The Poor People’s Campaign has started again, 50 years later. We’re in.

Updated 5/23/18

This is not one of our normal daily calls-to-action…

This is both a history lesson and a connection that we have to a campaign that started 50 years ago.  Every time we call our legislators or go to a City Council meeting to fight some form of injusticeevery action we’ve participated in for the Trump Resistance, such as the Women’s March, the March for Our Lives, Citizenship Fairs, political postcard parties, environmental rallies and DACA clinics, we have been connecting with the values of the Poor People’s Campaign. We are standing together to challenge Trumpism and the power of the 1% – and indeed “transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society.”

On April 4th, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, Rev. William Barber gave this speech on King’s unfinished piece of American history, The Poor People’s Campaign.

The new Campaign, addressing issues that are more dire now than in 1965, began again on May 14th, with 40 days of planned protests and other activities.

Read, watch and listen here to this Audio/Photo essay – ‘Poverty Is Violence’: First Day of Action of the Poor People’s Campaign

Indivisible supporters – please read the Poor People’s Campaign’s 12 Fundamental Principles and  “A Moral Agenda Based on Fundamental Rights”.

(Jeremy Brecher) “Like the original one, the new campaign addresses a wide range of issues related to poverty but going far beyond it to oppose American militarism and foreign wars and emphasizing the threat of climate change. Barber says “Four diseases, all connected, now threaten the nation’s social and moral health: racism, poverty, environmental devastation, and the war economy.” The Campaign’s demands, presented in its “Moral Agenda Based on Fundamental Rights,” include 100 percent clean, renewable energy and a public jobs program to transition to a green economy. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking out against the Vietnam war, it is willing to take a public stand on unpopular issues if it is convinced its moral responsibility to do so is clear.

Fifty years has passed…But the “trick” is as fresh as ever.

The war on the poor is in full swing, using, once again, what Rev. William Barber describes as “the trick“, i.e. “a weapon of mass distraction“.  It’s when white politicians persuade poor white working class people that the source of their pain is people of color, immigrants and other scapegoats.

shithole
The “trick” stymied the leaders of the populist movement in late 19th century. It vexed union leaders who promoted workers’ solidarity. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. died trying to beat it.

“The Trick” is back. Already, those in power are attempting to separate the poor by race, by exempting the poor in largely white areas from the new work requirements state governments are imposing on Medicaid recipients.

Barber doesn’t call his new movement a civil rights campaign.”That language is too puny — it’s designed to divide,” he says. “We didn’t build a white movement or a black movement [in North Carolina].

“We built a moral movement.”

Brief history of original campaign and current organizers’ strategies.

“Four Diseases, all connected”…an oh-so-brief overview…

“Racism”

There’s no way to express this topic in a reasonable length paragraph, as this is literally a cradle-to-grave issue.  Black babies die at a rate twice that of white babies, regardless of the mothers’ economic class. More African-American mothers are dying too. In New York state, for example, between 2013 and 2015, 54 black women died for every 100,000 births compared to 15 white women.

Racism affects the health of even young children, with a child’s odds of having ADHD increased by 3.2 percent with exposure to racism, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Studies have found that children who had been exposed to racism were also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. The disparate funding of schools continue the process of harming our communities of color.

50 years after the Civil Rights Act, racism is still rife in access to voting,  employment opportunities, and housing. POC are still unsafe in public spaces, especially when in contact with law enforcement. (searchable database on fatal encounters with police from 2000 here.) If your normal news source isn’t reporting on racial and religious discrimination in America every day, go look for it. Here’s some easy options… theroot.comMichael Harriot , The Guardian, aljazeera.com, U.S. News.com, and The Independent   We try to provide action calls on as many issues as we can, including discrimination against immigrants of color, anti-civil right judges, curtailing rights of protesters, and curbing police violence and militarization.

“Poverty”


Organizers with the Poor People’s Campaign say official measures of poverty are too narrow and do not take into account the number of people struggling in an era of stagnant low wages and steep rises in rents and living expenses. If food, clothing, housing and utility costs, as well as government assistance programs, are factored in, they say, the number of poor and low-income Americans swells to 140 million, about 43% of the population. Women in poverty outnumber men 24 million to 19 million. There are 38 million poor children in the U.S.

Extreme poverty levels in America, those who live on less than $4 a day,  has even attracted the attention of the United Nations.

world poverty

Trump may be touting employment numbers, but 78% of Americans say they live paycheck-to-paycheck. The middle class is eroding away. Even a repo man has noticed a change…“So much of America is just a heartbeat away from a repossession — even good people, decent people who aren’t deadbeats,” said Patrick Altes, a veteran agent in Daytona Beach, Fla. “It seems like a different environment than it’s ever been.”

62 million people are working for less than a living wage, with taxpayer money underwriting the aid that allows corporations to underpay them. In 2014, is was estimated that Walmart employees alone cost taxpayers $6.2 billion in public assistance.

A full-time worker making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 earns $15,080 a year. The 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 was worth $11.39 in 2017 dollars. Since then, the minimum wage’s real value has largely been in decline. This is what it’s like to live on a minimum wage job now…

Like our latest tax legislation, all the money saved at the bottom is going to the top. Never mentioned in Trump’s ravings are the captains of industry who reap millions while paying workers wages inadequate to live on without government assistance. In 1978, CEO earnings were roughly 30 times the typical worker’s salary. According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, the average CEO pay now is 271 times the nearly $58,000 annual average pay of the typical American worker.

Meanwhile, our government plans to increase food insecurity and drive more people out from under solid roofs by tripling the government cap on rents for the poor. We continue to call on these issues.


Right now, millions of Americans are receiving medical care just like communities in 3rd world nations do, once a year when a volunteer group like Remote Area Medical sets up tents in their area. These are held both in rural places like Appalachia and huge cities like Los Angeles. It is only a matter of time before the Paul Ryan’s of our government decide that this should be our new health care model for those who can’t afford health insurance. Their crippling of Obamacare will force more people into poverty, especially older Americans that don’t yet qualify for Medicare. “Skin in the game”, indeed.

“Environmental devastation”

Environmental racism is a real thing.

  • Pollution from mining that has devastated our Native American populations. We’re continuing to call our legislators on this issue.
  • Trump’s ERA concludes that environmental racism is real. (citylab.com)(atlantic)

Our own government is intent on removing environmental protections in favor of corporations and extractive industries. (a small sampling…)

  • The White House has cancelled the NASA climate monitoring program.
  • We’ve made calls about water and air pollution and the GOP’s removal of our protections.
  • Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, one showing that chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than the EPA had previously called safe. The  HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.
  • President Trump signed a bill to stop the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation that protected waterways, and those dependent on them for drinking water, from coal mining waste contamination.

Beyond issues of pollution is the issue of cost of basic utilities..

  •  13.8 million U.S. households cannot afford water. Federal assistance to local water systems is currently 74 percent below its peak in 1977. This has contributed to the inability of public water utilities to address failing and aging infrastructure. It has also prompted utilities to privatize their water systems, even though private water utilities charge 59 percent more per unit of water than publicly owned water systems. As a result, nearly 12 percent of U.S. households face unaffordable water bills.
  • A 2011 study from the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association found that 23% of LIHEAP recipients kept their homes at unsafe or unhealthy temperatures in the past year due to not having enough money for the energy bills. People who can’t afford heat and electricity are already dying in their homes.
  • The infrastructure spending burden is especially pronounced among the country’s lowest-income households. The CE’s lowest quintile—the bottom 20 percent of all consumer units—reported an annual income of $11,832, but they typically spent $6,040 across gas, electricity, telephones, water and sewer, and transportation services. That’s over 60 percent of all income on essential living expenses.

In the age of Trump, we’re backsliding and this time it won’t just be the poorest that pay the price.

“The War economy”

eisenhower

What is a war economy? It’s one where 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar goes to military spending and only 15 cents is spent on anti-poverty programs. By 2023, under the current administration’s proposed budget, 66 cents of every dollar of federal discretionary spending would go to the military and only 12 cents to anti-poverty programs. It’s one in which CEOs of the top five military contractors earned on average $19.2 million each  in 2016, more than 90 times the $214,000 earned by a U.S. general with 20 years of experience and 640 times the $30,000 earned by Army privates in combat.

(poorpeople’scampaign) “On the environmental side, the Department of Defense was responsible for 72 percent of the U.S. Government’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2016.

Further, city police departments are getting military weapons and equipment — from grenade launchers to armored tanks – left over from the Pentagon’s wars, escalating the criminalization of and violence against poor communities. The War on Drugs and drug policing became the excuse to bring military grade weapons and equipment to local communities and arm local police to look like soldiers in combat. Today, young Black males and Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than other racial groups.

This militarization has also contributed to the mass proliferation of guns. From 1968 to 2016, there were about 1.6 million gun deaths in the United States. U.S. homicide rates were 7.0 times higher than in other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher.

Finally, federal spending on immigration, deportations and the border has increased from $2 billion in 1976 to $17 billion in 2015, with ten times as many deportations. From 1993 to 2013, immigration detentions increased from 85,000 to 441,000 per year.

More complaints of abuse have been filed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement than any other Department of Homeland Security agency. LGBTQIA immigrants are 15 times more likely to experience sexual assault in confinement than other immigrants held in detention. And 21.6 percent of immigrant children are impoverished.”

And, oh yes, there’s the issue of the of military spending that isn’t properly supported between 1998 and 2015. The Defense Department Comptroller says  reports of a $21 trillion dollar error “it’s an accounting problem that does need to be solved because it can help hide other underlying issues.” It’s helping hide the very real (but much smaller) amounts of money that the Pentagon wastes every year.

The Pentagon is undergoing its first audit ever. 

Billions

Whether it’s billion or trillions of dollars spent on military issues, what COULD have been done with that money instead of committing it to warfare? Free childcare, preschool and college for all Americans? Conversion to a clean energy economy? Free health care for all? Or just a bigger wall of guns and nuclear weapons?

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King.

The work isn’t finished. Additional reading/watching.

Resurrection City and MLK’s last crusade.

Ben and Jerry (yeah, the ice cream guys) help launch the Poor People’s Campaign.

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