NEWS ANALYSIS

Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of peace, jobs and freedom is resonating loudly at holiday celebrations in Connecticut. In the past months, 19,500 jobs have been lost, with 20,000 more projected.

Grim stories of empty church food pantries and homeless shelters overflowing with women and children are everyday news.

“There is nothing new about poverty,” King said in 1967. “What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it.”

King went on to call for an adequate wage for every American worker, an annual livable income for every family and placing the pursuit of peace over the pursuit of war.

In this spirit, the Coalition to End Child Poverty came to the Connecticut state capitol two years ago, insistent that the growing gap between wealth and poverty be closed.

Many legislators nodded their heads but said, “You’ll never pass a bill to tax the rich.”

Nonetheless, last year two dozen legislators agreed to introduce the End Child Poverty Social Investment Fund.

It would be funded by a 2 percent tax on the portion of income above $200,000, yielding $600 million a year for basic human needs, and making a small step toward a more progressive tax system. This session, the End Child Poverty proposal is attracting new support in response to developments since Sept. 11.

On Oct. 1, hundreds of Connecticut families were permanently cut off welfare, adding to the impact of job losses. Shortly after, Gov. John Rowland, a Republican, announced the state budget surplus had turned into a $600 million deficit.

When Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University advised that in a recession the federal government should send more money back to the states, and states should increase taxes on the highest incomes, heads turned.

Speaking in New Haven at the annual Martin Luther King Day Love March, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) suggested that all those in public life heed King’s call for decent jobs with special affirmative action measures to end racism.

But it is clear that from Washington to Hartford it will take a fight to win. It is in the self-interest of all working people to mobilize for measures like the End Child Poverty Social Investment Fund at the state level and measures at the national level to extend and expand unemployment insurance and health care and create good jobs building schools and repairing the nation’s infrastructure.

On the occasion of Martin Luther King’s birthday, we can learn from his understanding of the connection between injustice at home and unjust war abroad.

King’s courage and commitment sparked a powerful movement that changed our nation forever. Today, such a movement for jobs, peace and freedom is the hope for our future.

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