|WASHINGTON, January 8 - On this day 50 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a 'War on Poverty' so that every American would have the chance at a more stable and prosperous future.
Today, our country has made progress, but there is still much work ahead of us and there are many Americans who urgently need our help. On this 50th Anniversary, let us recommit ourselves to fight for our fellow Americans. Everyone in our country deserves a fair shot at the American Dream and the struggle for income inequality and wealth distribution is more important than ever before.
Fifty years ago President Johnson stated: “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. … It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”
President Johnson led the nation with key initiatives like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Pell Grants, and nutrition assistance that have lifted millions of American families out of destitution and despair.
The War on Poverty and efforts that followed have helped move millions out of poverty – particularly America’s seniors. From 1967 to 2012, the poverty rate fell from 26% to 16%, taking into account the safety net.
But fifty years later, our nation’s fight to stamp out poverty remains unfinished.
That is why today we are fighting to restore emergency unemployment insurance for the 1.4 million Americans still searching for work, who are cut off from this critical lifeline. These temporary emergency benefits helped keep 600,000 children out of poverty in 2012, and 11 million Americans out of poverty since the recession began.
"The recent cuts to the SNAP program have hit our most vulnerable Americans hard. In Texas alone, nearly 4 million people will be affected this year by the $411 million that will not be there to help feed poor families."
There are ways we can continue this fight against poverty in America. We must:
• Extend unemployment insurance for 1.4 million Americans still searching for work;
• Raise the minimum wage to $10.10, resulting in a pay increase for 30 million hardworking men and women and lifting more than 4.5 million Americans out of poverty;
• Invest in America’s infrastructure and education, creating good-paying jobs here at home today and preparing our children for the high-skilled jobs of tomorrow;
• Unleash the full potential of America’s women, by passing equal pay, paid family leave, and affordable child care that they deserve.
But instead of working to combat poverty and helping to build ladders of opportunities, Republicans in Congress have increased hardship for those who are already struggling to make ends meet, while supporting more tax cuts for the wealthy.
On the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, we must renew our commitment to win this war and ensure every American who works hard and plays by the rules has a fair shot at the American dream.
Rubén Hinojosa is member of Congress for District 15 in Texas. A Democrat, Hinojosa hails from Mercedes, Texas.