While President Donald Trump continues his push to divert billions of dollars toward building a border wall with a "constitutionally illegitimate" national emergency declaration, the Poor People's Campaign has announced a bus tour across the United States to expose "real emergencies" that his administration has ignored and exacerbated.
"Instead of tackling the real emergencies... the president is diverting funds to build a monument to white supremacy at our southern border."
—Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Poor People's Campaign
"Instead of tackling the real emergencies," said campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, "the president is diverting funds to build a monument to white supremacy at our southern border." Meanwhile, she pointed out, 140 million Americans (pdf) are "just one emergency away from poverty," and 14 million households can't even afford their water bills.
The National Emergency Truth & Poverty Bus Tour is set to begin in late March and has stops scheduled in 27 states and Washington, D.C. It will focus on five sweeping issues impacting Americans: systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy, and "our distorted moral narrative."
Although the tour comes partly as a challenge to Trump's racist anti-immigration policies, campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. William Barber II emphasized that these "socio-political and moral emergencies" need to be addressed by lawmakers across the political spectrum. As Barber put, "Democrats haven't done enough to make things better and Republicans do too much to make things worse."
"Part of the problem that we see in policies of Democrats vs. Republicans is one talks about they want the wall and the other side said they don't want the wall," Barber told The Associated Press. "But nobody has sat down and said: 'Here are the real emergencies and here is how these resources could be used to address these real emergencies.'"
"It's shameful to call for a fake emergency, a racist emergency, an emergency rooted in white supremacy, & not address the real emergency in our country today...We as the #PoorPeoplesCampaign will never step away from this fight." @RevDrBarber
Text TOUR to 90975 to learn more! pic.twitter.com/phJjxSj2XH
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— Poor People's Campaign (@UniteThePoor) February 25, 2019
In addition to shining a light on major problems plaguing the nation's poorest communities, according to a statement from the campaign, the tour also "kicks off an organizing effort aimed at registering poor and impacted people, clergy, and activists for a June Poor People's Moral Action Congress in Washington, D.C."
The bus tour and the summer meeting alike aim to drive home the point that, as Barber and Theoharis argued in an op-ed published Monday by the Guardian, "in today's America, the real emergency is that a quarter of a million people die from poverty each year while our political system refuses to use the great wealth of this nation to lift the load of poverty."
The pair outlined various ways that Trump's $8 billion in contested border wall funding could be better spent:
- 3.36 million children or 2.25 million adults receiving low-income healthcare for a year.
- 774,312 military veterans receiving VA healthcare for a year.
- 98,982 elementary school teaching jobs for a year.
- 107,999 clean energy jobs for a year.
- 897,800 Head Start slots for children for a year.
"It's time to talk about the real emergencies plaguing our nation and the real moral issues of our day—the lack of healthcare, living wage jobs, clean water and sanitation, the militarization of our communities, the attack on indigenous sovereignty," they concluded. "It's horrific that America has come to this. But just as shameful is that we have the power to change it, but don't."