WASHINGTON (RNS) — A bipartisan group of 18 Christian leaders has developed a host of policy recommendations on poverty reduction that they hope will shape the actions of the Obama administration and Congress.
The effort, co-chaired by evangelical activist Jim Wallis and Michael Gerson, who was a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, is led by what Gerson called “strange bedfellows” who want to make sure the poor are not overlooked in the economic downturn.
“This is middle-level policies, manageable policies that really are substantial but are doable that could be adopted by the administration, by Congress and … could make a real difference for poor people,” Wallis said.
“This whole effort reflects the hope that overcoming poverty in this nation could, should, must become a bipartisan issue and a nonpartisan cause.”
The policy suggestions range from increased funding for low-income college students to helping needy pregnant women receive health care to an increase in the minimum wage.
Wallis, president of Washington-based Sojourners, said some of the members of the forum would be meeting with White House officials this week to discuss the proposals. When the White House unveiled a revamped Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships earlier this month, poverty reduction was listed first among the office”s four priorities.
At a time when one in eight Americans lives in poverty, the leaders said they were particularly concerned that the nation’s neediest might be lost in the discussions of the economic crisis on the middle class.
The Policy Forum was conceived and developed prior to last year’s elections, but much of its specific work — including pairs of ideologically different experts drafting proposals in seven policy areas — came together during meetings and conference calls that began in November.