At last Thursday’s Democratic debate Pete Buttigieg said something I hadn’t heard before. “I know you're only ever supposed to say middle class and not poor in politics,” he said, “but we've got to talk about poverty in this country.”
He’s right, the Democrats do talk a lot more about helping middle and working class people than those who are poor. Yet an estimated 11.8% of the US population is considered poor -- 38.1 million people. That’s a lot of people to not talk about.
There was a moment last June during the first debate. It came when Kamala Harris criticized Joe Biden for his opposition to school busing, a 1970s program designed to integrate schools that had remained stubbornly separate and unequal, despite the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling. Court-ordered busing was a fairly radical attempt to help move people out of poverty by providing everyone with equal educational opportunities. It met with a huge amount of opposition, mainly from whites, some blacks, and yes, Joe Biden.
The moment passed. Biden’s record on busing went largely unexamined. And the Democrats have continued to focus mostly on the problems of middle and working class people. The word poor rarely makes it into the debates.
This at a time when the president does little to help those living in poverty, resisting an increase in the federal minimum wage and chipping away at many protections, most recently food benefits.
I’m Deborah Booth and that’s my perspective.