US Poverty: “A National Call For Moral Revival.” – By Mohamed Hamaludin

U.S. — Successor to Martin Luther King’s anti-poverty campaign seeks space in presidential campaign – By Mohamed Hamaludin

The Rev. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis want you to know that 140 million Americans or 43 percent of the population are poor or earn a low income; 74 million are women and 39 million are children. In addition, 66 million are whites, a third of them living in the South, and 26 million are African Americans.

The reality, the two pastors say, is “a moral crisis” and a year ago they launched a campaign to awaken the nation to the real problems which the country faces. Almost exactly 50 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. launched his Poor People’s Campaign, Barber and Theoharis revived the initiative as “A National Call For Moral Revival.”           

“As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has suggested, our state and national budgets prove that many of our elected leaders and their lobbyists treasure the military, corporate tax cuts, and welfare for the wealthy while they give rugged individualism, shame and blame, unfair wages, and a shredded social safety net to the poor,” Barber and Theoharis wrote in a budget proposal they planned to give to Congress.

The document was released on Monday at the start of the Poor Peoples Campaign Presidential Forum. More than just a call for action against poverty, it demands voting rights, comprehensive immigration reform, a $15 federal minimum wage, increased taxes on the wealthy, a single-payer health care system, free childcare and college education, addressing climate change, shifting foreign policy from the military to diplomacy and reducing the Pentagon’s budget.

Overall, Common Dreams reported, the proposals would cost $1 trillion, which would come from sources such as a $350 billion cut in military spending, $886 billion from “fair taxes” on the rich and savings from prison reform and programs to tackle climate change.

Such proposals are reflected in New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Occasion-Cortez’s Green New Deal initiative and the “democratic socialism” which Senator Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, champions. But while they have received almost saturation media coverage, the Poor Peoples Campaign’s platform has been largely ignored. Barber adamantly made the point several times during the forum, which 10 presidential candidates attended, that none of the 26 presidential candidate debates leading up to the 2016 elections focused on poverty and racism. In fact, Monday’s forum, hosted by Barber and Theoharis and co-hosted by MSNBC host Joy Reid, was not aired on television, but live-streamed on MSNBC. Ironically, a townhall in Dayton, Ohio, the same night hosted by Chris Matthews was aired live.

Poverty and racism do not boost ratings but the Poor Peoples Campaign is anything but a sideshow to the 2020 presidential campaign. The multi-racial, multi-religious, anti-poverty drive began in May, 2018, with Barber and Theoharis at the helm. Barber is pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., head of Repairers of the Breach and a former president of that state’s chapter of the NAACP. He started Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina in 2013 to counter the Republican-dominated Legislature’s assault on issues such as unemployment benefits, expansion of Medicaid and voting rights.

For the nationwide Poor Peoples Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival, he found a like-minded leader in Theoharis, a Presbyterian minister and co-director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at the Union Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Named a MacArthur Fellow in 2018, The Washington Post asked Barber what the award meant to him. “I was getting locked up the day I found out,” he explained. “I was getting locked up in Chicago, standing with workers who simply wanted $15 an hour in a country where 400 families, according to one statistic, make an average of $97,000 an hour.”

Barber added, “You know, if someone says that being able to help organize people into a moral fusion movement and help them understand that the same forces that are against voting rights are also against women’s rights, against immigrant rights, LGBT rights and against living wages, against union rights, against environmental justice — if those forces are cynical enough to be together, we ought to be smart enough to come together. And if somebody says that’s a form of genius, then, you know, I’m thankful.”

Religion News Service said inspiration for Barber and Theoharis comes from the Bible. “Most politicians put their hand on the Bible and swear themselves into office and many don’t even know what’s in the Bible,” Barber told The Washington Post. “There are 2,000 Scriptures in the Bible that say a nation should be concerned, first and foremost, for how it treats the poor, women, children and the stranger and the sick and the least among us.”

Asked about evangelicals’ support of Trump, he replied, “It grieves me that brothers and sisters who claim to follow Jesus would do this and would be so loud on things that Jesus is so quiet about and so quiet on the very thing Jesus is so loud about. And that’s why it must be challenged. It cannot be allowed to just exist and be called evangelicalism when many times it is a form of heresy.”

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On June 21, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Night has fallen in America.

  • guyaneseonline  On June 21, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    Household Income Distribution in the U.S. Visualized as 100 Homes.

    Published 8 months ago on November 6, 2018 By Nick Routley

    Inequality in America has become a major talking point in recent years. For many people though, the concept of inequality – the idea that wealth is spread very thinly at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder – is still an abstract concept.

    There are over 125 million households in the United States, each with their own unique structure and financial situation, so understanding such a complex issue requires reducing it to proportions we can understand.

    See article and Infographic here: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/household-income-100-homes/

  • Trevor  On June 22, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Guyanese living in USA and Canada tell me that their wages are losing purchasing power, but rental prices are skyrocketing in major cities such as NYC, Manhattan, LA, Miami, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

    Formerly immigrant communities such as Harlem (NYC), Jane & Finch (Toronto), are being gentrified that people who lived there for decades are being forced from their communities because of high rents.

    [This is also happening in GT where those who were squatting on the Lamaha canal embankment were forced at the barrel of a gun to leave, but within a few years, tall steel structures twice the height of Bank of Guyana are being constructed.]

    Continuing my story…They claim that certain demographics have larger purchasing power and have benefited from the real estate bubbles because their foreparents would have gotten their homes, now valued at over a million US or Canadian dollars, by robbing the Amerindians or murdering them to build a future million dollar mansion.

    Meanwhile, immigrants have to pay higher rent prices, and then be told that they should go back to where they came from, or that their country is an s-hole.

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