The true measure of any society is how we take care of our children. With all of our country’s resources, no child should ever have to grow up in poverty. Yet every single night, all across America, kids go to sleep hungry or without a place to call home.
We have to do better. Advocating for children and families has been the cause of my life, starting with my first job as a young attorney at the Children’s Defense Fund, and if I have the honor of serving as president, it will be the driving mission of my administration.
The good news is that we’re making progress, thanks to the hard work of the American people and President Obama. The global poverty rate has been cut in half in recent decades. In the United States, a new report from the Census Bureau found that there were 3.5 million fewer people living in poverty in 2015 than just a year before.
Median incomes rose by 5.2 percent, the fastest growth on record. Households at all income levels saw gains, with the largest going to those struggling the most. The census report makes clear that when hard-working Americans get a small boost — like food stamps and health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act — they can climb out of poverty.
But make no mistake: We still have work to do. Families across the country were devastated by the Great Recession.
Nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience a year in poverty at some point. The best way to help families lift themselves out of poverty is to make it easier to find good-paying jobs. As president, one of my top priorities will be increasing economic growth that’s strong, fair and lasting. I will work with Democrats and Republicans to make a historic investment in good-paying jobs — jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing, technology and innovation, small businesses and clean energy. And we need to make sure that hard work is rewarded by raising the minimum wage and finally guaranteeing equal pay for women.
If we want to get serious about poverty, we also need a national commitment to create more affordable housing. This issue doesn’t get much election-year coverage, but it’s a big deal to the 11.4 million American households that spend more than half their incomes on rent. Too many people are putting off saving for their children or retirement just to keep a roof over their families’ heads.
My plan would expand Low Income Housing Tax Credits in high-cost areas to increase our affordable housing supply, and fuel broader community development. So if you are a family living in an expensive city, you would be able to find an affordable place to call home and have access to the transportation you need to get to good jobs and quality schools.
We also need to ensure that our investments are reaching the communities suffering the most from decades of neglect. We have got to acknowledge that even though poverty overall has fallen, extreme poverty has increased. Tim Kaine and I will model our anti-poverty strategy on Congressman Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan, directing 10 percent of federal investments to communities where 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years. And we’ll put special emphasis on minority communities that have been held back for too long by barriers of systemic racism.
As president, I will continue my life’s work focused on creating opportunities for children and fairness for families. We need to expand access to high-quality child care and guarantee paid leave so parents at all income levels can balance their jobs and lives. And we will work to double investments in Early Head Start and make preschool available to every 4-year-old because our children deserve the best possible start in life.
Donald J. Trump has a different approach. He divides America into winners and losers. And he doesn’t seem to spend much time worrying about people in poverty. In fact, his economic plans would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Americans, and would include an estimated $4 billion tax cut for his own family just by eliminating the estate tax. He has actually said that wages are too high. One independent economic analysis revealed that with Mr. Trump’s proposals in place, our economy would fall back into recession and inevitably push more families into poverty.
This November, the American people will have to choose between an economy that works for everyone and an economy that benefits the well off at the expense of everyone else. The choice couldn’t be clearer.
Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton), a former secretary of state, is the Democratic nominee for president.