Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A $2 Step Toward Economic Justice

“The way we are living,/ timorous or bold,/ will have been our life.” 
            –Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize Poet,  d. August 30, 2013

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom included this item in its list of 10 Demands: 

“8. A national minimum wage act that will give Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2 an hour fails to do this).”

Martin Luther King, Jr’s  Dream always had an economic dimension to it.  And it wasn’t a black or white thing. As President Obama proclaimed in his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March:

“Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical to working people of all races: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures -- conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.”

Today the children of the 1963 Dream no longer sit in the back of the bus. But the children of the Dream and their children, those who step onto the economic bus that is the American economy in 2013,  have every right to ask,  “Where is our place on this bus?”  The answer to this question is clear: Far too many are crowded in the back of our nation’s economic bus. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was fully aware of growing income inequality in our society and the evils following in its wake.
"The contemporary tendency in our society,” Dr. King wrote in 1967, “is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity.  If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking."

Calling for a $2 an hour minimum wage to help create a decent standard of living for workers in the back of the economic bus was criticized as extreme in 1963.  King was regularly castigated as being “precipitous,” “unrealistic,” “Radical” for wanting “Freedom Now!” and  for demanding fairness, opportunity  and economic justice.  

But King, the Dreamer we celebrate and venerate today,  never accepted a time restriction on the achieving of basic human rights.  As he asked and answered in his Selma to Montgomery speech, “How Long, Not Long.” It was in this speech Dr. King spoke of the arc of the moral universe as being long, but bending toward justice.  And for King bending the arc toward justice was the work of the here and now, not the soon or the someday.

As mentioned, President Obama recognized Dr. King’s and the 1963 March’s call for a decent wage for all working people.  The president and his advisors and the members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are regularly throwing numbers at the economic problems in this great and rich nation.  Here are some numbers all of us should keep in mind.  The March organizers called for a wage floor of $2 an hour. Think about this:  $2 in 1963 is more than $14.80 in 2013 — that is more than double the current federal minimum wage. And the minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009. 

How long, Not long . . . It's past time to get to work bending the moral arc toward economic justice.

[This was published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, Sept. 8, 2013]


Blogger gary daily said...

Walmart workers rally in 15 US cities, demand better pay
by Wilson Dizard @willdizard September 3, 2013 10:00PM ET Updated September 5, 2013 1:54PM ET
Protesters demand a minimum of $25,000 per year for full-time employees and want fired colleagues reinstated

10:39 PM  

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