“The Curse of Poverty Has No Justification in Our Age”

Today many people recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as “a day on” rather than “a day off.” That’s because for millions of Americans, there is no day off, unless it’s involuntary, through layoffs or unemployment, and it’s often permanent.

Knowing that it disproportionately afflicts Black, Brown and Indigenous Americans, one of Dr. King’s final struggles was to abolish poverty from the face of this nation. His vision for basic income, or a guaranteed income as MLK called it, lives on in the People’s Platform, our interim platform, and has gained overwhelming support as a pandemic and depression have roiled the country. In short, he wanted the government to eradicate poverty by providing every American a guaranteed, middle-class income — an idea that had come into vogue by the late 1960s and even passed the House of Representatives in 1971.

He laid out this expansive vision for a guaranteed income in his final book, 1967’s Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?  To jump-start the elimination of poverty, first in the U.S. and then abroad, King organized the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968. The campaign argued that the federal government should create an anti-poverty program that provided every poor American family with a middle-class income. However, King was assassinated in April 1968, months before thousands of protestors marched and built a tent city occupying Washington, D.C.

In 1967, King suggested that the civil rights movement can’t survive if it’s born into an unsustainable society: “It’s much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee an annual income. It’s much easier to integrate a bus than it is to get a program that will force the government to put billions of dollars into ending slums.”

Today, as income inequality rises and the pandemic and technology steadily continue to strip away jobs, the idea of establishing a universal basic income is more popular than ever. Together we will realize one of Dr. King’s final dreams and at long last place a floor on human suffering. Help us guarantee human needs as human rights with the People’s Party.