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Poor Peoples Campaign - A National Call for Moral Revival 2018
Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Photo Credit: Poor People’s Campaign

 

I’m finding it hard to stay abreast of all the upheaval triggered by our Twitter-in-Chief. His tweets and threats boggle my mind, create instability across our nation, and embolden our rivals and enemies overseas.

While our bombs turn the Middle East into rubble, people at the bottom rungs in America face their own hell. This month, the Institute for Policy Studies has published its empirical study, The Souls of Poor Folk, highlighting the complex issues that entangle our lives: systemic racism, persistent poverty, the war economy and militarism, and ecological devastation. Here are some of their key findings.

Systemic Racism:

Mother and Daughter at Prayer Vigil in Morristown Tennesse April 2018

Mother and daughter at prayer vigil following ICE raid of a meatpacking plant in Morristown, Tennessee on April 7, 2018
Photo Credit: The Intercept
  • Federal and state legislation restrains poor minority populations from participating in democratic processes.
  • “Tough on Crime” policies have detonated the numbers of incarcerated poor Blacks.
  • Anti-immigrant measures impact not only detainees and deportees but also their family members and communities.

 

Poverty:

Florida grandmother evicted from home

Florida grandmother evicted from rental home with daughter and six grandchildren
Photo Credit: Huffington Post
  • Structural changes in employment foster a low-wage economy.
  • A tiny elite class pockets massive economic gains, leaving no trickle for workers.
  • Nearly 41 million Americans live below the federal poverty line. In absolute numbers, these include 17.3 million Whites, 11.1 million Latinos, and 9.2 million Blacks.
  • Nearly 140 million people (43.5 percent of all Americans) are either poor or low-income.
  • Over the past thirty years in nearly every urban area, incomes have not kept pace with increases in rents, higher education, and health care costs.
  • Since the 1970s, cuts in federal housing assistance and affordable, subsidized housing have contributed to rising structural homelessness. (Check out Princeton University’s nationwide database of evictions.)
  • Partly driven by the growth of high-cost, high-risk, for-profit colleges, student debt levels have exploded to $1.34 trillion, crippling about 44 million Americans.
  • Even under the Affordable Care Act, about 31 million people remain uninsured.
  • America has become a debtor nation. Excluding the value of the family car, 19 percent (60 million) of all U.S. households have zero wealth or their debts exceeded the value of their assets.

 

The War Economy and Militarism:

Law enforcement officers, including a sniper perched atop an armored vehicle, watch as demonstrators protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo.

Law enforcement officers with sniper during demonstration – Ferguson, Missouri
Photo Credit: MSNBC
  • Since Vietnam, the United States has waged ongoing wars against diffuse enemies, siphoning massive resources away from social needs. At $668 billion, the current annual military budget dwarfs the $190 billion allocated for education, jobs, housing, other basic services, and infrastructure.
  • In 2016, the CEOs of the top five military contractors earned an average $19.2 million – more than ninety times the $214,000 earned by a U.S. military general with twenty years’ experience.
  • Perpetual war has taken a toll on U.S. troops and personnel.
  • Militarism abroad has gone hand in hand with militarization of U.S. borders and poor communities across America.

 

Ecological Devastation:

Family awaiting aid after Hurricane Maria - Puerto Rico - 2017

Family awaiting aid after Hurricane Maria – Puerto Rico
Photo Credit: Earth Justice
  • The U.S. and global climate and ecological crises multiply the other injustices.
  • Rising climate change threats, such as Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico in 2017, are particularly devastating for the poor.
  • Across the United States, poor people face crises of water affordability, water pollution, and water scarcity in areas exacerbated by climate change.
  • While poor urban populations deal with rising water bills, the rural poor often lack access to piped water and sewage systems.
  • Pipelines transporting oil and gas continue to advance, even though they pose serious threats to the climate, water quality, and public health through leakage and catastrophic spills.

 

I recommend that you set aside time to read The Souls of Poor Folk. See the numbers. Learn about the targeted missiles of disempowerment. Hear the testimonies of people facing daily bombardment. Their tribulation and pain are no less than those of the victims of the latest abhorrent chemical weapons attack in Syria that warranted a U.S. military response.

Join the Poor People’s Campaign, May 13th to June 23rd, that will assemble at the National Mall in Washington D.C. and in other state capitols across our nation. Add your voice to the demand that “our country see the poor in our streets, confront the damage to our natural environment, and ponder the ailments of a nation that year after year spends more money on endless war than on human need.”

It’s up to those of us who are still standing to help the fallen and wounded within our ranks. It’s time to make a national call for moral revival.

 

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