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UN Report Condemns US for ‘Deliberately’ Creating Devastating Wealth Inequality

Rev. William Barber unveils Poor People’s Campaign’s list of demands at a rally in April. (Photo: Poor People’s Campaign/Twitter)

By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams

It is no secret that the United States has among the worst levels of inequality, poverty, and infant mortality of all wealthy nations, but a scathing new United Nations report (pdf) concludes that President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress are “deliberately” working to make these already devastating crises worse by waging war on the poor while lavishing the rich with massive tax cuts.

“About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in  extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”
—Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

Highlighting the Trump administration’s push to dismantle the last vestiges of the American social safety net, Philip Alston—U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and author of the new report—told the Guardian on Friday: “This is a systematic attack on America’s welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty.”

“If food stamps and access to Medicaid are removed, and housing subsidies cut, then the effect on people living on the margins will be drastic,” Alston added, pointing to just three of the many programs Trump is aiming to slash or restrict with cruel work requirements.

With millions of Americans already on the brink of deep poverty, Alston warned that Trump’s tax law, deregulatory agenda, and welfare cuts are driving the poor closer to complete “ruination,” which the U.N. official defines as “severe deprivation of food and almost no access to healthcare.”

Alston’s report is the end product of a two-week visit to some of the most poverty-stricken parts of the U.S. late last year, and it thoroughly documents both the longstanding inequities that have dominated American society for decades and the uniquely brutal policies Trump and the Republican Party are pursuing in an effort to reward corporate America.

While the U.S. is home to “over 25 percent of the world’s 2,208 billionaires,” such wealth stands in “shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live,” the report observes. “About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in  extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate.”

Acknowledging that inequality in the U.S. has been rising rapidly for around five decades, the report argues that the Trump administration’s policies—particularly its $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the rich and large corporations—”seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment, and make even basic healthcare into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

As for solutions to the soaring income and wealth inequality in the U.S. that have produced what Alston calls a “land of stark contrasts,” the U.N. report spotlights several broad suggestions—from a job guarantee to criminal justice reform to universal healthcare—but concludes that inequality will continue to soar without sufficient “political will” to reverse it.

“At the end of the day… particularly in a rich country like the United States, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power,” the report observes. “With political will, it could readily be eliminated.”

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Hundreds Arrested Nationwide as Poor People’s Campaign Demands ‘End to the War Economy’

In its demands unveiled last month, the Poor People’s Campaign called for “a reallocation of resources from the military budget to education, healthcare, jobs, and green infrastructure needs, and strengthening a Veterans Administration system that must remain public.” (Photo: Poor People’s Campaign/Twitter)

By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s warning that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom,” the Poor People’s Campaign launched its third week of action in cities nationwide on Tuesday with the aim of confronting the American war economy, which pours resources that could be used to provide healthcare and food to the poor at home into the killing of innocents abroad.

Hoisting signs that read “The War Economy Is Immoral” and “Ban Killer Drones,” demonstrators gathered at the capitol buildings of New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and several other states to denounce a militaristic system that profits “every time a bomb is dropped on innocent people.”

As of this writing, hundreds have been arrested and many more are facing arrest as they gather outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office in Washington, D.C.

As Common Dreams reported, the Poor People’s Campaign unveiled a detailed series of demands last month ahead of the launch of its 40 days of action in more than 30 states across the country.

“We demand a stop to the privatization of the military budget and any increase in military spending,” the agenda reads. “We demand a reallocation of resources from the military budget to education, healthcare, jobs, and green infrastructure needs, and strengthening a Veterans Administration system that must remain public.”

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How You Can Help Fight Back in the War on the Poor

the economy” can recover without real people recovering, then whose economy is it really?

By 

What’s the first thing that you think of when you think of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Perhaps the “I have a dream speech”?

That’s what we learn about in school. But what was King’s dream at the end of his life?

It was to build a massive movement of all poor people, united across lines of division, challenging conditions of poverty, systemic racism, and militarism — which sucks our resources into endless wars. Shortly before he was assassinated, King and many allies launched the first Poor People’s Campaign.

In many ways, the first Poor People’s Campaign marked a departure from the broader civil rights movement up until that point.

For King, it was a transformation in his thinking from a focus on the civil rights of African Americans to the human rights shared by all. It meant no longer addressing racism as an isolated issue, but instead recognizing that systemic racism, poverty, and militarism are closely connected. Together they keep people of all races down.

It marked a shift from a period of reform to what he called a period of revolution. These might sound like radical words — and indeed many people around King at the time felt that this new campaign was a bit too radical.

But King and his allies could see that despite the huge victories of the civil rights movement, major societal problems still weren’t resolved. They realized that it would take a broad-based movement of all struggling people to change the conditions in our communities.

