Biden rounds out economic pitch with focus on racial inequality

Fourth plank of ‘build back better’ plan to revive US economy seeks to close racial wealth and opportunity gaps.

Joe Biden BBB fourth plank
Presumptive United States Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled the fourth and final plank of his 'build back better' economic revival plan at the William 'Hicks' Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware, the US on Tuesday [Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press]

Joe Biden rounded out his pitch for rebuilding the United States economy on Tuesday by pledging to allocate $30bn in federal investments to bolster minority-owned business and implement policies to redress the yawning racial wealth and opportunity gap in the country.

Speaking near his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, the presumptive Democratic nominee accused President Donald Trump of failing to keep Americans safe during the COVID-19 crisis – which has disproportionately hit Black and brown communities – and deliberately fuelling racial tensions.

“He [Trump] is horrifyingly and not surprisingly intentionally stoking the flames of division and racism in this country,” said Biden.

Tuesday’s event showcased details of the fourth and final plank of Biden’s “build back better” blueprint for reviving the US economy from the ravages of coronavirus.

Each plank attempts to leverage the historic economic disruptions triggered by the pandemic to promote programmes designed to boost growth and address long-festering social and environmental issues, while creating millions of well-paying jobs.

The more-than-$3 trillion, heavily detailed plan envisions spending $775bn over 10 years to improve childcare and eldercare; investing $2 trillion on building clean energy infrastructure during Biden’s first four-year term in office; and spending $700bn in federal funds topromoteUS manufacturing and innovation.

The $30bn Biden is earmarking to advance economic justice would be carved out of the $700bn in federal funds to promote US industry. That money would then be directed into a “Small Business Opportunity Fund” to spur private investment in minority-owned businesses, especially in disadvantaged, underserved communities.

The number of active African-American business owners plummeted 41 percent between February and April as coronavirus lockdowns swept the nation, a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found.

Biden accused the Trump administration of not doing enough to throw a financial lifeline to these struggling business owners through the heavily criticised Paycheck Protection Program that has largely favoured bigger businesses.

“Black and brown businesses that needed the help most got shut out,” Biden noted. “Our economy cannot afford for them to close.”

To remedy this, Biden pledged to earmark 50 percent of emergency small business relief to businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

Promoting racial equity

The death of unarmed Black man George Floyd in police custody in May reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement and propelled the need to meaningfully address systemic racial inequality to the forefront of this year’s election issues.

There are mountains of metrics gauging that vast racial-income gap and the wealth and opportunity gaps that exist in the US – and these disparities have been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.

The US unemployment rate in June for white adult workers was 10.1 percent, compared to 15.4 percent for African-Americans, and 14.5 percent for Latinos.

Historically, homeownership has been a key driver for building wealth in the US. Here too, African-Americans have struggled compared to their white peers.

In the later half of last year, white households enjoyed a 73.1 percent home ownership rate, compared to 46.6 Latino households and 40.6 percent for Black households, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

Biden’s plan seeks to help close this gap with a $15,000 federal tax credit for low- and middle-income families buying their first homes and a tax credit for renovating homes in distressed neighbourhoods to boost home values.

Other initiatives in Biden’s plan aim to minimise racial disparities in credit scoring; reinstate fair housing and fair lending protections suspended by the Trump administration; cancel a minimum of $10,000 in student loan debt immediately; diversify the ranks of the US Federal Reserve to promote racial equity; and promote criminal record expungement and sealing for selected categories of non-violent offenders to help facilitate their re-entry into the labour force.

Source: Al Jazeera