We must work to end shameful racial and economic disparities that we see epitomized here in the 5th District, and across the country as well. In our region there is a wage gap of 32% between what white people and people of color earn. For black people specifically, the median income is less than half of what it is for white people ($42,200 vs. $90,100)–the worst gap in eleven comparable metropolitan areas surveyed. Even in this current climate of job growth, while the unemployment rate as of March 2022 for white Minnesotans is 3.0%, for Black Minnesotans, it is 7.1%. Further, there is a wide and persistent gap in bank lending to small businesses: In 2017, banks lent over $800M to small businesses in majority-white areas, while loaning only about 5% of that total ($40M) to small businesses in majority-POC areas.
Allowing these shameful disparities to exist has a real, discernible cost. For example, if we were a truly inclusive economy, during the years 2015 – 2019, Minnesota’s economy would have grown by $6.6 billion dollars more each year than it did according to studies by the Federal Reserve. This isn’t just about economic activity though–creating an environment where economic opportunity is within reach for everyone will create stronger, safer, and more resilient communities too.
I will focus on policies that increase stability, opportunity and prosperity for all, including:
- Strengthening our labor supply through expanded workforce development programs:
- We must focus on the forgotten people in forgotten places. We need to move beyond subsistence programs and bottom-feeding jobs. And we need to retrain people whose skill base is less needed as we shift into the new economy. We can no longer afford to have any people on the sidelines to be competitive in the global economy.
- We need to tie education to work in a meaningful way, starting early in life. Kids start playing hockey at four or five; they should start educational training as well, ensuring our most vulnerable kids have access to STEM and computing programs. The workers of tomorrow are middle schoolers now; the workers of the future are our toddlers. Education decides the redistribution of wealth; either a person is making money, or others will make money off of them.
- Recognizing the potential economic benefit of addressing climate change. Clean energy jobs are already growing at twice the rate of other jobs. And we can decide to prioritize growth in this sector even further, creating more high paying union jobs, especially in traditionally marginalized communities. This will address economic disparities and shift us into a new economy at a time when focusing on environmental crises is critically needed.
- A focus on easier paths to home ownership and access to capital. This is the basis of stability and intergenerational wealth and prosperity. Home ownership is a major step into the middle class, creating financial and community stability.
- Making it easier for small businesses to create new jobs and compete on a level playing field with big corporations by reducing bureaucracy, simplifying tax policies and making loans easy to access. Supporting local entrepreneurship and creating well-paying jobs is a clear path to the middle class.
- And finally, I support the responsive monetary policies the Biden administration is promoting to address inflation, the natural outcome of the policies enacted during the pandemic that kept us from crashing into a depression. These policies, including releasing portions of the strategic oil reserves in response to higher fuel prices resulting from the Russian oil sanctions, will help us get through this part of the business cycle and enable us to return to the next expansive phase for our economy.