To honor King's leadership of a mass movement and the vision of a better society which motivated the grass roots rebellion against segregation, racism, and inequality - here is his final chapter from his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community. King proposes the guaranteed income as the first major step towards eliminating poverty. You can read the entire final chapter here. He writes that:
This proposal is not a "civil rights" program, in the sense that that term is currently used. The program would benefit all the poor, including the two-thirds of them who are white. I hope that both Negro and white will act in coalition to effect this change, because their combined strength will be necessary to overcome the fierce opposition we must realistically anticipate.
Our nation's adjustment to a new mode of thinking will be facilitated if we realize that for nearly forty years two groups in our society have already been enjoying a guaranteed income. Indeed, it is a symptom of our confused social values that these two groups turn out to be the richest and the poorest. The wealthy who own securities have always had an assured income; and their polar opposite, the relief client, has been guaranteed an income, however miniscule, through welfare benefits.
John Kenneth Galbraith has estimated that $20 billion a year would effect a guaranteed income, which he describes as "not much more than we will spend the next fiscal year to rescue freedom and democracy and religious liberty as these are defined by 'experts' in Vietnam."
The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.
The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.
Also, United Students Against Sweatshops has launched a special MLK Jr Day appeal to support the workers at New Era Cap, the company that exclusively supplies Major League Baseball. After workers attempted to form a union to confront racial discrimination and abusive working conditions, the company fired nearly 20 workers and has been stalling complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. Send a letter to MLB, New Era, and more right here.
The civil rights era is not over, and the civil rights struggle has only begun, as has the struggle for a society without poverty, war, occupation, and exploitation.