Liberals have sparked conversations about poverty for generations, often making it the centerpiece of election campaigns or of their self-identify. But economic and political realities change. America’s middle class is under assault, and the conversation must change to match the new realities. The shape of the conversation of poverty may determine whether the middle class will ally with the wealthy, putting their faith in efficient markets and going it alone, or whether they may align with the poor to support policies that make economic life more secure for both?
I just returned from a conference at the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity that John Edwards heads up at the University of North Carolina. Many of the people in attendance were long-time advocates on behalf of the poor — community organizers, community legal services lawyers, outreach organizers. These were hard-working, innovative, dedicated people, and I learned far more than I taught.
Because I spoke first at the Conference and because my research is on the middle class, I started with the question of why advocates for the poor should care deeply about middle-class economic issues. Here’s my list of reasons, but this issue is important and I’d like to invite more conversation about it. So I ask TPM Café readers to take issue with me or to add more reasons that I haven’t singled out.
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