Saturday 18th of January 2020 08:55:11 AM GMT

Pete Buttigieg’s Discussion On Poverty With Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2019)

Key Excerpts From Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Discussion On Poverty With Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

ON VOTER SUPPRESSION AND DEMOCRATIC REFORM

I think one of the problems we have as a country is that the issues of systemic racism generally, and racial voter suppression specifically, are talked about as though they only impact people of color, as though they only impact those who are being suppressed. And while there is no question that the worst harms are against those who are directly discriminated against, the entire country, and in this case, the entire world, are made worse off because we do not make decisions as a country that incorporate the will of everybody who is impacted. […]

The division of people of mutual interests, often along lines of race, harms everybody. And to me, democracy is the issue of how we deal with every other issue, whether we’re talking about Citizens United and the role of money in politics, or the gerrymandering that we were discussing, or all of the different forms of voter suppression that had been created. For my dime, I actually consider the electoral college itself to be an example of this problem because it affected anybody who had to live under a presidency that came about because the American people were overruled. And we’re living under one right now, which means everybody is experiencing the consequences of that distortion in our democracy.

ON UNIFYING THE NATION TO BUILD POWER FOR POOR AND LOW INCOME PEOPLE

Pete Buttigieg: [T]he central idea of my campaign is the idea of belonging and we live with so many patterns of exclusion right now in this country. People are excluded in overlapping and multiple ways based on economics, based on race, based on religion, sexuality, whatever it is. And I believe it’s amounted to a crisis of belonging.

Now our constitution protects people of every religion and of no religion equally. That’s core to how this nation was set up. I also believe that it matters that we have a president who does not give people a faith reason to scratch their heads and say ‘Whatever happened to, ‘I was hungry and you fed me’,’I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'” And while I would impose my religious faith on nobody else, I will be transparent about the fact that I follow a God who came into this world not in riches but in poverty, not as a citizen, but as a refugee, not as a political authority, but as a political dissident who died for it. And that instructs my sense of how salvation for me at least has to do with how I will make myself useful to those who are oppressed and those who are marginalized and those who are on the edges and those who are poor because I can’t count the number of times the word poor shows up in scripture. It’s an awful lot.

Rev. Barber: 2000.

[laughter]

Pete Buttigieg: I knew somebody in here might know.

ON THE MORAL IMPERATIVE OF THIS ELECTION

So if we think about the moral imperatives that are at stake right now in an election like this, we have to think about whether we are making ourselves useful to those who are most vulnerable and those who are most in need. And these problems did not begin with the present Administration. Although I would certainly argue that the present administration is not acting to improve them, but rather to make them worse. But it is important to remember that because I am running to be the president by definition, who will take office the same day this administration comes to an end.

And so the question before us is — then what? Where will we be and what will it take? And where we are now is that nearly half of the country is in poverty. That one job is not enough. That too many lack access to housing, to healthcare, to decent education, to the very basics of life, even as wealth concentrates itself. And it concentrates itself not only into greater and greater wealth, but into power, which is why so much depends, not only on those in office, but on everybody who cares about the decisions made in those big white buildings.

Understand the importance of political mobilization and voting rights and knowing the voting rights have actually been weakened, not strengthened, since the Voting Rights Act. And knowing that we have got to do, both to respond to racial voter suppression and to respond to the ways in which doing right by those who are vulnerable of whatever race has been made harder by the fact that we do not have decisions at the ballot box that reflect the totality of the people.

ON RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE

You know, we talk about poverty. Sure, there’s complicated issues. Globalization and automation and technology. But sometimes it’s talked about like there’s some cosmic force, a law of physics that has pushed us into the inequality we’re in, when actually it’s the consequence of specific policy choices that had been made. And one of those policy choices is that the minimum of the federal minimum wage has been allowed to lapse so that if you count for inflation, it is worth considerably less than it was when it was introduced. And you see it everywhere we go across the country.

We were marching with McDonald’s workers trying to get $15 and a union…Taiwanna Milligan. I…wanted to get a sense of how her life would be different if she earned more than the seven something an hour that she did. And I couldn’t get her to talk about herself. She was talking about her son with special medical needs. She was talking about other people who depended on her. And it was a reminder that those who are fighting for more are also not fighting in a selfish way. They’re fighting for the ability to provide for others, which often is where we get the most fulfillment. Which is one of many, many reasons why it is a moral as well as an economic imperative to raise the federal minimum wage.

ON STRENGTHENING UNIONS

We need to make sure that workers are empowered to seek and demand more from the workplace. I’ve been reflecting a lot on manufacturing jobs, because we think of them as good jobs. They pay well, they got good benefits. I’m from a part of the country that suffered from the loss of manufacturing jobs, but the ones we have are still very important to us. But it was pointed out to me that those weren’t always good jobs. They are good jobs now, but a hundred years ago they were considered dangerous, dirty, and under compensated. They became good jobs because workers demanded that they become good jobs. And as I had been encountering fast food workers, service workers who are trying to organize, home health care aides of whom by the way, we are going to need millions more in the years to come. If they have the opportunity to join a union, we know that they will be able to be better paid and to get better benefits.

ON CLIMATE CHANGE DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTING THE POOR

Rev. Barber: [W]e appreciate your stance on the climate and on…dealing with ecological devastation. I was in Oak Flats where a multinational company, because of a rider put on a defense bill by a Senator from Arizona, is threatening to take their religious lands, their Mount Sinai, their Jerusalem from them. Ignore the religious significance, drill down into the earth for 2% copper. That’s all of the, of the a hundred percent of what they bring up only 2% is usable and the other would poison the aquifers to the surrounding towns and poison the land. […]

Pete Buttigieg: Well thank you for that, and thank you also for shining a light on what is going on in Arizona because I think it also calls us to remember that the relationship with tribes in this country is a relationship between sovereign nations, and tribal sovereignty will be respected in my presidency. I promise that. And it is often those most vulnerable: native families, African American families, poor families of every race, who have the most to lose. And frankly, globally, it’s poor countries that have the most to lose from the effects of ecological devastation and from climate change, which is why we must act. […]

[T]he good news is there’s a lot of opportunity here. In fact, our estimates are that 3 million net new jobs be created under the climate plan I’m putting forward. But we need to do that with intention. And there should be a focus, for example, when we’re offering training, whether it’s in new jobs that might sound a little newfangled involved with working with new sources of power or jobs that are actually very easy to understand today, like union insulator and electrical worker jobs. One way or the other we need to make sure that those opportunities are extended first to those with the most to lose. That means communities that have been on the receiving end of environmental injustice, communities that are vulnerable to climate change harms, and communities that for other reasons have been subject to the consequences of poverty and systemic discrimination in this country. And our plan contemplates that as we work with local cities, towns, and counties in order to create action plans that have equity as a central consideration because the reality is even if we hit all of our targets as we’re going to have to find a way to do, we know that these impacts are already on us. All the more reason why in the name of justice, we need to make sure that we are lifting up those who have been harmed the most and making them first in line for the opportunities that are going to be created by getting this right.

