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Equity is the Antidote to Inequality

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Angela Glover Blackwell. Photo by Dale Robbins

Equity is the antidote to inequality.

I want to hear these six words in the president’s State of the Union address.

Am I an idealist? Yes, but I’m also a realist, and President Obama is, too. As his inaugural address last month made clear, he understands that growing inequality is the most pressing issue of our time. He reminded us that long ago we could not survive as a nation half free and half slave.

And we cannot survive in the future if so few people have so much and so many have so little.

The President should embrace our changing demographics and tell America that diversity can be our greatest asset, our competitive edge in a world without boundaries. He should articulate a vision for a nation that allows everyone to apply their creativity and talent to building the new economy and leading us on a path to sustained growth.

Then he must translate that vision into a policy agenda driven by equity, fairness, and inclusion and crafted around four broad principles:

Create good jobs that pay family-supporting wage and offer opportunities for advancement, and invest in transportation and infrastructure that connects underrepresented workers to employment.

Build capabilities of our most valuable asset — our people — through investments in job training, robust community colleges and education at all levels.

Remove barriers to full participation in economic and civic life. Comprehensive immigration reform is a good place to start.

Expand opportunities and build on the successful strategies initiated during the first term to create communities of opportunity for all.

Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and president of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity. A national leader for social justice and equity, Ms. Blackwell seeks to strengthen America by creating stronger low-income communities and communities of color

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  • I VOTE!

    What about the FEDs getting out of the business standards and tests? The common core state standards written by the National Governors Association and the repressive testing are totally ridiculous.

  • Steve

    If only we lived in such an ideal world but alas that is not the case. As those in the world of finance know, to gain equity one must invest something, be willing to pay a price to get it,or an asset someone already has must appreciate in value. Creating jobs and economic and social equity is not simply a matter of declaring such. We are in a time of exponential and unrelenting change in every area of our lives. Even the most erudite and educated are having a tough time adapting. Hardly anyone seems to be able to see around the next bend in the road to the future. How then do you propose that this job creation, economic and social equity be initiated and executed, that is the question? it is not just a matter of here is “what” I want, but what has to be done to make it all happen. These days, highlighting a problem without presenting a solution is a waste of time. Think about it and get back to us when you or anyone else has specific ideas about “how” and not just “what”. There are no guarantees in life, life is not fair, and forthe most part we must create our own opportunity. Life is tough!

  • Johnalbert Eadie

    Why would you trust Obama? He has excellent words, and perhaps good intentions. But he ends up being driven by interests. At a time like this we need someone who will do something in spite of the difficulty and the personal risk. Nice we don’t need. Political correctness we really don’t need. Apart from a halfway help on Healthcare, I see nothing achieved. No follow-through. What needs to be addressed include the US educational system (poor), Inequality (frightening, unstable), and, rather than encouraging them … *containing* the bloody banker / corporation dictats and greed. A lot needs to be done, but IMO Obama never was up to the job. Or. It can’t be done.

  • Steve

    Is this the best We can do? Hell no. We need ACTION, not words and fancy political rhetoric. As someone once said, “there is no try, you either do it or don’t do it. Congress and our govt. representatives obviously find even “try” to be an impossible task.

    We must break the moneyed shackles of the lobbyists and corporate interests and the 1% and we must begin to work together to solve what are our common interests. We are all in this together and need each other to survive and thrive once more. Our options should not be either/or but both/and, otherwise there will be no forward progress and no future for many. We must face that future with a can do, abundance mentality (there is enough for everybody if we share) and not be forced into a scarcity mentality and inaction through self-limiting fear and worry. We must ACT not according to our past history but according to our potential, which is unlimited if we recognize it and let it shine.

  • BMcEwan

    The way I read Ms. Blackwell, she is not merely saying what she wants. She is suggesting that the country make strategic investments in job training, community colleges and infrastructure projects. The investors would be government, but also private companies, which could invest in training their workers to be more productive and efficient, among other things. That was supposed to be the purpose of the Bush tax cuts, was it not?

  • Rita Goldberger

    Life is much tougher for those born poor. The “self-made man (and woman)” myth is getting harder to turn into a reality. Poverty usually means poor schools. Poverty means no money for college. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, two self-made billionaires, dropped out of HARVARD to build their businessess. They had the educational underpinnings to build successful tech companies. How would someone with a sub-standard high school education manage that? People may need to create their own opportunity, but we as a society must make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed at those opportunities. We must invest in quality education for all children.

  • Rita Goldberger

    Here is the reality: Obama is the President now. To complain that he is not the most dedicated equity activist is not useful. We cannot wait around another four years until another President — possibly worse — is elected. We must put pressure on the President we have now — and on all officials we have now — to pass laws that advance equity.

