Category Archives: Poverty

Biden Presents Plan to ‘Build Back Better’ by Advancing Racial Equity Across the American Economy

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, has offered a long list of specific plans to solve the nation’s most pressing problems, and now crises (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Against an incumbent who only knows how to destroy, tear down, break up, cast blame, Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, has offered a long list of specific plans to solve the nation’s most pressing problems, and now crises. Here he outlines his plan to Build Back Better with a specific agenda for advancing racial equity in the American economy. This is from the Biden campaign:

The Biden Plan to Build Back Better by Advancing Racial Equity Across the American Economy

Joe Biden’s jobs and economic recovery agenda is built on the proposition that we must build our economy back better than it was before the COVID-19 crisis.
 
Over the last month, Biden has been laying out his vision for a stronger, resilient, and inclusive economy. He believes in an economy where every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead. An economy more vibrant and more powerful precisely because everybody will be included in the deal. An economy where Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and Native American workers and families are finally welcomed as full participants.
 
Today, multiple, overlapping crises reinforce how far we have to go to deliver on that vision. The pandemic has shone a bright light on racial disparities in health and health care — as Black and Brown Americans have suffered and died from the coronavirus at rates far higher than white Americans. The economic crisis has hit Black and Brown communities especially hard, with Black unemployment at 15.4 percent, Latino unemployment at 14.5 percent, and businesses owned by Black, Latino, and Asian American people closing down at alarming rates. We are also seeing a national reckoning on racial justice and the tragic human costs of systemic racism in the murder of George Floyd and so many other Black men, women, and children. And through it all, the climate crisis mounts, with air and water pollution, superstorms and extreme weather, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities.
 
Biden believes we cannot build back better without a major mobilization of effort and resources to address these challenges and to advance racial equity across the American economy. That is why racial equity is a distinct pillar of his Build Back Better plan, as well as incorporated in each of the other pillars. Biden will remove barriers to participation in our economy, expand access to opportunity, and fully enforce the policies and laws that we already have on the books — and the pledges Biden has made in this campaign.
 
In laying out his Build Back Better agenda, Biden has announced bold investments — in infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing, education, housing, clean energy, federal procurement, and small businesses. Today, as the fourth pillar of the Build Back Better Agenda, he is announcing how he will direct many of these investments to advance racial equity as part of our nation’s economic recovery.
 
Specifically, Biden will:

  • Spur Public-Private Investment through a New Small Business Opportunity Plan
  • Reform Opportunity Zones to Fulfill Their Promise
  • Make a Historic Commitment to Equalizing Federal Procurement
  • Ensure His Housing Plan Makes Bold Investments in Homeownership and Access to Affordable Housing for Black, Brown, and Native Families
  • Achieve Equity in Management, Training, and Higher Education Opportunities Connected to the Jobs of the Future
  • Boost Retirement Security and Financial Wealth for Black, Brown, and Native Families
  • Ensure Workers of Color Are Compensated Fairly and Treated With Dignity
  • Ensure Equity in Biden’s Bold Infrastructure and Clean Energy Investments
  • Support Second Chances for Economic Success
  • Strengthen the Federal Reserve’s Focus on Racial Economic Gaps
  • Promote Diversity and Accountability in Leadership Across Key Positions in All Federal Agencies
  • Build a 21st Century Care Infrastructure
  • Address Longstanding Inequities in Agriculture 

SPUR PUBLIC-PRIVATE INVESTMENT THROUGH A NEW SMALL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY PLAN
 
Small business ownership is one of our country’s cornerstones for wealth building and job creation. However, persistent racial disparities in wealth and access to capital, combined with outright discrimination in the financial sector, have contributed to inequities in small business ownership, growth, and success. To address the racial wealth gap, the opportunity gap, and the jobs gap for Black and Brown people, Biden will launch a historic effort to empower small business creation and expansion in economically disadvantaged areas – and particularly for Black-, Latino-, AAPI-, and Native American-owned businesses. In addition to providing small businesses with an ambitious “restart package” to survive the current crisis and come out the other side strong, he is launching a special, ongoing initiative to empower these entrepreneurs to succeed and grow with a three-prong Small Business Opportunity Plan. His plan is consistent with key elements in the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act recently proposed by Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Mark Warner, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. Biden will:

  • Spur more than $50 billion in additional public-private venture capital to Black and Brown entrepreneurs by funding successful state and local investment initiatives and making permanent the highly effective New Markets Tax Credit.
  • Expand access to $100 billion in low-interest business loans by funding state, local, tribal and non-profit lending programs in Black and Brown communities and strengthening Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), and the Community Reinvestment Act.
  • Eliminate barriers to technical assistance and advisory services by investing in a national network of cost-free business incubators and innovation hubs and intensive business seminars.

Collectively, Biden will leverage more than $150 billion in new capital and opportunities for small businesses that have been structurally excluded for generations. Biden will devote $30 billion (or 10%) of the $300 billion in innovation funding as part of his plan to ensure the future is “Made in All of America” to the Small Business Opportunity Fund to leverage private investment of $5 for each $1 of new public investment to reach this $150 billion. And, by empowering the financial institutions that support businesses owned by Black and Brown people, generating new capital, and providing robust technical assistance, Biden will unleash the full potential of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
 
Spur More than $50 Billion in New Equity Investment and Venture Capital for Entrepreneurs in Economically Disadvantaged Areas: Black and Brown entrepreneurs face unique barriers to obtaining the capital that they need to start and grow a business. For example, three-fourths of venture capital goes to just four cities – and far too little flows to businesses owned by Black and Brown people. To address this problem, Biden will:  

  • Dramatically increase the availability of venture capital investments for small businesses, especially those owned by Black and Brown people. The Obama-Biden Administration’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) succeeded in expanding venture capital in states and areas too often left behind. More than 80% of venture capital supported by the SSBCI went to states that typically receive just 20% of private venture capital. Biden will expand those efforts by allocating $10 billion from the new Small Business Opportunity Fund to state and local venture capital programs that, based on past SSBCI investments, can spur $50 billion in new equity investment for small businesses. This new investment will be targeted to entrepreneurs who create jobs and growth in lower-income urban, tribal, and rural areas, with an emphasis on reaching businesses owned by Black and Brown people. This robust funding will help meet the goal Biden laid out in his “Made in All of America” initiative of venture capital and innovation investments benefiting all Americans across all of America.
  • Encourage private equity investment in businesses owned by Black and Brown people by expanding the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) to $5 billion yearly and making it permanent.  The NMTC provides a credit of up to 40% for equity investment in small businesses that are pre-approved as benefiting low- and moderate-income areas. It is highly efficient: Every $1 of public funding leverages $8 of private investment. Through 2019, the NMTC supported $100 billion of investments in businesses and economic development projects to help revitalize disadvantaged communities. Expanding the NMTC will provide more investors the incentive to fund businesses owned by Black and Brown people. By increasing NMTC funding and making it permanent  – together with the bold new venture funding in the Small Business Opportunity Fund – Biden will help ensure that more than $50 billion in additional venture and equity capital flows to small businesses and communities that have been held back due to systemic racism. And he will work to ensure that tribal projects benefit from the credit. 

Leverage $100 Billion in Additional Financing for Small Businesses: In 2019, only 10% of funding from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) major lending programs went to Black, Latino, and Native American entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the Paycheck Protection Program has been rife with inequities: A recent “secret shopper” study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that when Black small businesses applicants contacted a bank, nearly half the time, they were given inferior treatment to white applicants with nearly identical credit histories and business profiles. To address this problem, Biden will:

  • Expand lending through the expanded Small Business Opportunity Fund. Every $1 for state lending programs under the Obama-Biden SSBCI was proven to leverage anywhere from $5 to $23 of increased lending for small businesses through lending programs like capital access programs, revolving loan funds, and collateral assistance. Approximately 80% went to small businesses with 10 or fewer full-time employees. Biden will dramatically expand and broaden successful state, local, tribal, and non-profit programs that provide low-cost lending to minority small businesses and others serving underserved areas. In addition to supporting state initiatives for disadvantaged small businesses, Biden will also include an innovation fund that will allow coalitions of cities, CDFIs, or non-profits to seek funding to create or expand small business lending programs that disproportionately benefit small businesses owned by Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American people and those serving low income communities.
  • Capitalize Community Development Financial Institutions. CDFIs are on the frontlines of the battle to close the racial wealth gap. Biden will seek to expand the role of CDFIs in underserved communities around the country by doubling their direct funding, making them a top vehicle for funding from the Small Business Opportunity Fund, and expanding their capacity to offer both micro-loans to small start-ups and larger loans to existing small businesses who have the capacity to grow. Biden will use the Small Business Opportunity Fund to strengthen CDFI stability and lend through targeted policies, such as those proposed in the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act. He will also ensure these investments direct increased resources to the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program), which has proven a successful way to increase capital access across Indian Country.
  • Ensure all small business relief efforts are specifically designed to aid businesses owned by Black and Brown people. Trump’s team designed the PPP to allow the largest banks to give their most well-off clients “concierge” service at the front of the line while closing the door on Black-, Latino-, AAPI-, and Native American-owned businesses that did not have deep relationships with big banks. Biden will ensure from the start that any emergency small business relief plan that will still be needed in January 2021 will have clear provisions to ensure that true small businesses — especially those owned by Black and Brown people and those serving underserved rural, tribal, and urban areas — get the relief they need. He will reserve half of new small business relief — whether the PPP or future efforts — for small businesses with 50 employees or fewer, including microbusinesses and sole proprietorships, so the bigger and more well-connected aren’t able to win in a first-come, first-served race. Biden’s technical assistance programs — described below — will also involve “navigator” assistance for small — often minority-owned — businesses to ensure fair access to these programs.
  • Strengthen and expand the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that our nation’s bank and non-bank financial services institutions are serving all communities. The Community Reinvestment Act currently regulates banks, but does little to ensure that “fintechs” and non-bank lenders are providing responsible access to all members of the community. On top of that gap, the Trump Administration is proposing to weaken the law by allowing lenders to receive a passing rating even if the lenders are excluding many neighborhoods and borrowers. Biden will expand the Community Reinvestment Act to apply to mortgage and insurance companies, add a requirement for financial services institutions to provide a statement outlining their commitment to the public interest, and, importantly, reverse new rules that allow these institutions to avoid lending and investing in all of the communities they serve.

Expanding Access to Additional Resources and Technical Assistance for Black and Brown Entrepreneurs: There are no limits or barriers to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit across our nation. Yet, for many, there are major limits to accessing the networks and professional services needed to succeed. For small businesses in underserved communities, this type of assistance is often unavailable or unaffordable, creating an additional barrier to opportunity. As President, Biden will launch an Expanding Entrepreneurship Initiative that provides all Americans, regardless of their background, with the resources and technical assistance they need to start and grow their own business. This initiative will:

  • Create a national network of federally funded small business incubators and innovation hubs. Many new businesses stand to benefit from the proliferation of for- and non-profit business incubators and innovation hubs. However, these organizations do not exist in every community and are rarely free. As President, Biden will increase federal funding for non-profit incubators and innovation hubs around the country, especially those serving Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American entrepreneurs to ensure that all Americans, regardless of race or wealth, have a fair shot at starting and growing their own business. Biden will co-locate new hubs on the grounds of Small Business Development Centers, public libraries, community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). These non-profit organizations will offer shared office and manufacturing space; business coaching; opportunities to partner with national laboratories and commercialize federally funded research; and legal, human resources, accounting, regulatory compliance, and information technology services to aspiring entrepreneurs free of charge for a period of up to two years. While some incubators and innovation hubs may specialize in specific industries depending on the regional economy, they will welcome and support all start-ups.
  • Establish an intensive, semester-long business development program at every public community college in the United States, as well as two-year HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Many Americans with a business idea don’t know where to get started. While business classes exist, many of them are prohibitively expensive, especially for an aspiring entrepreneur who is already worried about how they are going to come up with enough money to open their first business. As President, Biden will create a new federal grant program to establish free business development programs at the more than 1,000 public community colleges around the country. Business experts and, where possible, experienced entrepreneurs will lead course instruction and provide hands-on assistance to program participants. Classes will take place during the evenings and on weekends to provide greater flexibility to students and instructors. Upon completion of the free program, participants will be eligible for ongoing technical assistance for up to two years.
  • Increase the funding and stature of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Latino and Black Americans are roughly 30% of the U.S. population; yet they currently own just 7.5% of small businesses with employees. For almost four years, the only federal agency charged with addressing racial disparities in small business ownership has been on the Trump administration’s chopping block. MBDA provides business consulting services and connects minority-owned businesses with capital and contracting opportunities. These services are critical. Instead of trying to reduce or eliminate funding for MBDA, Biden will protect the agency and call on Congress to increase its funding dramatically. Biden will elevate the Director of the MBDA to the Assistant Secretary level and instruct the MBDA to coordinate all federal offices charged with reducing barriers to procurement for underrepresented groups. With additional resources and authority, MBDA will also be able to create new business development grants and other programs that will address the economic challenges facing Black and Brown communities, expand small business ownership, and shrink the racial wealth gap. In addition, Biden will provide MBDA with $5 billion in annual lending and investment authority to ensure capital flows directly to minority-owned businesses and investments in critical infrastructure in Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American communities.
  • Unleash the full potential of businesses owned by Black and Brown people and other disadvantaged businesses to participate in the global marketplace. Biden believes American small businesses can compete and win in global markets – and small businesses owned by Black and Brown people have unique strengths to help win in these markets.  Biden will help Black and Brown Americans grow their exports by: 1) requiring U.S. corporations with over $1 billion in revenues that receive federal financing or incentives for their global business to publicize data on their use of firms owned by Black and Brown Americans in their supply chains; 2) requiring the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and other U.S.-based international development organizations to increase global contracting opportunities for firms owned by Black and Brown Americans; 3) requiring U.S. construction companies and others that build projects abroad for the United States government to develop strategies to increase partnerships with American small businesses owned by Black and Brown people; and 4) requiring the Export-Import Bank to increase its small business financing and develop targets for the percent of authorized value of its transactions going to businesses owned by Black and Brown Americans.
  • Employ the resources of the federal government to protect Native artisans. Arts and crafts are a big economic driver for Indian Country, but too many businesses devalue the livelihood of Native American artists by selling fake Native American art. Biden will call on the U.S. Department of Justice to bring more prosecutions under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a federal truth-in-advertising law that prohibits the marketing and sale of products that are inaccurately marketed as an Indian product or Native-produced.

