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words of introduction and for the fine reception that you have given us.
I especially would like to express my profound thanks and appreciation on behalf of my colleagues, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Poor People's Campaign, for permitting us to come this morning to address our grievances to you.
As citizens of this great country we feel and we do know that we have the constitutional right to peacefully petition our Government and to seek redress for the grievances which we face.
I want to thank you so very, very much.
I would like to express thanks to Senator Javits, a friend of many years, for setting the record straight. I appreciate that so very much, Senator, because we do expect to be orderly at all times and keep our schedules as much as it is humanly possible.
As you know, I come from the southern section of the United States and so often we have committees stacked when we face our State legislatures and so forth.
I get the impression this morning as I look into your faces and I remember your stand and your record, that this committee is stacked also; however, this time in our favor.
Thank you from the depths of our hearts.
I would like to read this statement and with your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make some further cominents and I hope that time will permit my associates to comment also.
Mr. Chairman and members of this committee, we appreciate the opportunity to come before you today. We come to you as representatives of black, Indian, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and white Americans who are the too-long-forgotten hungry and jobless outcasts in this land of plenty.
We come because poor fathers and mothers want a house to live in that will protect their children against the bitter winter cold, the searing heat of summer and the rain that now too often comes in through the cracks in our roofs and walls.
We have come here to say that we don't think it is too much to ask for a decent place to live in at reasonable prices in a country with a gross national product of $800 billion.
We don't think it is too radical to want to help choose the type of housing and the location.
We don't think it is asking for pie in the sky to want to live in neighborhoods where our families can live and grow up with dignity, surrounded by the kind of facilities and services that other Americans take for granted.
And we want to play a productive part in building those houses and facilities, and in helping to provide some of those services.
It is a cruel fact that too few of our fellow Americans know or care that existing housing programs for poor people are totally inadequate.
But then maybe too few of them have seen with their own eyes the reservations, the migrant camps, the shacks and lean-tos in rural Mississippi and Alabama, the teeming ghettos and barrios of the North and West where we and our children are literally perishing.
Can it really be believed that we really don't care that our children are bitten by rats, that we are packed into barren cubbyholes, plagued by roaches, our health threatened by roaches and garbage?
Surely it must be understood that we must not, we cannot, we will not continue this way.
We call upon the Congress to pass legislation that will provide for the thousands of new units of low-income housing so desperately needed this year, and for the thousands more that must be added in the next 3 or 4 years if all of our people are to be housed like human beings.
We ask that Congress give the solid support and all the necessary funds to make the rent supplement program the stabilizing force it can be; we ask that model city programs be expanded from neighborhoods to communities and that programs be passed which will give poor people a chance to be homeowners rather than slum renters.
We have heard that when zoos are planned great care is taken to make sure that an environment is created where animals can be happy and feel at home.
Are the poor citizens of this land entitled to any less consideration by their Government?
The unemployment rates in our rural and urban ghettos are of alarming proportions. This committee knows better than anyone that, despite America's widely publicized affluence, hundreds of thousands of Americans daily drag out their lives in depths of an economic depression as crippling as this country has ever known.
There are those who like to salve their consciences and confirm their prejudices by saying that most of the poor really don't want to work, that poor people really prefer the shabby and insulting handouts which represent welfare in too many cities and counties in this country.
We are here to tell you that this is not true. We are here because we want to work. But we are tired of being told that there are no jobs for which we are qualified.
We want training programs. But we are tired of training programs that either screen us out by discrimination or meaningless tests, which ask for families to suffer from inadequate support while we are in training.
But the most bitter mockery of all is to find that either there is no job at all waiting at the end, or that we are once again condemned to exchange our manhood for dead-end jobs which pay a boy's wages.
Existing programs for creating jobs simply are not working. The concentrated employment program which the Labor Department predicted would produce 150,000 jobs by January 1968 produced only 8,000 jobs.
Why? What went wrong? Can it be that we are still trying the same old approaches and the same people to try to solve the problems of the poor?
