On Saturday evening, the Democratic presidential hopefuls will once more take the stage for another debate. In previous debates this fall, the three candidates – Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonComet Ping Pong shooter pleads guilty Time for 'J. Edgar' Comey to take his leave Corruption trial could roil NJ Senate race MORE, Martin O’Malley, and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows preview: Aftermath of failed healthcare bill Michael Moore warns Dems: Now is not the time to gloat Warren: 'Today is a great day... but I'm not doing a touchdown dance' MORE (I-Vt.) – all alluded to massive reforms that would improve the lives of black, brown, and low-income communities around our nation. While the proposals of the leading Democratic candidates will never undo centuries of deeply embedded racism, they seek to redress damaging policies that kept black and Latino communities impoverished.
Back in April, Center for Popular Democracy joined dozens of grassroots groups around the country calling for massive and sustained federal investment to create jobs for families living in communities that have faced racial discrimination and disinvestment.
So far, all the Democratic candidates have mentioned the much-needed reform.
In the first Democratic debate, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton opened the door to the conversation when she called for a “new New Deal for communities of color.”
Then on November 8, Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley announced to a group of immigration activists in Las Vegas that he will soon be rolling out “a new agenda for American cities” that will invest in mass transit, affordable housing and a clean energy grid.
Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders followed soon after on November 9 telling the same group of activists that he would create a full-employment economy by investing $1 trillion in federal resources over five years in a plan that would create 13 million decent-paying jobs.
It doesn’t matter what we call the plan, a “new New Deal,” a “new agenda for American cities,” or a “full-employment economy.” What matters is that we are finally talking about the federal government’s responsibility to remedy the harms of centuries of public policy that has condemned black and brown communities to cyclical poverty.
This is a conversation America needs to have and a course of action that is long overdue. We need to do this now because too many of our families are facing the outcome of sustained disinvestment and predatory government practices—from bias-based policing to aggressive incarceration.
For too long, the federal government has tolerated and perpetuated practices of racial and gender discrimination, allowed rampant pollution to contaminate our water and air, sent millions to prison instead of colleges and permitted Wall Street and CEOs to rig all the rules.
Now is the time for us to demand real solutions. We must create a job program that meets the needs of the 21st century and provides access to jobs and resources and opportunities for those communities who have been disenfranchised by the government’s policies and practices.
To do so, we need to target resources. We must end expensive and discriminatory policing and criminal justice practices and instead invest in black families. We need to target resources to Latino families trying to get by while being cheated out of wages and overcharged for basic services. And we need to reinvest in white families living rural communities, where factory farms or recklessness in fossil fuel extraction have polluted communities and displaced family owned businesses.
Families deserve more from our leaders. For far too long, politicians have made promises to them that aren't real. Whether it is empowerment zones, summer jobs programs or trickle-down tax cuts, these solutions aren't big enough and do not recognize the scope or severity of the current crisis. We need policies that remedy the harms inflicted against these communities. We need targeted and transformation proposals.
America’s families deserve millions of good jobs. Not just any kind of job: good work so that their families can thrive.
We call on all candidates to commit to a massive federal investment of $200 billion a year that specifically targets communities with concentrated poverty and high unemployment. The people in those communities, through local organizations and institutions, must have the power to control and evaluate how the money is spent. This idea is a game-changer that is achievable by reducing the costs of the broken criminal justice and mass incarceration system and by taxing concentrated wealth.
Now is the time for bold investments in America’s most disinvested communities. Now is the time for a 21st century jobs program that restores balance to our economy and puts families first to get work done that our country needs to be strong. Now is the time for a program that works for everyone, and for a change that puts people of color, immigrants and women first, instead of last.
Sound bites and campaign promises are not enough. Now is the time to lay out the details of your plans and how soon you will make them happen.
Stahly-Butts is a policy advocate and the deputy director of Racial Justice at Center for Popular Democracy.