American democracy is in a state of disrepair. The symptoms are clear: loss of public confidence in government; levels of poverty and inequality not seen in decades; abuse of power by economic elites on Wall Street and beyond, to name a few. On issue after issue of national concern, politicians seem incapable of meeting our challenges, careening instead between crises and looking for others to blame. The causes are many and complex, but foremost among them is the legalized purchasing of political power by wealthy interests and the lack of political equality for all.
The time has come to tell a new story about the human cost of political inequality for America’s “second class citizens”–and the potential for deep democratic reform. Following Tocqueville’s Democracy in America tour by Greyhound bus on a poverty-line budget of $16/day, reform advocate Dan Weeks will interview working poor citizens to explore the complex relation-ship between institutional poverty and political power in the US, including:
- what it means to be poor and (seek to) participate in democracy;
- the pathways by which economic inequalities enter the political sphere and undermine political equality;
- how current political arrangements deepen and reinforce poverty through the lens of economic, health, and education policy; and
- the moral and practical consequences of poverty for self-governance.
The book will also propose a slate of essential democratic process reforms, based on citizen input, that constitute a pro-poor, pro‐democracy anti‐corruption agenda on which most Americans can agree. Starting financial support has been generously provided by the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, with participation from political reform and anti-poverty networks.