• English
  • 日本語
  • France
  • Deutschland
  • Italy
  • España
  • Slovenia

The Poor People's Campaign sets out to conquer poverty and militarism

Guest content
12 March 2024

Just a portion of what taxpayers in each state send to the Pentagon and its weapons companies could end poverty in their states, writes Paul Shannon for Common Dreams.


We're going in the wrong direction.

The front page of the February 22 New York Times reported, "Poverty Soars in New York City, With Children Bearing the Brunt." It goes on to say that just between 2021 and 2022, the national poverty rate jumped from 7.8% to 12.4%.

The next week the Times reported, "As Millions Lose Their Medicaid, Medical Clinics for the Poor Struggle to Survive" (NYT, 2/26/24).

And yet, while poverty was increasing and healthcare for millions of poor people was threatened, the stock market over those same weeks reached its highest level in the history of the United States.

Since when is sending $16 billion on weapons to Israel for its war against Gaza more important than addressing poverty and housing and healthcare for those struggling to survive here?

Poverty is the fourth leading cause of death in the country.

These are the people who were killed by Covid-19 in much higher numbers than the rest of the population.

Many of these are the people whose work during the pandemic kept the lights on so the rest of us could shelter in place. Don't they at least deserve a true living wage?

And yet, poverty and inequality are not even a part of the debate in the upcoming national elections.

On March 2, the national Poor People's Campaign organized assemblies in over 30 states around the country to demand from our state legislatures as well as Congress that all resources necessary to provide living wages, affordable housing, food, good healthcare, and public programs be mobilized to end poverty and the hardship and death it inflicts on our people.

And where will those resources come from? Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us the answer. He identified racism, materialism, and militarism as the interlocking injustices that must be conquered if we are to achieve his vision of a just society.

King saw clearly the link between militarism and poverty.

Our military spending is now about $900 billion—eight times the entire Russian military budget. About 40% of that $900 billion goes to Raytheon, now RTX, and Lockheed Martin and other military contractors.

Just a portion of what taxpayers in each state send to the Pentagon and its weapons companies could end poverty in their states.

Since when is sending $16 billion on weapons to Israel for its war against Gaza more important than addressing poverty and housing and healthcare for those struggling to survive here?

That gigantic military budget is ramping up militarism, getting us into one war after another, jacking up the profits of Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, killing Palestinians, and destroying our country's soul.

As King knew, there is a direct relationship between the poverty we see in our country and our state and the wars and militarism that has become the new normal. He knew that militarism is the enemy of the poor and must be attacked as such.

But don't we need a trillion dollar war budget to protect us from all the bad people out there?

Consider this: Of what use was this trillion dollar military behemoth in protecting us from the greatest national security threat we have faced in the last 70 years?

The Covid-19 virus killed 1,200,000 people in our country. (Do you remember the refrigerated trailers in New York City used to store the avalanche of dead bodies?)

The country with the biggest "defense" budget suffered far more casualties than any other country on Earth from a virus.Millions other lives were wrecked by this micro-organism.

It was a mental health catastrophe.

Businesses, schools, and medical facilities shut down.

Weddings, cultural events, social gatherings, family visits, memorial services were all cancelled.

We could not even visit and comfort and say goodbye to loved ones as they were dying.

The pandemic served as a searchlight, pointing out features of our society that had been invisible to us.

We were forced to see that millions of working Americans lived one paycheck away from disaster as the unemployed lined up in their cars, hoping to get free food because they couldn't afford to pay their rent and medical costs and afford food at the same time for even one month.

We were forced to see just how devastating the poverty and inequality at the core of our society actually is, determining vastly different impacts on many areas of life, including who lives and who dies, whose hopes and dreams are crushed and whose are just deferred.

This tiny virus was able to bring us to our knees in a way Russia or China or Iran never could. Nor did all the thousands of desperate migrants at our border ever threaten us in the least with the death, suffering, and disruption of the pandemic. Yet these are the countries and people against whom we gird ourselves instead of the apocalyptic threats of pandemics, global warming, and nuclear war.

Let's be clear on this:

The country with the biggest "defense" budget suffered far more casualties than any other country on Earth from a virus.

WE WERE NOT READY! We had put all our money and talent into war rather than public health.

Our multi-million dollar Raytheon Patriot missiles could not shoot the virus down.

Our billion dollar General Dynamics battleships could not sink it.

Our most sophisticated Lockheed and Boeing jets could not bomb it to pieces—the way they can do to the homes and bodies of people abroad.

The truth is, our weapons, our armies, our adoration of the military are useless in defending us against the actual threats to our national security.

Here the solutions are an effective and well-funded public health system; living wages, affordable housing, food, Medicare for all; a green new deal; world abolition of nuclear weapons—and a commitment to building a society and a world in which each person feels valued and respected.

On the day before he was killed, Martin Luther King, Jr. told us he went up to the mountain top. And from there he could see such a society being born. In moving toward that world, militarism must be conquered. It is the enemy of the poor. And so, it is the enemy of all of us moving toward that just society that King beheld from atop that mountain.


Original source: Common Dreams

Image credit: United for Peace and Justice