Question and answer transcript below:

Pete Buttigieg: Well, thank you, first of all, Bishop for the opportunity to be here. Thank you for welcoming us earlier to worship with you. I’m an admirer of your ministry of your work. I met your mother recently, so I would have to say I’m an admirer of your work, having met mother Barbara earlier today and am so thankful for the opportunity for us to discuss issues of moral urgency that are at stake in this election.

I believe that I am here to make myself useful, that I am part of this political process to make myself useful, but also that I was put on this earth in order to make myself useful to others. These are the values that I was taught by my parents. These are the values that I’m taught by my faith. And one of the reasons I was so electrified when I first heard you speak years ago in Philadelphia mentioning cautioning against the voices that say, as I believe you said, ‘so little about what God says so much and so much about what God says so little’ is it made me take stock of what I hear about when I’m sitting in the pew on Sunday. And the scripture that says that when we think of the prisoner, we are supposed to imagine ourselves as though we are in prison with them. And the scripture that says we will be judged based on whether we welcome the stranger. And the scripture that says that whoever oppresses the poor taunts their maker. And trying to fit those moral teachings to the world we were living in. These are lessons that I learned in the streets of my own city as well, where I was trusted at the age of 29, eight years ago, to take the leadership of the Mayor’s office in South Bend. A community that is a low-income, that is diverse, that was shrinking, that was hurting, that had been described as dying and took steps together in a community that, even after I had become Mayor, was still educating me every day about what was needed and what we could do together. And we invested in neighborhoods that hadn’t seen investment in a long time and we found places that were emptying out begin to fill up again. And we took steps to ensure that the health that was deteriorating, not so much because of what happened in the hospital or the doctor’s office, but what was happening as a matter of environmental justice and other issues in homes got addressed. And in these eight years, often we have come up short, but often we’ve been able to advance together when our priorities were in the right place. Reducing poverty, improving health, and growing in a city that had been shrinking. And now I take that same experience into the presidential election process where, frankly, people in politics are often specifically advised to speak of the middle-class and not to use the word poor or poverty too much. I guess it’s not considered to be as helpful politically to talk about that, but of course there’s no scripture telling us as you’ve done to the middle-class so you have done to me.

So if we think about the moral imperatives that are at stake right now in an election like this, we have to think about whether we are making ourselves useful to those who are most vulnerable and those who are most in need. And these problems did not begin with the present Administration. Although I would certainly argue that the present administration is not acting to improve them, but rather to make them worse. But it is important to remember that because I am running to be the president by definition, who will take office the same day this administration comes to an end. And so the question before us is — then what? Where will we be and what will it take? And where we are now is that nearly half of the country is in poverty. That one job is not enough. That too many lack access to housing, to healthcare, to decent education, to the very basics of life, even as wealth concentrates itself. And it concentrates itself not only into greater and greater wealth, but into power, which is why so much depends, not only on those in office, but on everybody who cares about the decisions made in those big white buildings.

Understand the importance of political mobilization and voting rights and knowing the voting rights have actually been weakened, not strengthened, since the Voting Rights Act. And knowing what we have got to do, both to respond to racial voter suppression and to respond to the ways in which doing right by those who are vulnerable of whatever race has been made harder by the fact that we do not have decisions at the ballot box that reflect the totality of the people. I am picking up on subtle cues that it’s probably time for me to stop my opening remarks and go to questions. So hopefully that gives you some sense of who I am and how I come at this.

[…]

Questioner: Hi Mayor Pete, I’m originally from West Virginia. I’m retired military and I’ve seen poverty. We can’t act like poverty is a marginal issue that only impacts Black and Brown people. Over 140 million Americans are poor or low-wealth, 4 million alone in North Carolina, that’s 43% of our population. A third of America’s poor are here in the South. 20% of our voting population is poor and low-wealth. We know that poverty disproportionately impacts the Black, Brown and LGBTQ communities. But in raw numbers, the majority of poor and low-wealth people here and across America are straight, white folks who’ve been fed lies about why they are poor. Given the moral crisis of poverty and low-wealth in America, what would you do president to make addressing poverty a reality?

Pete Buttigieg: First of all, I want to thank you for serving this country. And what you are discussing I think reflects how unified we ought to be in tackling an issue across all of the lines that we have been very skillfully divided across. Let me begin with something that is so simple that it might be blindingly obvious, and for that reason we may pass over it, but it is extremely important when discussing the issue of poverty. And it is this, people in this country need to get paid more. This is simple, straightforward, and it is not happening.

You know, we talk about poverty. Sure, there’s complicated issues. Globalization and automation and technology. But sometimes it’s talked about like there’s some cosmic force a law of physics that has pushed us into the inequality we’re in, when actually it’s the consequence of specific policy choices that had been made. And one of those policy choices is that the minimum of the federal minimum wage has been allowed to lapse so that if you count for inflation, it is worth considerably less than it was when it was introduced. And you see it everywhere we go across the country. We were marching with McDonald’s workers trying to get $15 and a union. I’ll come to the end part in a minute. But trying to get $15 an hour. Taiwanna Milligan. I remember her because I was trying to get a sense, actually I was trying to learn her story so that I could share it in the future and wanted to get a sense of how her life would be different if she earned more than the seven something an hour that she did. And I couldn’t get her to talk about herself. She was talking about her son with special medical needs. She was talking about other people who depended on her. And it was a reminder that those who are fighting for more are also not fighting in a selfish way. They’re fighting for the ability to provide for others, which often is where we get the most fulfillment. Which is one of many, many reasons why it is a moral as well as an economic imperative to raise the federal minimum wage.

