Anti-poverty advocates urge Congress to pass a 'moral' budget

Anti-poverty advocates urge Congress to pass a 'moral' budget
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Advocates for the poor will urge Congress to pass a “moral” budget that addresses poverty and systemic racism, according to testimony obtained by The Hill that will be delivered before the House Budget Committee on Wednesday.

The Revs. William Barber II, a North Carolina pastor and social justice advocate, and Liz Theoharis, co-director of the Kairos Center in New York, will ask lawmakers to cut military spending and eliminate tax cuts for wealthy people and corporations. That money, they say, should be redirected toward health care, housing and education assistance for the poorest Americans.

“The federal government has a responsibility to push our nation forward, together,” Barber will say, according to prepared remarks. “We do not need more tax cuts for the rich. We do not need more missiles. We need to hear and see the voices and faces of poverty. We must end systemic policy violence against poor people and invest in the future of our people and planet.”

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Barber is the founder of the “Moral Mondays” movement in North Carolina, which helped elect a Democratic governor and cut into the GOP’s majority in the statehouse.

He and Theoharis are also the leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign, which drew nine Democratic presidential hopefuls to a forum in Washington, D.C., on Monday where candidates talked about how their policies would benefit the poor and how they would address racial economic inequality in the U.S.

Participants in Monday’s forum included former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Booker takes swipe at Biden criminal justice reform plan Panel: Has Joe Biden been wrong on everything for 40 years? MORE and Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Biden announces plan to counteract mass incarceration MORE (D-Calif.). South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Biden announces plan to counteract mass incarceration Nashville radio host blocked by employer from airing his interview with Buttigieg MORE was not on hand, but he attended a Poor People’s Campaign march to the White House last week to make the case for President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s “moral impeachment.”

The congressional testimony from leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign comes as Congress begins negotiations over the 2020 budget amid fears that gridlock and a fight over Trump’s border wall could lead to another government shutdown.

In their testimony, Barber and Theoharis will draw on their experiences with poor people, from black and white coal miners in Harlan County, Ky., dealing with “crushing medical bills for diseases they got doing their job,” to mothers in Michigan who “can buy unleaded gas and unleaded paint but can’t get unleaded water for their children.”

Theoharis will describe conditions in Lowndes County, Alabama, where "families have no access to sanitation services and are living with raw sewage in their yards, precipitating a health care crisis where tropical diseases are showing up in the rural south."

Sanders recently toured Lowndes County, where he filmed a video highlighting the plight of a family living in a mobile home with no sanitation services.

"We have tens of millions of people in the richest country in the history of the world who are struggling every single day to take care of their families in the most basic way," Sanders said in the video.

All of the 2020 contenders who attended the forum Monday vowed to campaign in the Deep South and in other red states that Democrats traditionally eschew. They all promised to pressure the Democratic National Committee to conduct a debate focused solely on poverty and systemic racism.

Theoharis on Wednesday will testify that poverty costs the nation $700 million annually and that voter suppression costs $385 million per year in administrative and court costs.

She will argue that cutting $350 billion per year from the Pentagon, coupled with $886 million in new tax revenue on wealthy people and corporations, could help pay for new housing, health care and education programs for the poor.

“We are here to say that our nation’s budget as it now stands reflects the values of the rich, large corporations, and military contractors at the expense of the poor,” Theoharis will say. “We are here to say we need a moral revolution of values that instead places the needs and demands of the poor and the planet at the heart of our budget. This will create more jobs, build up our infrastructure, strengthen our economy, and protect our resources for future generations. This will redound to the benefit of all, instead of the few. When you lift from the bottom, everybody rises.”