REFORM OPPORTUNITY ZONES TO ENSURE THEY SERVE BLACK AND BROWN COMMUNITIES, SMALL BUSINESSES, AND HOMEOWNERS
 
Like many Americans, Biden initially hoped that Opportunity Zones would be structured and administered by the Trump Administration in a way that advanced racial equity, small business creation, and homeownership in low-income urban, rural, and tribal communities. It is now clear that the Trump Administration has failed to deliver on that promise in too many places around America. As the Urban Institute has found, the program as a whole is “not living up to its economic and community development goals.” While there have been positive examples, in too many instances investors favor high-return projects like luxury apartments over affordable housing and local entrepreneurs.
 
We cannot close the racial wealth gap if we allow billionaires to exploit Opportunity Zones tax breaks to pad their wealth, rather than investing in projects that benefit distressed low-income communities and Americans that are struggling to make ends meet. As President, Joe Biden will task his team to develop a plan for reforming Opportunity Zones, including steps like:

  • Incentivizing Opportunity Funds to partner with non-profit or community-oriented organizations, and jointly produce a community-benefit plan for each investment, with a focus on creating jobs for low-income residents and otherwise providing a direct financial impact to households within the Opportunity Zones.
  • Directing that Opportunity Zone benefits be reviewed by the Department of Treasury to ensure these tax benefits are only being allowed where there are clear economic, social, and environmental benefits to a community, and not just high returns — like those from luxury apartments or luxury hotels — to investors.
  • Introducing transparency by requiring recipients of the Opportunity Zone tax break to provide detailed reporting and public disclosure on their Opportunity Zone investments and the impact on local residents, including poverty status, housing affordability, and job creation.

MAKE A HISTORIC COMMITMENT TO EQUALIZING FEDERAL PROCUREMENT AS PART OF HIS BOLD PROCUREMENT PLAN
 
Biden’s Build Back Better plan includes a historic procurement effort designed to support small businesses and tackle long standing inequities in the federal contracting system. During his first term, Biden will tighten Buy American requirements for existing procurement and invest $400 billion in additional federal purchases of products made by American workers. And, he will make transparent, targeted investments that unleash new demand for domestic goods and services and create American jobs in communities across the country. As part of this effort, his multi-pronged small business contracting strategy will include formula-based awards; widespread outreach and counseling to small business owners, especially Black and Brown business owners; and transparent, frequent monitoring of contract awards. This will make certain that the largest mobilization of public investments in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since WWII is equitably distributed across communities and businesses. Biden will also take concrete steps to streamline the federal procurement process as a whole and ensure it finally mirrors the demographics of this country. Specifically, Biden will:

  • Require prime contractors to develop and execute plans to increase subcontracting opportunities for small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs). As President, Biden will fully enforce existing laws that require prime contractors who bid for federal procurement opportunities to develop ambitious plans for subcontracting with small disadvantaged businesses. Biden will ensure prime contractors honor their commitments to SDBs by requiring detailed status updates and increasing SBA’s capacity to provide robust oversight and hold all bad actors accountable. Prime contractors will also have to regularly publish their business diversity data. The MBDA will publish an annual report that outlines the current state of minority business contracting (including racially disaggregated data on contract awards), updates the public on the administration’s progress towards meeting contracting goals, and identifies areas for improvement.
  • Expand long-term technical assistance and federal contracting preferences for small disadvantaged businesses. The SBA 8(a) program is currently one of the most effective tools for connecting small disadvantaged businesses to federal contracting opportunities. In Fiscal Year 2019 alone, 8(a) firms won $30 billion in federal contracts. As President, Biden will triple the federal goal for contracting with all small disadvantaged businesses from 5 percent to a minimum of 15 percent of all federal procurement dollars by 2025. He will increase the program’s administrative capacity, bolster marketing of the program in Black and Brown communities and tribal lands, streamline the application process, and create a national standard for service delivery. Biden will also extend the maximum length of time that a firm may participate in the 8(a) program and create a more supportive off-ramp to help graduates transition out. Biden will require public disclosure of program participant demographics to ensure participation is equitable.
  • Incentivize state and local governments and private sector partners to contract with small disadvantaged businesses. As Biden works to improve the federal procurement system, he will ask state and local governments and private sector partners to publicly share their small disadvantaged business contracting goals and strategies. Biden will work with them to develop new goals for SDB contracting and timebound strategies for achieving these goals. The administration will facilitate partnerships between these entities and require every institution that applies for federal grants, contracts, and other opportunities to demonstrate in writing how they are taking affirmative steps to extend contracting opportunities to underrepresented groups. And, he will publish a nationwide scorecard of each state’s efforts to contract with small disadvantaged businesses.
  • Protect small disadvantaged businesses from federal and state contract bundling which often prevents smaller firms owned by Black and Brown people from effectively bidding on procurement contracts. Biden will build on the anti-bundling provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, by having the Office of Management and Budget, SBA, and MBDA conduct a government-wide review of existing contract bundling to determine whether agencies are following existing rules and whether agencies have the ability to further ensure small business participation in federal and state procurement opportunities.
  • Strengthen implementation of the Buy Indian Act within the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service to increase procurement opportunities for Native owned businesses.

Throughout, Biden will ensure federal dollars support American workers and their families. As called for in his plan to strengthen worker organizing, collective bargaining, and unions, Biden will require that all companies receiving procurement contracts are using taxpayer dollars to support good American jobs, including a commitment to pay at least $15 per hour, provide paid leave, maintain fair overtime and scheduling practices, and guarantee a choice to join a union and bargain collectively.

ENSURE HIS HOUSING PLAN MAKES BOLD INVESTMENTS IN HOMEOWNERSHIP AND ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR BLACK, LATINO, NATIVE, AND AAPI FAMILIES
 
Biden believes the middle class isn’t a number, but a value set that includes the ability to own your own home and live in a safe community. Housing should be a right, not a privilege.
 
Today, however, far too many Americans lack access to affordable and quality housing. Racial inequality permeates U.S. housing markets, with homeownership rates for Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American households far below those of their white counterparts. Because home ownership is how many families save and build wealth, these racial disparities in home ownership contribute to the racial wealth gap. It is far past time to put an end to systemic housing discrimination and other contributors to this disparity.
 
At the same time, many families around the country face immediate risk of eviction in the midst of the Trump-created economic crisis. In June, more than one-third of renters—including 49% of Hispanic families and 43% of Black families— were not sure that they could pay their next month’s rent. To prevent a catastrophic rise in evictions and homelessness, Congress and President Trump must act now by creating a broad emergency housing support program modeled on the steps the government takes to address natural disasters, in order to get help out quickly and at scale. 
 
To help families build wealth, secure a safe place to live in a vibrant and prosperous community, and ensure equal access to all aspects of the housing market, Biden will:

  • Help families buy their first homes and build wealth by creating a new refundable, advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000. Biden’s new First Down Payment Tax Credit will help low- and middle-income families offset the costs of home buying and help millions of families lay down roots for the first time. Building off of a temporary tax credit expanded as part of the Recovery Act, this tax credit will be permanent and advanceable, meaning that homebuyers receive the tax credit when they make the purchase instead of waiting to receive the assistance when they file taxes the following year.
  • Scale up support for investing in homeownership in revitalization areas. Several programs are designed to provide much needed support for families to invest in homeownership in distressed or marginalized neighborhoods including: HUD’s Good Neighbor Next Door program, which offers financial support for teachers, firefighters, and other critical workers to buy homes in distressed communities, and HUD’s Home Investment Partnership Program, which offers block grants for states to address the affordable housing challenges faced by low- and moderate-income families. And the proposed Neighborhood Homes Investment Act will provide tax credits for families to renovate distressed properties in distressed communities. A Biden Administration will scale these programs to help revitalize distressed neighborhoods across the nation and put more families into position to build wealth through homeownership.  
  • Spur the construction of 1.5 million homes and public housing units to address the affordable housing crisis, increase energy efficiency, and reduce the racial wealth gap. Biden will make a bold federal investment in new affordable, accessible housing construction. He will ensure these homes are energy efficient from the start – saving the families who live there up to $500 per year. Biden will also drive additional capital into low-income communities and on tribal lands to spur the development of affordable housing and small business creation. He’ll incentivize smart regional planning that connects housing, transit, and jobs, improving quality of life by cutting commute times, reducing the distance between living and leisure areas, and mitigating climate change. For all of these new housing investments, those receiving assistance will be required to abide by high labor standards and source materials in the U.S. so that jobs created with these investments support family sustaining wages and benefits.
  • Call for more accurate, non-discriminatory, inclusive credit scoring and create a public credit reporting agency. Being able to obtain an accurate credit report and score  is a critical step for homeownership. But today credit scoring and reports, which are issued by just three large private companies, are rife with problems: they often contain errors, they leave many “credit invisible” due to the sources used to generate a credit score, and they contribute to racial disparities. Biden will create a new public credit reporting and scoring division within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide consumers with a government option that seeks to minimize racial disparities, for example by ensuring the algorithms used for credit scoring don’t have a discriminatory impact, and by accepting non-traditional sources of data like rental history and utility bills to establish credit. As a first step to more broad-based support for these scores, Biden will call on federal housing programs to accept these scores in their financial assessments and underwriting requirements
  • Protect homeowners and renters from abusive lenders and landlords through a new Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights. Modeled on the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, Biden will enact legislation to end many shortcomings in the mortgage and rental markets.
  • Bolster programs that improve housing affordability for renters. Biden will provide Section 8 housing vouchers to every eligible family so that no one has to pay more than 30% of their income for rental housing and work with Congress to enact a new renter’s tax credit, designed to reduce rent and utilities to 30% of income for low-income individuals and families who may make too much money to qualify for a Section 8 voucher but still struggle to pay their rent.
  • Protect tenants from eviction. In addition to supporting immediate relief for tenants facing eviction during this crisis, Biden will work to enact Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and Senator Michael Bennet’s Legal Assistance to Prevent Evictions Act of 2020, which will help tenants facing eviction access legal assistance. He also will encourage localities to create eviction diversion programs, including mediation, payment plans, and financial literacy education programs.
  • Eliminate local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination. Exclusionary zoning has for decades been strategically used to keep Black and Brown people and low-income families out of certain communities. Among other steps, Biden will enact legislation requiring any state receiving federal dollars through the Community Development Block Grants or Surface Transportation Block Grants to develop a strategy for inclusionary zoning, as proposed in the HOME Act of 2019 by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Senator Cory Booker.
  • Hold financial institutions accountable for discriminatory practices in the housing market. The Obama-Biden Administration held major national financial institutions accountable for discriminatory lending practices, securing hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements to help borrowers who had been harmed by their practices. And in 2013, the Obama-Biden Administration codified a long-standing, court-supported view that lending practices that have a discriminatory impact can be challenged even if discrimination was not explicit. But now the Trump Administration is seeking to gut this disparate impact standard by significantly increasing the burden of proof for those claiming discrimination. In the Biden Administration, this change will be reversed to ensure financial institutions are held accountable for serving all customers and not practicing policies that have the effect of deepening the impacts of systemic housing discrimination.
  • Roll back Trump Administration policies gutting fair lending and fair housing protections for homeowners. Biden will implement the Obama-Biden Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule requiring communities receiving certain federal funding to proactively examine housing patterns and identify and address policies that have a discriminatory effect. The Trump Administration suspended this rule in 2018. Biden will ensure effective and rigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. And, he will reinstate the federal risk-sharing program which has helped secure financing for thousands of affordable rental housing units in partnership with housing finance agencies.   