Second, we need to make sure that everybody has access to the benefits you need to get by. This administration has cut SNAP food aid for those in poverty. Nobody is better off in a country where some are going hungry. On the contrary, the more people are hungry, the less they are able to work. For children, the less they are able to learn. They score poorly on a test, they do poorly on their grades, maybe they’re more likely to get into a fight and piped into the criminal justice system and are told all the way that it was their fault, but they were just hungry. So we have got to make sure that there is food.

We need to make sure that workers are empowered to seek and demand more from the workplace. I’ve been reflecting a lot on manufacturing jobs, because we think of them as good jobs. They pay well, they got good benefits. I’m from a part of the country that suffered from the loss of manufacturing jobs, but the ones we have are still very important to us. But it was pointed out to me that those weren’t always good jobs. They are good jobs now, but a hundred years ago they were considered dangerous, dirty, and under compensated. They became good jobs because workers demanded that they become good jobs. And as I had been encountering fast food workers, service workers who are trying to organize, home health care aides of whom by the way, we are going to need millions more in the years to come. If they have the opportunity to join a union, we know that they will be able to be better paid and to get better benefits.

So increasing access to organized labor, both how you can unionize, including allowing multi-employer bargaining and who can unionize. So if we’re going to have more and more gig workers, for example, they’re not considered employees, but they’re working, they’re doing a job. And to me, if you’re doing a job that makes you a worker. If you’re a worker, that means you ought to have benefits. And so I believe that gig workers should be treated as workers. So there’s a whole lot we got to do to get people a better income. And then there’s the side of cost and making sure that the cost of education, the cost of healthcare, the cost of saving for retirement is more affordable, otherwise, if the cost rises faster than income, then so many Americans will still find themselves effectively in poverty even as their incomes rise.

So these are some of the measures that we know we have to undertake that are subject to political decision making. By the way, in Washington, yes, but also in the states. One of the reasons why this movement has wisely targeted state capitals is that states are often restricting action in this direction. In South Bend, I was able to raise the minimum wage for employees in the city, but the state prevented us from doing it for anybody else living in the city. We were able to establish paid family leave for employees of the city. And I’m pretty sure there was a bit of a baby boom on the fire department. But that was okay. We didn’t mind. But the state prevents us from implementing that for anyone but our own employees and so on. So this is a question of supporting the states doing the right thing and making sure states don’t stand in the way of alleviating poverty as well as making sure we have the right decisions in Washington.

Rev. Barber: Let me follow up, Tony and Lynn. Let’s thank them for coming up, Tony and Lynn. And I think they penetrate…here Lynn says, you know, I’m from West Virginia and I’ve known poverty. And we also have to talk about, we talk about workers, but we also at some point, many of the poor are disabled. Many of the poor are in areas where jobs have left. Not [inaudible] the people who desire to work but have no jobs, you know, we wrestled with, do we leave them alone? Do abandon them? King… Martin King talked about two Americans and they might be three now. You know, he talked about the one where everything is honey and milk and corn, the other where there’s struggle and abject mess. And then there might be another where, you know, people are just, have just given up, just, just given up. You know, I’ve been all over this country was in Harlan County, Kentucky, where so many folk said they have not…just given up, you know. But now they’re joining this movement because they believe that in the agency, you know, of poor and low-income people. And how important to you and then I want to push it [inaudible] is it to you as a candidate to not just talk to people who talk about the poor, but actually go where poor and low-income people are, whether it’s in Appalachia or in Alabama, and really experience and see and hear them as they talk about the kinds of solutions that we need in this nation?

Pete Buttigieg: Yes, I believe that’s so important and we’ve taken opportunities, whether it’s joining with fast food workers in the different cities that we visited, uh, or a visit to a rural neighborhood in South Carolina to learn how people were living, or the conversations we have in my own community. We need to make sure, there’s so much theorizing that happens about poverty. And I think when it’s theorized, it leads to misunderstandings. For example, the idea that it’s only about income, of course it’s about income. But there’s a reason why the poverty of somebody who is afraid of what will happen if they have one disruption in life is different from, for example, a student who comes from a stable family who knows they have a job waiting for them, whose income might be the same as somebody living in poverty, but who doesn’t have that fear and that vulnerability. So we need to make sure those, those voices are elevated and make sure those voices are heard.

Rev. Barber: So, so here’s what we surmised, Mayor Pete, is that there is a causation. You know, there that if a state is a racist voter suppression state and people are using that suppression to acquire power, then those that acquire power in that state also push policies or deny policies that could impact and change poverty, health care, and living wages. Now the question is, in light of this, you cannot address systemic poverty for everybody if you don’t address systemic racialized, racist voter suppression. As president, what would you do to address racist voter suppression and racist gerrymandering that is hurting the whole of our democracy?

Pete Buttigieg: So it is imperative to the future of the country that we address this. I often speak in the campaign about democracy, but not democracy as a system. Democracy is a value. The idea that we believe there is moral weight to the value of making sure that every voice is included, that every vote is counted, and that every voter counts. And there are a number of concrete things we could do right away. We could ensure automatic voter registration as soon as somebody is old enough to vote. We could make sure that the polls are open a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately, some of these voter suppression tactics were pioneered in my state, like voter ID. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. But another thing in my state is that polls are open six to six. Not everybody is able to vote between six and six. We’ve got to extend access to early voting and we have to do something about this gerrymandering because effectively what the gerrymandering does is it means that the politicians are choosing their voters rather than the voters choosing their politicians. And it often, uh, more often than not has a racial effect. And the consequence of this is that everybody is worse off. Those who suffer most are those who are on the harmed end of racial discrimination. But as you have pointed out, people of all races suffer in poverty, suffer from these policy decisions.

