Beckmann Provides Preview of Upcoming Year to Grassroots Activists
On the third Tuesday of each month, in an effort to best serve our grassroots and give them a legislative update, the organizing and government relations departments at Bread for the World host a conference call and webinar from our Washington, D.C. headquarters. Pictured from left to right: Amelia Kegan, Eric Mitchell, and Rev. David Beckmann (Christine Melendez-Ashley).
Yesterday, anti-hunger activists across the nation had the opportunity to converse with Bread for the World’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, during this month’s National Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar. Spurred by questions from participants, topics such as this year’s congressional elections to ending extreme poverty worldwide by 2030 filled the hour’s discussion.
Beckmann began with encouraging lessons from 2013. Although the economic crises has left the United States with higher rates of poverty, proposals in the House to cut anti-hunger programs by $1.5 trillion in the past three years have largely failed. “Even if we lost the current battles we are facing, the total cuts to poverty programs would be only 3 percent of what has been proposed,“ he said. “That would not have happened without the grassroots leadership that you provide.”
The 2014 challenges he went on to outline include: reforming U.S. food aid in this year’s Offering of Letters, an extension of emergency unemployment insurance, protecting food stamps and urging U.S. food aid reforms in the farm bill, funding for anti-hunger programs through the appropriations process, and urging the House to pass immigration-reform legislation that addresses hunger both here and abroad.
Recent bipartisanship has been encouraging as well. “We are seeing a new ability in the parties to come together for agreement,” noted Beckmann. The release of last night’s omnibus appropriations bill, averting another fiscal crises, is an example of Congress moving away from a climate of partisan brinkmanship. (The bill, expected to pass both chambers, is being reviewed by Bread for the World; an analysis of how anti-hunger programs fared will be available on our website soon.)
An increase in speeches on poverty indicates that both Congress and the president are hearing the anti-hunger community. Besides an uptick in speeches by President Obama, high-profile Republicans, namely Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.), have also highlighted poverty in recent appearances. “I didn’t agree with all they said, but Rubio did not talk about cutting programs for poor people, and Ryan talked about the importance of the EITC [earned income tax credit],“ remarked Beckman. Failing to prioritize hunger isn’t the fault of a single party. “Three years ago, when we started asking for a circle of protection around hunger programs,” he continued, “we couldn’t get Democrats to talk about poverty.”
With elections on the minds of many in Washington, Beckmann sees an increase in national conversations about poverty as an encouraging sign and a result of constituent outcries in the last election. “We need a better Congress,” he said before encouraging activists to look at how members of Congress have voted and to elect members who prioritize ending hunger.
In the last two decades, extreme poverty has been cut in half, and it’s not just the developing countries that have made strides in reducing hunger, pointed out Beckmann. “It is quite possible to reduce poverty,” he concluded – a challenge we can’t afford to ignore.
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