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Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, speaks about the Third Reconstruction resolution outside the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2021. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, speaks about the Third Reconstruction resolution outside the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2021. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

#MoralMonday Event Elevates Progressive Push for 'Third Reconstruction' Resolution

"We have the power to end poverty," says Rep. Pramila Jayapal. "We must implement bold proposals that center the poor—providing housing, healthcare, climate justice, and equitable public education."

Jessica Corbett

Just days after U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee and Pramila Jayapal joined with leaders of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival to announce a historic congressional resolution detailing a comprehensive vision for eradicating poverty on a national scale, supporters hosted a #MoralMonday event celebrating the effort.

The resolution—Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages From the Bottom Up (pdf)—unveiled last week by Jayapal (D-Wash.), Lee (D-Calif.), and campaign co-chairs Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz  Theoharis, begins by noting that "there are over 140 million people who are poor, low-wealth, or just one emergency away from economic ruin in the United States."

Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement that "poverty exists because we allow it to exist. In the wealthiest country in the world, 140 million people are poor because we have chosen to allow it to be so."

"We have the power to end poverty," Jayapal said. "We must implement bold proposals that center the poor—providing housing, healthcare, climate justice, and equitable public education. In everything we do, we must take the extraordinary wealth that is here in America and design policies that build from the bottom up, putting at the center of all of our solutions the real people whose lives are most at stake."

Sarah Anderson, who directs the Global Economy Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, summarized the sweeping new resolution:

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 healthcare 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.

The Poor People's Campaign's website explains the roots of the resolution.

"Drawing on the transformational history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century," the campaign says, "the Third Reconstruction is a revival of our constitutional commitment to establish justice, provide for the general welfare, end decades of austerity, and recognize that policies that center the 140 million are also good economic policies that can heal and transform the nation."

The progressive push for a Third Reconstruction comes as the coronavirus pandemic rages on despite national efforts to boost the U.S. vaccination rate—even at the expense of poorer countries—and people worldwide are still struggling with the economic consequences.

"We are facing a poverty crisis on top of a public health crisis that is disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income communities," Lee noted last week. "It's past time that we address the historical injustices of structural racism and economic inequality and center the needs of the millions who have fallen into poverty just since the start of this pandemic."

Lee, who co-chairs House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's (D-Md.) Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, added that she is proud to introduce this "transformative" resolution with Jayapal and to "work alongside the Revs. Barber and Theoharis to dismantle the systems that have perpetuated poverty and low wages in this country for generations."

In their celebrations of the resolution, Barber and Theoharis reiterated key messages of the Poor People's Campaign, which builds on the 1968 efforts of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

According to Theoharis, "This resolution realizes that we must simultaneously deal with the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of healthcare, militarism, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism that blames the poor instead of the systems that cause poverty."

Barber, who spearheaded the #MoralMonday protests that began in North Carolina in 2013, said that the resolution "emerges from the pain and organizing power of the 140 million people living in poverty or with low wages in this nation."

During Monday's event, organizers emphasized the necessity of federal action to address poverty.

As Pam Garrison, a Poor People's Campaign organizer in West Virginia, put it: "We have been ignored. Our labor has been exploited. We have been taken advantage of for far too long. This is an emergency."

Monday's event for the resolution was held amid reporting that President Joe Biden will break key campaign promises in a budget proposal that is expected later this week as well as fears that he will further weaken his infrastructure plan—which some progressives charge is already inadequate—to appeal to congressional Republicans.

"While not directly addressing President Biden's proposals, the Third Reconstruction resolution goes beyond the administration's commitments to date in several key areas," noted Anderson. "For example, to secure resources for public investment, the resolution calls for redirecting 10% of the military budget and generating revenue by fully repealing the 2017 corporate tax rate cut and introducing new taxes on wealth and Wall Street trading."

As Barber declared Monday: "The solutions are here. There is no scarcity. What we have is a scarcity of will—but that will end with us."


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