[…]

Rev. Barber: What are the people engaged in who have blocked fixing the Voting Rights Act for over 2000 days? Right? And who continued to do it despite all of the cases around the country where we have in the fight against racialized voter suppression. And what would you do as president on that issue of the restoration of the Voting Rights Act and pre-clearance? Since as we sit here today, we have less voting rights sitting here today than we had in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was first passed.

Pete Buttigieg: That’s right, and these, I think the most charitable way to put it is that they are engaging in racial voter suppression. I think that’s the most charitable way you could put it. I could say some other words, but we’re in church so I’m going to behave. And the reality is we’re going to need a 21st century Voting Rights Act that restores and advances what was laid out originally but also looks at the new ways, the new technologies of suppression that are only going to get more sophisticated that that surgical, you can think of it as a kind of laser surgery that can now be done because of technology means that we have to make sure our democratic defenses are stronger. On some level, I think what it’s come down to is this. There are some who have concluded that the only way that their policies and their politicians will prevail is if not everybody gets to vote. To me, that’s a pretty good sign that you got to change your policies and your politicians. But this is the rear guard action of an anti-majoritarian force that sees that there are more people who believe in this moral call to do right, especially by the most vulnerable among us then not, but have figured out a way to disempower that coalition that could exist. And that calls out for action beginning with the 21st century Voting Rights Act.

[…]

Questioner: My name is Nelson Johnson, four years Air Force, retired pastor and now co-director of the beloved community center…We know access to high quality public education is essential to addressing inequality in this country, but our public schools are being undermined by under funding and resegregation. If you get to appoint the next Secretary of Education, what will be the education priorities of your administration? What will be the education priorities of your administration?

Pete Buttigieg: Thank you both for joining us and for speaking out. A very first consideration for a Secretary of Education is that they believe in public education because I don’t think we have that right now. Second is that they believe in equity in public education. Third is that they would be willing to commit resources, with the backing of the president of course, who will be willing to go to Congress and go to bat for this to make sure that everybody has access to quality public education. Whether you thrive should not come down to whether you were fortunate enough to win an admissions lottery to one of a handful of schools. By the way, this is important not only for the clear and glaring reason that we need to make sure that we educate everybody well and give them that chance to thrive, but also because right now we are starting to see many communities where this, the polarization and stratification is happening in our schools. In other words, if if public school is only considered to be there for people who don’t have access to something else, then it becomes one less thing we all have in common as a country at a time when we desperately need to have more things in common as a country. And so for all of these reasons and more, we’ve got to act. Now in most countries, if you have an area where there’s more poverty or more need, you can expect that more dollars would go into educating the students in that area. We are one of the few places where often the reverse is true because of a- partly because of the reliance on property taxes in many places and other problems with the way we fund our schools. So it’s why I would begin by routing a massive increase in federal dollars through Title I that sends those dollars to the schools where they are needed most.

Another thing is that we need to lift up the teaching profession and that includes compensating the teaching profession properly. You know I would- alongside those service members you mentioned, I’m afraid there may be a fair number of educators who might find themselves reliant on public assistance because the wages that aren’t paid. [crosstalk] And we’re talking about public servants, people who we rely- if we did a better job of honoring our teachers a little more like soldiers and paying them a little more like doctors, this country would be a better place for everybody, especially for those who seek opportunity.

Rev. Barber: Let me follow up. Thank you. And so one of the pieces on that, again, we don’t isolate conversation. So for instance, the Brennan Center has talked about two major attacks on education is high poverty and re-segregation. A school that’s high poverty, whether it’s predominant white or black underfunding, you know, it’s amazing how people fund everything else, but when it comes to school, they don’t need it, you know? Um, we have not kept pace as we should. You know, there are forces that do not really want to see public education thrive and it grows out of desegregation. My mother who sits there was a DCF to desegregate her high school and now the high schools and somebody that in this city, you’re in this, the schools in the city, we have a military base in this city and yet the schools in this city are totally resegregated and the students on the base are bust out of the city so that the schools in the city no longer get the military money that they used to get when the schools were uh, segregated. And so resegregtion is happening faster in America, but we have to understand resegregation is not just about Black and folks sitting beside each other, never was. People knew that if you can segregate the students, you can segregate the dollars, you can segregate the curriculums, you can segregate teacher access. And so in that [inaudible] and, and, and, and, and, and our white brothers and sisters need to understand that addressing, if you’re gonna address poverty, you gotta address poor schools and reset grade schools that impact everybody. And again, re-segregation of our public schools, you don’t just want to change that cause your altruistic, you want to change it because the same forces that will resegregate schools will defund said schools. That’s what we’re trying to say it’s a moral issue.

What do you think about addressing the issue of re-segregation from that standpoint? Not just we got to sit beside each other, but understanding that we, that that allows a kind of segregating of resources.

Pete Buttigieg: Absolutely. And this is part of what I was getting at when I mentioned that we have this need for shared things too because when you have a shared experience of quality public education, then you have a shared support base, political base to ensure that educational resources get to everybody who needs them. And we see these patterns. I have to confess that I was slow to realize I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated because they had to be because of a court order. But what I slowly realized was that while that was true within the limits of the South Bend community school district as they were drawn. If you looked at the County, all of, almost all of the diversity of our youth was in a single school district, which is ours. And it’s one of many examples of how you just have to peel back the surface and then you see the persistence or the return of different forms of segregation. All the more reason why we need to back public education and back a diverse group of educational professionals. Teachers need to come from every background. So because that’s segregated too, in many ways.

[…]

Questioner: All right. My name is Earl Brown. The Poor People Campaign moral budget shows that a $15 minimum, a federal minimum wage intact immediately would raise pay for 49 million workers by the combination- combining $328 billion per year. These pay raises would draft- dwarf, I mean, I’m sorry, a $7.1 billion in tax cuts bonus employees gives U.S. workers in 2018. If elected, what is your plan to guarantee living wages and union rights to American workers.

Pete Buttigieg: Thank you for joining us. Thank you. And thank you for organizing on this issue. Uh, again, first of all, I support the legislation that by the way passed in the U.S House to implement a $15 minimum wage, but is one of many pieces of good legislation that has gone to the Senate and died there. Now, one of the things I think we need to remember as a matter of strategy is that most of the American people believe in raising the federal minimum wage. You wouldn’t know it by the way they talk about the politics around it, but most Americans, including in conservative States, believe this is the right thing to do, which is why I am convinced that even if the Senate were to remain in the hands of the current party in charge there, if you have the House continuing to pass this legislation and a president willing to fly into the home states of anybody standing in the way of a higher federal minimum wage, we will be able to get it passed.

