for a very informative diary.

by cesar 2007-07-19 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

That's exactly right, cesar. Poorer areas generally receive worse services that richer ones, from transportation to police and fire protection to hospitals to grocery stores to schools. Housing vouchers help break up concentrations of poverty.

by clarkent 2007-07-20 03:46AM | 0 recs
Yes, that is the heart of the idea.

Another difference in these two plans lies in the scale of the plans.

Edwards plans to jump in and help across the nation. A plan that starts with a set number of cities is good for those cities, but leaves out a tremendous number of people. I understand that starting with a few cities, as in the Obama plan, provides a test. But growing numbers of people are just hanging on. They simply do not have the time to wait. In developing his plans, Edwards studied numerous programs that are ongoing and successful in local areas.
The Edwards plan is ambitious, but I believe it is still practical enough to be reasonably affordable, and it will bring help to more people much sooner.

I watched the videos around the internet from Edward's Road to One America tour. It is heartbreaking to see how many people are living in poverty. And most of these are working people. It is not acceptable to have people working hard in our country, and still facing poverty.

I also like the Edwards plan to help the rural poor. We do not hear as much about these folks, but they are Americans who need our help.

In choosing test cities...who do we leave out? In a lot of cases, people just cannot wait any longer.

by bettync 2007-07-20 03:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, that is the heart of the idea.
I think this is right. Edwards' plan does seem more expansive, at the very least in its vision and naming a date for ending poverty.
I would add though that Obama's plan is also pretty massive --- it's a six billion dollar program, even if it's limited in the beginning to twenty cities. Obama also noted in his DC speech that he's going to unveil a separate plan on rural poverty in a few weeks.
It's nice that they're both focused on trying out local, innovative approaches on the national stage.
I dunno. I'd be interested in hearing more about housing vouchers. The Washington Post article I quoted below cites a study claiming that housing vouchers have demonstrated few results (that moving families around is costly and maybe isn't worth it), I don't know if it's credible. I'd be interested in what others have to say though. Does anyone have any other studies/articles about this?
by psericks 2007-07-20 04:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, that is the heart of the idea.

That study was done ove a few years on a limited program. I believe that studies on Section 8 vs. housing projects have shown tremendous advantages for those who obtained Section 8 subsidies.

by clarkent 2007-07-20 05:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, that is the heart of the idea.

As I understand it, the "Promise Neighborhood" program is for 20 cities, but all the other parts of his plan encompass all of America (and you can see in the plan that not even all of the goals and policies put out will necessarily be specific to urban America, though that was the focus of this particular proposal)

The full urban plan is available online at the website (pdf format).

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-20 08:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, that is the heart of the idea.

I'm not sure about vouchers either, people don't always want to pick up and move to strange communities away from their friends, extended family, and cultural norms. And it really makes more sense to me to bring talent, training, and values to the people where they are, and when those people lives are changed they can become contributors to bringing the community up, instead of intruders in communities that may not even receive them in a welcoming way. Vouchers as a means to solve housing and service disparities sounds like a plan that comes from someone who is well meaning, but lacking knowledge of the people they are trying to help.

by jazzyjay 2007-07-20 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, that is the heart of the idea.

Vouchers aren't really for people to relocate from city to city, although I suppose they could use them that way - it's to help people live in a part of town where you can buy decent food at the store, easily reach public transportation to other parts of town, and not worry about getting shot by being on the wrong corner at the wrong time. In the city I live in, that can mean moving a couple of miles or even less.

If that's all Edwards was offering in terms of housing policy, I would be dissappointed, because it's not enough. But he's also called for increased federal investment to revitalize housing, stricter controls on lending practices, incentives for teachers to teach in low-income areas, and jobs programs, and much more.

by clarkent 2007-07-20 12:25PM | 0 recs
Here:


Though Obama offered some of the same proposals as Edwards, such as a transitional jobs program and expanding the earned income tax credit, he presented a sharply different overall objective -- fixing inner city areas so they become places where families have a chance to prosper, without moving elsewhere.

