Can MLK’s Dream Be Reborn in the Economic Stimulus Package?

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated forty years ago in Memphis, he was calling for a campaign that would unite the poor and working classes of all races behind a shared economic future. Today, with ever increasing income gaps, rising oil prices, rapid climate change, expanding outsourcing, and economic instability, Dr. King’s dream is as necessary as ever.

As we honor King’s life and vision tomorrow, it’s time for his dream to be reborn, not only to meet the still-lingering challenges from his time but also the unique challenges of ours.

Today, as Congress prepares a giant Economic Stimulus Package, there is no better way to honor Dr. King’s memory and continue his struggle than to demand that Congress go green and go equal in the stimulus.

The economic stimulus package could simply go towards short-term consumer spending that may temporarily prop up our economy, or it could help lay the foundation of prolonged economic prosperity. We could invest in new iPhones or in a sustainable, just, and prosperous energy future. It’s up to Congress now to decide which.

Cross-posted at DailyKos

While crafting a national stimulus package, Congress should develop policy measures that not only help keep our economy out of recession in the short-term, but also make smart investments in longer-term, sustained economic prosperity by moving our nation towards a clean energy economy that provides employment opportunities for all Americans.

In addressing America’s current economic difficulties, we have a unique opportunity to not only avoid a recession, but also to address one of the root causes of our current economic woes: high energy prices and our dependence on dirty and depleting fossil fuels. We have an opportunity to act boldly to strengthen American energy independence, invest in the clean, sustainable energy sources that will form the foundation of a new era of economic prosperity, and take aim at global warming – all while putting hundreds of thousands of Americans to work.

More specifically, Congress should ensure that all tax cuts and direct spending measures promote a clean energy economy that provides economic opportunities for all Americans, including the poor and working class. This would mean, for example:

  • Funding a public Clean Energy Corps that offers work and service opportunities to the young and poor to combat climate change through energy efficiency and weatherization projects;
  • Expanded and immediate funding of the recent Green Jobs Act (GJA), Title X of the EISA;
  • Directing infrastructure investments toward transit, “green” infrastructure in water and sewer, mixed use dense development, walkable communities, and overall reductions in vehicle miles traveled and our nation’s carbon footprint;
  • Investing in improving our electricity grid to be “smarter” in improving end-use efficiency, allowing greater use of distributed renewable energy generation, and increasing its own efficiency in using the interconnected components of our national energy generation system;
  • Using additional monies allocated to LIHEAP for improving building energy efficiency as well as home heating assistance, and removing current constraints on such use;
  • Establishing federal credit guarantees for state and municipal “efficiency utilities” promoting energy conservation efforts in transportation, industry, and buildings;
  • Establishing a federal revolving loan fund to support such efforts;
  • Provide personal tax credits or rebates to encourage the purchase and installation of energy efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems;

By increasing national energy efficiency, reducing out-of-pocket energy spending, and creating employment opportunities, the measures above will meet basic stimulus goals while furthering national objectives of climate protection, energy security, and economic equity. This year’s stimulus package offers the unique opportunity to advance all these aims, and we encourage you to seize it.

A new clean energy economy must provide equal opportunity and equal protection for all. Dr. King was working towards this dream when he was killed. Let us come together now to continue his unfinished work and create a more sustainable, just, and prosperous America. Help spread the word and put pressure on Congress to focus on solutions to the recession that also achieve longer-term economic prosperity, equal opportunity and a sustainable energy economy.

Let the Dream be Reborn!

[Image source:]

2 Responses to “Can MLK’s Dream Be Reborn in the Economic Stimulus Package?”

  1. 1 billyparish Jan 21st, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Right on, Jesse. Click this link to send a message to your member of Congress:

    The message reads: “Dear Members of Congress,
    In considering your economic stimulus package, please work to ensure that all proposed tax cuts and direct spending promote a clean energy economy and opportunities for poor and working class people. Through strategic investments in energy efficiency, mass transit and a Clean Energy Corps, we can not only avoid short-term recession, but also put hundreds of thousands of people to work and create a secure economic and environmental future for all Americans.”

  2. 2 Cheryl DeSanctis Jan 23rd, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I understand you all are trying to make a powerful statement with the respect of standing by Dr. Martin Luther King and his fight for EQUAL RIGHTS. Well I do hope you can re write and make a clearer statement of the crisis we face now and how it is connected to how as a society need to fight and stand up for what is right for the underprivileged people in this world. Dr. Martin Luther King fought for ANTI-RACISM. “Can his dream be reborn”!!??? really?? the respect he deserves and speak to the people to start thinking and acting like there is no other choice, fighting for what is RIGHT, like he did!

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About Jesse

Jesse Jenkins is an energy and climate policy analyst, advocate, and blogger. Jesse is the Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, California, where he works to develop and advance new energy solutions to power America's future, secure our energy freedom, and halt global warming. He joined Breakthrough in June 2008 and previously directed the Breakthrough Generation fellowship program for young clean energy leaders. Jesse worked previously as a Research and Policy Associate at the Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, OR, helping to advance the development of the Pacific Northwest's abundant renewable energy potential. A prolific author and blogger on clean energy issues, Jesse is the founder and chief editor of WattHead - Energy News and Commentary, a featured writer and advisory board member at the Energy Collective, and a frequent contributor at, Huffington Post, and

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