AuthorBarber, William J., II

When then-candidate Joe Biden addressed a virtual assembly of the Poor Peoples Campaign last fall, he promised that ending poverty would be more than an aspiration if he were to become the forty-sixth President of the United States; rather, he said, it would be a "theory of change to build a new economy that works for everyone."

When our campaign presented fourteen policy priorities to Biden's transition team in December, the team reaffirmed this commitment. Reconstruction is not easy work, but millions of poor and low-income Americans know from experience what it must mean to "build back better." The success of the Biden-Harris Administration will depend on its ability to work with the people for whom the system has not been working.

As a preacher, I know this to be the moral vision in our ancient biblical texts. "If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims... and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out," the prophet Isaiah says, then "you'll be known as the repairer of the breach."

This basic insight is echoed in our Constitution's commitment to "a more perfect union" through, among other things, the establishment of justice. Repairing the breach and addressing the systemic wrongs we have inherited is the essential work of reconstruction.

We cannot build back as a nation without confessing the ways we were uniquely unprepared for the multiple crises we continue to face. Building a more just economy under the Biden-Harris Administration will require more than simply rejecting Trumpism or restoring dignity to the highest offices in our land.

While representation in presidential appointments-and throughout the executive branch of government-matters for the Black, white, brown, Asian, Native, female, and LGBTQ+ people who make up our broad fusion movement, we need more than representative faces in high places. We need leaders who understand racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism as interlocking injustices that disproportionately impact poor communities, even when people who look like us are in charge.

It is not enough to have a seat at the tables of power. We need policies that put food on the table.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, "building back better" means targeting emergency relief to make sure the most vulnerable in our unequal society are vaccinated first, health care is available to all, and debts are forgiven.

Poor people are grieving...

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