As we remember Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, it is a good time to reflect on our own dreams of what our society could become. What is my dream? It all starts with jobs. But it goes on from there.
This week Terrance Heath wrote, in "Fifty Years Later: Delivering On The Dream," that Wednesday, as President Obama speaks where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood 50 years ago, he faces the challenge of mapping out a way to deliver on King's economic vision of reaching the "mountaintop" of full employment for all Americans. Heath recalls growing up Baptist in the South, looks at where we have come and where we are -- especially Black America -- and says there is a lot to do.
Richard Eskow wrote, in "Honor Dr. King’s Revolutionary Vision by Fighting For It," that we still need a revolution in values. We continue to measure human worth by the amount in a bank book, we continue to degrade rather than uplift human personality, and that pretending corporations are people or saying that money is equivalent to speech diminishes human personhood. We are reversing the progress we have made. Poverty is rising, economic opportunity is disappearing, and the 0.01 percent subjugate the 99 percent.
Rickard later wrote "A Dream Deferred: Minimum Wage Higher in ’63 Than Today" because the minimum wage is lower in real terms today than it was in 1963. The 1963 minimum wage, when adjusted for inflation, was $8.37, a dollar and twelve cents higher than today’s rate of $7.25. (Also see my post about how "40% Of Americans Now Make Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage" if that wage had kept pace with "productivity" not just inflation.)
Isaiah J. Poole, in "Full Employment: Demand of the Unfinished March," wrote that America has still not made good on the “promissory note” to people of color that had come back marked “insufficient funds.” King demanded full employment for all Americans at a time when the unemployment rate was under 4 percent. We are a long, long way from there today. The misery of unemployment today ignores the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act. But Rep. John Conyers, (D-MI) has introduced “The Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act,” which turns the original Act's vision - and King's dream - "into concrete policy."
There is a link to the entire collection of posts on "The Unfinished March" on this page of information about the 50th anniversary commemorative events.
What is my dream? It all starts with jobs.
In "Martin Luther King’s Dream Of Jobs And Freedom" I looked at King's "Where Do We Go From Here?" speech addressing the need for full employment and a guaranteed income for all.
Our country was founded on the dream that We the People can do things for each other instead of depending on the rich and powerful to throw us scraps. Who is our country for? Who is our economy for? Certainly a We the People economy would at the very least guarantee that We the People have jobs and an income until a job is available. Because jobs and incomes solve all kinds of problems.
I looked at ways to achieve full employment. Funding the infrastructure maintenance and modernization we need to do anyway. Retrofitting our buildings and homes to be energy efficient. Restore the 900,000 jobs lost to the "sequester" so far and the 700,000 public-employee jobs lost to budget cuts since the recession began. If those don't do it cut the workweek to 30 hours. Jeeze, there are so many ways. Because this is our country and our economy, for We the People not just a few.
How do we pay for it? We just decide that this is our priority. We currently spend trillions of dollars on wars and military and antiterrorism and surveillance, while we ignore the 440,000 Americans killed by tobacco each year. That is an example of a priority. Trillions for one, nothing for the other. It's about priorities.
Cruel policies intending to boost corporate profits for the short term create a reserve army of hungry, increasingly desperate unemployed people ready to take the next job from someone fired for trying to organize a union – and everyone knows this so they are afraid. Keeping people unemployed clearly is a priority. But this is not a way to run an economy. Certainly this is not how We the People would choose to run our country if we were still in charge.
But I can dream. We can solve unemployment by making it a priority. And unlike wars and military spending, everything that creates jobs pays for itself. Repairing the infrastructure pays for itself because then we have a modern, efficient infrastructure to support business and other activities. Retrofitting homes and buildings pays for itself because we get an energy-efficient economy.
Here are a few more things I can dream about:
A guaranteed income until a job becomes available pays for itself because of the boost it brings the economy and the security it brings our people.
Providing childcare pays for itself because single mothers can have careers and families can go to the job of their choice.
Providing good health care for all pays for itself because every other country has learned that this reduces costs in the overall system.
Elevating equal rights for all people – LGBT, gender, "minorities" of region and color, religious and non-religious and all other distinctions we perceive pays for itself because it reinforces democracy and diversity makes our institutions so much stronger.
Protecting the environment pays for itself because the short-term "eat the seed corn" approach to resource use and planetary preservation ends our future.
Strong unions are good for all of us, economically as well as for the empowerment and security they bring to working people on the job.
Equal enforcement of laws and access to the courts pays for itself because people can have confidence that the system is not rigged against them.
Protection of democracy in trade agreements massively pays for itself because it guarantees that giving people good wages and benefits and workplace safety and protecting the environment are not undermined and made into a "cost" by letting in goods made where people do not have a say, are not paid well and where the government does not protect the environment.
Providing a good retirement for everyone pays for itself because people – human beings – will have security.
This is about priorities.
These are just parts of my dream, when I allow myself to dream. (When dreams are not suffocated by obstruction.)
What is your dream? What would a fair and just society look like to you? Leave a comment. Better yet, go out and make it happen.