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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.

Biden Bursts Trump’s Bubble Over Jobs Report: ‘The public health crisis, job crisis, and crisis of inequity and indignity are connected’

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, delivered remarks on the economy and the May jobs report which unexpectedly showed 2.5 million jobs added and an unemployment rate dipping slightly to 13.3%, instead of rising to as much as 20%.  (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, delivered remarks on the economy and the May jobs report which unexpectedly showed 2.5 million jobs added and an unemployment rate dipping slightly to 13.3%, instead of rising to as much as 20%. But that 2.5 million jobs reflects the fact that states have begun reopening; there were 40 million people who have filed for unemployment, so an unimaginable 37 million are still without jobs. And 13.3% is still higher than at any time during the 2008 Great Recession. Moreover, the Trump administration apparently changed the way certain numbers are calculated, so the actual unemployment rate could be 3 points higher, or 16.3%, which would be closer to what economists forecast. Trump also manages to ignore the fact that the stimulus program pushed by Democrats over Republicans’ objections, worked to keep the economy from descending into a Great Depression. He also ignored the disproportionate unemployment rates among Blacks and Hispanics, groups that are also suffering disproportionately from COVID-19. But Trump is desperate to put a rosy face on an economy while ignoring the fact the coronavirus pandemic is still spreading and his administration has done virtually nothing to provide a national program for testing, tracing and isolating, nor even set standards for workplaces and schools only some tepid guidelines. And Trump was desperate to shift attention from his Fascistic overreach of using military power used against peaceful protesters calling for an end to race-based police brutality.

Instead, Vice President Biden took Trump to task and offered his own analysis of the depth of harm to the economy and public health caused by Trump’s failure of leadership and his preoccupation with Wall Street over Main Street, wealth over wages.

Here is a transcript of Biden’s remarks: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 Good afternoon.

Before I speak to the economic situation, I have to take a moment to address something the President said this morning.

Toward the end of his remarks today, Donald Trump said he hopes that George Floyd “is looking down and seeing this is a great day for our country.”

He was speaking of a man who was brutally killed by an act of needless violence — and by a larger tide of injustice — that has metastasized on this President’s watch.

George Floyd’s last words — “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” — have echoed across our nation.

For the President to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd — is frankly despicable.

And, the fact that he did so on a day when Black unemployment rose and black youth unemployment skyrocketed — tells you everything you need to know about who this man is and what he cares about.


Today, like all Americans, I was glad to see that two-and-a-half million Americans have gotten their jobs back.

For those families, that’s a sigh of relief.

And for all of us, it’s a reminder of the resilience of the American people.

To those Americans, I’m so proud of you, and so happy for you and your families.

I was disturbed, however, to see the President crowing this morning — basically hanging a “mission accomplished”’ banner when there is so much work to be done — and so many Americans are still hurting.

More than twenty million Americans — one out of every seven U.S. workers — are still out of work.


For an enormous swath of our country, their dreams are still on hold. They are still struggling to put food on the table. The unemployment rate remains the highest it’s been in nearly a century.

As I said, Black unemployment went up this month. Latino youth unemployment jumped to over 37 percent. Hispanic unemployment overall is four times higher than it was before the President botched his response to the pandemic. And I’m worried, when you look deeper at the data, that while temporary layoffs went down,permanent layoffs went up.

Donald Trump still doesn’t get it.


He’s out there spiking the football — completely oblivious to the tens of millions of people who are facing the greatest struggle of their lives. Those folks aren’t feeling any less pain today than they were yesterday.

People who’ve lost their health care in this crisis, they’re not celebrating today — especially when Donald Trump is still in court fighting to strip away health care protections from even more Americans. 

The fact is, there are about 13 million less jobs today for American workers than the day that President Obama and I left office.


So while it’s wonderful to see ten percent of the families who lost their jobs due to Trump’s disastrous pandemic response start to make their way back — the President’s behavior makes me deeply worried for the 90 percent who haven’t.

