Page 14


to home mortgage financing in the decades after World War II and up to the present. These could include low-interest loans and down-payment assistance. Additional initiatives could remove barriers to higher education, especially when targeting first-generation college students and low- and middle-income households. Student debt now exceeds $1.5 trillion and interferes with younger people being able to save money, build wealth, and purchase homes. These should be accompanied by policies to protect low-wealth families from predatory financial practices, including by strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Predatory auto loans, alongside other forms of predatory debt, are on the rise, fueling potential debt bubbles. Other ideas include generating wealth for all Americans and transferring it to them directly. Senator Cory Booker, for instance, has proposed the creation of a “baby bond” program that would seed an asset account for every newborn. According to one study, had such a program been in place in 1979, the wealth divide between young Latinx and White households would have been entirely closed by now, and the wealth divide between young Black and White households would have shrunk by 82 percent. In addition to programs specifically geared towards historically excluded communities, we need others that look to turn our overall economy right-side up — so those in the working and middle classes receive the majority of the growth they help our economy produce. We could pay for some of these investments by restoring progressiveness to the US tax system and raising rates on the highest brackets to their post-World War II levels. We could also fix some of the upside-down tax incentives that subsidize the already wealthy and direct investment into opportunities for low-wealth families. Specifically, we should reform the mortgage interest deduction (which can favor people with pricey homes at the expense of ordi-


Q2 / SPRING 2019



nary people) and other tax expenditures. Add to all these measures common-sense ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding health care coverage, and taxing the 1 percent to fund education and infrastructure. Together these ideas wouldn’t just close the racial wealth divide — they’d create an economy that works for all Americans, not just the super-rich.

WHAT WE CAN BUILD The creation of a strong American middle class after World War II didn’t happen on its own. It required a healthy, vibrant economy, including significant investments in the ability of Americans to build lasting financial security through homeownership, higher education, and transportation. But these policies were most often intentionally directed at White communities and away from Americans of color. We’re committing economic suicide if we continue to exclude the coming majority of the country from opportunities to invest in the future. In this century, America must come together to build — for the first time — an inclusive middle-class economy.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is the Chief of Equity and Inclusion at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Chuck Collins directs the IPS Program on Inequality. They’re co-authors of the report “Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1 Percent Widens the Racial Wealth Divide.”

Profile for Conscious Company

Conscious Company Magazine | Spring 2019  

The Q2/Spring 2019 issue of Conscious Company is all about the racial wealth gap, diversity as a competitive differentiator, game-changing f...

Conscious Company Magazine | Spring 2019  

The Q2/Spring 2019 issue of Conscious Company is all about the racial wealth gap, diversity as a competitive differentiator, game-changing f...