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Economic Human Rights & the Movement to Abolish Poverty

Economic Human Rights & the Movement to Abolish Poverty

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Economic Human Rights & the Movement to Abolish Poverty

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  1. Economic Human Rights& the Movement to Abolish Poverty "Poverty is the worst form of violence." -- Mahatma Gandhi

  2. Prepared & Presented by members of Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights 207-650-5092 When we unite to claim our rights, together we have POWER!

  3. OVERVIEW • What is poverty & who is poor? • What are Economic Human Rights? • Who & what is the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign?

  4. "...There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life..." -- The Trumpet of Conscience,Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, 1967

  5. What is Poverty & Who is Poor There are a lot of myths about who poor people are and why we are poor. Here are some of them…

  6. QUESTION: What race are the majority of people living in poverty?

  7. Myth: Most poor people are minorities. FACT: The majority - over 2/3 of poor families in the U.S. - are white.[i] HOWEVER, poverty affects people of color disproportionately; for example, about 24% of African Americans families live in poverty compared to about 10% of white families. [i] US Census Bureau’s “Income, Poverty, & Health Insurance Coverage in the US: 2006”

  8. QUESTION: Where do the majority of poor people live?

  9. Myth: Most poor people live in inner cities FACT: Only 40% of poor people in America live in inner cities, while 36% live in suburban areas.[i] [i] Facts About Poverty That Every American Should Know:; Poverty USA: The State of Poverty in America:

  10. Myth: Most poor people are uneducated FACT: About 70% of people in poverty age 18 or older have a high school diploma or higher education.[i] [i] Unfortunately, the US Census uses a formula that includes age 15 and higher (an age at which most people have at least 2 or 3 more years before being able to complete high school), for which the total % of people in poverty with a high school diploma or higher is 65%.

  11. Myth: Most poor people don’t work. FACT: 60% of poor households have at least 1 family member working for wages outside the home.[i] Additionally, 3 out of 4 children in poverty lived with a family member who worked at least part time.[ii] 1 out of 3 children in poverty lived with someone who worked full-time, year round. Of the remaining 40% of households, a many are disabled and/or elderly; And many others are raising children and/or caring for other family members. [i]US Census: [ii] Facts About Poverty That Every American Should Know:

  12. Myth: Most poor people live off public assistance. FACT:Only 23% of poor families receive ANY cash assistance.[i]Poor families receive the largest percentage of their incomes in wages: 62%;with less than 30% of their total incomes from assistance, including Social Security. [i] 62% includes all wages & salaries (58.8%), plus the categories Non-Farm self employed (3.4%), Farm Self Employed (-1.4%), & Interest & dividend income (1.5%). Other inome includes social security (13.8), Pension survivor & Disability income (1.9), Means-tested Cash Assitance (11.4%). US Census:

  13. MYTH: Most people are poor or homeless because they choose to be. Photograph by Harvey Finkle


  15. FACT: The average age of a homeless person in the United States is NINE YEARS OLD.[i]Nearly 1 in 5 (20%) US children live in poverty– a child poverty rate that is 2 to 3 times higher than most other western industrialized countries. Photograph by Harvey Finkle [i] Statistics on Homeless Children and Youth:

  16. QUESTION: How many people live in poverty in the United States?

  17. Myth: There are some poor people in the US, but not that many. FACT: According to the US Census, more than 36 million Americans live in poverty (some estimates say over 50 million[i]), and another 13 million of us are just above the official poverty line (125%). [i] The 2006 US Census says 36.5 million Americans live below the poverty level, with 49.7 million below 125% of the poverty level; see “Income, Poverty, & Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006,” issued Aug 2007: However, the Kaiser Family Foundation (and others) says 50 million Americans below the poverty level with 105 million people at or below 200% of the poverty level (considered low-income); see “Distribution of Total Population by Federal Poverty Level, states (2005-2006), US (2006)”;

  18. Yet, the public’s perception of the number of people living in poverty is out of step with this reality. When asked in a recent survey[ii], the majority of people said they thought that less than one million Americans were poor. [ii] “Poverty Pulse,” conducted in 2004 by Catholic Campaign for Human Development:

  19. Myth: Sure there’s some inequality in our country, but for the most part, things are fair. FACT:The richest 5% of Americans own and control over 58% of the nation’s wealth, the poorest 50% make due with less than 3%.[i] [i] Put another way, the top wealthiest 10% of Americans own and control 70% of the total wealth, while the rest of us – the bottom 90% – own and control 30% of the wealth. See Wealth and Inequality by the Numbers” by United for a Fair Economy, published in Dollars and Sense: ; for another source, see United for a Fair Economy charts on Wealth & Inequality:

  20. Distribution of Wealth in the U.S. The richest 5% of Americans own 58% of the nation’s wealth The poorest 50% of Americans own 2.8% of the nation’s wealth

  21. Myth: Poor people don’t pay taxes. FACT: The poorest Americans pay the highest percentage of our available wealth in taxes, while the richest pay the least.[i] [i] Facts About Taxes that Every American Should Know: The US is home to some of the greatest wealth inequality in the world – greater than in any other western industrialized country.[ii] [ii] “The Wealth Divide: the Growing Gap in the United States Between the Rich and the Rest”, Multinational Monitor:

  22. What is the official poverty line?

  23. 2007 Federal Poverty Level[i] [i]2007 Poverty Guidelines, issued by the US Dept of Health & Human Services (HHS): &

  24. The FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL: • set every year by the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, as the GOVERNMENT’S “OFFICIAL DEFININTION” OF POVERTY. • NOT an accurate measure of poverty or need. • NOT based on the actual cost of living, & it is NOT tied to or reflective of the consumer priced index. • used by the government to determine WHO IS ELIGIBLE for basic services, such as programs that provide housing, healthcare, nutrition, childcare, income support, education, & job training. • ...isunrealistically LOW. Unfairly small income standards mean that millions are NOT COUNTED as among the nation’s poor–even though we cannot afford to meet our basic needs. Based on these standards, each year millions are denied the resources our families desperately need.

  25. Compare this year’s (2007) Federal Poverty Level to last year’s (2006)

  26. unrealistic Sound ? That’s because it IS unrealistic! Based on a terrible formula[i] concocted in 1965 (the cost of a food basket for a family of 3 in 1955 multiplied times 3) the official poverty level is artificially low, and bears absolutely no relation to actual living costs, or what it takes for a family to survive. [i] See the following references: Dollars and Sense article about how poverty is defined by the government:; US Dept of Health & Human Services FAQ about the federal povertylevel:; Further resources on poverty measurements, poverty guidelines, and their history:;

  27. A few of the items missing from poverty line calculations: Transportation Utilities Childcare Healthcare ACTUAL cost of housing

  28. The United States is the richest & most powerful nation on earth, yet, unlike most other comparably industrialized nations and many so-called “developing” nations. • No national healthcare system. • No public higher education. • Under-funded housing & social welfare programs. • One of the largest homeless populations in world. • The largest prison population in the world. Here in the US, we have:

  29. Economic Human Rights Economic Human Rights are what we all need just to live a decent life-style. While we are frequently led to believe that basic needs such as food, housing, medical care, education, and good jobs are privileges, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by the US and all other United Nations members in 1948, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health of him or herself and his or her family, includingfood, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services…”

  30. Economic Human Rights are the same rights that Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign fought for back in 1968 when he began his Poor People’s Campaign and the historic Poor People’s March from Marks, Mississippi to Washington, DC. These rights are violated every moment of every day, in every city and town across America.

  31. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) “…committed to uniting the poor across color lines as the leadership base for a broad movement to abolish poverty.”

  32. Economic Human Rights March 2003 World Social Forum 2006 Venezuela

  33. PPEHRC • Made up of several different groups around the country, such as POWER, who are organizing in their local areas to end poverty • Advancement of economic human rights as named in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as the right to food, housing, healthcare, communication, education, and living wage jobs

  34. GOALS • abolishing poverty • Leadership development • Increasing the visibility of poor people • Strengthening local & regional member organizations • Building & uniting our membership

  35. METHODS • Education: the University of the Poor • Made up of several areas of focus, it offers free educational opportunities and leadership schools to help develop new leadership and teach organizational skills to those around the country • Documentation • Documentation can happen in many ways, such as filling out a questionnaire with questions about specific Violations, making audio or video-tape recordings, taking photographs, and drawing pictures.When together we document our conditions of poverty, we stop suffering in silence, we find our voices, we see we are not alone and that instead of being ashamed of our poverty, we should be outraged!!

  36. METHODS (con’t) • Undisappering the poor & creating our own media • There is no denying the fact that poverty exists in America – yet you won’t hear about it on the news, you won’t read about it in the paper, and chances are you won’t learn about it in your classroom at school. To ‘undisappear’ the poor in America, one of the major activities of the Campaign is the creation of our own media. we learn how to produce our own videos, websites, radio material, news articles, newsletters, newspapers, brochures, and flyers – you name it, we can make it! We use videos to educate, communicate, and motivate by telling our side of the story.

  37. Examples of Past PPEHRC Actions & Events • New Freedom Bus Tour (1998) • Poor People’s Summit on Human Rights (1998) • The March of the Americas (1999) • Economic Rights Protest against Republican Natl Convention (2000) • 2nd New Freedom Bus Tour (2002) • Poor People’s March for Economic Human Rights (2003) • March for Our Lives & Bushville Tent City (2004) • 8 Day Leadership School (2005) • Delegation to World Social Forum in Venezuela (2006) • National Truth Commission in Cleveland, OH (2006) • 2nd Leadership School (2006) • Delegation to the US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA (2007) • March for Our Lives Protest, Minneapolis, MN (AUGUST 2008!)


  39. Based in Southern Maine,Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights is... “a grassroots anti-poverty action group that is led by poor & low-income people. United with all those who align themselves with this mission, together we're building a local movement to win economic rights for all, end economic oppression, & abolish poverty.” When we unite to claim our rights together we have POWER!

  40. PLEASE CONTACT US!!! For more information about POWER: • Call: (207)-650-5092 • Email: • Write to: Po box 4281 Portland, Maine 04101 • VISIT OUR WEBSITE: PORTLAND ORGANIZING TO WIN ECONOMIC RIGHTS = POWER!

  41. Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign PO Box 50678 Philadelphia, PA 19132 (979)-487-8131


  43. Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights