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Prioritizing Poverty

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Photo courtesy of Robin Holland

Many of you have wondered about why I said nothing about poverty during my re-election campaign. The reason is that I’ve been saving it up for now. The sad truth is that our nation suffers from shamefully high levels of poverty even in prosperous times, and when I say “poverty” please do not think of “welfare queens,” Romney’s “47 percent,” or any other mythical category. Think of your college-educated son who has become a $10-per-hour barrista or your grandmother while she waits for her next Social Security check. Or think of a nine-year-old who hates school holidays because they mean no lunch.

So I propose to drastically reconfigure our priorities as a nation. I will be reducing military spending to the amount that is necessary to maintain the Coast Guard plus a rapid response force to help out in cases of natural disaster around the world. I will be introducing at least one serious “free market” reform — the abandonment of corporate welfare and bailouts. The funds saved by these and other means will be used to mount a massive public jobs program to rebuild America — not only our physical infrastructure but our social infrastructure, including education, health care, home care and childcare. And that’s just the beginning…

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in AmericaBait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American DreamDancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, This Land Is Their Land, and Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.

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