On January 8, 1964 then President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a war on poverty during his State of the Union Address. At the time 19 percent of the American population of nearly 192 million people lived in poverty. The unemployment rate for 1964 averaged 5.2%. The Vietnam war had recently entered into its 9th year.
Fast forward 47 years and nine months and now President Barack Obama is pushing his American Jobs Act. The rate of poverty among the American population of 308 million is at 15 percent. That's one in six Americans. 46 million total. As of today the unemployment rate for the month of September remains unchanged at 9.1%. Also as of today the war in Afghanistan turns 10 years old.
In January 1964 Black people had yet to once again earn the right to vote; 15th amendment be damned. In January 1964 the movement for civility was going strong. A young preacher was continuing his meteoric rise in popularity among his community and hatred among his foes escalated by one of the most famous speeches in this country. It would be four more years before his star was put out. In January 1964 El Hajj Malik El Shabazz was probably preparing for his second trip to Mecca in what would be the final year of his life. These men were fighting a system of systematic depression. They were fighting a system of systematic oppression. They were fighting a system of systematic economic inequality. Bagging back against laws that made them less than, and forced them to earn less than, therefore impressing upon the hegemony that they were less than.
47 years and nine months later 19 new laws and two executive orders enacted in 14 states seek to make voting harder than it may have been in 1964. Instead of a young preacher or a rebel with a cause fighting everyday for their lives we have a President doing the same. We have a President fighting a system of systematic recession. A President fighting a system of systematic oppression including against himself. A President trying to fight a system of systematic economic inequality. Bagging back against deregulation that eroded an entire class of people, set back an entire generation, and is forcing people to earn less therefore impressing upon the wealthy elite that we are less.
In 47 years and nine months history has completely repeated itself. There are our never-ending conflicts on the Asian continent to parallels in our economy, the new ways those in power find to make those not submissive and subservient to their every whim and need selling a dream that hasn't been true in at least a decade.
This is not about politics. This is not about race. This is not about class. This is not about immigration status or sexual orientation. This is not about being pro-life or pro-choice. This is not about gay rights as civil rights or the resegregation of schools. This is about people and doing what is right for them.
I can give statistics from the past and compare them to the present all day long to illustrate parallels between then and now. I can go in on Presidential policy and the structure of Congress to show how much we haven't changed, how post-racial we are not, how un-progressive we have been. Those stats and facts can be argued for days. What cannot be argued is the reality of the people.
Let's rap for a minute.
One in six lives in poverty...
But in an urban metropolis where the streets is hot, the cops is blocking, and the collars poppin' everybody on the block could be that one in six.
Progressives believe conservatives got the game fixed.
That they only care about themselves and the rest of you motherfuckers can slang shit.
That leads to more of us panhandling for paychecks, peddling the P for a brief reprieve as we seek new arrangements.
But what can we re-arrange except our faces as we look upon banks in amazement.
Like damn, son... those mofos stole from us.
Sold us a white picket pot of gold and then got swoll on us.
Foreclosed on us.
Left us out in the street, in the middle of the summertime crime heat, where the wind refused to even blow cold on us.
All we got was hot air, from windbags, talking about my constituents this, my constituents that but had yet to shake my constituents hand.
And then a line in the sand was drawn...
People mobilizing behind a new movement at the crack of dawn...
Screaming give me my country back,
And while you at it make sure the budget and deficit get back to black...
And don't forget that it's a job I lack...
So please pass some legislation and handle that.
Because without a job I have nothing.
No food, no clothes, no shelter.
I live in a tent city in a van that don't run next to a veteran that can't run because he lost his legs fighting for freedom.
Freedom in a country that has never known democracy, while his own democratic republic was boxing him in.
Tight packing him in on a chain gang, where everyday is the same.
Look for work, come up empty.
Apply for benefits. Benefits revoked.
Go to school. Tuition soars.
Find a minimum wage job. Damn, I need more.
I hate to accept welfare. But if I don't accept it does not mean I am an exception.
Not exceptionally skilled at executing change.
Because as we all know you need about a billion dollars just to make shit stay the same.
Not exceptionally skilled in peaceably assembling.
Because Pigs like to pull pepper spray and mase a bunch of First Amendment exercising kids.
Not exceptionally versed in the constitution.
But I know my rights.
Not up to code on White Collar Crime.
But I know for damn sure Bernie Madoff shouldn't be the only one doing time.
I got my hand out while Goldman Sachs put they hands up.
I got ideas to get myself going but Bank of America said credit tight, your roll, "Why don't you slow it."
I got plans to work hard to get mine.
I got plans to pull myself up my own damn ladder.
But as soon as you see my pockets getting fatter legally...
You move the goal post off the field, down the block, and around the corner until I'm back working from cain't see to cain't see.
So everyday I'm strugglin'
But for what, when Congress got jobs for life, and could give a good got damn about broke mouths being fed on their boulevards.
A boulevard where everybody is that one in six.
Trying to resist the statisticians tics that says we live in poverty.
That my broke bourgie self, with a 4, 6, 7 or even an 8 year degree lives in poverty.
So I protest that I am how the other half lives.
Wait, I mean, how the 99 percent lives.
I protest that you let the man pass his bill.
Because as history has shown us doing something is better than doing nothing.
Trying is better than not trying at all.
Because if our economy falls, our country falls, our people fall... even the ones on top.
It will be our failure that tanks the economy.
Our failure that raises the rate of poverty.
And our failure that returns us to chains shackled to dreams of who we thought we'd be.
1. How should Washington address the economy to decrease poverty?
2. Do you see poverty increasing or decreasing over the next decade.
3. In 47 years and nine months the country has reverted back to a time we thought we'd left behind, do you see it happening again in the next 50 years?