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Obama targets poverty in US 'promise zones'

By Roberta Rampton

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama is set to speak on Thursday about how he will target job creation, housing, law enforcement and education in the poorest U.S. communities, part of his pledge to narrow the gap between rich and poor in America.

Obama signaled last month that he plans a new focus this year on income inequality, which he called "the defining challenge of our time", pushing to raise the minimum wage and find new ways to help poor children break out of the cycle of poverty.

As part of this effort, Obama will create "promise zones" in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the White House said on Wednesday.

The announcement came on the 50th anniversary of a pledge by former President Lyndon Johnson to wage a "war on poverty."

'Promise Zone' in LA to Receive Up to $500 Million in Aid

Johnson's pledge led to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, social security, food stamps, and Head Start preschool education programs.

Since 1967, poverty rates have fallen from close to 26 percent down to 16 percent, the White House said. In 2012, 49.7 million of Americans lived in poverty, including 13.4 million children.

"In the richest nation on Earth, far too many children are still born into poverty, far too few have a fair shot to escape it, and Americans of all races and backgrounds experience wages and incomes that aren't rising," Obama said in a statement marking the anniversary of Johnson's pledge.

Obama will make his formal announcement about the "promise zones" at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday.

He first spoke about the plan in his 2013 State of the Union speech, almost a year ago, pledging to focus government funding with private sector programs in 20 communities to create jobs, improve schools, beef up public safety, and create better housing.

The plan called for tax incentives for businesses that invest in impoverished neighborhoods and hire local people, and is modeled after a program run by the city of San Antonio.

Obama has also said he will push to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, up from $7.25, an effort unlikely to succeed because of opposition from Republicans in Congress.

Democrats have taken up the cause ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Polls show Americans view Republicans as less compassionate toward the poor.

Obama and Democrats have also pushed to extend an expiring program that provides benefits to people out of work -- something Republicans have resisted because of the cost.

But this week, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, both potential White House contenders, plan major events describing their ideas for addressing poverty.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Rosalind Russell)

Join the discussion

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charke2000 January 08 2014 at 1:18 PM

I really think he is missing the point not including Detroit, MI. Extremely dissappointed.

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1 reply
ksir127 charke2000 January 08 2014 at 1:23 PM

Probably didn't get their votes in the last election

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dianrup3 January 08 2014 at 1:19 PM

I am sick to death of these anti poverty programs in election years. S the democrats look good, republicans look bad. When will the electorate understand that this is posturing and nothing ever gets done after the election?

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1 reply
NANCY dianrup3 January 08 2014 at 5:04 PM

I agree. This will be the year he makes good on his promises to blacks, Hispanics and the middle class! Thought everyone needed a good laugh!

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buckeye3118 January 08 2014 at 1:20 PM

'Promise zones', where PopStar MESSiah makes the promise that anyone who lives there will be under the control of his socialist dictatorship.

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ivannavi January 08 2014 at 1:20 PM

Blah, blah, and more blah, blah from President Blah!

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1 reply
jpetty831 ivannavi January 08 2014 at 1:28 PM

And of course, you know how he is lying.............."his mouth is moving"

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ruwolf99 January 08 2014 at 1:20 PM

The big promise zone needs to be the White House!

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1 reply
jpetty831 ruwolf99 January 08 2014 at 1:27 PM

And the big promise needs to be ...............Obama is leaving, NOW, and of course he takes all his clowns with him

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johnandy27 January 08 2014 at 1:20 PM

a great way to stop poverty would be to help stop young people from having babies too soon and too often when the have babies too soon it is hard to get a education without and your life will be diff its hard enough with one and having to many babies on low income and the kids soon learn the only way they will ever have anything is to steal it

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cmck004 January 08 2014 at 1:20 PM

The biased slants of so called reporters is disgusting. Why on earth did this reporter not just report and refrain from injecting their personal political slant into the article. So now after a failed launch of the ACA it is super important to address poverty in America, just in time for mid-term elections. Are you people really this slow, to believe the Dem party cares about poverty?

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2 replies
crimeslawyer cmck004 January 08 2014 at 1:29 PM

Do any of you remember Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty". After trillions of dollars on this poverty thing, we can all agree that poverty won. Too bad our president knows nothing about history. Poverty is the result of all the societal losers having too many babies which the rest of us are supposed to take care of.

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marneysw cmck004 January 08 2014 at 1:30 PM

There are no unbiased news reporters anymore. Only journalists who interject their opinions. I don't believe that the Republicans are unsympathic with the poor nor do I believe those high level Dems are.

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nhpb January 08 2014 at 1:21 PM

If tax incentives will spur a regional boom why won't national tax reductions spur a recovery? Why is this solution always decried by democrats?

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1 reply
slarsit nhpb January 08 2014 at 1:39 PM

Yep, give huge tax breaks to companies and they will use their increased profits to create jobs and raise wages. You must think everyone that posts here is a TeaParty/Radical Republican Drone.

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1 reply
ceecee slarsit January 08 2014 at 6:17 PM

At least companies have WORKERS in them, but you would rather subsidize the lazy, because I am sure you are one of the lazy.

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m14auto January 08 2014 at 1:23 PM

WOW!!!!! More pissing in the wind.

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plsgd2014 January 08 2014 at 1:23 PM

So, explain how unempl benes create jobs.

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