By Roland S. Martin
When the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week a record number of people in poverty, Republicans were quick to attach the figures to President Barack Obama, desperately trying to lay the figures at his feet.
But anyone with common sense knows that someone doesn’t just fall into poverty over night. The deplorable economic condition since this recession began in 2007 was the genesis of today’s poverty statistics, but the opposition often ignores such facts.
Yet when you start digging deeper into the Census Bureau report, what stands out is that of the 10 poorest states in the country, most of them are the reddest in the nation, or better known as solidly GOP states.
The most impoverished state is Mississippi, and then followed by Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina.
President Barack Obama only won North Carolina by 14,000 votes in 2008, and although West Virginia is considered a Democratic state, it normally goes for the GOP in presidential elections. There is no doubt that in 2012, the GOP expects to lock up all 10 of the states in the presidential campaign.
Thus it would make sense that the GOP candidates would at least spend some time in the presidential debates debating the issue of poverty in these red states, and what they plan to do about it.
In the CNN debate on June 13 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, the word poor was never uttered, and the only time poverty came up was when Rick Santorum discussed his work for welfare reform.
At the September 17 debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the poor was raised by Rep. Ron Paul, and that was in the discussion about getting rid of the minimum wage (he thinks it will lead to more jobs) and how he opposes welfare.
In answering a question from one of the moderators, Santorum again talked about his work on issues facing the poor, all under the guise of welfare reform during his 12 years in the U.S. Senate.
During the CNN-Tea Party debate, Mitt Romney managed to mention the poor, but that was only when it came to America being an “energy poor” country.
Republicans will quickly say that their economic agenda is the best way to get people back to work and a job is the best way to get people out of poverty. But it’s also true that the poverty issue extends beyond a job to education, and healthcare.
Voters in these traditional red states should be demanding that the GOP candidates who are banking on their votes say and do more than they are presently doing. Scarcely even mentioning the poor or poverty is insufficient.
Maybe part of the problem is the poor don’t have lobbyists. There aren’t any Super Pacs being formed to raise millions of dollars to demand accountability on the issue. Even right wing Christian leaders like Ralph Reed and his Faith and Freedom Coalition are quick to condemn President Obama’s plan to tax the rich, but say nothing about the poorest states in the country, or even demand a poverty plan from the GOP candidates.
If I were a poor person in a red state, my primary issue would be which candidate, including Obama, speaks to my needs. If a candidate spends more time defending tax cuts for the wealthy and saying nothing about the poor, including the growing number of children on the poverty rolls, that candidate would be hard pressed to get my vote.