Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Smiley and West: The Rich and the Rest of Us

Talk show host Tavis Smiley, and former Princeton professor, Dr. Cornel West continue their fight for the poor with a new book titled The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto which the two men say is the next step in the journey that began with “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.”

Cornell West and Tavis Smiley's latest venture: The Rich and the Rest of Us.  Photo/CD Brown.
"There are nearly 150 million poor and near poor people in America who are not responsible for the damage done by the Great Recession. Yet they pay the price. The poor did not create the deindustrialization of America, unmatched corporate profiteering and greed, more than a decade of foreign wars, and unregulated tax benefits for the wealthy. When the largest economic institutions in the world were brought to their collective knees, they went crawling to the government’s doorstep in search of salvation. The government obliged, allowing Wall Street to socialize its failure on the backs of Main Street Americans. The housing and jobs crisis they created fostered a poverty unseen in generations—not just in inner-city ghettos and barrios, but also in suburbs and rural areas crossing racial, age, and gender lines. Nearly one-third of the American middle class—mostly families with children—have fallen into poverty.”

Tavis Smiley (standing) and Dr. Cornel West lecture at Georgetown University.  Photo/CD Brown.
The two collaborators held a noon-time book signing at Barnes & Noble and continued with a lecture at Georgetown University where they discussed a new paradigm taking hold: poverty among of the former middle class, women, and children.

Said Tavis Smiley, "Women and children have fallen faster into poverty than anybody else."
Smiley, along with West, are calling for a White House conference to discuss the issue of poverty.

"Great presidents are not born, they have to be pushed into their greatness", Smiley said.  "There is no FDR without A. Phillip Randolph pushing him.  There is no Abraham Lincoln without Frederick Douglas pushing him. There is no LBJ without MLK pushing him."

Smiley and West say they aren't bashing the president, but if something isn't done to 'push' Barack Obama, "or whoever is to come, then this country will never, ever come to true terms with the least among us." 

"22% of our precious children live in poverty in the richest nation of the world. That is a moral obscenity", said West.

The president wasn't the only person being held to task.  The two took on institutions of racism that have perpetuated the systematic processes of poverty in America.

"We got the new Jim Crow out there", said West.  "We got the prison industrial complex out there.  We got trigger happy police out there.  We got racial discrimination in the workplace out there."

West and Smiley's book tour continues in these areas.

You can watch a podcast of the lecture here.

For more info, visit. www.therichandtherestofus.com.

Video:   Smiley, West show love for Dick Gregory.

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