Every January, the New York State legislature returns to Albany for the beginning of a new legislative session. In the early weeks of the session, the Governor addresses the legislature—and advocates across the state, at large—outlining their vision for New York State in the coming year, their policy agenda and priorities. This year, in advance of Governor Hochul’s 2023 State of the State, the New York State Poor People’s Campaign released a Poor People’s State of the State, an honest look at the state of poverty in New York and the crises that poor and low-income New Yorkers are facing in 2023.
8.6 million people in our state—nearly 50% of all New Yorkers—are struggling to meet their basic needs. At the same time, New York ranks first in the nation in “extreme wealth.” It is unsurprising, then, that New York has the greatest income inequality in the nation, as well; the income of New York’s top one percent is more than 62 times the average income of New Yorkers in the bottom 90 percent.
The Poor People’s State of the State is an attempt to shed some light on the dire state poor and low-income New Yorkers are facing in 2023. The report is organized around the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation, all of which have profound negative consequences for the 8.6 million poor and low-income New Yorkers. Together, they show the influence of a warped moral compass that promotes unbridled individualism, reactionary religious nationalism, and the continuing hold of white supremacy.
It is our hope that the Poor People’s State of the State will inspire and challenge Governor Kathy Hochul and New York State’s political and economic elites to enact policies that fully, adequately, and meaningfully address the needs and demands of poor and low-income New Yorkers.
New York state was built on the structural denial of basic human rights to people not of European descent, beginning as a colony with the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the enslavement of African people. While our laws, institutions, and cultural practices may have changed, the inequalities created and perpetuated by systemic racism remain. We can clearly see the ways systemic racism continues to impact people of color in New York State in the trends and policies related to health and longevity, intergenerational wealth and debt, education, incarceration, and police brutality.
The 2023 Poor People's State of the State Report also includes video testimony from our community members—check out all the videos on the NYSPPC youtube channel here.
Nearly half of all New Yorkers are shackled by the grind of poverty in 2023. As the most unequal state in the nation—when looking at income inequality—, addressing the issue of widespread poverty must be a central priority for legislators during the 2023 legislative session. The #PPSOS2023 breaks down poverty in New York State by race and gender and seeks to demonstrate the connections between low wages and the continued denial of basic human rights, like access to comprehensive healthcare and adequate housing.
In 2021, New Yorkers contributed nearly $65 billion in tax funding to the United States military. Rather than funding the death and destruction caused by American wars around the world, that money could be better spent on education, healthcare, housing, and infrastructure in our most vulnerable communities. The continued militarism of the United States government and the war economy has had devastating impacts on poor and low-income communities across the nation and has contributed significantly to the disproportionate trauma faced by veterans, and the all-too-often suicides that follow.
As the United States government continues to ignore the state of our planet, ecological devastation has transitioned from a slow process to an everyday concern. In a society structured around profit, instead of the well-being of people and the planet, even the smallest of natural phenomena can have a devastating impact on our poorest and most vulnerable community members.
Any true State of the State must include a clear account of the material conditions faced by the nearly half of all New Yorkers living in economically distressed circumstances. That’s why the New York State Poor People’s campaign has released our Poor People’s State of the State, which we believe portrays a more honest account of the crises faced by our communities than the Governor and the New York State legislature are willing to admit.
In our communities across the state, we’ve seen the deep and lasting impact that decades of social policy that ignores the lived conditions of millions of New Yorkers have had. Instead of continuing to ignore poor and low-income New Yorkers—who are disproportionately included in other marginalized communities, as well—we call on Governor Hochul and New York State legislators to meet regularly with poor and economically distressed people active in the New York Poor People’s Campaign, to hear their needs in their own voices, and to include them in the ongoing process of policy formulation to guide the legislative agenda.
This is the agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. If you haven’t yet, check out our Poor People’s State of the State, and the accompanying video testimonies, in full here.