The Poor People's Campaign has announced a “season of nonviolent, moral direct action,” targeting the U.S. Senate with disruptive activities every Monday, now through Aug 2.
According to the campaign's co-chair, the Rev. William Barber II, “The Senate must end the filibuster, protect and expand voting rights, and pass a minimum wage of $15 an hour.” Barber is getting national attention. Even President Joe Biden recorded a video expressing his support.
Concern about poverty is something we all share. What bothers me is that the factors driving poverty, according to the research of my organization and others, are ignored by the Poor People's Campaign. And the issues on which it chooses to focus either have nothing to do with the reality of poverty or actually make things worse.
It may surprise Barber that the Senate filibuster is a powerful tool to protect minority interests. He is either confused or disingenuous when he claims abolishing the Senate filibuster is about protecting “democracy.” It is not democracy he cares about, but Democrats—who now control the government—being able to pass every piece of far-left, big-government legislation they want.
The only thing that stands in their way is the 60-vote requirement of the Senate filibuster. The history of our American democracy is that government changes hands all the time. When Republicans are running the show, as they will again, Barber will direct his heavenly prayers to save the filibuster so that Democrats can prevent Republicans from doing whatever they want.
It is the filibuster in the Senate that prevents passage of the For the People Act, the voting and election “reform” legislation, House Resolution 1, that passed in the House without a single Republican vote.
Although HR 1 is being labelled as “voting rights” legislation, it addresses many more aspects of election law than just voting. The legislation eviscerates actions that Republican states have moved on to reduce voter fraud, such as voter ID laws and stopping vote harvesting. But it also moves the federal government into a host of other areas, such as defining political speech and the organization of the Federal Election Commission.
The issue here is not to debate election law, but to ask what this has to do with poverty and why it is such a priority for the Poor People's Campaign.
In the current Congress, there are 60 African American senators and representatives in the House. In 1964, there were five. Per The Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley, who is black, in 1970, nationwide, there were fewer than 1,500 black elected officials. Today, there are more than 10,000.
In the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, the black turnout rate was higher than white turnout. Yet in 2019, the average black poverty rate was more than two to two-and-a-half times higher than the white poverty rate. There is little evidence that black poverty has persisted over the past half-century because black Americans have not been able to accumulate political power or express their will on Election Day.
Regarding the minimum wage, economic logic and economic facts show that the higher the minimum wage, the more low-wage jobs disappear. Raising the minimum wage is a great tool to make poverty worse, not better.
What can make a difference? In 2019, the average poverty rate among American households was 9%. The average poverty rate in black households headed by a married couple was 6.4%, per Statistica. However, the average poverty rate in black households headed by a single woman was 29.5%, and 41% of black households were headed by single women.
But the Poor People's Campaign has nothing to say about the data connecting family breakdown and abortion to poverty. Many Americans do understand this connection, including my organization, CURE. So, when the Poor People's Campaign storms the Senate over the next four weeks with bogus claims, we hope our elected officials will heed other voices.
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