So to all those families — who are scared, and hurting, and wondering what’s going to happen next: I want you to know I see you. I won’t ever forget you. And I won’t be satisfied – until this economy starts working for all of you.

Let’s be clear about something. The depth of this job crisis is not attributable to an act of God — but to the failure of a President. The truth is every country dealt with job losses due to the pandemic, but America was hit much harder out of the gate due to Trump’s complete mismanagement of the response.

This morning, he tried to compare our response to Germany’s and South Korea’s.

Okay, let’s compare. Germany has one-third of the deaths per capita that we do. South Korea has less than 300 deaths — total. America has four percent of the world’s population — and more than a quarter of the world’s deaths from this pandemic.

It’s no secret why that is.

Let’s get something straight: he did not act quickly. 

For months, he downplayed the threat — falsely promising us that anyone could get a test — and claiming that “like a miracle it will disappear.”

He repeatedly praised China’s containment response – despite a litany of public appeals — including from me — not to bet American lives and the U.S. economy on the word of the Chinese government.

He refused to take action to get adequate testing in place — allowing the virus to spread further than it should have.

Columbia University found that 54,000 lives could have been saved if the administration had acted just two weeks earlier.

His failure didn’t just cost lives. It cost jobs.

New studies this week from Moody’s and Brookings confirm that half or more of those who lost their jobs would still be employed had Trump mounted a competent response like Germany and South Korea and other countries did.

We know why this happened. Donald Trump was more focused on the stock wealth of the biggest corporations than he was on the well-being of the American people.

It’s why he had his top economic advisors telling people to buy stocks instead of preparing our nation to brace for the pandemic. 

Now — after 110,000 deaths and more than 20 million people still out of work — the consequences are clear.

We are still facing devastating unemployment, an historic health crisis, and a continuing crisis of violence, injustice, and indignity that is devastating Black Americans and diminishing the soul of our country.

These are some of the sternest challenges our nation has ever faced, and Trump is patting himself on the back. 

He just has no idea what’s really going on in this country. He has no idea the depth of pain that people are facing. He remains completely oblivious to the human toll of his indifference. It is time for him to step out of his bunker and take a look around at the consequences of his words and actions.


Let’s be clear — a president who takes no responsibility for costing millions and millions of Americans their jobs deserves no credit when a fraction of them return. 

But there’s a deeper concern here. As we recover, some of the temporary job losses we are still not on track to grow back in a way that will actually serve working people.

President Trump is still rewarding wealth over work.

All we hear coming out of the White House is calls for more tax cuts for big investors and big corporations. Well, they didn’t build this country. The middle class did — that’s who I fight for.

And if Trump continues to put the interests of CEOs and shareholders ahead of American workers, we’ll never get to where we need to be as a country.

Look, every American has a choice to make this November. Not simply what kind of President we want , but what kind of country we want. What kind of economy we want — and who that economy serves.

In the coming weeks, I will lay out in detail my comprehensive plan— not just to build things back to the way they were before COVID-19, but to build back better.

To create millions of new, good-paying jobs with benefits where people get a fair return for work and we make our country stronger, more resilient, and more just.

That plan will be anchored in job-creating investments, in small businesses, infrastructure – innovation, manufacturing, and caregiving, and in rewiring the faulty structures of our economy to ensure the dignity and equity of all American workers.

The public health crisis, the job crisis, and the crisis of inequity and indignity being endured by African Americans — those three challenges are deeply connected to one another.

The solutions must be, as well.


Any economic plan must start with a public health plan to make sure tests are available, to get our society functioning, to build back the confidence we need to truly bring back jobs and small businesses.

But that is only the first step.

My jobs plan will also be about restoring dignity to the American people.

In addition to pursuing badly-needed reforms, we need to be growing wages, leveling the playing field, and creating tens of millions of the new jobs we need to build a better American future.

There is a monumental amount of work to do to repair the damage that has been done. And simply tweeting slogans like “transition to greatness” won’t solve anything for families who are hurting.

I look forward to introducing and implementing a real jobs plan that will meet this challenging moment.

Americans can’t afford to have any more of their time wasted.

