Facebook Live: “Putting People Over the Pentagon”
Editor’s note: On Monday, June 29, Sister Richelle Friedman, CHN’s Director of Public Policy, participated in a Facebook Live event entitled, “Putting People Over the Pentagon.” Participants included Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and the Rev. William J. Barber. An edited transcript of Friedman’s remarks is below. You can also watch her remarks below.
The moral fabric of a nation is determined by how well it provides for the poor in its midst. The federal budget is a moral document. To become a just society certain principles much underlie how we allocate our federal resources. The common good demands the right of all to have their basic human needs met.
The health pandemic we are experiencing lays bare for all to see the deep economic and racial disparities ingrained in our system. Today in this wealthy nation, there are 140 million poor and low-income people.
This is not by accident. At the same time that spending for the Pentagon continues to increase practically unquestioned, funding for human needs programs is eroding. For 10 years, my organization, the Coalition on Human Needs, has tracked nearly 200 programs of vital importance to low-income people – programs that provide health care, housing, job training and education, nutrition, childcare and other social services. Of those programs we find that nearly two-thirds are funded at a level lower this year than in 2010 when adjusted for inflation.
Is this the mark of a moral society?
Federal assistance makes a difference. During the current pandemic, Unemployment Insurance, the cash stimulus payments, SNAP benefits, a moratorium on evictions, and loans to small businesses thus far have contributed to preventing poverty from rising to the rate initially predicted.
Still many families are suffering hardships, and much of the aid is scheduled to expire at the end of July. Undocumented immigrants have been excluded all together from receiving aid.
Our national security is about more than protecting ourselves from outside perpetrators. Our national security depends on improving the lives of poor communities that have been neglected and abandoned for too long.
Will Congress and the President act to reprioritize the needs of poor communities in the immediate and longer-term?
Prior to the pandemic unemployment was disproportionally highest for racial minority households. Since mid-March, someone lost income from work in 55% of Latinx households; in 53% of Black households, and in 50 % of Asian households. Unemployment insurance and cash assistance is desperately needed.
Prior to the pandemic, 17% of all children lived in households that lacked access to adequate food. In the early weeks of the pandemic, one in five adults in the U.S. didn’t have enough food to eat. The lack of food is placing the hardest burdens on racial minorities and frontline workers, whose jobs tend to be low-paying.
Prior to the pandemic, only 1 in 4 households poor enough to be eligible for federal housing assistance received it. The National Low Income Housing Coalition NLIHC estimates that $100 billion in emergency rental assistance is needed now to prevent further evictions and homelessness.
More than one-third of American children—23 million —do not receive the full $2,000 value of the Child Tax Credit. Shamefully, almost one in five Black children receive nothing at all through the Child Tax Credit because their families are too poor to qualify for help. Making the full credit available to poor families would dramatically cut the poverty rate by 52% for Black children; by 41% for Hispanic children, and by 36% for White children.
Federal assistance is critical.
What Franklin Roosevelt said 70 years ago is still applies today, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
Will Congress and the President act? A moral society demands it!