Nation waits for ‘heartbroken’ President’s claims to create action

You might be wondering why we chose to wait a week before responding to last week’s presidential press conference. Well, similar to President Obama, “It took us a couple of days because [we] like to know what [we’re] talking about before [we] speak.”

Back to the issues: during the press conference, President Obama was asked difficult questions about serious issues now facing our nation.

There were two questions, however, that we found particularly interesting.

The first question, one that has received perhaps more publicity than any other response from the press conference (see Change.org’s response here), was asked by Kevin Chappelle of Ebony magazine concerning the recent finding that 1 in 50 children in America experience homelessness. Faced with this disturbing finding, Chappelle questioned the President:

“In passing your stimulus package, you said that help was on the way. But what would you say to these families, especially children, who are sleeping under bridges and in tents across the country?”

Here are our favorite pieces of Obama’s response (emphasis ours):

“Well, the first thing I’d say is that I’m heartbroken that any child in America is homeless. And the most important thing that I can do on their behalf is to make sure their parents have a job. And that’s why the recovery package said, as a first priority, how are we going to save or create 3.5 million jobs?

“…So, there are a whole host of steps that we’ve done to provide a cushion for folks who have fallen on very hard times and to try to spur immediate projects that can put people back to work.

“Now, in the meantime, we’ve got to work very closely with the states to monitor and to help people who are still falling through the cracks.
And, you know, the homeless problem was bad even when the economy was good.

“Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.

“And so we’re going to be initiating a range of programs, as well, to deal with homelessness. One area in particular I want to focus on is the issue of veterans. The rate of homelessness among veterans is much, much higher than for non-veteran populations…”

We are so pleased that President Obama seems to “get it.” We are grateful he has empathy for the families that are enduring homelessness. We are glad he realized the current system of dealing with homelessness is still allowing people to “fall through the cracks.” We are excited he is calling for a change in perceptions about homelessness. As well, we are thrilled he acknowledged the alarming numbers of homeless veterans, and that he has made plans to further address their needs.

Along with the rest of the nation, we are waiting to see what concrete results come from the President’s plans. There is so much work to be done, and we are anxious to witness what changes these new initiatives bring about.

The second question we found intriguing was asked by Mike Allen of Politico and was related to interest rate deductions for charities. Below are pieces of Obama’s reply (emphasis ours):

“People are still going to be able to make charitable contributions. It just means, if you give $100 and you’re in this tax bracket, at a certain point, instead of being able to write off 36 percent or 39 percent, you’re writing off 28 percent.

“Now, if it’s really a charitable contribution, I’m assuming that that shouldn’t be the determining factor as to whether you’re giving that $100 to the homeless shelter down the street… I mean, if you look at the evidence, there’s very little evidence that this has a significant impact on charitable giving.

“I’ll tell you what has a significant impact on charitable giving, is a financial crisis and an economy that’s contracting. And so the most important thing that I can do for charitable giving is to fix the economy, to get banks lending again, to get businesses opening their doors again, to get people back to work again. Then I think charities will do just fine.”

Again, we are glad that President Obama and his administration are seeking innovative ways to bring our struggling economy back to its feet. But we can only hope that his prediction is correct; that this change in tax deductions will not result in fewer contributions to “the homeless shelter down the street,” because as the President alleged, the financial crisis and contracting economy are already handling that.

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