The State Of Our Union Is Divisive And Needs A Moral Intervention

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis speak to faith leaders and moral activists outside the U.S. Capitol building on Monday, Dec. 4. The delegation, organized by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival, attempted to deliver an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in regards to tax reform legislation. The delegation was not able to meet with the majority leader.

President Trump’s first year in office was marked by extremism in his administration and in Congressional leadership that shutdown the government by pitting sick children who need health care against scared children who need protection from deportation, all as leverage for building a dehumanizing, unnecessary, and demonic wall.

Attacks on communities of color, the poor, and other vulnerable populations have been the policy agenda of this administration — from the enactment of the Muslim travel ban to repeated attempts to take health care from millions of Americans, to open support for white supremacists like Thomas Farr, Trump’s nominee to the federal bench whom Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have already voted to move forward in 2018.

We live in a time where states and the administration are actively working to undermine voting rights. In his first few weeks in office, President Trump formed a so-called voter fraud commission on the belief that three million undocumented immigrants voted in the 2016 election. The commission was authorized to seek voter registration data from Texas identifying all voters with Hispanic surnames. Though the commission was discontinued, the administration continues to deny the real issue of voter suppression in this country.

With the support of extremists in the Republican-led Congress, President Trump has sought to destroy our economic democracy by enacting an immoral tax bill built on the backs of America’s poor in order to benefit the wealthy. Congress gave corporations a 21 percent tax rate. Now they get to keep 79 percent of their profits, leaving the poor and working class to pick up the tab. We haven’t seen a transfer of wealth this extreme since slavery stole the labor of 4 million women and men to benefit the plantation class.

The tax law Republicans have celebrated as their great policy win is a shameless gift to the wealthy that will hurt poor whites, poor blacks, and poor brown communities. State budgets across the country depend on state income, sales, and property taxes as primary sources of revenue for their operating budgets. The tax law will limit the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT). If states wish to prevent this tax hike, they will be forced to make up lost revenue by choosing between cutting critical programs such as education and health care, or forcing vulnerable communities to pay higher taxes. According to analysis by the National Education Association, this could jeopardize state funding for more than 130,000 education jobs, including 2,500 in North Carolina.

While President Trump has been so focused on building a racist wall on our southern border, he has failed to build up a functioning infrastructure and an immigration plan that provides paths to citizenship, not punishment for people whose labor has built this nation and who want to make this country their home. As we found in our preliminary report for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival — “The Souls of Poor Folk” — discretionary spending in 2016 allotted almost four times more for the military than for people’s lives at home — with $630 billion for the military versus $183 billion for education, jobs, housing and other basic human needs. Budgets are moral documents and congressional and political leadership at every level should be focusing investments towards our nation’s 140 million poor and working poor people.

I’m often reminded of the Prophet Isaiah who said, “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness, which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10: 1–2).

To stand with our immigrant, refugee, and poor sisters and brothers is to stand with God, who calls us to love and welcome the stranger.

I cry for all who have been impacted by extremists at the hands of immoral political leaders and systemic policy-violence, but we must remember that President Trump and extremists in the Republican-led Congress are simply a symptom of the real sickness of this nation. There is a moral deficit that allows so many to applaud and pray for this immoral agenda that fails to ensure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare or establish justice. The most glaring irony is that the very people who embraced Trump’s extreme rhetoric — poor and working whites in the South — are, in raw numbers, the ones who are hurt the most by these extreme policies.

It is our moral responsibility to create a country built on policies that benefit all, not just the wealthy. We need a moral public policy agenda that uplifts the poor and communities of color. We must build a country that aims to serve everyone. We need leaders in our government who understand the #StateofOurUnion is divisive and demands a moral intervention.

President Trump’s first year in office makes clear that he not only campaigned with extreme rhetoric, but he and all who enable him have made extremism their policy agenda. Standing down is not an option. It’s movement time in America.

If you care about the heart and soul of this nation, please join the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival in 40 days of direct action starting this spring. To learn more, visit www.poorpeoplescampaign.org.

Will you join us?


Repairers of the Breach is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that works with diverse religious leaders from every U.S. State and the District of Columbia to develop a prophetic social justice vision rooted in moral analysis, moral articulation, and moral action. To learn more or to donate click here.