A Second War on Poverty?

A Second War on Poverty? New York, USA, © Urs Kehl/ATD Fourth

Image above: New York, USA, © Urs Kehl/ATD Fourth World/CJW_AR0202202032

By Guillaume Charvon, Volunteer Corps member and National Director ATD Fourth World USA

Guillaume Charvon
Guillaume Charvon

Almost 60 years after the launch of the War on Poverty by President Lyndon Johnson, President Joe Biden and Congress passed another landmark plan against poverty, the American Rescue Plan Act. This legislation might be as ambitious and impactful as Johnson’s initiative was at its time, but it will still fall short for people living in persistent poverty.

Biden’s current initiative includes promising – yet temporary – poverty reduction policies. The full legislative package is projected to reduce child poverty by 56%. The United States is finally taking a significant step to reduce child poverty. But why only by half? It reminds me of this song by Marlena Shaw:

How do you raise your kids in a ghetto
Feed one child and starve another
Tell me, tell me, legislator

What can be done for both children, for both halves?

Policy vision and mindset need to be broadened

  • The scope of anti-poverty measures should be inclusive of all people from the beginning; all, never half. That’s why we are “All Together In Dignity.” That’s also ATD Fourth World’s experience and advocacy at the United Nations, where we advocated to expand the scope of the Millennium Development Goals, reducing the number of people living in poverty in the world by half, to the Sustainable Development Goals of 2015 that have committed to the eradication of poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030. Most importantly, that’s what people living in poverty are telling us – they want changes for everyone, not just for some. More than ever, the tools and resources developed at the United Nations by ATD Fourth World need to feed our United States advocacy to move from half to all.
  • Our most recent participatory-research on The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty as well as many years of experience have shown that poverty goes beyond money, and that solutions to poverty need to go beyond temporary financial measures and tackle structural problems. A bandage helps to heal, but is not healing in itself.
    The American Rescue Plan Act is decisive. But let’s not half-step. There is more to do.

More about ATD’s work in the United States.

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