Kirsten Gillibrand Is Endorsing “Actionable” Steps To Close The Racial Wealth Gap

Leading experts’ bold new guidelines are a “crucial roadmap,” the 2020 presidential candidate told BuzzFeed News.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is endorsing a set of policy proposals that leading policy experts predict would “dramatically reduce” the racial wealth divide.

The proposals laid out in a new report include some ideas Gillibrand has pushed during her presidential campaign, like postal banking and proposals for full employment. But the endorsement also marks the first time Gillibrand has formally signed onto other ideas, like American children in need receiving at birth federally administered trust accounts that appreciate in value and become accessible once they become an adult. She’s also endorsing steps detailed by the coauthors like raising taxes on the ultrarich and the creation of a commission to formally review reconciliatory reparations for slavery.

A draft of the report, titled “Ten Solutions to Bridge the Racial Wealth Divide,” will be jointly released this week by the Institute for Policy Studies, the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. The platform isn’t meant to be all-encompassing, but rather a guide for “actionable” steps as the political climate shifts toward fixing long-standing, systemic economic inequality, the authors said. Gillibrand told BuzzFeed News, which received an early summary of the report, that she was “proud” that it included ideas she’s fought for.

The intersection of race and wealth is a pivotal issue for Democrats ahead of 2020, as research shows that a majority of black voters strongly believe that they are being attacked and that racism is on the rise. Those voters, especially young black Americans, are placing a strong emphasis on economic opportunity and want aspirational leadership that will fight for greater equality. Early last year, Priorities USA and Color of Change PAC released its findings of a survey of unregistered black American millennials who overwhelmingly said their first priority would be to elect a candidate who “will fight to create jobs and raise wages, including among minorities and young people, and in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

“While it is clearly not the priority of the current presidential administration, or Congress as a whole, to adopt policies to substantially address the racial wealth divide, momentum is building and there is a potential for the political winds to propel us towards a government that will,” the report reads.

Gillibrand has focused on job creation in New York specifically as the state’s senator, including with support for legislation that would have put 2 million people to work restoring the nation’s decaying infrastructure. She was among the first presidential candidates to support the guarantee of a job at a living wage to every American worker. Gillibrand has also pushed for legislation in the Senate that would provide checking accounts to millions of Americans who don't have one. Under the plan she introduced, which is included in the new report, unbanked households would receive help from the government, allowing them to receive basic financial services such as checking or interest-bearing savings accounts that would be provided by the US Postal Service.

The number of unbanked American households remains “stubbornly high” the report says, citing FDIC data stating 7% of American households have no bank accounts, leaving tens of millions of Americans vulnerable to predation and without vital bank services like credit and automatic bill pay.

In a statement, Gillibrand highlighted her work on postal banking in the Senate, endorsing the platform which she said “provides a crucial roadmap for beginning to address the systemic racism that unacceptably pervades our society.”

The proposal for trust accounts that would be given to children, sometimes called called “baby bonds,” is an idea promoted by Darrick Hamilton, an applied microeconomist who is the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, and is one of the country’s leading authorities on the intersection of race and economic policy. Sen. Cory Booker, who recently officially kicked off his campaign for president, introduced a baby bonds bill earlier this year.

Gillibrand previously met with Hamilton, who said in a statement that implementing the ideas would right “historical injustices that created the racial wealth divide in a manner that is universal but race conscious.”

The report issued a warning that greater racial equity on wealth in America has to be addressed through structural systemic policy: “Adjustments to black and Latinx education rates, homeownership, savings and employment do not greatly reduce the racial wealth divide due to the structural underpinnings holding the racial wealth divide in place.”

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