Martin Luther King Jr: Economic Justice

“What is the job of government? Just to benefit the rich?”

Martin Luther KingThe book, To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice, (W.W. Norton, 2018) came out April 3—the day before the 50-year anniversary of King’s assassination. The author, historian Michael Honey, makes the case in an interview conducted for MLK Day 2019 that ECONOMIC JUSTICE WAS ALWAYS PART OF MLK JR.’S MESSAGE.

I find it strange that some commenters seem to eschew the idea that MLK was an economic warrior. They tend to believe such an idea is the result of revisionist thinking.

As Honey notes, King “said in Memphis: ‘It’s a crime in a rich nation for people to receive starvation wages.’ That remains a basic issue right now across the country, where it seems like the economy is doing really well but there are millions of people—about 40 million people—in poverty.

“Economically, things for poor people and working-class people are probably worse in some ways now than in his time. The unionized, industrial jobs that created the black middle class in places like Memphis are mostly gone…

“King said the best anti-poverty program is a union. Where you can fight for your own agenda—somebody doesn’t have to hand it to you. But you have to be organized to do that. King always supported unions. He gave his life in that cause, in a sense.

“Many workers in this country recognize King as a labor hero. ‘We can get more together than we can apart,’ King said in Memphis. He always said we have a common destiny, and he put it in an economic framework. And we do need that.”

Eliminate Poverty

Also, from Food for the Hungry, 9 Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Eradicating Poverty. The earliest one cited was from 1961. “As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.” That was in his American Dream speech.

If you want to truly celebrate Martin Luther King Day, support The Poor People’s Campaign, “a national call for moral revival. As Honey said, the PPC “said everybody should have health care, everybody should have a median level of income—not poverty income, a median level of income, such that you can live a normal life. And education, and housing, and jobs at union wages. King thought the role of government is to bring about social justice.

“To those who say it’s not the government’s job, King would ask, Well, what is the job of government? Just to benefit the rich?”