See Joe Biden’s full housing plan at https://joebiden.com/housing/
 
ACHIEVE EQUITY IN MANAGEMENT, TRAINING, AND HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES CONNECTED TO JOBS OF THE FUTURE
 
Stark racial disparities exist at every stage of our education system. These disparities compound and contribute to inequity in economic, health, housing, and criminal justice outcomes. As President, Biden will make significant investments into educational institutions and programs that are designed to elevate Black and Brown students.  He will:

  • Provide relief from student debt. Student debt burdens are unequal across races, disproportionately depriving young Black and Latino graduates from beginning their working lives free of crushing student loan debt. The typical bachelor’s degree graduate has about $16,000 in debt compared to $23,400 for Black students. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, Black graduates with a four year degree are five times more likely to default on their student loans than white graduates and a 2019 study found that Latino students are more likely than white students to default on their loans. The inequitable burden of student loan debt contributes to the stark racial wealth gap that exists in society. Biden has introduced a sweeping plan to provide relief from student loan debt. He will:
    • Include in the COVID-19 response an immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of federal student loan debt.
    • Double the maximum value of Pell grants and significantly increase the number of middle-class Americans who can participate in the program.
    • More than halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans by simplifying and increasing the generosity of today’s income-based repayment program.
    • Fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and forgiving $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt for every year of national or community service, up to five years.
    • Crack down on private lenders profiteering off students by empowering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take action against private lenders who are misleading students about their options and do not provide an affordable payment plan when individuals are experiencing acute periods of financial hardship.
    • Forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs for debt-holders earning up to $125,000.
  • Make public colleges and universities, as well as private HBCUs and MSIs,  tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000. Biden will make public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs tuition-free for all students whose family incomes are below $125,000. This proposal will help roughly 91 percent of Black households and 88 percent of Latino households, and 91 percent of Native American households.
  • Support colleges and universities that play unique and vital roles in their communities. In his higher education plan, Biden laid out a wide-ranging plan to improve resources available to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges And Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American And Native American Pacific Islander-serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Alaska Native-serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions (ANNHs), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), and Native American-serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs) that serve a disproportionate number of Black and Brown students, yet are severely under-resourced, especially when compared to other colleges and universities. Biden will:
  • Make HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs more affordable for their students. Biden will provide tuition-free access to four-year public HBCUs and MSIs for students from families earning below $125,000. And, he will invest in grants to under-resourced, private-nonprofit HBCUs and MSIs so they can lower the cost of attendance for low- and middle-income students, including DREAMers. Schools receiving funds must invest in lowering costs, improving retention and graduation rates, and closing equity gaps year-over-year for Black and Brown students.
  • Invest in the diverse talent at HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs to solve the country’s most pressing problems. The Biden Administration will invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future – including fields tackling climate change, globalization, inequality, health disparities, and cancer – to learning and career opportunities. These funds will provide additional work study opportunities and incentivize state, private, and philanthropic dollars for these centers. Biden will also boost funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities, many of which are HBCUs and TCUs, as outlined in his Plan for Rural America. As President, Biden will also dedicate additional and increased priority funding streams at federal agencies for grants and contracts for HBCUs and MSIs. And, he will require any federal research grants to universities with an endowment of over $1 billion to form a meaningful partnership and enter into a 10% minimum subcontract with an HBCU, TCU, or MSI.
  • Build the high tech labs and facilities and digital infrastructure needed for learning, research, and innovation at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will invest $20 billion in infrastructure for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to build the physical research facilities and labs urgently needed to deliver on the country’s research and development, to update and modernize deteriorating facilities, including by strengthening the Historic Preservation program, and to create new space for increasing enrollments, especially at HSIs. While schools will be able to use these funds to upgrade the digital infrastructure, Biden will also support TCUs and other institutions in rural areas by investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure and tripling funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. Additionally, as President, Biden will ensure all HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs have access to low-cost federal capital financing programs and will work with states to ensure they can take advantage of these programs. And, he will work to incentivize further public, private, and philanthropic investments in school infrastructure.
  • Provide support to continuously improve the value of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs by investing $10 billion in programs that increase enrollment, retention, completion, and employment rates. These programs may include partnerships with both high schools, other universities, and employers; evidence-based remedial courses; academic and career advising services; and investing in wages, benefits, and professional development and benefits to recruit and retain faculty, including teacher residencies. Additionally, Biden will incentivize states, private, and philanthropic dollars to invest in these programs, while ensuring schools that do not receive matches increase their competitiveness.
  • Expand career pathways for graduates of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in areas that meet national priorities, including building a diverse pipeline of public school teachers. Biden will invest $5 billion in graduate programs in teaching, health care, and STEM and will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies, including Department of Energy National Laboratories, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.
  • Triple and make permanent the capacity-building and student support for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act. These funds serve as a lifeline to under-resourced HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs year over year, ensuring that the most vulnerable students have the support they need to succeed. The Biden Administration will increase Title III and Title V funding to provide a dedicated revenue stream of $7.5 billion over the first ten years.
  • Reduce disparities in funding for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will require federal agencies and states to publish reports of their allocation of federal funding to colleges and universities. When inequities exist between HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs and similar non-HBCU, TCU, MSI colleges, federal agencies and states will be required to publish robust rationale and show improvements in eliminating disparities year-over-year. To ensure funding is more equitably distributed among HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, the Biden Administration will require that competitive grant programs make similar universities compete against each other, for example, ensuring that HBCUs only compete against HBCUs. And, President Biden will require higher education accreditors to provide increased transparency in their processes.
  • Provide two years of community college or other high-quality training program without debt for any person looking to learn and improve their skills, especially to connect  these individuals with the millions of job opportunities created by the historic investments in Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. As President, Biden will enact legislation to ensure that every person can go to community college for up to two years without having to pay tuition. Individuals will also be able to use these funds to pursue training programs that have a track record of participants completing their programs and securing good jobs. This initiative will be available for recent high school graduates and adults who never had the chance to pursue additional education beyond high school or who need to learn new skills.
  • Tackle the barriers that prevent students from completing their community college degree or training credential. There are too many Americans who don’t complete their education or training programs not because of a lack of will, but because of other responsibilities they are juggling, such as a job to pay their bills or caring for children. The Biden Administration’s community college initiative will be a first-dollar program, meaning that students will be able to use their Pell grants, state aid, and other aid to help them cover expenses beyond tuition and fees. In addition, Biden will give states financial incentives to foster collaboration between community colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students. Wraparound support services can range from public benefits and additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups.
  • Make a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. These funds will create and support partnerships between community colleges, businesses, unions, state, local, and tribal governments, universities, and high schools to identify in-demand knowledge and skills in a community and develop or modernize training programs – which could be as short as a few months or as long as two years – that lead to a relevant, high-demand industry-recognized credential. These funds will also exponentially increase the number of apprenticeships in this country through strengthening the Registered Apprenticeship Program and partnering with unions who oversee some of the best apprenticeship programs throughout our nation, not watering down the quality of the apprenticeship system like President Trump is doing. Biden will also make investments in pre-apprenticeship programs so that people of color have additional pathways into high-paying, union jobs in everything from designing to building infrastructure to manufacturing to technology to health. And he will closely monitor programs that receive funding and track participants’ completion rates and employment outcomes to ensure that all Americans, regardless of background, share the benefits of this historic investment.
  • Help develop pathways for diverse workers to access training and career opportunities. A study of Labor Department-funded individual career services — which included assistance looking for a job, help developing career plans, and one-on-one career coaching — found that earnings for workers who were provided these services increased 7 to 20%. Biden will ensure these services are universally available to all workers and people entering the workforce who need them. And, he will increase funding for community-based and proven organizations that help women and people of color access high-quality training and job opportunities.
  • Require publicly traded companies to disclose data on the racial and gender composition of their corporate boards. Corporate boards suffer from a widespread dearth of diversity, with just 21 percent of S&P 500 board seats going to people of color and only 27 percent going to women. As President, Biden will require that public companies disclose in their annual reports the racial and gender composition of the boards to better aid shareholders and advocates in their call for a diverse and inclusive management structure. 

BOOST RETIREMENT SECURITY AND FINANCIAL WEALTH

Black and Brown families – and especially Black and Brown women — face disadvantages at every turn, from access to workplace retirement accounts to access to generational wealth. These disadvantages have resulted in large and persistent gaps in financial wealth. To help Black and Brown people have more opportunities to build up a nest egg, Biden will:

  • Equalize the tax benefits of defined contribution plans: The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. Biden will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement. 
  • Give small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. As proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, the Biden plan will call for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offer tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work – putting millions of middle-class families on the path to a secure retirement.
  • Open the door for Asset Managers owned by Black and Brown people. Reviews of the performance of asset management firms owned by Black and Brown people are consistently equal to or better than “blue chip” asset management firms, yet government-led investment pools consistently fail to utilize them. As President, Biden will ensure that federal government-led investment pools, including pension funds and endowments, allocate their assets in a manner that reflects the diversity of the country, including to asset management firms owned by Black and Brown people. And Biden will require sales of any government assets to include participation of firms owned by Black and Brown people. 

ENSURE WORKERS OF COLOR ARE COMPENSATED FAIRLY AND TREATED WITH DIGNITY
 
Workers of color still earn a fraction of white workers and are less likely to have essential benefits like health coverage and paid leave. In fact, the black-white wage gap persists across every level of education and is widening. And wage gaps are exacerbated for women of color with Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women earning 68 centsBlack women earning 62 cents, Native women earning 57 cents, and Latinas earning 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns, adds up, on average, to roughly $1 million over a lifetime career, especially detrimental for the nearly 70% of Black mothers who are the sole or primary breadwinners for their family. Biden’s plan to build back better requires rooting out discrimination in the workplace so people can earn what they deserve, support their families, and build wealth.

  • Ensure workers of color are paid fairly.
    • End pay discrimination. Biden will continue to prioritize closing wage gaps and ending paycheck discrimination. He strongly supports Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman DeLauro’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which codifies and expands critical Obama-Biden protections for workers’ paychecks. He will also take action to strengthen the ability of employees to challenge discriminatory pay practices and hold employers accountable.
    • Increase the federal minimum wage to $15 across the country and eliminate the minimum tipped wage, disproportionately benefitting people of color who make up the majority of workers earning under $15 an hour. He will also support small businesses like restaurants during this economic crisis, helping them get back on their feet so they can keep their doors open and pay their workers.
    • Stop employers from denying workers overtime pay they’ve earned. The Obama-Biden Administration fought to extend overtime pay to over 4 million workers and protect nearly 9 million from losing it. The Trump Administration reversed this progress, implementing a new rule that leaves millions of workers behind — including 3 million workers of color. Since Trump walked away from protecting these workers who are fighting for a place in the middle class, they have lost over $3.2 billion in foregone overtime wages. As President, Biden will ensure workers are paid fairly for the long hours they work and get the overtime pay they deserve. And, he will ensure that domestic workers and farm workers receive overtime protections.
  • Address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Tens of millions of workers, most of whom are women of color, report being sexually harassed at work. This harassment often leads to devastating consequences, including mental health problems and fewer opportunities for career advancement. While harassment is illegal, there are too many barriers for people to seek justice. For example, 60 million workers – including over half of African American and Latino workers – have been forced to sign contracts waiving their rights to sue their employer and over one-third of the workforce is bound by nondisclosure agreements that stop workers from speaking out about harassment and discrimination. As President, Biden will make systemic changes to address sexual harassment and other discrimination so workplaces are safe and fair for all. He will advocate for and sign into law the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace (BE HEARD) Act.
  • Guarantee up to 12 weeks paid family and medical leave for all workers and up to seven days of paid sick, family, and safe leave and require employers to permanently provide. Workers of color disproportionately lack access to paid leave of any kind, including nearly half of Latino workers and more than one third of Black workers. Biden will create a national paid family and medical leave program to give all workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave, based on the FAMILY Act. He will also make paid sick leave permanent with the type of sick leave called for in Senator Murray and Congresswoman DeLauro’s Healthy Families Act. Biden will also make sure small businesses get the support they need to survive the crisis, keep their workers employed, and come out the other side stronger
  • Make it easier for workers of all color and all workers to organize unions and bargain collectively. Unions are an essential path to the middle class, and especially for workers of color. The wealth of union workers of color is nearly 5 times greater than their non union counterparts. Unions help close income and benefit disparities. For example, Black union members earn over 16% more than their non-union counterparts and are more likely to have employer-provided benefits like health care and retirement. As we build back better, Biden will make it easier for workers to organize unions and collectively bargain. He will include in the economic recovery legislation he sends to Congress a series of policies to build worker power to raise wages and secure stronger benefits. This legislation will make it easier for workers to organize a union and bargain collectively with their employers by including the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, card check, union and bargaining rights for public service workers, and a broad definition of “employee” and tough enforcement to end the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. It will also go further than the PRO Act by holding company executives personally liable when they interfere with organizing efforts. And, he’ll restore the ability of federal workers to unionize and collectively bargain. Read Biden’s full plan to encourage unionization and collective bargaining at joebiden.com/empowerworkers. 

INVEST IN INFRASTRUCTURE IN BLACK AND BROWN COMMUNITIES
 
Crumbling infrastructure is a barrier to growth and prosperity. If roads are falling apart; if lights and landscaping of public areas are not tended to; if sidewalks are dilapidated or schools are outdated; if there are no parks for kids to play in after school; if there is no fresh food for miles; if there are abandoned houses that need to be demolished or empty strip malls and not enough infrastructure to prevent fires; if there is nowhere to go when you are in a mental health crisis — how can a community thrive?
 
