Bernie Holds Community Conversation on Poverty
Sisters and Brothers
In the United States today, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 47 million Americans are living in poverty.
Almost 22 percent of American children are poor and we have the highest child poverty rate of almost any major country on earth.
Let’s be clear. Living in poverty doesn’t just mean you don’t have enough money to buy a big screen TV, a fancy laptop, or the latest iPhone. It goes much deeper than that.
Living in poverty means you are less likely to have a good grocery store in your community selling healthy food. Far too often it means you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from. Living in poverty means you are less likely to have access to a doctor, dentist or mental health care provider. It means you have less access to public transportation, which makes it harder to find a job. It means you are less likely to have access to child care.
In the United States of America, poverty is often a death sentence.
Yesterday, I spoke about poverty in McDowell County, West Virginia — one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states in America. In 2014, over 35 percent of the residents in McDowell lived in poverty, including nearly half of the children. The roads are crumbling and only 6 percent of adults have a college education. Less than two-thirds have graduated high school. It has the lowest life expectancy for men in the entire nation. I hope you’ll watch part of my speech on poverty and share it with friends and family on social media.
Poverty is an issue we must address. In 2011, the American Journal of Public Health found that 130,000 people died in just one year alone as a result of poverty.
This is not an issue we can just sweep under the rug and hope it will go away. Because it won’t.
And when I talk about it being too late for establishment politics and economics, this is what I mean. When I talk about thinking big and outside the box, about rejecting incremental change, I am talking about the millions of Americans who live in poverty who have been tossed out, left behind, and abandoned by the rich and powerful. We need to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.
Here’s what we need to do:
- Rebuild our country’s crumbling infrastructure. A $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure will create at least 13 million jobs all over America – jobs that cannot be outsourced.
- We must rewrite our disastrous trade policies that enable corporate America to shut down plans in places like West Virginia and move them to Mexico, China, and other low-wage countries.
- We can create 1 million jobs for disadvantaged youths through legislation I introduced with Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.
- We need to increase the wages of at least 53 million American workers by raising the minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.
- At a time when women workers earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, we need to sign the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. Equal pay for equal work.
- We need to make health care a right for every man, woman, and child through a Medicare for All single-payer system.
- We need to treat drug addiction like a mental health issue, not a criminal issue.
- We need to ensure every worker in this country has at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, two weeks of paid vacation, and one week of paid sick days.
- We need to impose a tax on Wall Street to make public colleges and universities tuition free while substantially reducing student debt.
- At a time when half of older workers have no retirement savings, we’re not going to cut Social Security, we’re going to expand it so people can retire with dignity and respect.
- No president can do all of these things alone. We need millions of Americans to begin to stand up and fight back and demand a government that represents all of us. That is the political revolution.