FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Note on Dr. King’s Birthday

by JAMES HENRY

For the next 24 hours the US Congress is taking a brief respite from its busy efforts to slash unemployment benefits, Food Stamps, real wages, and corporate taxes, to “honor the memory” of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To those of you who are too young to remember him, Dr. King was what used to be called a “civil rights leader.”

This means that he organized and led daring mass campaigns for racial and social equality, social justice, and peace, and against union busting, unjust, costly wars, gun violence, domestic spying, and restrictions on immigrants, often at great personal risk to himself. Believe it or not, that sort of thing actually used to happen in the USA — all the time!

Of course, Dr. King was tragically gunned down by right-wing extremists in April 1968. But that was decades ago.  Some say that our country has come a long way since then.
After all, we now have a black President, a black Attorney General, our second black national security advisor, and a black First Lady who just celebrated her 50th birthday at Oprah’s 12-room mansion in Hawaii.

Still, if MLK were around today, I think he’d say that our real “civil rights” struggle – indeed, our “human rights” struggle —  is just beginning:

Over 15 percent (50 million) of all Americans, and 22 percent (16 million) of American children under the age of 18 are now living in poverty with incomes at or below $23,492 per year for a family of four. This is a 50 year high, well above the 12.8 percent that prevailed in 1968. Twenty million of our fellow citizens are living at or below the half-poverty income line of $11,746 per year for a family of four. This is almost as many people as the entire poor population back in 1968.  In 22 states the poverty rate is even higher, with “Mike” (aka Martin Luther) King’s home state of Georgia now featuring an 18.1 percent rate, and Mississippi topping the list at 22 percent.

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. Español: Dr. Martin Luther King dando su discurso “Yo tengo un sueño” durante la Marcha sobre Washington por el trabajo y la libertad en Washington, D.C., 28 de agosto de 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)the 12.8 percent that prevailed in 1968.

The net worth of the top 67 richest Americans, at $1.2 trillion as of January 2014, now exceeds that of all 45 million African-Americans.3 4 5 This is not just because these 67 people are extraordinarily gifted, but because the US economy has indeed become an inequality generator on steroids.

Despite the fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from over, we now have a pretty good idea of their total cost: at least $5 trillion, 1  in present value terms.
That would have been enough to give every poor kid in America a $300,000 nest egg for education, and end poverty forever. Of course dedicating even part of it to that would have also offended entrenched interests.

Congress has recently found time to “fast track” trade agreements and corporate tax breaks. But somehow it has not quite found time for basic legislation that is vital to poor people — like immigration reform, raising the real minimum wage above its current $1952 level, and finding the paltry $6 billion needed to restore long-term unemployment benefits.

Compared with the 1960s, we’re missing not only skilled political leadership inside the Beltway, but also a mobilized citizenry outside it.

Just as the number of racial hate groups and the practice of racial profiling by police departments has soared recently, government spying on American citizens has now become even more pervasive and sophisticated than it ever was back in the days of MLK, Watergate, and COINTELPRO. Indeed, if MLK were alive, he’d probably be the first prominent black activist to be spied on by a black Attorney General.

In any case, clearly there is a great deal of vital “civil rights” and human rights work left to do. So if there are any potential young activists out there listening, please consider this a job posting. The struggle continues, holidays or not.

James Henry writes on tax justice issues, his work has appeared in the Guardian, BBC and elsewhere.

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail