What the Candidates Won't Talk About: We're Poorer

More than one in seven Californians -- 15.3 percent -- are living in poverty, according to a new report from the Census Bureau. Translation: More than five and a half million Californians (approximately two million of them children) live in households with income below the poverty line.

Nationally, the poverty rate is the highest since the government began keeping figures a half-century ago.

You might think that a campaign for, say, governor in 2010 in California would include lots of conversation about poverty and how to do something about it. But Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are stuck in a time warp, mouthing the same platitudes and telling the same old stories that gubernatorial candidates told in 2006 and 2002 and 1998 and etc.

Both campaigns would likely respond to this criticism by saying: we're talking about jobs. But that's not enough. There are profound questions about whether the government is doing what it can -- not only in resources but also in the types of assistance it provides -- to get people back on their feet.

Among the pressing questions:

- What can or should California do about the growing numbers of long-term unemployed, a group that may find it notoriously hard to get back to work?
- Do the candidates plan to keep cutting the safety net for the poor, which is implied by the commitment of both to reducing public spending?
- What do the candidates intend to do to make the state departments that handle unemployment assistance function better?
- And what should the government expect of citizens in this situation? Should a well-trained professional who can't find work take a low-paid service sector job?
- Or would it be better to hold out for something in line with his or her training and experience?

It's not just that Brown and Whitman are dodging these subjects. They're not being asked these questions.

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