We are the world’s richest nation, but for far too long Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American  communities have been left behind. By making real and sustained investments into Black and Brown communities, we will create an environment where businesses and investments will multiply in size and strength. In Black and Brown communities the federal government will provide state, tribal, and local governments with resources to:

Biden’s Build Back Better plan includes a national effort to create the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable, accessible, infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future. He will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, toward that end.
 
A major focus of this investment will be to upgrade the infrastructure and job opportunities in Black and Brown communities. Specifically, Biden will:

  • Set a goal that disadvantaged communities receive 40% of overall benefits of spending in the areas of clean energy and energy efficiency deployment; clean, accessible transit and transportation; affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and development of critical clean water infrastructure. In addition, Biden will directly fund historic investments across federal agencies aimed at eliminating legacy pollution — especially in Black and Brown communities, rural and urban low-income communities, and tribal communities — and addressing common challenges faced by disadvantaged communities, such as funds for replacing and remediating lead service lines and lead paint in households, child care centers, and schools in order to ensure all communities have access to safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. These investments will create good-paying jobs in frontline and fenceline communities.
  • Ensure the jobs building roads and bridges and schools and overhauling water systems and electricity grids are filled by diverse, local, well-trained workers – including Black and Brown people – by requiring federally funded projects to meet high labor standards, including paying prevailing wage, prioritizing Project Labor and Community Workforce Agreements, and employing workers trained in registered apprenticeship programs. Biden will make investments in pre-apprenticeship programs and in community-based and proven organizations that help Black and Brown people access high-quality training and job opportunities. Biden’s proposal will make sure national infrastructure and clean energy investments create millions of middle-class jobs that develop a diverse and local workforce with a choice to join a union, strengthening communities as we rebuild our physical infrastructure.
  • Revolutionize municipal transit networks. Biden will aim to provide all Americans in municipalities of more than 100,000 people with quality, accessible public transportation by 2030. He will allocate flexible federal investments with strong labor protections to help cities and towns install light rail networks and improve existing transit and bus lines.
  • Ensure clean, safe drinking water and water infrastructure is a right in all communities – rural to urban to tribal lands, rich and poor. From lead contamination in places like Flint, Michigan to the lack of potable water which contributes to the spread COVID-19 on the Navajo Reservation, too many communities face public health crises because of lack of basic water infrastructure. Biden will invest in the repair of water pipelines and sewer systems, replacement of lead service pipes, upgrade of treatment plants, and integration of efficiency and water quality monitoring technologies. This includes protecting our watersheds and clean water infrastructure from man-made and natural disasters by conserving and restoring wetlands and developing green infrastructure and natural solutions. And, he will work to ensure adequate, resilient water infrastructure in Black and Brown communities everywhere, especially Indian Country. African American and Latino households are nearly twice as likely as white households to lack sufficient plumbing, and Native American households are 19 times more likely. In Indian Country, this also means ensuring tribes have water rights needed to develop the infrastructure necessary to serve homes, businesses, and agricultural needs. The Obama-Biden Administration settled twelve important water rights settlements, more than any other Administration in history. These settlements supported $3 billion of investment in Indian Country, for building important infrastructure for clean drinking water and agricultural needs, protecting tribal fisheries and culturally important areas, and furthering economic development initiatives. Biden will restore strong federal support for Indian water rights settlements and coordinate the actions of all relevant federal agencies to use their programs, authorities, and resources to support Tribal water needs and economic development activities.
  • Expand broadband, or wireless broadband via 5G, to every American – recognizing that millions of households without access to broadband are locked out of an economy that is increasingly reliant on virtual collaboration. Communities without access cannot leverage the next generation of “smart” infrastructure. As the COVID-19 crisis has made clear, Americans everywhere need universal, reliable, affordable, and high-speed internet to do their jobs, participate equally in remote school learning and stay connected. This digital divide needs to be closed everywhere, from lower-income urban schools to rural America, to many older Americans as well as those living on tribal lands. Just like rural electrification several generations ago, universal broadband is long overdue and critical to broadly shared economic success.
  • Launch a major national effort to modernize our nation’s schools and early learning facilities. Each year the U.S. underfunds school infrastructure by $46 billion, resulting in schools that are outdated, unsafe, unfit, and – in some cases – making kids and educators sick. And over half of Americans, and especially Black and Brown people, live in child care deserts, with limited to no access to licensed child care. In line with the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, backed by the House Education Committee, Biden will invest $100 billion in improving public school buildings and ensure its top funding priority is modernizing schools in the most economically underserved communities in our nation — all too often in Black and Brown communities. He will also ensure parents no longer search in vain for a suitable child care option by creating a new child care construction tax credit to encourage businesses to build child care facilities at places of work and making direct investments in building new child care facilities and upgrading existing facilities around the country.
  • Clean up and redeveloping abandoned and underused Brownfield properties, old power plants and industrial facilities, landfills, abandoned mines, and other idle community assets that will be transformed into new economic hubs for communities all across America.
  • Revitalize communities in every corner of the country so that no one is left behind or cut off from economic opportunities. Biden’s plan will ensure that our infrastructure investments work to address disparities – often along lines of race and class – in access to clean air, clean water, reliable and sustainable, accessible transportation, connectivity to high-speed internet, and access to jobs and educational opportunities. This includes ensuring tribes receive the resources and support they need to invest in roads, clean water, wastewater, broadband, and other essential infrastructure needs. It also means funding investments in local and regional strategies to prevent a lack of accessible transportation options in urban, rural, and high-poverty areas from cutting off after-school opportunities for young people and job opportunities for workers seeking better jobs and more economic security for their families.
  • Take land into trust for Indian tribes. One of the most important roles the federal government plays in rebuilding the nation-to-nation relationship is taking land into trust on behalf of tribes. It is critical for tribal sovereignty and self-determination, allows for economic development, and helps support the well-being of tribal citizens, while also preserving tribal histories and culture for future generations. It helps to right the wrongs of past policy, including the dispossession by the U.S. government of 90 million acres of tribal land, nearly two-thirds of all tribal land. The Obama-Biden Administration recognized this vital responsibility and took more than half a million acres of land into trust for tribes — including land that the Trump Administration tried to take away from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. As President, Biden will uphold trust and treaty responsibilities and continue to take land into trust for Indian tribes, helping tribes spur economic development.

See more details about the Biden infrastructure plans at https://joebiden.com/infrastructure/ and joebiden.com/clean-energy
 
SECOND CHANCES FOR ECONOMIC SUCCESS
 
Biden believes in redemption. For people who are convicted of a crime, after they serve their sentence, they should have the opportunity to fully reintegrate into society, earn a good living, and participate in our democracy. It will not only benefit them, it will benefit all of society. It is also our best strategy to reduce recidivism.
 
The collateral consequences for a criminal record are vast. The National Institute of Justice found that there are more than 44,000 collateral consequences nationwide, including employment restrictions, loss of voting rights, denial of housing or even renting an apartment and educational loan restrictions to name a few.
 
Smart Data Infrastructure to Support Second Chances
 
Most states already have a process for people who want to shield their criminal record from public view — expungement and sealing. But getting a person’s record expunged or sealed is complicated and requires paperwork, time, and sometimes the support of legal counsel.
 
As President, Biden will advance a pathway for redemption and re-entry – and make real the possibility of second chances for all Americans – by helping states modernize their criminal justice data infrastructure and adopt automated record sealing for selected categories of non-violent offenses, to modernize their criminal justice data infrastructure. This data infrastructure will facilitate sealing of records in a manner that is precise, complete and efficient – so those records are not used to deny people jobs, housing, voting rights, school loans and other opportunities to rebuild their lives.
 
The grants Biden is proposing will support state efforts to research, plan for, and ultimately implement the criminal record data infrastructure improvements that will make automated record relief possible. Beyond that, the infrastructure improvements will yield a general improvement in the operation and efficiency of state records.
 
In addition, to invest in second chances and smart criminal justice reforms that will improve public safety, Biden will:

  • Set a national goal of ensuring 100% of formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry – at the federal and state level. He’ll start by directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to only contract with entities that are open to housing individuals looking for a second chance. And, he’ll expand funding for transitional housing, which has been drastically cut under the Trump Administration.
  • Expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, as well as educational opportunities and job training for individuals during and after incarceration. The Biden Administration will expand the use of drug courts and other diversion programs. The Biden Administration will also expand funding for all of these programs and services, during and after incarceration.
  • Eliminate existing barriers preventing formerly incarcerated individuals from fully participating in society. For example, Biden will eliminate barriers keeping formerly incarcerated individuals from accessing public assistance such as SNAP, Pell grants, and housing support. He will streamline the process for giving individuals on probation or parole for non-violent offenses access to the Job Corps. The Biden Administration will incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences. And, the Biden Administration will expand on the Obama-Biden Administration’s “ban the box” policy by encouraging further adoption of these policies at the state and local level. This effort will not include any automatic restoration of firearms rights.
  • Eliminate cash bail. Cash bail is the modern-day debtors’ prison. The cash bail system incarcerates people based on their inability to pay–sometimes small amounts. And, it disproportionately harms Black and Brown people. Biden will lead a national effort to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system by putting in place a system that is fair and does not inject further discrimination or bias into the process. As President, Biden will establish a technical assistance program to help state and local jurisdictions transition to a fair, equitable and effective pretrial system that does not rely on cash bail. This project will be modeled after the Obama-Biden smart suite of programs, which used technical assistance and funding to drive targeted improvements in corrections, probation, and policing. The project will similarly allow state and local Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) recipients to access Bureau of Justice Assitance’s (BJA) bank of subject-matter experts if they agree to dedicate a portion of their existing JAG funds to work on BJA-approved initiatives that transition pre-trial systems away from a reliance on cash-bail and to evidence-informed systems that use risk of flight and/or danger to determine whether defendants should be held in  pre-trial detention.

STRENGTHEN THE FEDERAL RESERVE’S FOCUS ON RACIAL ECONOMIC GAPS
 
The Federal Reserve (the Fed) plays a highly influential role in determining the overall unemployment rate, as well as that of Black and Brown people. Within its existing mandate of promoting maximum employment and stable prices, the Fed should aggressively enhance its surveillance and targeting of persistent racial gaps in jobs, wages, and wealth. Biden will work with Congress to amend the Federal Reserve Act to require the Fed to regularly report on current data and trends in racial economic gaps — and what actions the Fed is taking through its monetary and regulatory policies to close these gaps. Access to affordable financial services is another first-order barrier to wealth building for many American families. Biden supports the Fed committing to a “real-time” payment system, a change the central bank has the authority to implement. With this system in place, instead of waiting days for checks to clear, low-income people will have instant access to money they are owed, ending an existing, costly burden to cash-constrained families.
 
The Fed should also revise its hiring and employment practices to achieve greater diversity at all levels of the institution — including at the leadership of the Board of Governors and the regional Federal Reserve Banks.
 
PRIORITIZE RACIAL EQUITY ACROSS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

  • Apply the principles of Congressman Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan to ensure that federal dollars go to high-poverty areas that have long suffered disinvestment. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, in both urban and rural America, Biden supports applying Congressman Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula to all federal programs, targeting funds to census tracts with persistent poverty.
  • Promote diverse leadership for all federal agencies. The leaders of federal agencies make decisions that have a direct impact on the nature of our entire economic system. At present the leadership of those agencies do not reflect the diversity of our country. As President, Biden will promote diverse leadership in the financial regulatory agencies including the FTC, CFTC, SEC, OCC, and FDIC; work with all branches of government including the Senate and Supreme Court, to create best practices and standards for ensuring racial diversity among clerks, staffers and interns; and create a new post within the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers to focus on racial equity including the income and wealth gaps. And, recognizing the special importance of appointing Native Americans to play critical roles in upholding the government-to-government relationship, he will build on the Obama-Biden Administration to ensure tribal nations have a strong voice and role in the federal government.
  • Eliminate language barriers for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Language barriers to vital services and resources can prevent AAPI’s with limited English proficiency from realizing their potential and the American Dream. Biden will build on the work of the Obama-Biden Administration, which ensured that members of the AAPI community who were limited English proficient had access to health care and other government services. For example, the administration produced outreach videos in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Burmese, Hmong, Khmer, and Lao to ensure that members of those communities were able to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act’s benefits and coverage. Biden will direct his agencies to identify ways to increase access to federal programs for AAPI individuals and families, including those who have limited English proficiency. He will also create neighborhood resource centers or welcome centers to help all residents find jobs; access services and English-language learning opportunities; and navigate the school system, health care system, and other important facets of daily life. And, he will ensure that all public schools have sufficient English-language learning support to help all children reach their potential.
  • Disaggregate data about the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to achieve equal representation. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community is one which includes people of East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands. Typically, when data is aggregated about this community it combines this wide swath of people into a single category – perpetuating the “model minority” myth by unwittingly masking specific challenges that segments of the AAPI population face. Data disaggregation is a strategy to collect information about the subgroups that make up a larger group, to surface issues when trying to understand the challenges that these communities face and identify solutions that are focused on closing disparity gaps. The Obama-Biden Administration released best practices for the disaggregation of federal data on AAPIs. Biden will build on this work and ensure that his administration recognizes and serves the myriad of challenges facing diverse AAPI communities.
  • Empower the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to fulfill its mission and address workplace discrimination. A 2017 survey found that 1 in 3 Latinos, 1 in 4 Asian Americans, 1 in 3 Native Americans, and more than half of African Americans had experienced racial discrimination in the workplace. Under a Biden Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will be fully empowered to address discrimination in the workplace and help close the harmful and unjust gaps in wages and employment opportunities. To strengthen the EEOC, Biden will double funding for the agency, empower the EEOC to initiate investigations for all areas of discrimination under its purview, and continue the the Obama Administration effort–halted by President Trump–to expand the agency’s information collection efforts to include data on earnings gaps by race and gender.  