  • Anonymous

    Equity is the remedy that builds a healthier society. It’s the kind of investment that enables resiliency to help recovery without leaving the most vulnerable behind by shaping a more inclusive future. Equity is tool to shape stronger communities using the power of diversity to fathom more possibilities than ever imagined possible.

  • Kalima Rose

    I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Blackwell’s suggestions. And we have so many good examples of leaders making these kinds of investments that the President can build from!

    Deborah Scott, who leads Emerald Cities Atlanta, has gotten 100 workers trained in energy efficiency retrofitting of the the city’s commercial buildings through partnerships between Atlanta Technical College and trade union apprenticeship programs. These men and women–former armed services members and people with criminal records–are helping Atlanta move towards its 2020 goal of a 20 percent reduction in green house gases!

    Tony Salazar, who heads the Los Angeles office of the development firm McCormack, Baron, Salazar, rebuilds distressed urban neighborhoods with a good school, mixed income housing and commercial enterprises. They focus on local hiring and minority contracting, and build enterprises that serve the neighborhood–garbage recycling run by local residents, youth-serving programs, landscaping and healthy food stores.

    Alan Hipolito, who heads Verde, a social enterprise in Portland that builds environmental assets in low income communities of color, has hired low income Latino, Native American, and African American workers and firms to transform a landfill into a park, build storm water management swales, plant trees (from their own nursery) throughout Portland tree-bare neighborhoods and along highways. Each Verde worker gets a three year career plan with training that can help them realize their goals.

    These are the kinds of investments Ms. Blackwell is advocating, and from the transformations I’ve seen in these communities, I say, Bring it on, Mr. President!

  • Denise Fairchild

    It seems that the underlying premise to Ms. Blackwell’s call for equity is that it is in our self-interest — yours and mine — and not Obama’s or the government’s interest to ensure America begins to stockpile quality jobs that pay well enough to support our families, communities and businesses. And that that these opportunities should be broadly accessible for all Americans so that the nation’s balance sheet tips in favor of income instead of deficits. This is a bi-partisan/non-partisan agenda. It is an agenda that businesses and corporations need…. a robust consumer base and a skilled labor force. It is an agenda for the shrinking middle whose assets (mortgages and pensions) depend on a well endowed consumer market. It is an agenda that those of us who are concerned about a growing poverty class can buy into as jobs, education and business opportunities are a pathway out of poverty. And the idea of middle skill jobs offering careers and benefits is really the quickest way to rebuilding the middle class that every one says they care about. It is the best policy to address the infrastructure needs of our country and to strengthen America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. It is just so mom and apple pie…. to me. I think the only challenge facing us, is not whether equity makes sense — economic, political and social — but whether we can confront the race factor. The new reality, the new demographic, however, suggest we can no longer avoid it. So, let’s just get busy and figure this out.

  • Guest

    “He should articulate a vision for a nation that allows everyone to apply
    their creativity and talent to building the new economy and leading us
    on a path to sustained growth.”

    I think this is exactly the kind of innovative tone that President Obama should impress upon the American people during his State of the Union Address. People seem to have become too preoccupied with tearing one another down, instead of building one another up for the sake of the greater good of our COLLECTIVE society. How could people be opposed to investments in education, job training, and crumbling infrastructure? The return on investment in human capital is ENDLESS!

    As Ms. Glover Blackwell stated, “…we cannot survive in the future if so few people have so much and so many have so little.” I have heard The United States of America referred to as an “experiment in democracy”. If so, we need to keep testing our hypothesis and analyzing the data to reach the best outcomes.

    I never considered myself to be very patriotic until 2008 and the election of President Barack H. Obama. For me, it was the first time that a candidate ever even scratched the surface of what it meant to be hopeful for a more promising future. I hope his State of the Union Address touches on the principles outlined by

    Ms. Glover Blackwell and then some.

  • Judith

    The President has a whole portfolio of programs that he could expand to advance this agenda. One example is– the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI). Modeled after a successful Pennsylvania model, HFFI has created more than 1,000 jobs by providing one time grants and loans to establish new healthy food retail –grocery stores, farmers markets, coops, community supported agriculture in communities with the greatest need–low-income communities and communities of color. The additional support is enough to create sustainable businesses. In PA, they created 5,000 jobs, with 88 projects providing more than 400,000 residents with new access to healthy food . it’s this kind of triple bottomline– jobs, revitalized communities, and health impacts that could help bring thousands of good jobs and new opportunities to the people and communities that need them most. This program, and others like it, should be expanded. These kinds of successful efforts could help advance equity as the antidote to inequality.

  • Albany CA

    We provide our workers with shares in our privately held corporation. All workers that last two years share in this and it has made all the difference. It took a while to get it working but we’ve never been more profitable and had such dedicated workers.