The Atlantic is highlighting one of the elements of Dr. Martin Luther King’s career that is far too often overlooked: his commitment to the idea that the government should not only work to end poverty, but ensure a guaranteed middle class income.
Jordan Weissman writes:
He laid out the case for the guaranteed income in his final book, 1967’s Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Washington’s previous efforts to fight poverty, he concluded, had been "piecemeal and pygmy." The government’s believed it could lift up the poor by attacking the root causes of their impoverishment one by one — by providing better housing, better education, and better support for families. But these efforts had been too small and too disorganized. Moreover, he wrote, "the programs of the past all have another common failing — they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else."
It was time, he believed, for a more straightforward approach: the government needed to make sure every American had a reasonable income.