The Poor People’s Campaign has released a set of 14 policy and legislative priorities for the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration.
The campaign has been in talks 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, and to discuss the Poor People’s Campaign policy priorities for the first 100 days.
On Sept. 14, when President-elect Joseph Biden joined the Moral Monday Mass Assembly on the voting power of poor and low-income people 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.” (Watch President-elect Biden’s comments here and the entire “Voting is Power Unleashed” program here.)
The 14 Poor People’s Campaign policy priorities include:
1. Enact comprehensive and just COVID-19 relief that provides free testing, treatment, vaccines and direct payments to the poor
2. Guarantee quality health care for all, regardless of any pre-existing conditions
3. Raise the minimum wage to $15/ hour immediate
4. Update the poverty measure
5. Guarantee quality housing for all
6. Enact a federal jobs program to build up investments, infrastructure, public institutions, climate resilience, energy efficiency and socially beneficial industries and jobs in poor and low-income communities
7. Protect and expand voting rights and civil rights
8. Guarantee safe, quality and equitable public education, with supports for protection against re-segregation
9. Comprehensive and just immigration reform
10. Ensure all of the rights of indigenous peoples
11. Enact fair taxes and targeted tax credits
12. Use the power of executive orders
13. Redirect the bloated Pentagon Budget towards these priorities as matters of national security
14. Work with the PPC to establish a permanent Presidential Council to advocate for this bold agenda
“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,” Barber continued. “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.”
“Our nation has the wherewithal to curb this virus, lift the load of poverty, protect people and the planet, and overcome systemic racism,” said Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and Director of the Kairos Center. “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.”
“As elected officials take office in DC and Albany, we will be watching closely for them to fulfill their duty to ‘protect the general welfare’—especially the 9 million New Yorkers who are poor and low-income. The resources exist to protect our housing, healthcare, livelihoods and lives through the rest of this pandemic, but we can’t afford another moment of delay,” said Becca Forsyth, tri-chair of the NYS Poor People’s Campaign.
The policy director for the Poor People’s Campaign, lawyer and economist Shailly Gupta Barnes, said 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. 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.
Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute said, “We will need more than one-shot policy activism and we will need to begin with those who are the very center of this pandemic recession.”
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 its sleeves to work to enact these priorities in the first 100 days. The past four years, under the leadership of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, including their mishandling of the pandemic, have further devastated the poor. Millions of poor and low wealth voters did not vote to return to normal, they voted to turn the nation towards justice.
On June 20, 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 two 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.
More than 140 million poor and low-income people live in the United States, or 43 percent of the country’s population, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, with organizing committees in 43 states, is building a moral fusion movement to address the five interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism and a distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. The campaign’s demands are reflected in its Jubilee Platform.