Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The press is buzzing with articles about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today. So here are a couple of stories about Dr. King and the concern he had about fighting poverty.

First, a story from Ohio's News Messenger about Dr. King and the upcoming inauguration. Writer Kristina Smith Horn also touched on other ways that Dr. King's dream has gone unfulfilled.

Poverty was an issue that King often discussed, Jones said. Although he talked about the disparity between the poverty levels of blacks and whites during a 1967 speech, he also focused on the 40 million poor people of all races across the country.

"Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family is living in a decent sanitary home," King said during comments to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Since then, poverty levels are still high, Jones said. Instead, the gap between the wealthy and the poor is growing ever larger, he said.

In 2007, there were 7.6 million American families living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly 25 percent of blacks and 21. 5 percent of Hispanics lived in poverty in 2007, compared to eight percent of whites in poverty, according to the Census Bureau.

"As a nation, we have a long way to go to fulfill that concern," Jones said.

A commentary in the Los Angeles Daily Newsdiscusses a concept that Dr. King advocated that has been forgotten. Al Sheahen from Results re-introduces us to guaranteed income.

In his 1967 book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" the Rev. King wrote, "I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income. A host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from wide-spread economic security."

The concept of a guaranteed income is not discussed much anymore, especially in light of our current financial crisis. But it remains, as the late economist Milton Friedman always maintained, the most practical and sensible way to end poverty in America and provide economic security to all Americans.

President Obama is on the right track with his economic stimulus plan. Give the money directly to the people, not just to the big banks and corporations.

But don't stop there. Keep the stimulus coming. Every year.

Today there are more than 200 income-tested federal social programs costing more than $300 billion a year. Much of that money goes for administrative expenses, not to the needy.

Charles Murray, whose 1984 book "Losing Ground" claimed that welfare was doing more harm than good, now agrees with the Rev. King's approach. Murray calls for giving an annual cash grant of $10,000 - with no work requirements - to every adult over age 21.

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