Not many Americans realize that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote and talked about the economy, not just about non-violence and racial peace. He knew that there could be no harmony without people having enough money to meet their basic needs. That is why a few months before his death he was talking about economic justice in the form of a Guaranteed Annual Income (an idea also supported by Milton Friedman and George McGovern, to name a few). King wrote:
“We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will…. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty.We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished….”
Dr. Martin Luther King believed in a Guaranteed Annual Income for every American by 1967: he came to see the only way to assure the dignified treatment of Americans in the workforce was to provide a basic income, sufficient to meet every person’s basic needs, whether or not the person held a paid job. In this way, workers would have real bargaining power, since they and their children would not starve to death if they turned down a job that was too low paid or if they lost their paid job.
Dr. King was a brilliant man and came around to supporting Guaranteed Income as he watched the struggles of Americans to make a living and saw that charity and service programs were not eliminating poverty. On April 4th the best thing we can do is read more about Guaranteed Income. It may be the solution to our current economic and social breakdown. And none of the bank bailouts and giveaways to the wealthy that today’s leaders have carried out while the rest of us struggle are working. Our leaders of the past few years have flat out refused to give any financial relief to real people, at the same time that they shower corporations and banks with money.
Think about it: how come it’s a “stimulus” to give a million to a bank, but the current administration tells us that to give $1000 each to one thousand struggling Americans is “not an option” (Peter Orzag said this last year when asked by a journalist in New York).
It’s time to read King’s ideas on the economy and put them to use before the country goes under.