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Cornel West And Tavis Smiley On Poverty

Cornel West and Tavis Smiley join us to with a call to confront poverty in America.

Demonstrators calling for Gov. Mark Dayton to hold the line against cuts to the poor and working Minnesotans, Wednesday, June 8, 2011 in St. Paul, Minn.  (AP)

Demonstrators calling for Gov. Mark Dayton to hold the line against cuts to the poor and working Minnesotans, Wednesday, June 8, 2011 in St. Paul, Minn. (AP)

Everybody talks about the beating the American middle class has taken in the Great Recession. And it’s real. But what you really didn’t want to be in this recession is poor. Poverty has been the word politicians have scrambled to avoid as the economy keeled over.

But it is there. It is big. And a whole lot of once-middle-class families are now part of it too. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney may not want to talk much about it, but Tavis Smiley and Cornel West do. They’re raising a ruckus. Calling out a crisis.

This hour, On Point: Cornel West and Tavis Smiley on America’s poverty reality.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Bradley Keoun, a reporter for Bloomberg-BusinessWeek.

Tavis Smiley, the host of the late-night television talk show Tavis Smiley on PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show from Public Radio International. He’s the co-author of the new book Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. You can find an excerpt here.

Cornel West, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, he is the author of many works, including the 1993 bestseller Race Matters, Keeping Faith, The Future of the Race (with Henry Louis Gates Jr.), and Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. He’s the co-author of the new book Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. You can find an excerpt here.

From Tom’s Reading List

Huffington Post “It’s a frightening trend we discuss in the final chapter of our newly released book, The Rich & the Rest of Us. Every month since 2001, the United States has lost an average of 50,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs. Almost seven out of every ten of those lost jobs were in the construction, truck driving, warehouse or other blue-collar sectors.”

The Root “Last summer PBS talk-show host Tavis Smiley and author Cornel West embarked on an 18-city poverty tour to highlight the hardship of poor people. Despite a record number of Americans — one in two — either living below the poverty line or classified as low-income, they felt that poor people had been rendered invisible by both the government and society at large. Now, by convening a panel of experts and advocates, they’re taking another step in their mission to elevate poverty on the national agenda.”

The New York Times “They drive cars, but seldom new ones. They earn paychecks, but not big ones. Many own homes. Most pay taxes. Half are married, and nearly half live in the suburbs. None are poor, but many describe themselves as barely scraping by.”

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