The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice protests in the middle of it underscored economic and social fractures that were there all along. Inequality isn’t simply about how much stuff you have. It’s about life and death.
America needs to recover – not only from a pandemic, but from an economic system and a culture that has from its beginning valued some lives over others. We need to rebuild and revive devastated communities, shore up and regain trust in essential institutions and systems, and when we do we need to create a new normal that is unlike the old. The old normal wasn’t built for everyone. It was indefensible.
America should not only promise but deliver to all Americans opportunities to build wealth and live well. That isn’t a radical goal, just a restatement of the very first principle from the nation’s founding:
Black lives matter. Women and girls, immigrants, essential workers, Latino, Asian, gay, transgender, indigenous, rural, urban, suburban, old and poor people matter. A just economy, formulated and perpetually recalibrated to ensure public benefits and individual achievements, should sustain, celebrate and embolden all.
This is a starting point: a set of principles upon which public sector policies and private sector practices should be organized and evaluated.
This is also an open letter to leaders and a commitment to ourselves and our children. Together, we pledge to …
Together, we urge government, business, nonprofit, faith and philanthropic leaders, and informed, empowered individuals everywhere, to imagine and create a just economy.
How? Ensure everyone has access to loans, insurance, homes, investments and financial services free of racial, gender, ethnic, geographic, age and other forms of bias and discrimination. Encourage rigorous private sector practices to end discrimination in business. Ensure inclusive investments, leadership and hiring in new and small businesses. Set fair and sound tax rates to meet the nation’s financial commitments and the needs of future generations. Reject, reveal and punish corruption.
How? End homelessness. Enforce fair lending and fair housing laws. Ensure lenders, capital markets and local regulations provide equitable access to affordable homes for owners and renters in safe, livable, and inclusive communities.
How? Root out systemic racism and socio-economic biases and disparities in financial services, housing, education, business, healthcare, employment, elections, criminal justice and law enforcement. Repair history, ensure an equitable future. Past injustices explain but do not excuse why descendants of enslaved Africans, as well as Native Americans, hold and pass on to their children a slim fraction of the wealth held by descendants of white European immigrants. Or why in 2020 women earned, on average, 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. End the racial wealth divide. End the gender pay gap.
How? Ensure knowledge, innovation and capital flow fairly to individuals in all communities. End geographic disparities and repair historic injustices that systematically concentrated wealth in some communities and blocked it from others. End the digital divide. Ensure everyone, everywhere, has affordable access to digital data networks and devices to use them.
How? Ensure a living wage for all work. Work to thrive, not to survive. Decouple basic needs from employment. Reinvent the social safety net. In place of government programs to supplement starvation wages and unemployment, enact a minimum basic income, regardless of employment, to pay for basic necessities, including food, clothing and shelter. Earn more for comforts and to accumulate wealth.
How? End racial and geographic disparities in access to healthcare and in health outcomes, including lifespans and maternal childbirth deaths. Ensure a healthy and sustainable environment with clean air and water, access to nutritious food, clean and renewable energy and greenspaces. Solve preventable causes of death, including pollution and gun violence. Ensure all have paid time off for illnesses, childcare after a birth or adoption and for family care and mental health. Ensure a strong, coordinated national public health system.
How? End disparities and segregation in school funding. End the use of loans and the burden of debt for education at all levels, from preschool through graduate, trade and professional school. Demolish the schools-to-prisons pipeline. Prioritize investments in education and communities over military spending.
How? Strengthen and enforce laws to eliminate intentional and implicit digital discrimination. Enforce antitrust laws to ensure no company controls digital data or markets.
How? Create real pathways for re-entry, education and full participation in community life after prison. Demilitarize and drive racism out of policing and law enforcement, abolish prisons for profit, end bail systems, court and jail fees and inequities in penalties that disproportionately favor the rich and punish the poor.
How? End racist and political manipulation of elections and voting. Guarantee no-wait voting for all voters in all elections. Strengthen and celebrate participation in democracy, punish suppression of voting rights and ensure sound, trusted voting systems.
How? Ensure transparency and access to public records and data. Tell the truth. Teach it in schools. Require it from government and business leaders, seek and respect it from scientists. Champion freedom of the press. Invest to sustain robust, independent, inclusive and resilient local journalism.
Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.
Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.
The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.
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