September 7, 2017 (Washington, D.C.) – Today, Algernon Austin, an economist at the public policy organization Demos, will join fellow policy experts on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Budget Taskforce’s panel on the Trump Administration and House Republican Budgets. On the panel, Austin will praise the proposed CBC amendment to the House Republican Budget and call for additional investments in priority infrastructure areas, from lead removal to public transit.
This event will take place from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at H-144 in the U.S. Capitol. Media outlets interested in attending should rsvp to: [email protected].
The following are excerpts from Austin’s prepared opening remarks:
On The CBC’s Alternative Budget: I commend the Congressional Black Caucus for prioritizing the needs of average Americans … [and] for demonstrating that we can reduce the deficit without inflicting harm on low- and moderate-income households … The Trump Administration and the House Republican Budget pay for tax cuts for the rich by causing the neediest Americans to suffer more.
On The Need to Increase Job Opportunities: Many people believe that we are at full employment because the unemployment rate is low. But the unemployment rate is a poor measure of the need for jobs for communities with long-standing difficulties finding jobs … Using the employment-to-population ratio, all of the major racial groups and Latinos are today employed at lower rates than in 2007 and in 2000, the peaks of the last two business cycles.
On The Inequity Of The Jobs Market: [Even] the half-million jobs deficit for blacks underestimates the black jobs crisis. Half a million jobs is based on if we wish to continue living with the racial hierarchy which causes blacks to have the lowest employment rate of the major racial and ethnic groups. If we wish for blacks to have the same employment rate that whites had in 2000, we would need about 1.5 million more blacks working.
On How We Can Create Jobs Equitably: The best way to create millions of jobs now is with infrastructure investments. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives America’s infrastructure a D-plus grade. Infrastructure investments are desperately needed. These investments have the added benefit of creating millions of jobs, and they provide the foundation for future economic growth. I am happy to see that the CBC budget proposes $1 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next decade.
As communities of color have historically faced underinvestment and underdevelopment in their infrastructure, Austin also highlighted priority infrastructure areas for communities of color for the CBC to consider as Congress plans future infrastructure investments:
Climate-Change Infrastructure: New research shows that the poorest residents of the southern United States, from North Carolina across to California and southward, will be most hurt by the effects of climate change. People of color are overrepresented among the poor in these states. We need to construct and upgrade our infrastructure so that it can better withstand the weather extremes that climate change is bringing. We also need to make investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce carbon pollution and limit the amount of climate change that we will face.
Lead Removal: Children exposed to lead can suffer from permanent intellectual and behavioral disabilities. African American children have higher rates of elevated blood lead levels than white and Mexican American children … We need a renewed commitment and new investment to eliminate children’s exposure to lead from water, paint, and soil.
Public Transit: Asian American and African American workers are nearly four times as likely as whites to commute by public transit. Latino workers are nearly three times as likely … In this era of extreme weather, public transit can also, in some cases, serve as cooling stations in times of extreme heat and, for poor people without vehicles, as a means of evacuation from hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters. Investments in public transit can improve the overall well-being in communities of color.
Schools: Schools that are too hot or too cold, that lack proper lighting and ventilation, that have out-of-date computer technology and science equipment, and that need significant repairs (e.g., leaking roofs) make it more difficult for students to learn and succeed. Researchers have found clear class and race inequalities in spending on school infrastructure, with richer and whiter school districts being able to spend more than poorer and minority districts. Investments in school infrastructure can help to reduce achievement gaps between white students and students of color.
Parks And Recreation Centers: Americans generally suffer from high rates of obesity. Obesity rates are even higher among Latinos and African Americans … Medical researchers are increasingly recognizing that parks are part of our public health infrastructure. Safe and well-designed parks are places for exercise and for relief from the stressors of urban life. Investments in parks and recreation facilities in our cities are important investments for the health of communities of color.
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