As an example, he cited the Harlem Children's Zone, an initiative that seeks to improve one section of that New York neighborhood with an array of services, including prenatal counseling, early childhood education and free medical services. Obama urged replicating the program in 20 cities, which he estimated would cost a few billion dollars a year.

"If poverty is a disease that infects the entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can't just treat those symptoms in isolation," Obama said. "We have to heal that entire community."

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/ politics/la-na-poverty19jul19,1,3907268. story

by Doug Tuesday 2007-07-19 10:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Here:

It's nice to see some actual journalism going on, comparing the two plans against one another. It was a pretty short article, though, I bet it got edited down quite a bit

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-19 11:26AM | 0 recs
Washington Post
The LA Times article I guess is actually a shortened version of an article in the Washington Post:
But the competing claims to the issue also underscore the deep divisions over how best to solve the problem. Edwards has focused on the malignant effects of the concentration of poverty in inner cities. He has argued for dispersing low-income families by replacing public housing with a greatly expanded rental voucher program to allow families to move where there are more jobs and better schools.

"Too many Americans today are segregated in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty -- many more than in 1968," he said yesterday in Prestonsburg. "These families are cut off from opportunity -- far from good jobs and schools, far from many examples of success, far from the bright light of America."

Although Obama offered some of the same proposals as Edwards, such as a transitional jobs program and an expanded earned-income tax credit, he presented a sharply different overall objective: fixing inner-city areas so they become places where families have a shot at prospering, without having to move.
The Post article offers some criticism of both plans. First Edwards':
There are downsides to both approaches, experts say. A federal experiment called Moving to Opportunity found that families given vouchers to move out of inner-city public housing reported improved health but few gains in earnings, educational outcomes and the well-being of teenage boys. Those studying the results say many families did not move far enough, possibly because of a lack of affordable housing in better areas.

Then Obama's:
At the same time, many attempts to lift blighted areas have been unsuccessful, which is one reason Edwards has argued for a more radical approach. There are few examples of skill-development initiatives, beyond the Harlem one, that have succeeded on the scale Obama proposes. He would increase funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, but billions spent on jobs and housing through the grants over the years have failed to turn around many areas.

The candidates' contrasting approaches to inner-city blight point to broader differences in their perspective, said Greg Duncan, a Northwestern University economist. Edwards grew up in rural North Carolina and often seems more comfortable in rural settings than in urban ones, whereas Obama got his poverty education on Chicago's South Side and speaks more freely about the cultural underpinnings of urban ills, such as absent fathers...
Several of those attending the Anacostia event said they took to heart Obama's conviction that inner cities could be saved. "If people were to leave, the areas where they were going would become saturated," said Renau Daniels, who was visiting the District on behalf of a New Jersey-based foundation. "You want to fix the problem rather than fleeing from it."
by psericks 2007-07-19 12:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Washington Post
So the Washington Post is trying to isolate the main differences between Edwards and Obama (apart from their many similarities) as being about the issue of rental vouchers to disperse low-income folks throughout the city instead of having them concentrated in certain neighborhoods.
by psericks 2007-07-19 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Washington Post

I really like the housing voucher idea. Poorer people generally have less police protection, access to worse grocery stores, clinics, hospitals, and schools, and they have poor transportation links to the above locations. It's much sounder policy than building new projects, and it reaches a lot more people across a greater geopgraphic area.

