Power And Politics In The Workplace Essays On Poverty

Close observers of the development scene will have noticed an interesting shift over the past few years. Where once institutions such as the World Bank and charities like Oxfam described their goal as simply ‘ending poverty’, today they tend to frame things in terms of poverty andinequality. Well, that makes sense: doesn’t it seem intuitively obvious that these two things must be connected in some way?

Yet those links can be surprisingly hard to bring into focus. In 15 years of working in the development sector – first for international NGOs and more recently running a research programme on poverty and inequality – I have found myself explaining over and over again exactly what the one has to do with the other. What does it matter to an impoverished farmer in South Sudan if 85 people hold as much wealth as half the world’s population? If those 85 people gave everything away, would that actually help the farmer?

The problem, I have come to think, is that there are two very different ways of thinking about inequality. The first is all about the rich. The second is all about the poor. The first is the one we usually hear about. The second is the one that really matters.

The first, of course, is the one that preoccupies most writers and commentators on the question. The dominant metaphor seems to be a sort of global seesaw, with a few hugely rich individuals weighing down one end and the rest of us clinging for dear life to the other. As Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century (2014) demonstrates, the rich have been getting richer much faster than the rest of us, so the seesaw is getting ever more skewed. And so inequality is big news right now. Two things, in particular, are remarkable about the current debate. The first is how many people are having it – not just the usual suspects, but lesser-known lefty agitators including the Pope, President Barack Obama, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the head of the Bank of England. One would think that a robust response was inevitable.

But perhaps not, because the second remarkable thing is the dearth of actual policy ideas. Piketty’s imagined tax on capital is probably the only part of his book that has not met with near-universal acclaim. Mark Carney of the Bank of England and Christine Lagarde of the IMF talk vaguely about curbing pay and making tax ‘more progressive without being excessive’ (whatever that means), but governments do not seem to be rallying to that call. We are left to pore over cultural artefacts such as the Financial Times’s ‘How to Spend It’ supplement – a publication that might as well be a Trojan Horse operation designed to fan the flames of class warfare. Here we glimpse a world where a special supplement on luxury yachts is a viable commercial proposition, where one might spend £6,000 on a dress because it looked good on the model, and where private jets are simply a practical transport solution. Few people live here, but it’s a very recognisable address.

As a matter of fact, the runaway incomes of the super-rich do have a link to poverty. Where inequality is high and governments are pressured to reduce taxes on the rich, government income goes down and there’s less money for the kind of public spending that reduces poverty. Such considerations lead naturally to the common proposition that we might sort things out by taking money from the rich. We could cut down on tax avoidance, for example, or limit pay, or tax capital. Would that work? Well, it might. Then again, it might not. If governments make very rich people a bit poorer by changing tax or inheritance rules, who’s to say the money won’t just be spent on missiles or grandiose infrastructure projects or other things that people don’t really want, and which certainly won’t help to tackle extreme poverty? This is a story that leaves many questions unanswered. To start filling in the blanks, we need to look, not at the top of the wealth distribution, but at the bottom; not at the inequalities that make people rich, but the ones that keep people poor.

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Look at that seesaw again. It’s tempting to picture the people on it as atomised individuals, randomly distributed between the two sides. But in fact they aren’t like that at all. People don’t end up among the very rich, or languish on the side of the very poor, by chance. Rather, their position depends to a remarkable degree on the groups that they belong to. Where do they live? What is their ethnic group or religion? Do they have a mental illness or a physical disability? What family do they come from?

Take education. Between 1999 and 2011, the number of children in the world who were not in school fell by around half. Good news. But who are the half who didn’t benefit from this general improvement – the children on the wrong side of the education seesaw? The data on this is not as good as it should be (of which more later). But it’s likely, globally, that around two-thirds of children lacking education are from an ethnic minority in their own country. That’s useful information. The deck appears to be stacked against certain people in very predictable ways.

The inequalities underlying patterns of poverty and exclusion are always complicated. In Burkina Faso, for example, just under a third of children complete primary school. Trying to understand the barriers faced by the two-thirds who don’t attend school involves sifting through a lot of data. Sexism is clearly part of the story: 34 per cent of boys complete school compared with only 24 per cent of girls. But in this case the biggest inequalities are not based on gender.

