Bringing the issue of poverty to the forefront of the 2012 election campaign is the goal of two familiar names coming to Delaware State University later this week.
Talk show host Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West’s Poverty Tour 2.0 pulls into DSU Thursday night, September 13. The town hall style forum will focus on eradicating poverty in America.
West asserts that neither party is addressing the topic of poverty and the purpose of the tour is to change that.
“We need to put pressure on both parties to deal with the new Jim Crow – the prison-industrial complex, dilapidated housing in our communities, the unbelievably disgraceful school systems, the levels on unemployment and underemployment. It’s an attempt to insure that candidates talk about poverty,” said Dr. West, an author and Princeton University professor emeritus.
Smiley adds that with unemployment stuck above 8 percent and new Census numbers later this week likely to show the poverty rate rising to its highest level since the 1960’s, poverty needs to be an election issue.
“Poverty is the new norm in America. One out of two Americans is in or near poverty. We cannot abide a race for the White House that ignores the issue of poverty,” said Smiley.
The most recent Census figures on poverty in Delaware were from 2010. They show that 103,427 people, or 11.8 percent of the population, were impoverished in 2010. That’s up from 10.8 percent in 2009 and 10.4 percent in 2008. (See WDDE story here)
The rates were almost twice as high for Delawareans who are black (20.5 percent); Hispanic (21.7 percent); without a high school diploma (22.1 percent), or unemployed (21.1 percent).
The poverty rate jumps to 30.4 percent for households headed by a woman, with no husband present and related children under 18 years old, up from 28.8 percent in 2009.
Smiley says those numbers create an atmosphere that is dangerous to the country’s future.
“It’s not just unemployment that’s high. Hopelessness continues to rise and poverty is now threatening our very democracy. Why? Because when people don’t have hope your democracy can’t be sustained,” said Smiley. “It’s now a matter of national security. Something has got to be done to craft and create a national plan to eradicate poverty in this country.”
And while West says he supports President Obama over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the 2012 race, he adds that is not enough to address the level of poverty in the country today.
“We’re talking about a system at this point. We’re talking about the whole way in which political discussions take place that render poor people invisible. And we refuse to accept that,” said West.
The Poverty Tour stop at DSU’s Memorial Hall Thursday night at 8. It is free and open to the public. The stop in Delaware is one of six over four days from Sept. 12 to Sept 15. The other stops are in presidential election swing states, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida.
And you can hear Tavis Smiley and Cornel West every Sunday afternoon at 4 on 91.1 WDDE on “Smiley and West.”