They need an economy that works for them — now.

They need jobs that bring dignity — now.

They need equal justice — and equal opportunities — now.

They need a president who cares about them, and cares about helping them heal — now.

Thank you.

God bless you — and may God protect our troops.

Amid national protests over police brutality, Trump calling out military against protesters, Biden declares ‘The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism’

VP Joe Biden declares, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.” (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Amid national protests over police brutality and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Donald Trump calling out the military against peaceful protesters outside the White House, VP Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, declares, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.

“We are a nation in pain,” Biden declared. “but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us. 

“As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.”

Here is a transcript of Vice President Joe Biden’s speech delivered from the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia City Hall in front of an audience that included Mayor Jim Kenney, Congressman Brendan Boyle, and state and local elected officials.:

“I can’t breathe.” “I can’t breathe.”
 
George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation.
 
They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk.
 
They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus – and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment – with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in black and brown communities.
 
And they speak to a nation where every day millions of people – not at the moment of losing their life – but in the course of living their life – are saying to themselves, “I can’t breathe.”
 
It’s a wake-up call for our nation. For all of us.
 
And I mean all of us. It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words – they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago.
 
But it’s time to listen to these words. Understand them. And respond to them – with real action.
 
The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us.  Leadership that can bring us together. Leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for too long.
 
But there is no place for violence.
 
No place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by people of color who for the first time were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families.
 
Nor is it acceptable for our police — sworn to protect and serve all people — to escalate tensions or resort to excessive violence.
 
We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest — and opportunistic violent destruction.

And we must be vigilant about the violence that’s being done by the incumbent president to our democracy and to the pursuit of justice.
 
When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the President from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle.
 
More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care.
 
For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.
 
The President held up a bible at St. John’s church yesterday. 

If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something: That we are all called to love one another as we love ourselves.
 
That’s hard work. But it’s the work of America.
 
Donald Trump isn’t interested in doing that work.

Instead he’s preening and sweeping away all the guardrails that have long protected our democracy.
 
Guardrails that have helped make possible this nation’s path to a more perfect union.
 
A union that constantly requires reform and rededication – and yes the protests from voices of those mistreated, ignored, left out and left behind.
 
But it’s a union worth fighting for and that’s why I’m running for President.
 
In addition to the Bible, he might also want to open the U.S. Constitution.
 
If he did, he’d find the First Amendment. It protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
 
Mr. President: That is America.
 
Not horses rising up on their hind legs to push back a peaceful protest. Not using the American military to move against the American people. This nation is a nation of values. Our freedom to speak is the cherished knowledge that lives inside every American.
 
We will not allow any President to quiet our voice. 
 
We won’t let those who see this as an opportunity to sow chaos throw up a smokescreen to distract us from the very real and legitimate grievances at the heart of these protests. 

And we can’t leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away and do nothing. We can’t.
 
The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.
 
I’ve said from the outset of this election that we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. Who we are. What we believe. And maybe most important — who we want to be.
 
It’s all at stake. That is truer today than ever. And it’s in this urgency we can find the path forward.
 
The history of this nation teaches us that it’s in some of our darkest moments of despair that we’ve made some of our greatest progress.
 
The 13th and 14th and 15th Amendments followed the Civil War. The greatest economy in the history of the world grew out of the Great Depression. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 came in the tracks of Bull Connor’s vicious dogs.
 
To paraphrase Reverend Barber — it’s in the mourning we find hope. 

It will take more than talk. We’ve had talk before. We’ve had protests before. 

Let us vow to make this, at last, an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue and concrete changes.
 
That action will not be completed in the first 100 days of my Presidency — or even an entire term.
 
It is the work of a generation.
 
But if this agenda will take time to complete, it should not wait for the first 100 days of my Presidency to get started.
 
A down payment on what is long overdue should come now. Immediately.
 
I call on Congress to act this month on measures that would be a first step in this direction. Starting with real police reform.
 
Congressman Jeffries has a bill to outlaw choke holds. Congress should put it on President Trump’s desk in the next few days.
 
