News

Obama targets poverty in Philly, L.A., other ‘zones’

Obama targets poverty in Philly, L.A., other ‘zones’

POVERTY ZONES: Lynda Johnson Robb, President Lyndon B. Johnson's daughter, right, joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and others, speaks during an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, marking the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's declaration of the War on Poverty. As part of this effort, President Barack Obama will create "promise zones" in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the White House said on Wednesday. Photo: Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is set to speak on Thursday about how he will target job creation, housing, law enforcement and education in the poorest U.S. communities, part of his pledge to narrow the gap between rich and poor in America.

Obama signaled last month that he plans a new focus this year on income inequality, which he called “the defining challenge of our time”, pushing to raise the minimum wage and find new ways to help poor children break out of the cycle of poverty.

As part of this effort, Obama will create “promise zones” in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the White House said on Wednesday.

The announcement came on the 50th anniversary of a pledge by former President Lyndon Johnson to wage a “war on poverty.”

Johnson’s pledge led to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, social security, food stamps, and Head Start preschool education programs.

Since 1967, poverty rates have fallen from close to 26 percent down to 16 percent, the White House said. In 2012, 49.7 million of Americans lived in poverty, including 13.4 million children.

“In the richest nation on Earth, far too many children are still born into poverty, far too few have a fair shot to escape it, and Americans of all races and backgrounds experience wages and incomes that aren’t rising,” Obama said in a statement marking the anniversary of Johnson’s pledge.

Obama will make his formal announcement about the “promise zones” at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday.

He first spoke about the plan in his 2013 State of the Union speech, almost a year ago, pledging to focus government funding with private sector programs in 20 communities to create jobs, improve schools, beef up public safety, and create better housing.

The plan called for tax incentives for businesses that invest in impoverished neighborhoods and hire local people, and is modeled after a program run by the city of San Antonio.

Obama has also said he will push to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, up from $7.25, an effort unlikely to succeed because of opposition from Republicans in Congress.

Democrats have taken up the cause ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Polls show Americans view Republicans as less compassionate toward the poor.

Obama and Democrats have also pushed to extend an expiring program that provides benefits to people out of work — something Republicans have resisted because of the cost.

But this week, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, both potential White House contenders, plan major events describing their ideas for addressing poverty.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Rosalind Russell)

Recent Headlines

1 day ago in Local

18yo arrested on suspicion of abandoning son in Everett dumpster

baby

Police got a tip this week that she had been pregnant and then appeared not to be pregnant anymore, refusing to talk about what happened.

1 day ago in Local

Ulta Beauty and Sephora coming to Bellingham

beauty products

Ulta Beauty is setting up shop next to Abercrombie and Fitch in the Bellis Fair Mall, and Sephora will be opening in JC Penny.

1 day ago in Local

National pharmaceutical company forced to pay state $23 million

pharmacy

The State Attorney General says drug-maker Wyeth, which is owned by Pfizer, underpaid Medicaid.

2 days ago in Local

Bellingham man is sentenced to nine months for rape

prison

it could have been much longer.

2 days ago in Local

A rental scam to watch out for in Whatcom County

rent graphic

The scammer was obviously hoping to get money before the renters learned it was a scam.