“I am not speaking about the poor. I am not speaking for the poor. I am the poor.”
Claudia De la Cruz was speaking at an April 10 press briefing in Washington, DC on behalf of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Inspired by a similar 1968 initiative led by Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, the campaign aims to lift up the voices of people like De la Cruz who’ve been most affected by our country’s persistent poverty.
A descendant of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, De la Cruz was born in the South Bronx, the poorest Congressional district in the country. Median household income there is about $26,000, compared to $116,000 for the wealthiest district, which straddles Virginia’s northern suburbs. She’s a member of the national steering committee of the Poor People’s Campaign and one of the state organizers for the New York City area.
At the briefing, the Poor People’s Campaign and the Institute for Policy Studies co-released a 120-page report on poverty and inequality, systemic racism, ecological devastation, the war economy, and militarism. The Souls of Poor Folk draws on empirical data and interviews with grassroots leaders in each of these inter-related areas to make the case for reviving the 1968 campaign. The report points out, for example, that 140 million Americans today are poor or low-income.
“In a country that is filled with wealth, that has an abundant amount of resources, this is immoral and shameful,” said De la Cruz.
The report also finds that one of the most dramatic trends since the original Poor People’s Campaign is the rising gap between the poor and the extreme rich. While the official poverty rate is about the same today as it was 50 years ago, the share of national income going towards the top 1% of earners has nearly doubled. The 400 wealthiest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the US population (or 204 million people).
Nineteen percent of all US households (60 million…