So that’s the first thing. The second thing is, as you said, union representation is important too, and it is important not only to make sure that wages are strong, but because we see a much lower level of things like workplace harassment and discrimination in employees that are protected by a union. It goes to that interconnection of all of these issues we were talking about. Workplace harassment, in turn, is one of the many reasons why we have a wage gap in this country for women and in particular for women of color. Matter of fact, if we just stayed with business as usual, the amount of time that it would take for the wage gap to close to where all women, including women of color were making the same as men in this country would be 200 years, which is unacceptable. But one of the reasons is that if people experience harassment in the workplace, they’re more likely to drop out or to take an even lower paying job because of the need to have something but being unable to stay where they were. So it’s just one of many, many examples why we need those union protections. I am proposing that we aim to double the level of union membership in this country and we will be better off when we do.

As I said earlier, that means new categories of people who can organize, like Uber drivers. I also believe that it means that we got to look at it just how we make it possible to organize. I’ll give you an example. If you work- somebody works at a fast food restaurant, at an Arby’s and there’s a Burger King across the street, employees at those two workplaces should have the opportunity to try to team up and bargain. So we need to look at multi-employer bargaining because that’s part of what would empower workers. Now this is going to require a lot of changes to law, especially because we have the so-called right to work laws or as I think of them, right to work for less laws that block the formation of units. But we can act on that at the federal level. And when we do, it will be easier to organize and to be paid better. And again, I want to congratulate you for standing up for this because this won’t happen without workers standing up. But I promise that in me, you will have a president who will stand with you.

[…]

Questioner: Kelly Greer (Ph.), I had to bury my son Michael. He was born on my birthday in 1974 and died 32 years, five months and 28 days later, that’s him. I can’t get him back. And a half million Americans have died the same way since he died. So I have a question for you. North Carolina is a state where the legislature refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. So half a million people who would have access to healthcare in this state do not. 350,000 of those people are white. More than a thousand- more than a hundred thousand are Black. 40,000 of them have served in the military and about three of them die every day. But even if we had Medicaid expansion tomorrow, there are still hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who would be uninsured. This is true across the nation where politicians are guaranteed free healthcare for life just because we elect them to serve. Often when we talk about access to healthcare for every American, we debate how much it will cost, but we know what it costs America not to insure all of us. Our moral budget has found the money to pay for the healthcare we need. What is your plan to guarantee access to healthcare for everyone in this country as soon as possible?

[…]

Questioner: I am a community [inaudible] leader in Alamance County here in North Carolina [inaudible] Poor People’s Campaign as well. I myself have been, unfortunately, a victim of not having health care and having health issues kind of get expedited because of that fact. I’m currently caring for a grandchild with special needs as well.

Questioner 2: My name is Rebecca Barber (Ph.). At two years old, I was diagnosed with a preexisting brain condition. So I’ve experienced firsthand, you know, I’ve had access to health care and I know firsthand what can happen when, you know, the system works and when a person has access. But I know that many do not have access. And that is why I’m an advocate for health care. I have many friends living without health insurance, people that are my age. So you know, this is a very pressing issue

Rev. Barber: And our question, as I want everybody to hear it cause we’re pushing candidates now. How do you talk about this issue without starting with the question, “how much does it cost?” as opposed to the real question, “how much does it cost for us not to do it?”

Pete Buttigieg: Well, the, the cost of inaction is unbearable. And I’m so sorry, Leslie, to hear your story and of your loss. No one should bury their child, least of all in America because of a lack of access to healthcare. That simply should not be possible in the United States of America. And part of it, you’re right, is the failure to expand Medicaid and that should not have happened. And for anybody to talk of morality when we are called to heal the sick and politicians have blocked Medicaid expansion is unconscionable, but we’ve got to do more. So my plan is to make sure everybody is insured, there’s no such thing as an uninsured person in America. The way I would do it, we call it Medicare For All Who Want It, but let me add another detail once I’m done explaining it, that maybe hasn’t come across yet in the press.

So what it means is that everybody can get access to a Medicare like plan, and that for those who cannot afford premiums, the subsidies are there so that cost is never a barrier. And if people would rather have some other kind of plan, that’s okay. I don’t mind them being able to buy that, but everybody has access to this public plan. The one thing I want to mention is that if somebody falls between the cracks and they go to get care and they don’t have coverage at all, we would retroactively enroll them in that public plan so that there is truly no such thing as not having medical insurance in this country, because it’s hard enough. We’re coming up on a year since I had lost my father and as tough as that situation was, he was eligible for Medicare and so the only decisions we had to make, tough ones, but they were not financial decisions, they were medical decisions about what was right for our family. I want every American to have that same opportunity. Now let’s talk about cost because people always ask me, what’s your plan going to cost? And we can pay for the whole thing, it’s not cheap, it’s $1.5 trillion over 10 years. But compared to the cost of business as usual, I think it’s a bargain. And all we have to do is two things. One thing is that we have to allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of drug prices with drug companies which I think is common sense. And the other, which is how we get the bulk of the funds, is to roll back the corporate tax rate cut that was in the Trump tax cuts. Because frankly, I think they’re doing just fine and I don’t think they needed that tax cut to begin with. All you have to do is do that and we can deliver that healthcare vision that I’m talking about.

[…]

Rev. Barber: You know, we appreciate your stance on the climate and on ecological, uh, dealing with ecological devastation. I was in Oak Flats where a multinational company, because of a rider put on a defense bill by a Senator from Arizona, is threatening to take their religious lands, their Mount Sinai, their Jerusalem from them. Ignore the religious significance, drill down into the earth for 2% copper. That’s all of the, of the a hundred percent of what they bring up only 2% is usable and the other would poison the aquifers to the surrounding towns and poison the land and destroy. And Chief Winslow, former chairman Winslow [inaudible] is risking his life right now. He just today took residence up, left the reservation. He said he’s no longer going to be a ward of the state to go camp out and defend – nonviolently – but defend those sacred lands.

