By Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Weekly Commentary | Chicago Sun-Times
We have heard the call for action. The 50th anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom outlined what needs to be done to revive the Dream. President Obama has put forward part of that agenda for action. And now we face the Dream Busters.
The agenda is compelling and clear. We should be expanding the right to vote, not constricting it. Congress should act to restore the Voting Rights Act and limit the role of big money in politics. With the minimum wage now lower in value than it was when Dr. King marched in 1963, Congress should raise the floor so every full-time worker earns enough to lift a family out of poverty.
With over 20 million people in need of full-time work, while our decrepit infrastructure puts lives and business at risk, Congress should pass a major plan to rebuild America, putting people to work on work that has to get done. Investing in mass transit that will connect people in need of work with suburbs where the jobs are is just common sense.
With education increasingly vital to America’s young, Congress should invest in our children, beginning with universal preschool and affordable college. Action to repeal racially discriminatory practices and policies in our criminal justice system — racial profiling, stop and frisk, “stand your ground” laws, discriminatory and punitive sentencing — would serve both justice and our budgets. Passing immigration reform would bring 11 million people out of the shadows so they can no longer be so easily exploited.
This is a rich country; we can afford to do all of this and much more. We can pay for the dream. We should end subsidies for powerful corporate lobbies like Big Oil and the drug companies; close the tax breaks that reward companies for shipping jobs or reporting profits abroad; tax the $2 trillion stashed in overseas tax havens to avoid U.S. taxes; pass the Buffett rule so billionaires no longer pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.
This agenda is now before the Congress, where it is blocked by the Dream Busters. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives opposes any progress on voting rights, the minimum wage, jobs, children. They won’t allow a vote on the minimum wage. They oppose any efforts to make multinational corporations pay their fair share of taxes. They passed a farm bill that provided billions in subsidies for agribusiness, while excluding any funds for food stamps.
The Dream Busters oppose any effort to advance the dream. Instead, they openly argue among themselves about how best to hold America hostage. Some want to default on the federal debt, endangering the global financial system, to force the repeal of health-care reform.
Others want to shut down government by opposing any compromise on the budget. They’ve passed a budget outline that inflicts deep cuts on services for the most vulnerable — our veterans, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the young — while adding money for the Pentagon, and fending off any effort to have global corporations or the very wealthy share in the sacrifice.
The Dream Busters existed 50 years ago, too. While millions of Americans were moved by Dr. King’s speech, the FBI responded by intensifying its surveillance and harassment of Dr. King. Only days after the march, four little girls were murdered when the 16th St Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed. Southern governors and senators pledged unrelenting opposition to the civil rights movement.
But the movement kept on marching. Americans of conscience arouse to protest the injustice. The media reported on the brutality that greeted non-violent protest. President Johnson worked tirelessly, turning the energy of the movement into momentum in Washington.
The Dream Busters are not new. No progress ever comes without facing them and overcoming them. This is the challenge facing the generation that came to celebrate the Dream last week. Will we only commemorate the past, or will we force the change so vital in the present? One thing we know. Change won’t come from Washington. It must come to Washington.