Herman Cain Insists (Wrongly) that Martin Luther King Jr. 'Did Not Preach Class Warfare'

Herman Cain became the latest politician to whitewash Martin Luther King, Jr.’s record, attacking Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) for citing King while promoting his proposed financial transaction tax. Cain said that King wouldn’t support such a measure because “class warfare wasn’t his thing.”

Class warfare wasn't his thing.

The demonstrations and the proposed tax were initiated by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota). He has introduced an actual bill to tax all Wall Street transactions to provide a pool of money to help those, mostly minorities, who have not achieved financial success. The bill is HR 1579, the “Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2013”.

When Stuart Varney asked me what I thought of this tax, I said the bill is simply a class warfare attack on those who represent financial success – and it dishonors the memory of Dr. King, because he did not preach class warfare.

Dr. King did not fight or die for a new tax. Please! His memory deserves more respect than that. Some of us understand that.

That would have been news to King, as the late civil rights leader claimed that he was in fact “involved in the class struggle” and was a strong ally of the labor movement.

In fact, Ellison’s bill is much more moderate than King’s economic views.

King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom strongly focused on issues of economic justice and called for an increase in the minimum wage along with “a massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers — Negro and white — on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.” He later said that he hoped “a program will emerge to abolish unemployment, and that there will be another program to supplement the income of those whose earnings are below the poverty level.”

He also supported a guaranteed basic income and advocated a “radical redistribution of economic power” in order to curb poverty and inequality, even citing Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism.

King also said an “economic and social bill of rights” was needed to aid “the majority of Negroes locked up in an economic underworld of poverty, joblessness and unemployment” and correct the “monstrous contradiction between the American idea and reality” of “two centuries of oppression and terror.”

Cain certainly wouldn’t be the first one to offer this sanitized version of King, who believed that government should play a key role ending poverty:

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

Earlier in this century this proposal would have been greeted with ridicule and denunciation as destructive of initiative and responsibility. At that time economic status was considered the measure of the individual's abilities and talents. In the simplistic thinking of that day the absence of worldly goods indicated a want of industrious habits and moral fiber.

We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty.

Our nation's adjustment to a new mode of thinking will be facilitated if we realize that for nearly forty years two groups in our society have already been enjoying a guaranteed income. Indeed, it is a symptom of our confused social values that these two groups turn out to be the richest and the poorest. The wealthy who own securities have always had an assured income; and their polar opposite, the relief client, has been guaranteed an income, however miniscule, through welfare benefits.

John Kenneth Galbraith has estimated that $20 billion a year would effect a guaranteed income, which he describes as "not much more than we will spend the next fiscal year to rescue freedom and democracy and religious liberty as these are defined by 'experts' in Vietnam."

The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.

The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.

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