What is Martin Luther King Day? If a child asked you this question, you might respond confidently, ‘This is a day we remember a great man, Martin Luther King.’ But is it? Sure the day is named after King, but do we remember him on it? Do we really remember him at all?
Considering the overwhelming santaclausification of King into some jolly impotent figure from long past history, I would say that the fearless radical anti-war activist criminal alive just a few decades ago who the FBI called “the most dangerous man in America” is hardly really remembered. Misremembered, yes. Truly remembered, no.
As Professor Cornel West said back in 2010, “We have to resist the ‘santaclausification’ of Martin Luther King. I don’t want to sanitize Martin Luther King. I don’t want to deodorize Dr. Martin Luther King. I don’t want to disinfect Dr. Martin Luther King, and we’re not gonna domesticate Dr. King!”
We misremember King as an unreal impotent, PC black Santa Claus politely asking if his friend Rosa can sit down when what makes him worth remembering is quite the opposite: He was a fiery, controversial, unresting activist arrested multiple times whose powerful, radical challenges to the war, economic inequality and of course segregation scared the living hell out of not only the average white conservative but the governmental powers that be. His commitment to non-violent methods and focus on love only made it harder for his enemies to undermine him and undermine his powerful criticisms in the eye of the public. While arguably most of his grand, vast, radical vision was shot to death with him in 1968, much of the hard progress that was made then and since then is thanks to him.
Although racial equality and non-racism in America is still far off, and although King’s unrelenting, vociferous attack on the Vietnam war may have garnered him the most dangerous enemies, this is after all a blog about poverty. The adamant, revolutionary critic of poverty demanding economic equality has been greatly forgotten not remembered. The man who was brought to tears upon seeing schoolchildren in Mississippi fed their meager lunch of a slice of apple and some crackers is generally not remembered.
“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization,” Dr. King said. “The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”
Of course he was more revolutionary than one just asking for more charity and handouts: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin at a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring,” Dr. King said.
Unfortunately, Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” was unsuccessful after his assassination. Globally, 18,000 children die every single day from world hunger. In the United States, millions suffer in poverty including millions of children as well as millions of working poor. Like his dreams of a colorblind society and an end to American militarism, Dr. King’s dream of abolishing poverty has also gone unfulfilled and its creator misremembered.
I have already made many posts about taxes on this blog. The most stunning point to me in those posts is that the rich pay less taxes than the working class in terms of percentage of income–at least in the USA.
I didn’t want to make yet another post about taxes on a blog that is supposed to be about poverty, but I read an article this morning that got my blood boiling. In part, the Buffalo News Editorial says:
Congressional Republicans, who seem to have sworn some kind of blood oath to the preposterously unfair Bush tax cuts–regardless of the damage they do to the economy–now want to eliminate the reduction of the payroll tax they helped to enact last year. The reduction in payroll taxes, while it puts additional stress on Social Security, which it funds, is of greatest benefit to the middle class and working poor.
That’s because it’s a “regressive” tax, taking the same percentage of everyone’s pay, regardless of income level. The amount of income subject to the tax is also capped, meaning a portion of the income of higher earners—sometimes a very large portion—goes untaxed.
In other words, these politicians want to keep the regressive tax system we already have but also make it even more regressive! This is done by simultaneously lowering taxes disproportionately for the rich while increasing government spending and disproportionately increasing taxes on the working poor and middle class.
I understand the psychological complications of a two-party pseudo-democratic system that enable politicians from both parties to get away with a lot of selling out the many to the wealthy special interest few, but I am still surprised these politicians who openly try to make a regressive tax system even more regressive are not overtaken and tarred and feathered or some such by a stampede of angry masses fighting not only for what they think is fair but for what is clearly in their own self-interest. Maybe what gets my blood boiling with this issue is not so much the politicians who I personally have been long convinced are all—that includes both parties—special interest bought self serving liars. Rather what really gets my blood boiling about this kind of issue may be that the masses of people who have the real power in terms both of sheer numbers and productive ability just let themselves get so blatantly exploited.
What do you think? Please comment on this post, comment on any other posts about taxation or discuss the relationship between poverty and taxation in this thread about taxation and poverty in the forums.
Today I want to feature a book by New York Times reporter and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Jason DeParle. American Dream is a classic of literary journalism. It tells the story of the millions of women sent to work as a result of Bill Clinton’s drive to “end welfare.” The stories in the book speak to the question: If as the American dream goes we live in a country where anyone can make it, why generation after generation don’t some families make it?
And here is a quote about poverty from page 328 of the book that I find particularly poignant: “At $5.15 an hour, the real value of the minimum wage is lower than in 1950 when Hattie Mae was still picking cotton.”
I was recently contacted by Santo Purnama of CultureUnplugged.com about their non-profit film and documentary archive for social impact. I looked through their hunger and poverty section, finding many interesting videos. This one about micro-finance stood out to me in particular since micro-finance has intrigued me for a while:
Here are a few older posts from this blog about microfinance:
Posted by Scott Hughes
Sheila Nix, the U.S. Executive Director of ONE, emailed me some information about the crisis in the horn of Africa.
Yesterday, the United Nations declared a famine in south Somalia. There are more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa–more than the combined population of NYC and Huston–who desperately need food, clean water and basic sanitation.
ONE is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: Poverty News