Why A Poor People’s Campaign?
It’s time to break the silence about America’s war on the poor. 140 million people live in poverty today and it’s not because people are lazy or unwilling to work hard, but because politicians have blocked living wages and healthcare and undermined union rights and wage increases.
You can see the war on the poor all around us. The richest 1% in our country own more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. Statehouses across the country block minimum wage increases while passing laws that cut crucial safety net programs. 38.2 million children live in poverty. Millions of people today can’t even afford water.
While systemic racism in the form of racialized voter suppression tactics have continually operated in the post-civil rights era, its dramatic rise in the past decade has curtailed the democratic freedoms of millions in the U.S.
There are fewer voting rights today than there were 50 years ago. And, these racist laws hurt not just people of color, but poor whites whose lives are also upended by the politicians put in office by the violent extremism that is voter suppression. If you believe in health care, living wages and addressing poverty you better make sure you understand voter suppression. It hits black people first, but it undermines all people; it affects us all.
Militarism defines us as a nation when we spend 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar on the military and only 15 cents on anti-poverty programs. Our nation’s moral narrative is shaped by so-called Christian nationalists who have forgotten Scripture’s calls for us to care for the sick, women and children, immigrants and the poor – the least among us.
Many of these people push a narrowly defined “moral agenda” that artificially divides us with debates over the morality of same-sex marriage or abortion. But a true moral agenda tackles issues like wages, health care, voting rights, immigrant rights, gay and transgender rights, criminal justice reform, and clean water and air.
Every major religious tradition places challenging oppression and criticizing systems of injustice at the center of its moral considerations. In addition, the moral principles of our Constitution are focused on establishing justice for the general welfare. We have lost this direction and a moral revival is necessary to change course and save the heart and soul of our democracy.
A true moral agenda seeks to fulfill the democratic promise enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence—reminding the nation of the truths we hold to be self-evident and the values we hold dear.
In the 2016 Presidential Election, there were 25 debates in the primaries and the general election. Not one of these debates focused significantly on voter suppression, poverty, ecological devastation, or the war economy, all of which are central issues that impact most of us living in these United States most of the time.
For too long the accepted moral narrative in America has blamed poor people for their poverty, pitted people against each other, separated systemic racism from poverty and ecology and the war economy, and spread the lie of scarcity: the idea that there is not enough to go around.
We demand a new moral discourse in this nation – one that says being poor is not a sin but systemic poverty is.