Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Two weeks ago, more than two-dozen civil rights, African-American, agriculture, senior citizen, and veteran advocacy groups came together to begin the STOP THE WAR ON THE POOR Campaign. We announced our support of legislation of any kind that will increase domestic energy supplies and decrease energy costs for our domestic poor. We especially like the Americans for American Energy Act (HR6384), which offers significant short-term and long-term solutions to our energy woes that amount to economic enslavement of the poor. The increase of African-American and senior groups speaking out on this issue is a new and unexpected twist in this debate. Evidently, it has made a lot of people nervous on Capitol Hill.

This week a partisan political group, funded by radical green groups, is answering our call. US House of Representative Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and several African-American leaders will release their take on the impact of climate change on the poor - especially the African-American community. Although credible experts will be called to stand with them, the central question of how to alleviate the short term suffering (5 or less years) of the urban and rural poor will likely remain unanswered.

My premise for continuing my comments from last week is that no one has realistically taken up the cause of the poor in the discussion of energy policy. I hope that the information here will inspire you to join a growing army of justice-minded Americans that believe we should not turn over our national checkbook without knowing the specific return on investment we will receive for our efforts. Further, environmental justice must include consideration of the domestic poor who live in New York, Chicago, and DC. This faceless and voiceless group must be represented.

If gasoline prices rise to $6/gallon, the situation will financially destroy many vulnerable citizens who are living on the edge in this challenging economic environment.

Here are some facts I would like you to consider:

• Median-income families devote about a nickel on every dollar of income to energy costs, while poor families must devote as much as 50 cents on their dollar.

• High-energy prices are one of the single biggest drivers of homelessness.

• The nation's low-income population pays three to seven times more on energy than non-low income households.

• In order to cope with higher home energy and gasoline costs, 70 percent of households have reduced food purchases; 30 percent reduced purchases of medicine and 20 percent changed plans for their own or their children’s education.

• Eight percent of households with incomes between $33,500 and $55,000 have had their electricity shut off this year due to non-payment.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.