Claudia Nelson had heard about income disparity across the metro, but is wasn't until her adult son had to move his family of six back with her that the problem literally hit home.
"There's a real face to the struggle," she said. "We keep hearing that the country is in recovery, but we're not recovering. There are real individuals suffering with low wage, underemployment, permanent jobs not available."
That's why she and two dozen other community activists and faith leaders with Communities Creating Opportunity rallied in the shadows of Kansas City's Federal Reserve. The reason - an economist at the Federal Reserve released in a report that the middle class is shrinking and it's leading to what he calls "job polarization."
"We have to have a moral economy in which dignity is at the center of public life," said Wynne Begun with Communities Creating Opportunity, or CCO.
They say that a moral economy starts by creating more educational opportunities for children and youth locally, regulating pay day loan interest rates at the state level and asking the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low.
"When is enough wealth, enough wealth?" Episcopalian Bishop Martin Field asked. He's with the Diocese of West Missouri. "I think there's a difference between the capitalism that allows everyone to lift themselves up and the capitalism that traps people at the bottom so people at the top can prosper far beyond anyone else." CCO said that while their action plan won't immediately fix the country's, or even the metro's, it's a start.
Here are some of the changes communities creating opportunity wants to see:
- Ban predatory lending
- Increase the minimum wage
- Address racial and gender barriers in the work place
Read the CCO's full report here.
Read the Federal Reserve's report on the shrinking middle class here.
Terra Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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