Student Talk Back focuses on poverty
On Wednesday afternoon, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics hosted the semester’s second installment of “Students Talk Back: A Politics and Public Policy Forum” in partnership with the USC College Democrats, USC College Republicans and the Daily Trojan.The theme for the week’s discussion was, “War on Poverty: 50 Years and Fighting.” The talk was moderated by Burke Gibson, chief copy editor of the Daily Trojan, and Kerstyn Olson, interim director of the Unruh Institute.Panelists included Reed Galen, owner of Jedburghs, LLC and a former adjunct professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; Angelica Solis, director of community development for the Youth Policy Institute and students Christian Patterson, a member of the USC College Democrats and Giuseppe Robalino, the director of Political Affairs and Strategy for the College Republicans.The discussion began with the current state of the War on Poverty in Los Angeles, a city recently named one of five “Promise Zones” by President Barack Obama, implementing a program he outlined in the 2013 State of the Union Address.Solis, however, said Los Angeles is not guaranteed any funding just because it was named a Promise Zone.“There actually aren’t any funds attached to the Promise Zones,” she said. “The distinction to be very clear about is it is a designation — it provides [for] the city of L.A. to apply for competitive federal funding.”The panelists then tackled the effectiveness of the War on Poverty as a whole. For Galen, who was a deputy campaign manager for the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain, the true measure of the War on Poverty’s success is not the idea behind it, but how that idea is implemented.“The biggest failure is how many folks we have that live consistently below the poverty line and the intergenerational impact of that,” he said. “If there is an indictment, it is not the ideals behind it, it is the execution.”Patterson agreed and spoke of the immense benefits that federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit have had on families struggling to climb out of poverty.Before opening the floor to questions from the audience, Olson asked the panel for comments on how democrats and republicans can compromise on the issue.“Republicans must get over being indifferent to the plight of folks who live below the poverty line and being cavalier to the fact that people might starve the death,” Galen said. “If we’re going be the party of opportunity, we should be the party of opportunity for everybody — not [just] white families in the suburbs.”Robalino agreed with Galen’s sentiments.“This is an issue the Republican Party can come to own,” he said. “It hearkens back to Horatio Alger’s ideas on coming from rags to riches.”Patterson, however, did not believe the Republican Party cared about the War on Poverty based on recent legislation the party has fought for.“We should not think of the war on poverty as a Democrat issue or a Republican issue,” Patterson said. “I don’t think the Republican stance on the War on Poverty will be a hard pill to swallow for many people, given that the House just fought for months and months to cut $40 billion from food stamps.”Students in attendance spoke of the importance of hearing the conversation from the viewpoint of students as well as professionals.“It’s nice to hear both perspectives, people that are working in the field that we’re talking about and students that are politically involved coming from a different point of view in the classroom,” said Jennifer Ann-Massey, president of the USC College Republicans.Olson emphasized the ability of “Talk Backs” to showcase different opinions and views.“I hope that they are provided a broad perspective,” Olson said. “Not just ideologically, but considering all of the social factors that contribute to poverty and thinking outside of their political leanings about how the other side has made attempts to or has been successful in preventing poverty in their districts.”The next “Students Talk Back” is Feb. 26, and will cover California’s historic drought.