Non-profit

Poor People’s Campaign

The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) is a left-of-center anti-poverty campaign founded in 2018 by William J. Barber II. [1] PPC was founded to build a “new electorate” of low-income Americans in support of left-of-center policies. [2] Since its founding, PPC has organized civil disobedience campaigns across the United States, encouraging supporters to get arrested while promoting left-of-center ideals. [3]

Though claiming to focus on poverty alleviation, PPC has released a political agenda in support of a broad range of left-wing policy proposals. These include $2,000 per month ongoing cash payments to every adult in America in addition to expanded funding for existing welfare programs, a $23-per-hour federal minimum wage, a 70% tax rate on wealthy Americans to fund social programs, government ownership of energy companies, increased environmentalist regulations, increased corporate taxes, and the closing of 60% of all American military bases. [4]

Despite claiming to be nonpartisan, PPC and its leadership have repeatedly attacked right-of-center policies and Republican officials. PPC accused President Donald Trump of having “trafficked, as he always does, in explicit racism and hate” and promoting “autocracy” while accusing Vice President Mike Pence of using his Christianity as a “desecrated Bible” against poor people. [5] [6]

History

In 2017, William Barber II stepped down from his role as president of the North Carolina state chapter of the NAACP to start the Poor People’s Campaign, which launched in partnership with the Kairos Center at the Union Theological Seminary and Repairers of the Breach. Modeled after Martin Luther King Jr.’s original “Poor People’s Campaign” in the 1960s, PPC formed to push a left-of-center agenda around poverty alleviation, advocating for a mass expansion of government programs and services to solve the issue of poverty. [7]

In its first year, PPC organized civil disobedience protests in 35 state capitals and Washington, D.C.. [8] The organization targeted states that had passed right-of-center policies, including implementing voter integrity laws and minimizing government regulation of the private healthcare and housing markets. [9] Barber called such policies examples of “extremism” taking over the nation and called upon supporters to “nationalize” left-of-center movements at the state level to enact federal policy changes. [10]

PPC has advanced civil disobedience in support of its goals, organizing trainings for protestors on how to get safely arrested during protests to rally sympathy for left-of-center causes. At a 2018 protest in Pennsylvania, two dozen protestors were arrested after causing a disruption at the Pennsylvania state capitol while claiming that the deportation of illegal immigrants and incarceration were forms of “war” against poor people. [11]

PPC has repeatedly rejected free market ideals and ignored basic economic facts in pursuit of left-of-center ideals, claiming that economic “scarcity is a myth and nothing more” and demanding increased funding for left-of-center social programs. [12]

Political Mobilization Efforts

Poor People’s Campaign works to organize grassroots initiatives in support of a wide range of left-of-center policy prescriptions. Despite purporting to be concerned with poverty alleviation, PPC supports a full left-of-center platform that aims to radically reshape political institutions, claiming that the organization needs to address “all” political issues in order to reach poverty alleviation. [13]

PPC aims to build a “new electorate” of poor people across the United States to advance left-of-center and left-wing policies at the federal level. [14] To do so, PPC has worked on voter registration drives and organizing among poor people, using government data to identify impoverished individuals who may be sympathetic to the organization’s left-of-center policy prescriptions. [15]

Poverty Bus Tours

In 2019, PPC organized “poverty bus tours” in various states around the country, designed to show people the “piling up of oppression” in poor communities to gain sympathy for left-of-center policies to alleviate poverty. [16] In September of 2019, PPC organized the “We Must Do M.O.R.E” tour, sending leaders to 25 states to organize civil disobedience campaigns in support of left-of-center policies in the lead up to the 2020 Presidential election. [17]

Poor People’s Jubilee Platform

In June of 2020, the Campaign released the “Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America: The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform,” a detailed list of policy demands that called for the “moral reconstruction” of society along left-of-center political ideologies. [18]

The platform accused the United States of being built on “poverty and systemic racism,” and claimed that it is undergoing “ever-growing militarism.” [19] The Poor People’s Campaign platform calls for a number of left-wing political reforms, including government-controlled single-payer health care, government-provided college education, a universal basic income, the implementation of a $23 hourly minimum wage, a slew of environmentalist regulations, mass debt forgiveness, and expansionist immigration policies. [20]