There are other measures: to stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, to improve oversight and accountability, to create a model use of force standard — that also should be made law this month. 
 
No more excuses. No more delays. 
 
If the Senate has time to confirm Trump’s unqualified judicial nominees who will run roughshod over our Constitution, it has time to pass legislation that will give true meaning to our Constitution’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.”
 
Looking ahead, in the first 100 days of my presidency, I have committed to creating a national police oversight commission.
 
I’ve long believed we need real community policing.
 
And we need each and every police department in the country to undertake a comprehensive review of their hiring, their training, and their de-escalation practices.
 
And the federal government should give them the tools and resources they need to implement reforms.
 
Most cops meet the highest standards of their profession. All the more reason that bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly. We all need to take a hard look at the culture that allows for these senseless tragedies to keep happening. 
 
And we need to learn from the cities and precincts that are getting it right.
 
We know, though, that to have true justice in America, we need economic justice, too.
 
Here, too, there is much to be done.

As an immediate step, Congress should act to rectify racial inequities in the allocation of COVID-19 recovery funds. 
 
I will be setting forth more of my agenda on economic justice and opportunity in the weeks and months ahead.
 
But it begins with health care. It should be a right not a privilege. The quickest route to universal coverage in this country is to expand Obamacare.
 
We could do it. We should do it.
 
But this president — even now — in the midst of a public health crisis with massive unemployment wants to destroy it.
 
He doesn’t care how many millions of Americans will be hurt— because he is consumed with his blinding ego when it comes to President Obama.
 
The President should withdraw his lawsuit to strike down Obamacare, and the Congress should prepare to act on my proposal to expand Obamacare to millions more.
 
These last few months we have seen America’s true heroes. The health care workers, the nurses, delivery truck drivers, grocery store workers.

We have a new phrase for them: Essential workers.
 
But we need to do more than praise them. We need to pay them.
 
Because if it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now. This country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers and CEOs. It was built by America’s great middle class — by our essential workers.
 
I know there is enormous fear and uncertainty and anger in the country. I understand.
 
And I know so many Americans are suffering. Suffering the loss of a loved one. Suffering economic hardships. Suffering under the weight of generation after generation after generation of hurt inflicted on people of color — and on black and Native communities in particular.
 
I know what it means to grieve. My losses are not the same as the losses felt by so many. But I know what it is to feel like you cannot go on.
 
I know what it means to have a black hole of grief sucking at your chest.
 
Just a few days ago marked the fifth anniversary of my son Beau’s passing from cancer. There are still moments when the pain is so great it feels no different from the day he died. But I also know that the best way to bear loss and pain is to turn all that anger and anguish to purpose.
 
And, Americans know what our purpose is as a nation. It has guided us from the very beginning.
 
It’s been reported. That on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, little Yolanda King came home from school in Atlanta and jumped in her father’s arms.
 
“Oh, Daddy,” she said, “now we will never get our freedom.”
 
Her daddy was reassuring, strong, and brave.
 
“Now don’t you worry, baby,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. “It’s going to be all right.”
 
Amid violence and fear, Dr. King persevered.

He was driven by his dream of a nation where “justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
 
Then, in 1968 hate would cut him down in Memphis.
 
A few days before Dr. King was murdered, he gave a final Sunday sermon in Washington.
 
He told us that though the arc of a moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.
 
And we know we can bend it — because we have. We have to believe that still. That is our purpose. It’s been our purpose from the beginning.

To become the nation where all men and women are not only created equal — but treated equally.
 
To become the nation defined — in Dr. King’s words — not only by the absence of tension, but by the presence of justice.
 
Today in America it’s hard to keep faith that justice is at hand. I know that. You know that.
 
The pain is raw. The pain is real.
 
A president of the United States must be part of the solution, not the problem. But our president today is part of the problem.
 
When he tweeted the words “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” – those weren’t the words of a president. They were the words of a racist Miami police chief from the 1960s.
 
When he tweeted that protesters “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs … that’s when people would have been really badly hurt.” Those weren’t the words of a president — those were the kind of words a Bull Connor would have used unleashing his dogs.
 
The American story is about action and reaction. That’s the way history works. We can’t be naïve about that.
 
I wish I could say this hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn’t and it won’t. American history isn’t a fairytale with a guaranteed happy ending.

The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull for more than 240 years.
 
A tug of war between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. The honest truth is both elements are part of the American character.
 
At our best, the American ideal wins out.
 
It’s never a rout. It’s always a fight. And the battle is never finally won.
 
But we can’t ignore the truth that we are at our best when we open our hearts, not when we clench our fists. Donald Trump has turned our country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears.
 
He thinks division helps him.
 
His narcissism has become more important than the nation’s well-being he leads.
 
I ask every American to look at where we are now, and think anew: Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we pass on to our kids’ and grandkids’ lives? Fear and finger-pointing rather than hope and the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety? Self-absorption and selfishness?
 
Or do we want to be the America we know we can be. The America we know in our hearts we could be and should be.
 
Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won’t either.
 
But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate.
 
I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain.
 
I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me.
 
It’s about you.
 
And I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation. But to build it better than it was.
 
To build a better future. That’s what America does.
 
We build the future. It may in fact be the most American thing to do.
 
We hunger for liberty the way Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass did.
 
We thirst for the vote the way Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and John Lewis did. We strive to explore the stars, to cure disease, to make this imperfect Union as perfect as we can.
 
We may come up short — but at our best we try.
 
We are facing formidable enemies.
 
They include not only the coronavirus and its terrible impact on our lives and livelihoods, but also the selfishness and fear that have loomed over our national life for the last three years.
 
Defeating those enemies requires us to do our duty — and that duty includes remembering who we should be.

We should be the America of FDR and Eisenhower, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., of Jonas Salk and Neil Armstrong.
 
We should be the America that cherishes life and liberty and courage.
 
Above all, we should be the America that cherishes each other – each and every one.
 
We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.
 
As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.
 
So reach out to one another. Speak out for one another. And please, please take care of each other.
 
This is the United States of America. And there is nothing we can’t do. If we do it together.

Cuomo Proposes Reform Agenda to End Police Brutality, Systemic Racism, Tells Protesters ‘Use Moment Constructively’

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a national agenda to end systemic racism in law enforcement, end police brutality. “Use this moment. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a positive reform agenda to address systemic racism and police brutality amidst the ongoing protests across the state and nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. The reform agenda includes a national ban on excessive force and chokeholds by law enforcement officers; independent investigations of police brutality conducted by independent, outside agencies – not by local prosecutors; and disclosure of disciplinary records of police officers being investigated.

While standing firmly in support of the protests against police brutality, the Governor said that protest for its own sake would only work against the cause, but that there needs to be a clearly defined list of actions that need to be articulated.

“You want to make that moment work,” he declared. “Yes, you express the outrage. But then you say, ‘Here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.’ That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protesters are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse.”

And Cuomo also differentiated between the those who are exercising their Constitutional First Amendment right to protest against those who are taking advantage to loot and vandalize, giving Trump the opportunity to deflect and discount, and shift focus to himself as the “law-and-order” strongman. Indeed, there are reports that White Nationalist group is posing as Antifa on Twitter, calling for violence. Trump is proposing to designate Antifa a terrorist group, and is using them to justify calling out military against protesters – which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

“There’s no doubt that what the President’s trying to do here is turn the attention to the looters rather than the point of the protest, which is genuine outrage,” Cuomo said in an interview with Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “”You look at what happened with Mr. Floyd, you have to be outraged. It’s not just Mr. Floyd in an isolated situation, it’s been years and years of the same situation. You can go back to Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner – it’s a long list.

They want to make this about looting and criminals rather than the killing. That’s what they’re trying to do. In New York, we did have large protests and we do have people who are, I think, exploiting the protest. There’s no doubt that there’s some people who came out and did looting and criminal activity. You have some disrupting organizations that are seizing upon the moment. We want to make sure that order is maintained and we’re putting in place a curfew.”

