(CNSNews.com) - Because the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, according to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
A CNN anchor asked Ellison on Thursday, "How do you explain what is going on in Baltimore this week?"
"Well, of course, excessive police officers and staggering unemployment go together," Ellison responded, "because what we've done in the United States, as we've said, that the affluent part of our society is going to demand more tax breaks, more wealth, more privilege, leaving less for the less fortunate, and the way we keep the less fortunate in control is through policing and prisons. That is the unfortunate formula we constructed."
Ellison also made the point that Americans are "all connected."
"We have got to say that, look, you can make good money, but do you have to make so much that whole neighborhoods have nothing, and not even any hope? That's the problem that we are facing right here."
Ellison noted that the neighborhoods of both Freddie Gray and Michael Brown -- two men who died after encounters with police -- had very high unemployment.
"You've got to make an investment, and our society has to decide, are we going to pay the police and prisons to keep the poor out of control, or we're going to invest to include everybody in this economy?"
Ellison told CNN's "New Day" that the answer is simple:
"It starts with one, investing in the infrastructure. Investing in the educational opportunity for the people there, raising minimum wage, making sure people can go to the doctor. I mean, we are -- there is a big fight all across the country over minimum wage.
"In the McDonald's, the CEO makes $9,000 an hour, and they act like they don't want to...pay people $15. In fact, people are making $7, $8 an hour. This is the problem. This is the heart of it.
"And then, of course, that leaves the problems with housing. Freddie Gray lived in a house with excessive lead paint, which is again another marker of poverty. And he had ingested that like literally thousands of kids in Baltimore and kids all over the United States suffer from.
"So, my point is, can we stop saying that I've got to make $9,000 an hour? I've got to have a tax cut, I don't want to pay the estate tax, and, oh, isn't that a shame of what happened in Baltimore?
"We are connected here, and we are all Americans. We have got to say that, look, you can make good money, but do you have to make so much that whole neighborhoods have nothing, and not even any hope? That's the problem that we are facing right here."
Ellison said there are many people in Freddie Gray's neighborhood "who really want to work, who have talents, who want to make a life for themselves and their children."
He urged the media to "humanize" the people who live in impoverished neighborhoods "so that folks around America have some compassion" for them.
"And there are parents all over Baltimore and Detroit and Indianapolis and L.A. struggling to try to make a life for their kids, and the rest of us need to care about that."
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