We cannot answer these questions.
We can only say that we need those thousands of still uncreated jobs. We need them badly. We need them now. We need to have money in our pockets, to be able to hold our heads up and make our families proud of us.
We need a minimum of 1 million jobs in the public and private sector this year and another 2 million jobs over the next 4 years.
If we are serious about wanting to provide economic opportunities for the poor, then we must see to it that the welfare trap is sprung for the able bodied, so that they can get out of poverty and stay out.
At the same time we must provide for, not punish through restrictive rules and pitiful allowances, those mothers who may choose to stay at home and raise their children as other mothers do.
We must insure support at a civilized level for those who are too young, too old, or who are physically or mentally disabled.
For them we need an immediate income-maintenance program. At a bare minimum this Congress should set a fair Federal standard of need for welfare payments.
And we must, in the name of God, repeal the forced-work program for mothers and the freeze on AFDC mothers contained in the Social Security Act of 1967.
We have heard all our lives that there are no gains without pains. And all our lives we have had to endure the pains without gains.
Is it too much to ask that this time if taxes are raised and expenditures cut, it not be done at the expense of the poor?
While we regard the Clark bill now pending before Congress as only a beginning, we want it to pass.
Senator Clark. Thank you, Dr. Abernathy. I appreciate your support.
Reverend ABERNATHY. But why do those who ask, “Where will the money come from?” look always to the programs that will help those who already have least?
We ask those who would wield the meat ax on appropriations to think a while this time before they wield it against the black and brown and white Americans whose children too often go to sleep without having had either meat or bread.
Must we support a multibillion-dollar space program, a massive defense budget, millions for supersonic pleasure planes, tax advantages to the richest and most powerful corporations in the world—can we do all these things, and yet not provide a job that pays a living wage, a decent house, the food to make a child healthy and strong?
Pending in this subcommittee is a bill to protect farmworkers through collective bargaining. We urge its immediate enaction with maximum safeguards for the workers.
Members of this subcommittee have held poverty hearings all over the country.
Senator CLARK. Doctor, let me interrupt to say that the farmworkers' bill is not pending before this subcommittee. It is before another subcommittee of the full Labor and Public Welfare Committee.
I will see to it that your testimony in this regard is put in the record of the hearings when the farmworkers' bill comes to be marked up by the full committee.
Reverend ABERNATHY. Thank you very kindly, Mr. Chairman. Please forgive my inaccuracy at this point. You understand I am a minister and a civil rights worker and not a legislator.
Senator Clark. It is quite unimportant, Dr. Abernathy. You should say here everything that you think we ought to be doing here in Congress.
The bill, I am advised by my colleagues, is presently before the full committee for marking up and we will see to it that your testimony is called to the attention of the entire committee.
Reverend ABERNATHY. Thank you so very kindly, Mr. Chairman. If I am incorrect again I hope you will see that this gets into the proper hands.
You went to Mississippi. You went to Appalachia. You heard about what hunger does and you saw some of its scars with your own eyes. And then you came back to Washington.
We have come here to see you today to tell you that the people you heard, the children you saw, are still where you left them and they are still hungry.
There are programs to be sure. But a food stamp program doesn't feed people who don't have the money or the jobs to help them buy stamps-however low you cut the costs.
The food stamps do not even offer a bitter pill to swallow for the poor people who live in some 256 of the neediest counties of this country that are without any food program at all. We do not understand how this can be tolerated in a land as rich as ours.
The Citizens' Board of Inquiry Into Hunger and Malnutrition in the United States has documented the extent of extreme hunger in this country.
Many Federal officials, including the officials of the Department of Agriculture, do not deny the accuracy of this report.
In the face of this overwhelming evidence, we do not understand why the Department of Agriculture hesitates.
We do not understand how the Department of Agriculture could turn back to the Treasury $220 million that could be used to feed the hungry merely by declaring what everyone admits is true—that a serious emergency exists in these counties.
