Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background. (Photo: Alves Family/flickr/cc)

Let’s Honor MLK’s Fight for Economic Justice by Expanding Social Security

Those who stand in the way should know that we are watching and we vote.

Nancy J. Altman

We live in a divisive time, where the president of the United States focuses on our differences instead of our common humanity. Though Dr. Martin Luther King was controversial, he sought to unite us, to appeal to our better angels. Dr. King believed strongly in the dignity of all of us. He understood that we are all created equal.

Because of these beliefs, he pushed not just for racial justice, but for economic justice, understanding that they are inextricably linked. He worked tirelessly for worker security, economic equality, and social justice.

Indeed, when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, he was there to support sanitation workers who were on strike for decent wages, safer working conditions and the recognition of their union. For weeks before his death, he spent time planning a Poor People’s March on Washington.

Three years before his assassination, he gave a sermon in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, in which he said:

“[In the 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,] I tried to tell the nation about a dream I had. I must confess to you this morning that since that sweltering August afternoon in 1963, my dream has often turned into a nightmare; I’ve seen it shattered... I’ve seen my dream shattered because I’ve been through Appalachia, and I’ve seen my white brothers along with Negroes living in poverty. And I’m concerned about white poverty as much as I’m concerned about Negro poverty.

“So yes, the dream has been shattered, and I have had my nightmarish experiences, but I tell you this morning once more that I haven’t lost the faith. I still have a dream... I still have a dream this morning that truth will reign supreme and all of God’s children will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. And when this day comes the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy.”

Dr. King was focused on the poorest among us. Consistent with King’s concerns, Social Security is the nation’s most effective anti-poverty program. But, unlike means-tested programs, Social Security is designed not just to alleviate poverty, but to prevent working families from falling into poverty in the first place.

The values embodied in Social Security are Dr. King’s values and beliefs. Indeed, they are basic American and religious values. Among those values are that it is our birthright as human beings to have dignity, freedom and independence; that we have responsibilities and concern for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors; and that we are all connected, sharing the same risks and benefits.

There are some who seek to divide us along all sorts of fissures. They can be seen at work in their lies about Social Security. They try to convince us that Social Security benefits earned by and paid to seniors are harming our children. They tell us that Social Security benefits earned by and paid to those with disabilities are harming seniors. They claim that Social Security is unfair to African Americans, young people, women—indeed every demographic group for which they can manufacture a case.

None of those charges about Social Security’s supposed unfairness are true. Social Security is essential for all generations of families. It is essential to every race and gender. It is essential to families where a worker dies prematurely, becomes seriously disabled, or lives to age 100 or beyond.

Fortunately, the American people recognize the importance of Social Security and value it. Numerous current and past polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans value Social Security, recognizing that it will be more important in the future. For that reason, they oppose cutting its modest but vital benefits and would like to see it expanded.

The Democratic Party recognizes that, as well. The 2016 Democratic Party Platform called for expanding, not cutting, Social Security. So did around 90 percent of all Democratic senators and members of the House of Representatives who served in the last Congress. Since virtually all of the newly elected Democrats support expanding, not cutting, Social Security, those percentages are likely even larger today.

The new Congress is poised to move us closer to Dr. King’s dream of greater economic justice and reduced poverty. Chairing the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee will be Representative John Larson (D- CT), who is determined to expand, not cut, Social Security’s benefits. In addition to across-the-board increases, he wants to make sure that low-wage workers do not retire into poverty after a lifetime of work.

Representative Larson plans to hold hearings not just in Washington but around the country. Those hearings will shine a spotlight on the truth that as the wealthiest nation in the world at the wealthiest moment in its history, the United States can easily afford to expand benefits. Hearings will demonstrate how vital Social Security is to all of us. They will reveal that Social Security is important to seniors, to children, to people with disabilities, to African Americans, to women, and to everyone else. Once the truth is revealed, enactment of the wise and popular proposal to expand, not cut, Social Security will surely follow.

I see no better way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory than to increase the economic security of all of us. That includes raising the minimum wage. It includes protecting and strengthening workers’ rights to collectively bargain. It includes increasing Supplemental Security Income, nutrition assistance, and other means- tested programs. And it includes expanding Social Security and completing the job of improving Medicare and expanding it to all of us.

On this anniversary of Dr. King’s birth, let’s all do our part to demand that our elected leaders enact legislation that strengthens our economic security. Those who stand in the way should know that we are watching and we vote.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Nancy Altman

Nancy J. Altman

Nancy J. Altman is president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. She has a 40-year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions. Her latest book is "The Truth About Social Security: The Founders' Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings" (2018). She is also the author of "The Battle for Social Security" (2005).

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Abortion Rights Groups Sue to Block Post-Roe Trigger Laws in Louisiana

"We will be fighting to restore access in Louisiana and other states for as long as we can," said one reproductive rights campaigner.

Jake Johnson ·


Poll Shows Majority Oppose Supreme Court's Attack on Fundamental Rights

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they're now concerned the court will attack marriage equality and the right to obtain contraception.

Julia Conley ·


Global Windfall Profit Tax of 90% Needed to Address 'Catastrophic' Food, Climate Crises: Oxfam

Taxing the excess profits of large corporations within the G7 alone could raise an estimated $430 billion to fight world hunger, deliver vaccines to the entire world, and make a giant dent in the fight to drive down fossil fuel pollution and jumpstart the necessary renewable energy transition.

Jon Queally ·


NATO to Boost Ranks of High-Readiness Forces by 650% to Over 300,000

Anti-war campaigners responded that "this is not the path to peace and will not make the world safer."

Jake Johnson ·


Ilhan Omar Says Plan to Fix Supreme Court Must Include Impeachment Probes

"We need an impeachment investigation into Clarence Thomas' role in the January 6th coup, as well as into Gorsuch, Alito, Barrett, and Kavanaugh's testimony on Roe during their confirmation hearings," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo