Poor People’s Campaign to Biden team: These should be 14 of your top legislative priorities

Access to health care, higher minimum wage, dialogue top list detailed by anti-poverty group

The following is from a news release distributed by the Poor People’s Campaign yesterday:

The Poor People’s Campaign released on Monday a set of 14 policy and legislative priorities for the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration. 

The campaign has also been in conversation with members of the Biden-Harris transition team about a round table with poor and low-income, moral leaders and key public health, economic and legal advisers to follow up on the new administration’s commitments to addressing poverty and systemic racism made in the election season and to discuss the Poor People’s Campaign policy priorities for the first 100 days. When President-elect Biden joined the Moral Monday Mass Assembly on the voting power of poor and low-income people on Sept. 14, in front of over 1 million viewers, he vowed that, “ending poverty will not just be an aspiration, it will be a theory of change — to build a new economy that includes everyone, where we reward hard work, we care for the most vulnerable among us, we release the potential of all our children, and protect the planet.” You can watch President-elect Biden’s comments here and watch the entire “Voting is Power Unleashed” program here

The 14 policies priorities include: enact comprehensive and just COVID-19 relief that provides free testing, treatment, vaccines and direct payments to the poor; guarantee quality health care for all, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; raise the minimum wage to $15/ hour immediately; and update the poverty measure. 

“These priorities are constitutionally consistent, morally defensible and economically sane,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and president of Repairers of the Breach. “They come out of the lives, struggles, agency and insights of the 140 million and their moral, economic and legal allies. They embody a politics of love, justice and truth that can defeat the politics of death, and bring us down the path towards genuine democracy. Our campaign wants to help empower true, real and lasting healing of the nation. This is a reconstruction and restoration agenda that can transform and repair the lives of Black, White, Brown Indigenous, Asian, gay, straight, working, unemployed, essential, disabled, young, old, urban, rural, poor and low wealth people throughout this nation. These policy priorities for the first hundred days lift from the bottom and take seriously the cost of inequality — the more than $1 trillion child poverty costs the nation each year and the $2.6 trillion annually lost wages due to gender and racial wage gaps. Any vision for healing this nation must include naming these costs and poverty and low-wealth as a threat to our future. ”

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and director of the Kairos Center, said this country “has the wherewithal to curb this virus, lift the load of poverty, protect people and the planet, and overcome systemic racism. These priorities are a road map to healing and transforming our nation. They are a prescription to the diseases of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of Christian nationalism that are plaguing the nation. And poor and low-income people, moral leaders and all people of conscience are going to keep organizing until they are realized.”

The priorities  “reflect the fact that moral policies that put the country’s 140 million poor and low-income people and the people who have been on the frontlines of these crises first, are not only the right thing to do, they are also how we will build up America from the bottom up, said lawyer and economist Shailly Gupta Barnes, policy director for the Poor People’s Campaign. “Moral policy is good economics.” 

Dr. Sharrelle Barber, assistant professor of epidemiology at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health stated,  “As our Poor People’s Campaign’s Health Justice Advisory Committee noted earlier in the year, the pandemic has revealed the fissures of our society and this policy platform is the only real way towards healing and justice.” In addition to Dr. Barber, the committee includes Dr. Mary Bassett from Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and Dr. Chandra Ford from UCLA’s Center for Health Equity.

In a recent article co-authored by the campaign and Josh Bivens from the Economic Policy Institute, they write: “If America does not address what’s happening with visionary social and economic policy, the health and well-being of the nation is at stake….What we need is long-term economic policy that establishes justice, promotes the general welfare, rejects decades of austerity and builds strong social programs that lift society from below.”

After successfully engaging efforts to mobilize millions of poor and low wealth voters from Michigan to Pennsylvania to Alabama to Arizona to Kansas, and seeing at least 6 million more poor and low-income voters in 2020, with 55% of poor and low-wealth people voting for a progressive agenda, the Poor People’s Campaign is committed to rolling up our sleeves to work to enact these priorities in the first 100 days. The past four years, under the leadership of Trump and McConnell, including their mishandling of the pandemic, have further devastated the poor. Millions of poor and low-income voters did not vote to return to normal, they voted to turn the nation towards justice. 

On June 20, 2020 the Poor People’s Campaign organized a massive digital rally attended by more than 2.5 million people, including its 43 state coordinating committees, and over 200 organizational partners, faith allies, national denominations and labor unions. and released a transformational policy platform. From June to November 3, the campaign reached out to more than 2 million low-income infrequent voters, moving them to exercise their right to vote in 10 battleground states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. After the campaign’s public health officials say it is safe to do so, the Poor People’s Campaign will complete its original plan of having an in-person Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington to ensure the face, voice and policy vision of poor and low-income people are at the center of the nation’s focus. 

The complete list of the Poor People’s Campaign policy priorities with explanations can be found here along with videos of the statements from the President and Vice President-Elect.

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