“Use this moment. You look in history, Nicolle, when did change come? Change came when the people insisted on change. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.”

Cuomo ordered a curfew of 11 pm in New York City, and doubled the number of police, from 4,000 to 8,000. However, that was not enough to stop a spate of acts of looting and vandalism.

The protests come just as New York City was hitting the milestones in the fight against COVID-19, which has taken more lives – and more disproportionately in communities of color – in the city and state than anywhere in the country or world. The  Governor said that if there was any “silver” lining in the timing, the protests are happening when the infection rate has been cut from 20 percent to 2 percent but still raised concerns of reigniting the spread of the pandemic.

Here is a transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks:

We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City. Now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could, in fact, exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masked, socially distanced and then you turn on the TV and you see there’s mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people. After everything that we have done. We have to talk a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?

We have protests across the state that continued last night, they continued across the nation. Upstate we worked with the cities very closely. The State Police did a great job. We had, basically, a few scattered arrests, upstate New York. But the local governments did a great job, the people did a great job, law enforcement did a great job. The protestors were responsible. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either, upstate.

I said from day one, I share the outrage and I stand with the protestors. You look at that video of the killing of an unarmed man, Mr. Floyd, it is horrendous. Horrendous. It’s frightening. It perverts everything you believe about this country. It does and there’s no excuse for it. No right minded American would make an excuse for it. So, protest yes. Be frustrated, yes. Outraged, yes of course. Is there a larger problem? Of course. It’s not just Mr. Floyd, it goes back – there are 50 cases that are just like Mr. Floyd. We’ve them here in New York City. What’s the difference between Mr. Floyd and Amadou Diallo? Or Abner Louima? Or Eric Garner? What is the difference? What have we learned? Nothing?

So, yes, we should be outraged. And yes, there’s a bigger point to make. It is abuse by police. But it’s something worse. It is racism. It is discrimination. It is fundamental inequality and injustice. My father spoke about it in 1984. The speech called “The Tale of Two Cities.” People still talk about it. The point of the tale of two cities is there’s two Americas. Two sets of rules. Two sets of outcomes. Two sets of expectations. It’s true. It was true then, it’s true now. Look at our prisons and tell me there’s not inherit injustice in society. Look at public housing, tell me there’s not inherent injustice.

Look at what happened with this COVID infection rate nationwide. More African Americans infected, more African Americans dead proportionally than white Americans. Of course, there’s chronic institutionalized discrimination. There is no doubt. There is no doubt. And there’s no doubt that it’s been going on for a long time and people are frustrated, and it has to be corrected and it has to be corrected now. And there’s no doubt, that this nation as great as it is has had the continuing sin of discrimination. From before the nation was formed and it started with slavery. And it has had different faces over the decades, but it’s still the same sin. That is true. That is true. So let’s use this moment as a moment of change? Yes.

When does change come? When the stars align and society focuses and the people focus, and they focus to such an extent that the politicians follow the people. That’s when change comes. “Well, the leaders lead!” Baloney. The people lead. And then the politicians see the people moving, and the politicians run to catch up with the people. How did we pass marriage equality in this State, giving a new civil right to the LGBTQ community? Because the people said, “enough is enough. How can you say only heterosexual people can marry, but the LGBTQ people— they can’t marry? How is that constitutional? How is that legal?” You have your own preference— God bless you. But how in the law, do you discriminate between two classes of people. We passed marriage equality.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, after all those years we tried to pass common sense gun safety. Do you really need an assault weapon to kill a deer? But then the Sandy Hook massacre happened, and the people said, “enough. You’re killing children? Young children in schools with an assault weapon? In the Sandy Hook massacre. Enough.”

And in that moment, we passed common sense gun safety in the State of New York. Record income inequality? People said, “enough” and passed a real minimum wage in this State that went all across the nation. There’s a moment for change, and is there a moment here? Yes. If we’re constructive and if we’re smart, and if we know what were asking for! It’s not enough to come out and say, “I’m angry, I’m frustrated.” OK. And what? “Well, I don’t know, but I’m angry and frustrated.”

