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Houston coalition demands funding for human needs programs

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON - A new group in Houston called the Coalition of Working People and the Poor (CWPP) held a press conference on the steps of City Hall on 2/28/07. Under the leadership of Bishop James Dixon II of the Community of Faith Church, the group is demanding "full funding for all programs that support human needs." A massive march will be held on 3/24/07 starting at 12 noon at Hermann Square in downtown Houston.

Richard Shaw, secretary treasurer of the Harris County AFL-CIO, pointed out that "working people in this country are hurting, the middle class is disappearing…the working poor who are working can't move into the middle class if this keeps up. This is about the President's budget. Where are we going to spend our money and what is it going to do for working people?"

Bishop Dixon declared that "citizens who work in the richest country on the globe are entitled to such things are health care." He noted, "40.5 million Americans are without health care…31.2% of our nation's children are presently in poverty." "It is amazing there are still persons so mean spirited in government who would challenge the legitimacy of children's health insurance programs and making it accessible to all the citizens in this state," he said.

He highlighted the disparities between rich and poor by saying that while we are spending $195 million a day on the war in Iraq, "billions of dollars have been cut from programs…that support those who are seeking to work their way towards the American dream and unfortunately those who are working are living an American nightmare. This nation's attitude towards working class people is deteriorating the middle class at a rapid rate. It's no longer the middle class, it's the misery class because people who go to work every day and cannot make ends meet and cannot provide a dignified livelihood for their families are absolutely in misery.

When we look at this nation's priorities, it is obvious our priorities are not our nation's people. Our priorities are special interests." He thundered, "This group has come together today to say we are lifting the needs of people before the needs of special interests…It's appalling to us the minimum wage has not been increased since 1997. Inflation has risen 26% over that same period of time. The present minimum wage salary is equivalent to a 1955 dollar in 2007." He further demanded, "All of us are God's children and deserve and demand dignity and respect and fairness."

Some participants commented about the lack of local press coverage in spite of the participation of highly respected elected officials and progressive organizations to include organized labor, the faith community, advocacy groups and civil and human rights organizations.

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