Election

Biden says post-pandemic economy can fight racial inequality

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden unveiled a plan Tuesday to ensure that the nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery is built around promoting racial equality, promising to dramatically spur investment in Black-owned small businesses and encourage home ownership while closing wealth gaps among minority communities.

Much of the 26-page proposal — and the billions in federal spending needed to pay for it — had already been promised as part of previous, larger Biden plans to jumpstart the economy when the coronavirus outbreak begins to recede.

But as protests against institutional racism and police brutality have swept the country in recent months, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is attempting to show voters that he’s committed to implementing specific remedies that can promote racial and economic equality should he win the White House in November.

It’s also another way Biden is aiming to offer a stark contrast to President Donald Trump, who has spent weeks vowing to restore “law and order” and ordering federal authorities to intervene against ongoing protests in places like Portland, Oregon, and Chicago.

“Everything is worsened by the crisis of presidential leadership. A change of ‘tone’ over a few days does not change the facts of the last four years,” Biden will say in a speech later this afternoon from a community center in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, according to excerpts released by his campaign.

The president did strike a more somber tone when commenting publicly about the virus for the better part of the week, but has now resumed spreading misinformation about how to fight it while offering digs at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

“But this election is not just about voting against Donald Trump,” Biden plans to say. “It’s about rising to this moment of crisis, understanding people’s struggle, and building a future worthy of their courage and ambition to overcome.”

The former vice president wants to take $30 billion, or 10% of federal investment he’s already promised as part of larger economic plans, and funnel it into a “Small Business Opportunity Fund” designed to leverage $5 of private investment for minority owned enterprises for each $1 in public funds allocated. He also plans to spend $50 billion to provide startup capital that can help entrepreneurs of color start businesses in disadvantaged areas.

To encourage home ownership, the plan would create a $15,000 federal tax credit to help low-and middle-income families cover down payments on their first homes. It also pledges to build 1.5 million new homes and public housing units in hopes of addressing the “affordable housing crisis” which has hit many of the nation’s marquee cities and disproportionately hurt people of color.

Biden similarly vowed to undo Trump administration regulatory changes which the Democratic presidential nominee says “gutted” Obama administration rules preventing housing discrimination and unfair lending practices.

Asked about the possibility of a congressional study on the feasibility of federal reparations to descendants of enslaved Black people in the United States, senior Biden officials said their candidate wouldn’t oppose such a study. But they defended Tuesday’s proposal as doing more to benefit Black Americans in the short term, saying “he is not going to wait on a study to create change.”

Biden’s plan also doesn’t endorse legalizing marijuana, though it seeks to clear logistical court hurdles so that states can better identify non-violent offenders whose records they might opt to expunge. Black and Hispanic Americans often face far harsher penalties for crimes involving marijuana possession than their white counterparts.

The Democratic National Committee voted by a wide margin on Monday to keep language calling for legalization of marijuana nationwide out of the party’s platform.

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