Senator Sanders Offers Amendment to Combat Poverty in America to the Minimum Wage Bill.

Mr. President, the United States is the richest country in the history of the world. Unfortunately, however, despite our great wealth, nearly 13 percent of our citizens are living in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country in the industrialized world. In my opinion we have a moral responsibility to end child poverty in this country.

Mr. President, the United States is the richest country in the history of the world. Unfortunately, however, despite our great wealth, nearly 13 percent of our citizens are living in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country in the industrialized world. In my opinion we have a moral responsibility to end child poverty in this country. Therefore, the amendment that I am offering today simply expresses the Sense of the Senate that:1) We have a moral obligation to improve the lives of nearly 37 million Americans living in poverty, including nearly 13 million children;2) We have got to address the reality that in the United States today we have by far the most unfair distribution of wealth and income of any major industrialized country and we have a moral obligation to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor;3) And, most importantly, this amendment calls on the President to submit a plan to Congress which eradicates childhood poverty over the next decade and reduces the gap between the rich and the poor.Mr. President, as a nation we are proud of our accomplishments. How often do we hear the phrase Americas #1?Unfortunately, in terms of childhood poverty not only are we not #1 in having the lowest childhood poverty rate, were at the top of the list in having the highest childhood poverty rate in the industrialized world.Mr. President, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the childhood poverty rate is nearly 18%. According to data from the Luxembourg Income Study Group, the childhood poverty rate in the U.S. is even higher: 21.9%. Well, lets look at other OECD countries. In Germany, the childhood poverty rate is 9%; in France, its 7.9%; in Austria, its 6.7%; in Sweden, its 4.2%; in Norway, its 3.4%; and in Finland, the childhood poverty rate is only 2.8%. Mr. President, have other countries succeeded in reducing their childhood poverty rates? Absolutely. In 1999, the British government made a commitment to end child poverty. Six years later, child poverty in the United Kingdom had been cut by 20 percent. Unfortunately, at the same time that Britain was taking important steps to reduce child poverty, child poverty in the United States increased by about twelve percent.Mr. President, that is unacceptable. We have got to do better than that. Gap Between the Rich and PoorWhile we continue to have the highest rate of childhood poverty and while over five million Americans have slipped into poverty over the past six years, there is another issue that the Senate has got to address. And, that is the growing oligarchic nature of our society. Today, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. The wealthiest 1 percent, yes, that is right, the wealthiest 1 percent own more wealth as the bottom 90 percent. The CEOs of our largest corporations now earn over 800 times what a minimum wage earner makes. today the Nation's 13,000 wealthiest families, who constitute 1/100th of 1 percent of the population, a tiny, tiny percentage of Americans, receive almost as much income as the bottom 20 million families in the United States of America; 1/100th of 1 percent receive nearly as much income as the bottom 20 million families. And, I defy anyone to tell me that that is in any way fair or that is in any way what the United States is supposed to be about. We have got to come up with a plan to reverse this trend. Increasing the minimum wage is a great first step, but we have got to do more, and that is what this amendment is all about.Today, Mr. President, while the middle class in America is shrinking and poverty is increasing, the people at the very top the millionaires and billionaires have never had it so good. That is something that we have got to address. The true greatness of a country does not lie in the number of millionaires and billionaires. Rather, a great nation is one in which justice, equality and dignity prevail. Mr. President let me close by a quote that President Bush made on January 20, 2001:In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nations promise. Where there is suffering, there is duty. Americans in need are not strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities. And all of us are diminished when any are hopeless. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.The President was right to make this pledge, but since he made this statement, we all know that 5.4 million Americans slipped into poverty including over one million children.Let us begin to turn this pledge into reality. We can begin by raising the minimum wage and coming up with a plan, once and for all to eliminate childhood poverty and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.Click here to read the press release.