Dr. King had a lot to say about government spending: he wanted
more of it to go to the poor - not in handouts, but in jobs.
According to the The King Center's Digital
Archives, "His economic thought negotiated the individualism of
capitalism and the collectivism of communism, which promoted a
socially conscious democracy. King's economic thought fed on his
positions on economic imperialism, government spending, employment
practices and housing options."
This column, published on New Year's Day 1966
in an unidentified publication, calls for pragmatic measures to end
poverty - and warns that extreme poverty and neglect can lead to
Dr. King warns against welfare and advocates instead for more
employment of African-Americans and every American - including an
increase in and broadening of the minimum wage. And he points out
something interesting in light of today's unemployment rate:
"Despite the recent slight decline in our national employment, the
jobless rate among Negroes remains almost double that of
CNN Money reported back in August of 2011 that
the unemployment rate for black Americans was 16.7 percent, while
that for white Americans was 8 percent. So, 45 years later, this
aspect of America apparently hasn't much changed.
And we wonder how this passage would go over in today's world:
"We must urge the Federal Government to initiate daring massive
works programs to feed the needs for decent housing, schools,
hospitals, mass transit, urban renewal, parks and recreation
centers. This should be done not merely for 'make-work,' but for
the rebuilding of America."
The best thing about the economics theme is that it contains a speech that King made to The Hungry Club of
Atlanta at the end of 1965, called A Great Challenge Derived
from a Serious Dilemma. The dilemma, as he defines it on page 2, is
that "he who starts behind in a race will forever remain behind
unless he runs faster than the man in front." I believe this will
be seen as one of the great speeches of Dr. King, but which was
previously "lost" because we had no audio or video of it. It also
includes some breathtakingly beautiful metaphor, like this: "If one
sets out merely to be a good Negro doctor, or a good Negro lawyer
or a good Negro school teacher, or Negro barber or beautician, or
Negro skilled laborer, he has already flunked his matriculation
examination for entrance into the school of integration." Or like
this: "Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rode
in on the wheels of inevitability." Or this: ..."it is cruel to
tell a bootless man to lift up himself by his own bootstraps."
More archives can be found at TheKingCenter.org.
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