Moyers: Obama ‘should know better’ than to ignore poverty

By Kay Steiger
Monday, August 27, 2012 12:21 EDT
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Journalist Bill Moyers expressed concern in a video essay published Friday over President Barack Obama, a former community organizer, and his lack of devotion to poverty since he’s entered the Oval Office.

“It’s just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no discussion of what’s happening to poor people,” Moyers said. “Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision — ‘out of sight, out of mind.’”

He said this critique is not just of fat-cat Republicans and their disproportionate attention to millionaires and billionaires. Obama himself is just as guilty, even though he of all people, “should know better.”

“Remember: for three years in the 1980’s he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it ‘the best education I ever had.’”

Moyers cites a speech candidate Obama made in one of Washington D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods in 2007, in which he pledged to devote billions to a comprehensive poverty-fighting program nationwide modeled after Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City.

“Oddly, though, for all his rhetorical skills, Obama hasn’t made a single speech devoted to poverty since he moved into the White House,” Moyers pointed out. “In the last three years, only $40 million have been spent with another $60 million scheduled for local community grants.”

To say Moyers is disappointed in Obama’s actions as president would be an understatement. “Obama’s White House team insisted their intentions were good, but the depth of the economic meltdown passed along by their predecessors has kept them from doing more,” he said.

“We know, we know: It is written that, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ But when it comes to our ‘out of sight, out of mind’ population of the poor, you have to think we can help reduce their number, ease the suffering, and speak out, with whatever means at hand, on their behalf and against those who would prefer they remain invisible,” Moyers goes on to challenge the president. “Speak out: that means you and me, and yes, Mr. President, you, too. You once told the big bankers on Wall Street that you were all that stood between them and the pitchforks of an angry public. How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?”

Watch the video, posted on BillMoyers.com on Aug. 24.

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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