One thing that the article mentions is that Obama speaks more freely about the ills of urban poverty, like absent fathers. For one, I don't think this problem is confined to urban areas, or even more highly concentrated there. Edwards also talks about this quite a bit - in an address that he gave at the Center for American Progress in 2005, he spent a great deal of time talking about incentives for fathers to remain in families and for help for single fathers. Obama may speak more about absent fathers, but that's because his own father was absent!

by clarkent 2007-07-20 04:35AM | 0 recs
good find

That's interesting. It seems like removing families from an area would only work to a limited extent. There's always going to be some people around, you can't force people to leave, and the most upwardly mobile people would likely be the ones leaving. It seems like Obama's plan carries similar risks in that the approach is unproven. The argument against both seems to be somewhat similar: it's expensive, and it's going to be difficult. That's something both candidates readily acknowledge, but it's good to see the two plans being compared anyway. It would be interesting to hear them argue the finer points in a debate.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-19 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: good find

I think we should do them both. We're not really sure what works yet and we need to keep on trying bold things until we work out what does. FDR tried things and if they didn't work he tried something else and a lot was accomplished in the end. Yeah, it's going to cost money, but everything does and it badly needs doing. We need to be able to article a broad based vision, a narrative for what we believe in and what sort of America we want to live in.

by Quinton 2007-07-19 10:48PM | 0 recs
Re: good find

In the inner cities, I wonder if some people might want to move to help get their kids away from gang influence.

Edwards seems to want to help people, but remain respectful of their ability to make choices. On his tour this week, he talked to a number of people (struggling people) privately to hear what they had to say.

I was impressed with the numbers of bright people who lived in these neighborhoods who came out with ideas. When you show people with respect, they can surprise you with their response!

by bettync 2007-07-20 03:54AM | 0 recs
Pdf with additional details
Thanks Max! Great diary. I noticed the "Fighting Poverty" issues page on Obama's website now has a 7-page pdf with more details. There are also other elements to the Urban Poverty agenda that Obama listed in his June 5th Los Angeles speech a couple weeks ago, the most notable being the emphasis on creating a Prison to Work program to ease the transition out of prison and expanding public transportation to under-served inner city areas.
Improve Transportation Access to Jobs
Three quarters of welfare recipients live in areas that are poorly served by public transportation and low-income workers spend up to 36% of their incomes on transportation. As president, Obama will work to eliminate transportation disparities so that all Americans can lead meaningful and productive lives. Obama will strengthen the federal Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program to ensure that additional federal public transportation dollars flow to the highest-need communities and that urban planning initiatives take this aspect of transportation policy into account.

I have to say that I think Obama's stance on the digital divide could be more aggressive. He's talking about it, which is good, but mostly focused on encouraging public/private partnerships. Maybe this is the only realistic answer --- cobbling together local solutions with private businesses in each individual city --- but it would be nice to have a more all-encompassing approach. But here are the highlights from the section in the pdf pg. 3/4:
Getting broadband Internet access into every home and business in urban America at an affordable rate could give low-income people increased opportunities to start businesses, obtain access to finance, educate young people, learn about government services and engage actively in our communities...

Reform the Telephone Universal Service Program: Direct the FCC to propose reforms changing the Universal Service Fund program from one that supports voice communications to one that supports affordable broadband.

Better Manage the Nation's Airwaves: Work to manage our wireless spectrum in the public's interest. Obama would create incentives for more efficient and experimental use of government spectrum and new standards for commercial spectrum so that underserved urban and rural communities can enjoy affordable broadband and also ensure that we have enough spectrum for police, ambulances and other public safety organizations.
Encourage Public-Private Partnerships: Encourage public-private partnerships to get low-income communities and resident connected and work with cities and municipalities to distribute information on best practices among those that have deployed citywide free wireless broadband networks and how those lessons learned can be applied in other communities.
by psericks 2007-07-19 12:03PM | 0 recs
very cool

thanks a lot for the additional info. He's starting to get into a lot more detail, and I think the "substance" question will soon be laid to rest

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-19 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: very cool

The substance issue will never be laid to rest.  It's an old school type of politics, the standard of negative advertising.  Take something which is patently not true and say it over and over and over again until some people believe it because they've heard it so many times before.  When you have Elizabeth Edwards, no less, out there practicing it, it is not going to go away.  But the work you are doing, Psericks, LovingJ, Icebergslim, it's great stuff.  We can only work to inform those you wish to be informed and do our best to not be pulled into the other nonsense.  

