Poverty Approximately 37 Million Americans Term Paper

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Approximately 37 million Americans, (12.6% of the population) live in poverty (U.S. Census, 2006); 17.1% of American children are poor; 10.1% of the elderly are poor; 21.8% of Latino children and 24.9% of African-American children are poor. (Wu, et al., 2007).

Antipoverty Program in the U.S. Perhaps the best known antipoverty movement in the United States over the past forty years was the "Poor People's Campaign" (PPC), led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the 1960s. It was the brainchild of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was an internationally known advocate civil rights turning his attention to "human rights" in the last year of his life. During King's press conference on December 4, 1967 he explained that his PPC movement would lead "...waves of the nation's poor and disinherited to Washington, D.C.... To demand redress of their grievances by the United States and to secure at least jobs and income for all."

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The core issue in this movement was - and is - poverty in America. Indeed, the SCLC of Greater Los Angeles continues this program with collaboration from groups such as the AFL-CIO, LA Unified School District, NAACP, faith communities, Mothers in Action, National Black Business Council, the Los Angeles Sentinel (newspaper), Coop Employment Service, among others. There is an ongoing pre-apprentice program set up by the SCLC of Los Angeles, with programs to train poor people to get jobs as electricians, carpenters, operating engineers, steel workers, pipe fitters, plumbers and crane operators, according to the literature. Recently, the Southern California Edison company funded the pre-apprentice program for one year.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Poverty Approximately 37 Million Americans, (12.6% of Assignment

Meanwhile, as to the original movement, in the journal Cross Currents King is quoted as saying there are "...millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose..." (according to the U.S. Census one in seven Americans and 16% of the residents in Los Angeles in 1967 fell below the poverty line). In April 1968, Dr. King was assassinated, but the PPC went forward and built a shantytown on the Washington Mall (called "Resurrection City"); "several thousand poor people" of diverse ethnic backgrounds camped (Baptist, et al., 2005). Demands were made of Congress and the Johnson Administration and the news media paid close attention to the campers and their demands for a few days.

The strategy for the PPC was to receive public attention and collaborate with existing organizations to develop long-range solutions. King believed that "building the unity of the poor would break every stereotype about poverty" (Baptist, 357). The SCLC planned to train, educate and "empower" poor people to eliminate poverty. Baptist writes in Cross Currents that King "fully understood the significant challenges and possibilities... [and] his call to unite the poor across color lines is the first step in revealing the structural nature of poverty..."

But widespread public support was not forthcoming in 1968, and with King deceased, the spirit and spark of the movement faded away quickly. Why did the PPC fail? Reviewing the book Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (Piven, et al., 1977), Clarke a. Chambers writes in the American Historical Review that using "tactics of mass protest and disruption" instead of "organization and lobbying" is generally a losing strategy. Further, because the poor "lack power" and "cannot rely on tactics appropriate for traditional reform movements," hence, they rarely succeed.

The authors of the book that Chambers reviews, who were welfare activists in the 1960s, believe any movement to mobilize poor families "to demand relief for which they were eligible" but had not yet registered for that relief, would give them "direct aid" in the short run. However, in the long run, Piven and Cloward posit, the sudden sign-ups and demands for relief from abject poverty would "provoke such an acute fiscal crisis that government would be forced to initiate a national system of family income maintenance" (Chambers 1977).

International Anti-Poverty Program: The "Make Poverty History" (MPH) movement, which is no longer active, had the most ambitious agenda of any antipoverty movement in recent memory. MPH was started in the UK and in its most successful moments it involved antipoverty activists and organizations in many countries. Moreover, MPH had one of the biggest… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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