Dear President Trump:
When you assumed the office of President of the United States of America, and placed your hand on the Bible, you promised to assume leadership of a government that exists to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our children.”
We write to you today as we prepare thousands of people across the country in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival to challenge the structures and policies that perpetuate and deepen system racism, poverty, war economy/militarism and ecological devastation.
Since your election and throughout the first year of your Presidency, extremists in the administration and Congress have fueled domestic hate, fear and division. They have consistently pursued policies that attack the poor and most vulnerable across this nation. This includes clergy who have sanctioned and offered justification for these decisions.
Yet, your actions and decisions are being weighed in the balance of a higher law that is guided by our Constitutional principles and moral values.
We know that even before your Presidency, the most vulnerable across this nation have been impacted by immoral policies supported by politicians who were elected through race-driven voter suppression and gerrymandering.
After entering office, you have legitimized and advanced policies that attack the poor and the most vulnerable. You have recommended well-known racists to positions of power and authority, including in the federal courts. You supported the Republican Tax Bill, which is a $1.5 trillion proposal that gives corporations and wealthy individuals massive tax breaks at the expense of the poor and working poor.
We know, however, that in the past 50 years, U.S. GDP has grown more than eighteen fold, but the rising tide has not lifted all boats. The top 1/10th of one percent of American households controlled about 7 percent of the nation’s wealth in the mid 1970s. Today that share is over 20 percent. And in 2017, just three Americans owned more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of people in this country.
You also signed a sweeping defense bill that authorizes $700 billion for military spending. We know that this increase in spending and the $1.5 trillion Tax Bill will set the stage for deeper cuts to public goods, including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, social security and other programs of social uplift that have become more necessary for more people over the past 50 years.
In fact, since 1968 the number of Americans below the official poverty line has increased by 60 percent to 40.6 million. This includes more than 9 million African Americans, 11 million Latinos and 17 million white people. Another 55 million Americans are living at under twice the official poverty line, meaning 95 million Americans are either poor or low-income. This number rises to more than 140 million people if we take into account critical out of pocket expenses for food, clothing, shelter, utilities, medical expenses, work expenses and child support and federal assistance. This includes more than 30 million children.
That is, 43.5 percent of Americans are either poor or just one crisis away from being poor. We are so poor, and our basic needs are becoming so expensive, that even water is increasingly unaffordable. There are 13.8 million low-income households that cannot afford water and this number it set to triple in the next five years.
In the middle of these national crises, you have not, as you claim, improved the state of the nation. Rather, you and those who follow your leadership, are continuing to wage a violent and systemic war on the poor. Yet, as its current Commander in Chief, you have the authority to change course and instead wage a righteous war against systemic racism, poverty, the war economy/militarism and ecological devastation in 2018.
This is why we, as moral agents and co-Chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, are writing to you today, claiming our right to challenge and critique political leaders of any party who choose not to heed the call of our faith traditions to end the violence that plagues our society.
In the struggle for Truth and Justice,
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Information on Signatories and Steering Committee
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, Co-Chair, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival; President & Sr. Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach
The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Co-Chair, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival; Co-Director, The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, And Social Justice
Aaron Scott, Chaplains on the Harbor
Al McSurely, Esq., North Carolina NAACP
Avery Brook, Vermont Workers’ Center
Catherine Flowers, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise
Fernando Garcia, Border Network for Human Rights
Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in New York
Justin Jones, Moral Mondays Tennessee
Luis Rodriguez, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural
Shailly Gupta Barnes, Esq., Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary
Ben Wilkins, Fight for $15
Rev. Claudia de la Cruz, Popular Education Project
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Red Letter Christians
Cherri Foytlin, Bold Louisiana
Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Drum Major Institute, Riverside Church of New York
Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, The United Church of Christ
Rev. Nelson Johnson, Faith Community Church
Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR
Rev. Shawna Foster, Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist Church
Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK
Maureen Taylor, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
Roz Pelles, Repairers of the Breach
Penda Hair, Esq., Forward Justice
Gina Belafonte, Sankofa.org