But all over this country, 4 million people that get up every day who can buy unleaded gas and can’t buy unleaded water. 14 million people that can’t afford water, uh, Black and white. You know, the case in Oak flats is another form of policy racism. We don’t talk about it. There are no big news cameras like it was at Charlottesville, should be because that’s a form of racism, right? Uh, we have somebody who wants to ask a question on this issue of ecological devastation and they will introduce themselves and raise their question.

Questioner: Hello Mayor Pete, thank you for being here. Um, my name is William Barber III, I serve as the ecological justice coach effort in North [inaudible] and in my professional work also do work around the climate crisis. […]

So our campaign has seen across this country how whenever communities experience the effects of climate change from fires to floods to drought, the poor suffer first and worse. We also see corporations and corrupt politicians in collusion steal land to drill for minerals, build pipelines or dump coal ash in ways that poison our water, air, and land.

Questioner 2: So our question to you, since you can’t address poverty without addressing ecological devastation and climate change, please tell us how your plan to address these issues is good news to the poor.

Pete Buttigieg: Well thank you for that, and thank you also for shining a light on what is going on in Arizona because I think it also calls us to remember that the relationship with tribes in this country is a relationship between sovereign nations, and tribal sovereignty will be respected in my presidency. I promise that. And it is often those most vulnerable: native families, African American families, poor families of every race, who have the most to lose. And frankly, globally, it’s poor countries that have the most to lose from the effects of ecological devastation and from climate change, which is why we must act. It is another example of where the only way it looks expensive is if we fail to account for the cost of doing what we’re doing because it would show up pretty quickly if you accounted for it properly, that acting now is a bargain relative to cleaning up the harm that will be done just economically, let alone morally the harm that is being done. So what can we do about it? I believe that this is one of those moments when America must adopt a national project that we have to make it something that all of us are part of to end climate change and end our dependency on fossil fuels. It starts with things we could do very quickly. By 2025 we could double the amount of clean energy on our grid. Some things will take longer, but step-by-step by 2050, which is about as long as we can possibly do this by 2050 be a carbon neutral economy across the United States. We’ve got to. And in order to do that, it’s going to take everything that any of us can bring. Not only the development of wind and solar, but also the development of carbon neutral or carbon negative farming. Farming could actually be a huge part of the solution. And in putting out that call, I’m also recruiting a part of America that maybe has only ever heard that they’re part of the problem and asking them, and by the way funding them, to be part of the solution. We need to make sure that federal purchasing invests in things like biofuels, we’ve got to do this across every sector of American life.

And the reason why I feel a great deal of hope, the reason I think there is good news in this as bleak as the current situation in the business as usual scenario are, is that we kind of need a national project. I think our country will stand taller when we have a national effort like that, and for once there’s a national project available to us that’s not about fighting other people. It’s about leading the world and getting something done. And this has to be global. We have to lead the nations of the world because we can’t do it alone, but we know the world can’t do it without American leadership. So at home, that means massively increasing investment in renewable energy, energy storage, carbon storage with an equity focus on those who are harmed most and making sure that funding is directed at areas that are already seeing the impacts, but also globally leading the way and making sure that this is a cornerstone of our diplomacy as we go out around the world. If we fail to act now, we will continue to see the most vulnerable made worse off. And we saw it in our own city where almost inevitably when we saw huge floods that came to our city, once in a lifetime floods only we had them twice in two years. So something’s up. And sure enough, it was often the homes of, in the lowest income areas of town that were most likely to be destroyed and where people had nowhere to go.

Question: What does it look like to truly include those communities in the conversation as we build this new future?

Pete Buttigieg: Well, the good news is there’s a lot of opportunity here. In fact, our estimates are that 3 million net new jobs be created under the climate plan I’m putting forward. But we need to do that with intention. And there should be a focus, for example, when we’re offering training, whether it’s in new jobs that might sound a little newfangled involved with working with new sources of power or jobs that are actually very easy to understand today, like union insulator and electrical worker jobs. One way or the other we need to make sure that those opportunities are extended first to those with the most to lose. That means communities that have been on the receiving end of environmental injustice, communities that are vulnerable to climate change harms, and communities that for other reasons have been subject to the consequences of poverty and systemic discrimination in this country. And our plan contemplates that as we work with local cities, towns, and counties in order to create action plans that have equity as a central consideration because the reality is even if we hit all of our targets as we’re going to have to find a way to do, we know that these impacts are already on us. All the more reason why in the name of justice, we need to make sure that we are lifting up those who have been harmed the most and making them first in line for the opportunities that are going to be created by getting this right.

Question: Do you see addressing voter suppression and gerrymandering as a part of that national project? Because I don’t see how we’re going to get the political power to address these things legislatively if we write off the South and continue to leave the South and other areas victim to racial voter suppression that allows people to get in office who are adversely against dealing with the issues of ecological destruction.

Pete Buttigieg: Absolutely right. I think one of the problems we have as a country is that the issues of systemic racism generally, and racial voter suppression specifically, are talked about as though they only impact people of color, as though they only impact those who are being suppressed. And while there is no question that the worst harms are against those who are directly discriminated against, the entire country, and in this case, the entire world, are made worse off because we do not make decisions as a country that incorporate the will of everybody who is impacted. And there was a time when it was assumed almost that rural areas and workers would stand shoulder to shoulder in order to lift up those who were oppressed. The division of people of mutual interests, often along lines of race, harms everybody. And to me, democracy is the issue of how we deal with every other issue, whether we’re talking about Citizens United and the role of money in politics, or the gerrymandering that we were discussing, or all of the different forms of voter suppression that had been created. For my dime I actually consider the electoral college itself to be an example of this problem because it affected anybody who had to live under a presidency that came about because the American people were overruled and we’re living under one right now, which means everybody is experiencing the consequences of that distortion in our democracy.