Entitlement Programs

Over the past several years, the Poor People’s Campaign has announced its support for a number of left-wing economic policies, specifically around entitlement programs. PPC has supported calls for a universal basic income, which would provide every adult with $2,000 per month and $1,000 for every child, while still continuing and increasing funding for other welfare benefits. [21] [22] PPC has also supported government control over health care, advocating for the government to “nationalize” the production of health care equipment, expand Medicaid by $25 billion, expand Medicaid eligibility, and eventually implement a fully nationalized, single-payer health care system. [23] [24] [25] [26] PPC has argued that “every resident in every state” should be eligible for government-funded health care. [27]

PPC has also supported increased government spending on housing programs, including proposals to create permanent taxpayer-funded housing for homeless people. [28] Aside from advocating for increased spending, PPC has called for the government to further regulate the housing market by prohibiting evictions and banning late fees for rent payments.. [29] Additionally, PPC has supported taxpayer-funded college education for all low-income student and mass student loan forgiveness. [30] [31]

Tax Increases

To fund the mass expansion of government programs, PPC has called on the federal government to raise an additional $880 billion in tax revenue per year. [32] To raise that much revenue, PPC has supported proposals to increase the top individual tax rate to 70%, increase estate taxes, and raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 35%. [33] PPC has opposed all efforts to reduce taxes for corporations and supports efforts to repeal the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. [34]

The Third Reconstruction

On May 25, 2021, the Poor People’s Campaign announced the launch of its new activism project, “the Third Reconstruction.” [35] The Third Reconstruction, referred to by a senior Republican Senate aid as “the next Green New Deal,” supports a resolution introduced to the House of Representatives by Democratic representatives Barbara Lee of California and Pramilla Jayapal of Washington. [36] Among the resolution’s demands are automatic voter registration, a single-payer health care system, a national reparations commission, and relief from “student debt, housing debt, utilities debt, medical debt, and other household and personal debt that cannot be paid.” [37] Other controversial demands include “demilitarizing” the southern border, “closing” Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforcement operations, and “cutting the military budget by at least 10 percent.” [38] To support “the third reconstruction” the Poor People’s Campaign announced that it had scheduled a large-scale demonstration in Washington, D.C. for June, 2022. [39]

Pressure Tactics Against Senator Joe Manchin

On June 14, 2021 the Poor People’s Campaign organized a “Moral March on Manchin” in Charleston, West Virginia to protest moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s decision to oppose H.R. 1, also known as the “For the People Act.” [40] According to the Associated Press, Manchin voted against the bill because it would have reformed election laws in a partisan manner, and because it would have eliminated the 60-vote requirement to end a filibuster. [41]

Rev. Dr. William Barber, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the organization, led the march, which ended at the doors of Sen. Manchin’s office, in person. [42] According to the Associated Press Rev. Barber addressed hundreds of protestors in attendance, urging the crowd to pressure Sen. Manchin to vote along party lines with other Senate Democrats. [43] The Associated Press also reported that an unspecified number of protestors were not from West Virginia, and that “Many people from neighboring states, including Kentucky and Maryland, drove and rode on buses to make it to the protest.” [44]

Support for Other Left-Wing Policies

Aside from poverty alleviation, the PPC supports a left-wing political agenda that involves a total restructuring of American social and economic institutions. PPC has claimed that the United States is “militarized” and has supported cutting the military budget by at least $350 billion by closing 60% of all American military bases, destroying all nuclear weapons, and reducing the military research and development budget. [45] [46] PPC has also supported efforts to end the 1033 Program, which allows the military to give excess equipment to local law enforcement, and has called for the end of military training programs for local and state police. [47]

PPC has also demanded left-wing immigration policies, including an immediate moratorium on all deportations. [48] PPC has also called for the end of the 287G Program which allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to work with local law enforcement officials to enforce immigration laws. [49] PPC has supported decreasing funding for ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), then using the excess funding to provide government services and benefits for illegal immigrants. [50] PPC has also promoted plans to close immigrant detention centers and allow illegal immigrants to access government entitlement programs. [51]

Additionally, PPC has supported a number of increased environmentalist regulations, including the socialist ideal of nationalizing energy companies. [52] PPC has also proposed spending $4.5 trillion over the next decade to transition the U.S. energy grid to 100% environmentalist-aligned energy, while instituting bans on constructing new oil pipelines and rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. [53] [54]

