13 Jun

Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto”

The O’Leary:

Months and months ago I pointed out that Obama has never uttered the words “the poor,” (I’m not the only one who has noted this. Read The Rich and the Rest of Us by Tavis Smiley and Cornell West). Now, think, have you ever heard him say the words “the homeless?” We Democrats think we can make points by pointing out how “out of touch” Romney is. The only difference between the two men is that Romney has no concept of what the middle class is going through trying to recover from Bush’s recession, much less the poor and homeless and Obama can only talk about the middle class and cannot bring himself to deal with the poor and the homeless, many of whom used to be part of the middleclass. They are both out of touch with the depth of the destruction of the American economy, of the American dream (that has always been just a dream), and of the American common good.

The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. We’re joined by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.” Smiley, an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster, says President Obama has failed to properly tackle poverty. “There seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that,” Smiley says. “I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been primary issue, number one.” West, a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, says that after the historic U.S. struggles against monarchy, slavery and institutionalized racism, “the issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination.” (Click here to see part two of this interview. [includes rush transcript]) See Below.

Part 2: Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on Growing
Up Poor, Occupy Wall Street and Trayvon Martin Case

In part two of our interview, Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West discuss growing up in working-class households. “I saw so much poverty growing up,” says Smiley, who lived with 13 family members in a three-bedroom trailer and learned that even when he was not optimistic, he could be hopeful. “Hope needs help,” Smiley notes. West recalls how he worked with the Black Panthers to organize a general strike while growing up in Sacramento, California, in order to push for African-American studies programs in local high schools. Looking at current events, Smiley and West cite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that “war is the enemy of the poor” and compare the amount of money spent in Iraq and the 2012 presidential campaign to funding for programs that assist the one in two Americans who are now poor. They also discuss the Trayvon Martin case and react to Ted Nugent’s potentially threatening comments about President Obama at the recent National Rifle Association meeting.

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