MLK, health care reform and wealth inequality

Martin Luther King, Jr. (National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights; Chicago, IL; March 25, 1966):

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.

In light of that, and in conjunction with more recent studies on how it is those with the most equality that are the happiest and healthiest, it is encouraging to read an article like this: “In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality.”

The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

The bill will also reduce a different kind of inequality. In the broadest sense, insurance is meant to spread the costs of an individual’s misfortune — illness, death, fire, flood — across society. Since the late 1970s, though, the share of Americans with health insurance has shrunk. As a result, the gap between the economic well-being of the sick and the healthy has been growing, at virtually every level of the income distribution.

The health reform bill will reverse that trend. By 2019, 95 percent of people are projected to be covered, up from 85 percent today (and about 90 percent in the late 1970s).

Cornel West to Barack Obama: "How deep is your love?"

Excerpts:

Despite your brilliance, despite your charisma, I’m disappointed when it comes to the fundamental question of priorities, of urgency. How deep is your love for poor and working people?

You’ve changed the image of America, but don’t simply be the friendly face of the American empire. Many lives hang on your courage, and you cannot do it alone.

I believe like Martin Luther King that democracy can be reinvigorated, can be revitalized. But it takes courage–you can’t just cut deals; you have to take a stand. You have to have backbone.

In the end, it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s not about any isolated set of individuals. It’s about forces that will ensure that poor and working people can live lives of decency and dignity.

MLK Day 2010: Barack Obama's sermon

Yesterday, to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (today), President Obama spoke at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, where MLK himself had spoken some fifty years before.

Excerpts:

We gather here, on a Sabbath, during a time of profound difficulty for our nation and for our world. In such a time, it soothes the soul to seek out the Divine in a spirit of prayer; to seek solace among a community of believers. But we are not here just to ask the Lord for His blessing. We aren’t here just to interpret His Scripture. We’re also here to call on the memory of one of His noble servants, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even as Dr. King stood in this church, a victory in the past and uncertainty in the future, he trusted God. He trusted that God would make a way. A way for prayers to be answered. A way for our union to be perfected. A way for the arc of the moral universe, no matter how long, to slowly bend towards truth and bend towards freedom, to bend towards justice. He had faith that God would make a way out of no way.

So let us hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age. Together, we shall seize the promise of this moment. Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we’re going to welcome the spring. Through God all things are possible.