INVEST IN A 21ST CENTURY CARE INFRASTRUCTURE
 
Biden believes that if we truly want to reward work in this country, we have to ease the financial burden of care that families are carrying, and we have to elevate the compensation, benefits, training and education opportunities for certification, and dignity of caregiving workers and educators.
 
He will make substantial investments in the infrastructure of care in our country — to make child care more affordable and accessible for working families, and to make it easier for aging relatives and loved ones with disabilities to have quality, affordable home- or community-based care. And, he is proposing to give caregiving workers and early childhood educators a raise and stronger benefits, treating them as the professionals they are. Caregivers and early childhood educators — disproportionately Black and Brown women — have been underpaid, unseen, and undervalued for far too long. Biden will:

  • Expand access to a broad array of long-term services and supports in local settings, including through closing the gaps in Medicaid for home- and community-based services and establishing a state innovation fund for creative, cost effective direct care services.
  • Ensure access to high-quality, affordable child care and offer universal preschool to three-and four-year olds through greater investment, expanded tax credits, and sliding-scale subsidies.
  • Build safe, energy-efficient, developmentally appropriate child care facilities, including in workplaces, so that parents and guardians never again have to search in vain for a suitable child care option.
  • Treat caregivers and early childhood educators with respect and dignity, and give them the pay and benefits they deserve, training and career ladders to higher-paying jobs, the choice to join a union and bargain collectively, and other fundamental work-related rights and protections.

ADDRESS LONGSTANDING INEQUITIES IN AGRICULTURE
 
Black, Brown and Native farmers have long faced barriers to growing their agricultural businesses, including unfair prices, unequal access to government support, retaliation for civil rights complaints, and outright injustice.  For more than 100 years the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did little to alleviate the burdens of systemic inequality for Black, Brown and Native farmers and was often the site of injustice. Over two decades ago, class action litigation was filed alleging longstanding discrimination against Black, Latino, Native, and women farmers. The cases dragged on for many years without relief for the complaints and impacted farmers struggled to regain the footing they lost before and during the litigation.
 
A profound shift occurred for Black, Brown and Native farmers under the Obama-Biden administration during which the USDA oversaw the conclusion of what became the largest civil rights settlement in US history, bringing a painful chapter to a close. The settlements in these cases marked the beginning of a renewed commitment to supporting diversity, equity, and an internal reckoning for the USDA. Under Obama-Biden, the USDA sought to address both the structural and cultural causes of systemic inequality that had in prior generations been reproduced by the policies and practices of the agency.
 
Despite the groundbreaking steps to address inequality that were taken under Obama-Biden, the practices and values of the USDA slid backwards under the authority of the Trump administration — which ceased many agency-wide efforts to level the playing field.
 
As President, Biden will build upon the historic progress made during the Obama-Biden administration, taking additional steps to support the rights of Black, Brown and Native farmers by: 

  • Establish an Equity Commission. This equity commission will focus on the unique jurisdictional and regulatory barriers that Black, Brown, and Native farmers, ranchers, and fishers must negotiate and make sure that processes are streamlined and simplified to promote new and beginning farming and ranching operations by Black and Brown farmers. As President, Biden will direct his Department of Agriculture to review the Department’s programs – including in conservation, value-added agriculture support, finding new markets, data analysis, fisheries support, climate smart production, risk management, research and delivery of knowledge — and design a plan to ensure they are geared to farmers, ranchers, and fishers who are as different and varied as the landscape of the country.
  • Farm Land Purchase Assistance Program. As President, Biden will advance a comprehensive effort to assist in both the purchase of farmland and the ability of Black, Brown, and Native farmers to keep that land. This includes credit and technical support in the form of expedited credit, low-interest loans, and technical assistance. In addition, Biden recognizes the disadvantage that Black, Brown, and Native farmers face when they are forced to compete with other farmers who have decades of privileged access to federal assistance. As President, he will explore the use of land trusts, cooperative farm operations, and farm credit systems geared towards Black, Brown and, Native farmers as a means to support this population and diversify our agricultural sector.        
  • Protect Heirs Property. For over a century, Black, Brown, and Native farmers faced exploitation in policy and practice in a matter that limited their ability to retain a rightful claim to inherited property and to access federal programs. Building on recent Congressional bills and model legislation at the state level, Biden will implement guidelines and regulations that preserve heirs’ ownership of family farms and ensure that these landowners have equal access to federal credit and agricultural programs.
  • Establish a Farmland Trust. This trust will support new farmers from underrepresented low-income communities to find, purchase, and succeed on farmland.  The Trust will also help connect these farms to marginalized communities locally and in urban or rural areas in an effort to develop and maintain a more diverse supply chain that provides entry points for aspiring entrepreneurs in the food production industry.
  • Advance Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). As President, Biden will support and advance local production for farmers’ markets. He will work to maximize the use of unused land and to connect potential farmers with those landowners. Together farmers and landowners will pool acres into manageable units. 
  • Advance fairness, accountability, and transparency at the United States Department of Agriculture As President, Biden will appoint officials at every level of the USDA who have a demonstrated commitment to supporting Black, Brown and Native farmers. Biden will also eliminate the USDA’s backlog of civil rights complaints, streamline and expedite the complaints process, permit appeals, and reinstate a foreclosure moratorium for those whose complaints remain unsettled. Biden will direct the USDA to fully enforce whistleblower protections and investigate reports of retaliation and interference from the Office of General Counsel. In addition, Biden will demand transparency and oversight in all aspects of USDA’s operations. Further, Biden will call on the agency’s Economic Research Service to include farmworkers and farmers of color more prominently in their research.
  • Expanding protections for farm workers. Farm workers – who are disproportionately Latino and immigrant workers – have always been essential to working our farms and feeding our country. As President, Biden will ensure farm workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, regardless of immigration status. He will work with Congress to provide legal status based on prior agricultural work history, ensure they can earn paid sick time, and require that labor and safety rules, including overtime, humane living conditions, and protection from pesticide and heat exposure, are strictly enforced.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Releases Bold, Progressive Plan to Expand Social Security

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, has released a bold, progressive plan to expand Social Security © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Whenever Republicans talk about the need to reform “entitlements,” they always refer to the “sacrifice” demanded of the people most dependent upon Social Security benefits and most vulnerable (with the least political power) in society. They never ask the most obscenely rich, most comfortable, most powerful to make any sacrifice – after all, they are the “job creators” and we don’t want to interfere with the number of yachts and vacation homes they can purchase.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, has just released her plan to expand Social Security – not cut it.

“Millions of Americans are depending on Social Security to provide a decent retirement. My plan raises Social Security benefits across-the-board by $2,400 a year and extends the full solvency of the program for nearly another two decades, all by asking the top 2% to contribute their fair share to the program,” Warren states. “It’s time Washington stopped trying to slash Social Security benefits for people who’ve earned them. It’s time to expand Social Security.”

This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly 50 years. Her plan will mean an immediate Social Security benefit increase of $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America. That will immediately help nearly 64 million current Social Security beneficiaries, including 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families. 

The plan also updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color. The plan finances these benefit increases and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of earners to contribute their fair share to the program. 

According to an independent analysis, Elizabeth’s plan will immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty — cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%. It will also produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by delivering much larger benefit increases to lower and middle-income seniors on a percentage basis, increase economic growth in the long term, and reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Read more about her plan here and below: 

I’ve dedicated most of my career to studying what’s happening to working families in America. One thing is clear: it’s getting harder to save enough for a decent retirement.

A generation of stagnant wages and rising costs for basics like housing, health care, education, and child care have squeezed family budgets. Millions of families have had to sacrifice saving for retirement just to make ends meet. At the same time, fewer people have access to the kind of pensions that used to help fund a comfortable retirement.

As a result, Social Security has become the main source of retirement income for most seniors. About half of married seniors and 70% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for at least half of their income. More than 20% of married seniors and 45% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. And the numbers are even more stark for seniors of color: as of 2014, 26% of Asian and Pacific Islander beneficiaries, 33% of Black beneficiaries, and 40% of Latinx beneficiaries relied on Social Security benefits as their only source of retirement income.

Yet typical Social Security benefits today are quite small. Social Security is an earned benefit — you contribute a portion of your wages to the program over your working career and then you and your family get benefits out of the program when you retire or leave the workforce because of a disability — so decades of stagnant wages have led to smaller benefits in retirement too. In 2019, the average Social Security beneficiary received $1,354 a month, or $16,248 a year. For someone who worked their entire adult life at an average wage and retired this year at the age of 66, Social Security will replace just 41% of what they used to make. That’s well short of the 70% many financial advisers recommend for a decent retirement — one that allows you to keep living in your home, go to a doctor when you’re sick, and get the prescription drugs you need.

And here’s the even scarier part: unless we act now, future retirees are going to be in even worse shape than the current ones.

Despite the data staring us in the face, Congress hasn’t increased Social Security benefits in nearly fifty years. When Washington politicians discuss the program, it’s mostly to debate about whether to cut benefits by a lot or a little bit. After signing a $1.5 trillion tax giveaway that primarily helped the rich and big corporations, Donald Trump twice proposed cutting billions from Social Security.

We need to get our priorities straight. We should be increasing Social Security benefits and asking the richest Americans to contribute their fair share to the program. For years, I’ve helped lead the fight in Congress to expand Social Security. And today I’m announcing a plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly half a century. My plan:

Increases Social Security benefits immediately by $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America.

Updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color.

Finances these changes and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of families to contribute their fair share to the program.

An independent analysis of my plan from Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, finds that my plan will accomplish all of this and:

Immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty, cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%.

Produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by raising contribution requirements only on very high earners and increasing average benefits by nearly 25% for those in the bottom half of the income distribution, as compared to less than 5% for people in the top 10% of the distribution.

Increase economic growth in the long term and reduces the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next ten years.

Every single current Social Security beneficiary — about 64 million Americans — will immediately receive at least $200 more per month under my plan. That’s at least $2,400 more per year to put toward home repairs, or visits to see the grandkids, or paying down the debt you still might owe. And every future beneficiary of Social Security will see at least a $200-a-month increase too, whether you’re 60 years old and nearing retirement or 20 years old and just entering the workforce. If you want to see how my plan will affect you, check out my new calculator here.

Our Current Retirement Crunch — And How It Will Get Worse If We Don’t Act

Seniors today are already facing a difficult retirement. Without action, future generations are likely to be even worse off.

While we’ve reduced the percentage of seniors living in poverty over the past few decades, the numbers remain unacceptably high. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, 14% of seniors — more than 7 million people — live in poverty. Another 28% of seniors have incomes under double the poverty line. A record-high 20% of seniors are still in the workforce in their retirement years. Even with that additional source of income, in 2016, the median annual income for men over 65 was just $31,618 — and just $18,380 for women over 65.

It’s hard to get by on that, especially as costs continue to rise. Most seniors participate in Medicare Part B, and standard premiums for that program now eat up close to 10% of the average monthly Social Security benefit. The average senior has just 66% of Social Security benefits remaining after paying all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses — and if we don’t adopt Medicare For All, out-of-pocket medical spending by seniors is projected to rise sharply over time. The number of elderly households still paying off debt has grown by almost 20% since 1992, and hundreds of thousands of seniors have had their monthly benefits garnished to pay down student loan debt.

Meanwhile, the prospect of paying for long-term care looms over most retirees. 26% of seniors wouldn’t be able to fund two years of paid home care even if they liquidated all of their assets. And for people that have faced lifelong discrimination, like LGBTQ seniors who until recently were denied access to spousal pension privileges and spousal benefits, the risk of living in or near poverty in retirement is even higher.

This squeeze forces a lot of seniors to skimp in dangerous and unhealthy ways. A recent survey found that millions of seniors cut pills, delay necessary home and car repairs, and skip meals to save money.

While the picture for current retirees is grim, it’s projected to get even worse for Americans on the cusp of retirement. Among Americans aged 50 to 64, the average amount saved in 401(k) accounts is less than $15,000. On average, Latinx and Black workers are less likely to have 401(k) accounts, and those who do have them have smaller balances and are more likely to have to make withdrawals before retirement. The gradual disappearance of pensions has been particularly harmful to workers of color who are near retirement. And 13% of all people over 60 have no pension or savings at all.

Meanwhile, this near-retirement group are also suffering under the weight of mounting debt levels and other costs. 68% of households headed by someone over 55 are in debt. Nearly one-quarter of people ages 55 to 64 are also providing elder care. According to one study, 62% of older Latinx workers, 53% of older Black workers, and 50% of older Asian workers work physically demanding jobs, leading to higher likelihood of disability, early exit from the job market, and reduced retirement benefits.

Gen-Xers and Millennials are in even greater trouble. For both generations, wages have been virtually stagnant for their entire working lives. 90% of Gen-Xers are in debt, and they’re projected to be able to replace only 50% of their income in retirement on average. Many Gen-Xers are trapped between their own student loans and mortgages, the costs of raising and educating their children, and the costs of caring for their elderly relativesTwo-thirds of working millennials have no retirement savings, and the numbers are even worse for Black and Latinx working millennials. Debt, wage stagnation, and decreasing pension availability mean that, compared to previous generations at the same age, millennials are significantly behind in retirement planning.

There’s also the looming prospect of serious Social Security cuts in 2035. Social Security has an accumulated reserve of almost $3 trillion now, but because of inadequate contributions to the program by the rich, we are projected to draw down that reserve by 2035, prompting automatic 20% across-the-board benefit cuts if nothing is done.

My plan addresses both the solvency of Social Security and the need for greater benefits head on — with bold solutions that match the scale of the problems we face.

Creating Financial Security By Raising Social Security Benefits

The core of my plan is simple. If you get Social Security benefits now, your monthly benefit will be at least $200 more — or at least $2,400 more per year. If you aren’t getting Social Security benefits now but will someday, your monthly benefit check with be at least $200 bigger than it otherwise would have been.

My $200-a-month increase covers every Social Security beneficiary — including the 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families who have paid into the program and now receive benefits from it. Adults with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as those without a disability. While 9% of people without disabilities nearing retirement live in poverty, 26% of people that age with disabilities live in poverty. Monthly Social Security benefits make up at least 90% of income for nearly half of Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries.

This benefit increase will also provide a big boost to other groups. It will help the 621,000 disabled veterans who are Social Security beneficiaries. It will benefit the 1 million seniors who exclusively receive Social Security Insurance — which helps Americans with little or no income and assets — and the 2.7 million Americans who receive both SSI and Social Security benefits.

On top of this across-the-board benefit increase, I’ll ensure that current and future Social Security beneficiaries get annual cost-of-living adjustments that keep pace with the actual costs they face. The government currently increases Social Security benefits annually to keep pace with the price of goods typical working families buy. But older Americans and people with disabilities tend to purchase more of certain goods — like health care — than working-age Americans, and the costs of those goods are increasing more rapidly. That’s why my plan will switch to calculating annual cost-of-living increases based on an index called CPI-E that better reflects the costs Social Security beneficiaries bear. Based on current projections, that will increase benefits even more over time.

Combined, my immediate $200-a-month benefit increase for every Social Security beneficiary and the switch to CPI-E will produce significantly higher benefits now and decades into the future. My Social Security calculator will let you see how much your benefits could change under my plan.

Targeted Social Security Improvements to Deliver Fairer Benefits

Broadly speaking, Social Security benefits track with your income during your working years. That means pay disparities and wrongheaded notions that value salaried work over time spent raising children or caring for elderly relatives carry forward once you retire. That needs to change. My plan increases Social Security benefits even further by making targeted changes to the program to deliver fairer benefits and better service to women and caregivers, low-income workers, public sector workers, students and job-seekers, and people with disabilities.

Women and Caregivers

In part because of work and pay discrimination and time out of the workforce to provide care for children and elderly relatives, women receive an average monthly Social Security benefit that’s only 78% of the average monthly benefit for men. That’s one reason women over the age of 65 are 80% more likely to live in poverty than men. My plan includes several changes that primarily affect women and help reduce these disparities.

Valuing the work of caregivers. My plan creates a new credit for caregiving for people who qualify for Social Security benefits. This credit raises Social Security benefits for people who take time out of the workforce to care for a family member — and recognizes caregiving for the valuable work it is.

The government calculates Social Security benefits based on average lifetime earnings, with years spent out of the workforce counted as a zero for the purpose of the average. When people spend time out of the workforce to provide care for a relative, their average lifetime earnings are smaller and so are their Social Security benefits.

That particularly harms lower-income women, people of color, and recent immigrants. There are more than 43 million informal family caregivers in the country, and 60% of them are women. A 2011 study found that women over fifty forgo an average of $274,000 in lifetime wages and Social Security benefits when they leave the workforce to take care of an aging parent. Caregivers who also work are more likely to be low-income and incur out-of-pocket costs for providing care. Because access to paid or partially paid family leave is particularly limited for workers of color — and first-generation immigrant workers are less likely to have jobs with flexible schedules or paid sick days — these workers are more likely to have to take unpaid leave to provide care and thus suffer reductions in their Social Security benefits.

My plan will give credit toward the Social Security average lifetime earnings calculation to people who provide 80 hours a month of unpaid care to a child under the age of 6, a dependent with a disability (including a veteran family member), or an elderly relative. For every month of caregiving that meets these requirements, the caregiver will be credited for Social Security purposes with a month of income equal to the monthly average of that year’s median annual wage. People can receive an unlimited amount of caregiving credits and can claim these credits retroactively if they have done this kind of caregiving work in the last five years. By giving caregivers credits equal to the median wage that year, this credit will provide a particular boost in benefits to lower-income workers.

Improving benefits for widowed individuals from dual-earner households and widowed individuals with disabilities. Because women on average outlive men by 2.5 years, they typically spend more of their retirement in widowhood, a particularly vulnerable period financially. My plan provides two targeted increases in benefits for widows.

In households with similar overall incomes, Social Security provides more favorable survivor benefits to the surviving spouses in single-earner households than in dual-earner households. After the death of a spouse, a surviving spouse from a dual-earner household can lose as much as 50% of her household’s retirement income. My plan will reduce this disparity by ensuring that widow(er)s automatically receive the highest of: (1) 75% of combined household benefits, capped at the benefit level a household with two workers with average career earnings would receive; (2) 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefits; or (3) 100% of their own worker benefit.

My plan will also improve benefits for widowed individuals with disabilities. Currently, a widow with disabilities must wait until she is 50 to start claiming Social Security survivor benefits if her spouse dies — and even at 50, she can only claim benefits at a highly reduced rate. Since most widows with disabilities can’t wait until the official retirement age of 66 to claim their full survivor benefits, their average monthly benefit is only $748 a month, or less than $9,000 a year. My plan will repeal the age requirement so widow(er)s with disabilities can receive their full survivor benefits at any age without a reduction.

Lower-Income Workers

My plan ensures that workers who work for a lifetime at low wages do not retire into poverty.

In 1972, Congress enacted a Special Minimum Benefit for Social Security. The benefit was supposed to help people who had earned consistently low wages over many years of work. But it’s become harder to qualify for the benefit, and the benefit amount has shrunk in value so it now helps hardly anyone. Today, only 0.6% of all Social Security beneficiaries receive the Special Minimum Benefit, and projections show that no new beneficiaries will receive it this year.

No one who spends 30 years working and contributing to Social Security should retire in poverty. That’s why my plan restructures the Special Minimum Benefit so that more people are eligible for it and the benefits are a lot higher. Under my plan, any person who has done 30 years of Social Security-covered work will receive an annual benefit of at least 125% of the federal poverty line when they reach retirement age. That means a baseline of $1,301 a month in 2019 — plus the $200-a-month across-the-board increase in my plan, for a total of $1,501 a month. That’s more than $600-a-month more than what that worker would receive under current law.

Public Sector Workers

My plan also ensures that public sector workers like teachers and police officers get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

If you work in the private sector and earn a pension, you’re entitled to your full pension and your full Social Security benefits in retirement. But if you work in state or local government and earn a pension, two provisions called the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset can reduce your Social Security benefits. WEP slashes Social Security benefits for nearly 1.9 million former public-sector workers and their families, while GPO reduces — and in most cases, eliminates — spousal and survivor Social Security benefits for 700,000 people, 83% of whom are women.

My plan repeals these two provisions, immediately increasing benefits for more than two million former public-sector workers and their families, and ensuring that every current state and local government employee will get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

Students and Job Seekers

My plan also updates the Social Security program so that it encourages people to complete college and participate in job training programs or registered apprenticeships.

Restoring and extending benefits for full-time students whose parent has a disability or has died. In the Reagan administration, Congress cut back a provision that allowed children receiving Social Security dependent benefits to continue to receive them until age 22 if they were full-time students. Before the provision was repealed, these beneficiaries came from families with average incomes 29% lower than their college peers, were more likely to have a parent with low educational attainment, and were more likely to be Black. Access to these benefits boosted college attendance and performance by letting low-income students reduce the number of hours they had to work while attending school. When Congress repealed this benefit, college attendance by previously eligible beneficiaries dropped by more than one-third. My plan restores this provision — and it extends eligibility through the age of 24 because only 41% of all students complete college in four years, and Black, Native American, and Latinx students have even lower four-year completion rates. A longer eligibility period will improve the chances the people who receive this benefit complete college before the benefit ends.

Encouraging registered apprenticeships and job training. Currently, workers who participate in registered apprenticeships or job training may receive lower Social Security benefits because they are taking time out of the workforce or agreeing to accept lower-paying positions to gain skills. We’re about to enter a period of immense transformation in the economy, and we should encourage workers to take time to participate in a registered apprenticeship or job training program so they are prepared for in-demand jobs. That’s why I proposed a $20 billion investment in high-quality apprenticeships in my Economic Patriotism and Rural America plans. My plan today complements that investment by letting workers in job training and apprenticeship programs elect to exclude up to three years in those programs from their lifetime earnings calculation for Social Security benefits, thereby producing a higher average lifetime earnings total — and higher benefits.

Improving the Administration of Social Security Benefits

My plan improves Social Security in another important way: it makes it easier for people to actually get the benefits they’ve earned.

Congress is starving the Social Security Administration of money, creating hardship for people who rely on the program for benefits. Congress has slashed SSA’s operating budget by 9% since 2010, even as the number of beneficiaries is growing. Meanwhile, more Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age — a critical period when workers are most likely to claim Social Security Disability benefits. SSA has a staff shortagerising telephone and office wait times, and outdated technology. Sixty-four Social Security field offices have closed since 2011 and 500 mobile offices have closed since 2010. Field office closures are correlated with a 16% drop in disability insurance beneficiaries in the surrounding area because those people — who have paid into the system and earned their benefits — no longer have assistance to file their applications.

Disability insurance applicants can wait as long as 22 months for an eligibility hearing. Thousands of people have died while waiting for administrative law judges to determine if they’re eligible to receive their benefits. To make matters worse, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order that will politicize the process of selecting the judges who adjudicate these cases. And his administration keeps proposing more cuts to the SSA budget.

My plan restores adequate funding to the Social Security Administration so that it can carry out its core mission. That will allow us to hire more staff, keep offices open, reduce call times, update the technology system, and give applicants and beneficiaries the services they need. And I will revoke Trump’s Executive Order on administrative law judges.

Strengthening Social Security By Extending Solvency For Nearly Two More Decades

Currently, the rich contribute a far smaller portion of their income to Social Security than everyone else. That’s wrong, and it’s threatening the solvency of the program. My plan fully funds its new benefit increases and extends the full solvency of Social Security for nearly 20 more years by asking the richest top 2% of families to start contributing more.

Social Security is funded by mandatory insurance contributions authorized by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or “FICA”. The FICA contribution is 12.4% of wages, with employers and employees splitting those contributions equally at 6.2% each. (Self-employed workers contribute the full 12.4%.) If you’re a wage employee, you contribute 6.2% of your very first dollar of wages to Social Security, and 6.2% of every dollar after that — up to an annual cap. This year’s cap is $132,900, and each year, that cap increases based on the growth in national average wages.

Congress designed the cap to go up each year based on average wages to ensure that a fairly steady percentage of total wages in America were subject to the FICA contribution requirement. But growing wage disparities over the past few decades has thrown the system out of whack.

While wages for lower-income and middle-income workers have been fairly stagnant — limiting the growth of the national average wage figure we use to set the annual cap — income at the very top has been skyrocketing. That means more income for the biggest earners has been above the cap and therefore exempt from the FICA contribution requirement. In 1983, 90% of total wage earnings were below the cap. Now it’s just 83%. The top 1% of earners have an estimated effective FICA contribution rate of about 2%, compared to more than 10% for the middle 50% of earners. That amounts to billions of dollars every year that should have gone to Social Security but instead remained in the pockets of the very richest Americans, while the Social Security system slowly starved.

And the very rich have escaped contributing to the system in yet another way: more and more of their income is in the form of unearned investment income, not wages, and they don’t have to contribute any of their investment income to Social Security. Although most Americans earn most of their income from wages, capital income makes up more than half of total income for the top 1% and more than two-thirds for the top 0.1%. All that income escapes the Social Security program.

My plan brings our Social Security system back into balance by asking the top 2% of earners to start contributing a fair share of their wages to the system and by asking the top 2% of families to contribute a portion of their net investment income into the system as well:

First, my plan imposes a 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on individual wages above $250,000 — affecting less than the top 2% of earners — split equally between employees and employers at 7.4% each. While most American workers contribute to Social Security with every dollar they earn, CEOs and other very high earners contribute to Social Security on only a fraction of their pay. My plan changes that and requires very high earners to contribute a fair share of their income. My plan also closes the so-called “Gingrich-Edwards” loophole to ensure that self-employed workers can’t easily reclassify income to avoid making Social Security contributions.

Second, my plan establishes a new 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on net investment income that applies only to the top 2% — individuals making more than $250,000 in annual income or families making more than $400,000 in annual income. My plan creates a new contribution requirement — modeled on the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) from the Affordable Care Act — that asks people and families above these high income thresholds to contribute 14.8% of the lesser of net investment income or total income above these thresholds. My plan also closes loopholes in the NIIT that allow wealthy owners of partnerships and other businesses to avoid it. This contribution requirement will ensure that the very wealthy are paying into Social Security even when they report the bulk of their income as capital returns rather than wages.

Warren Brings 2020 Campaign to Long Island City to Call for Breaking Up Big Tech, Corporate Giants

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

The venue for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally was strategic for her message: a former warehouse with dank walls now used for an entertainment space in Long Island City, the neighborhood that booted Amazon, despite its promise to bring 25,000 jobs, in exchange for a $3 billion tax incentive.

The message the declared 2020 Democratic candidate for president brought to the 600 eager supporters was that it is time to break up the high-tech companies that have come to wield out-sized economic power more like government, dictating demands and reclaim government for the people.

“We have these giant corporations — do I have to tell that to people in Long Island City? — that think they can roll over everyone,” she said, comparing Amazon to “The Hunger Game.”

“Giant corporations shouldn’t be able to buy out competition. Competition has to be able to thrive and grow.”

“Who does government work for? Just the richest people and corporations? I want government that works for the people.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY
© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I spent whole life wondering what happening to middle class, why so much rockier, steeper, and even rockier and steeper for people of color – what has gone wrong in America.

“Our government works great for giant drug companies, not for people needing prescription drugs; for giant oil companies, not for people who see climate change bearing down; great for payday lenders, not for people of color and communities and poor people who are targeted, whose lives are turned upside down.

“It’s corruption plain and simple and we need to call it out.

“Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee decisions made in Washington that directly touch – runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.”

Some 600 people turned out for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally in Long Island City. “Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Her prescription: change the rules of government, of the economy, of politics:

Where to start? Change the rules of government by taking corruption head on.

“I introduced the biggest anti-corruption bill since Watergate; it’s big, long, complex, but here are a few pieces:

“End lobbying as we know it. Stop the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; make Supreme Court follow the basic rules of ethics. Anyone who wants to run for federal office, must release their taxes.

“We need workers to have more power, we need stronger unions. Unions built American middle class and will rebuild the American middle class.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Warren is advocating an ultra millionaire’s tax: imposing 2% tax for those with over $50 million in assets.  That means the top 0.1% -75,000 households. She estimates that would generate $2.4 trillion.

In what sounds like an expansion of Obama’s oft-taken-out-of-context line, “You didn’t build that,” Warren justifies the wealth tax saying, “I’m tired of free loading billionaires. You built (or inherited) your fortune, good for you, but you built it using workers we educated, roads and bridges we paid to build, police – all helped. So yeah, you built a great fortune, so give a little back to the American people (who enabled you).

It’s a property tax, she said, not unlike the property tax that any homeowner, farmer, condo owner all pay, but includes the Picassos, diamonds and yachts.

What would it do? It would fund universal child care, and still have billions left over.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

To change the rules of politics and protect our democracy, she said, “I want to see a constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote and make sure every vote gets counted. Overturn Citizens United.” (adding that she isn’t taking any corporate PAC money, but is depending on grassroots donations, ElizabethWarren.com.)

“I don’t go to closed door meetings with millionaires. I’m here with you.”

“My father was a janitor but his daughter got a chance to be a teacher, a college professor, a Senator and a candidate for President of the United States. I believe in opportunity because I’ve lived it. I want an American where every child gets a chance to build a future.

“This is our moment. Dream big. Let’s win.”

She then took questions (the questioners were picked at random):

Senator Elizabeth Warren and State Senator Michael Gianaris, at rally in Long Island City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked her view of Governor Andrew Cuomo trying to woo Amazon back after local progressives including State Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced her at the rally,  she said, “This is like ‘Hunger Games’ – it is not just the enormous economic power, but  the political power they wield.

“A handful of companies spend $50 million lobbying Washington – a great return on investment if they get to keep Washington from enforcing regulations, antitrust laws, hold back oversight. That’s not how America is supposed to work. Corporate power… and billionaire power, all those who make their voices heard through money. They fund the think tanks that come to, predetermined conclusions, the public relations firms, the soft ads on TV, controlling government, they tilt the playing field over and over against everyone else.”

She reflected that she went to see Trump being sworn in, and realized that with control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the Republicans could have swept away health care and Medicare “by Tuesday.” “But the next day, there was the biggest protest in the history of the world.”

“I want to rein in big tech. That won’t happen by talking inside the Beltway, but in rooms like this.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked whether her wealth tax would cause billionaires like Trump to simply move outside the US, she quipped, “That would be a bad thing?” but explained the 2% wealth tax would be on all property where it is held, so a yacht in the Caribbean would be taxed.  More tax treaties mean it can be tracked. The IRS (now underfunded and understaffed) would step up enforcement. Even with a 15% cheat factor, you still get nearly $3 trillion in revenue. As for moving and renouncing US citizenship to avoid the tax? There would be a 40% exit penalty.

“You built your fortune here, you owe something to the American people.”

Asked about addressing homelessness and the lack of affordable housing, Warren said, “It’s a matter of values. In the richest country in the history of the world, people shouldn’t be sleeping in the street. I have a plan, a housing plan, but the first step is to diagnose the problem: Why has the cost of housing gone up? Wages, adjusted for inflation for four decades are flat, but housing costs have risen by two-thirds. That puts a squeeze on families.”

She said that over the years, government has withdrawn investment in housing, while private developers have build the more profitable mcmansions and luxury high rises. “There’s been an increase in housing at the top but no increase for middle class and down. The federal government is not making investment in housing for poor, working poor and middle class. Meanwhile, across America, the housing stock has deteriorated, shrinking in size, but the population is expanding, so people are paying more and more for less and less.

“The answer: build more housing. I want to build 3.2 million new housing units all across the country. That would decrease rents by 10%. I want more housing for purchase, so families can build equity over time.

“Housing is how working families have built wealth generation after generation – paying off the mortgage, and living on Social Security, grandma can live with the family, the home passes on wealth to the next generation.

“It is no surprise that for decades, from the 1930s, federal government invested in subsidized housing for white people, but discriminated against blacks. Red lined areas where federal government would block mortgages, so that generation after generation [was deprived of home ownership to build wealth]. In 1960, housing discrimination was legal, while the federal government subsidized whites and discriminated against black neighborhoods. Then, the gap between white and black home ownership was 27 points.

“Then civil rights made housing, voting discrimination illegal, and we see black middle class recover.

“But then the big banks came along – looked to black, brown home owners’ equity. They targeted black and brown people for the nastiest mortgages – Wells Fargo, Bank of America. Greed.

“Today, the gap between white and black home ownership is 30 points. Race matters in America.

“My housing bill has something we haven’t seen anywhere else: in formerly red-lined areas, first time home buyers or those who lost their homes during the housing crash, will get assistance to buy again.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked whether she would support ending the filibuster which the Republican minority used to block progressive legislation during the Obama administration, to block his judicial appointments, even the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination, she said (not too coyly): “It’s all on the table, baby. I’m on record for filibuster reform. The Republicans used filibuster to block judicial nominees, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board, the National Labor Relations Board. “Republicans get to do what they want when they’re in power, and when we are, we drink a lot of tea. It’s all on the table.”

“I get that things I’m asking for all are hard – attacking corruption, changing the rules of the economy, democracy. I get that some people earn more or less, but everyone should have an equal  share of democracy.”

People, she said, saved the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which she created after the 2008 financial collapse. “The people saved it, and it’s already forced the biggest banks to return $12 billion to the people they cheated.

“I’m calling for big structural change, but you don’t get what you don’t fight for,” she said, citing the abolitionists, suffragettes, union organizers, the foot soldiers of civil rights, gay rights activists. “They were all told, ‘it’s too hard, give up now, and yet, every one of them stayed, fought, organized, persisted [she said to big cheers], and changed. This is our moment to change.

“Dream big, fight hard, and let’s win.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In an already crowded field of candidates – even the progressive faction – Warren is the only one who has clearly spelled out policy proposals and the underlying rationale, the powerful statistics of growing inequality, that she has studied and worked to change for years to level the playing field, “make government work for you”: campaign finance reform and government reform; housing; tax reform.

 And in this venue, it was fascinating to see how she could be so factual, so academic, but so enthusiastic  and personable, her audience asked for more detail about how she would address the critical shortfall  in affordable housing, even taking her by surprise.

The evening was organized a little like a townhall, with Warren moving freely about a stage in front of a giant American flag, taking questions, and then at the end, offering to stay as long as necessary so anyone who wanted to take a photo with her could get their chance.

See: Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to Rein in Big Tech, Giant Corporations

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New Year’s Resolution: Work for Social Justice so Less Need for Christmas Charity

Bah. Humbug. The obsession with giving gifts and turkeys and charity at Christmas does little to correct the systemic causes of poverty and inequality © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Bah. Humbug. The obsession with giving gifts and turkeys and charity at Christmas does little to correct the systemic causes of poverty and inequality © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin/News & Photo Features

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. As we start the New Year. let me tell you about the “hate” part.

I hate that Christmas becomes the one day of the year that is supposed to make up for all the actions that have resulted in the greatest inequality and lowest upward mobility since the Gilded Age and the greatest of all advanced countries. The American Dream has been exported, outsourced, and rendered to myth rather than reality here at home.

This year, Republicans – even as they cling more ardently than ever to Guns and God – don’t even pretend to care about the less fortunate, and promise to perpetuate and make worse the very policies that have resulted in 22 out of every 100 school-age children living in poverty (16 million), while 45% of children live in low income families; and 14.3 percent of households (17.5 million, or one in seven households) were living with food insecurity.  Rather than doing anything to correct the societal conditions that promulgate these travesties, they prey on people’s insecurities, foment their fears and anxieties (Ebola! ISIS!), but do everything possible to thwart progress to alleviate the real source of daily desperation.

I particularly hate the obsession with Toys for Tots – as if handing out a gift at Christmas will make up for all the misery and anxiety that children live through the rest of the year.

Many of the same people who make a show of handing out a turkey for Christmas also withdrew Food Stamps and attacked the school nutrition program, two of the mightiest tools in a limited tool chest to keep people out of poverty, while helping children succeed in school (hunger is a viscously powerful impediment to learning) – and not incidentally, stimulating local economies to break the vicious cycle.

“There are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city,” Susan Grisby reported in “The Most Racist Areas in the United States” (Daily Kos, May 3, 2015). “Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea…And while those figures represent some of the most dramatic disparities in the life expectancy of black Americans as opposed to whites, a recent study of the health impacts of racism in America reveals that racist attitudes may cause up to 30,000 early deaths every year.”

We are living Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol” but while the classic story sets out the problems, I have always been troubled by the “moral”: that the rich guy who got so rich by exploiting the desperation of others can simply buy presents and give money away to redeem his soul. That’s not the solution.

But the “billionaire class” as Bernie Sanders likes to call them (George W. Bush called them “the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”) has no real interest in correcting the institutional causes of systemic poverty – public education system, tax policy, criminal justice system, health care, environmental policy and rigged election system – all of which also bolster the “haves” and “have-mores”. That’s because the demise of the middle class as more and more sink into poverty suits their greater purpose, and what the hey, if you can just throw around some bucks here and there to redeem your soul and your reputation, while lording over everybody else, so much the better.

And because “cash” is increasingly linked with “political power” (the Right Wing Majority on the Supreme Court equated cash with speech and corporations with people for the purpose of buying politicians), the more cash the more power. The converse is the less cash, the more politically silent and invisible you are. People who are juggling multiple jobs and living pay check to pay check tend not to have the same political influence.

The Republicans are working feverishly to increase the invisibility of the underclass, mounting a Supreme Court challenge that will effectively erase unregistered voters from the census altogether, meaning less representation, less funding (which is also apportioned based on that head count).

“Wages are too high,” self-proclaimed billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, bellowed in response to a call to raise the federal minimum wage, doing a perfect but unintended imitation of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The United States of America is not supposed to have an aristocracy or a class system of privileges, but these policies have done exactly that. And in the nation with the highest percentage of incarcerated prisoners in the world (5% of population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated), you even have a new criminal classification, “Affluenza” – the “affliction” that resulted in a 16 year old getting off scot free after murdering four people with a car he was driving unlicensed and drunk (he has since fled after violating the terms of his probation). It’s a justice system which sees the very bankers who bankrupted millions of Americans and clawed back pensions and health benefits of bankrupt cities (Detroit), collecting millions of dollars on their parachutes.

It’s “free money” (actually, not really free, it comes out of others’ pockets) that they turn around and “invest” in political campaigns and, yes, in philanthropy.

Some of the most notorious “banksters”, like Madoff and Great Neck’s own Steven Cohen, whose investment company SAC racked up $9.4 billion, are also some of the most generous. Cohen is a $1 billion patron of the Robin Hood Foundation among other philanthropic contributions (museums, hospitals, schools).

Another Great Necker, Leonard Litwin, who made a fortune with his Glenwood Real Estate company, has been a generous supporter of Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, funding the Litwin Challenge that enabled the synagogue to pay off its multi-million dollar mortgage. Glenwood Real Estate was at the heart of the corruption scandal that has (so far) taken down state leaders, Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos. In essence, his company made tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions that helped put these politicians in power, then gave favors in order to secure favorable legislation, like tax abatements.

“The money, according to Mr. Dorego, Glenwood’s senior vice president and general counsel, was used to ensure the developer would continue to benefit from tax breaks, government financing and favorable rent laws. One program alone saved them as much as $100 million, he said,” William K. Rashbaum reported in the New York Times (“Albany Trials Exposed the Power of a Real Estate Firm,” Dec. 18, 2015).

“Glenwood also benefited from another state-administered program, using it to obtain more than $1 billion in low-interest, tax-exempt bond financing since 2000, to buy land and construct eight buildings it has put up since 2001, according to testimony at Mr. Silver’s trial.”

This is far from benign, but has a big ripple effect on working stiffs. It is a big reason why New York City, with the richest property in the world, doesn’t raise enough in property taxes to pay for its public schools, but depends New York State aid for 50 percent of its $25 billion operating budget. That $12.5 billion comes from income taxes from the rest of us, and is a major reason why Long Islanders pay such high property taxes (we don’t get 50% of our public school budgets paid for out of state aid). Who pays for tax abatements? Why working stiffs, of course.

That’s where philanthropy comes in. Charity does not just buy redemption, it also buys respect and resurrects a reputation. Take the Koch Brothers, for example. They are the singularly greatest example of money buying political power (and vow to spend $889 million in the 2016 campaign) in order to direct policy to their own interest and against average people (promoting fossil fuels over renewables, overturning environmental regulations, tax policy that favors the rich especially a repeal of the estate tax, gun rights, anti-reproductive rights, and the latest, criminal justice “reform” so that their companies can pollute and claim ignorance of the law to evade accountability).

They slap their name on everything, from the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Human Origins to PBS programming, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we are to feel grateful for their patronage, like the Medicis. What we should feel is like peons, increasingly dependent on their largesse while public coffers are bankrupted.

It is especially dangerous when the contributions come with strings – like the Kochs funding economics departments at colleges in order to pick and choose the academics and the particular brand of economic philosophy. Or the Waltons (the six Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of all Americans, 100 million people) funding charter schools in order to insert their own particular educational agenda (creationism as science, worker bees instead of independent thinkers).

It is in this same vein that we have Ebenezer Scrooge, who by the end of his spiritual awakening, “solves” the problems of horrendous poverty and inequality by throwing toys and money at it. It is like putting a band-aid on a patient with tuberculosis.

“The world may need a reimagined charter of philanthropy — a ‘Gospel of Wealth’ for the 21st century — that serves not just American philanthropists, but the vast array of new donors emerging around the world,” wrote Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in a New York Times op-ed, “Why Giving Back Isn’t Enough,” (Dec. 16, 2015).

“This new gospel might begin where the previous one fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.

“Feeding the hungry is among our society’s most fundamental obligations, but we should also question why our neighbors are without nutritious food to eat. Housing the homeless is an imperative, but we should also question why our housing markets are so distorted. As a nation, we need more investment in education, but not without questioning educational disparities based on race, class and geography….

“Whatever our intentions, the truth is that we can inadvertently widen inequality in the course of making money, even though we claim to support equality and justice when giving it away. And while our end-of-year giving might support worthy organizations, we must also ask if these financial donations contribute to larger social change.

“In other words, ‘giving back’ is necessary, but not sufficient. We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.”

What would make a difference to break systemic poverty and inequality? Here are key ones:

Tax policy, which is supposedly “progressive” but in toto perpetuating extraordinary advantage to the wealthiest, taxing wages more than wealth. Raising the cap on income taxed to pay for Medicare and Social Security would alleviate the burden which is disproportionately placed on workers (if all income was subject to tax, you could reduce the percentage by a lot, which would mean a big boost in take-home income for everyone). Transaction tax on securities to de-incentivize short-term investing and make capital function more productively, as it is supposed to; making corporations pay their share, and taking away the incentive to offshore profits and jobs. (See, “For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions,” New York Times, Dec. 30, 2015).

Promote a living wage: raise the minimum wage and cease the war on unions.

Reform immigration and provide a path to legal status for the undocumented residents (deal with the question of citizenship separately). This will eliminate a gigantic underclass which presently depresses the wages of everyone while suppressing the economic stimulus that would come from legal status.

Reform criminal justice that unfairly penalizes and imprisons poor people, disadvantaged people, people of color, and destroys families as well as that individual’s ability to get a decent job.

Continue the progress of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) to make health care more affordable, accessible. Continue putting more resources into prevention and wellness, which will increase productivity and savings. Expand, don’t shut down, Planned Parenthood and access to contraception and reproductive rights. Treat gun violence as the public health crisis it is – not just in the dead, but in the lifetime of lost productivity due to injury, a cost estimated at $228 billion ($8.6 billion in direct costs, $221 billion in indirect costs, according to SmartGunLaws.org),

College affordability – eliminating a barrier to the best ticket to upward mobility, as well as the chains that result from student debt. Now amounting to $1.2 trillion, student debt is like indentured servitude, preventing graduates from buying a home, taking a loan to start a business or even pursuing careers of choice.

Improve access to home ownership – this not only gives a family an asset, a hedge against ever-rising rents, stability, roots, but a connection to community (and likely greater inclination to vote).

Make quality child care accessible and affordable.

Improve mass transportation and safe streets, so that people can get to work affordably, efficiently and without fear.

Give the underclass a voice and a force: Improve access to voting. Make voter registration more efficient and reliable and clear. Make Election Day a holiday, expand voting to include a weekend, overturn arbitrary limitations to absentee ballot. Have standards for polling places and voting machines so that some districts are not forced to wait hours to vote. Make sure the census counts everyone (not just registered voters). Eliminate gerrymandering. Because, just as money is becoming a greater factor in campaigns, politicians are increasingly beholden to maintaining the policies that only add to inequality and social injustice.

It’s scary how much “A Christmas Carol” and Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” still resonate today.

Consider what George Bailey says to Mr. Potter, speaking about George’s father who founded the Building & Loan: “He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!” 

In essence, such systemic improvements to our society would directly benefit, rather than detract from the wealthiest. It is the “rising tides lift all boats” scenario – not just in requiring less of society’s resources to go to “save” the destitute, but in a healthier, more productive society altogether. There will still be rich, middle class and even poor, but the difference is that poverty would not be as severe, as prolonged, or a generational sentence. Society would restore upward mobility – the essence of the American Dream – and benefit from individuals being able to fulfill their full potential.

So let’s turn to New Year’s resolutions, when we make pledges to be better people. And let’s hope this resolution carries through the Presidential Campaign season which already seems to be a test of who can be the cruelest (which to many interpret as “powerful” and “leadership”).

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

White House Report: SNAP Food Stamps Program Lifted 4.7 Million Out of Poverty in 2014

A new report released today from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is highly effective at reducing food insecurity—the government’s measure for whether households lack the resources for consistent and dependable access to food. The report highlights a growing body of research that finds that children who receive food assistance see improvements in health and academic performance and that these benefits are mirrored by long-run improvements in health, educational attainment, and economic self-sufficiency. The report also features new research that shows benefit levels are often inadequate to sustain families through the end of the month—resulting in high-cost consequences, such as a 27 percent increase in the rate of hospital admissions due to low blood sugar for low-income adults between the first and last week of the month, as well as diminished performance on standardized tests among school age children.

Each month, SNAP helps about 46 million low-income Americans put food on the table. The large majority of households receiving SNAP include children, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and working adults. Two-thirds of SNAP benefits go to households with children.

Today’s CEA report draws on a growing body of high-quality research about food insecurity and SNAP, finding that:

SNAP plays an important role in reducing both poverty and food insecurity in the United Statesespecially among children.

  • SNAP benefits lifted at least 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2014—including 2.1 million children. SNAP also lifted more than 1.3 million children out of deep poverty, or above half of the poverty line (for example, $11,925 for a family of four).
  • The temporary expansion of SNAP benefits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) lifted roughly 530,000 households out of food insecurity. 

SNAP benefits support vulnerable populations including children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly, as well as an increasing number of working families.

  • Nearly one in two households receiving SNAP benefits have children, and three-quarters of recipient households have a child, an elderly member, or a member with a disability. Fully 67 percent of the total value of SNAP benefits go to households with children as these households on average get larger benefits than households without children.
  • Over the past 20 years, the overall share of SNAP recipient households with earned income rose by 50 percent. Among recipient households with children, the share with a working adult has doubled since 1990.

SNAP’s impact on children lasts well beyond their childhood years, providing long-run benefits for health, education, and economic self-sufficiency.

  • Among adults who grew up in disadvantaged households when the Food Stamp Program was first being introduced, access to Food Stamps before birth and in early childhood led to significant reductions in the likelihood of obesity and significant increases in the likelihood of completing high school.
  • Early exposure to food stamps also led to reductions in metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions associated with heart disease and diabetes) and increased economic self-sufficiency among disadvantaged women.

SNAP has particularly large benefits for women and their families.

  • Maternal receipt of Food Stamps during pregnancy reduces the incidence of low birth-weight by between 5 and 23 percent.
  • Exposure to food assistance in utero and through early childhood has large overall health and economic self-sufficiency impacts for disadvantaged women. 

The majority of working-age SNAP recipients already participate in the labor market, and the program includes important supports to help more recipients successfully find and keep work.

  • Fifty-seven percent of working-age adults receiving SNAP are either working or looking for work, while 22 percent do not work due to a disability. Many recipients are also the primary caregivers of young children or family members with disabilities.
  • SNAP also supports work through the Employment and Training program, which directly helps SNAP beneficiaries gain the skills they need to succeed in the labor market in order to find and retain work. During fiscal year 2014, this program served about 600,000 SNAP recipients. 

Even with SNAP’s positive impact, nearly one in seven American households experienced food insecurity in 2014.

  • These households—which included 15 million children—lacked the resources necessary for consistent and dependable access to food.
  • In 2014, 40 percent of all food-insecure households—and nearly 6 percent of US households overall—were considered to have very lowfood security. This means that, in nearly seven million households, at least one person in the household missed meals and experienced disruptions in food intake due to insufficient resources for food. 

While SNAP benefits allow families to put more food on the table,current benefit levels are often insufficient to sustain them through the end of the month, with substantial consequences.

  • More than half of SNAP households currently report experiencing food insecurity, and the fraction reporting very low food security has risen since the end of the temporary benefits expansion under ARRA.
  • New research has linked diminished food budgets at the end of each month to high-cost consequences, including:

o   A drop-off in caloric intake, with estimates of this decline ranging from 10 to 25 percent over the course of the month;

o   A 27 percent increase in the rate of hospital admissions due to low blood sugar for low-income adults between the first and last week of the month;

o   An 11 percent increase in the rate of disciplinary actions among school children in SNAP households between the first and last week of the month;

o   Diminished student performance on standardized tests, with performance improving only gradually again after the next month’s benefits are received.

Administration Efforts to Build on Progress

To reduce hunger and improve family well-being, the Obama administration has been and remains dedicated to providing American children and families with better access to the nutrition they need to thrive. These investments make a real and measurable difference in the lives of children and their families, and ensure a brighter, healthier future for the entire country.

Through the Recovery Act, the Administration temporarily increased SNAP benefits by 14 percent during the Great Recession to help families put food on the table.  Reports indicate that food security among low-income households improved from 2008 to 2009 amidst a severe recession and increased unemployment; a significant part of that improvement is likely attributable to SNAP.

The Administration has also developed several initiatives to improve food security and nutrition for vulnerable children.  Through the Community Eligibility Provision, schools in high-poverty areas are now able to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students with significantly less administrative burden. Recent revisions to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) added a cash benefit to allow participants to purchase fruits and vegetables, a change that substantially increased the value of the package. The Administration also has expanded access for low-income children to nutritious food during the summer months when school meals are unavailable and the risk of food insecurity is heightened. The results of these efforts have been promising. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) delivered 23 million more summer meals than in 2009.  And the Administration has successfully implemented Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) pilots, which provide additional food assistance to low-income families with children during the summer months. These pilots were found to reduce very low food security among children by 26 percent.  The President’s 2016 Budget proposed a significant expansion of this effort.

Finally, this Administration has provided select states waivers to test ways of reducing the administrative burdens of SNAP for elderly households, a population that continues to be underserved. After seeing positive results in participating states, including an increase of elderly participation by more than 50 percent in Alabama, the President’s 2016 Budget included a proposal to create a state option that would expand upon these efforts to improve access to SNAP benefits for the elderly.