Addressing Poverty – Corporately, Personally, Politically

Many politicians refuse to admit that mass poverty exists in their own prosperous nation. Photo from

One of the major diversity issues within the United States is the continual increase of people living in poverty, and this is an issue that truly is critical to me as a diversity consultant. Part of including all people in the fabric of society means addressing systemic issues that hold people back from reaching their maximum capabilities.

In October 2014, I wrote about the culture of poverty within the United States (link) where I share some sobering statistics about the demographics of people living in poverty. These stats show that the number of people officially living in poverty in the US continues to grow, even as we tout ourselves as “the land of plenty.” In that blog, I also share three ways that corporate America can address this issue.

But in addition to corporate America, we can each personally strive to do our part, including at the ballot box when we vote each November, to address the growing poverty in our communities, states and country. Here are 10 questions that you can ask politicians running for office, and that you can use to evaluate what candidates are committed to bettering the economic plight of all Americans. These questions were developed by the NC Justice Center for North Carolina, and I edited them to be applicable for our entire nation:

The poverty rate among Black Americans is nearly double the general population, and particularly impacts women and children.

1. In almost all states, it takes at least $16 an hour for a family to afford the basics. Will you support raising your state’s or the nation’s minimum wage?

2. What will you do to ensure that all at-risk children can participate in quality early childhood programs?

3. Will you work to ensure that our public schools, where over 80 percent of our children are enrolled, are fully funded?

4. Will you stop tax-cutting initiatives that most often strip vital services from those that need them most?

5. In many places, middle and low-income citizens pay a greater share of their incomes than the wealthy. What will you do to fix the tax code to ensure that everyone pays their fair share and those struggling don’t carry a heavier tax load than millionaires?

6. How would you improve connections for jobless workers to secure good jobs?

7. Do you think it is acceptable to have a sub-standard unemployment insurance system that reduces benefits to those who have lost their job through no fault of their own?

8. Will you work toward ensuring that your locale, state or the nation pursues full employment for all of its citizens? What are the tools that you would use?

9. How will you ensure that businesses that have been historically excluded from opportunity are able to access public contracts and grow?

10. What does a thriving community look like to you? How will you pursue public policies that realize that vision?

When our citizens, elected public leaders, non-profits and corporate leaders truly work together to provide opportunities for the economically disadvantaged among us, it does indeed help all of us!