And you want what done? You need the answer. “Well, I want common sense gun reform.” OK, what does it look like? Here it is— three points. “Well I want to address income inequality.” Well, what do you want? “Here’s what I want. Minimum wage at $15. Free college tuition.” What do you want?

You want to make that moment work. Yes, you express the outrage! But then you say, “here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.” That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protestors are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse. When you have the local District Attorney doing the investigations— I don’t care how good they are— there is the suggestion of a conflict of interest. Why? Because that DA works with that police department every day and now that prosecutor is going to do the investigation of that police department that they work with every day? Conflict of interests can be real or perceived. How can people believe that the local prosecutor who works with that police department is going to be fair in the investigation? It shouldn’t be state by state. Minnesota Governor Walz put the attorney general in charge. Good. In this state, I put attorney general in charge of investigations where police kill an unarmed person. Good. But it shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. There is no self-policing. There’s an allegation, independent investigation. Give people comfort that the investigation is real.

If a police officer is being investigated, how is there disciplinary records not relevant? Once a police officer is being investigated, if they have disciplinary records that show this was a repeat pattern, how is that not relevant? By the way, the disciplinary records can also be used to exonerate. If they have disciplinary records that say he never, she never did anything like this before, fine. That’s relevant too.

We still have two education systems in this country. Everybody knows it. Your education is decided by your zip code. Poorer schools in poorer communities have a different level of funding than richer schools in this state. $36,000 per year we spend in a rich district. $13,000 in a poor district. How do you justify that? If anything, the children in a poorer community need more services in a school, not less. How do you justify that? You can’t. Do something about it. You still have children living in poverty in this nation? Well, when we had to, we found a trillion dollars to handle the COVID virus, but you can’t find funding to help children who live in poverty? No, you can find it, United States. You just don’t want to. It’s political will. When you need to find the money, you can find it. Let’s be honest, the federal government has a printing press in their basement. When they have the political will, they find the money.

The federal government went out of the housing business and never re-entered it. We have a national affordable housing crisis. Of course you do. You don’t fund affordable housing. I’m the former HUD secretary. I know better than anyone what the federal government used to do in terms of affordable housing with Section 8 and building new public housing. And we just stopped, and we left it to the market. Now you have an affordable housing plan. That’s what we should be addressing in this moment. And we should be saying to our federal officials, “There’s an election this year, a few months away. Here’s my agenda. Where do you stand?” Say to the congress, the House and Senate, “Where’s your bill on this?”

I heard some congressional people talking saying well maybe they’ll do a resolution. Yeah, resolutions are nice. Resolutions say in theory I support this. Pass a law, that’s what we want. A law that actually changes the reality, where something actually happens. That’s government’s job is to actually make change. Make change. You’re in a position to make change. Make change. Use this moment to galvanize public support. Use that outrage to actually make the change. And have the intelligence to say what changes you actually want. Otherwise, it’s just screaming into the wind if you don’t know exactly what changes we need to make.

And we have to be smart in this moment. The violence in these protests obscures the righteousness of the message. The people who are exploiting the situation, the looting, that’s not protesting. That’s not righteous indignation. That’s criminality and it plays into the hands of the people and the forces that don’t want to make the changes in the first place because then they get to dismiss the entire effort. I will tell you what they’re going to say. They’re going to say the first thing the President said when this happened. They’re going to say “These are looters.” Remember when the President put out that incendiary tweet? “We start shooting when they start looting or they start looting, we start shooting?” That’s an old ’60s call. The violence, the looting, the criminality plays right into those people who don’t want progressive change. And you mark my words, they’re going to say today, “Oh you see, they’re criminals. They’re looters. Did you see what they did breaking the store windows and going in and stealing?” And they’re going to try to paint this whole protest movement that they’re all criminals, they’re all looters. That’s what they’re going to do. Why? They don’t want to talk about Mr. Floyd’s death. They don’t want people seeing that video. They want people seeing the video of the looting. And when people see the video of the looting they say “Oh yeah, that’s scary. They’re criminals.” No, look at the video of the police officer killing Mr. Floyd. That’s the video we want people watching.