Much more striking is the fact that 53 per cent of children in the central region of Burkina Faso finish primary school compared with 8 per cent of children in the most remote Sahel region; that’s a gap of 45 per cent. And the worst-off are from the minority Tuareg ethnic group, where only 3 per cent finish primary school. If governments want to improve education and get all children into school, they have to understand the pattern of inequalities that underlie the national figures. Otherwise, they can’t make effective use of resources, public education campaigns, political attention or anything else.

Where governments do want to tackle inequalities, doing so on the basis of groups can have impressive results. Take Bolivia, one of the most unequal nations on Earth. The government of Evo Morales came to power in 2005 on the basis of a programme to tackle the quite staggering levels of inequality in the country. In Bolivia, inequality has a racial face: indigenous people have a poverty rate approximately double that of the white population.

Morales made an explicit commitment to tackle the ethnic dimensions of inequality and poverty. The government started a cash-transfer programme. It made road-building a priority in order to link up the remote areas where indigenous people live. It has started programmes to persuade indigenous populations to attend university, and to encourage greater linguistic diversity within the government machinery. These measures seem to be working: inequality in Bolivia, while still high, has started to decline, and extreme poverty is on a steep decline as well. The Gini coefficient, the standard measure of income inequality, fell by 15 per cent in Bolivia between 2001 and 2011.

Governments tend to look after their own, namely the groups close to the top of the wealth distribution

What matters is the combination of policies. Unless ethnic disadvantage is tackled explicitly, attempts to reduce poverty can fail. In Vietnam, for example, the expansion of infrastructure to rural and remote areas often had the effect of widening inequalities within those areas, as the majority Kinh households were better able to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by roads or irrigation, while minorities found themselves falling further behind. Simply taxing and spending wasn’t enough. More specific policies were needed.

So that’s the first major benefit of this bottom-up perspective on inequality: it is very practical. If we ask which groups are getting left behind, we suddenly find ourselves with an agenda for effective action against poverty. A second benefit also becomes clear: once we know which groups are impoverished and excluded, we can often get a better sense of the political context that explains both action and inaction. Ethnic minority groups such as the Tuareg in Burkina Faso usually have little power and influence. Governments tend to look after their own, namely the groups close to the top of the wealth distribution. It is common to find that disadvantaged groups are actively excluded from power, in the name of prejudice, political expediency or some long-held grievance – the reasons vary. Once we understand what’s going on in each particular situation, we can try to change it.

That’s the upside. But this kind of analysis presents risks as well as rewards. Appeals to ethnicity or other group markers can be divisive, if not dangerous. Most of the wars in the world today take the form of clashes between ethnic or religious groups, and organisations that focus on such group characteristics very often turn out to be intent on violence. When we enter this territory, we have to tread carefully.

All the same, the Bolivian story should persuade us that the risk is worth running. In Bolivia it was an appeal to the most excluded groups that gave Morales his electoral victory and, with it, the power to tackle the problem. In Ethiopia in the early 1990s, the nation-building project that followed the civil war included a deliberate programme of education investment among excluded groups. Again, the reduction of group-based inequalities was a key part of the new government’s strategy for holding on to power. A clear view of the obstacles that trap the bottom end of the wealth distribution can deliver the political conditions for action, as well as the insight to show what that action should be.

Here, though, we hit a further problem. There is a pitiful lack of information about the key group-based inequalities that underlie poverty. International household survey programmes offer patchy and partial data on ethnicity – one important source of inequality, as the examples above demonstrate. But it is incredibly poor information; just enough to make some general points, but not enough, in most countries, to track changes over time, or to drill down into the combinations of ethnicity, geography and gender, for example, that are likely to act together in important ways to keep people poor.

We know a little more about education, and the fact that we do is thanks almost entirely to the team behind the Education For All global monitoring report, which maintains a database recording inequalities in that sector. A lot less is known about the causes of other key dimensions of poverty. We don’t have the same comprehensive database about health, for example, or income, or vulnerability to crime and violence. Even less is known about the factors that determine access to services that help people to change their situations: finance, transport, electricity, telecommunications. For many aspects of inequality, the information simply isn’t there, even for the most well-meaning governments.

the absurdities of boardroom pay and tax avoidance might prick our sense of fairness, but this has only a limited amount to offer the analysis of extreme poverty

What information there is tends to focus on a small number of inequalities, such as ethnicity or geography. These are highly important, but they can’t be the whole story. In most countries, to pick an especially glaring example, we know nothing at all about the number of children out of school who are physically disabled, or about rates of extreme poverty among the mentally ill, despite anecdotal evidence suggesting that such factors have a huge amount to do with discrimination and exclusion.

