Make America greater again by standing up for poor from any nation, including our own
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In the United States, we rarely see or hear much today about being poor. Treating poor Americans as well as poor immigrants with respect has been a low priority for most elected officials, even before Donald Trump became president.

If we want to make America greater, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE has promised, he and his supporters must stand up for poor, working class people, some of whom voted for him in 2016. And, our nation’s leaders must stop throwing adult immigrants in jail and ignoring the many problems poor Americans face.

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The insolent treatment of immigrants in our country today should be a door opener to end policies, programs and legislative votes that harm all low-income people, including immigrants, and grow government action that will support working class families, seniors, people of color, college students, millennials and others. They should no longer have to face the negative consequences of income inequality, new jobs that pay less than in the past, the inability to buy a home and build wealth, growing rental costs, expensive college loans, food costs, transportation, insurance and more.

There was a time, when if you were willing to work hard, you earned enough to live decently. Today, two income households struggle to provide a decent living for themselves and their children.

The rich continue to get richer while the real income of average Americans has been declining for years. From the sixties to 2016, the earnings of the top 1 percent of Americans soared from 11 percent to 20 percent of all income before taxes. In contrast, the bottom 50 percent of income earners sunk from 22 percent to 13 percent.

And, once upon a time, the income difference between CEO pay and that of the average worker was approximately 20 times more for the CEO.  That has changed dramatically in recent history. Today the difference has grown from 20 times more pay to 300 times more pay.

Meanwhile, corporate America has successfully convinced average Americans that unions are a bad idea. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that unions, not corporations, gave us weekends, pensions, medical insurance and most importantly wages that could allow us to pay the bills. Even companies, who feared a union coming into their business, paid good salaries and benefits as a way of keeping people from organizing unions in their business. But unions now comprise a very small segment of the workforce. Average people are not protected and organized corporate interests have managed to shift the economic wealth for average Americans to corporate executives and big shareholders.

We have upward mobility for a few, and downward mobility for most. Here’s why: 

* More than almost anything, the rise of small businesses and entrepreneurial efforts creates jobs and upward mobility for the working poor. But, the Brookings Institute has reported that between 1978 and 2011, the creation of small businesses dropped by 50 percent. On top of that, the number of small businesses that failed or exited the economy steadily increased.

*Homeownership, the number one gateway to working our way out of poverty and into the middle class, where we would experience equity growth for the first time, is now denied to most working class families. Home prices continue to spiral and homebuilders no longer offer the "starter home” that young families need. While older adults, 65 and over, have stayed or gotten back on the homeowner track, 25-34 year-olds have a tougher time. Their current rate reveals much lower percentage points today than in 1987 — a 6.3 percent difference. It gets even lower for 35-44 year olds- 8.2 percent. A report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University tells us we have to go back to 1994 to find the same low percentage today of Americans who own a home.

     * And, while most Americans don’t pay that much attention to the operations of banks and financial services, they are the single most relevant entity that can help people build wealth and grow assets and experience what richer Americans take for granted -- safe communities, affordable housing, quality medical care, superior education for their children and hope, vision and opportunities to further attain their version of the American Dream.

Income inequality and injustice will continue its insidious march, largely unabated, with pyric victories unless and until the elected officials we send to Washington, D.C. and our state capitals reflect the humanitarian nature of our nation. The call for our better angels is screaming throughout our land. 

Our world will change when we learn to speak to all people with dignity and understanding, including immigrants and their children. To be sure, many damaged people in our nation have lost their way. Our survival depends on our ability to reach across our comfort zones and challenge our own prejudices and assumptions about others.  

Our humanity depends on everyone’s humanity. The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is injustice. Each of us, each community and each nation will not be judged by their technology and scientific achievements, or even their intellect or reason – ultimately, we will all be judged by how we have treated the poor, how we have treated children, and how we treated people of color as well as those who need and rely upon our kindness and generosity for survival.

The greatness of America is not tied to making the rich richer, rather it is how we look out for each other. Yes, everyone who is capable should pull their own weight, but each of us deserve to not be pulled down by policies, economic and otherwise, that are solely designed to help the few. 

John Taylor is the President and Founder of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a 30-year-old nonprofit that advocates on behalf of low income Americans.