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Russell Simmons urges President Obama to make the poor a priority

Get more: Celeb Lives
04/13/2011 by Olivia Allin

Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records, has urged President Barack Obama to prioritize the country's poor, in an editorial piece entitled "Dear Mr. President, Forget The Poor, Lose Your Soul," published in the Huffington Post.

In his letter to the President, Simmons refers to Obama's recent speech at Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network's 20th anniversary dinner, where the President addressed many issues but, according to Simmons, neglected to mention the poverty in America. Simmons notes that the poverty rate is the highest it has been in 51 years.

"The poor can't afford for you to forget about them, and you cannot afford it either," Simmons wrote. "Of all Americans, the poor are not just the real victims of this recession - they are the victims of a thirty year campaign of smear and neglect, to strengthen the rich on the backs of the rest of America in the dim and ultimately futile fantasy that the rich getting richer will somehow 'trickle down.'"

Simmons was the co-founder, along with Rick Rubin of the hip-hop label Def Jam, which counts Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and Kanye West among their talent. Simmons also created the fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and American Classics. He was married to Kimora Lee Simmons from 1998 until 2009 when the couple got a divorce.

In 2007, Simmons was said to be worth $341 million and acknowledges in his letter to the President that he is among those who've benefitted from former President George Bush's tax cuts.

"When we talk about cutting, if we don't talk about reversing the unfair Bush tax cuts on people like me who get richer, it seems, just by breathing," Simmons wrote. "If YOU don't personally challenge America day in and day out for a more balanced economy between rich and poor, between fair and unfair educational outcomes, and in favor of basic services while reforming entitlements, you risk the very passion that you will need - in your constituents and in your own deeply compassionate heart - to win today, forget the future."

Simmons has been an advocate of the President since his campaign in 2008 and finished his letter on a kind note, telling the President that "for that fight, I will be at your side morning, noon and night."

Celebrities have often used the press to voice their views on political issues and the president. Last year, rocker Ted Nugent, a vocal advocate of the right to bear arms, called Obama "a clueless, rookie president" and Supreme Court justices who disagree with his stance on gun ownership "losers" and "weasels", in a scathing op-ed in The Washington Times.

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