Powerful Solutions for a Powerful Problem

By Dorian Warren

Let's play a game. It's called--Who Said It: A Democratic or a Republican Presidential Candidate?

First up, a candidate who wants to "cap [tax] deductions used by the wealthy and Washington special interests," because "for years, wealthy individuals have deducted a much greater share of their income than everyone else."

Requiring everyone to pay their fair share--that's a clear leftie value, right?

Wrong. This quote comes straight from the campaign website of Jeb Bush.

Next up, this candidate says, "I'm running for President of the United States because I want to make it easier for working families to achieve the American dream."

Valuing working families--that's what the left does best, right? Clearly a Democratic candidate.
Wrong again. These are the words of Marco Rubio.

Lastly, this candidate wants to help ex-offenders find stable employment by requiring "employers to first interview job applicants before asking if he or she has ever been convicted of a crime."

Banning the box and ending barriers to employment for people with conviction histories--this has got to be Bernie or Hillary, right?

Wrong. This comes from none other than Chris Christie.

If you're having a hard time telling the talking points from the left and right apart, you're not alone. Candidates on both sides of the party line share a common failure: cheap talk without proposing bold, concrete solutions to a powerful problem.

That powerful problem is inequality and an economy out of balance. And Democrats have an opportunity to stand out from their GOP rivals during their first debate on Tuesday. I challenge candidates to come prepared with bold economic solutions that will set them apart from opponents on the right and draw a clear line contrast for Americans struggling to make ends meet.

This is their moment to push creative solutions to declining incomes and wealth of working families, address decades of disinvestment in communities of color, entrenched patterns of racial and gender discrimination, increased pollution of our air and water, and giveaways to Wall Street and CEOs that have pushed our economy dangerously out of balance.

Americans are more than ready for real solutions--they are demanding them. Whether it's the vibrant Black Lives Matter movement, the dozens upon dozens of local communities uniting to win minimum wage increases, paid sick leave, access to child care or investments in economy-boosting jobs for working families, the conversation about poverty and inequality in America is turning into a serious conversation about how to rewrite the rigged rules of our economy to put families first.

The agenda that can achieve this is premised on massive federal investments in good, community-reviving, family-sustaining, economy-stimulating jobs for those who need them most.

First of all, this program needs to be big, bold and innovative enough to confront the scale of the problem we're up against. We need a 21st-century, New Deal-inspired work program to create these positions and hire men and women from communities of concentrated poverty.

Hillary Clinton was on the right track when she talked about need to focus on investing "in poor and remote areas." Unfortunately her means of getting resources to those places, "empowerment zones" is a tried and failed approach. It's not big enough.

This country needs millions of jobs, which will require significant investment of both federal funds and resources--at minimum, there would need to be a direct federal investment of $200 billion a year.

Second, these jobs need to go to the nation's hardest hit communities. While I applaud Bernie Sanders for being the only Democratic candidate to discuss the scale of his proposed jobs program, we need to know how these investments will be targeted and who these jobs will go to.

Whether they're urban communities of Black families that have been ravaged by racial profiling and economic rules that steal away opportunity; or suburban Brown families living in neighborhoods where there is plenty of air pollution and crappy roads, but no good jobs; or rural White families living in areas where the prospect of a secure future disappeared when industrial factories shut their doors decades ago, communities of concentrated poverty can be found all around the country. What they have in common is a long history of disinvestment, discrimination and hopelessness. This is unacceptable.

These communities need good jobs that can support families, turbocharge the economy and revitalize neighborhoods by delivering new infrastructure and enterprise in community health, caring for children and the elderly, making innovations in clean energy and developing improved transportation.

Last, we must guarantee that these investments stay in the hands of local communities. With community control, these funds will be safe from the interference of corporate extraction and will be guaranteed to create the maximum number of jobs with economic benefits that stay in neighborhood and regional economies.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, but it's time for a bold national agenda to address the crisis families are facing in trying to make ends meet. Through the re-balancing of our tax system, it is possible. By cutting out tax loopholes for corporations and America's wealthiest, we can create a more fair system that invests in working families.

On both the left and the right, politicians are making vague promises that don't resonate with America's struggling families. Whether it's empowerment zones, summer jobs programs or trickle-down tax cuts, these solutions aren't big enough, aren't targeted enough and don't address the realities of rigged rules that discriminate against working families, people of color and women.

Tuesday's debate will be Democratic presidential candidates' make-or-break opportunity to show whether they're serious about addressing this powerful problem. In order for people to see an economic platform as a possibility for real change in their lives, the solutions need to be even more powerful than the problem.

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