Amidst partisan haggling over President Biden’s infrastructure proposal, the Poor People’s Campaign joined progressive House members on Capitol Hill on Thursday to lay out a comprehensive moral vision for the nation.
“It’s unforgiveable that 250,000 people die every year in this country from poverty and inequality,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) during a press conference to unveil a sweeping Congressional resolution for a “Third Reconstruction.”
The resolution’s title draws on the transformational history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the 20th century civil rights movement — two periods during which multi-racial coalitions achieved significant strides towards racial and economic justice.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chair of the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, stressed that a new era of transformational change will require new policy choices.
“We allow poverty to continue when the richest 130,000 Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 117 million, when 55 of the largest corporations paid not one dollar in taxes last year, when we let our health system to be focused on profits — not patients,” Jayapal said.
Lee and Jayapal were flanked by six other Progressive Caucus members and Poor People’s Campaign co-chairs Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis.
Left to right: Shailly Gupta Barnes and Rev. Liz Theoharis, Poor People’s Campaign; Rep. Barbara Lee; Rep. Pramila Jayapal; and Rev. William Barber. U.S. Capitol grounds, May 20 2021.
“What is the cost of inequality?” asked Barber, pointing out that billionaire wealth has increased by more than $1.3 trillion during the pandemic while millions have fallen into poverty. “This is a moral issue, rooted in the moral commitments of our Constitution. The first thing we had to do is establish justice, promote the general welfare, and to ensure equal protection under the law.”
The Congressional resolution lays out a roadmap for achieving those lofty goals.
A long list of proposed economic policies focus on eradicating poverty and sharply reducing racial and economic inequality. They include a federal jobs program to build up climate resilient public infrastructure, universal health care and paid leave, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and guaranteeing the right to form and join unions.
The resolution also calls for bold action to address the inter-connected injustices of systemic racism, ecological devastation, and militarism. Proposals include expanding voting rights, comprehensive and just immigration reform, and guaranteeing Native and Indigenous rights.