Economic Justice 40 Years Later

Yesterday, as 21st Century Democrats’ offices were closed to celebrate the national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., it occurred to me how dissatisfied King would be about the state of civil rights and economic justice in America today.

Nearly 40 years ago, King spoke on behalf of the garbage workers striking in Memphis, “…you are reminding the nation it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.” Just days before he was taken from us, King was leading the Poor People’s Campaign to raise awareness and demand that Congress address the issue of poverty in America – not just for African Americans, but for all poor whatever their racial and ethnic heritage.

By this time, King was also a leader in the anti-war movement urging to end the Vietnam war. He chastised Congress for providing “military funds with alacrity and generosity,” yet appropriating “poverty funds with miserliness.” He fully understood the connection between an immoral war and the continuance of poverty for tens of millions of Americans.

Today, King would be leading the American people against the war in Iraq and decrying the expenditure of $487 billion so far (estimates are we will spend over $1 trillion before the war is “over”) to continue another immoral war while ignoring more than 35 million Americans who live in poverty, tens of millions more who earn just above poverty, and over 47 million Americans without health insurance.

King said economic justice won’t be given, we have to ask for it and earn it. As we at 21st Century Democrats double our efforts to ask – and work for – economic justice in America, I know we will be closer to this goal at the end of 2008 by training field organizers and electing progressives who recognize that “justice is indivisible.”

In this way, we will take steps forward this year to build a more just and fair American society.

I hope you will support our efforts in 2008 and ask others you know to join us along the way.

By Mark A. Lotwis

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