The Obama administration has rightly shifted its attention to jobs – job training and job creation. But that work needs to be combined with other strategies, both short and longer term, designed to keep the millions who have lost jobs during this recession from slipping further into poverty as well as rescue those trapped in poverty before our economy teetered on the brink of collapse in 2008.
Some strategies that could be employed to continue King's fight against poverty include:
• Tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit.
• Creating funding for short-term "stepping stone jobs" for people involved in living-wage job training or adult education programs designed to retrain and prepare participants for long-term employment.
• Increasing the number of housing vouchers to deal with homelessness.
• Continuing to increase the minimum wage, to at least $9 an hour over the next three to five years.
• Improving accessibility to food stamps, extending the amount of time people can receive them and increasing the food stamp limit.
Solutions to poverty include both personal responsibility and systemic reform. Our country should be dedicated to funding pathways out of poverty with the same patriotic fervor with which we fund war.
Celebrating Dr. King's life is good and appropriate. A commitment to continuing his work is better.
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The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr. is vice president of public policy at Central Dallas Ministries. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and he blogs at changethewind.org.