Rev Barber: And, we have all this conversation that we’re still trying to figure out what Russia did and we should, but we are having a conversation about what voter suppression did and we know what it did. Now we’re still kind of guessing around what Russia did. You know, how will you help change the conversation so that we don’t get caught up in a nation sometimes in not facing the obvious, right? You know, it’s obvious. For instance, the last, the current president wins by, uh, uh, 30,000 votes in Wisconsin. 250,000 votes were racially suppressed. In this state, we have a Senator who won by 30,000 votes. We know 100,000 votes were suppressed and he was the architect of voter suppression in this state. Right? And what is it? You know, can I just be real? Why are Democrats so scared to deal with the issue? And to help folks understand – white folk -– that people are playing us against each other. And because of that, we are all getting sold a bill of goods and prevented from coming together. You may not even want to answer — maybe you’ll answer it in your next speech Maybe you’ll do a big speech on systemic racism and poverty and how it all connects. But I just thought put that on your mind.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: So you mentioned our need for a national project. Uh, I think that sense of need is felt widespread. Unfortunately, the current administration has proposed a wall, was the national project, uh, which thankfully isn’t being built very much, but the consequence has been the demonization and the targeting of whole communities of people. Um, certainly brown immigrants have been targeted. When I go home today, uh, I’m gonna stop by the church, uh, where I’m minister in Durham and we’ve been a sanctuary church for two and a half years because a fellow named Jose Chicos, who’s lived here since the mid eighties got a deportation order from this administration. You know, he registered with ice under the Bush administration. They knew where he was during the Obama administration. First appointment of this administration, he faced a deportation order. So I’ve been very present to that context of family separation, but we know a lot about family separation at the border there. There, there are thousands and thousands of families that have been separated. What’s your plan to immediately address this crisis that’s been created for the immigrant community by the current administration?

Pete Buttigieg: So what’s happened is a crisis has been created – a humanitarian crisis – has been created by the choices this administration is making. And we saw it in our community too. I saw the whole west side of our city, a part of the west side basically shut down just over the rumor of an ICE raid. I saw someone very similar to the person you’re describing, a guy who had lived in our area for about 20 years and uh, registered, went in every year with IC; he was trying to get his green card sorted out. And this first year, this administration, when he went in, he didn’t come back out. Business owner, parent. And I found myself meeting with all of his friends and supporters. By the way, all of them, conservative Republicans, white conservative Republicans who lived in that area who were furious because they didn’t think that deportation was going to happen to Roberto. They loved Roberto. He’s a good guy and I found myself looking into the eyes of his eight year old son trying to think of something to tell him that would be true because I couldn’t say, “It’s okay. You’re going to get your dad back.” In the end, the whole family decided they had to move to Mexico even though the kids had only ever known our part of Indiana as home and this does not make America safer. On the contrary, the climate of fear makes us all worse off. Give you a simple example. If the administration succeeds in pressuring local law enforcement to do immigration work for them, as they have pressured us and we have resisted, then a lot of people are going to hesitate to speak to law enforcement at all. One of the things we did was we created a local ID card just to say that you can be a card carrying resident of the city of South bend, and I use the word resident because for my purposes as far as whether we’re going to come to your house when you call 911 or whether we’re going to pave the road for you in the city, it doesn’t matter what your citizenship status is, you’re a resident, you’re part of this community. So we created that card so that if you’re interacting with law enforcement or for that matter, just trying to get through life, pick up a prescription or something, you had a way to do it. You can’t vote with it, you can’t drive with it, you can’t fly with it, but you could at least get through life. So we need to build up that sense of belonging nationally to what does that actually look like? Well, first of all, the laws themselves need to change. There’s this whole debate over the enforcement of the laws because there are horrific enforcement practices like family separation that need to end on day one or profit detention centers for children, by the way, is a category of thing that should not even exist. And we’ll end. You see the, the enforcement priorities will always be out of kilter if the law doesn’t make sense. And you look at the arbitrary caps on how many folks can come from which countries which aren’t connected to any reality right now. You look at the bureaucracy, uh, you look at the lack of a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented folks who are here. We need that. And especially for Dreamers, we fixed the law. Then in addition to the, the overall growth of the country being supported, it becomes simpler to manage our border in a way that matches our laws and our values at the same time,

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: Quick follow up on law and enforcement because as we talked to folks who are being impacted by this issue across the country, you know, in the same rooms often, uh, folks from poor and black communities will say, “You know, we know something about over enforcement of laws in our community.” Mass detention and mass incarceration, you know, are not just about this administration, but I think they’re certainly deeply connected. What’s your proposal to address mass incarceration?

Pete Buttigieg: Well, if incarceration made a country safe, we’d be the safest country in the world because we’re the most incarcerated and we most certainly are not the safest country in the world. Mass incarceration must end. It’s that simple. So I’m proposing that we cut it by half. Now that’s going to take a level of action with the states that has to happen across the country, but the federal government can drive it and we can do it by changing sentencing. For example, [inaudible] on drug possession where it’s clear that the incarceration is doing more harm than the original offense. We’ve seen a lot of that in our community. Um, it means making sure, in fact, I would say that incarceration should never be a response simply to possession because we know that criminalizing addiction doesn’t work. That’s part of it. Using the clemency powers of the presidency in the best way is part of it. Making sure that we change sentencing guidelines as part of it. Again, from a power and economic perspective, we’re also always going to have a pressure toward more incarceration as long as some folks are making a profit off of incarceration, which is why there should not be for profit private prisons in this country. We’ll just be better off if we don’t have [inaudible]

Rev. Barber: We we want to, we’re going to wrap up some, but, but also, investment again, it’s been proven that the dollar investment on the front end of the life saves you tens of dollars on the back end of life. So to actually be investing and pushing more in incarceration and in education than investing in companies – Instead of building prisons, build jobs, bring corporations, create investment zones, you know, that that is so, um, problematic. If we’re serious about addressing the issue of poverty. And one other piece that you uh, mentioned, let me ask you this little quick rapid fire. Do you think we need to also stop allowing forces to demonize quote unquote people who are trying to get the immigration status and we start lifting up all the ways they benefit this country, the money in social security, the taxes, they pay their job, somewhere. Don’t we need to say, “Wait a minute.” You know? Uh, so yes. And I’m just going to do some rapid fire.

Pete Buttigieg: Yeah. I mean the uncomfortable reality is that undocumented folks are in many ways like social security, subsidizing everybody else.

