“In a country that is filled with wealth, that has an abundant amount of resources, this is immoral and shameful,” said De la Cruz.
The report also finds that one of the most dramatic trends since the original Poor People’s Campaign is the rising gap between the poor and the extreme rich. While the official poverty rate is about the same today as it was 50 years ago, the share of national income going towards the top 1% of earners has nearly doubled. The 400 wealthiest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population (or 204 million people).
Nineteen percent of all U.S. households (60 million people) have zero wealth or their debts exceeded the value of their assets (excluding the family car) — and the percentage is even higher among people of color. Because of rising housing costs and wage stagnation, there is no state or county in the nation where an individual earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rent. Five decades after the original Poor People’s Campaign, homelessness continues to be a severe problem in the world’s richest nation, with the majority of homeless families headed by single women with young children.
Despite these overwhelmingly dismal indicators, De la Cruz explained that the new Poor People’s Campaign is “organizing the hope of the poor, the hope that is often used and abused by politicians — whether they are Republicans or Democrats — the hope of a dignified life, our very right to exist.”
Campaign Co-Chairs Rev. Liz Theoharis and Rev. William Barber also released an extensive set of preliminary demands for the campaign at the National Press Club event. Among the key priorities: “the repeal of the 2017 federal tax law and the reinvestment of those funds into social programming that helps all” and “relief from crushing household, student, and consumer debt.”