It was a big day for plans, and Senator Elizabeth Warren rubbed her hands together almost gleefully as she said, “I’ve got a lot of them.”
But at the Essence Festival in New Orleans on Saturday, she was not the only one with a plan.
Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris of California both used the occasion — the annual culture and music festival sponsored by Essence magazine, which caters to Black women — to introduce major new proposals intended to address racial disparities, including in wealth and homeownership.
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas also spoke at the event.
Kamala Harris: $100 billion for homeownership
Harris announced a plan aimed at reducing the racial gap in homeownership, including $100 billion to help Black families and individuals buy homes in historically redlined communities, where banks systematically denied them loans. The money would help cover down payments and closing costs for up to four million families or individuals, providing home buyers with up to $25,000 each.
Elizabeth Warren: New rules for federal contractors
Every year, the federal government awards $500 billion in contracts to companies that, altogether, employ about a quarter of the country’s workers. Warren’s plan, which she released on Friday and described to the audience on Saturday, calls for an executive order that would require the recipients of those contracts to diversify their workforces, and pay women and people of color equally.
“It’s up to the federal government to say what the terms of those contracts are,” Warren said. “It’s not enough to talk the talk about equal pay for equal work. It’s not enough to talk the talk about the diversity of your work force. You’ve got to walk the walk, or you’re not getting those federal contracts.”
Under her proposed executive order, contractors would be barred from asking about past salaries and criminal records, and from using forced arbitration and noncompete clauses. Another component of the plan is meant to diversify the federal government’s own work force.
Warren also called for a $7 billion federal fund to invest in businesses owned by people of color and women, noting — as Booker did, too — that it is far easier for white Americans to start a small business than for Black Americans, who receive a tiny fraction of the country’s venture capital.
“We start to close the gap,” she said, “by using the power that the president herself will have.” At the word “herself,” the audience broke into applause.
Cory Booker: ‘Baby bonds’ and reproductive rights
Booker, too, addressed the racial wealth gap, calling for “the largest pool of capital for nontraditional entrepreneurs in our country’s history” and highlighting his proposal to create savings accounts for every child born in the United States. — (AP)
The accounts, which Booker calls “baby bonds,” would start with $1,000 for each child, and families below a certain income threshold would receive additional contributions of up to $2,000 a year.
“A paycheck will help you get by, but wealth in America is what lets you get ahead,” he said.
Booker also emphasized his proposals on gun violence, an issue in which he has gone further than some other candidates. Perhaps the most ambitious of his plans is a national gun licensing program. And, pressed on what he would do for Black women, he reiterated a pledge he made in the spring to create an “office of reproductive freedom” within the White House.
The office would oversee policymaking on issues like abortion, contraception access and maternal mortality, he said.
Beto O’Rourke: Debt forgiveness for teachers
In a question-and-answer session after his speech, O’Rourke outlined the wide-ranging education plan his campaign released on Friday.
Among other things, O’Rourke is proposing forgiving public school teachers’ student loan debt, providing more funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and creating a $500 billion fund for school districts where a majority of students are people of color.
But in his main address on Saturday, he did not focus on policies. He spent much of his time evoking African-American history, name-checking Coretta Scott King and Ralph Abernathy and recounting a strike led by Black women at the Medical University of South Carolina 50 years ago.
“African-American women are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,” he said. “It is on your hard work, your votes, your belief, your power of helping others to believe in what is possible, that we have not only elected the candidates that we want to see in office but have allowed them to pursue the policies we want to see to make this a better country.”
Two lower-polling presidential candidates, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, also delivered brief remarks. — (The New York Times)