Rev. Barber: And we need to talk about that and, and, and shouldn’t we have some conversation whenever people say we call people illegal aliens and all these things that are not human and certainly not Christian, why can’t we just own in America that some of the people that are trying to come from Mexico here are coming back the land we stole and the reason we took the land is because people wanted to keep their slaves. I mean we got, we have to have some historical clarity around these issues. Abraham Lincoln was against the Mexican-American War. Abraham Lincoln was against that war that ended up snatching territory from Mexico over the issue of slavery. So one of the things, and I know in this soundbite, you know, you don’t get this when you go on soundbite soundbite, but do you think some of our candidates, you maybe, need to need to have some specific and others, some specific speeches where you help educate this country on the lies we’ve been told that keep us so divided. So I see your head shaking and we got two quick questions. I got to go cause of their airplane. Ee’re going to do one that you have the 53 cent piece and then we’re going to play a kit clip from Dr. King and we got a question from two clergy and we’ll be out.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: So, this campaign names is one of the intersecting issues, interlocking issues, the war economy. And we know from our research that 53% of every discretionary dollar goes to the military. You’re a veteran. We’re in a military town, we certainly honor the role of the military. But, uh, what do you think we can cut from the military in order to pay for some of these things we need?

Pete Buttigieg: So I think we need to reassess our entire set of priorities when it comes to uh especially military spending, because we’re still, I think, behaving in a 20th century mentality. We have 21st century threats like, uh, like cybersecurity issues and global climate change, which is a 21st century threat. And yet the administration has a 17th century security technology in mind when they’re talking about a boat full of alligators or a big wall, right? So it’s very clear that we need to reprioritize everything. And in particular, I think we need to scrutinize the way the contracts are done, especially cost plus contracts. I mean, where are we don’t even, we just said, “You know, take whatever, whatever you think you need and then we’ll add some to it,” does not exactly create fiscal discipline and we need to look at where we are projecting force around the world. There won’t be an easy solution. It can’t be as simple as kind of across the board slash this or slash that. But I do believe that we will find major savings when we actually fit our security spending to our security needs.

Rev. Barber: You know, we’ve got a lot of veterans in the Poor People’s Campaign, a lot of military folks, and they tell us a nation cancer survive when you have 53 cents of every discretionary dollar going toward the war economy and 13 or 14 cents going to infrastructure and healthcare and education. We are maybe defending ourselves – over defending ourselves one place and under defending ourselves and the other remembering that Rome will fail, not because what was happening on the battlefield, but what happened inside of Rome. We also know there’s a travesty that we have combat soldiers that many times don’t even make a living wage and yet military contractors that make millions of dollars. Um, do we have to look at those inequities as a nation?

Pete Buttigieg: I think we have to, and while we’re at it, uh, why is it that we’ve not been able to properly fund taking care of those veterans who did serve? And you can say, uh, and taking care of their mental as well as physical health. So it’s a question of priorities.

Rev. Barber: And for the media, I’m saying, I say that my father was a Navy man. You know, you don’t, I was approached one night, I can’t say who the general was on our plane and, and he said, “Keep doing the work you’re doing.” We need folk because Eisenhower, a Republican warned us of the military industrial complex. A Republican said that a military industrial complex, what it could do to damage to society if it was not held in check. Well lastly ––

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: You’re here in church with a couple of preachers. We’ve got a couple more preachers we want to call for a final question about the moral narrative that this campaign is trying to challenge. As they come, we’ll hear a clip from Dr. King and then please…

[…]

Questioner: Hello Mayor Pete, I am Reverend Hanna Broome. I’m a minister and the AME Zion Church, Presiding Elder. And I’m also the Faith Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Questioner 2: I’m Reverend Vance Haywood from St. John’s MCC in Raleigh and also part of the Poor People’s Campaign. As members of the clergy and religious leaders, we know that faith has been distorted in American public life by religious nationalism and extremism, demonizes some neighbors and allies and rallies others to attack poor people. [inaudible] systemic racism, reject LGBTQ people and women’s rights and declare that prayer in school, guns, building walls and tax cuts, values issues, poor people of every race, creed and sexuality have suffered from these distortions of faith and moral values. But further, as Dr. King just said, they’re used to divide the very poor people that should be united to build a beloved community. When you are elected president, [crosstalk], how would you use your influence to shift the moral narrative in our public life to unify and build power for poor and [inaudible] people?

Pete Buttigieg: Thank you and it’s a great note to end on because the central idea of my campaign is the idea of belonging and we live with so many patterns of exclusion right now in this country. People are excluded in overlapping and multiple ways based on economics, based on race, based on religion, sexuality, whatever it is. And I believe it’s amounted to a crisis of belonging. Now our constitution protects people of every religion and of no religion equally. That’s core to how this nation was set up. I also believe that it matters that we have a president who does not give people a faith reason to scratch their heads and say ‘Whatever happened to, ‘I was hungry and you fed me’,’I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'” And while I would impose my religious faith on nobody else, I will be transparent about the fact that I follow a God who came into this world not in riches but in poverty, not as a citizen, but as a refugee, not as a political authority, but as a political dissident who died for it. And that instructs my sense of how salvation for me at least has to do with how I will make myself useful to those who are oppressed and those who are marginalized and those who are on the edges and those who are poor because I can’t count the number of times the word poor shows up in scripture. It’s an awful lot.

Rev. Barber: 2000.

[laughter]

Pete Buttigieg: I knew somebody in here might know.

Rev. Barber: – 2000 with poverty, how you treat women, treat children, treat the Emma and resist idolatry with the worship of things rather than the love of people. More than 2000 scriptures in the Bible. Well, Mayor Pete, thank you for coming. Two quick things as we go. I’m down. We asked every candidate that came to the Moral Poverty Action Congress, if they would push and commit to and say that in America we needed a debate. We’re pushing for now we’re working with to call a conversation with American families, were dealing with the issue of systemic pover.

About the Author

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg Is The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and candidate for President of The United States in 2020.   This is his campaign release post message center on Oakland News Now.  This in itself does not reflect a donation to the campaign, but a service provided to all elected officials and candidates by Zennie62Media.
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