by Doug Tuesday 2007-07-19 12:46PM | 0 recs
Video from the speech on Urban Poverty
http://my.barackobama.com/page/community /post_group/ObamaHQ/CtnZ
And from the Planned Parenthood speech a couple days ago: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community /post_group/ObamaHQ/Ctpb
by psericks 2007-07-19 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty
Video is up of the remarks -
http://my.barackobama.com/page/community /post_group/ObamaHQ/CtnZ
by CardBoard 2007-07-19 03:08PM | 0 recs
Talkin the Talk: Better Late than Never

Take it to the street homie ----- see ya in the hood - - - - - Hillary can't be far behind with a pandering copycat model

by Progressive Populist 2007-07-19 03:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Talkin the Talk: Better Late than Never
So you're going to argue that Edwards invented the living wage and the earned income tax credit? As well as the Harlem Children's Zone? When did he trademark them exactly?
Obama's been talking about poverty all along, has spent his career dedicated to it, and now he's laying out his proposals --- let him be.
by psericks 2007-07-19 04:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Talkin the Talk: Better Late than Never

Edwards' career has been dedicated to helping the poor and the little guy stand up against the abuses of giants too. They just went about it in different ways.

by Quinton 2007-07-19 10:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Talkin the Talk: Better Late than Never
I agree with that. The fact that we don't have active enough federal regulatory agencies means that private trial lawyers have to take up the slack.
I was just reacting to the idea that Edwards somehow has a monopoly on the poverty issue and that Obama is 'late' in 'copying' him.
by psericks 2007-07-20 12:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Talkin the Talk: Better Late than Never

Just unfortunate timing... that Obama's plan came out the last day of John Edwards poverty tour.

Whatever the political motivation for the timing may have been, we need to keep the poverty issue in the headlines. Right now, this is not an important issue to a lot of Americans. And I wish it get more attention.

More middle class people are slipping into poverty every day. So many people have no savings. One crisis could ruin them.

by bettync 2007-07-20 04:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Talkin the Talk: Better Late than Never
On the timing, I'd say that Obama laid out details in Los Angeles back in early June. I know you're not necessarily implying anything, I just want to say that Obama has been talking about this before. He is committed.
You're right though. It is good that candidates are all talking about this --- the fact that candidates are all releasing plans (I don't know the details of Clinton's, are they out yet?) will be good for the discussion.
by psericks 2007-07-20 04:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

Glad to see Obama decided to jump off the fence for once.

by rbrianj 2007-07-19 06:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

I believe that both Senator Edwards and Senator Obama have complete credibility on the issue of poverty, and I would be proud to support either candidate in the general election.  The worst thing that could happen is for the two campaigns to start sniping over biographical tidbits and urban/rural divides.  Differing pathways don't necessarily mean different goals.

by CLLGADEM 2007-07-20 02:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

Here is what the German paper Spiegel said:

Spiegel starts off, "the man has little, of that which the hype about him promises," and proceeds to describe the lackluster applause from the audience of 200, which barely reached the back rows of the room. The packaging of him on TV might work, "Obama becomes President," but, "the audience in the Washington poor district knows more, they experienced Obama unplugged."

"In a strict sense he didn't give a speech, but read a text, word for word, which lends to a Pathos of artificialness, almost silliness." "The Senator from Illinois is clearly not the image with which he is marketed."