So let’s look again at our two inequality stories. The mainstream narrative – about the runaway incomes of the richest people in the richest countries, the absurdities of boardroom pay and tax avoidance and so on – might prick our sense of fairness, but it has only a limited amount to offer the analysis and treatment of extreme poverty. The second, lesser known, inequality story is about the things that keep people poor. This story offers fertile ground for the coalitions and policy agendas that can actually address both poverty and inequality.

These stories are, of course, linked. Concentrations of income and opportunity at the very top might well make progress at the very bottom harder, in some cases – for political, economic or social reasons. And more money, generated by taxing the super-rich, would give more options to those governments that do want to act.

But at present too much analysis and attention in the development sector is given to the first story. This has led to a situation where people want to believe that inequality is important, but they don’t quite know why. Answering that question requires us to grapple with the second type of inequality. And that, in turn, requires better information. At present, the empirical foundations of our inequality debates are far too weak. Perhaps that is the most basic inequality of all: between those of us who are counted, and those of us who are not.

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Claire Melamed

is the Director of the Growth, Poverty and Inequality programme at the Overseas Development Institute in London.

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Kenny Chapman, 53, receives coins from a man in downtown Cleveland on February 28, 2017. Chapman has been homeless for about 10 years. (AP Photo / Tony Dejak)

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Let me begin by sharing with you the story of an inner-city Cleveland family of seven, two adults and five children all under the age of 11.

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The family did not own a home. They were renters. As the family grew, it became ever more difficult to find rent. At one point the old car in which they roamed the city in search of rent became their living quarters. Evenings, the father and mother and a newborn slept in the car’s front seat, and the four other children, in the back.

They found rent by understating the number of children, which, when discovered, led to eviction and the same cycle of wandering as urban nomads. The father, a truck driver, had a war-related injury that occasionally required medical treatment, taking him out of work. Bills piled up, which led to garnishments. The mother suffered from post-partum depression, compounded by noisy, rambunctious children.

The children were sometimes out of school, as the family did not know where its next shelter or its next meal would come from.

This inner-city family lived in 21 different places in 17 years, including a couple of cars.

When we gather today to speak of poverty and inequality, I understand, because I was the oldest child in that inner-city family, which grew to nine persons, a family that was riveted to a day-to-day struggle to survive.

Ours was an intense experience of poverty and inequality that led to social disorganization, chronic instability that made daunting every encounter with every institution in a society, instability that created severe emotional difficulties in four of the seven children. Poverty and its partner chaos can play on people’s minds.

One of my most powerful memories was of listening to the sound of my parents’ counting pennies to pay utility bills. “Click, click, click,” I could hear the pennies drop, one by one, as they hit the metal top table.

Today I can hear those pennies dropping all over America for families not able to scrape together the cash to pay their bills, families who lack adequate housing, families who do not have adequate health care, families trying to raise children in a chaotic urban environment, families who truly do not know where their next meal will come.

In America today there are tens of millions of people with a hard-luck story. Tens of millions out of work, in ill health, in search of affordable rent, having neither a place nor a home to call their own; millions of people for whom, as Langston Hughes put it, life “ain’t been no crystal stair.”

No one who escapes such an environment physically or economically does it alone. There are teachers, coaches, doctors, lawyers, aunts, uncles, neighbors who appear as angels in our lives, who catch us when we are about to fall, who lift us up at the right moment, who show us a different path, who guide us in a new direction, who transport us to new possibilities, new futures.

But for every person upon whom fortune smiles, opportunity calls, and destiny stirs, there are many others for whom the future is obscured, for whom society is harsh, punitive, and unwelcoming.

I call these people my brothers and sisters, my cousins, my kinfolk who are ill-fed, ill-clothed, lacking in basic health care, working (if able) for low wages, hostages to debt, owning little, credit starved, renting if they can, and estranged from even rudimentary knowledge of wealth creation.

Poverty is not an abstraction. People wear it on their faces, carry it on their backs as a constant companion, and it is heavy.

Those of us acquainted with that condition often lack understanding of the nature of the material world, and, since access to material wealth seems random, are prey to the notion about wealth preached ironically by the Pardoner in The Canterbury Tales, “Radix malorum est cupiditas,” ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.”

One does not need to have taken a vow of poverty to be poor, one needs only the unconscious or conscious acceptance of the underlying precepts of a class-based society, the meek acceptance of a doctrine of predestination, the assumption of one’s status as merited and the acceptance of a political economy that equates one’s personal wealth with one’s innate value as a human being, while the so-called invisible hand of the marketplace quietly dips into the public till, and “moral hazard” is a polite term for theft.

All are created equal, indeed, but all do not have the same access to privilege, nor the same friends inside the government or financial centers of power, nor the same accountants.

Our reality is socially constructed and culturally affirmed. We have come to accept a system of things as inevitable without challenging the assumptions upon which a system is based.

Where does money come from? How is it made?

Before answering that question, let me state the obvious: Our political economy is structured to create poverty and inequality.

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Nineteen of every 20 dollars of new wealth created goes to the top 1 percent. The top 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

This cataclysm for our democracy was accelerated with the subprime meltdown of a decade ago.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, as many as 10 million families lost their homes to foreclosure during the housing crisis, and as a result had to move, in some cases resulting in a resegregation of city neighborhoods.

During this period, the Federal Reserve created trillions of dollars and gave them to banks, while Congress authorized $700 billion to bail out banks, without passing a program to make sure that the masses of people underwater in their mortgages or those caught up in no-doc low-doc schemes would have a chance to hold onto their homes.

Meanwhile, one of the few investments held by the middle class, home equity, plummeted as housing values sank in many city neighborhoods.

Much of America has not recovered from the carnival of financial corruption of a decade ago—except for the finance economy, of course.

For those barely holding on to middle-class status, the median income for a four-person family is just over $54,000. Yet the average US household with credit card debt owes more than $16,000 to credit card companies. On average, those with a mortgage owe $176,222, with auto debt owe $28,948, and with student loans owe $49,905.

Health-care consumes about 17.8 percent of America’s GDP, or three trillion two hundred billion dollars. The Kaiser Foundation reports that the average month premiums for family coverage in 2016 is $1,511 a month, or $18,132 a year.

The country is held hostage by insurance companies, while politicians wrangle over what is the best system of predatory for-profit health care, as pharmaceutical companies receive near-unlimited patent extension and public funding for 84 percent of new drug research, yet price their products out of the reach of millions of Americans, while their stocks perform at twice the Standard and Poors stock index.

The health-care industry is not the only institution casting Americans into poverty. The average family of four sees some $13,200 a year of its collective wealth deposited into America’s largest piggy bank, the Pentagon, which, according to noted economist Chalmers Johnson, now siphons off about a trillion dollars annually from all sources to prosecute several wars simultaneously, while managing nearly 800 military bases in 130 countries, this while never successfully completing an audit and having trillions in accounts that cannot be reconciled.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

The cost of the war against Iraq, alone, adds $3 trillion to the national debt while bolstering the bi-party line that there simply is not enough money to meet domestic needs. Families have no reserves. More and more people are tethered to low-paying jobs, with few, if any benefits. Jobs are not there for young people coming out of school. The burden of debt, its extractive nature, forces survivors to borrow and borrow and borrow, to go deeper in debt.

In biblical times there was debt jubilee. Today we have not a jubilee but debt peonage for many, with a national debt compounded by environmental disasters, military misadventures, and Wall Street bailouts, and seldom suffered by those who helped to create it.

The bailout of Wall Street, the utter neglect of Main Street, the collapse of the housing market, the obscene escalation of the cost of private health care, the metastatic cancerous military leviathan point to a massive ethical failure in a society where egalitarian principles have been discarded in favor of a warped, Darwinian, meritocratic society built by gamblers insured by the government, insurance companies subsidized by the government, defense contractors made extravagantly rich by the government, banks that forced people out of their homes and were then bailed out by the government.

