President, Children's Defense Fund
In his last Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral, Dr. King retold the parable of the rich man Dives who ignored the poor and sick man Lazarus who came every day seeking crumbs from Dives’ table. Dives went to hell, Dr. King said, not because he was rich but because he did not realize his wealth was his opportunity to bridge the gulf separating him from his brother and allowed Lazarus to become invisible. He warned this could happen to rich America,“if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.”
At his death in 1968, when he was calling with urgency for an end to poverty in our nation, there were 25.4 million poor Americans including 11 million poor children and our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $4.13 trillion. Today there are 46.2 million poor people including 16.1 million poor children and our GDP is three times larger. Twenty million of our neighbors are living in extreme poverty including 7.3 million children. Disgracefully children are the poorest age group in America and the younger they are the poorer they are and one in four preschool children is poor. More than one in three Black children and the same proportion of Latino children are poor. Children have suffered most since the recession began.
•The number of poor children – 16.1 million – exceeds the entire combined populations of Haiti and Liberia, two of the poorest countries on earth.
•The number of extremely poor children – 7.3 million – in our nation is greater than the population of Sierra Leone.
•The number of poor children under five – 5.0 million – exceeds the entire population of the state of South Carolina or Louisiana or Alabama.
I have no doubt that Dr. King would be mounting a nonviolent poor people campaign to end rampant hunger, homelessness, and poverty today.
Let’s honor Dr. King by our committed action to end child poverty and close the morally obscene gulf between rich and poor in our nation where the 400 highest income earners made as much as the combined tax revenues of 22 state governments with 42 million citizens in 2008, and the wealthiest top 1 percent hold more net wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. The rich don’t need another tax break and they need to give back some of their unfair share of our nation’s tax subsidies, loopholes and bailouts to feed and house and educate our children and employ their parents.
Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by naming and changing the continuing racial disparities, undergirded by poverty, that place one in three Black and one in six Hispanic boys born in 2001 at risk of prison in their lifetimes. Incarceration is the new American apartheid. Let’s reroute our children into a pipeline to college and productive work to compete with children from China and India.
Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by speaking truth to power and demanding justice for poor and vulnerable children with urgency and persistence and effective nonviolent direct actions to bring our nation back from the brink of self destruction fueled by the unbridled greed of the few and a military budget that dwarfs our early childhood development budget where the real security of our nation lies.
More at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-e...