The White House Responds To Bob Herbert

A few weeks ago Bob Herbert sat down with 20 students from a public school in the Bronx and asked them to talk about their lives -- young lives lived in poverty. Kids aged 13 and 14. Their stories were shocking.  

Herbert wrote about the interview in these pages, and about our nation's failure to confront this level of poverty from the general public all the way up to the President. The last line of his column summed it up: "Poor kids don’t stand a chance in this land of the plutocrats." 

Well, it seems someone in the White House was listening. After the column was cross-posted at The Grio, we learned that the Administration wanted to respond. And today, Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the President, published an 1,100 word article defending the President's record.

Pasted below is a short excerpt and a link to the full response. Be sure to read Herbert's original piece too and let us know what you think.

Mr. Herbert expressed understandable frustration that our political discourse rarely focuses on the notion that the American dream is closed off to far too many of our citizens. But when Mr. Herbert suggested that President Obama has “given up” on the idea of opportunity and upward mobility, he was simply wrong.

There’s a basic bargain in America. It says that no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules you should be able to find a good job, feel secure in your community, and support a family. I have worked in the White House since the day President Obama took office. At every juncture-every big decision, every major policy development, every negotiation-I have seen President Obama fight for the things that help our country preserve that bargain for all Americans, rich or poor.

There are times when this bargain is tested. Economic crisis is one of those times. When President Obama took office, the United States economy was losing over 800,000 jobs a month. For some, it’s possible to get by without a job for a while. But for too many Americans working hard to be a part of the middle class, job loss means slipping into poverty. That’s why during his first months in office, President Obama took swift action to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs-giving tax cuts to working families, keeping teachers in the classroom, and keeping first responders on the streets.

For those Americans who fell on hard times and lost their jobs through no fault of their own, President Obama has acted to prevent millions from slipping into poverty and helped build a path to the middle class. To help families put food on the table and make ends meet, President Obama signed an expansion of the SNAP program and nine extensions of unemployment insurance. There are new opportunities for those on unemployment as well. Two months ago, in addition to extending benefits, President Obama signed unemployment insurance reforms to help job seekers develop the skills they need for their next job through apprenticeships and training programs.

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