Growing poverty and inequality in America and other countries can be tied to a dismantling of the public sphere through the privatization of public services, which imposes the rentier’s premium on parking meters, toll booths, waste and sanitation services, water and sewer fees, and health care, to name a few.

In urban areas privatization looms as a major economic issue. People, through taxes, fees and utility rates, pay once for public services to be created. Once services are privatized, the public is forced to pay again and again, at higher rates, for less service.

The public is told that money is saved. Whose? Wages are cut, services are reduced, increased rates and fees follow. The loss of public accountability and political control shifts onto the public as increased economic burdens and the social and economic costs borne by displaced public workers.

In such a climate, unions are under attack, since they exist to promote economic justice. The right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to a secure retirement, the right to sue an employer for maintaining an unsafe work place, all these rights and more are at risk. Labor unions helped to build economic equality. Their demise means less bargaining power for all American workers.

The ability to bargain collectively is essential in a democratic society, for upholding opportunities for advancement.

A recent article in The Atlantic estimates that “$1 trillion of America’s $6 trillion in annual federal, state and local government spending goes to private companies.”

A few examples are instructive. In Chicago an investigation showed that the city received $974 million less than the parking-meter franchise was worth.

Forty years ago, I was elected mayor of Cleveland, a city of 700,000, on a commitment to block the privatization of an electrical system which was worth at least a quarter of a billion dollars and was to be sold for $88.1 million, a scheme promoted by the state’s largest bank, a business partner of the private utility seeking to acquire the city’s division of light and power.

When I refused to sell the system, the bank forced the city into default over $5 million in debt, taken out by my predecessor. Subsequently, its municipal electric system intact, the people of Cleveland saved as much as a half-billion in combined charges for taxes and electricity bills.

Tom Johnson, mayor of the City of Cleveland at the turn of the 20th century, disciple of social reformer and progressive economist Henry George, brought to Cleveland the cheapest streetcar fares and the lowest-cost electricity through public ownership.

He once said, “I believe in municipal ownership of waterworks, of parks, of schools. I believe in the municipal ownership of these monopolies because if you do not own them, they in turn, will own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”

The ultimate privatization that reframed the entire of our economic and social system and set the stage for a permanent debt mentality occurred in 1913, when the money supply of the United States was privatized through the creation of the Federal Reserve.

Prior to the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, the US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, placed the power to coin or create money with the United States Congress. That changed under the Federal Reserve. Central banks took over control of the money supply.

From that point on, money equaled debt. The Federal Reserve usurped the power of the government to spend money into circulation and assumed for central banks the power to create money out of nothing, a device called quantitative easing, and give it to their member banks.

In Cleveland, the banks focused a profit-taking scheme on lower-income black and white neighborhoods, touting low-documentation and no-documentation loans, which were bundled into securities and became the collateralized-debt obligations that collapsed and pulled the entire economy down 10 years ago.

It was all fraud, and it was underwritten by the never-audited Federal Reserve, the erstwhile cop who walked off the beat when the pinstripe-wearing robbers were casing the neighborhoods of our cities, bankers cum croupiers, trolling for unsuspecting dreamers in search of that elusive first home, or an upgraded second home, not really knowing about adjustable rates, balloon mortgages, and penalties attached to late payments, but trusting the assurances of their friendly banker, who suddenly reversed years of redlining policies and made loans available without proof of ability to repay.

When you are desperate for a home, you sign on the dotted line. I think back to my parents, who never owned a home, and I can tell you that, if given the offer extended to thousand in Cleveland’s neighborhoods, they would have signed on the dotted line, taken the keys, celebrated, and months later been devastated by foreclosure.

The privatization of the money supply is one of five major factors in poverty and inequality today, the other four being the emergence of the military-industrial-intelligence-congressional complex, the maintenance of the for-profit health-care system, and the erosion of public education through the creation of charter schools and the tremendous lifelong debt burden placed on those seeking higher education.

Today we face a renewed threat of privatization that could dramatically thrust the American people deeper into poverty. The privatization of Medicare will make health services inaccessible to millions of elderly. The privatization of Social Security would cause the jackpot lights to flash and spin at Wall Street’s casino as retirees check stock advances, declines, and unchanged to discern what the value of the monthly check will be when it arrives at the mailbox.

The planned privatization of the Post Office will mean the end of universal service, less rural delivery, higher costs pricing people out of basic mail service, and cuts to three-days-a-week delivery.