PPC has supported a number of left-wing criminal justice policies, including allowing convicted felons to vote from prison, ending all cash bail programs, and instituting lenient sentencing guidelines for convicted criminals. PPC has also proposed increasing workforce unionization; implementing strict gun control measures; and implementing a $23 federal minimum wage, which is more than triple the current minimum wage. [55] PPC has also pushed for an expanded role for the federal government at the state level, calling on the federal government to provide bailouts to states undergoing budget crises to allow states to continue to provide welfare programs rather than cutting their budgets. [56] [57]

In December of 2020, PPC joined the left-wing Congressional Progressive Caucus, People’s Action, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in launching the “People’s Agenda,” a left-wing campaign to pressure the Biden administration to implement new policies. The demands included trillions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funding, the canceling of all student debts, increasing the minimum wage to $15, the creation of a universal social security net, and an end to foreign wars. [58]

Criticism of Republicans

Despite claiming to reach beyond party lines, Poor People’s Campaign has repeatedly attacked President Donald Trump, Republican leaders, and right-of-center policies more broadly. In a June 2020 opinion piece, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign claimed that President Trump “trafficked, as he always does, in explicit racism and hate.” [59] In the same article, PPC leadership accused President Trump of ushering in “autocracy” supported by “various Republican state governments.” [60] In January 2021, PPC co-chair Liz Theoharis published an opinion piece claiming that conservative Christians were manipulating faith to legislate “white supremacy” against poor people, accusing Vice President Mike Pence of manipulating Christianity and carrying a “desecrated Bible” into the political process. [61]

PPC has also leveled attacks at Republican officials at the state level. In July of 2020, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) vetoed a bill that would have given the city of Jackson more control over regulating water payment plans, arguing that it gave the city too much power to overcharge residents. PPC claimed that the veto was “petty” and demonstrated “contempt for Mississippi’s Black, brown, and poor white communities.” [62]

In September of 2020, PPC organized a campaign outside of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) home to demand that he refuse to confirm a Supreme Court justice in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. [63] PPC protestors relied on moral shaming, accusing Sen. McConnell of “sins” including “suppressing the vote, sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service…stealing health care, stifling living wages, and separating families.” [64]

PPC has also provided a platform and support for Democratic candidates. During the 2020 Presidential primary elections, PPC hosted democratic socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for a forum on poverty in which Sen. Sanders endorsed PPC’s platforms. [65] In January of 2021, PPC chair William Barber wrote an opinion piece praising Democratic candidates in Georgia for gaining the support of poor people, including President-elect Joe Biden and U.S. Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. In the same article, Barber claimed that President Trump was attempting to “extort” Georgia election officials and had previously “lied to” poor people. [66]

Partners

PPC includes a coalition of left-of-center, left-wing, and radical-left organizations across the United States. These include the left-wing Democratic Socialists of America, radical-left Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and radical-left Code Pink. [67]

PPC has also partnered with some of the largest labor unions in the country, including the American Federation of Government Employees, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the American Postal Workers Union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the National Education Association (NEA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and United Steelworkers (USW). [68]

Aside from labor unions, PPC has partnered with left-of-center issue advocacy organizations. These include electoral organizations, such as the Black Voters Matter Fund, Democracy Initiative, Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), March On, People Demanding Action, and Vote Pro-Choice. [69] Left-of-center environmentalist organizations have also supported PPC, including Beyond Extreme Energy, Climate Generation, Climate Reality Project, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the EarthGreenFaith, GreenpeaceFuture Coalition, and Sunrise Movement. [70]

A number of other left-of-center and left-wing have partnered with PPC, including Bend the Arc, Daily Kos, Fight for $15, Human Rights Campaign, the Institute for Policy Studies, One Fair Wage, PolicyLink, Seeding Sovereignty, Tax March, and Women’s March, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Define American, and Dream Defenders. [71] [72]

A number of left-of-center faith-based organizations also support PPC, including the Unitarian Universalist Association, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, and the Episcopal Church. [73]

