I joined the campaign for the poor. Here’s why.

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Jules Hathaway is a graduate student at the University of Maine and a community volunteer.

Shortly before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. realized how closely linked racism and poverty are. He started asking what good could it be for a person if they were allowed to sit at a lunch counter but couldn’t afford a burger. The Campaign of the Poor was born from this idea.

About half a century later, the Campaign of the Poor is experiencing a much needed resurgence across the country. The pandemic has made it clear that America is a nation of haves and have-nots. Our wealth gap is wider than at any time, except just before the Great Depression.

In addition to being an essential part of preventing COVID infections, clean water is necessary to sustain life. In the richest country in the world, nearly 14 million households cannot afford to pay their water bills. Think about all the ways you will be using water today. What would you do if he wasn’t available?

Additionally, neglected infrastructure issues mean millions of young children are exposed to unacceptable levels of lead. How would you feel if they were your children?

Good breakfast? You don’t have to worry about whether you will eat breakfast and dinner as well? If so, you are doing better than many of your fellow citizens for whom hunger is a constant gnawing presence. As the need for food aid increases, it is reduced or made more difficult to access through methods such as the proposed work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries, of whom about 75 percent are children, the elderly or who are already working. What would you say to your children if they cried from hunger?

Do you wake up at home, unless you are traveling or hospitalized? Many families with working parents live in cars or shelters, surf on sofas or sleep on the streets. Rents are rising faster than wages. On-demand shifts mean hours are unpredictable. In addition to millions of homeless people, millions of Americans are just one emergency or disaster away. Maybe even you.

COVID infections and deaths have disproportionately affected people of color and poor people. Many of them have been the essential frontline workers in places like stores and often do not receive the most basic protective equipment. How would you feel each day you went to work if the only way to keep a roof over your family’s heads and food on the table involved potentially exposing your loved ones to a deadly plague?

When I went to the hospital to give birth to my first child, what was supposed to be a routine delivery turned out to be an emergency cesarean section followed by a nosocomial infection. This baby was almost in high school when a Good Samaritan footed the bottom of the bill.

We were lucky. Medical problems are the number one cause of American bankruptcy. In countries with national health care, this just does not happen. Wouldn’t you like that kind of security?

These are just the basics. I haven’t even touched on topics like separate and far from equal pre-K-12 education, the growing inaccessibility of higher education, the shortage of jobs that provide workers with pay and dignity. decent, vital support infrastructure and the growing devastation caused by global climate change. I haven’t mentioned a government that can afford to ignore the voices of its most precarious citizens by finding ways to take away their voices.

The Campaign of the Poor is working to change all that. I signed. Hope you will consider joining me. For more information, you can visit www.poorpeoplescampaign.org or https://www.facebook.com/maineppc/


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