In many ways, conditions are worse now that they were 50 years ago.

According to a new Institute for Policy Studies report, 140 million Americans are poor or low-income. Yet 53 cents of every discretionary tax dollar goes to the military, compared to just 15 cents to fight poverty. Meanwhile, nearly half of all states have passed laws making it harder for poor people and people of color to vote.

People are definitely feeling that in my state of Pennsylvania.

The most recent State of Working PA report finds that the bottom 70 percent of Pennsylvania workers saw their wages decline between 2009 and 2014, during what was termed the so-called “recovery.” Pennsylvania is in the top four states for opioid overdoses, and over 3 million people in our state are living below or close to the federal poverty line.

Pundits and politicians like to preach about what we should do to get out of poverty while blaming us for experiencing it. But they haven’t explained how it’s possible to have an economic recovery without things getting better for our families.

If “the economy” can recover without real people recovering, then whose economy is it really?

What can we do about all this? The first thing we can do is to change our mentality, and drop the shame and stigma that’s associated with not being able to make ends meet.

The second thing that we can do is to connect with others. A new Poor People’s Campaign is being organized to fight back against the war on the poor today, and it’s coming to over 30 states — including mine and maybe yours — this spring. To learn more, check out poorpeoplescampaign.org.

Nijmie Zakkiyyah Dzurinko is a lifelong Pennsylvanian who believes in the power and potential of everyday people. 

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Wake Up People! NOW Is the Time to Transform Our War Economy

By 

This piece is adapted from a speech given by Brock McIntosh at a mass meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign. 

I’m here to speak to you today about one of Dr. King’s triple evils: militarism. As an Afghanistan War veteran, I’d like to highlight an aspect of his warning about militarism, when he said, “This way of… injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane… cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.”

I’d like to tell you all about the precise moment I realized there was poison in me. I’m the child of a nurse and a factory worker in the heartland of Illinois, the family of blue-collar and service workers. At the height of the Iraq War, military recruiters at my high school attracted me with sign up bonuses and college assistance that some saw as their ticket out—for me, I hoped it was my ticket up, providing opportunities that once felt out of reach.

Two years later, when I was 20 years old, I was standing over the body of a 16-year-old Afghan boy. A roadside bomb he was building prematurely detonated. He was covered in shrapnel and burns and now lay sedated after having one of his hands amputated by our medics. His other hand had the calloused roughness of a farmer or a shepherd.

As he lay there with a peaceful expression, I studied the details of his face and caught myself rooting for him. ‘If this boy knew me,’ I thought, ‘he wouldn’t want to kill me.’ And here I am, supposed to want to kill him. And feeling bad that I wanted him to live.That is the poisoned mind. That is the militarized mind. And all the opportunities afforded me by the military can’t repay the cost of war on my soul. It is poor folks who carry the burden of war for the elites who send them.

A working-class boy from Illinois sent halfway around the world to kill a young farmer. How did we get here? How did this crazy war economy come to be?

“We need a Poor People’s Campaign to amplify the voices of regular folks above the lobby of militarized industry, a poisoned economy, to demand jobs in industries other than war-making, to demand opportunities for working class folks that don’t require killing other working class folks.”




“#PoorPeoplesCampaign: A National Call for Moral Revival” Kicks Off 40 Days of ‘Moral Action’

The Poor People’s Campaign held events on Monday in more than two dozen states and Washington, D.C. (Photo: Poor People’s Campaign)

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

In Washington, D.C. and more than two dozen states across the country on Monday, supporters of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival gathered to kick off 40 days of “moral action” to highlight “the human impact of policies which promote systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and environmental devastation.”

Led by co-chairs Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis—and inspired by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s original Poor People’s Campaign in the late 1960s—the campaign, which was announced last year, livestreamed a press conference from D.C. and delivered to lawmakers a letter outlining their demands for policy changes.

Watch:

Barber, in a series of tweets, denounced rampant voter supression, systemic poverty, a lack of living wages, ecological devastation, and “Christian nationalism,” emphasizing an urgent need for sweeping changes in public policy on a national scale.

“We are tired of a dog-eat-dog system of life,” declared Rev. Saeed Richardson, director of policy for the Chicago Renewal Society.

“We are witnessing an assault on the poor, on immigrants, on black and brown people, and on the Earth,” said Rev. Joan Javier-Duval in Vermont, “and we can’t let it happen any longer.”

“This is about fighting injustice anywhere so that we don’t let ourselves lose the vision of what America can be,” noted Diana Martinez of the pro-immigrant Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance. “Because when racism and nativism become the rule of law it hurts all of us.”

Participants from events across the U.S. shared on social media messages, photos, and videos depicting the goals of the #PoorPeoplesCampaign:

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