Despite reports that the U.S. economy is showing some signs of recovery, jobs continue to disappear and the number of violent crimes involving firearms seem to be on the rise. On this week's "Upfront with Jesse Jackson" television program, Rev. Jackson and a panel of guests discussed the economy, gun violence, and the state of the auto industry.
"It's midday in our politics but midnight in our economy," said Rev. Jackson. "The economic stimulus money has gotten out of Washington but it has not made it to our neighborhoods where the people need it the most."
Guests on the program were: Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network; Jennifer Bishop, president of the Illinois Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and Mark Haasis, Illinois Legislative Director for the United Auto Workers.
On Thursday, a 39-year-old security guard was shot and killed by an 88-year-old gunman at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. It was reported the shooter, James von Brunn, a Maryland resident who has done time for taking a gun into the U.S. Federal Reserve and has also written books on Adolf Hitler and his views on white superiority, walked into the popular tourist attraction with a loaded rifle and opened fire.
"We are definitely seeing a pattern here," said Bishop. "How in this country did a man with that background get a gun?"
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law a ban on assault rifles which outlawed the manufacture and possession of certain makes of automatic weapons. The law expired in 2004.
Rev. Sharpton added, "We are now seeing the admission that racist hate groups exist and they are armed. But the public has very little knowledge about who they are. This was an 88-year-old man. If I had seen him at O'Hare Airport I would have been ready to embrace him."
The panel agreed that these acts of "domestic terrorism" are in part due to the lack of hope that many Americans are feeling.
Also this week, the New York Times reported that, with approximately 2,000 Chrysler and General Motors dealers losing their franchises, the dealers are pressing Congress to reverse what they see as an unfair process that is forcing some profitable businesses to close with no explanation from the manufacturers of why they were singled out.
"We are very sympathetic to those dealerships that are closing down," said Haasis. "America has to look at what it will really mean if we totally lose our manufacturing jobs. There are huge implications for us on many levels if we lose our manufacturing base."
Haasis went on to add, "The crisis we as Americans now find ourselves in is a culmination of our problems with healthcare, trade policy and the environment. All of these issues are interlinked."
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund's 38th Annual Conference is a "call to action" to those struggling during this economic downturn. During this historic conference, which has the theme "A More Perfect Union - Targeted Stimulus: The Key to Reconstruction," Rev. Jackson and some of the nation's most prominent leaders will discuss the process of reconstructing America during the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression.
"We must being to organize from the bottom up," said Jonathan Jackson. "We have to begin to deal with the essential problems that led us to this crisis and then come up with real solutions."
"Upfront with Jesse Jackson" airs every Saturday at 9 p.m. CST on the WORD Network.