"Appalachia" is no longer the heritage-derived place name coined by European explorers or the designation famed author Washington Irving once suggested as a replacement for North America. The word now represents systemic failure and poverty in the national lexicon.
Every four years for the last 40 years (even before we were called Sojourners), our community has done what we can to lift up the issue of poverty during presidential elections. So it is with that spirit that I am proud to present a new short film called The Line.
The U.S. government -- including both the executive and the legislative branches -- has the obligation to ensure that the right to vote is more than an illusion for all U.S. citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, home, or history of conflict with the law.
The choice -- and it is a conscious choice -- to ignore the problems facing poor Americans comes at a moment when those problems are not only multiplying but also as more and more people find themselves either teetering on the abyss of poverty or falling into it entirely.
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.
Over the last few weeks, we observed both the Democratic and Republican conventions. It was easy to absorb the difference between the two parties. One was dedicated to fighting for the middle-class and poor of this country, the other for millionaires and billionaires.
The Census numbers paint a picture of continuing high rates of poverty, government programs that provide an essential safety net, a major decline in middle class living standards, and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor that is undermining our economic recovery.
No one would rip the plywood off their windows or empty the sandbags in the midst of an intense storm. Similarly, the federal government should not reduce the strength of its safety net when there are so many families in need and truly benefiting from the support.
The faith community has asked both presidential nominees for a response and they have answered. So it's time now to put poverty on the campaign agenda, from our local churches, to our public forums, to our presidential debates.
As election season heats up, state photo ID laws are in the news. Reading some of the coverage, though, it can be hard to fully appreciate the significance of the issues they raise and the potentially enormous impact they can have.
Incarcerating people for not paying fees they can't afford isn't generating revenue -- it's just creating more government spending. And making it almost impossible for people to rejoin society ensures that people will wind up back in prison.
A meaningful debate about the path to recovery requires a careful examination of the uneven impact on African-American and Hispanic families and the role of racial discrimination in creating the ongoing distress.