The national discourse has been focused on the deterioration of the “middle class”. But this framework ignores the plight of the growing number of working poor and those not included in the workforce, suffering crushing poverty. Organized labor’s wages and benefits are under threat, chronic, high unemployment persists, increasing numbers of workers are falling off the unemployment benefit rolls and those new jobs created increasingly paying poverty wages. The recent Census shows that more than 46 Million Americans last year were living below the poverty line ($22,314 for a family of 4), the highest level since 1993. However, the rise of poverty has been ignored by politicians and the mainstream media.

Author,lecturer,public intellectual Cornel West is a welcome exception to that reality. He has co-authored the new book “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto” and has been traveling the country broadsiding his message that now is the time to confront the underlying conditions of systemic poverty in America. He’s broadcasting the message that there are nearly 150 million impoverished people in America, who aren’t responsible for Great Recession, yet they pay the price for it. The poor did not create the deindustrialization of America, unmitigated corporate profiteering and greed, more than a decade of foreign wars and unregulated tax benefits for the wealthy. Rather, the housing and jobs crisis the plutocrats created have fostered a poverty unseen in generations, crossing race, age and gender lines.

Cornel West places the eradication of poverty in the context of the nation’s greatest moments of social transformation - the abolition of slavery, woman’s suffrage, and the labor and civil rights movements. As did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. West raises ending poverty as the defining civil rights struggle of America’s 21st century. Building on the legacy of Dr. King he asks us to re-examine our assumptions about poverty in America, confront our dormancy and travel the road laid out to undertake to eradicate poverty, to redistribute the wealth and challenge the system that thrives off of inequality.


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