The Nuns On A Bus tour is back, as the social justice lobbying group behind the tour that crisscrossed nine states this summer announced that it will resume next week with a 1,000-mile trip through Ohio. And this time, the nuns, who have highlighted the plight of the poor and how budget cuts would affect them, have invited both presidential tickets to join them.
Thus far, though, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has answered the invitations, which have been outstanding since Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, issued them in August. The nuns want Obama, Romney, Vice President Joe Biden, and GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan to join them in Cincinnati next Wednesday to hear about the struggles of America’s poorest citizens, and to learn about how budget cuts to different programs would make their lives even harder.
“My goal would be Governor Romney, President Obama, Congressman Ryan, Vice President Biden,” Campbell told ThinkProgress during a tour stop in New York City last week. “Let’s get all four of them there. Let’s have them listen to the people of our country.”
15 percent of Americans live in poverty, and the number has risen significantly since the beginning of the Great Recession. Recent studies have highlighted the lack of economic mobility and educational access available to lower-income Americans, and still the topic has been largely ignored during the presidential campaign.
Poverty wasn’t mentioned a single time in last night’s first presidential debate in Denver.
“It’s not getting talked about enough,” Campbell said. “I was able to tell President Obama that I was grateful that he mentioned poverty in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. I don’t think he’s ever said that word. So it’s beginning to get some traction. But the fact is, people are struggling.”
That Romney and Ryan don’t want to accept the invitation might not be shocking, given that the message of the nuns’ tour has been largely aimed at the cuts to assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps Ryan wrote into the House GOP budget, which Romney supports.
While they haven’t been as explicit about poverty as the nuns, Obama and Biden have been critical of the cuts contained in Ryan’s budget, and they jumped on Romney’s recent comments that he’ll “never convince” people who use government benefits “that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” And yet, neither Obama nor Biden has committed to joining the nuns to listen to the people they are defending.