A new economy is possible
By Lauren Jacobs
It’s time to admit that the economy is rigged.
The 500 S&P just had its best first trading day of September in ten years. Tech CEOs have grown their wealth by over $100 billion during this pandemic.
Meanwhile, every single person who labors for a paycheck in this country is struggling, and this crisis is taking the most from those of us with the least power. Black and Latinx workers are being hit especially hard by layoffs. Federal relief programs exclude the undocumented workers who put food on our tables even though they pay into the system that is failing them. Almost half of our country’s Black-owned businesses have closed while large, publicly traded corporations sucked up nearly 70% of PPP loans.
This Labor Day, let’s commit to rebuilding our economy from the ground up. Our current system is a machine that’s delivering the results it was intended to deliver: ever-increasing wealth for the most powerful among us. We have the power and ingenuity to re-engineer it to deliver the results we deserve: an abundance of resources for our families, our health, our schools, and our communities.
We can start with our own neighborhoods. Americans have laid much of the blame for COVID’s devastation at the federal government’s feet, as we should. But the truth is, pivotal decisions about the function of our economy also get made at the local level — where our voices as constituents carry immense power.
City counselors, county supervisors, and state legislators regularly allow major corporations to drive policy decisions that affect everything from how they spend our taxes, to how much we get paid at work, to whether we can afford to take our kids to the doctor. Corporations know this — last year, Amazon poured $1.5 million into a single city council race, which they lost.
My organization has uncovered government documents showing that tech companies like Google and Amazon have made backroom deals with local electeds across the country that allow them to use our public land and public resources for development projects while avoiding paying hundred of millions in local taxes. We’ve also opposed state laws across the country, backed by corporate lobbyists, that block our ability to win local equitable policies around paid sick days, benefits, and affordable housing. These laws will continue to throw a wrench in our local fights for justice until we force our state legislators to repeal them.
The immense tax revenue and humane workers rights policies that corporations have long denied our communities are precisely what we now need to survive this pandemic.
With the November election speeding toward us, let’s pay special attention to how our city and state lawmakers can support our vision of an economy that works for everyone.
The truth is, I’m tired of talking about all the things that are wrong with the system we’ve got.
I know that if we can build an economy where one man is worth $200 billion, then we can build an economy where every family has a roof over their head and where every person goes to sleep with a full belly. I know we can build an economy in which every child can walk into school each morning and know how loved, treasured, and supported they are. I know we can provide healthcare to ensure the best health outcomes for every person. I know we can create good, clean jobs that give people safe and dignified ways to provide for their loved ones. That’s the economy I’d like to be talking about. That’s the economy I’d like us to build.
Take a close look at the local elections on your ballot this November. Find out who’s running, and whether they believe in building a new economy that functions as it should. Show up to a virtual campaign event and ask what they’re going to do to dismantle the system we’ve got.
Will they take a stand for your future and against tax giveaways to massive tech companies? What will they do to work with communities of color to recover from this crisis? Can they pledge to hold corporations accountable to safe working conditions and living wages? Will they listen to the wisdom and the dreams of the regular people who elected them? Are they willing to risk losing reelection to fight for what’s right while they’re in office? How do they plan to stay accountable? Most importantly, whose ideas will they implement — yours, or those of a corporate lobbyist?
No corporation should be more powerful than the people. This is a winnable fight, and it starts in our own backyard.
Lauren Jacobs is the executive director of the Partnership for Working Families, a national organization supporting local, community-led campaigns for quality jobs and thriving communities.