Senator CLARK. Dr. Abernathy, I don't understand it either. I have been trying to find out from Mr. Freeman and his bureaucracy for the better part of 6 weeks now. I can't even get an answer to my letter.
You will rest assured we will not stop there and I suggest you don't either.
Senator Javits. Mr. Chairman, may I make a suggestion, that we put the record of the action of the subcommittee, the main committee and the Senate on the bill which sought to relieve this situation into the record so that this part of the testimony may be clearly understood that we have moved heaven and earth to do exactly what they are asking be done.
Senator CLARK. Without objection, that may be done.
Washington, D.C., April 19, 1968. Hon. ORVILLE L. FREEMAN, Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. SECRETARY: On March 26 I wrote you expressing my concern over the use of OEO Emergency Food and Medical program funds. To date, I have received neither a reply nor an acknowledgment of my letter, a copy of which is enclosed. I would appreciate an immediate reply. Sincerely yours,
JOSEPH S. CLARK. Enclosure.
Washington, D.O., March 26, 1968. Hon. ORVILLE L. FREEMAN, Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. SECRETARY: I would like to express my concern with respect to the Department of Agriculture's contemplated use of $2,625,000, transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity under the Emergency Food and Medical program.
It was the intent of the Subcommittee on Employment, Manpower and Poverty and of the Congress in enacting this program that funds be made available to provide food and medical services to persons suffering from acute hunger and malnutrition, and who are not otherwise served by existing programs.
It is my understanding that the Department of Agriculture contemplates using all or most of the funds transferred by OEO to make up the difference between funds actually available for existing food programs and what the Department thought was available this fiscal year-in lieu of a supplemental appropriation.
I understand further that the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and the Office of Economic Opportunity had worked out an interagency agreement which contemplated the transfer of $2,200,000 to USDA to be divided among the following components:
1. $700,000 was to be used to provide free food stamps to persons currently eligible for participation in the food stamp program, but who are unable to afford the $.50 minimum purchase price.
2. $1,000,000 was to be used to provide free lunches in counties other than the 256 priority counties in which OEO will administer its $5 million allocation.
3. $500,000 was to be used to provide administrative costs in order to activate food stamps and commodity distribution programs in counties where State and local authorities had approved such programs but had
not yet appropriated funds for their administration. Under the recently announced allocation of $2,625,000, I understand that only $125,000 will be provided for the administrative costs components under the interagency agreement and as much as $2 million may be used to fund food programs which the Congress authorized before the emergency program and for which funds were appropriated last year.
I would appreciate it if you would send me a copy of the above-mentioned interagency agreement, together with an immediate report indicating exactly what programs and projects the Department of Agriculture's allocation of $2.8 million will be used to fund. Sincerely yours,
JOSEPH D. CLARK,
Washington, D.O., April 19, 1968. Hon. WILBUR J. COHEN, Secretary, 1.8. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Washington, D.O.
DEAR MR. SECRETARY: On March 26 I wrote you expressing my concern over the lack of funds for the nationwide study of malnutrition. To date, I have received neither a reply nor an acknowledgement of my letter, a copy of which is enclosed. I would appreciate an immediate reply. Sincerely yours,
JOBEPH S. CLARK. Enclosure.
Washington, D.C., March 26, 1968. Hon. WILBUR J. COHEN, Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. SECRETARY: I am most distressed to learn that funds have not yet been made available for the nationwide survey of the incidence and location of serious hunger, malnutrition and associated health problems in the United States, which was enacted on December 5, 1967 as section 14 of PL 90–174, the Partner. ship for Health Amendments of 1967.
As you know, last July, the Subcommittee on Employment, Manpower and Poverty conducted hearings on the problem of hunger and malnutrition.
At that time testimony by Federal officials established the need for a malnutri. tion survey.
The Senate subsequently passed S. 2138, Senator Stennis' bill. to provide emergency aid to alleviate serious hunger and malnutrition. As part of that bill, the Secretary of HEW was directed to conduct a comprehensive study of the