Join us on Twitter tonight, as Law Center Policy Director Jeremy Rosen “live-tweets” during the presidential debate at 9 pm EST. Use hashtag #TalkPoverty.
With the presidential election less than six weeks away, President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney will square off tonight in Denver in a debate moderated by Jim Lehrer.
The campaign to date has been somewhat vapid, with the candidates more focused on winning news cycles than addressing the issues. And unfortunately, the media has let it happen. At a time when millions of poor and homeless persons are facing an uncertain future, this is especially disappointing.
In tonight’s debate, and every day before November 6, there are three issues President Obama and Governor Romney must address.
A Plan to Reduce Poverty
In February, Governor Romney said he was “not concerned about the very poor” and implied that the social safety-net is in good shape. That view was reinforced when video recently surfaced of Romney saying it’s not “his job to be concerned” about 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay taxes. Romney cast them as “victims” who believe they are entitled to housing, health care, and food—and said they will “never [be] convince[d] to take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
In light of these statements and Romney’s focus on debt reduction and tax cuts over social programs, one has to wonder how he would address record poverty while slashing spending and reducing federal revenue.
President Obama has also failed to explain how he will reduce poverty. He says he won’t balance the budget on the backs of poor people, but has yet to put forth a plan to help low-income families stabilize their lives. Even the jobs bill he released last September was more focused on the middle-class than low-income Americans. Obama must articulate how he will fundamentally change the economic reality of the people suffering most.
A Vision for Housing Policy
Experts say the housing market has “turned the corner,” but it’s a mistake to conclude the foreclosure crisis is over. It is projected that there will be 1.5 million total foreclosures in 2012, and millions more families are underwater on their mortgages.
In 2011, Governor Romney said that government “shouldn’t try to stop the foreclosure process,” but rather “let it run its course and hit the bottom.” President Obama took action, but his programs were limited and helped fewer than half of the families facing foreclosure.
With so many people still at risk, both candidates must explain what they will do specifically to prevent people from losing their homes. Moreover, we need to know what role, if any, they believe government should have in building affordable housing to meet the rising needs of low-income Americans.
Insuring the Uninsured
Both candidates acknowledge that too many low-income people lack access to health care.
President Obama’s Affordable Care Act seeks to cover them by expanding Medicaid through federal subsidies to states. However, the Supreme Court recently ruled that states can choose to opt out of the expansion. What will the Administration do to ensure states do the right thing and participate in the program?
In Massachusetts, Governor Romney enacted state legislation similar to the Affordable Care Act. That bill, which provides free health care to people earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, has been largely successful and covers 98 percent of state residents. But despite similarities between “RomneyCare” and “ObamaCare,” Romney has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He plans to replace it with legislation that would, according to Reuters, “accelerate the use of high-deductible insurance plans that offer lower premiums but require beneficiaries to pay thousands of dollars more in out-of-pocket expenses than they would face under conventional coverage.” This could have severe consequences for low-income families, who lack disposable income. Romney has yet to explain how he will address their needs.
Tonight’s debate is an important opportunity for the candidates to address these issues. The American people deserve a clear explanation of each man’s vision. If we get that, we’ll be one step closer to creating change for the people who most need it.
- Andy Beres, Development & Communications Coordinator