Now, I don’t even believe it’s the protesters. I believe there are people who are using this moment and using the protest for their own purpose. There are people who want to sow the seeds of anarchy, who want to disrupt. By the way, there are people who want to steal. And here’s a moment that you can use this moment to steal. You can use this moment to spread chaos. I hear the same thing from all the local officials. They have people in their communities who are there to quote unquote protest. They’re not from their community. They don’t know where they’re from, extremist groups, some people are going to blame the left, some people will blame the right. It will become politicized. But there is no doubt there are outside groups that come in to disrupt. There is no doubt that there are people who just use this moment to steal. What, it’s a coincidence they broke into a Rolex watch company? That was a coincidence? High end stores, Chanel. That was a coincidence? That was random? That was not random. So, can you have a legitimate protest movement hijacked? Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And there are people and forces who will exploit that moment and I believe that’s happening.

But we still have to be smart. And at the same time, we have a fundamental issue which is we just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed. People will have lost their jobs. People wiped out their savings. And now mass gatherings with thousands of people in close proximity one week before we’re going to reopen New York City? What sense does this make? Control the spread, control the spread, control the spread. We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings. We don’t even know. We won’t know possibly for weeks. It’s the nature of the virus. How many super-spreaders were in that crowd? “Well, they were mostly young people.” How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello or shook hands with their father or hugged their father or their grandfather or their brother or their mother or their sister and spread a virus?

New York City opens next week. Took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart? New York tough. We went from the worst situation to reopening. From the worst situation to 54 deaths in 50 days. We went from the worst situation to reopening in 93 days. We did that because we were New York tough. New York tough was smart. We were smart. We were smart for 93 days. We were united, we were respectful of each other. We were disciplined. Wearing the mask is just discipline, it’s just discipline. Remember to put it on, remember to pick it up, remembering to put it on when see someone, it’s just discipline.

It was also about love. We did it because we love one another. That’s what a community is. We love one another. And yes, you can be loving even in New York. Even with the New York toughness, even with a New York accent, even with a New York swagger. We’re loving. That’s what we’ve done for 93 days in a way we’ve never done it before. Never in my lifetime. Never in my lifetime has this city and this state come together in the way we have. I don’t think it ever will again, in my lifetime. Now you can say maybe it takes a global pandemic for it to happen. I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t know that the power of what it was like when it came together might not be so beautiful that people want to do it again.

Remember when we all acted together during coronavirus and we rallied and we knocked coronavirus on its rear end. Remember when we all wore masks and we had to have hand sanitizer? Remember what we did? Wow. When we come together, we can do anything and it’s true. It’s true for the state, it’s true for a nation. When you come together and you have one agenda you can do anything. You want to change society, you want to end the tale of two cities, you want to make it one America? You can do that, just the way you knocked coronavirus on its rear end.

People united can do anything. We showed that, we just showed that the past 93 days. We can end the injustice and the discrimination and the intolerance and the police abuse. We have to be smart. We have to be smart right now. Right now in this state. We have to be smart tonight in this city because this is not advancing a reform agenda. This is not persuading government officials to change. This is not helping end coronavirus. We have to be smart.

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© 2020 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

Trump, Republicans’ Dickens Vision of America: Where Money is Entitlement, ‘Please Sir, I’d Like Some More’

Long Islanders protesting for the 99% against foreclosures by banks too big to fail, bailed out by taxpayers. The Republican tax scam, combined with Trump deregulation and obliteration of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sets up an even greater Recession and foreclosures. Seniors on Long Island, facing the inability to deduct state and local taxes and the likelihood of Republican cuts to Social Security and Medicare, will be forced out of their homes. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.

Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care.  800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.

The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.

Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”

You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.

It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.

Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.

This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)

Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.

Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)

You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.

“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.

“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.

The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.

Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”

“Please sir, I’d like some more.”

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© 2017 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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