msnbc | January 27, 2013
>> has been on the rise for decades. the gap between the haves and have-nots at the widest point since 1967 and the president said change is necessary.
>> for we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.
>> let me bring in rick benjamin , fellow. how excited were you to hear the topic of poverty being talked about since it wasn't talked about at all during the presidential campaign. on that stage at the inauguration, how excited were you to hear it in some manner?
>> very excited. i was there in person. when obama laid down that daunt let i was very excited.
>> do we understand how deep the issue of inequality is in this country? is this one we try to understand?
>> people understand it for personal and work reasons. i have been traveling a lot. when you see poverty from suburbs to washington state people get it. we is see poverty in the suburbs. the confusion comes in when the solutions are talked about. you don't have to tell anyone about poverty. it is no longer them, those people in the ghetto. it is our cousins, aunts, uncles. i think people get it.
>> you say it comes in when the solutions are talked about. what do you mean?
>> right. a lot of conservatives running around saying the reason we are poor is the government spends too much on unworthy people, we have a growing debt that is going to crush us and confuse the idea of a personal household debt with a federal debt . i don't think we have to lecture anyone in the country that poverty exists.
>> how offensive is it when you hear that no matter where you are from, where you were born all you have to do is work hard and you will be out of poverty. it is almost as if it is your fault if you are poor because you didn't work good enough.
>> you can bust a hump and work a full-time job at wal-mart or retail and qualify for public assistance . we have an economy where stanley o'neill can run merrill lynch in to the ground. and still walk away with tens of millions of dollars. the point being that i simply wish there was a correlation between productivity and hard work and how you are rewarded and there isn't.
>> we have the poverty rate now. we can show folks. it is at 15%. however, for african-americans it is around 27, i believe i may have that right. what can we do about that racial disparity? that's a huge gap.
>> it is unacceptable and the gap between children and adults is unacceptable. i think it is the policy. i think we need long term solutions to this poverty. no more band-aids and that's what made me excited. obama was hinting in his inauguration address he was willing to tackle these things.
>> this is such a problem problem and so multifacetted but where do you start to tackle the president bush ? we were talking before we came on the air to talk about it on a national level and the national stage is first and foremost. where with the policies and the solutions? where do you start?
>> i think in the tax rise on upper-income americans is a good start. it's not the the only thing. we need to protect the spending as budget battles are sure to come up with programs that help people in need , food nutrition, head start , education and the like. that's a good start. we have to reach in to the political system so when people accumulate wealth that lets them accumulate political influence which lets them determine policy in a way that allows them to accumulate more wealth and influence. it is a vicious circle in a snowball effect .
>> what you are saying is poor people don't have a voice.
>> yeah, it is. citizens united is the example of how to do things correctly but it is a thing where poor people can help shape public policy . that's a long-term solution. now we have earned income tax credits , the tax hike on the wealthiest americans to simply pre-clinton or clinton levels and spending holding the line on those.
>> it was a good start and you said you were giddy to hear the president talking about poverty and the poor in country. maybe we will see what happens the next couple of years. love to talk to you down the road.
>> thank you.