U.S. Mayors’ Taskforce on Poverty

In late January 2007, more than 250 mayors nationwide met in Washington, D.C. for the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Although they met to speak about regional and national concerns involving energy, crime, climate change, affordable housing, and education, the most important event of the conference was the unveiling of a new, bipartisan anti-poverty initiative.

The Mayors’ Taskforce on Poverty, Work and Opportunity is available here in pdf format.

The report, chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, noted that in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, mayors across the nation have had a renewed focus on the importance of efforts to alleviate poverty and its attendant ills, such as illiteracy, disease, familial strife.

PovertyGiven that 37 million people in America, equaling 12.6% of our population, qualified as in poverty according to the 2005 U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, it is uncontroversial to remark that poverty in the wealthiest nation on earth is no small problem.
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The report identified the following “challenges:”

  • Work is not enough to escape poverty
  • Retiring baby boomers and surging federal debt threaten the sustainability of public investments
  • Globalization of trade, commerce, and populations have driven down wages, spurred outsourcing of jobs, and created new immigration challenges
  • The rise in single-parent households threatens the ability of families to provide for the next generation of workers

Some of the Taskforce’s recommendations included:

  • Federal investment of 22.9 billion in high quality early childhood education, to ensure universal pre-kindergarten education and vocational skills for every child
  • State/local government and the private sector should work more together in developing work force education and more modernized, 21st century curricula
  • A greater public and private investment in high quality workforce training for tomorrow’s workers
  • Boost the earned income tax credit to help the working poor
  • Create tax-free learning savings accounts for each American student, with the government matching up to $500 per student per year

Although some could look at the estimated financial figures cited and immediately turn away, it’s important to be less reflexive than that. Putting aside the fact that the cost of “prosecuting” the war in Iraq was estimated to be $195 million per day to the American taxpayers based on 2005 Department of Defense obligation data, it doesn’t seem hyperbolic to say that investing billions into early education and workforce training (the details of which can be found in the Poverty Taskforce report) could be well worth the expenditures up front.

I think that Mayor Villaraigosa said it best, when he stated that, “The cost is in the billions; the dividends are in the trillions.”

Published in: on March 22, 2007 at 4:50 pm Comments Off on U.S. Mayors’ Taskforce on Poverty

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