I completely agree with the Spiegel.

by dantch 2007-07-20 06:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

There's a number of comments above about the voucher idea so I'll stick my comment down here instead of arbitrarily attaching it to one of many.  I can see how the voucher helps the specific person or family by getting them into a much better environment.  But what I don't see is how that helps the environment they've left or the people left behind.  It's a really difficult question because of course you want to help the individual right now but unless you fix the root problems you are just creating a never ending stream of people needing vouchers.  Hope shouldn't just be the hope of getting out either though a highly unlikely NBA contract or a voucher.  Hope should be that it can happen from within.

by Doug Tuesday 2007-07-20 09:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's plan for Urban Poverty

Another aspect of a voucher system is that it can people actually remain in a community as it improves. In a neighborhood undergoing gentrification, the poor folks who live there are often forced out as rents rise. Vouchers would allow them to stay.

by clarkent 2007-07-20 10:05AM | 0 recs
$6 Billion Is Chump Change

As I wrote at Open Left yesterday:

I'm sorry, but $6 billion (less than the operational cost of the Iraq Was for a month--ignoring all longterm costs, such as health care, pensions, etc.) is totally inadequate to address the problem of poverty in the US.

Consider just one element: The EITC alone is estimated to cost $36 billion at current levels, and estimates are that 15-25% of those eligible don't apply.  So just fully enrolling all those eligible for EITC would cost $5.4 - $9 billion.  Thus tripling the EITC for full-time workers at the minimum wage cannot possibly be as siginificant as it sounds--perhaps because so few minimum-wage workers are employed full-time (thus exempting them from various protections).  Simply doubling the overall value of the EITC would cost $36 billion per year--six times what Obama is pledging (assuming he's talking about $6 billion annually, which isn't actually clear from what you've written).

OTOH, the expansion of the SCHIP just approved by the  Senate Finance Committee would increase five-year funding for the program from $25 billion to $60 billion.  That's an additional $35 billion ~ six times what Obama is talking about.  Assuming his $6 billion is an annual figure (which, again, isn't clear), that works out to $1 billion per year more than what Obama is proposing, just for this one program.

Don't get me wrong.  I am glad that Obama is saying something about poverty.  And I'm glad he's thinking about a multi-faceted approach.  But my first impression is that this is wildly inadequate to making any serious impact, and doesn't even try to present a realistic picture of what the problem looks like and how his proposals compare to the magnitude of the problem.


by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-20 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: $6 Billion Is Chump Change
The costs haven't been clearly delineated yet, you're right:
Transitional jobs program - $1 billion over five years, according to the pdf
Promise Neighborhoods program - predicted to cost a few billion dollars in itself:
And that's why when I'm President, the first part of my plan to combat urban poverty will be to replicate the Harlem Children's Zone in twenty cities across the country. We'll train staff, we'll have them draw up detailed plans with attainable goals, and the federal government will provide half of the funding for each city, with the rest coming from philanthropies and businesses. Now, how much will this cost? I'll be honest - it can't be done on the cheap. It will cost a few billion dollars a year. We won't just spend the money because we can - every step these cities take will be evaluated, and if certain plans or programs aren't working, we will stop them and try something else.


You're probably right. The cost is going to be a lot more than $6 billion for all the things on his list. I've actually been looking for the $6 billion figure to see where it comes from, I remember reading it somewhere...
by psericks 2007-07-20 05:43PM | 0 recs
Re: $6 Billion Is Chump Change
I think if his figure gets significantly higher it would become a negative target in the
General Election. Well we are going to get that anyway, but I am sure how big a number to cite is a strategic call.
by jazzyjay 2007-07-21 02:43AM | 0 recs
$6 Billion ~ 2 Weeks of Iraq War

God forbid we spend enough to end poverty.  We might not be able to fight any wars, then!

Worse yet, we might not fave to!

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-21 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: $6 Billion ~ 2 Weeks of Iraq War

Couldn't agree more. But 6B still sounds like a lot of money to most folks and I know there will be hell to pay if anyone starts talking about raising taxes. This is just a battle we have to ready ourselves for, and be wise about how we approach this. Now, look how we got to the trillions we have spent on this war, no one was walking around saying lets go take out Iraq, it will cost trillions, bankrupt the country, and we will be paying for it forever, even our slowest leaders would have had a difficult time voting for that. Now I am not advocating this dishonest approach, but I surely would not want to see him ride out with his worst case estimate.

by jazzyjay 2007-07-21 04:12PM | 0 recs

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