People

William Barber II is the co-chair of PPC. Prior to joining PPC, Barber worked as president of the North Carolina NAACP where he organized “Moral Monday” protests in favor of left-of-center policy goals that resulted in more than 900 arrests in North Carolina in 2013. [74] Barber has been praised by left-wing figures, including socialist academic Cornel West, for his work. [75] Barber has endorsed a range of left-wing ideologies, claiming that racism is built out of the “evil economics” of profit-based economics. [76] Despite claiming to be above partisanship, Barber is a noted figure in the Democratic Party and spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. [77]

Liz Theoharis is the other co-chair of the PPC and the director of the Kairos Center, a left-of-center research and organizing group. [78] Theoharis has an extensive history in left-of-center organizing, advising labor organizations including the Vermont Workers Center, Domestic Workers United, and the United Workers Association. [79]

References

  1. “About.” Poor People’s Campaign. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/about/. ^
  2. Kaufmann, Greg. “How the Poor People’s Campaign Is Building a ‘New Electorate’.” The Nation, January 21, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/poor-peoples-campaign-2019-liz-theoharis/. ^
  3. Madeson, Frances. “Poor People’s Campaign Takes Root in Pennsylvania.” Progressive.org, May 29, 2018. https://progressive.org/dispatches/poor-peoples-campaign-takes-root-in-pennsylvania-180528/. ^
  4. “A Moral Policy Agenda to Heal and Transform America: The Poor People’s Campaign Jubilee Platform.” Poor People’s Campaign. July 2020. https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/PPC-Policy-Platform_8-28.pdf ^
  5. Theoharis, Rev. Dr. Liz. “A New America Is Possible-Now.” The Nation, July 22, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/society/poor-peoples-campaign-2020/. ^
  6. Common Dreams. “A Gospel of Slavery: Christian Nationalism Seeks to Punish the Poor by Legislating White Supremacy.” The Milwaukee Independent, December 26, 2020. http://www.milwaukeeindependent.com/syndicated/gospel-slavery-christian-nationalism-seeks-punish-poor-legislating-white-supremacy/. ^
  7. McClain, Dani. “The Rev. William Barber Is Bringing MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign Back to Life.” The Nation, May 19, 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/rev-william-barber-is-bringing-mlks-poor-peoples-campaign-back-to-life/. ^
  8. Madeson, Frances. “Poor People’s Campaign Takes Root in Pennsylvania.” Progressive.org, May 29, 2018. https://progressive.org/dispatches/poor-peoples-campaign-takes-root-in-pennsylvania-180528/. ^
  9. McClain, Dani. “The Rev. William Barber Is Bringing MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign Back to Life.” The Nation, May 19, 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/rev-william-barber-is-bringing-mlks-poor-peoples-campaign-back-to-life/. ^
  10. McClain, Dani. “The Rev. William Barber Is Bringing MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign Back to Life.” The Nation, May 19, 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/rev-william-barber-is-bringing-mlks-poor-peoples-campaign-back-to-life/. ^
  11. Madeson, Frances. “Poor People’s Campaign Takes Root in Pennsylvania.” Progressive.org, May 29, 2018. https://progressive.org/dispatches/poor-peoples-campaign-takes-root-in-pennsylvania-180528/. ^
  12. Theoharis, Rev. Dr. Liz. “A New America Is Possible-Now.” The Nation, July 22, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/society/poor-peoples-campaign-2020/. ^
  13. Kaufmann, Greg. “How the Poor People’s Campaign Is Building a ‘New Electorate’.” The Nation, January 21, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/poor-peoples-campaign-2019-liz-theoharis/ ^
  14. Kaufmann, Greg. “How the Poor People’s Campaign Is Building a ‘New Electorate’.” The Nation, January 21, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/poor-peoples-campaign-2019-liz-theoharis/. ^
  15. Kaufmann, Greg. “How the Poor People’s Campaign Is Building a ‘New Electorate’.” The Nation, January 21, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/poor-peoples-campaign-2019-liz-theoharis/ ^
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  17. https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/poor-peoples-campaign-launches-25-state-tour-election-lead ^
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  38. Third Reconstruction: Fully addressing poverty and low wages from the bottom up. Poor People’s Campaign § (2021). https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Third-Reconstruction-Resolution.pdf. ^
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  40. Dil, Cuneyt. “Hundreds Protest Manchin’s Opposition to Voting Law Overhaul.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, June 15, 2021. https://apnews.com/article/wv-state-wire-joe-manchin-d8d70e9b2fb7d61a23ab44d311b14ced.

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