Poor People's Campaign

Dr. Sachs asks: Are we going to just watch America crumble so that a few people have $1 trillion and the rest can’t make ends meet?

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is acting against the best interests of his constituents when opposes the Build Back Better plan and more like a politician beholden to the money of politics, economist Jeffrey Sachs said Wednesday at a news conference with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

“It is just the opposite of what a senator from West Virginia ought to be doing right now,” said Dr. Sachs, who just returned from the G20 in Rome and is an author and a professor at Columbia University. “He ought to be championing everything in this legislation and everything that has been cut out because he said that we can’t afford it. But he was the one who stopped the way to afford it, which is for rich people to pay something for heaven’s sake. Everything is upside down. None of it makes any sense until you remember how big money pays for politics in this country. That’s the only thing that enables this to make any sense at all: that money owns our politicians right now.”

Dr. Sachs also will join the PPC:NCMR for a community forum that starts at 2 p.m. Monday at a location to be determined. People from the community will join Sachs for a question-and-answer session about Build Back Better that will be livestreamed here.

Other speakers at the virtual news conference included the PPC:NCMR co-chairs, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis; PPC:NCMR policy director, Shailly Gupta Barnes; Pam Garrison, a lifelong low-wage worker and tri-chair of the West Virginia PPC, and Kristen Olsen, a single mother and worker from West Virginia.

Rev. Barber noted how Build Back Better helps poor and low-income people and people of color, then called out Sen. Manchin’s reasons for opposing BBB as “dog whistles” rooted in systemic racism.

“If you block or vote against the Build Back Better, you are against the poor and poor people of color,” Rev. Barber said. “If you block or vote against the BBB, you are for the elite and the powerful, who have increased their wealth by over $2.1 trillion since March 2020, more than the overall costs of the Build Back Better framework. If you block or vote against the Build Back Better, you are for systemic racism, classism and elitism. If a Congressperson or senator votes against it or blocks it knowing this, it is intentional racism, classism and elitism. And if a Congress person or senator hasn’t found out these truths, but is spreading lies about deficit and a lack of resources, then the actions of that politician prove them to be incompetent.”

Some 140 million Americans — 43.5% are poor or low-income, including 710,000 in West Virginia, or 40%. That includes 589,000 children and women in West Virginia.

Pam Garrison noted that Sen. Manchin refused to accept paid family and medical leave in Build Back Better because he said he wouldn’t burden his 10 grandchildren with that cost.

“You know what we have to hand our grandchildren – generational poverty,” she said. That’s what we have. His grandkids will have a silver spoon. He’s making sure of it on our backs! But it’s our grandkids that we are handing generational poverty to.”

Single mother and college graduate Kristen Olsen said the $300 she now gets monthly — and temporarily — for a child tax credit allows her to send her son to preschool twice a week. The full Build Back Better would allow her son to go to preschool everyday.

The credit “helps me make ends meet with more dignity,” she said. “It helps me provide for the most basic needs of my family with more dignity.”

Rev. Theoharis reminded listeners to join the PPC:NCMR not only on Monday in West Virginia, but also at other events leading to June 18, 2022, when the movement will hold a Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington.

“ … when you lift from the bottom everybody can rise. When you invest in the people, when you save the Earth, when you organize society around the needs and the priorities of those that have been locked up and locked out, that is when you’re able to have a society (where) everybody rises,” she said. “And so that’s why we are building power and we’re organizing and working. We’re saying we need bringing about a Third Reconstruction, that we need to radically transform the society to be focused on on the needs of people, on  the needs of this Earth and on especially the 140 million poor and low-income people in the richest country in human history who make up almost half of the population and a third of the electorate.”

West Virginia has the lowest median household income in the country, Dr. Sachs said, “so I would expect a senator of West Virginia to be railing against the rich and the powerful and all the wealth going to the top on behalf of the good people of West Virginia. West Virginia is suffering right now. It’s got the lowest life expectancy in the United States. Many years less of life and this is what we need to address. The rich people need to pay something so that the good people of West Virginia can live, can enjoy life, can see their children healthy, can see their children going to good schools – and that to me is the job of the senator of West Virginia and the congressional delegation.

“We cannot afford to let this fail at this moment. Are we kidding? Are we going to just watch America crumble so that a few people have $1 trillion and the rest can’t make ends meet? Is that really what our country is about right now?