By Ira Harritt, program coordinator in Kansas City

“This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it.”
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his last Sunday sermon, Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution  

Dr. King’s question is still before us. We still have the ability to bridge this gulf, even though it has been growing larger and larger, especially in the past 30 years.  

The top 10 percent of the income distribution has claimed almost two-thirds of the gains to overall incomes since 1979, and the top 1 percent alone claims 38.7 percent of overall gains. The myth of trickle-down benefit to those below is just that—a myth that only keeps the good times rolling for the rich, while the rest of us have less and less and pay more for what used to be provided as benefits of a somewhat more just society.

This is why AFSC continues our focus on educating people, in Kansas City as elsewhere, to see through fabricated crises like the “fiscal cliff,” debt ceiling, and deficit scares, and why we continue to work to mobilize community members to “move the money” to the real needs of our community and economy.

At our recent forum, “This Madness Must End”: Dr. King and the U.S. Budget Debate, our panelists not only reminded the community of Dr. King’s call for a restructuring of our system—which now produces so much injustice and suffering—but also spoke to the current needs of our community.

Watch: Video excerpts from the forum

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The poor have no say

Clarence Smalls, DHHS administrator: Why is it so easy to cut those programs (entitelments, food stamps, Head Start...)? Because in most cases those folks, who are poor, have no voice.

Unions marching for all people

Donna Birks, UAW Local 31: “Everything that is out there nowthe eight hour day, 40 hour week, your vacationwe get it and everybody gets it. The people need to speak up when the right to work comes up. … We are still a voice. We still march. We still are out there marching for all people.“

Worst countries for income inequality

Dave Kingsley, professor of public health policy: “We have a lower level of equalizing income than any other country in the industrialized world. … We’re in the company of Mexico, Cameroon, Mali, and Madagascar. … We are one of the worst countries in the entire world for income inequality.”

Mobilizing young people

Pearl Webb, peace intern with AFSC: “Many youth feel ‘what’s the point? We don’t have a voice. We don’t have the means. We’re not capable.’ but if you tell them…we have the time and the energy. Come we’ll take you there. They will do it!” 

All we have is ourselves: Meeting needs in Kansas City

In numerous ways, AFSC in Kansas City raises the issues of budget priorities and the need to protect essential programs; invest in jobs, education and our future; cut excessive military spending; and establish tax policies in which all pay their fair share.

Watch: How you can get involved

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From putting the so-called fiscal cliff on trial in December to educating youth to make films for the If I Had a Trillion Dollars Youth Film Festival, to our Move the Money resolution campaign, we are engaging the community to work for budget and revenue policies that meet their needs.

We will soon be bringing Move the Money resolutions to area city councils, and we are building a local Move the Money action network made up of people who pledge to join in calls for actions, writing letters to the editor, emailing elected officials or responding in other ways to critical points in time when budget policy decisions are being made.

We invite you to join us! Visit afsc.org/kansascity to learn more and get in touch.