In an attempt to address the issue of poverty affecting both the Ithaca and national communities, Cornell’s chapter of Half-in-Ten brought together panelists Monday to discuss potential solutions and public action. “In bringing the panel to Cornell, our goal was to further education on these topics,” said George Hornedo ‘13, president of Cornell Half-in-Ten.Nationally, Half-in-Ten seeks to cut American poverty rates in half in 10 years. At Cornell, the group hopes to address issues of hunger in Tompkins County and educate the Cornell and Ithaca communities on general poverty issues, Hornedo said. The discussion was titled “Poverty in America: Finding Solutions.” Panel members alternated between discussing local and national issues. Melissa Boteach, manager of Half-in-Ten for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, emphasized the need to address American poverty. “In 2009, there were 43.6 million people in poverty in the United States, including 15.5 million children. Numbers are expected to grow when 2010 data comes out,” Boteach said.Boteach emphasized several areas of public policy which are crucial to addressing poverty, such as Medicaid and Pell grants. Prof. Robert H. Frank, economics, underscored the need to fund these poverty-alleviating initiatives. Frank suggested Congressional leaders move towards raising revenue instead of cutting programs in order to solve deficit issues as cutting investments will hurt the United States in the long run.“The current problem is getting out of the recession and that means spending more, not less,” Frank said. “The situation is very similar to the demand for spending cuts in 1937. There are the same fallacious claims that government can’t spend beyond its means and they simply are not true,” Frank added.Other panel members focused on the issues facing the Ithaca and Cornell community specifically. Common Council Member Svante Myrick ‘09 (D-4th Ward), another panelist, spoke about more local policy. Myrick worried that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax caps could have an adverse effect on Ithaca’s poverty programs. “Cuomo’s tax cap could really hurt county and city operations. Unless it’s coupled with mandate relief, it could really impact human services,” said Myrick, who is also a candidate for Mayor of Ithaca.John Ward, Tompkins County Red Cross director of homeless services and chair of the Food Distribution Network, also discussed local efforts to ensure a living wage for working people. “Tompkins County has a strong living wage coalition. They’re the ones that will picket outside of Wal-Mart to force them to pay a living wage,” Ward said.Half-in-Ten is a joint effort by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Coalition on Human Needs, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The Cornell chapter of Half-in-Ten is the first collegiate branch of the project. One of Half-in-Ten’s focuses at Cornell centers around making use of Cornell Dining’s excess food through a partnership with the local Food Distribution Network. Joyce Muchan ’96, advisor to Cornell Half-in-Ten and Assistant Director of the Public Service Center said the discussion was a success. “Their goal is to build visibility for the issues, so just having students, faculty, and community and government leaders in one room discussing poverty is the best way to find a solution,” Muchan said.
Original Author: Matthew Rosenspire