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Jamison Doran Headshot

We Need to #TalkPoverty

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By now I'm sure most people have heard (or seen) the video of Mitt Romney at a fundraiser talking about the 47 percent of the electorate who are "dependent on government" and who "believe they are victims."

Romney's statement, like many of his in recent weeks, is troubling, insulting and not accurate. The media and the Obama campaign have jumped on it, and rightly so. However, why are these same groups ignoring the real issue here? The issue of 15 percent of our country living in poverty (all of whom I imagine fall under Romney's "47 percent" statement as they are likely getting assistance and/or don't make enough money to pay income tax).

As an Obama supporter, I am particularly upset with his lack of time dedicated to discussing poverty. Romney doesn't understand the plight of living paycheck-to-paycheck and he can't emphasize with a woman whose children eat semi-regularly only on the days they're in school. However, Obama can.

As a community organizer, and as someone who grew up modestly, he knows what it's like to not have money. Five years ago when he was first running for office, he was one of the few elected officials out there who was talking about it. I know things probably haven't gone entirely to plan and bringing up the the fact that our poverty rate has not decreased doesn't necessarily help him, but it still warrants discussion. There's only so much crap you can try to sweep under a rug to hide before it piles up so large there is no denying its existence.

I cannot pretend there is an easy fix to get our poverty rate down, which is at the highest level in at least 63 years, because there certainly isn't an easy fix and it won't become any easier regardless of who is president.

Why, however, is this not news? Just 0.2 percent of campaign stories studied by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting addressed poverty in any kind of meaningful way.

I realize poverty isn't a sexy thing to talk about. It is depressing and frustrating and painful, but when UNICEF releases a report showing the United States has the second highest child poverty rate in the economically advanced world (second only to Romania) it seems to me poverty should be a topic of conversation.

Seriously. We have 23.1 percent of our children living in poverty. Almost one quarter of the children living in the United States are considered impoverished, and I'd say many more are struggling as well. A family of four in the U.S. is classified as living in poverty if they make $23,050 or below. I don't know about you, but as a "family" of one who makes a good percentage more than that I don't know how on earth a family of four can live off of that number.

The lack of discussion on this issue is disheartening at best and disgusting at worst. These are the people our candidates (and our media) should be talking about. These are the people who could benefit (or not benefit) most from government policies and practices.

This unfortunately is not a new phenomenon. A Google search of "coverage of poverty in the media" or something similar yields results dating back to 2008 just on the first page with nonprofits wondering where the poverty talk is.

There is some hope, however. Segments of the media are finally starting to discuss poverty (even if it is only in a circular "we aren't talking about it" kind of way). And thanks to social media it is so much easier for everyone's voice to be heard. The discussion is happening constantly, especially on Twitter. So I invite you to come join the conversation and #talkpoverty, because with enough momentum maybe we can have our candidates talk about something that really matters, instead of what they wear to bed.