The prison-industrial complex is set for growth with privatization schemes that raise serious constitutional questions.

More and more military services are being privatized, which of course makes for an additional incentive for businesses to support wars and to support the politicians who vote for wars.

As the national debt rises toward $20 trillion, the debate intensifies over privatization of Medicare, Social Security, the Post Office, and government service at all levels, a practice that steals the commonwealth and institutionalizes poverty and inequality as wealth accelerates upwards, furthering economic divisions and erasing the cultural memory of public service, devouring the civic soul, once the animating principle of community, the spirit breath of participatory democracy.

As wealth accelerates upwards, the mass of people are told we cannot afford a living wage, cannot afford a full-employment economy, cannot afford universal pre-K, cannot afford school breakfast and lunch programs, cannot afford supplementary-nutrition programs, cannot afford women’s and infant-care assistance, cannot afford more adult education, cannot afford free public college and universities, cannot afford guaranteed retirement security, cannot afford Medicare for all, cannot afford a guaranteed annual income. We are constantly told that the country cannot do these things because it would add to the debt, or destroy individual initiative.

Let me tell you that we can reverse this entire system. Thanks to my wife, Elizabeth, who came to the United States to study monetary policy with Stephen Zarlenga of the American Monetary Institute, I began to explore the equation of money with debt, and the ways of the Central bank that create money out of nothing for the benefit of private banking through quantitative easing and another device known to the industry as fractional reserve banking and recognized by the rest of society as great moral hazard.

As a result of studying the structure of the system, as a member of Congress, I drafted the National Emergency Employment Defense act, which reclaims the power appropriated by the Federal Reserve through the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and enables the government to issue money debt-free to meet the job creation, infrastructure repair, health care, education, and retirement-security needs of Americans.

Some believe that such a system would be inflationary. Then let me ask: Why has the Federal Reserve created trillions of dollars and placed us in a deflationary period? The middle class does not have enough money to buy goods.

The consumer economy is stalled. The Fed-created money did not get into the right hands. How is it that 19 of 20 new dollars of increased income have gone to the top 1 percent? Really? It is because the system is engineered to transfer wealth upwards, a perpetual inequality machine.

Through reclaiming our constitutional heritage, we can lower taxes and have a full-employment economy, universal pre-kindergarten, school breakfast and lunch programs, full funding for public education K-12, free college and university, guaranteed retirement security, Medicare for All, and a guaranteed annual income, eliminating poverty.

This is not magic. It requires a shift in federal policy, away from private banks’ running the economy, solely in the interest of private banks, to the government’s reclaiming its ability to be able to spend money into existence to meet the needs of the country, without going into debt.

Private banking would continue through dollar-for-dollar reserves, and have to survive without its government-granted license to speculate.

The government could reduce taxes, increase productivity, enable America to reach new heights of wealth shared by all, or we can stumble along our present course, with the children of the 99 percent being indentured servants to the 1 percent, with more than 50 million in poverty while political parties tinker with a totally corrupt system en route to death on the installment plan institutionalized by a government in thrall to banks, insurance companies, and the military-industrial complex.

Imagine an America whose government was not prepossessed with military force projection around the world, a government that set aside failed doctrines of interventionism, unilateralism, and first strike to concentrate on the practical needs of its citizens for jobs, for health care, for housing, for education, for retirement security, for safe neighborhoods, for clean air and clean water; a government that derived its support not from the power of its armaments but from the power of its commitment to the humanity of its citizens.

Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg of a nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The inner equality of our political heritage must be matched by our constant striving for economic justice.

If we have the intent, the vision, and the courage to reclaim the reality of equality, we can make poverty a thing of the past. Now, perhaps, you can understand that when I first began my public career, 50 years ago, as a candidate for City Council, I focused on economic issues, making sure phone, gas, electric, water, and sewer bills were kept low; that privatization schemes were rejected; that perishable foods were labeled and dated; that neighborhoods were safe, recreation facilities in repair, and the quality of life in the city was optimum, wherever it intersected with city services, especially the police, fire department, and housing.

Forty-five years ago, I advocated free public transit in Cleveland and was met with objections that, if transportation was free, why, everyone would be riding the bus!

Exactly.

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