More than thirty-seven million Americans live below the official poverty line, and their plight has only worsened with rising energy, food, and healthcare costs. The inequality gap in our country has reached record highs, and it’s unclear from current economic events if there will be any near-term relief or directional change. For that reason this year’s Blog Action Day is on the issue of poverty, which has undeniable connections and even potential solutions in the energy and environmental sphere.
Within the last year, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and partners have launched a campaign to cut national poverty in half in the next ten years — Half in Ten. The campaign has its roots in the Poverty to Prosperity report, released in 2007, which outlines 12 policies that would reach the campaign’s goal.
The Urban Institute found that just three of these policies — raising and indexing the minimum wage; expanding the Earned-Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit; and providing childcare assistance for working families below a certain income-level — would reduce poverty by more than 26 percent. Child poverty would drop by 41 percent, and over 9 million fewer Americans would be poor.
The Center for American Progress has also proposed a Green Economic Recovery plan that demonstrates how investments into transitioning to a low-carbon economy can also carve pathways out of poverty and create 2 million green-collared jobs across the U.S., primarily in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
Many of the jobs created would be in response to rising demand for energy efficiency retrofits, which in turn can cut a household’s energy expenditures. This is significant in relation to poverty because while the average American household spends about 5 percent of its annual income on energy bills, a low-income household spends closer to 16 percent on energy bills (and some cases and estimates suggest up to 35 percent). At a time when homeownership is in peril, energy costs and utility bills must be factors in our understanding of home affordability.
The green dream and the American dream are not exclusive battlegrounds, and in fact they share a lot in common. In the next few weeks — which are crucial to our economy — and the next few months — which are crucial to our political direction — it should be a priority to address economic mobility, green recovery, and the opportunities in each.
What can and should you do? Today, keep reading.